“Kosher” Business Ethics Certification

Now in Jerusalem, concerned consumers can start checking for Kosher certificates in hardware stores too. The “certificate is awarded to businesses based not on whether their food is kosher but whether their business practices are.”

“The business hechsher is the brainchild of a new organization called Ma’aglei Tzedek, or Circles of Justice. Ma’aglei Tzedek was formed a year ago by four observant men and women concerned about social and economic issues in the light of Jewish values – Assaf Banner, Efrat Degani, Shmuli Bing and Hili Tropper, all aged 27.”

In a previous incarnation going back 5 years ago the organization dealt with gathering and distributing food to poor families around Israel, but they eventually realized that their efforts could be better spent in preventing poverty rather than dealing with the effects of it.

“We saw municipality workers not getting paid for months,” says Banner. “We heard social workers talk about how there was a big problem of prostitution and trafficking in women. But we heard no clear Jewish voice speaking out against these problems. We went to some rabbis and they said, ‘You’re right. Give us a microphone and we will speak out against it.’” And so Ma’aglei Tzedek was born.”

Their aim is to protect worker’s rights and encourage ethical practices. The group awards “hashgacha” certificates to businesses that meet 7 requirements: They must pay minimum wage, traveling expenses, overtime, training time, properly register work hours, not employ foreign workers, and provide access for the handicapped.

Yeshiva and University students volunteer to check up on the “kosher establishments” and talk to employees weekly.

There are 30 certificates up in Jerusalem so far and another 5-10 being awarded weekly, with goals to soon have them up across the country. The plan is, however contingent on how customers react. If we make an effort to only shop in “kosher establishments” it will give store owners more incentive to comply.

This idea is being heralded both by leading religious Zionist rabbis such as Ya’acov Ariel, Shlomo Aviner, Aharon Lichtenstein and Mordechai Elon as well as well known Secular figures such as Amos Oz, David Grossman, Meir Shalev, Natan Zach and AB Yehoshua. “‘It’s one of few documents in Israel that people across the spectrum can agree upon,’ says Banner proudly.”

So, my fellow Jerusalemites, making it work is up to us.

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Laya Millman