Judge Cohen’s Report (Vol. 9, Issue 4)
At the last meeting of the Greater Boston Rabbinical Association Judge A. K. Cohen, venerable jurist and a distinguished leader of the Jewish community, gave an exhaustive report of his research and findings in connection with the complex and knotty problem of Kashruth in Boston. For an hour and a quarter the eminent legal authority, with a matchless logic and lucidity, held the rabbis spellbound with his revelations and analysis.
For a few years the Boston community has borne the great onus and even shame of permitting slanderous charges and vicious accusations to be hurled against Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, cruelly vilified and ruthlessly maligned and withal one of the great scholars of our generation, who is a true spiritual aristocrat in his own person, and also a scion of a notable line of Jewish sages and aristocrats. The accusations against this revered personality became so scandalous that they came to the attention of the Attorney-General, Robert T. Bushnell, a gifted and zealous proponent of justice and defender of the law. At Mr. Bushnell’s behest Judge A. K. Cohen, a man of unimpeachable integrity and keen legal insight, was invited to serve as an investigator, and after two years Judge Cohen presented the results of his investigation in a classic report to the Attorney-General and summarized this report at the last meeting of the Rabbinical Association.
Charges Based On Hearsay Evidence
Judge Cohen, highly honorable man that he is, admitted that the air was so filled with accusations and denunciations against Rabbi Soloveitchik that on entering the case he was unfavorably disposed to him, for he had heard of the Kosher community being gouged out of large sums of money which all allegedly went into the pockets of this one Rabbi. It was with trepidation that he entered the case. He, however, soon began to realize that the charges were essentially based on hearsay evidence and also in great part sheer fabrications. It was charged, for example, that Rabbi Soloveitchik was completely and solely in charge of the Brighton’ slaughterhouses. This proved to be an untruth. It was stated that there were 50,000 chickens sold a week, and that there were profits to the extent of $15,000 to $20,000 a year and that all this money went into the private coffers of Rabbi Soloveitchik; and the profit referred to here is the profit made on the selling of bands or rings, or in Yiddish called “ringlach and plombes” which were placed on the chickens in order to indicate that they were kosher. These rings or bands or buttons were reported as being purchased at the rate of $2.30 per thousand and were sold at the rate of $10 per thousand, netting a profit of nearly $3.00 per thousand, or about $400 a week, or about $20,000 per year. Judge Cohen checked these figures of the firms supplying the buttons and found that the amount used was only 25,000 on the average per week, as will be shown shortly, that this profit never went into the hands of Rabbi Soloveitchik. The Judge, with a sense of deep indignation, stated that the charges against Rabbi Soloveitchik were thus utterly untrue and that those who originated them, he feels, knew that they were unfounded.
Kashruth Reforms Initiated by Rabbi
Judge Cohen indicated that there was a great need for house-cleaning in the field of Kashruth; that for example, the shochtim were definitely exploited; they got a small salary and had to work long hours, some toiling 24 hours at a stretch; finally their representatives came to Rabbi Soloveitchik and asked him to put order into this chaotic state; the Rabbi agreed to do so if they would all employ the kosher bands or rings, for the Rabbi knew, as have known others in our community, that a great deal of poultry was sold as kosher and was not so. The shochtim at first balked at this suggestion for fear that the extra money required for the use of the rings or buttons would be taken out of their small salary. Finally, they agreed so that Rabbi- Soloveitchik undertook this further responsibility and improved considerably the living conditions of the shochtim who now began to receive living wage and worked decent hours, with the result that the exploiters became definitely hostile to him.
Until 1939 the Shochtim Association was loosely organized but from them on after an advertisement which appeared in the Jewish Advocate on March 24th of that year, it was clearly stated that all kosher poultry would have the kosher designating ring or band or button, and that the price would not be raised. But certain rabbis began clamoring that “the terrific profit” made through the sale of the kosher bands was used selfishly for one man. The Judge indicated that on May 9, 1941 the shochtim published in the Jewish Advocate a statement of income and expense signed by an authorized accountant, indicating an income of $15,070 expended in the following manner: — $4,778.40 to Mashgihim; $3,530.00 to orthodox rabbis (given in the form of monthly payments to some rabbis in need); $700 to the Vaad Hair; $850 for sick benefit. The statement indicated that Rabbi Soloveitchik did not get a cent out of this money.
Judge Cohen then called witnesses and these stated that this report was all a tissue of lies and utterly baseless and sheer nonsense. But Judge Cohen checked this statement for 1940 and 1941 and found it to be absolutely correct. Then how can we explain this recent stir? And the Judge asked the members of the Rabbinical Association to draw their own inference. It was at the end of March, 1941, when the monthly payment of two of the rabbis was terminated. Shortly after this the rumors began to circulate and became a vicious slander. It was definitely proven that not 50,000 chickens were slaughtered in this section, but rather only 25,000 a week. Judge Cohen felt that evil rumors were being spread in malice, so that even though he had previously never met Rabbi Soloveitchik, he now was definitely convinced that the Rabbi was dreadfully abused and baselessy accused.
The Judge indicated that after speaking with Rabbi Soloveitchik on several occasions and on examining the Rabbi’s income to the extent of investigating his bank account he was fully convinced that the Rabbi was victim of an unspeakable conspiracy. Furthermore, Swift and Company, with whom Rabbi Soloveitchik has a contract, has informed the Judge that during the nine years that the Rabbi has served that great concern, the Kashruth supervision has been carried out with scrupulous integrity, unquestioned probity and rare efficiency.
“A Disgrace To The Boston Community”
In summing up this amazing story, the Judge stated with severity, though with courtesy, that the general situation has been a disgrace to the Boston community, because there are some who assume the title of Rabbi and who have no learning and even less character. They are free-lancers. Such individuals get themselves a little organization, call it a Synagogue, and that gives them official status, whereas they are unprepared to serve because they are untrained, undisciplined and irresponsible. The Judge reminisced that in his childhood days, when he was but a boy of ten, butchers would sometimes try to sell the family non-kosher meat for kosher. This state of irresponsibility is still rampant among us and must be met by the entire community, both rabbis and laymen. Necessary legislation may be recommended for the General Court to adopt the stringent measures required. Thus, through this famous Kashruth case, not only is the name of a great sage and scholar, Rabbi Soloveitchik, known to Jews of Europe and Palestine as well as America, saved from the grasping and polluting clutches of conspirators, but possibly the entire problem of Kosher meat will be taken out of the hands of irredeemable racketeers when rabbis and laymen and of courage and character become roused and take the necessary action.