June 9, 2014

Leading Rabbis Refute Open Orthodoxy Rabbi on Kosher Slaughter

NEW YORK — Two leading rabbis representing the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish organizations strongly refuted an assertion by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz (“WhyThis Rabbi Is Swearing Off Kosher Meat,” Wall Street Journal, Houses of Worship, May 30, 2014) that kosher slaughter nowadays violates ethics, especially because of mass production. “Jewish religious law prohibits the infliction of avoidable pain on animals, and the vast majority of kosher slaughterhouses, overseen and inspected by both governmental agencies and rabbinic supervisors, are entirely sensitive to that law and its implications,” wrote Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudath Israel of America in a letter to the Wall Street Journal.

Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the Orthodox Union, in an adjoining letter wrote: “The example that Rabbi Yanklowitz brings of downed calves—calves that are too sick or injured to rise to their feet—if anything, demonstrates that kosher slaughter is more stringent than USDA rules. Under USDA regulations, certain downers, as these animals are called, may not be slaughtered, and Rabbi Yanklowitz cites the loophole that slaughterhouses exploit by shocking or lifting the calves to bring them to slaughter. To the extent that these abuses exist, they don't involve animals slated for kosher slaughter. Under Jewish law, no downer is kosher, period.” Rabbi Genack added: “If Rabbi Yanklowitz chooses no longer to eat kosher meat, that is his choice. To declare kosher slaughter inhumane and unethical should not be his choice. Quite simply, the assertion is untrue.”

Rabbi Yanklowitz is a graduate of Yeshiva Chovevei Torah and part of the Open Orthodoxy movement established by activist Rabbi Avi Weiss of Riverdale. The movement came under sharp attack from Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, the  head of the Council of Torah Sages of Agudath Israel at its annual dinner last month. The yeshiva’s ordinations are not accepted either by Yeshiva University or the mainstream Orthodox rabbinic organizations.