The Danger of Tav Hayosher

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tav-hayosherBy Maimon Kirschenbaum

Several weeks ago, I was introduced to Rabbi Ari Weiss, the executive director of Uri L’tzedek, the organization that launched the now-controversial Tav Hayosher “ethical seal” for restaurants. Rabbi Weiss met with me to discuss the background of the Tav Hayosher seal, hear my perspectives on the matter, and possibly form some sort of allegiance with me, given my experience representing food service workers throughout the country. I was truly impressed with Rabbi Weiss’ gentle demeanor and apparent well-meaning. However, I believe that the Tav Hayosher ethical seal is a dangerous idea that should be stopped.

The Tav purports to restaurant owners that the Tav will benefit their businesses in several ways. First it will improve their employer/employee relations by increasing compliance with labor laws. Also, the Tav intends to create its own reward and punishment system: Kosher restaurant/catering patrons will be encouraged to patronize establishments carrying the Tav and to avoid non-Tav carrying establishments.

What the Tav may not explain to restaurant owners is that the Tav can significantly hurt any business that interacts with it. Entering a restaurant’s premises, interviewing its employees, and policing the treatment of its employees is only one short step away from inciting employment litigation against the restaurant. Based on my experience with countless aggrieved restaurant workers, I would not be surprised if the Tav’s antics quickly result in litigation against the restaurants it inspects.

In addition, we all know that the Jewish laws are complicated and that there are varying levels of kosher observance. In my opinion, the Tav deceptively insinuates that carrying the Tav adds some added level of halachic permissibility to the food it serves, a misconception that could easily deceive a kosher restaurant owner less knowledgeable in the laws of kashrut.

I am a staunch advocate for the restaurant workers’ rights, including wage/hour and anti-discrimination rights. The laws can sometimes be complicated. If you are a restaurant owner reading this, go hire an employment lawyer and make sure you are keeping the laws, because (a) that is the right thing to do according to the Torah, and (b) the liability for failure to keep these laws can be enormous if a lawsuit is filed. As Jews, we have an even higher duty to treat our employees ethically and to sanctify G-d’s name in our business practices.

Restaurant Owner, if you adhere to the federal and state labor laws, you will be doing the right thing and you will avoid liability. But please realize that the Tav is not your friend. They cannot give you legal advice, they cannot defend you if you are sued, and their ethical seal will not help you at all in that scenario-there is a U.S. legal system replete with lawyers, judges, and administrative agencies that handle the administration of the federal and state laws governing employment. Neither does the Tav make your restaurant more kosher. What the Tav can do is incite your workers to take action against you, including boycotts and lawsuits. If the Tav attains the power it seeks, it will be able to ruin you by removing the seal if it decides your practices are not up to snuff. Given that the Tav is a self-regulated organization, this decision will be up to the Tav, based solely on it’s own assessment of what is right and wrong. Do you really want to give this unfettered power to a group that can do this to you?

This is a critical time to stop the Tav Hayosher from gaining too much uncontrollable power. Do not allow them onto your premises. If you carry the seal, take it down and tell the Tav that you did so. Tell your friends that own restaurants to do the same. You owe it to yourself and to your community of kosher restaurants. Leave the kosher laws to the kashrut organizations and the labor laws to the institutions with the power to enforce them. Finally, if you have not already done so, hire a lawyer and comply with the laws. Set a good example, and prove to the public why the Jews are referred to as a “Light onto the nations.”

Maimon Kirschenbaum is an attorney at Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP , where he represents employees facing wage and hour violations, harassment, and workplace discriminations. His work has focused in particular on helping employees in the restaurant industry recover unpaid wages.


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  1. Agree with the author. This is all part of the ‘new age’ type of modern orthodox Judaism, the new mishagas, that is leading down a slippery slope- the same people who ordain women rabbis. Just as conservative Judaism and then reform judaism started, with minor changes, and now look at what was spawned. Important that the orthodox community becomes aware of all this. Very depressing how in the last few decades, we see the erosion of the Yiddishkeit that was and how the Jewish world has become entangled with so many foreign and alien ideologies, with ‘hechsherim’ covering up many wrongs.

  2. What is immoral about this “moral and ethical hechsher” is the fact of the TAV web site listing restaurants that are supposedly under their “hechsher”.
    In reality, very few of the ones listed have the TAV seal.
    The list is mostly fiction. A ‘wish list’ if you wish….
    So much for their new brand of Jewish ethics.

  3. See here.

    Uri L’Tzedek, hand in hand with the unions, were behind the boycott!

    The Politics of Kashrut: Kosher Food Boycotts then and now
    An event at Town and Village Synagogue. No word yet whether the refreshments will be fleischig.
    Join JFREJ, the AJWS-AVODAH Partnership, and Uri L’Tzedek for a salon-style, interactive program: learn about the complex intersections of immigrant rights, labor rights, and Jewish law – from the Lower East Side’s kosher meat boycott of 1903 to the AgriProcessors boycott of 2008.

    Featuring Professor Hasia Diner, NYU, and Organizers from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Uri L’Tzedek, and Hekhsher Tzedek. Presented through Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) and American Jewish World Service and AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps.

    This event is co-sponsored by Hazon, the Workmen’s Circle / Arbeter Ring, and Jewish Labor Committee/United Hebrew Trades. For more information or to RSVP click here or call 212-647-8966 ext 10.

  4. Ridiculous. You can’t complain that they might incite employees to sue. That is the whole point of the exercise: to make sure that the employees are getting fair treatment.

    Do you have data that most of the lawsuits are frivolous? Can you prove that they do more harm than good?

    As far as I can tell, the fact that they incite litigation is proof that they are both needed and effective in what they do.

  5. Very well said.

    Based upon this article, I would add one more. Would you want an agency that is purposely seeking to deceive (with their whole “kosher food seal deal”), who has no one overlooking it, to have power over your business??

  6. I don’t know if these guys @ Tav are approaching the matter correctly or not, but I think that they are doing it lishma, and have no “nefarious” agenda.

    What we should all be asking is how did the organization, supervision, and maintenance of Kashrus get to a level so low – vis a vis labor, cleanliness, and corruption – that such a need as Tav purports to serve could be contemplated in the first place? Good, honest, learned people who deal with individual machshirim and kashrus organizations as well as individual businesspeople involved in some way with kashrus have come to the same conclusions as these Tav people. They are not all out to turn everyone “reform” as poster #1 would have it. If we don’t tend to our own problems, no wonder someone else steps into the breach.

  7. i call on orthodox ppl to find all companies that carry one of these “hechsherim” and try to raise red flags on all potential violations and try reporting them to government bodies

  8. Smelly Fish,

    Allow me explain to you in ONE WORD what is so stinking about this TAV.


    Plain and simple.


    If an organization does meet their ‘standards’ they will initiate a boycott.

    Yes – Jews initiating a boycott against another Jew. [besides the ‘mesira’ aspect]

    Least you think it happened once (Rubashkin-2008) be aware that it happened just recently again.

    Least you think that they are embarrassed by these boycotts I will quote to you what a ‘Team Member’ of the TAV posted on a web site TODAY!

    His comment came as a response to a complaint that TAV joined forces with the unions against Flaum’s, a Jewish establishment.

    “Daniel Sayani- TAV Team Memeber
    September 5, 2012
    Flaum’s is in violation of countless halakhot and federal, state, and local laws, and it is therefore our duty to boycott their products. The Boston Beit Din paskened in the 1980s that due to the issur of oshek, food items produced involving unfair labor practices should be boycotted.”

    Need they smell anymore?


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