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Kashrus Contenders?

Shimmy Blum

A day of reckoning for the American kashrus world is fast approaching, as we learn whether a multi-year effort by the Conservative movement to gain a foothold in the kashrus certification industry will be successful. What do these developments portend for the future of kosher food? What should the Orthodox community do — now and in the future — to meet the challenge? Experts from both inside and outside the battle lines share their informed perspectives.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When kosher consumers head to food markets just a few months from now to do their pre-Rosh HaShanah shopping, they may be surprised to find an unfamiliar sight on some of their favorite food items: the Magen Tzedek seal of approval. The seal is the brainchild of Morris Allen, a 56-year-old Conservative clergyman in Minnesota and the founding chairman of the Hekhsher Tzedek Commission, a “social justice” project of the Conservative movement. The commission’s stated goal is to ensure that products that are certified as kosher also comply with a set of ethical guidelines the commission has developed. But whether it also has other, considerably less noble, goals that may ultimately be harmful to kosher companies and consumers is a matter of controversy in the American Jewish community.

Whether Magen Tzedek will succeed in entering the kashrus market seems uncertain, even to the person who conceived of it. Last May, Allen told The Jewish Week that he expected the Magen Tzedek logo to debut on the products of fifteen companies. A recent JTA report, however, quoted Allen as saying that testing for Magen Tzedek certification is being done on food items produced by three unnamed companies, including one “major food producer,” and will make find its way into stores just before Rosh Hashanah.

Ahead of its introduction, however, many Jews are trying to come to grips with the broader implications of the Hekhsher Tzedek initiative.


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