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Food for thought-and profit


The ADL and the Rabbinical Kosher Excise Tax: Fact and Fiction

For many Gentile consumers, it comes as a shock to realize that they pay a Jewish tax on each and every pre-packaged food item with a “U” or “K” stamp on the package, with some of these fees possibly going to support Zionists in Israel. The Union of Orthodox Jews (symbolized by the “U” within a circle) and the Circle-K (for Kashruth or, Kosher) are the two main organizations within the United States that issue Kosher-certification and its accompanying tax, though there are 273 other Kosher-certification organizations that have other symbols within the U.S. alone.(1)

The ADL (or Anti-Defamation League), an offshoot of B’nai B’rith that got its start after the Atlanta chapter head of B’nai B’rith was arrested and convicted by a jury of murdering a 12-year-old girl, Mary Phagan, in a cruel manner,(2) has long since countered Gentile resentment towards this Rabbinical Kosher Excise Tax. Typically, the ADL says that such resentment towards the extra fees paid on food for the rabbis’ certification is the hallmark of anti-Semites. While it stands to reason that in some isolated cases this may in fact be true, there is a growing concern among many others over these extra fees that Gentile consumers are forced to pay, particularly with the downward trend of the economy.

In an article called “The Kosher Tax Hoax,” the ADL sought to allay many Gentiles’ fears and concerns over the Rabbinical Kosher Excise Tax. However, upon reviewing the “facts” presented by B’nai B’rith’s ADL, one quickly sees that it is filled with outright lies or, at best, half-truths.
From the beginning of the ADL’s article, it suggests that it is false that “only a small segment of the American population desires such markings, and that even the meanings of the labels are guarded secrets deliberately kept from non-Jews to trick them into paying the ‘kosher tax.'”

If you are a typical non-Jewish reader, it is easy to see that both these statements are true, not false as the ADL claims. Have you personally desired such markings? And, if it is not a “secret” of sorts, why do they not display a symbol that makes it clear that a fee is indeed paid to a Jewish organization for Kosher certification?

Lubomyr Prytulak, a retired Canadian psychology professor, has long argued that a Star of David (or, Magen David, as it is often called) should also accompany the Kosher certification to make its meaning well known.(3) This makes sense, and it would be more fair to Gentile consumers, most of whom are unaware of the Rabbinical Kosher Excise Tax. If the ADL and Jewish organizations were genuinely concerned with honesty, they would have done this long ago.

Jewish organizations do not necessarily seem to be concerned with honesty in this matter, however. In some advertisements of products bearing “K” or “U” symbols in magazines, these symbols will often actually be “hidden” or “masked off.” However, when these same items are advertised in Jewish publications, these symbols might actually be larger and have an arrow pointing to them.(4) This is, of course, deceptive advertising and goes to show that there are concerns among Jews or the companies that sell these Kosher products of the meaning behind these symbols becoming known.

While the ADL suggests that the claim “only a small segment of the American population desires such markings” is an anti-Semitic lie, the truth speaks otherwise. In fact, according to the Kosher-certification agency Star-K, “Integrated Marketing Communications reports that approximately 2.5 million Jews consume kosher food products.”(5) So what about the other 297.5 million people in the United States? Why are we then forced to pay for their Jewish religious dietary habits; why are we forced to pay for the Rabbinical Kosher Excise Tax?

The ADL argues that “the cost to the consumer for this service is a miniscule fraction of the total production overhead; it is so negligible in practical terms as to be virtually non-existent.” Is this true? I certainly would have no problems if Jews wanted to certify products as being Kosher or not at entirely their own costs.

As you might suspect, such talk by the ADL is either an outright lie on its part or, at best, deceptive. For example, the ADL report cites a “representative of the Heinz Company.” This “representative” reportedly said that the cost is “so small we can’t even calculate it.” This Heinz “representative” also said that the extra business it received more than made up for the costs associated with the Rabbinical Kosher Excise Tax. Who was this “representative”? If what he stated was true, why is his name not even given in the ADL’s article for verification? Did this person even exist?

Quite to the contrary of the ADL’s article, the Canadian Jewish News of March 20, 2003, has an article with an interesting headline: “Heinz Canada trims kosher product line.” Many of the Canadian Heinz’s products were no longer to be certified Kosher (thereby avoiding the Rabbinical Kosher Excise Tax, symbolized by Canada’s “COR” – Council of Orthodox Rabbis’ marking), although a few products would still be kept Kosher for Jews. Apparently, according to (named) Heinz spokeswoman Anna Relyea, this was done to “keep costs down while continuing to provide [some] kosher products to our customers.” The reasons–given by Heinz for the decision to cut back its on its Rabbinical Kosher Excise Taxes–were due to “how complex the manufacturing is, what the savings were and so on.”(6) In any event, these costs–that were initially reported by the ADL as being “so small, we can’t even calculate it”–could, in fact, be calculated and must have been significant.

Another item that seems to be deliberately distorted in the favor of the ADL is a reported “fact” given by the Birds Eye company. According to the ADL’s article, General Food’s Birds Eye unit paid only “6.5 millionths (.0000065) of a cent per item.” It would be more interesting to know how much General Foods itself paid in real dollars altogether for the Rabbinical Kosher Excise Tax, but the ADL avoids such talk for obvious reasons. But is the paltry sum of .0000065 cents per item true?

Again, this seems like a deliberately deceptive move on the ADL’s part (or that of one of its members who was employed at Birds Eye). Does anyone really believe that a rabbi would fly to Birds Eye foods if he only received 6.5 cents for each $1 million of business Birds Eye did? If Birds Eye did, say, $100 million in business, that would be a paltry $6.50 in fees by the certification agency. This wouldn’t even pay for the time involved, let alone travel and paperwork. So is the ADL lying? Probably not. If you’ll notice, it says “.0000065 of a cent per item.” I believe that Birds Eye sells corn, peas, pieces of broccoli, et cetera. In effect, the ADL’s “informer” was probably meaning that every single piece of corn, every single pea, and every single bean–that is, every “item”–incur the cost of .0000065 cents. Added up, this then makes sense.

Of course, if the Jewish agency that charges the Rabbinical Kosher Excise Tax would care to make available how much it charged this company in real dollars for the previous year, that would be a start to being honest. But, if you carefully examine the web, you will not find one company that has reported this fee paid to the rabbis. Why is this? From a logical standpoint, it stands to reason that the rabbis must have some type of confidentiality agreement in which if the company reveals its cost it is then penalized to a certain extent. What other reasoning could there be that not one single company discloses its costs associated with the Rabbinical Kosher Excise Tax?

The ADL then goes on to cite a company that reportedly had its business increase as a result of Kosher certification. Is this true? Possibly. One must keep in mind, however, what Dr. Prytulak refers to as the “Pyramid Scheme” at his website. In effect, this is how it works: A large company is courted by Jews, who fill the company’s heads with promises of a greater market appeal–but only, of course, if they pay this initially “small fee” (in comparison with the company’s total business) for certification. The company agrees. However, now the company must buy all its supplies from other “Kosher companies.” Aside from the obvious need to purchase food products from Kosher suppliers, a company might even have to purchase the steel for its manufacturing process and the cleaning supplies from Kosher companies, to name just a couple other items now considered Kosher. In any event, if the suppliers do not give the main company a Kosher product, the company cannot do business with them. (After all, products prepared by lowly Gentile companies do not meet the Jewish religious dietary standards as set forth by rabbis without due compensation.) In effect, if your company happens to be one of the suppliers to another company, you risk much business by failing to abide by the Jewish standards (and, of course, paying them your accompanying fees).

Is the extra business really there for companies that decide to go Kosher? Not according to some businesses. The Albuquerque Tribune reported one bagel company as wanting to be certified Kosher, but “the expense was more than the … bagel company could muster.” The owner stated, “We occasionally get asked for it but not that often.” Another company decided to drop its “Star-K certification after one year.” The owner of that company reported, “Kosher wasn’t opening up any markets for me. I thought it was too much for my little operation.”(7)

As you might expect, later in the ADL’s article, it spends a significant amount of space questioning the “motives” of those who question the motives of the Rabbinical Kosher Excise Tax. Since the ADL cannot obviously refute the content of the argument, it has to resort to attacking the organizations and people who bring forth legitimate arguments against an illegitimate tax that Gentile consumers are forced to pay, which is unknown to the vast majority of them. Of course, the ADL itself has a few skeletons in its closet, so to speak. Books such as “Conspiracy Against Freedom” or “The Ugly Truth about the ADL” (available from http://www.addall.com/used ) tell much of the stories kept behind the headlines.

In an attempt to make the ADL’s concerns seem legitimate, it cites Dr. Ed Fields, who states:

“All of this is superstitious nonsense and has absolutely nothing to do with improving the quality of any food product. Still, this clever scheme of requiring kosher labeling has become a multi-million dollar business today!”

Obviously, since Dr. Fields says this–and since the ADL makes him out to be a “bad” person through the use of its personal attacks (for failing to cooperate with the false-logic that Kosher is somehow wholesome)–we are to believe what he says is false. But in fact, it is true. What the ADL fails to mention, here, is that many Jews have corroborated what Dr. Ed Fields has stated, and these Jews are even cited by Dr. Fields. For example, the Washington Post of 2 November 1987 is cited, quoting orthodox Rabbi Schulem Rubin:

“Kosher doesn’t taste any better; Kosher isn’t healthier; Kosher doesn’t have less salmonella. You can eat a Holly Farm chicken which sells for 39 cents a pound on sale and next taste a Kosher chicken selling for $1.69 a pound and not tell the difference. There’s a lot of money to be made. Religion is not based on logic.”

Of course, facts have always been a problem for the ADL, which is why it has attacked Dr. Fields’s character so much. If you cannot refute the argument, the ADL seemingly reasons, attack the person’s character who makes the argument.

The ADL’s article then goes on to suggest that Jews are not the only ones who prefer Kosher. It argues, “Some kosher marketing officials estimate there may be as many as six million Americans who seek out Kosher foods in the supermarket. Of these only 1.5 million are Jewish. Moslems and Seventh Day Adventists also adhere to certain aspects of the Jewish dietary laws.” Is this true? Yes, it certainly is. You see, the article says, “Some Kosher marketing officials estimate….” Who are these “Kosher marketing officials” that make this claim? If you said the ADL, you might have just won the prize.

While I have not taken the time to see what the Seventh Day Adventists believe, I looked into if the Muslims found the Kosher certification acceptable as meeting their religious dietary habits as well. What does the Islamic Food Council of America have to say about Kosher meeting the religious dietary requirements of orthodox Muslims, or “Halal,” as it is commonly known. According to the Halal Digest of July 2000, it states,

“Many Kosher producers believe that Muslims accept Kosher as being Halal. In fact, Muslims do not accept Kosher certification as being a substitute for Halal certification. Some Muslims may have believed that Kosher slaughter was similar to Halal, but they are learning that this is not true and are demanding Halal certified products. Internationally, only proper Halal certification is acceptable and monitoring agencies are being established to ensure compliance.”

There is one major difference (that even I know of) between the Halal method of slaughter and that of the Kosher method. The Halal method is actually done in a more humane manner, as it allows the animal to be stunned first. However, this is not the case with Kosher slaughter, which requires the animal to experience the full amount of pain and be fully conscious.

Continuing, the ADL then goes on to say that “the bulk of Kosher shoppers appear to be consumers who believe the Kosher certification … means higher quality food.” Is this true? Well, the ADL gives no proof that there are a significant number of consumers who are non-Jewish and who buy Kosher products because they “believe” (with the word “believe” being the key-word here) Kosher “means higher quality food.” However, as to the false claim that Kosher is a “higher quality food,” the response to this is best summed up by Rabbi Irving Silverman. Rabbi Silverman is cited in the 20 March 1987 edition of The Sun-Sentinel:

“There’s one misconception that I’d like to clear up. There’s a perception that Jewish dietary laws are steeped in health considerations. That’s not so at all. It is a commitment to a strict adherence to a tradition. I’m not Kosher because it’s healthier; I’m Kosher because my parents were Kosher, and my grandparents were Kosher. It’s a commitment!”

In conclusion, the ADL admits, rather hesitatingly it appears, that consumers do, in fact, “pay a higher price” at “Kosher butcher shops.” While this is nice of the ADL to actually concede this relatively minor detail, it does not answer the greater question: How much are we Gentiles paying for the Rabbinical Kosher Excise Tax overall? What are the real costs to us as consumers?

This figure of costs associated with the Rabbinical Kosher Excise Tax is largely unknown due to Jews not disclosing how much they charge to the various companies that receive Kosher certification. In perhaps what can only be viewed as a mistake by the rabbis who oversee the Rabbinical Kosher Excise Tax, in 1987 they disclosed that they expected Kosher steel to bring them in $700,000.00 of fees per year.(8)

How much is the total cost today? While the figure is unknown, there are other things we can tell. For instance, according to both Star-K Kosher certification and EBizAsiaLink, $165 billion worth of food received Kosher certification in 2002.(9) But does this $165 billion figure also include non-food products such as steel and aluminum foil, which are not actually Kosher “food” items despite the fees that are paid and certification received?(10) Probably not, so the figure may be much greater. Another figure that we can look at to determine cost is taken from an article appearing in the Detroit News. It stated that one Kosher certification company brought in an estimated $20 million.(11) (It is not known whether this figure of $20 million is actual net profits, or gross business.) You begin to understand how much money we are talking about when you realize, as stated at the beginning of this article, that there are 275 such Kosher-certification organizations in the United States, and a total of 400 worldwide.(12)

It must be recognized that in addition to the fees paid to rabbis for the Rabbinical Kosher Excise Tax, there are other fees that a company might incur simply in an effort to ensure that its product is indeed Kosher. For example, they could not process pork or non-Kosher beef on the same equipment as Kosher beef, lest it be “contaminated.” Equipment might then have to be added or changed. Suppliers might need to be changed. Special training would need to be administered. Perhaps, even a full-time rabbi might need to be hired to oversee the production.

The total costs associated with the Rabbinical Kosher Excise Tax from all this is certainly in the billions, if not the trillions, of dollars.

  1. May 10, 2010 at 1:23 am

    As you might have noted in my bio from my profile, I am a consultant. I tend to find myself at conventions that have a lot of jews in attendance.There is typically a roped off area just for jews to get kosher grub. They make such a production out of it, you can tell they think it makes above the Gentiles.Laughable.

  2. May 10, 2010 at 2:34 am

    I can't leave well enough alone! SR, I am adding a little foot note for those who are not exactly "up to speed".What does "Kosher" mean?The word "Kosher" means "fit" to eat. Orthodox Jews are forbidden from eating meat products from any animal that doesn't have a split hoof and chew its cud. Pigs, (pork), is not kosher because while they do have the split hooves, they don't chew their cud. Rabbit meat is not kosher because, while they chew their cud, they don't have split hooves. Jews are not allowed to eat any dairy products along with meat at the same meal. If they eat meat at one meal, they must wait six hours before they can eat any dairy food.All of this is superstitious nonsense, and has absolutely nothing to do with improving the quality of any food product. Still, this clever scheme of requiring kosher labeling has become a multi-million dollar business today! The Jewish Encyclopedia of 1942 states that the practice of eating rabbi-approved "kosher" foods goes back to ancient times when Jews were forbidden from eating with or having sex with Gentiles. The Encyclopedia says rabbis taught that, "Gentiles are ridden with diseases and death from unclean habits, and that, God wishes to protect his people from being contaminated by the Gentiles. The non-kosher goods of the Gentiles were ruled to have a contaminating effect!"

  3. May 14, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    excellent follow-up information, Otter!

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