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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Kiddush Hashem’

My Machberes

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

(L-R) Mark Meyer Appel, Rabbi Yosef Blau, and Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum at model Seder.

Voice Of Justice Model Seder: Event With A Message

On Thursday evening, March 29 a model Seder was held at B’nai Israel of Linden Heights in Boro Park. The special event was conducted by the Voice of Justice, directed by Mark Meyer Appel. The organization gives moral, psychological, financial and safety support to victims of child abuse. Attendees at the event included victims, advocates, and supporters.

Chaim Kiss Singing at the Seder.

Chaim Kiss, renowned chazzan and singer, filled the air with a mood of celebration. Delicious foods were served, and the atmosphere reflected the Pesach mood of liberation and freedom. Rabbi Yosef Blau, mashgiach ruchani of Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchanan, and this writer, as rav of the host shul and Igud director, sat at the dais. Dr. Asher Lipner, a psychologist and leader in the fight against child abuse, read aloud a proclamation from the Assembly of the State of New York extolling the event and its sponsors, which included Met Council (Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty), The Jewish Press, Maimonides Medical Center, the Vos Iz Neias website, Zev Brenner and TalkLine Communications, the Rabbinical Alliance of America-Igud Horabbonim, and the Coalition of Jewish Advocates for Children.

Spirited dancing and camaraderie.

The camaraderie and singing reached emotional heights and the participants, swaying with the music, rose from their seats and joined in communal dancing. Young men, some in modern garb and others in chassidishe attire, rhythmically ran back and forth. A feeling of freedom and security permeated, as though massive burdens were lifted off the shoulders of a newly freed people.

Just a few years ago, reports of child abuse were routinely covered up. No one wanted to even think about it, much less discuss or report it. If the authorities investigated or arrested someone from our community for child abuse, the authorities were condemned for, in effect, embarrassing the entire community.

Today, we are light years beyond that Neanderthal way of thinking. Today, there are shouts condemning the authorities for not doing enough to keep molesters off the streets and our children safe. Books are published for children, on their level of understanding, concerning what to watch out for and how to act in threatening circumstances at home or outside. Today, our leading organizations have child safety on their agendas. Meetings on how our institutions must protect children are held behind both closed and open doors and fully reported. Of course, more has to be done. One case of abuse is one case too much.

The Voice of Justice Model Seder was another step in the effort to combat child abuse. It followed last year’s Seder, as well as numerous conferences held throughout the five boroughs of New York City and in cities with observant communities across the United States.

The list of names of those who have given of themselves in this successful battle is too long for this space. The names will be published and honored in future columns. As the battle continues, we must focus on winning the war, something that is within our grasp. That day, we all pray, will be very soon.

Kol Koreh Against Handmade Matzahs

One would assume that a kol koreh proclamation that storms against, of all things, handmade matzahs, must have some explosive reasoning. What could be more genuinely representative of our Jewish heritage? Handmade matzahs, everyone readily agrees, were eaten by our ancestors as they fled Egypt and slavery. Handmade matzahs are what our forefathers ate at family Seders throughout the millennia.

One might think the posters against handmade matzahs focused on the method of grinding the wheat kernels. The members of our observant communities that are ultra-meticulous in preserving traditions and in having their matzahs handmade actually require that the wheat be ground manually. This takes much effort and envelops those in the process in clouds of wheat dust. Matzahs made by hand from wheat that is manually ground, needless to say, are labor intensive and quite expensive.

However, this declaration focuses on the method of manufacturing the handmade matzahs. Actually, those matzahs targeted by the broadsides are not handmade at all. They are manufactured by machine. The matzahs in discussion are machine made “hand-made,” which of course is an oxymoron. Actually, machine made “hand-made” matzahs amount to a consumer fraud if the mode of manufacture is not fully disclosed.

Rabbi Shmuel Wosner, revered author of Shevet Levi and universally accepted posek, traveled to the establishment of production and confirmed that the machines being used are the very same type used in regular square machine matzahs. However, the machines were reconfigured to produce imperfect roundish matzahs that have the appearance of being made by hand. Rabbi Wosner confirms that the machines are, in principle, exactly the same.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Beren Kiddush Hashem (I)

Nathan Lewin’s inside report on the frum kids from Beren Academy who, because of Shabbat, were ready to default on a basketball tournament slot was the story of a true Kiddush Hashem (“Playing for a Higher Authority,” front-page essay, March 9).

While being able to compete in sporting events is hardly the essence of life, telling a non-Jewish world that puts such great store in sports – and is not all that familiar with the kind of strict Sabbath prohibitions we live by – is very significant. Perhaps most important is that the students declared to all that they will not easily abide religious discrimination. In doing that they hopefully spoke for all of us.

Bravo to Mr. Lewin and the others for assuming the responsibility of standing up to those who would keep Jews out of the mainstream. It is this kind of hishtadlus that will secure our survival as a people. Irving Brecher (Via E-Mail)

Beren Kiddush Hashem (II)

I have mixed feelings about the Beren Academy controversy. I am proud that the students and their parents stood up to what I believe was outright bigotry. The world did not come to an end because the sports association modified its schedule in order to accommodate students. In fact, there didn’t seem to be even one adverse consequence.

Yet I wonder whether the lingering result of this controversy will be an increased identification on the part of the students with sports competition rather than their religious studies – which, after all, is why we send our kids to yeshiva. I also wonder whether risking a negative court decision that could have impacted on the employment rights of religious Jews was wise. David Lazar Los Angeles, CA

Beware A Reelected Obama

“The President and the Prime Minister” (editorial, March 9) captures the essence of the problem our community faces should President Obama be reelected. I believe that Obama desires to change the special relationship between the United States and Israel – a relationship that has allowed Israel to thrive and pursue its national destiny.

When you boil the Obama rhetoric down, it is clear that he ultimately sees America only as the guarantor of Israel’s physical survival but not as a supporter of its ongoing nation-building. Worse still, he seems prepared to join the other side’s efforts to derail it. His dubious risk-taking with the Iranian nuclear threat at Israel’s expense is certainly indicative of what is to come. Nachman Gorman New York, NY

Inebriated Tzedakah Collectors

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb’s front-page essay (“Why I Dread Purim,” March 2) was thorough and poignant. I commend you for giving it the space it deserved.

After spending Purim being harangued by a number of young and drunk collectors, I couldn’t help thinking the following: If tzedakah is what brings these boys to our homes, and if they feel that performing the mitzvah of collecting tzedakah on Purim entitles them to act in a disgusting manner, what is missing in the conversation is the most obvious and simple solution. Simply put, we get the yeshivas and organizations to control their own boys.

How? Hit them where it hurts. If potential donors decide that even seemingly drunk collectors will not be given any money at all, the yeshivas will feel the pinch and take control of the situation.

Just as I do on a daily basis with other collectors whose causes I do not identify with, I will be implementing this solution next year, and hope others will join me. If enough of us take this stand, and the yeshivas know about it ahead of time, there might well be a change in the behavior of the visitors we receive. Eitan Zerykier (Via E-Mail)

Contact Schumer About Pollard

I agree with your March 9 editorial “Jonathan Pollard and the McFarlane Factor.” Anyone who is not deterred from spying by what happened to Pollard will not be deterred by anything. And any information Pollard got hold of is by now out of date. He has been punished enough. As McFarlane says, Pollard’s harsh sentence was motivated in large part by Defense Secretary Weinberger’s anti-Israel feelings.

Jewish Press readers should write to Senator Charles Schumer asking that he urge his good friend President Obama to commute Pollard’s sentence to time served. Your editorial noted the example of Israeli President Shimon Peres, who asked Obama to free Pollard. Let us follow Peres’s example. Reuven Solomon (Via E-Mail)

The Plague Of Divorce

Re Dr. Rachel Levmore’s “Demonstrations and Remonstrations on Agunah Day” (op-ed, March 2):

I think we have missed the boat on this issue, to the great sorrow of many individuals and our community as a whole.

The Torah commands men to marry, as “It is not good for man to be alone.” Many have explained the reference to man and not woman because a woman is instinctively inclined to seek marriage.

United Hatzalah Of Israel Founder Makes Headlines In Davos And Arab World

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

JERUSALEM – Not in his wildest imagination could United Hatzalah of Israel (UHI) founder and chief coordinator Eli Beer have pictured himself giving a speech to global business leaders at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland – while simultaneously starring in a documentary about the unprecedented cooperation between Jewish and Arab UHI volunteers broadcast last week across the Arab world on the al-Jazeera satellite TV network.

But that is exactly what happened last week to the 38-year-old emergency medical response innovator who is on the verge of creating a global revolution in the way nations deal with medical crises via cutting-edge volunteerism that transcends race, religion and politics.

“There were some great and euphoric moments for me last week,” Beer told The Jewish Press. “So many people approached me and said that ‘what you guys have accomplished in Israel with United Hatzalah, no one has done anywhere.’ The fact that we are an identifiably Jewish organization and receiving that type of personal reactions made the whole experience a real Kiddush Hashem. There were so many fascinating moments and responses in Davos I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Some of the most positive feedback came from prominent Arab business people, whose countries do not have formal relations with Israel. Many of the Arab business elites at Davos took the opportunity not only to hear Beer’s presentation but also to make personal contact with him afterward.

“One Arab businessman from Kuwait who saw the documentary on al-Jazeera came up to me and said what we are doing is ‘tikkun olam’ – and he said it using the Hebrew words,” said Beer.

“When I asked him how he knew what ‘tikkun olam’ was, he replied, ‘I went to Harvard.’

“Then one of the wealthiest women in Saudi Arabia approached me and said, ‘You know that nobody knows about these things. I think the time has come to show the Arab nations the good things that the Jews are doing. This is a great tool to break the negative images the Arab leaders try to project.’

“I explained to her that what we do has its roots in the Torah and the issue of ‘pikuach nefesh’ and has no political connotations.

“And it turns out that Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi economist who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for creating a bank that provides microcredit to help poor people establish financial efficiency, knows everything about United Hatzalah and proudly displayed our organizational pin on his jacket.”

Eli Beer with Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus.

During the course of his presentation, Beer briefed world business leaders on how he took the concept of distributed computing and applied it to saving lives in Israel. The innovative downloadable mapping app (a small program installed on a modern mobile phone) developed by Beer to assist volunteers in the field is known as the Moskowitz Life Compass.
The technology, which uses proprietary GPS identification, communication and deployment technologies to minimize response times, allows volunteers to establish a life-saving bridge of medical care to more than 190,000 people each year, within two to three minutes of a distress call, at no cost to those in need. UHI’s 1,700 volunteers treat an average of 500 people each day and individually respond to an average of 360 calls per year in Israel.
Conventional ambulances, Beer explained to The Jewish Press, have plenty of fancy equipment but they start from a central location and often struggle to squeeze through traffic jams. So they often arrive after the most gravely injured have already died.
Under the UHI system, anyone who sees an emergency can call a central number (1221 in Israel). The Moskowitz Life Compass app instantly alerts the nearest volunteer, who may be only a block away, standing behind a deli counter, or dozing in a meeting. He stops whatever he is doing, races to the scene and tries to stop the victim’s bleeding or start his heart (most volunteers are equipped with defibrillators). Most have motorbikes to zip through the traffic. When the ambulance arrives, the volunteer goes back to his day job.
“When I was a young boy growing up in Jerusalem,” said Beer, “I witnessed a horrific bus bombing on my way home from school and watched people dying as they waited too long for medical services to arrive. The horrific images were emblazed in my memory and ultimately lead me to the idea of United Hatzalah – a group able to save lives, Jew and Arab alike, no matter the place or circumstance.” Beer formally established UHI as an independent non-profit organization in 2006.
“The common thread of life itself can create a bond that runs deeper than any religious, political or racial association,” he said. “When a Jewish volunteer responds to an emergency in an Arab community, or vice-versa, and helps save a parent, child or loved one, that volunteer begins to gain the trust of the community. When people recognize we all share the same basic elements of life, they are willing to come together for a common good.”
Beer said people “are anxious to hear about diversity, whether it was in Davos or via the al-Jazeera documentary. While it’s fascinating that Jews and Arabs are working side by side, it was just as fascinating that Jews from all walks of life were cooperating with each other as well – secular, haredim, etc. That’s a dynamic that few people outside of Israel understand.
“Even more importantly, I spoke about – and people saw it on TV – how settlers from Judea and Samaria who are UHI volunteers run into Arab villages in order to save lives. I mentioned that these are the kinds of stories CNN doesn’t want to show its viewers. We are not in the business of changing people’s personal political views; our volunteers are working to save Jewish and Arab lives, no matter where they are.”
Beer said he was captivated by the festive Shabbat dinner at Davos that featured the likes of current Bank of Israel Chairman Stanley Fischer; former Bank of Israel Chairman Jacob Frankel; Israeli President Shimon Peres and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Said Beer, “There was great kosher food, singing, as well as a relaxed atmosphere where people were able to speak with each other freely. I mean, there I was walking down the street when I saw the former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, and we said ‘Good Shabbos’ to each other. That doesn’t happen every day.”

With All Your Soul

Monday, April 18th, 2011

The recent appalling murders in Itamar shocked everyone – not just settlers but every Jew without exception, because it wasn’t the Fogel family alone whom the enemy wished to murder, but rather each and every one of us.

In Itamar’s neighboring communities, situated on the frontlines of Jewish settlement, many residents wondered how they would react if, God forbid Children and parents found it harder to sleep at night.

Nevertheless, we must not be weakened. The fears and worries must be elevated to the mitzvot of Kiddush Hashem, sanctification of God’s name, and we must remind ourselves of what we are strict to say everyday, both morning and evening, in the reading of the Shema: “And you shall love Hashem your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your possessions.”

In the Mishnah (Berachot 9:5), the Sages said: “With all your soul – even if He takes your soul.” This is what every Jew must think of when reading the Shema – if it was required, he would be ready to die for Kiddush Hashem.

This awesome mitzvah is what connects every Jew to eternity. It detaches him from the temporariness and pettiness of life and connects him to the world of truth and good, to the vision of the redemption.

This is also the idea of the mitzvah of conquering and settling the Land of Israel – the only mitzvah that obligates the Jewish nation to enter, on its own initiative, a life-threatening situation (Minchat Chinuch 425; Mishpat Kohen, p. 327).

There is no mitzvah comparable to that of settling the Land of Israel, through which even the seemingly insignificant actions one does during the course of the day receive profound and divine meaning. A person fulfills the mitzvah merely by breathing, eating, sleeping or walking in the Land. And the more one strives to improve the quality of his life, both spiritually and physically, the greater the mitzvah becomes.

For a Jew living a Torah life in the Land of Israel, everything comes together. One’s house, job, family, social life – are all partners in the revelation of the word of God in this world.

This is the great message to the world emanating from the Land of Israel, that there is no schism between the heavens and the earth, and precisely within the parameters of everyday life it is possible to reveal the word of God, bring redemption, and improve the entire world.

We stand on two foundations: on the principle of the mitzvah to settle the Land of Israel and on the principle of security – that if, God forbid, we retreat from Judea and Samaria, the danger to the State of Israel will be greatly increased.

From the outset, Jews have been obligated to settle Eretz Yisrael in order to make the desolate areas blossom and to inhabit the land. When we don’t merit doing so, tragedies occur, and we are forced to come to Israel to settle the Land.

The spies in the desert were afraid to enter the Land of Israel because of security concerns, and only after God decreed that they were to die in the desert did they attempt to ascend – but it was too late. The entire generation died in the desert, and their children entered the Land to settle it.

Had we merited, we would have ascended to the Land of Israel in order to care for its soil, to build the destroyed cities and make the desolate hills blossom, as was the call of the Vilna Gaon, and after him Rabbi Kalisher, Rabbi Gutmacher and Rabbi Alkaly.

But we didn’t merit this; the majority of Jews were afraid to ascend to Israel and refrained from moving because, they thought, it was a matter of pikuach nefesh (saving one’s life from danger). But our tragedies only grew in the Diaspora, and eventually we were required to ascend – ironically – in a desperate attempt at pikuach nefesh, at saving our lives.

People often ask, Isn’t it dangerous to live in Judea and Samaria? Indeed it is, and there is additional danger living in a settlement. And this is precisely why we are here. Because in the merit of the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel on its highest level, the chances of increasing and elevating one’s life is also greater.

The Henkins: Father And Son

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

In our day, when news events do not always portray the Jewish community in the most favorable light, it is imperative that we have role models we can emulate. The recent passing of a famous legal scholar brings to mind two individuals who personify this description.

Columbia University Professor Louis Henkin was widely credited with being a leader and developer of the field of human rights, which he emphasized as a “cornerstone of American foreign policy.” Professor Henkin waged a multi-front struggle to extend universalist ideas of human rights and the reach of law. As such, he was influential in the drafting of human rights legislation. Fostering the sanctity of human beings is an achievement that exemplifies Kiddush Hashem, the sanctification of God’s name.

In my opinion, it was Professor Henkin’s insistence on the importance of human rights as a cornerstone of American foreign policy that prepared the way, along with campaigns by human rights activists, for the 1975 Helsinki Accords. This international agreement enumerated: a) respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief; and b) equal rights and self-determination of peoples. The civil rights section of the declaration arguably provided the basis for the work of the Moscow Helsinki Group, created to monitor compliance with the Helsinki Accords. Advertisement

The declaration was an attempt to improve relations and reduce cold war tensions between the Communist bloc and Western countries in the post-World War II period. Paradoxically, it enabled individuals living under totalitarian regimes to claim official permission to say what they thought. But the side effect of the civil rights portion of the agreement was profound. Together, the Jackson-Vanik legislation passed by Congress in 1974 and those 1975 accords became the triggers that finally compelled the Soviet government to permit Russian Jews to emigrate.

Paying tribute to Professor Henkin’s legal accomplishments, I cannot help but recall the contributions his father, Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, zt”l, made to the American Jewish community. As a posek, Rav Henkin was considered by many to be on par with his contemporary, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l. He served as executive director of Ezras Torah and was the author of the two-volume Kitvei HaGaon Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin. Many people, including my mother, a”h, would contact him when they had a halachic inquiry and required an authoritative rabbinic response.

Rav Henkin was a modest individual who would always answer the telephone himself and personally respond to the caller’s questions. Individuals from all walks of life would contact him. A lawyer friend of mine requested guidance on how to conduct his practice under new circumstances in which he found himself. My friend received an appropriate and reasonable personal response, which he followed.

A personal telephone encounter I had with Rav Henkin in 1972 is one I still cherish. My mother had asked me to contact him concerning a halachic question she had. After he provided the answer, he requested that I remember to support Ezras Torah. After sending a contribution, I received a Life Membership Certificate of Merit signed by Rav Henkin and Rav N. Riff (president).

Rav Henkin’s piety and authoritative halachic decisions enriched the Torah-observant community at a time when observance was not as prevalent as it is today.

In Rav Yosef Henkin and Professor Louis Henkin we had two outstanding individuals whose careers were a blessing for the entire Jewish community – the father with a vast halachic knowledge unsparingly shared with the Jewish community at large, the son with a legal mind utilized to bring the fruits of personal freedom and equal rights to so many people the world over.

E. Magnus Oppenheim, a musmach of Mesivta Torah Vodaath, is chief investment officer at E. Magnus Oppenheim & Co., Inc., registered investment advisers.

A Jewish Call For Employee Rights

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Last May, our organization, Uri L’Tzedek, officially launched the Tav HaYosher – “ethical seal” – to certify kosher restaurants that uphold three basic employee rights: the right to fair time, the right to fair pay, and the right to a safe work environment.

As an Orthodox organization guided by Torah and dedicated to combating suffering and oppression, we are motivated by the Torah’s prohibition “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is of your brothers, or of your strangers who are in your land inside your gates.”

We hear the call in Tractate Bava Metzia that “all who withhold an employee’s wages, are as if they have taken a life.” We are inspired by the example of the Amora Rav, who instructed another sage to pay his employees even though they negligently broke a barrel of wine.

In America today, employee rights are egregiously violated; current enforcement structures simply do not work. Consider the results of a recent study of employees in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles: 76 percent did not receive overtime as required by federal law; 26 percent received below minimum wage; 86 percent of workers did not receive full meal breaks, and a full 69 percent received no breaks whatsoever or had their breaks shortened by their employer.

When trying to stand up for these rights, nearly half, 43 percent, were the victims of illegal retaliatory measures: their employers fired or suspended them, cut their wages, or threatened to call immigration authorities.

The Jewish community cannot sit idly by pretending it is not our responsibility to uphold employee rights. In his landmark responsa, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, permitted drinking milk produced under the government’s watch since we can rely on the government to ensure no milk from a non-kosher animal is mixed with cow’s milk. Certainly Rav Moshe would never have done so if government oversight were seen as ineffective.

Since we cannot rely on the government to ensure restaurant employees aren’t oppressed we must find alternative mechanisms to guarantee that we aren’t mesayei l’yidei ovrei aveirah – assisting moral misconduct – when purchasing our food. The Tav HaYosher provides such a mechanism.

The Tav HaYosher’s mission, though, is to help all sides of the restaurant business. In these difficult economic times, employees and employers alike are struggling to find financial security. We work with restaurant owners as partners, because we recognize that abuse of rights has become such common practice that many owners fail to view their treatment of workers as unethical.

Moreover, paying all employees minimum wage and overtime can be expensive. For this reason, we work to publicize those restaurants with our Tav HaYosher ethical seal and encourage members of our community to patronize these restaurants. A positive campaign, we say absolutely nothing about restaurants we don’t certify.

A growing number of Jewish organizations are committing to having their lunch meetings and conferences catered by restaurants with our seals. As one kosher restaurant owner in New York reported back to us, “The Tav HaYosher is a tremendously effective marketing campaign. Since joining the Tav, we have received close to ten catering jobs we otherwise wouldn’t have had.” And as the popularity of the Tav HaYosher seal continues to grow, the added business generated by having the certification will only continue to increase.

In addition to bringing about practical change, another one of our goals is to publicly reaffirm the Jewish community’s understanding that ethical practices, in addition to ritual, are at the heart of Torah. Keeping kosher is one of the most public of Jewish actions. Through the Tav HaYosher, we proclaim, in an act of Kiddush Hashem, that worker treatment is also a core Jewish value, and we fulfill our Jewish obligation to abide by the law of the land (dina d’malchuta dina).

Since its inception less than a year ago, the Tav HaYosher has expanded exponentially. We’ve signed establishments in five states: New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois and Pennsylvania, certifying more than 35 restaurants. In New York City alone we currently certify 23 eating establishments. We’ve received overwhelming support from many Jewish organizations, activists, and thousands of individuals who are committed either to buying exclusively from Tav-certified restaurants or to convincing their restaurants of choice to join the Tav.

A Jewish Call For Employee Rights

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Last May, our organization, Uri L’Tzedek, officially launched the Tav HaYosher – “ethical seal” – to certify kosher restaurants that uphold three basic employee rights: the right to fair time, the right to fair pay, and the right to a safe work environment.

As an Orthodox organization guided by Torah and dedicated to combating suffering and oppression, we are motivated by the Torah’s prohibition “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is of your brothers, or of your strangers who are in your land inside your gates.”

We hear the call in Tractate Bava Metzia that “all who withhold an employee’s wages, are as if they have taken a life.” We are inspired by the example of the Amora Rav, who instructed another sage to pay his employees even though they negligently broke a barrel of wine.

In America today, employee rights are egregiously violated; current enforcement structures simply do not work. Consider the results of a recent study of employees in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles: 76 percent did not receive overtime as required by federal law; 26 percent received below minimum wage; 86 percent of workers did not receive full meal breaks, and a full 69 percent received no breaks whatsoever or had their breaks shortened by their employer.

When trying to stand up for these rights, nearly half, 43 percent, were the victims of illegal retaliatory measures: their employers fired or suspended them, cut their wages, or threatened to call immigration authorities.

The Jewish community cannot sit idly by pretending it is not our responsibility to uphold employee rights. In his landmark responsa, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, permitted drinking milk produced under the government’s watch since we can rely on the government to ensure no milk from a non-kosher animal is mixed with cow’s milk. Certainly Rav Moshe would never have done so if government oversight were seen as ineffective.

Since we cannot rely on the government to ensure restaurant employees aren’t oppressed we must find alternative mechanisms to guarantee that we aren’t mesayei l’yidei ovrei aveirah – assisting moral misconduct – when purchasing our food. The Tav HaYosher provides such a mechanism.

The Tav HaYosher’s mission, though, is to help all sides of the restaurant business. In these difficult economic times, employees and employers alike are struggling to find financial security. We work with restaurant owners as partners, because we recognize that abuse of rights has become such common practice that many owners fail to view their treatment of workers as unethical.

Moreover, paying all employees minimum wage and overtime can be expensive. For this reason, we work to publicize those restaurants with our Tav HaYosher ethical seal and encourage members of our community to patronize these restaurants. A positive campaign, we say absolutely nothing about restaurants we don’t certify.

A growing number of Jewish organizations are committing to having their lunch meetings and conferences catered by restaurants with our seals. As one kosher restaurant owner in New York reported back to us, “The Tav HaYosher is a tremendously effective marketing campaign. Since joining the Tav, we have received close to ten catering jobs we otherwise wouldn’t have had.” And as the popularity of the Tav HaYosher seal continues to grow, the added business generated by having the certification will only continue to increase.

In addition to bringing about practical change, another one of our goals is to publicly reaffirm the Jewish community’s understanding that ethical practices, in addition to ritual, are at the heart of Torah. Keeping kosher is one of the most public of Jewish actions. Through the Tav HaYosher, we proclaim, in an act of Kiddush Hashem, that worker treatment is also a core Jewish value, and we fulfill our Jewish obligation to abide by the law of the land (dina d’malchuta dina).

Since its inception less than a year ago, the Tav HaYosher has expanded exponentially. We’ve signed establishments in five states: New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois and Pennsylvania, certifying more than 35 restaurants. In New York City alone we currently certify 23 eating establishments. We’ve received overwhelming support from many Jewish organizations, activists, and thousands of individuals who are committed either to buying exclusively from Tav-certified restaurants or to convincing their restaurants of choice to join the Tav.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-jewish-call-for-employee-rights-2/2010/03/11/

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