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July 29th, 2010
09:55 AM ET

Addressing treatment of workers, group readies new kosher seal

CNN's Talya Minsberg filed this report:

Most religious dietary guidelines allow individuals to maintain a sense of holiness in their daily lives.

For many Jews, that sense was shattered in spring of 2008, when an Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa was raided and found to have hundreds of illegal immigrants and dozens of violations, from unsafe conditions to unethical treatment of workers. It was the nation's largest kosher meatpacking plant.

In June, Agriprocessors executive Sholom Rubashkin was sentenced to 27 years of imprisonment on fraud charges, though he appealed his conviction earlier this month.

The scandal has done more than send Rubashkin to jail. When American Jews learned that workers at the Agriprocessors plant faced dire conditions, including receiving safety instructions in English even though many spoke only Spanish, the community entered a kosher crisis.

For an animal to be “kosher,” it must be slaughtered using perfectly sharp knife to cut the throat. The method is apparently painless and is recognized as the most humane method of slaughter. For that reason, some Jews feel that keeping kosher is as ethical as it is holy when it comes to meat consumption.

During a 2006 tour of the Postville plant, Rabbi Morris Allen of Saint Paul, Minnesota said he was disturbed by worker conditions and that he shared those concerns with the facilities’ owners. He also began arguing to his congregation that keeping kosher is as much about workers as about animals.

“We needed to find a way to develop kashrut that is kosher and raised to the highest Jewish ethical standard,” Allen said in an interview. “If we were serious about kashrut (keeping kosher), it was time to understand the laws of kashrut that were not written in the Torah.”

Allen’s idea? A new kind of kosher.

Just like labels such as “fair trade,” a kosher label–called a hekhsher–certifies that the product is kosher. Allen proposed a new kosher stamp certifying that the treatment of workers is as kosher as the treatment of the food.

But creating a new kosher stamp has proved more difficult than it may sound.

“This was a systemic issue, not something that could be handled individually on one plant or another,” Allen said.

Since 2006, Allen has been promoting a new seal, called Magen Tzedek, through an organization of the same name. “The world’s first Jewish ethical certification seal," the group says, "synthesizes the aspirations of a burgeoning international movement for sustainable, responsible consumption and promotes increased sensitivity to the vast and complex web of global relationships that bring food to our tables."

Last September, Magen Tzedek issued a 154-page document outlining standards for the new seal, addressing everything from hazardous waste reduction to off site education for employees. The document covers employee wages, benefits, health and safety, animal welfare, and corporate transparency.

The well-publicized 2008 Postville raid prompted more manufacturers and consumers to support Magen Tzedek.

“Companies are always interested in whether the seal will sell more products, and we believe it will… it can restore the sense of kashrut in the American community,” Allen said.

Magen Tzedek and its Hekhsher Tzedek Commission have the garnered support from the Rabbinical Assembly, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Nathan Cummings Foundation and Social Accountability International. Many kosher certifiers have also backed the new certification.

Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the largest certifier of kosher food, OU Kosher, has publically said he would not object to having the Magen Tzedek affixed to products supervised by the OU.

“Clearly we have captured the imagination of American Jewish community. It’s not accidental that two of the major Hekhsher Tzedek players were recognized by Newsweek as influence rabbis,” Allen said, referring to Newsweek’s 50 most influential Rabbis in America of 2010.

Magen Tzedek hopes to have its insignia next to kosher seals early next year.

While he declined to disclose companies that he says are on board for the new seal, Allen say that "major names that people will recognize will be among the first to go forward with this.”

Companies can apply for the Hekhsher Tzedek seal online. Magezn Tzedek plans to hold webinars to educate consumers and advocates.

An earlier version of this article misstated the date of a major raid of the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. The federal raid happened in 2008.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Food • Judaism • Money & Faith

soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. Peter

    Talya Minsberg would be well advised to publicly apologize for her sloppy reporting. Rubashkin was never convicted for employing illegal aliens or unethical treatment of workers; those charges were dropped by the prosecution.

    A worker's inability to read safety instructions in English in the United States of America is hardly the responsibility of the employer. To portray this as "dire conditions" and "unethical treatment of workers" represent a gross exaggeration of the reality and a perversion of basic moral tenets.

    July 30, 2010 at 8:37 am |
    • MW

      If you knowingly hire illegal workers, it's actually in your best interest to supply safety instructions in their language.

      July 30, 2010 at 10:25 am |
  2. Rick

    A number of years ago, I worked for a month and a half at AgriProcessors as a quality supervisor. I left due to being so disgusted at the practices there, both kosher practices and employee ones as well.. Even though I'm Gentile, I had to learn kosher and halal requirements in a previous position. I knew that the rabbis employed there weren't performing slaughter correctly. Salting wasn't being done correctly, either. There was a basic ignorance of proper food safety techniques due to the fact that employee turnover was so high, training couldn't be conducted fast enough to keep up. And people were, in general, being treated like dirt. Every single member of the Rubashkin family that I met was rude and condescending, with an attitude that showed they were bullet-proof. I was happy they went down.

    As someone who's been in food safety and quality for over twenty years, I'm definitely in favor of the "fair-trade"-style suggestion, especially after my experience in Postville. Too often, the public's only contact with food safety is when disasters happen, and it's nice to see a positive story on the subject for a change.

    July 30, 2010 at 8:36 am |
  3. Dan

    is making money a bad thing in America these days?

    July 30, 2010 at 8:27 am |
  4. Jason

    Rabbinical supervision

    A Rabbi was walking home from the Temple and saw one of his good friends, a pious and learned man who could usually beat the rabbi in religious arguments.
    The rabbi started walking faster so that he could catch up to his friend, when he was horrified to see his friend go into a Chinese restaurant (not a kosher one).
    Standing at the door, he observed his friend talking to a waiter and gesturing at a menu. A short time later, the waiter reappeared carrying a platter full of spare ribs, shrimp in lobster sauce, crab rangoon and other treif that the Rabbi could not bear to think about.
    As his friend picked up the chopsticks and began to eat this food, the Rabbi burst into the restaurant and reproached his friend, for he could take it no longer.
    "Morris, what is this you are doing? I saw you come into this restaurant, order this filth and now you are eating it in violation of everything we are taught about the dietary laws and with an apparent enjoyment that does not befit your pious reputation!"
    Morris replied, "Rabbi, did you see me enter this restaurant?"
    (Rabbi nods yes)
    "Did you see me order this meal?"
    (again he nods yes)
    "Did you see the waiter bring me this food?"
    (again he nods yes)
    "And did you see me eat it?"
    (nods yes)
    "Then, Rabbi, I don't see the problem here. The entire meal was done under Rabbinical supervision!"

    July 30, 2010 at 8:19 am |
  5. Stuart

    This is merely a distraction from the real issue of mismanagement in that company. Ethical standards in kosher food go only so far, even scripturally. For decade kosher food companies had no problem using artificial and unhealthful ingredients in their prepared foods claiming (an correctly so) that these items were not applicable to kosher standards. Even growth hormone given to cows was all right under kosher standards; not to mention cottonseed oil, MSG, artificial colors, etc., and other items that poisoned people for the longest time.One cannot just create a new "kosher" without the "higher authority" so to speak.

    July 30, 2010 at 8:18 am |
  6. Rationalist

    The entire concept of "kosher" foods - as well as any other faith-based dietary restrictions, including halal, Mormonism, and Rastafarianism – is ridiculous. To paraphrase Chris Rock, "pork is forbidden because 4,000 years ago in the desert, a pork chop could kill you. Today, if you're hungry a pork chop is your best friend."

    If you want to make a personal decision around what you put in your mouth, then good for you; but it's incorrect to assume that God (if that being even exists) thinks you're "special" because of the food you eat. None of us is "special" because of what we eat (or what we believe), and until we can get that through our collective hominid heads, we're going to continue to suffer the effects of our own "me-monkey" nature: "I'm special because I don't eat pork!"; "I'm special because I fast!"; "I'm special because I wear magic underwear!" It's very, very tiresome.

    July 30, 2010 at 8:11 am |
    • Rationalist

      Actually, Dan, you're mistaking "coercion" for "free will". A personal decision is one made from an individual's free will, not one made from rigid, dogmatic principles that have been handed down over thousands of years. People follow religious dietary laws for the same reason they pay taxes: they believe something bad will happen to them if they don't.

      July 30, 2010 at 8:48 am |
    • Zeppelin

      Brosef, I must say that I am special because I wear magic underwear... You don't know what you're missing.

      July 30, 2010 at 9:30 am |
    • PGelsman

      When the kosher laws were written, there was no food preservation, hence pork and shellfish are forbidden and in those times they made sense. Nowadays the point is moot because of refrigeration. I'm Jewish and I eat pork and shellfish, but I wouldn't eat meat and dairy at the same meal.

      July 30, 2010 at 10:07 am |
    • Fred4

      PG – making up your own reasons doesn't make it a fact.

      One talmudic understanding of why we can't eat pork, is that it has split hooves (one of the factors required for an animal to be determined kosher) but does not chew it's cud (another requirement). It looks kosher on the outside, but inside it is not: it represents dishonesty, a trait we do not want to put in our body.

      Another animal, the "Hasida," a Crane, is not kosher for another interesting reason. Hasida comes from the root word Hesed (the same root word behind what people know as Hasidim) which means kindness. This animal brings food for other cranes besides itself – the kindness. It isn't kosher because it only brings food for other cranes! Not other birds. Being kind to only your friends is self-serving, in reality, and not true kindess. It's also not kosher.

      A lion isn't kosher because it's aggressive nature: violence is not something we want to internalize either.

      These are just suppositions with talmudic backing, but in reality, none of those animals are kosher simply because the Torah says so. We believe that what we wear, what we eat, what we do affects our being: our purity, our character, our holiness. We can come up with a thousand reasons why we listen to G-d, but the bottom line is, if G-d says it, we do it. Making up your own rationalizations about why you want to live your life the way you do is your free will.

      July 30, 2010 at 10:18 am |
  7. Angry

    Personally, I don’t buy anything that is marked kosher. Give me pork rinds and pork and beans until American Jews pressure Israel to treat Palestinians like human beings. And what is kosher about 100% pure orange juice or dry roasted peanuts?

    July 30, 2010 at 7:51 am |
    • MS

      When the Palestinians start acting like human beings, maybe they will be treated differently.

      July 30, 2010 at 8:22 am |
    • Dan

      "And what is kosher about 100% pure orange juice or dry roasted peanuts?" – it is about contaminants. Juices and peanut butter are so called Pareve foods, i.e. can be eating in combination with dairy or meat. Hence it may not contain traces of either.
      As to the Palestinian issue – people should really stop being couch radicals. If you feel strongly about fixing injustice, start from you own backyard. There is plenty of it here. And then, when you think you are ready, go there, live there, learn firsthand about issues plaguing the region and then act on your educated conscience.

      July 30, 2010 at 8:41 am |
    • Fred4

      You'd be surprised how many bugs you eat in non-kosher fruits and veggies! Even triple-washed romaine lettuce *ALWAYS* turns up a few bugs when washed and checked properly again! ALWAYS. Additionally, many dyes used in food are made from insects.

      Generally, fresh fruits and vegetables don't need to be certified kosher – you just need to wash and check them properly before you eat it. However, produce which is *cooked* (roasted, boiled, fried, bakes, etc.) with bugs – it was not checked properly before cooking – is not kosher.

      July 30, 2010 at 10:10 am |
    • MW

      This is in the news TODAY:
      Rocket fired from Gaza Strip lands in Ashkelon & damages property in the area. No casualties reported.

      Maybe the "Palestinians" need to first prove that they are human beings before they can be treated as such.

      July 30, 2010 at 10:23 am |
  8. American muslim

    I am a muslim and I alway look for the Kosher symbol before I buy anything. Kosher food is safe for us to eat because Kosher slaughtering method is the same as halal and kosher products are free of pork and muslims do not eat pork also. Jewish community may be declinig in numbers, but demand of kosher products i n North America will continue to rise due to rising muslim population.

    July 30, 2010 at 7:50 am |
    • Angry

      Is there a Muslim organization that has these standards for food products? I’d buy a product with these markings.

      July 30, 2010 at 7:56 am |
    • Gresco15

      @American muslim: Thats interesting that you can eat kosher food in place of halal food. I'm Jewish and when I lived in London, I did the exact opposite, I bought the halal food because kosher food was quite hard to find.

      July 30, 2010 at 8:17 am |
    • American muslim

      Gresco15 Islam is very similar to orthodoxt judaism, I hope muslims and jews all over the world learn to focus on their similarities than differences (which are very minimal). We believe Allah=Yahweh.

      July 30, 2010 at 8:41 am |
    • Fred4

      American Muslim – true! There are a couple muslim guys here where I work, and we all prefer Kosher lunches when the company orders, so we can all eat! Religious muslims and jews really have much more in common than the mass media will have you believe.

      July 30, 2010 at 10:06 am |
  9. Madman

    I thought that Kosher was religiously significant, because the animals throat was slit with a special knife, after it went through a quickie ritual to bless the meat, and that the butt parts were avoided and sold to the goyim. Kosher also means that the food does not contain any bugs or insects, thus the reason you rarely see Kosher peanut butter. Also, I thought that Kosher meant that the food could not be cooked in it's mothers milk, aka you can't cook a steak in butter or in milk, because they are both products of that animals milk.

    July 30, 2010 at 7:46 am |
    • Dan

      it covers everything from how the animal is raised, what it eats, how it is slaughtered and prepared.

      July 30, 2010 at 8:24 am |
    • gail f

      " Kosher also means that the food does not contain any bugs or insects, thus the reason you rarely see Kosher peanut butter.
      Madman, you're partially right. Kosher does indicate that the food is clean, free of contaminants. But Kosher peanut butter is alive and well and living in a JIF jar in my cupboard.

      July 30, 2010 at 8:30 am |
    • DAK

      why even submit such a statement madman? nothing you wrote here is accurate. you kow nothing about kosher issue.

      July 30, 2010 at 9:08 am |
    • PGelsman

      I don't keep kosher, but when in a deli, I only buy Hebrew National meats. Mostly salami or baloney. I was raised on it and the non kosher meats just taste odd. Buying kosher does tell me that it's clean as well, The meats are cut on different slicers and they are clean. The idea of eating a hamburger with a glass of milk turns my stomach but I do eat cheeseburgers. Go figure!

      July 30, 2010 at 10:03 am |
  10. Kana

    Ethics, now that's something our society hasn't used in some time. The hireing of illegal workers is unethical as is the mistreatment of legal workers and condoning unsafe work conditions..
    I for one am happy to see Agriprocessors executive Sholom Rubashkin convicted and sentenced on fraud charges. The rest of the executive team along with top managers should also be made an example of.

    July 30, 2010 at 7:35 am |
    • Madman

      Ethics? in corporate America? LOL
      That's like expecting honesty from Politicians, or expecting a Wall Street investor to protect your nest egg.

      July 30, 2010 at 8:16 am |
  11. Eumir

    Excuse me... but if you can't understand the safety rules given in English...
    Perhaps it's time to learn English or move to a Spanish speaking country.

    July 30, 2010 at 7:30 am |
    • AT

      The United States does not have an official national language.

      July 30, 2010 at 9:42 am |
  12. cathy porter

    Thank you rabbi Allen!!!! you are doing a great job of convincing the food manufacturers that they really do not need the kosher highly regarded kosher certifications, such as OU or CRC or any kosher certification since YOU have put the entire issue of kosher food under a cloud. The result – for those Jews that do keep kosher – your have made it harder to find in general super markets kosher food. Better idea for the rabbi Allen would be to talk with his congregants in conservative synagogues about keeping kosher and staying Jewish. What a jerk!

    July 29, 2010 at 8:59 pm |
  13. Lee

    this is one big farce! We need some sanity around here! We need Sholom Rubashkin back! Free Rubashkin!

    July 29, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
  14. Kosher Man

    Before reading the above nonsense, you are pleased to do some research.
    1. Read the following article: http://biggovernment.com/bbarr/2010/07/21/eric-holder-must-investigate-sentencing-disparities/
    2. Listen to attorney Net. Lewin's speech who confirms Rabbi Rubashkin's meat was very well Kosher even though the baseless NY Times article.

    July 29, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
  15. Karlson

    Personally I think that in general idea of ethical treatment of workers is great, if applied ethically across the board. Not so in real life. Even this very article is one sided and unethical because it presents Allen as a champion of something good and Mr Rubashkin simply as a criminal. Just look at the way it presents problem at Rubashkin plant and then it says that Mr. Rubashkin was convicted. Conveniently not mentioning that he was convicted on completely unrelated charges. All the original charges were dropped simply because they had no merit. None what so ever.
    Allen, who is vegetarian and has a sizable fallowing among his congregants could not care less if meat was kosher or not, if treatment of workers were ethical or not. His very synagogue employed a janitor with no benefits, one of the charges he brought up against Mr. Rubashkin. His goal obviously was to destroy the kosher business. I would like to see the date on how many of his congregants actually keep kosher, real kosher, not “we keep kosher at home”.
    In reality if the ethics and kashrus were so important to him and to Conservative movement as a whole all they needed to do is to convince all conservative Jews to keep kosher and come to any kosher plant and make an offer. We, the thousands of conservative Jews, please install the number somebody, are willing to start keeping kosher on one condition, the condition is ethical treatment of the workers. That is what should have been said. But no, nobody offer that, nothing even remotely close was done. What was done is he declare a war on Rubashkin’s plant, and in the end destroyed the business, made hundreds of workers suffer, really suffer, not some made up charges, because now they lost jobs, places to live, broken families, etc. And it doesn’t end there; thousands upon thousands of Jews who relied on the kosher meat produced by at that plant are paying double for meat products today because of increased demand and decreased supply. So who is hero here and who is ethical, for sure it is not Mr. Allen.

    July 29, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
  16. Rene

    This is just an insane idea to split further the jewish people
    If this guy learns a bit more Tora he has to accept the yoke not only written but oral as well
    I am sure he knows where the truth is
    And just recognize that it is a plot to control and make money from unlearned jews
    Agri was never an unsafe plant WRONG! Rubashkin plight has been pumped up by this so called rabbi and the forward to advance consrvative agenda
    It makes sick to think in 2010 we still have Kapos more spohisticated that the ones from WW2

    July 29, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  17. A religious Jew

    Rather than trying to aggravate his Orthodox neighbors, Rabbi Allen should have made this an industry issue rather than a kashrus issue. His "hecksher" was his reaction to the fact that orthodox Jews have a monopoly on kosher certification (As they should. Kashrus should be kept at the highest level to be more inclusive for all Jews who keep kosher, at whatever level they might be at). His push for ethical kashrus is far from altruistic. It's completely self-serving.

    July 29, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
    • Ego

      Did the part where he said "it was time to understand the laws of kashrut that were not written in the Torah” give it away?

      July 30, 2010 at 9:10 am |
    • Carl

      Why should our Orthodox neighbors be offended in any way by including ethical principals with kashrut? Does not the Torah address ethical treatment of workers (including servants) and animals? Employers are commanded to pay wages promptly, workers and animals must be given rest on Shabbat, etc. What is the purpose of kashrut? It is to elevate the mundane act of eating into something holy. Holiness encompasses much more than the food itself. And to all the naysayers, ethics alone is no substitute for kashrut either – both are intertwined and necessary.

      July 30, 2010 at 9:31 am |
  18. Joe

    The bold assertion that "Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the largest certifier of kosher food, OU Kosher, has publically advocated the new Hekhsher." could not be further than the truth.

    Per Wikipedia on "Hekhsher Tzedek":

    The certification has been criticized by those affiliated within Orthodox Judaism for allegedly downplaying the Kashrut of the animal by confusing it with social justice issues. They claim that it makes use of Kashrut to follow secular political agendas. Rabbi Menachem Genack, the chief kosher executive of the Orthodox Union, the largest kosher certifier in the United States, called Allen's idea "unreasonable and unenforceable".

    July 29, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      And we see how well their kosher certification was after that plant raid.

      July 30, 2010 at 10:10 am |
  19. AnMBA

    A certification that something was ethically produced will make products more attractive to non-Jews as well. Think of the Hebrew National "We answer to a higher authority" ads, which pushed the quality angle and thus generated many sales to non-Jews. Or the many non-Jews who buy the Passover version of Coke because it has real sugar instead of corn syrup.

    July 29, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
    • Reality

      Sugar vs. corn syrup- now there a real religious issue!!! Give us a break. Coke ( Pepsi, RC Cola, and Mountain Dew), no matter the sweetner, is simply, cavity-causing (phosphoric and carbonic acid), overpriced, flavored and carbonated water containing the addictive drug caffeine. "Koshering" it does not make it any better for you. Coke et al should be banned by the FDA!!!

      July 29, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Reality, go back to chewing your lead paint chips.

      July 30, 2010 at 10:11 am |
    • Reality

      Wzrd1,

      Hmmm, now was that a Christian or Jewish response? Jesus and Abrahm (if he existed) would not be happy with you.

      July 31, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
  20. Reality

    Tis great that Judaism is concerned about the plight of immigrant workers but with the Jewish faith rapidly declining in numbers, very few customers will be concerned about kosher foods.

    July 29, 2010 at 10:47 am |
    • Sam

      Why do you think the Jewish faith is rapidly declining in numbers? In 1900 the estimated world population was 11,273,076. In 2005 it was 14,641,017. Doesn't seem like a rapid decline to me.

      July 30, 2010 at 7:05 am |
    • Sara Liszewski

      I'm not jewish, but my family would buy Kosher food if it assured me that the workers were treated with dignity.

      July 30, 2010 at 8:03 am |
    • Dan

      really? and that come from where? CIA factbook?

      July 30, 2010 at 8:19 am |
    • MIchele

      I am not jewish but purchase kosher foods often during the year. I don't think there is an issue concerning demand for these products.

      July 30, 2010 at 8:41 am |
    • Scott NH

      But in 1900 the world had 1.6 billion people and today it has 7 billion people, so that means that in 1942 1 out of every 142 people were Jewish, and today it is 1 out of every 478 people.

      July 30, 2010 at 9:04 am |
    • Sara

      During the period from 1900 to 2006 the world population went from 1,650 million to 6,555 million. This is an annual increase of 1.31% per year. the figures for the increase in the Jewish population (quoted by Sam, I did not fact check this) show an average annual increase of 0.25%. While this may not indicate a decline, it certainly is a significantly slower rate of growth than the world population. That means Jews are becoming a smaller and smaller proportion of the world population.

      July 30, 2010 at 9:06 am |
    • Jim

      You are forgetting that about half the Jewish population of the world was killed during the Nazi regime. That certainly has a huge impact on the numbers.

      July 30, 2010 at 9:36 am |
    • Momo

      I am not Jewish, but I would like access to ethically produced food. I don't want to eat something that had to suffer unnecessarily. I also don't want to eat something that may not be quality product because the workers are being overworked and underpaid.

      July 30, 2010 at 9:51 am |
    • Ismael

      This was created by the 'smart" jews as a form of taxation.

      July 30, 2010 at 10:47 am |
    • Reality

      Jewish Population Falling

      The Jewish population is plummeting around the world-with the exception of Israel, Germany, Canada and Panama, according to a demographic "State of the Jewish World" report issued during the World Jewish Congress annual convention held recently in Jerusalem. Only 13 million Jews are alive today world-wide, meaning that the community has not recovered numerically from the Holocaust, before which there were some 18 million Jews.

      In the U.S. the percentage of Jews has fallen drastically From a post-war high of 4 percent of the U.S. population, it has plunged to 2.3 percent. or 5.8 million Jews, as a result of a relatively low birth-rate and a high rate of intermarriage.

      More than 50 percent of U.S. Jews who married in the 1980s married a non-Jewish partner, the study notes. Studies have shown that only about one-fourth of intermarried couples raise their children as Jews. "This is the most up-to-date and comprehensive attempt to survey the trends in world Judaism today, and the numbers are quite worrying," commented Avi Beker, a political scientist and the director of the Israel office of the World Jewish Congress, which conducted the survey.

      Beker pointed out that the study also identified a growing polarization between religious and non-religious Jews world-wide. "In some places we can say there is almost no contact between these communities," he said, even though there is an international network of observant Jews and more informal contacts between non-religious Jews." The two segments of Jewry are divided both by their lifestyles and on political issues, such as the Israeli-Arab peace process, which has encountered far deeper opposition among religious Jews world-wide than among secular groups.

      Israel, Canada and Germany were the three significant bright spots amid the statistics, Beker added. In Israel the rate of natural increase (births exceeding deaths) is about three times that of the U.S. Israel, with about 4.5 million Jew is slowly replacing the U.S. as having the largest Jewish community in the world, a process which we think will take place within a decade. It is the only place in the world where there is a natural growth rate in the Jewish community."

      Meanwhile Germany's 60,000 member Jewish community has doubled in size in the past two decades. Still that figure is a fraction of Germanys pre-Holocaust Jewish population of about 500,000. Canada's Jewish population, which totals 360,000, has risen 60 percent. But the increases in the two countries were due largely to the immigration of Jews from other diaspora countries, such as the former Soviet Union.

      July 31, 2010 at 12:44 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.