Sunday, December 05, 2004

Final word on Savitsky (for now) and OU odds and ends

Far be it from me to call for someone to apologize for his actions and then not give credit when he does, in fact, do so.

I know I'm late on this -- I was away for a few days and couldn't update the blog-- but apparently Savitsky did issue an apology, which was quoted in the Jerusalem Post. I checked Allison's and David's blogs but neither had a link or the text of the apology. Can anyone post it in the comments? My understanding from other blogs is that he said he was sorry that what he said came out in an offensive way, but he didn't explain what he meant to say. It's probably just as well. Trying to wrangle meaning out of his mistake would probably just make it worse.

Interestingly, I recently spoke about the incident with a good friend of mine, someone I used to work with in NCSY, who knows Savitsky personally. My friend told me that "Steve is the nicest, most unassuming man in the OU. There is nothing ego-maniacal about him. He's a nice guy who made a mistake, and now everyone is jumping down his throat." He also said, correctly I believe, that "people wouldn't be so angry about this had it not been for Lanner."

I'm not saying "this is good enough for me." After all, the moment he accepted the OU presidency, he ceased to be simply "a nice guy" and became the representative of an organization I deeply wish deserved and had always earned a spotless reputation, but which has not. He should have been more careful with his words. It also worries me a bit to hear that the OU president is that nice; I hope he's not a puppet to be walked all over by the rest of the OU administration. (No, this is not a case of "he can't win." It's possible to be a moral, sensitive person and friend, without being a dishrag. I'm hoping that Savitsky's business success indicates that he can balance his "niceness" with the assertiveness to get things done and make necessary changes.)

But I am willing to say "I have forgiven but not forgotten." I am no longer "stuck" on this issue, but like many others since the Lanner scandal, I've got an alert and critical eye on the OU. There are many OU activities I continue to respect (such as NCSY in many regions, and the kashrut division), but the cynicism will run deep for a long, long time.

That is all about Savitsky.

On to the cruelty-to-animals-and-kashrut controversy. There are two issues here: 1) is the slaughter at Agriprocessors (and, by extension, at other OU-supervised plants) truly kosher? and 2) Regardless of whether it is kosher, is it as humane as it can be? Emotionally and spiritually I'm more concerned about the humaneness, but intellectually and religiously I'm more concerned with the kashrut. I'm particularly interested in seeing how the Israeli rabbinate will approach the issue, as it could affect the kosher-certification of OU products imported to Israel. (See Miriam's blog for more discussion about this.)

(Why do I respect the OU kashrut division, you may ask? Because, dear readers, if you want to keep kosher in America, you have little choice. Among the organizations that sell kashrut supervision, the OU is considered to be-- and probably is-- the best at what they do. They have a reputation for being the most thorough and the most meticulous, head and shoulders above the rest. I happen to have not a doubt that there are OU products that actually are not kosher, due to human error or perhaps worse. However, I consider that to be on the OU's head, not mine. If you won't trust the OU to do your kashrut supervision for you, there's no one you can trust. If you're not going to trust the OU's certification, then you'll have to eat only vegetables you grow yourself and meat you've personally slaughtered in your backyard, or else hire a personal mashgiach to go visit the production plants of every food brand you buy and the plants that make all the ingredients for those brands. I'm not ready to live like that and don't know of many people who are.)

Meanwhile, I'll take the opportunity to express amazement that none of the bloggers I checked wrote about the El Al kashrut story back when it broke. (OK, I didn't blog about it either, even though I knew about it, natch.) Personally, I'll be ordering "glatt" meals when flying El Al, unless I hear their heating-the-food-facilities have been rekosherized before then.

OK, when it comes to the OU, as Odd Todd would say: "that's that with that."

On to more important things, like bird migration patterns and scented candles . . . .

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