By Avi Cohn
Tav Ha’Yosher or “The Ethical Seal” is a so-called “Hechsher” founded and led by Ari Weiss, Shmully Yanklowitz and Ari Hart under the social justice organization Uri L’Tzedek. They describe themselves as “an Orthodox social justice organization guided by Torah values and dedicated to combating suffering and oppression.”
Tav claims that although the rest of society is up to par in the battle for social justice or at least getting there, the orthodox community is lagging behind, mostly as a result of their own micro-legal system which doesn’t view human rights issues as that big a problem. As an “answer” to this, they’ve created a new type of Hechsher to monitor restaurants and insure justice.
Interestingly, one is yet to hear from the ‘social minded’ Tav people concerning Wal-Mart despite the recent revelations of horrific working conditions in Bangladesh that has caused the death of hundred workers producing clothing for the retail giant.
Have any of the gentlemen at the helm of Tav canceled their planned family trip to Disney?
Setting aside the suspect nature of social justice organizations in general, let us presume righteous intent here for a moment, and examine this new “Hechsher” and how it is supposed to insure justice.
Tav created a “Hechsher in exchange for promotion” system in which the restaurant uses the Tav’s “Ethical Hechsher” and in exchange, the Tav lets everybody know that the restaurant operates ethically. At a glance this seems like it could work. Except when considering the consequences, both of using the Hechsher and of not. The problems are [at least,] four:
1. Uneducated consumers assume that this “Hechsher” reflects the restaurants standard of Kashrus. Although it is important to exclusively patronize establishments that treat their workers fairly, it is not a matter of Kashrus. Tav gives the impression that the food isn’t kosher if the workers aren’t treated well; something that folks who don’t know better will easily buy into. It is both misleading and untrue.
2. Not using the Tav gives consumers the impression that the owner has something to hide. Otherwise, why not use the Tav? This isn’t necessarily true. There is a plethora of valid reasons why not to use the Tav; namely their high fees and shoddy practices in “signing up” restaurants. (They falsely claim restaurants as existing customers in order to build up their own name e.g. Kosh in Stamford CT and others. They have also been known to bully restaurant owners into using Tav by threatening to expose unfair treatment of workers)
3. Lastly, restaurants that do use the Tav are being boycotted by a great majority of the Kosher-restaurant-going demographic. Most orthodox Jews will not eat in a restaurant that uses the Tav because of its questionable standing in the orthodox community.
4. 4- The old adage is ‘never marry someone whom you cannot divorce’….
Think hard before you accept the Tav ‘Hechsher’.
While it occasionally occurs that an establishment changes their Rabbinic Hashgocha, it has a relatively insignificant impact on the business.
Conversely, if Tav allege that you treated one of your employees unfairly and you come to a point of dropping their so called Hechsher….beware. You will become their poster boy of their crusade ‘against retardants exploiting their workers’. They will organize boycotts outside your retatsurant.
Less restaurant-goers equals less business and less business equals fewer jobs. It appears then, that Tav has caused more damage to restaurants and their workers than they’ve helped. Tav has done nothing that the unions, local law enforcement, attorneys and social justice groups haven’t already succeeded in doing. Yet they continue to make this shpiel.
Check out eyeonthetav.com for more information and updates.