The kashrut industry is about more than just food. In an industry where sales reach in the billions of dollars many of the largest food companies have sought and received kosher certification, seeing it as a way to increase profits. With the federal investigations into the Agriprocessors Meat Processing Plant in Postville , we need to examine whether or not kashrut certification is also about more than keeping kosher.
In its current form, the day school system is unsustainable. With tuition increases consistently at between two and three times the rate of inflation, more and more parents are opting out of the system. Not unlike the financial crisis, where the signs of trouble were ignored until suddenly it was too late, it behooves us to take action before the system implodes. More than a few schools across North America—including one here in Toronto—have been forced to close, caught in a double whammy of decreasing enrollments and increased subsidy requests.
Technological advances are rapidly changing the nature of almost all that we do. Many of the careers our children will pursue have yet to be invented. The end results of the political rumblings of the Arab world are impossible to discern, adding additional layers of uncertainty to the world of tomorrow.
In an almost unbelievable application of the verse, “Love your neighbour as yourself”, our Sages teach that one must give a convicted killer a “pleasant death”. Even those who commit capital crimes are to be dealt with humanely.
It is rare indeed to look to professional athletes for moral guidance. We learned long ago that the extraordinary talents they possess are manifest primarily in the physical realm. It should be no surprise that people who are worshipped by millions and paid enormous sums of money to play games might have difficulty in the moral sphere.
One of the key aspects of the world of business is the crucial importance of the bottom line. And that is the way it should be. The primary—and some would argue, only—goal of business is to make money, or as Milton Friedman famously noted, “the business of business is business”. It is not the role of the private, profit-driven sector to address social needs, crucial as they may be. That is the role of government, private philanthropy and the non-profit sector. The only proper limitation on moneymaking is the law.
In electing Rob Ford as mayor, voters in the city of Toronto have voted for change. Our mayor-elect has been most forthright in his plan of action, with a focus on the need to cut city spending. Yet despite the wide margin of victory and solid mandate from the voters, it is far from clear how much of his agenda he will manage to implement.
The High Holiday period is one (we hope!) filled with introspection, reflection and a commitment to try to become a better person. Our religious antennae are at their highest point as we spend the day in prayer and fasting. For many, it is the only time of the year that any significant amount of time is spent in communal prayer. It is a day in which we focus on the fragility of life, remembering those who are no longer and pleading that we be spared from their fate.
Bill Gates and Warren Buffet recently announced the launch of the “Giving Pledge” campaign, asking that all billionaires in America donate at least 50% of their wealth to charity—and to publicly outline their intentions with a written letter—during their lifetimes or upon their deaths. On June 16th, four families took up the challenge, publicly announcing their intent to do exactly that. Eli Broad, pledging to give away 75 percent of his wealth, noted that "We agree with Andrew Carnegie's wisdom that 'the man who dies rich, dies disgraced’”.
Issues of church and state—especially in the United States, with its constitutional separation of these two realms—are always controversial, often fascinating, and at times trailblazing.