I wrote Rabbi Rafi Rank of the Rabbinical Assembly with my suggestion (well, rather more than a suggestion, but let's pretend I wrote with proper humility) that the RA forbid Conservative Jews to eat meat under the Rubashkin or Aaron's Best brand names, since the factory which produces these makes use of inhumane practices.
Rabbi Rank responds:
Thanks for your note to me and I applaud your desire for strength and bold moves. But let me tell you why the statement did not include a forthright prohibition of the meat. We did not render the meat assur because out in the hinterlands, there are many Jewish communities whose soul source of kosher meat is Rubashkins. I was not going to tell them that this meat was assur in light of the fact that there were no alternatives available to them. That would have placed such communities in a terrible bind and so when the issue of prohibiting the meat was discussed—and it was!—we eventually rejected it as a bad idea.
On the other hand, the statement does give my colleagues a great deal of latitude in how they might wish to treat the meat in their own congregations. And so, in my own congregation, here on Long Island (Syosset—have you heard of us?), I did tell my congregation not to buy that brand. But, of course, out here, I did not leave them without an alternative. This is, after all, Long Island.
I believe that I am not alone in telling my congregation not to buy the meat. The Rabbinical Assembly puts a great deal of trust in its rabbis and their bold yet reasoned decisions in behalf of their own communities. We produced a statement that would help them make their decisions and inform our laypeople exactly where we stand.
As for my under-publicized statement, it was under-publicized in the press, but it sure is making the rounds in the Cyber world!
Be well and Shalom—
President, The Rabbinical Assembly
I suppose the decision is a wise one. That's why I'm not a rabbi, I guess (together with many other reasons!), because I don't think through the communal impact of such things. Still, one would hope the RA would be rather more directive in its statements; it is not (merely) a guild for Conservative rabbis, after all, but also, whether it wants to be or not, a policy-making body for the Conservative movement. Surely there could be some information-gathering and
-dissemination, if not by the RA, then certainly the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, about which brands of meat use humane slaughter? My rabbi said he would look into it, but wouldn't such research be more efficient if done centrally?