Yosher in Hebrew means what

Kosher company

Suitable for fair consumption

by Sue Fishkoff

They do not want to be inferior to their conservative colleagues. For several weeks now, Orthodox groups in the USA have been reviewing the ethical standards of companies whose services are used by Jewish communities.
The New York group Uri L’Tzedek, founded last year by rabbinical students from the Orthodox Jeshiwa Chovevei Torah, is ready to launch its Tav HaYosher ethical seal. It is given to New York City kosher restaurants that treat their employees fairly. "Yosher" is Hebrew and means honesty.
There is also a lot going on on the west coast. In Los Angeles, three Orthodox rabbis are currently putting the finishing touches to the “Pe’ulat Sachir” initiative. The Hebrew name comes from a verse in the third book of the Torah that requires workers to be paid the same day they finish their work.
Just like Tav HaYosher, the Los Angeles program awards a seal that certifies that a company treats its employees fairly and humanely. In contrast to the New York project, the organization on the west coast will not only award its seal to kosher restaurants, but also to local businesses that offer their services to the Jewish community, including bookstores, law firms and medical practices.
Both initiatives emerged in response to the rampant scandals at Agriprocessors, one of the largest producers of kosher meat in the United States. An avalanche of financial difficulties, but also violations of labor law, meant that the company practically stopped working. Co-founders of the initiatives stated that, as Orthodox Jews, they felt compelled to respond to a situation that cast the values ​​of their community in a bad light.
The model for the start-ups in New York and Los Angeles is Tav Chevrati, a social seal that was launched four years ago by the non-profit Israeli organization Bema’aglei Tzedek (German: "Circles of Justice"). It is awarded to restaurants that respect the rights of their employees and are also handicapped accessible. More than 300 restaurants in Israel, including 130 in Jerusalem, display this seal on their windows.
The scandals at Agriprocessors sparked heated discussions this summer and fall about the ethics of kosher food production among American Jews. At a symposium on December 9th at New York's Yeshiva University, the leaders of the three main Orthodox groups debated the role of ethics in kosher certification for the first time.
In Orthodox society as a whole, some argue that while social justice and kashrut are both important, they have nothing to do with each other. Others are convinced that the two questions are inextricably linked: Kosher foods that have been produced in an unethical manner are therefore unsuitable for consumption.
The answer of the conservative direction to this problem is Hekhsher Tzedek, a seal based on the principle that kashrut and fairness must not be separated. The certificate, which is also supported by the reform movement, is to be awarded to kosher food manufacturers who meet a wide range of ethical standards, from the treatment of workers to environmental protection, health and safety and transparency in financial matters. The details of the seal are still being worked out. It will be introduced later this year.
In the Orthodox community, Hekhsher Tzedek has been criticized many times for being at best cumbersome and at worst as an attack on the Orthodox-controlled system of kosher certification - wrongly, as its organizers assert; The founders of the two new seals believe that, as Orthodox Jews, they have a special responsibility for the activities of those companies that offer their services to the Orthodox community. If Jews are to take the Torah seriously, according to the co-founders of the initiatives, they must ensure that such companies actually live up to Jewish ethical values.
For Uri L’Tzedek, this relates to the kosher food industry. For over a year, the group held seminars on the ethical laws of kashrut and kosher food production, said Shmuly Yanklowitz, Chovevei Torah student and deputy director of Uri L’Tzedek. The May 12, 2008 raid of the Agriprocessors factory in Postville, Iowa, over the employment of illegal immigrants, prompted concrete steps to be taken.
"We have an extra ethics command for the Kashrut complex," says Yanklowitz. “It is our own system that we believe has a certain inviolability. Therefore we are responsible for it. "
The Tav HaYosher seal is awarded to kosher restaurants in New York City that guarantee three basic rights for their workers: fair pay, regular non-working hours, and a safe and healthy work environment. Restaurants that join the system are audited by a team of volunteers. Then you can hang up the certificate.
At the beginning of December, Uri T’zedek trained his first volunteers and quietly found a handful of restaurants in Manhattan that were interested in the project. The group expects to be awarded their first seals by the end of January.

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