With hundreds of different hechsher (kosher supervisory) symbols on food products, kosher consumers already have their hands full figuring out which foods really meet their standards. But now, many kashrut experts worry that a new Jewish looking symbol that doesn’t connote any type of kosher supervision will cause consumers to unknowingly violate their kosher observance.
The new “Magen Tzedek” (Seal of Justice, magentzedek.org) symbol is meant to be a “comprehensive ethical certification” verifying that a product was produced in an “ethical” manner, and provides no measure of kashrut. But opponents contend that the use of a Jewish symbol, like the Star of David, on products that may not be kosher at all, is anything but ethical. The organization, which has its roots in the Conservative movement, has recently begun accepting applications from interested food producers and processors.
Rabbi Avi Shafran, Director of Public Affairs for Agudath Israel of America, observes that parts of the Orthodox community find such an additional certification unnecessary. “At first, the [Magen Tzedek] seal implied that it signified adherence to kashrut, something the Conservative movement has no standing to determine,” Rabbi Shafran says. “Now it claims to simply mean that the recipient has adopted standards designated by secular environmental and social justice organizations. Products and manufacturers can already avail themselves of those organization’s imprimaturs, rendering Magen Tzedek superfluous. Hence the seal has gone from misleading to meaningless.”
Kosher consumers are being asked to spread the word that the symbol, which resembles a kaleidoscopic view of a Star of David, has no bearing on a product’s kosher status.