The Instigator
snamd
Pro (for)
Winning
13 Points
The Contender
brian_eggleston
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Kosher Certification is NOT a Kosher Tax

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/21/2009 Category: Religion
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 4,355 times Debate No: 6595
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (2)

 

snamd

Pro

Kosher certification is not a Kosher Tax. It is simply a certification that the items contained in the product are certified kosher. It is a companies choice to pursue certification, not in any way forced upon them. More companies have been pursuing this course as they realize the average consumer (rightly or wrongly) associates kosher with healthy. Kosher certification DOES help out Muslims as well as it certifies that no pork products can be found in the products. It also helps those with milk allergies or lactose intolerance by stating clearly when an item contains dairy products. There is no question that it is a business (although I can attest, not a very lucrative one), but given the fact that it is helpful to a large portion of the public and it is a certification that the companies themselves pursue, it can not be considered a "tax" on the public at large.
brian_eggleston

Con

I should firstly like to take this opportunity to thank my opponent for posting such a interesting and controversial argument.

Like most folk, I am not one of the Chosen People and therefore do not have the god-given right to occupy all the land between the Nile and Euphrates and drive out any non-Jews already living there.

"On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abraham and said, 'To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates'" (Genesis 15:13-21)

"Possess the land and settle it, for I have given you the land in order that you take possession of it" (Numbers 33:53)

"Do not allow them to reside in your land" (Exodus 23:33)

"Do not give them any consideration" (Deuteronomy 7:2)

Therefore I have no religious duties to perform in recognition of this munificent gift from above and, as a gentile destined to burn in hell for the crime of not being a Jew, I certainly don't feel obliged to honour the Jewish god by paying extra for a kosher label on my food.

However, even though only 1% of the American population are Jewish, one single firm alone, OK Kosher, certificates 114,000 products produced by over 1,500 companies.

http://www.fco.gov.uk...
http://www.okkosher.com...

This is big business and while most people are suffering as a result of the economic crisis, kosher certification outfits are raking in $12 billion a year just for giving permission to put their label on consumer products.

http://www.foodfrombritain.com...

Of course, these kosher certification merchants have their costs - rabbis don't give out blessings for free. No these grasping clerics get their bit, don't you worry about that. But who ultimately pays for the rabbis' lavish kickbacks? Yes, that's right, ordinary hardworking American families.

As for paying over the odds for healthy food, I suggest people buy organic produce and Muslims should buy halal food in order to comply with their religious obligations.

Although this supplement on the price of essential items such as food are not government imposed, and cannot, therefore, be described technically as a tax, because such a large proportion of products are kosher, in reality it is very difficult to avoid shelling out extra for the kosher label and, therefore, kosher certification is a de facto Jewish tax imposed on Jews and non-Jews alike.

Thank you.
Debate Round No. 1
snamd

Pro

Thank you for agreeing to this debate.
I ask you to please keep to the current debate topic, and not stray as you spent the first half of your argument doing.

But since you did bring it up, those passages were referring to the 7 Canaanite tribes, which were removed as per the book of Joshua approximately 3000 years ago. Further, even during those biblical times, non-Jews were allowed to live in Egypt provided a) they did not worship idols b) did not try to kill Jews. Christians and Muslims who do believe in the "Jewish" God according to many opinions would have no issue living in Israel, provided they obey standard legal laws (don't kill, don't steal) and don't try to kick the Jews out.
Further, there is NO source that says you are going to hell (nor is hell even mentioned in the bible) for being a non-Jew.
Now that we have both had our say on this matter, I will ask you kindly to leave this topic alone as it is NOT the subject of the debate.

You make the following assumptions
1) That you pay extra due to the Kosher certification
2) You assume the only cost for the Rabbi is "to give blessings"
3) That the profit amassed by Rabbis is "lavish."
4) That since people have other options such as organic and hallal, they do not need (?) Kosher certification

1) You DO NOT pay extra for Kosher Certification, any more than you pay extra when a product advertises "Now with more Calcium!" It is a marketing decision. Further, you cannot point to any product that after receiving certification has become more expensive. Oreo cookies received kosher certification from the OU in 1994. Since that time, when inflation is factored in, the price of Oreo cookies has DECREASED. The same with Mars and M&Ms brands which received kosher certification in 1996. The truth is that prices DO NOT increase with kosher certification. Why is this? Because it is marketing decision. A company decides their profit will go up 2% as a result of the kosher certification, while the total cost to them would be a mere .1%. Hence they make a profit and do NOT raise prices. It is the same as a decision to create a new logo or remake a box. Why should you pay extra for a product simply because a box looks different? You ideally won't b/c the company has decided that the increase in sales due to the new box would offset (and out gain) any expected costs of creating the new box. This is marketing 101.

2) You assume that Rabbis simply give blessings to make food kosher. This could not be further from the truth. Rabbi's do NOT make any blessings to make food kosher. I am not sure where this idea even came from, but Rabbis do not go up to the Oreos, make a blessing, and poof, they are kosher. It would be helpful for you to first learn what kosher certification means. Kosher can mean 2 things. In the case of non-meat items, the issue is generally that it is Kosher based on what is NOT in it. I.e. There is no combination of milk and meat, and no pork or other non Kosher items in the food. So for Oreos, they used to use a lard based emulsifier in the cookie batter. That was changed to vegetable oil. So far, no non-Jewish people have complained about the taste. Now in order to certify a product like Oreo cookies a list of all ingredients in the item must be received. Now the Inspector must look at all the places that all the items are made. For example, the plant in Brazil that exports chocolate must be inspected to ensure that it does not also make pork products on the side on the same equipment. It gets even more dicey with additives. Many food colorings and additives are animal based and must be inspected to verify their source, if kosher or not.
The other type (which is generally not performed by large corporations) is meat certification, which ensures the meat is slaughtered in the proper way, ensuring both the windpipe and jugular vein are severed in one motion and no bones were hit while the incision was made. Generally this is only performed in Kosher plants, and non-Jews would NEVER pay the outrageous prices that Jews do for meat products. Suffice it to say that Kosher certification is just that, certification that the items used in the product are not non-kosher items, and is an immensely complex and expensive operation to say the least.

3) In terms of full disclosure, my father happens to be the CTO of the OU, the largest (by far) Kosher certification organization in the world. They have inspectors in 70 different countries and certify 400,000 products. I am a lowly programmer, in a non-managerial position, working for roughly 30 fewer years than he in the computer business. Our salaries are roughly equal. The average Rabbi inspector starts at around 40k per year and maxes out at around 90k per year. This is despite undergoing years of rigorous training, working at a job with crazy long hours, and having to travel frequently. While they are not destitute, they are not raking in "lavish" profits. The truth is that Kosher certification is a tremendously expensive endeavor and little or no profit (the OU is a non-profit organization) is made by doing it. That is not to say a lot of money is not involved. When you deal with millions of products 12 billion is what it costs to certify every ingredient of each of them .

4) I am glad you brought up items like Organic. You actually do pay extra for Organic even though it is simply an inspection. The producers of Organic products must pay a fee to be certified as Organic. There are numerous other certifications. There are now green certificates for food products and establishments http://www.dinegreen.com... . Kosher certification is NO different, as it is a marketing decision the owners have made which they believe will increase revenue. I am not sure why you brought up Hallal. My point is simply stating that other groups benefit from Kosher certification as well, such as those with milk allergies or lactose intolerance (they can verify if items contain milk), and those groups (like Muslims) that do not eat pork. I know numerous Muslims that do, in fact, rely on Kosher certification for many items.

The fact of the matter is the idea that Kosher certification is a "Jewish Tax" is clearly an anti-Jewish one intent on stirring up animosity towards Jews. Of course it could not be further from the truth.
brian_eggleston

Con

Firstly, I would like to accept my opponent's invitation not stray from the subject of the kosher tax in order to engage in a debate on the scriptures, not least of all because I have very little knowledge of them and my opening passage was based upon a article by Rabbi Pinchas Frankel, an Educational Coordinator at the Orthodox Union (OU), who wrote:

"Hashem had declared in Devarim 25:17-19 'eternal war' against Amalek (Palestinians), and commanded the Jewish People, once they achieved stability in the Land of Israel, the Promised Land, to erase the name of Amalek"

http://www.ou.org...

I apologise for assuming this miserable impostor was a reliable source of information and I urge readers never to trust anything they are told by the OU or its employees in the future.

Now, to answer the points my opponent made:

1 – "You DO NOT pay extra for Kosher Certification…It is a marketing decision."

The selling price of a product is reached on a cost plus basis. The manufacturer takes the costs of the raw materials, the processing, the packaging, the labor, etc. plus the marketing and adds them together, then adds a percentage on top of the total as a profit margin, in order to reach the selling price. Clearly, if their costs (including the cost of kosher certification) were lower, their selling prices would be.

This "marketing advantage" fallacy that is so often used to mislead the public into believing that kosher certification is not a de facto tax doesn't bear up to logical analysis.

As there are a similar number of Muslims and Jews in the US (each approximately 1% of the total population), why then don't manufacturers seek to certificate their products as halal (the Islamic equivalent to kosher kashrut) in order to gain a similar "marketing advantage"?

In the Kosher Nostra Scam on the American Consumer by Ernesto Cienfuegos La Voz de Aztlan the author wrote:

"I learned that major food companies throughout America actually pay a Jewish Tax amounting to hundreds of million of dollars per year in order to receive protection. This hidden tax gets passed, of course, to all non-Jewish consumers of the products. The scam is to coerce the companies to pay up or suffer the consequences of a Jewish boycott…. The "Kosher Nostra" protection racket starts when an Orthodox Rabbi approaches a company to warn the owners that unless their product is certified as kosher…they will face a boycott by every Jew in America. Most, if not all of the food companies, succumb to the blackmail because of fear of the Jewish dominated media and a boycott that may eventually culminate in bankruptcy."

http://www.aztlan.net...

It is interesting to note, that in European countries such as the UK where the offence of demanding money with menaces is a serious criminal offence, kosher products are produced by a small number of specialist manufacturers and are only available in kosher shops or in the kosher sections of supermarkets - even though a similar percentage of the population to that of the US is Jewish

http://www.kosher.org.uk...

2 – "You assume that Rabbis simply give blessings to make food kosher "

I did not mean to imply that the rabbis' fees where the only cost associated with kosher certification and I thank my opponent for his enlightening explanation of the process involved.

3 – "In terms of full disclosure, my father happens to be the CTO of the OU, the largest (by far) Kosher certification organization in the world… little or no profit (the OU is a non-profit organization) is made by doing it."

I am familiar with the Orthodox Union (OU), as we know, and having been duped by one of their rabbis once already in this debate, I decided to check my opponent's assertions using more reliable sources.

As a result of my investigations, I can confirm that the OU does not, indeed, distribute profits to shareholders but it does fund various projects such as yeshivas (Jewish religious schools).

http://www.thejewishweek.com...

The OU also funds the Institute for Public Affairs which supports US aid to Israel but opposes US aid to Palestine.

http://israelipalestinian.procon.org...
http://www.ouradio.org...

Consumers may or may not believe these projects are worthwhile, but regardless, they are obliged to donate to them every time they buy one of the 400,000 separate products with the OU's (U) kosher tax symbol on the label.

http://www.koshergourmetmart.com...

4 – "I am glad you brought up items like Organic… The producers of Organic products must pay a fee to be certified…You actually do pay extra for Organic….other groups benefit from Kosher certification as well"

I have no doubt that kosher food, like organic food, is healthier than average and I agree that organic food, like kosher food is more expensive as the result of the cost of certification. However, organic goods are far less prevalent in the aisles of American supermarkets than kosher certified items – shoppers would have to go to great lengths to avoid purchasing any one of the 400,000 different kosher tax products on sale!

To end his argument, my opponent wrote:

"The fact of the matter is the idea that Kosher certification is a "Jewish Tax" is clearly an anti-Jewish one intent on stirring up animosity towards Jews."

I have clearly demonstrated that, in fact, kosher certification is indeed a de facto tax, which may well be run along the lines of a protection racket. As regards stirring up animosity towards Jews, this is certainly not my intention as I abhor racial and religious bigotry in all its forms

That is why I was appalled to discover "Israel's Jewish community increasingly supports the delegitimization, discrimination and even deportation of Arabs" and "78 percent oppose the inclusion of Arab political parties in the government (and) 74 percent of Jewish youths in Israel think that Arabs are ‘unclean.'"

http://www.haaretz.com...
http://www.haaretz.com...

Thank you.
Debate Round No. 2
snamd

Pro

It is unfortunate that my opponent feels the need to lie. He places a quote and adds in Parentheses something the author did not write at all.
"Hashem had declared in Devarim 25:17-19 'eternal war' against Amalek (Palestinians), and commanded the Jewish People, once they achieved stability in the Land of Israel, the Promised Land, to erase the name of Amalek"
The author was NOT referring to Palestinians. He does not have the word "(Palestinians)" in his text. So a) my opponent misquoted a source which all can see by clicking on the link b) did not end the debate on the side topic he seems desperate to pursue.
In addition this quote has NOTHING to do with the side topic to the debate as a) Amalek were not residents of the land of Canaan and b) Only the most extreme right winger would even say the Palestinians are Amalek, and they would be using the term as meaning any group who seeks to destroy the Jewish people (i.e. the Germans were Amalek, the Cossaks were Amalek, etc.) not specifically the Palestinians.

So now that we have shown that my opponent is an utter fool in this side topic, let us proceed to the main topic at hand.

In order for my opponent to prove that there is a Kosher tax he must:
a) show that the consumer pays more. If there is no extra cost there is no tax
b) Show that the producers of the items are co-erced or forced in any way in order for this to even be considered a tax.
he has not.

1) My opponents "logical analysis" is neither logical nor really even an analysis.
He first asks "As there are a similar number of Muslims and Jews in the US (each approximately 1% of the total population), why then don't manufacturers seek to certificate their products as halal (the Islamic equivalent to kosher kashrut) in order to gain a similar "marketing advantage"?" And then answers that it must be b/c the food producers are "fearful" of a Jewish boycott.
This is absurd.
A) Even if you want to use controversial census data that says Muslims are equal in size to Jews today, 1) they certainly have not been for the past 100 years, and it has taken this long to establish reliable agencies that have been accepted by the entire Jewish community. Even 20 years ago, Kosher certification was 10% of what it is today. In another 100 years, I have no doubt similar organizations for hallal will develop. 2) in general Kosher is more strict than Hallal http://en.wikipedia.org..., and as many Muslim authorities base Hallal status on Kosher certification (in fact, hallal inspectors for many food products exported to Islamic countries simply check for the OU symbol, then change it to hallal) a company would only need to pay for Kosher certification, and both are covered. Basically, as I have been saying REPEATEDLY, more than just Jews rely on Kosher.
B) My opponent assumes that these companies are stupid. They feel "threatened" by a boycott of 1% of the population. 1) My opponent shows no proof of any boycott ever being proposed or ever being committed 2) The idea is so ridiculous. No kosher certification organization approaches a company. The company always contacts the kosher certification agency. And what exactly are they threatening? Observant Jews will not eat items without proper supervision. So they don't "threaten a boycott." That would imply that currently Jewish people are buying the product and will stop unless they "agree to pay the Rabbis," when in fact a boycott is not threatened. The corporations are informed that they will open themselves to a new market with this supervision. Also despite low numbers percentage wise, Jews do have a rather large percentage of purchasing power given their relative affluent status, another incentive for food producing companies to tap. 3) As of the last census there were 270,000 Jews in the UK. http://en.wikipedia.org... that is roughly .45% of the country. Not the same size as the United States. Also, In terms of people who identify themselves as Jews, there are roughly 7-8 Million in the US, or 2-3% of the population. http://en.wikipedia.org...

Again, to reiterate the main point of argument (1) which my opponent did not even touch. Companies pursue Kosher certification to increase revenue. This generally does not increase prices as a) the price compared to total cost of operation is infinitesimal b) it is pursued b/c the increased revenue will offset extra costs.

2) I am pleased to see that my opponent has some sense, and can admit when he is incorrect in his assumptions. Thank you sir.

3) Unfortunately my opponent returns to his foolish roots starting a side argument on the merits of the OU. This is presumably done b/c I have mentioned i have a close relative who works for the OU, so he will try to mock the organization. His illogical connections and sheer audacity are not even worth discussing as a) they do not not deal with the topic at hand b) are made simply to antagonize his opponent.
It is certainly the right of anyone to boycott an organization that they believe does immoral acts, however i would assume the reader would do his due diligence and research all organizations and every facet of every product they purchase to determine which organizations your money goes to.
If the Israel issue is an important to you I would recommend viewing this video:
to further help you in this specific search.

4) Organic certification is considerably more expensive than Kosher certification. For most items, the products simply need to be inspected and little or no change to the manufacturing process needs to occur. For organic, the entire manufacturing process must be altered.
Again, this is a marketing decision that the companies have freely undertaken to perform, which they have researched and their marketing research tells them would be beneficial.

My opponent concludes with another side argument.
Unfortunately, despite how logically wrong he clearly is in this case, he will persist to believe there is an organization of Jews who are fooling large companies into believing they can impose a boycott on their products, forcing them to get kosher certification and forcing the poor masses to pa exorbitant fees as a result. He suffers from second generation discrimination and i sincerely hope he gets the help he so desperately needs.
brian_eggleston

Con

I extend my thanks to my opponent for continuing this lively debate.

To begin with he wrote:

"It is unfortunate that my opponent feels the need to lie. He places a quote and adds in Parentheses something the author did not write at all.

'Hashem had declared in Devarim 25:17-19 'eternal war' against Amalek (Palestinians), and commanded the Jewish People, once they achieved stability in the Land of Israel, the Promised Land, to erase the name of Amalek'

The author was NOT referring to Palestinians."

I added "Palestinians" in brackets to inform the readers of that "Amalek" means Palestinians, as my learn-ed opponent no doubt knows.

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com...

I feel it is unfortunate that my opponent chooses to confuse "lies" with "truth". Perhaps he should apply for a job at the OU? The ability to disguise fact as fiction and cover up inconvenient truths may be just what they are looking for. Perhaps his father could put in a good word for him? Certainly, thanks to the hundreds of millions of dollars they rake in through the kosher tax, there is no doubt that they have the finances to reward him handsomely for his duplicity.

Okay, no more unpleasantness, let's move on.

1 (a) – "In another 100 years, I have no doubt similar organizations for hallal will develop… Kosher is more strict than Hallal {sic}"

My opponent can't have it both ways. He says that it is the manufacturers that approach one of the 275 different kosher tax outfits in the US and voluntarily offer to hand over large sums of money in exchange for the privilege of printing a "kosher tax paid" symbol on their products' labels and yet at the same time suggests that they would not be willing to gain a similar "marketing advantage" because there is no halal certification authority. My suggestion, in this case, is the likes of Unilever, Kraft and Heinz google "Halal certification" and they will find a link to the Halal Monitoring Committee.

http://www.halalmc.co.uk...

Kosher requirements may or may not be more stringent than halal, but that is totally irrelevant to the argument.

1 (b) "My opponent shows no proof of any boycott… No kosher certification organization approaches a company…In terms of people who identify themselves as Jews, there are roughly 7-8 Million in the US, or 2-3% of the population."

Regarding the boycott: "The Orthodox community imposes a permanent economic boycott over products which do not carry a kosher certificate."

http://zope.gush-shalom.org...

Apart from the OU, there are approximately 275 kosher certification outfits in the US all competing for business and in all marketplaces, rival companies will promote their services as directly as possible and what better way than knocking on a potential customer's door? Most of the kosher tax extortionists are companies run for the benefit of their shareholders and direct marketing makes perfect business sense. How do you think mafia protection rackets operate? They don't advertise for voluntary contributions in the local newspaper!

As for the population percentage of Jews, I relied upon an official government source, whereas my opponent has chosen Wikipedia as his source, but never mind that, even if the amateur website figures are right and the official figures are wrong, even 3% is a very small percentage of the population.

2 – This matter is settled to our mutual satisfaction.

3 – "i {sic) would assume the reader would do his due diligence and research all organizations and every facet of every product they purchase to determine which organizations your money goes to."

Attention busy moms! Before you purchase one of the 400,000 items on sale with the (U) kosher tax symbol on the label, go to the library or log onto the Internet and research a) – what that symbol means and b) what the organisation behind it spends your money on!

4 – "Organic certification is considerably more expensive than Kosher certification."

My opponent offers no source to support his claim and I very much doubt that it is true. Please remember, the parasites that peddle kosher tax certificates cream $12 billion a year off American consumers – that's $200 dollars the average American family is forced to "donate" to Jewish businessmen and ant-Arab organisations such as the IPA.

My opponent concludes his argument by making a cheap, unfounded and libellous remark stating that I suffer "from second generation discrimination" and continues by writing "i {sic} sincerely hope he gets the help he so desperately needs"

Prior to this debate, I was unaware of the very existence of the kosher tax, vere mind the huge sums it raises and I thank my opponent for binging the scandal to my attention. As I am mainly resident in the UK, where religious taxes do not (as yet) exist, I am very concerned that the kosher tax disease does not cross the Atlantic and infect British consumers. As my opponent pointed out, I need help and I intend to get it. Fortunately, I can count a number of senior politicians and journalists amongst my friends and family and I will be contacting them to highlight this potential threat with no undue delay.
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by snamd 8 years ago
snamd
well in his defense, not that they shouldn't. Just that the consumer needs to research how every dollar (or euro) the company spends (and how the companies this company may support spend i.e. the box maker, the sugar provider etc.) and then determine if every dollar aligns with his or her personal ideals.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 8 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
By your arguments, Eggleston, no business should ever make any donations to anything.

:)
Posted by Yuanti 8 years ago
Yuanti
Stay on Topic. The tangents on this debate were all over the place.
Posted by snamd 8 years ago
snamd
Nowhere in that article that you linked does it connect Amalek with the Palestinians of today. You sir, have placed a word in a quote that the author did not write, completely manipulating the intention of the author. That sir, is a lie.

In terms of a boycott. 1) The article you linked referred to Haredi Jews in Israel, referring to a specific certification for Israeli products. Not American ones. (do you even read the articles before you link them?) 2) I suppose we boycott non certified products the same way we boycott pork products or the way Muslims boycott non-Hallal products. I believe you are confusing a "boycott" with religious observance, which you have previously stated that you greatly respect.
And when Muslims rely on Kosher certification while Jews do not rely on Hallal certification, why would a company pursue two different certifications?

And in terms of your mental well being, I am in all honesty concerned. You ability to a) view Religious organizations (specifically Jewish ones, you do not seem so upset at Hallal certification which is growing very quickly in Europe http://www.dairyreporter.com...) in an extremely negative light (parasites?!?!?) b) pretend facts are there when they are not, do give me a reason to be concerned. You seem like an intelligent person. I would at the very least ask some of these high level friends of yours if they think this is an issue at all.
Despite your rather hostile mocking tone (which i unfortunately did attempt to emulate in the third portion of the debate) I thank you for your time and your thoughts.
Posted by snamd 8 years ago
snamd
note. This line: "Further, even during those biblical times, non-Jews were allowed to live in Egypt provided a) they did not worship idols b) did not try to kill Jews."
Should read "Further, even during those biblical times, non-Jews were allowed to live in Israel provided a) they did not worship idols b) did not try to kill Jews."
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Vote Placed by KRFournier 8 years ago
KRFournier
snamdbrian_egglestonTied
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jmaslow
snamdbrian_egglestonTied
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