Uri L’tzedek tackles Agriprocessors

X-posted from Jewschool, Josh Frankel covers the growing Uri L’tzedek social justice beit midrash in Washington Heights. This week, the beit midrash covered food issues, including Agriprocessors:

Avi Lyon, director of the Jewish Labor Committee, told stories from his visit to Rubashkin’s meat’s AgriProcessors plant, in Iowa, and poor working conditions there, from intimidating workers not to speak to outsiders, to charging workers for their smocks and not paying them for the time required to get into and out of their safety equipment, to the high injury toll. Mike Schultz led a group brainstorm of any and all problems of workers’ rights or being an ethical kosher consumer that were really bothering the people in the room, and people had a lot to say, with a lot of fervor. Steven Exler outlined the cycle of community organizing, presented more facts on Agriprocessors, and asked people what they would be willing to do about it. Shmuly closed out the night by offering multiple opportunities for “homework,” ways to start acting on what we had talked about. 10 people signed up to table for workers’ rights at this weekend’s convention of kosher food producers, KosherFest. Others are planning to start working on pressuring local food providers to carry other meat options. Several people wanted to work on generating more of a halachic discourse on tzedek questions among the poskim.

The batei midrash will continue every 3 or 4 weeks, open and accessible to all, and now Uri L’Tzedek is starting to move into providing support and partnership for those who are ready to take the lead and get it done in the community. Started by three YCT students, Aaron Finkelstein, Mike Schultz, and Shmuly Yanklowitz along with the generous support of a Herbert Lieberman Award. For more information, contact Aaron Finkelstein.

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