On May 12 federal agents conducted the largest workplace immigration raid in US history at a kosher meat-processing factory in Postville, Iowa, where they detained more than 300 undocumented Latino workers and threw most of them in jail on dubious criminal charges. The raid received some coverage in the mainstream press but has gained serious traction within the Jewish news media, which have been focusing attention on workplace abuses and animal cruelty at the Postville plant since at least 2004. While the New York Times has written eleven articles on the raid, the
(both weekly publications) have run twelve and fourteen, respectively, and the JTA– an international Jewish wire service–has posted twenty-five.
of the Jewish Labor Committee attributes the unusual level of interest on the part of Jewish papers mostly to the size and brutality of the Postville raid, but she says there are other factors to consider. The bust has mobilized people in the Jewish community who don’t often take public action–from rabbinical students to summer campers–to ask the question, “What does it mean to keep kosher in this century?” To that end, Jewish groups are developing ways to combine the ritual requirements of keeping kosher with ethical concerns about worker treatment and environmental standards, including community-supported agriculture groups, meat-buying co-ops and a new labeling system,
, to certify products as both kosher and produced in accordance with fair labor practices.
, editor of the Jewish food and politics blog The Jew & The Carrot, points to this “tradition of doing social justice work from a place rooted in Jewish values” to explain why the raid “struck a nerve” in the Jewish community. “This is who’s representing us and making the meat that we eat!” says Koenig. NAOMI SOBEL
OBAMA AROUND THE WORLD:
‘s recent foreign tour did little to boost his poll numbers at home, it at least proved Obama-mania is a global phenomenon. His arrival in Britain was compared to the second coming of the Beatles; in Germany he turned out a crowd of 200,000, including old-time West Berliners who saw shades of JFK. Not all were as effusive, however; as
reports, “outside the Green Zone, Iraqis did not pay great attention to the Obama visit.” To read dispatches on the tour from Cockburn,