Sunday, November 2, 2008

Agriprocessors in deep trouble

A federal judge has appointed a temporary receiver for a kosher meatpacking company in Iowa after a bank said that the company had defaulted on a $35 million loan and that it had written $1.4 million in bad checks.

The loan foreclosure against the company, Agriprocessors Inc., was the latest in a cascade of troubles that have come after nearly 400 illegal immigrant workers were arrested in a raid in May at its plant in Postville, Iowa. On Thursday, Sholom Rubashkin, the former chief executive, was arrested in Iowa on federal charges of conspiring to harbor illegal immigrants.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Cedar Rapids, First Bank Business Capital of St. Louis claimed that Agriprocessors had failed to maintain enough cash in designated bank accounts to stay current on the revolving loan it took out in 1999. The lawsuit was first reported Friday on the Web site of The Forward, a Jewish newspaper.

The suit also claims that Agriprocessors violated the loan terms by diverting nearly $1.4 million from First Bank accounts to another bank to issue payroll checks on Oct. 24. First Bank learned that those checks were returned for insufficient funds, the lawsuit says.[...]


  1. The NY Times also reports:

    "The suit says Agriprocessors had begun to fall behind on the revolving loan during the quarter that ended March 31, suggesting that its financial woes predated the raid, which decimated its workforce."

    I also wanted to ask about the Takana, brought up by Rabbi Shain:

    Agri might change hands, then what?
    In the event that the Agri plant changes hands, we can not accept Jewish ownership of the plant. A Non-Jewish ownership and a contracted Jewish kosher slaughter is the only acceptable system for an acceptable kosher slaughter. That is the way Alle /Mealmart, International, etc have been doing it for years-"in compliance with the "TAAKONOS".

    (Signed on Feb 17th, 1938-Some of the signatures: Rabbis Eliezer Silver, Chaim Fishel Epstein, Yehuda Leib Feder, D. M. Rabinowitz, Shmuel Katz, Zvi Chaim Papkin, Eliezer Pupko, Yehuda Halevi Kopstein, Yitzchok Hakohen Levin, Yekusiel L. Greenwald, Dov Aryeh Chit, S.Y. Levin, Yitzchok Moshe Zilberman, Shmuel Halperin, Y. S. Levitan, Zvi Yehuda Alshvang, Avrohom Iitzchok Kordon, Avrohom Regensburg, Refoel Mordechai Barishinsky, Yisroel Dishowitz, Moshe Binyomin Tomoshu, Yosef Feimer, Nison Tolushkin, Yosef Yehuda Brown, Mordechai Meir Silverman, Moshe Zvi Rabinowitz, Lipman Levin, Zvi Menachem Groibart, Shabsi Friedman,Issur Ginsburg, Yaakov Hakohen Meskin, S. M. Shapiro, Noson Rabinowitz, Eliezer Shonfeld, Zvi Hirsch Freedman, Chaim Bick, Yosef Adler, Yosef Avigdur Kasler, Ruvain Halevi Levovitz, Yeshua Moshe Merminsky, Yehuda Salanter, Shraga Leib Bril, Libir Marvit, Avrohom Matisyahu Hakohen, Dovid Kulik, Shlomo Ahron Kozarnavsky, Yehuda Hakohen Damasek, Shlomo Menachem Parzen, Avrohom Yitzchok Feivolson, Yeshaye Karlinsky).

    The Takano was signed again in 1955 by the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of US and Canada.

  2. "the bank says the borrowers "have repeatedly made misrepresentations .......providing inaccurate and misleading notices of borrowing and other documents that misstated the value of the collateral."

    Theft - Geneivah

    It is forbidden to steal, as it says "You shall not steal".1

    ...if he steals an ox or sheep and sells it or slaughters it he pays for five oxen or four sheep.2

    It is forbidden to buy stolen goods from a thief. If one does so and the thief is caught the buyer must return the goods to the owner, but the owner compensates him and collects from the thief. If he bought from a known thief, however, he must return the goods to the owner (or pay for them, if the owner had given up hope) and collect from the thief.b

    We are commanded to keep accurate scales, weights and measures, as it says "You shall have just scales, just stones, a just dry measure and a just liquid measure".4 It is forbidden to keep inaccurate ones in our possession even if we do not use them, as it says "There shall not be in your pocket a large stone and a small stone...".5

    It is forbidden to cheat someone by the use of false measure, as it says "You shall not do injustice in measure, weight or volume"4; and if one does so he must pay.

    1. Ex. 20:15, Lev. 19:11, Deut. 5:17 b. 5:1-3 3. 4. Lev. 19:35-36 d. 9:1-2 5. Deut. 26:13-15

    Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Gazette reports:

    Lender forecloses on Agriprocessors
    By Dave DeWitte

    CEDAR RAPIDS - A major lender has foreclosed on Agriprocessors and its owners, asking that a receiver be appointed to take control of the embattled kosher meat supplier.

    The action Thursday by First Bank Business Capital of St. Louis seeks to foreclose on $33.5 million in loans.

    Agriprocessors was the nation's largest kosher beef processor until an immigration raid last summer resulted in the detention of much of its work force. It has since faced a stinging series of legal charges over issues ranging from use of child labor to violations of wage laws.

    First Bank asks the company to be placed in the hands of a receiver, Atec Liquidation of St. Louis.

    In support of the request, the bank says the borrowers "have repeatedly made misrepresentations to First Bank by providing inaccurate and misleading notices of borrowing and other documents that misstated the value of the collateral."

    It said officers of Agriprocessors have admitted to diverting funds constituting First Bank's collateral to an account they maintained at Luana Savings Bank in Luana.

    It says the bank notified the company, and owners Aaron Rubashkin and Sholom Rubashkin on Wednesday that the company is in default.

    Agriprocessors spokesman Chaim Abrahams said Friday afternoon declined to comment on the foreclosure, saying the company's owners are still analyzing it.

    The foreclosure calls into question the continued operation of Agriprocessors by the founding Rubashkin family. Owners Abraham Rubashkin and Sholom Rubashkin are individually named in the lawsuit as officers of the company who signed personal guarantees of some of the loans.

    A hearing on the request for a receiver was scheduled this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids.

  3. Jersey girl is jumping the gun [...] Also, the financial aspects here are complicated and noone knows exactly who owes what to whom, why and for which things, and other implications and it is certainly premature to dredge up takonos from the 1930s when kashrus in America was totally hefker and Jews were becoming frei with no Chasidim in sight, and kashrus supervision was in total shambles and therefore the takonos were needed unlike in the case of Rubashkin and Lubavitch where the standards of kashrus have not been the issues. Furthermore, in an age when banks and financial institutions in America and the world have been shown to be the biggest frauds and losers themselves and in many cases forcing the hands of governments to bail them out with hundreds of BILLIONS of tax-payer dollars, the Rubashkin show is a nice digression for the goyim involved, but no bank or banker or government official has any credibility to act smug or assert any moral superiority in such situations.

    This entire Rubashkin story and it's implications are frightening for all Orthodox Jews as well as for Judaism in America.

    One thing is for sure, it is one of the biggest cases of redifa of Yidden in a long time.

    It is also an updated politically correct case of alilas damim (a literal blood libel), only in this case it is not Beilis who is being falsely accused of killing an innocent Christian boy for "baking matzos", but the Rubashkins, and by implication they are implicating all shomrei Torah umitzvos, only that now it is the PETA "animal rights" types who are accusing the shochtim and butchers of Rubashkin (all of whom are yerei shomayim and mumchim) of "cruelty" to animals by the way they allegedly mistreat and "kill" them and are"shedding the blood" of the animals to make kosher meat (instead of the making of matzos baloney [good pun, but sad though]. Yet nowadays when Muslims kill out Christians as in the never eending Sudanese Civil Wars and Darfur the world does not scream or arrest people. Similarly the rabid screaming ultra-liberals defend the mass killings of unborn babies but they shed copious crocodile tears for chickens and cows that feed humans and give life. What sick and perverted people Rubashkin is up against.

    Then there are labor union crowd that is acting holier than thou, when everyone knows that unions, especially ones in the meat packing industry, are totally corrupt and completely influenced by the Mafia that controls them inside out. These people decided to pick on Rubashkin because Rubashkin did not want to hire union workers (is that a "crime"?) and so Rubashkin as Hasidic Orthodox Jews were easy targets to slander, to sik the authorities on them and cite them for violations for hiring and using illegals, when all of America is being serviced, built and run by illegal's cheap labor. The cops and the feds are free to take a ride down any street in America and stop at any store, gas station, construction site, lawn service, you name it, and you will see all those Hispanics and sometimes Asians (the days of Italian and Greek workers are long, long gone) and you can arrest a few million people in a week. Notice how they did not pick on the agricultural industry in California where the unions actually protect the illegals and try to bring more in from Mexico and central America where millions of them work without any permits and they provide them with benefits too.

    Then you have the red-necks and antisemites of Iowa who just irrationally hate the Jews in their midst and like Nazis would love to make Iowa "Judenrein" even if it will hurt the Iowans the most with loss of income and employment for farmers and their hands, they will cut of their noses to spite their own faces.

    The reported incidents of misbehavior by members of the Chabad community in Postville, mostly some unruly youngsters not staff of Rubashkin, did not help matters. Living in Iowa and being out of town is not like hanging out in Crown Heights. But honestly, that is more than off-set by the excellent record of good and harmonious relations with the general public and with public and government officials on all levels that all Chabad shluchim, their wives and familes have with people in thousands of places in America and the world.

    So all in all, it's pretty sad that a family business like Rubashkin's, that has been providing excellent meat products at very affordable prices to consumers should be put through this. Empire chickens are often about close to one dollar more per pound and it makes a huge difference.

    The Young Israel, OU, Agudah and others sent a rabbinic and lay delegation that found everything to be in order in the kashrus department. Unfortunately, by the time the delegation of rabbis got there and put in their good word in it was too late because the conglomeration of anti-Rubashkin (read: anti-Yiddiskeit) forces had already planned and made their moves and Rubashkin has now been hit from too many directions.

    The finacial woes are not surprising given Rubashkin's troubles added to the general economic meltdown in America with the tightening of credit and proabably decrease in sales.

    People need Rubashkins meat products, and the competiveness that it brings to the meat market. Prices will now rise and the REAL VICTIMS will be the thousands of Jewish families who are struggling to make ends meat and relied on a few pieces of chicken in their pots during the week and on Shabbos from fresh Rubashkin product lines.

  4. "the 1930s when kashrus in America was totally hefker and Jews were becoming frei with no Chasidim in sight"

    There were Chassidim in America in the 1930s! And plenty of Observant Jews also.

    My great grandmother's, grandmothers' and mothers' houses were more kosher than most Rabbis' today. In those days, the Balabustas did not use maids, there was no issue of Bishul Akum from maids, restaurants or take out.

    Everyone knew the shochetim in the community who were educated Yirei Shamayim. Other than meat, in those days everyone made everything at home, they rended their own schmaltz, baked their own bread, bought their milk from Farmingdale (Jewish dairy), made their own jams etc etc. It was like Chassidishe Pesach is today, except it was like that ALL the time.

    I have yet to visit a Chabad house where I could eat because of the Bishul Akum with the maids.

    (Sephardim hold that a Jew has to participate in the cooking of each batch while most Chassidim permit the Jew to light the pilot and then leave the Gentile to cook alone all day).

    Chabad did not invent Judaism, so you can forget about the bubba meisa that there was no yiddishkeit, kashrus or observant Judaism in America before Chabad.

    There was plenty and back then (pre 1970s), at least every Jew knew that we were waiting for a living Messiah and not the Second Coming of a dead one.

  5. I don't know why anybody would even bother responding to 'jersey girl's [...] rants anymore. It should be like water off a ducks back by now.
    Jews are supposed to be "rachmanim, bayshanim, and gomlei chassadim", three traits exemplified by the Rubashkin family for decades. Anybody who's ever stepped into their restaurant has seen the poor and destitute eating for free, at any and every time of day. Many thousands of poor yeshiva bochurim have been clothed by them every yom-tov for more years than I can imagine, and all of this in a very discreet way. [...].
    "Kol hamerachem al habriyos, merachamin alav min hashamayim", "b'mida sheadam moded, kach modedin lo", and countless other ma'amarei chazal should give (even) 'jersey girl' pause.

  6. Now there will be a dozen or so posts from Lubavitchers who google and respond to every internet criticism of their sect.

    Video footage does not lie. Hundreds of illegal aliens were not drop shipped to the plant only to be arrested by the Feds to make the "poor innocent" Rubashkins look bad.

    The Rubashkins are a chillul Hashem and this is not new.

    For at least 15 years,that I know of the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Gedola (Lubavitch) has been telling everyone not to use Rubashkin and WHY.

    The only question was whether or not the Rubashkins would get caught.

  7. Is this another of your libelous fantasies, 'jersey girl' ?
    Which RY of WHICH Yeshiva Gedola....or do you just make this stuff up ?

  8. Jersey Girl says:

    "There were Chassidim in America in the 1930s! And plenty of Observant Jews also."

    RaP: Noone is denying that, but please don't create an impression that is misleading. Yes, while there were plenty of Jews who were following what can be termed "Orthodoxy" altho many of those, while keeping kosher already began the slide of not keeping Shabbos properly, geetimg married with not kosher eidim, and not creating the right chinuch for their kids and sending them to public schools. Kashrus is usually one of the last things to go out the window and for a long long time most Conservative Jews nominally adhered to kashrus (a few still do), while in practice and belief they were identical to Reform. So don't create, manufacture and conjure up a "reality" from a situation that was very different and complicated in reality back then. There were no organized Chasidic dynasties in America prior to the Second World War, see and with a structured leadership and heirarchy that in turn created institutions and businesses that were run on purely "Heimish" and mostly Halachic grounds. So that yes, while there were many individual people from Chasidic backgrounds and homes in America from the beginnings of the migrations from Eastern Europe to the USA (how could there not be) if they were 100% Chasidish like today they were all yechidei segula and not working under the banner of Satmar, Bobov, Lubavitch, Munkatch etc ALL of which came during or after the Holocaust as symbolized by the move of their REBBES from Eastern Europe to the USA.

    "My great grandmother's, grandmothers' and mothers' houses were more kosher than most Rabbis' today."

    RaP: Again with the personal testimonies, which while they are nice touches and flourishes is NOT the way to present intellectually convincing and learned discussions, but as you see here yourself, by citing grandparents and great-grandparents you are creating the LITERAL "bubba meise" which only detracts from the points you are trying to argue.

    "In those days, the Balabustas did not use maids, there was no issue of Bishul Akum from maids, restaurants or take out."

    And those same Balabustas may have been feeding treif to their own kids without knowing it by assuming, as they mostly did, that buying and letting their kids eat "regular" packaged or store candies, chocolates, drinks, ice-creams and cheeses etc were "natural" as they had been used to those kinds of this in "shops" seeling things and being in the old country, but they knew nothing about the methods and tendencies in modern mechanised industries of using additives and fillers made from lards, gelatines and animal fats and non-kosher substances (as today the simplistic Chinese consumers are learning to their peril that without rigorous govrenement and private controls, a bottle of milk and a chocolate bar are not what they seem but actaully contain deadly tainted and hazardous dangerous poisons.)

    Also, the old time Balaabustas, especially the ones who made it to America, were already the victims of a slackened Jewish educational system because ther was no formal schooling for Jewish girls and many were already were both functionally illitirate and unaware and ignorant of basic halachos (for example most were already using their own bath-tubs at home as "mikvas" -- for those that even bothered to keep taharas hamishpocha -- and this had already started in Europe with the HASKALAH's destructive influence which only snow-balled in America, so quit deluding yourself) and they were not beneficieries of Sarah Shenierer's Bais Yaakov Schools which only got going in Europe between the two world wars.

    So that while the Balabustas we all love and admire were golden hearted and kind people, they were way out of their depth in the new-fangled modern American society and because they lacked both a formal and religious education they were not able to communicate that to their daughters (unlike what you describe) nor could they fathom that life in industrialized and commercialized America was not like living in the shtetel with beets and onions as staples, the chickens roaming nearby eating natural feed and the cows giving bucket or two of milk in the back yard and they could make blintzes and herring without worrying about the kashrus issues while in America all that changed for good.

    "Everyone knew the shochetim in the community who were educated Yirei Shamayim."

    RaP: This is a great contenmtious issue so please do not simplify the chaotic times and it is not as reassuring as you make it sound. The shochtim were a mixed bunch and there was no CENTRALIZATION nor submssion to rabbinic control, HAVE TYOU FORGOTTEN the entire Rabbi Jacob Joseph zt"l story, first and only "chief rabbi" of America and what happened to him when he started to take on the butchers and shochtim at that time in America who were not adhering to halacha and hence feeeding the masses treifos in the name of "bassar bassar" (yes, misleading people by using "bassar" twice instead of even caring to say "Basser casher") to keep track of them in America. And it only got worse, and the nice bubbies were as much victims of the conniving shochtim as much as some virtuous rabbis were unable to stop them from their geneiva and chillul Hashem.

    This is where the hefkeres part came in. If you have read anything from the era of Rav Lazer Silver and even Rav JB Soloveitchik in Boston who fought huge wars against corrupt shochtim and the mass abuse of plombes and treif meat being sold as "kosher" to ignorant, gullible, golden -hearted and uneducated bubbies who were willing to pay with their life's work for meat that was halachically treif.

    This was stopped over time through the work of the ever-growing OU, an outrgrowth of the Agudas Harabonim originally, and then when ALL the the various almost always reliable CHASIDISHE shechitas arrived and asserted themselves and I am not just referring to Lubavitch ones, but ALL Chasidishe shechitas and hechsherim.

    "Other than meat, in those days everyone made everything at home, they rended their own schmaltz, baked their own bread, bought their milk from Farmingdale (Jewish dairy), made their own jams etc etc."

    RaP: Again, you are romanticizing a past that was very rough in reality and it is false to claim that every balabusta in every home in every community was busy doing the exact same things all the time. Plenty were already busy working outside the homes, many in sweat shops and many in all sorts of low paying jobs and they had less time for all this homemaking like their European ancestors where women were not allowed to really work outside of the home in big numbers. People were then busy building businesses, struggling to make a living, raising their kids and taking care of other family members, sending money to support families still in Europe, as well as coping with the outbreak of two world wars and during WWII over 500,000 Jews (that's one out of about every ten) joined the US military casing further upheavel. Most of those Jewish troops learned to eat treif in the militry even more (no choice in war time, the Chofetz Chaim wrote a book about this for Jewish Russian and Polish soldiers how to cope) and when they returned they did not demand a return to higher kashrus standards either.

    "It was like Chassidishe Pesach is today, except it was like that ALL the time."

    RaP: Now that is about the biggest bubba meise you have said here in a while! Are you expecting people here to believe that the Jews in pre-war America were like the Chasidim of today's America? If so, you need to do a reality check. No further response is needed here from me!

    "I have yet to visit a Chabad house where I could eat because of the Bishul Akum with the maids."

    RaP: So don't eat there and don't go there. Take your own food along on the road and stay away from Chabd people and places if they upset you so, its a big world and you have choices. However, most Jews would disagree with you. They would tell you that when they travel to all four corners of the Earth and when they seek out the local Chabad house and rabbis and its rebbetzin, or they get sought out by them as well, they feel like they have found a true Jewish home away from home and they love and appreciate what they have been given to eat and the warmth and hachnosas orchim worthy of an Avraham Avinu and a Sarah Imeinu. Lubavitchers are very makpid in kashrus as well as in hachnosas orchim from most people's experiences, and most people do not go snooping around or supervisng their HOST's kitchens and cooks, it not considered to be polite in any culture to do that. So you must be an exception.

    "(Sephardim hold that a Jew has to participate in the cooking of each batch while most Chassidim permit the Jew to light the pilot and then leave the Gentile to cook alone all day)."

    RaP: Ok, so good for the Sephardim. So then, let the Sephardim do the outreach and work that the Lubavitchers do and set up "Sephardic houses" not just for their own kith and kin (which they tend to do privately for each other perhaps) but like Lubavitchers do for ANY hungry and lonely Jew who wants to come there like they do in Chabad houses and homes of shluchim (and which is in keeping with the Pesach Hagada's opening declration of "kol dichfin..." let ALL who are hungry come and eat...)

    "Chabad did not invent Judaism,"

    RaP: Noone says they did, and I agree with you on that point! And I know that Lubavitchers can be annoying when they view the world that way and carp on it. But again, if you don't like that perspective, tune them out and stay away from them. It is not good for your blood pressure and they are not going to change.

    "so you can forget about the bubba meisa that there was no yiddishkeit, kashrus or observant Judaism in America before Chabad."

    RaP: I never said that, so please don't twist my words. I never said anything about what was in America before Chabad. What I did say was that: "...the 1930s when kashrus in America was totally hefker and Jews were becoming frei with no Chasidim in sight, and kashrus supervision was in total shambles and therefore the takonos were needed..." note the word CHASIDIM and that means ALL Chasidim, not just Chabad (stop being so fixated on them please, it sounds obsessive already) -- and indeed the truth is that before the arrival of ORGANIZED Chasidic movements to America, with REBBES and CHASIDIM such as Satmar. Bobov, Vizhnitz, Lubavitch, Munkatch etc, that came either DURING or AFTER the Holocaust (Breuer's and KAJ also came after the war with the rescue of Rabbi Joseph Breuer zt"l), INSTITUTIONAL kashrus was in shambles America shambles because only once the Chasidim were willing to put their stamp on this field and take the lead by giving the manpower, creating the organizations, businesses and kashrus agencies, until then, over-all FORMAL situation was chatic, while here and there individuals of good repute were trying their best to keep up a good stanbdrd but it was not an organized sytematic effort with reliable strict rabbinic overight.

    Incidentally, nowadays the OU basically relies on Chasidishe shochtim, mashgichim and staff in the kashrus supervision arena. It's not a perfect fool-proof system either with human nature and the yetzer hora always in play, and even the mashgichim need mashgichim, as they have at the OU), but it beats the chaos and hefkeres in kashrus in pre-WWII America.

    Kashrus susprevison and food manufacture is always going to be problematic and their will always be problems for anyone, just think of the meat scandal in Monsey a year or so ago and it had nothing tod with Lubavitch, so butcehrs and shochtim are always going to need watching --- that's why it's called HASHGOCHA ("supervison") -- and that is why it has its own sections and simanim in the Shulchan Aruch with special updated sha'alos and teshuvos and pesakim right up to the present moment.

    "There was plenty and back then (pre 1970s), at least every Jew knew that we were waiting for a living Messiah and not the Second Coming of a dead one."

    RaP: This last comment is gratuitous and a red herring about other's personal Chasidishe beliefs and values. You know, I don't know if you are aware but Rabbi Eidensohn/da's torah has been editing out criticism of you by other posters (I don't know why since you seem tough enough to take it) hence his little "[...]" in some posts lately, but surprisingly you are getting a free pass and being allowed to hurl this fire bomb at the Lubavitchers when you know it will upset them, and then what does that do, just creates a vicious cycle of recriminations that gets us nowhere.

    The issues of what they believe, and I do not subcribe to Lubavitch beliefs, has been hashed out and well discussed on this blog, and hopefully you were following and reading some of those discussions because they were very enlightening and informative about the Chabad point of view about their beliefs in their Rebbe and his connection or not to "moshiach" so that one liners from you that are just provocations and insults and not part of the rest of the discussion are not helpful at all and just create an air of vindictveness and hostility which could easily be avoided. Thanks for taking note!

  9. One cannot help but wonder, Rabbi Eidensohn, as to your posting of the vile slander and constantly rehashed accusations of Chabad by 'jersey girl' that you seem to freely allow.... now that someone has mentioned it. Does it really have to be in every discussion, and if so, why don't you allow a free exchange?
    Why the double standard ?

  10. Crisis in US Kosher meat deepens as more slaughtergouses are shut down.

    VIN of 11/03/08 reports at from

    "Third Kosher Slaughterhouse Halts Production, Heightening Worries About Meat Shortage: Fire at Minnesota Plant Follows Shutdowns of Two Agriprocessors Facilities"


    "Kosher Meat In Crisis, Plant Where Meal Mart And Others Slaughter Shut Down Due To Fire

    Buffalo Lake, MN- In developments that are likely to cripple the availability of kosher beef in large parts of America, three of the five largest slaughterhouses producing kosher beef have halted production this week.

    All eyes have been on the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse, in Postville, Iowa, which stopped producing beef last week due to a series of legal problems and arrests at its parent company, Agriprocessors. That company also owns a slaughterhouse in Gordon, Neb., which is thought to be the nation’s fifth-largest plant producing kosher meat. While little attention has been paid to the Gordon plant, local officials told the Forward that it stopped operating in October.

    Now, in unrelated developments, executives at America’s third-largest kosher beef slaughterhouse, located in Minnesota, told the Forward that production there has been brought to a complete halt due to a fire.

    “We’re not killing anything right now,” said Bill Gilger, CEO of North Star Beef, which is located in Buffalo Lake, Minn. “We’re adding to the shortage of kosher beef, having nothing to do with what is going on Postville, but just to do with our own situation here.”

    “Whatever it is, there’s going to be a tremendous void in the market,” said Rabbi Menachem Genack, head of O.U. Kosher, the largest certifying agency for kosher meat.

    The largest player in the kosher beef industry has been Agriprocessors. Last week, the company’s former CEO was arrested on the same day that a bank initiated foreclosure proceedings against the meat producer. The company had been killing more than 500 head of cattle each day in kosher production, but that number has grown smaller and smaller since an immigration raid in May took away nearly 400 of the company’s workers.

    Last week, the plant stopped all production of beef, and on Monday the company’s new CEO said that the company would not be producing meat again anytime soon. In Postville this weekend, operations at the plant were being shut down, and employees were making plans to leave the city.

    In Gordon, Neb., Agriprocessors had been producing nearly 150 cattle each day, according to the Gordon city manager, Fred Hlava. Hlava said that production ceased before the Jewish High Holy Days in October and has not started again. Hlava said he has had trouble getting any good information from Agriprocessors.

    “I’m not sure what’s transpiring,” Hlava told the Forward.

    Before the raid, Agriprocessors did a significant amount of beef slaughtering at a plant in South America. Those operations have also stopped.

    Beef production at the North Star Beef facility in Minnesota had been sold under the label of Alle, a kosher meat company based in the New York City borough of Queens. Alle slaughters its kosher beef at two slaughterhouses owned by other companies. The largest slaughterhouse that Alle uses, Aurora Packing Company in Illinois, is still operating. Marvin Fagel, Aurora’s CEO, told the Forward that he is aware of the shortages.

    “We can’t just make more products,” Fagle said. “We can’t work longer.”

    North Star was Alle’s second-largest slaughter facility, where 330 cattle a day were in kosher production as recently as last week, according to Gilger, the North Star Beef CEO. Alle representatives at the Queens headquarters on Monday could not be reached for comment.

    Gilger said that a contractor had started a fire in the slaughterhouse in June that affected the area where kosher meat was soaked and salted. Slaughtering had stopped for two weeks immediately after the fire in June but had begun again. Recently, though, Gilger said the insurance company had failed to cover the costs of the fire.

    “We’ve got a $3 million business interruption claim, and they haven’t paid a dime,” Gilger said.

    Gilger said that production will be down on Monday and Tuesday but that the company is hoping to begin slaughtering again on Wednesday.

    “There’s a definite shortage of kosher beef right now,” Gilger said."

  11. Controversy over the release of Sholom Rubashkin, the former Agriprocessors CEO, as local Postville writer bewails the situation.

    As reported on 11/4/08 by VIN (News Source: The Gazette By Todd Dorman) at

    VIN's heading: "Postville, IA - Party Celebration After The Release Of Rubashkin Is A Public 'Chilul Hashem' [video]"

    The Gazettes: "Postville, IA - It looked like a very nice party.

    I'm talking about the one thrown for Sholom Rubashkin, the former Agriprocessors CEO who was arrested by federal authorities last week and charged with conspiring to hire illegal immigrants. He was in charge of the kosher meatpacking plant in Postville when federal agents raided the facility in May and arrested nearly 400 illegal workers. The feds, who rushed those workers through portable courtrooms and group trials, finally got around to charging a top executive. Bully for them.

    Funny, I thought I'd feel like celebrating. But with a town's economic future smashed on the rocks and so many lives thrown into agonizing uncertainty, it just didn't seem like high time for a good time.

    But what do I know? After Rubashkin returned from federal court last week, his friends in Postville threw a celebration. Party pictures are easy to find online. Rubashkin and others are smiling, sitting around tables. There are a few bottles of booze and lots of Mountain Dew. It appears a good time was being had by all.

    Party Video after the release below

    Look, I understand why Rubashkin and his allies were partying so publicly. It's a show of defiance. Us against them. That's their public relations pitch, and they're sticking to it.

    They say the government has a "vendetta" against the company. The federal raid was step one. The state's $10 million fine for labor violations, on the heels of charging company execs with 9,000-plus counts of child labor law violations, are really "roadblocks" that will inflict "collateral damage" on Postville. Lawsuits are piling up, creditors are at the door, but it's someone else's fault. They're the victims.

    It would be amusing if it wasn't so maddening.

    Never mind that it was a staggering disregard for state and federal laws that put Agriprocessors on its path to turmoil and insolvency. Never mind that the people of Postville, whose economic future is tightly tangled up in the plant's prospects, are now left to pick up the pieces, struggle forward and pray someone can ride in and save the day.

    Never mind the hundreds of illegal immigrants whose misguided search for a better life led them instead to exploitation, fear and broken promises. Never mind more broken promises for replacement workers.

    Yes, there are a lot of victims in this thing. But most didn't make it to the party.

    And I wish I could be optimistic about the future. I'm just not.

    Maybe a new company will come in and buy the plant. I hope it happens. But at the same time I can't help but wonder whether this nation's packing industry is so flawed and mismanaged and unlawfully toxic that even a new owner would eventually bring the same problems back to Postville. Reforms are desperately needed.

    But I'm also not hopeful this Election Day will bring much change. I pray I'm wrong. But I've listened to a parade of congressional candidates throw safe, plastic platitudes at the issue of America's broken immigration system. And for both major party presidential hopefuls, the immigration issue has fallen off the radar.

    I'm afraid this is a story that will get worse before it gets better. Sorry to be such a party-pooper."


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