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January 23, 2017 / 25 Tevet, 5777
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A Rabbi’s Curious Allegations



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And I myself wonder whether it is not an anachronism for Rabbi Herzfeld to ascribe to the mid-19th century the community practices of today. At a time when all matzos were being hand-baked (and the rabbinic controversy over the kashrut of machine-made matzos was still several decades in the future), what “matzo factory” was seeking the “certification” of Rabbi Salanter?

Second, a closer look is warranted at Rabbi Herzfeld’s assertion regarding the case of the abusive “rabbi.” Nowhere in the government’s affidavit is any accusation reported against any rabbi whose job was “making sure the food was kosher.” The term “rabbi” is used interchangeably throughout the affidavit with the term “Hasidic Jew.”

Obviously, any employee on the floor of the AgriProcessors plant who had a beard and wore a yarmulke was described by the government’s Guatemalan informant as a “rabbi” or “Hasidic Jew.”

If one such Jewish employee – with no responsibility for kashrut – abused an employee, it does not “call into question the reliability and judgment of the rabbi in charge of making sure the food was kosher.”

Third is Rabbi Herzfeld’s reliance on the arrest of two supervisors. Would the arrested supervisors – who, one assumes from Rabbi Herzfeld’s question, are either certifying rabbis or, at least, chassidic Jews responsible in some manner for kashrut –show the same disdain for Jewish dietary laws as for American immigration law?

Rabbi Herzfeld does not tell us the two arrested supervisors were named Juan Carlos Guerrero-Espinoza and Martin De La Rosa-Loera – supervisors at AgriProcessors whose concern or lack of concern for Jewish dietary laws is as irrelevant as one can imagine.

At a time of the year when we recall that vicious reports to authorities led to the destruction of the Temple, Rabbi Herzfeld might take a more careful look at the grounds for his public allegations.

Nathan Lewin

About the Author: Nathan Lewin, a former president of the Greater Washington Jewish Community Relations Council, has argued 28 cases in the Supreme Court of the United States and is an adjunct lecturer at Columbia Law School where he teaches “Religious Minorities in Supreme Court Litigation.”


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