The Hekhsher Tzedek, a proposed certification for foods that are both kosher (in the traditional sense of the word) and also ethically produced – has been making waves in the American Jewish community for the last year and a half. Meanwhile, a similar project has already taken on mainstream status in Israel.
The Christian Science Monitor recently published an article about Bemaaglei Tzedek (Circles of Justice) – a non-profit organization that created a “Social Seal,” which is awarded to restaurants that prepare and serve food in an ethical way (focusing mostly on workers’ rights like ensuring health insurance, and overtime to restaurant employees). According to the CSM:
[The social seal is] catching on, with dozens of new restaurants contacting Bemaaglei Tzedek every week to inquire about it. In Jerusalem, where awareness of the seal is strongest, nearly one-third of all restaurants have a social seal today, according to Banner.
Bemaaglei Tzedek’s seal is actually more akin to America’s Green Restaurant Association, which also endorses restaurants (kosher and not) for their ethical practices, as opposed to the individual food products that the Hekhsher Tzedek focuses on. But it shares the Heksher Tzedek’s understanding that Jewish tradition mandates for an ethical eating standard that goes beyond the traditional definition of kashrut.
CSM reported that the seal is not only spreading to new restaurants, but also becoming a factor in where Israeli citizens choose to eat:
You would not believe how many people ask whether we have the seal,” says Navah Bibi, who runs Little Jerusalem, a bistro with a huge patio garden. “At least as many as those who ask to see our ‘normal’ kosher credentials,” she says, pointing out the two certificates, sitting side by side on the reception desk. “It has been a surprise.
The normalization of an ethical Jewish eating standard in Israel is an encouraging sign (though I would not mind seeing the social seal “green” up a little). It is especially exciting to witness that the increase in popularity of the social seal has not watered down traditional kashrut in Israel, as some people fear the Hekhsher Tzedek will. In fact, the two exist side-by-side.
(hat tip: Failed Messiah)