Open Orthodoxy

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Agriprocessors still not "kosher" enough for Ari Hart

Ari Hart, co-director of Uri L'Tzedek was recently interviewed by The Jew and the Carrot blog.

First, let me say that I commend Hart that he acknowledged (whether intentional or not) a couple of key points that I raised in my article Uri L'Tzedek, an Exposé by stating “[Uri L'Tzedek] recognize[s] that Agriprocessors provides a critical service to the industry in supplying kosher meat to far-flung locations where there would normally be no other options.” and “There are bigger, more systemic questions to ask around industrial-beef in general.” I don't necessarily agree with Hart's questions, but at least his statement somewhat acknowledges that Agriprocessors problems aren't merely a Jewish one.

Ari Hart also makes statements that I find troubling,
Given everything that has happened at Agriprocessors, I personally doubt the holiness of the intentions of the owners of Agriprocessors, and I doubt their ability to produce the kosher meat that I would feel comfortable eating at my personal Shabbat table. Because of these issues, in addition to the recent deceptive, mean spirited, and divisive PR campaign recently run by Agriprocessors’ PR team where they impersonated a rabbi, bought up Uri L’Tzedek domain names, and used other nasty tactics, I am not comfortable supporting the company.
Hart's statement is correct that 5WPR (Agriprocessors PR firm), has acted "deceptive" and "mean spirited" by impersonating real people in the comments section of web sites that have been critical of Agriprocessors. On the other hand, maybe Hart can explain why he is accusing 5WPR of buying the UriLTzedek .com and .org domain names. I haven’t seen any evidence yet proving they’re responsible, and FailedMessiah who broke this story is fairly thorough.

Concerning Uri L’Tzedek’s domain names, how incompetent can Uri L’Tzedek be? The inception of Uri L’Tzedek was over a year ago! Why didn't they register their domain names in the past fourteen months? It takes two minutes to do. Did they even bother to trademark their name?

It's interesting that Hart states there was a "consensus among the Uri [L'Tzedek] leadership" to end the public Agriprocessors boycott, and yet feels compelled to be vocal that he is still continuing his personal boycott by making a conscientious decision to not eat Agriprocessors products because he "doubt[s]" the "holiness of the intentions of the owners of Agriprocessors", "doubts [Agriprocessors] ability to produce the kosher meat that [he] would feel comfortable eating at [his] personal Shabbat table", and because Agriprocessors PR firm has acted "deceptive, mean spirited" and "used other nasty tactics". Of course Ari Hart doesn't have to purchase Agriprocessors products. That's his right. But, his dual position of ending the public boycott and being aggressively outspoken that he is still maintaining one privately seems not only inconsistent but "wussy". From a diplomatic perspective, if Hart truly felt that ending the public boycott was justified, he might have either kept his personal thoughts to himself or chose innocuous verbiage. Or, Hart might be expressing his personal feeling that the public boycott ended prematurely.

Hart discussed Uri L'Tzedek's efforts with Agriprocessors over the past two months,
Our one struggle as [the Uri L'Tzedek] leadership team was that since the end of May, we’ve had to shift almost all our organizational energies into this [Agriprocessors] project at the expense of the other issues we’ve engaged with this year, such as the rights of domestic workers, health care, racism, and others.
How much "energy" has Uri L'Tzedek expended with Agriprocessors activism in the last two months or the past eight months for that matter? From my interview with Hart it appears Uri L'Tzedek has accomplished very little concerning Agriprocessors. How has Uri L'Tzedek been spending their time that they "had to shift almost all [their] organizational energies" into Agriprocessors?