AJW Staff Report
Top executives of two firms mentioned in the class action lawsuit filed against ConAgra and Hebrew National have been summoned before a rabbinical court in Israel, the AJW has learned.
The Beit Din Tzedek of Bnei Brak, the rabbinical court of Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, has issued summonses to Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag, head kashrut coordinator of Triangle K, which certifies meat as kosher for Hebrew National; and Shlomo Ben-David and Moshe Fyzakov, president and supervisor, respectively, for AER Services, Inc., which does kosher slaughter of beef cattle for Hebrew National products.
The rabbinical court issued the summonses after three former AER employees formally complained of “kosher fraud” and mistreatment of employees. One of the former employees, who told the AJW last week that he worked for AER for about five years, said the beit din hearing would seek “to clarify some issues.” He requested anonymity for this story based on his expressed fear of retribution from individuals involved with Triangle K.
The AJW was provided with copies of the summonses sent to Ralbag, Ben-David and Fyzakov. The documents are in Hebrew, and specify that the hearing will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 17 (the first day of Cheshvan), in Bnei Brak, Israel.
Regarding Rabbi Karelitz, the Forward newspaper referred to him last year as “one of the world’s best-respected and most stringent Haredi rabbis.”
The Jewish World previously reported on allegations of slipshod practices in the kosher slaughter and certification of beef for Hebrew National, the renowned hot dog brand (6-22-12 AJW). The complaint in the case, which is pending in the United States District Court in St. Paul, alleges that employees of AER and Triangle K cut corners in their work in such a way that “rendered the meat being processed not kosher.”
Representatives of AER and Triangle K have denied the allegations in the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of 11 plaintiffs by lawyers for a number of law firms. The lead attorney for the plaintiffs is Hart Robinovitch, of the Minneapolis-based Zimmerman Reed law firm.
In late July, ConAgra Foods, Inc., which owns Hebrew National, filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The multinational food business is represented by the Blackwell Burke law firm in Minneapolis; Jerry W. Blackwell is the lead attorney for the defendant.
The American Jewish World first broke the story of the lawsuit filed against ConAgra/Hebrew National, in June. AER and Triangle K are not parties to the lawsuit.
As the American Jewish World went to press with its June 22 edition, lawyers for AER Services threatened the newspaper with a civil lawsuit for defamation, and then attempted to have the editor and publisher, Mordecai Specktor, called before an Orthodox beit din in New York City. To date, the AJW has not been sued, nor received a summons to a beit din.
It is not known if the executives of Triangle K and AER Services will respond to the summonses issued by the Beit Din Tzedek of Bnei Brak. Call and e-mails to the firms were not returned as the AJW went to press this week.
(American Jewish World, 9.14.12)