‘McKosher’ moniker rejected by Australia Trademark Office


An Australian lawyer who claims he is of Scottish-Jewish descent has failed in a bid to register the trademark “McKosher.”

Mark Glaser reportedly wanted to open “a Scottish and Jewish restaurant bearing the name McKosher” in the New South Wales town of Maclean, where he has an office. The town prides itself on being the Scottish capital of Australia and even boasts tartan telegraph poles.

His request led to a trademark fight with the fast food operator McDonald’s.

Glaser’s application was rejected this week by the Australia Trademark Office, which noted there was a likelihood of contextual confusion, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

Attorneys for McDonald’s at a hearing held last week in New South Wales involving the Australia Trademark Office were told that the Jerusalem rabbinate is in negotiations with the international McDonald’s headquarters requesting the use of the name McKosher for the chain’s kosher-certified branches in the city to avoid confusion over those that are not kosher.

Glaser told the hearing he was of Scottish Jewish descent and his ancestors’ surnames included McKosher, MacAdoo, Beadle, Zimmerman and Rosenthal, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

He did not respond to JTA’s request for comment.

The minimum wage battle: What makes a wage just?


Raising the minimum wage is a mitzvah.

The Rambam says that ensuring others have work that can sustain them is the highest rung on the hierarchy of tzedakah (Mattanot Aniyim, 10:7). In Judaism, tzedakah does not mean charity but justice. We rectify social wrongs and fulfill our obligations through tzedakah. By raising the minimum wage, we are enabling others who work to escape poverty. Tzedakah is all the more important when applied to a system of legislation, as the mission of the Jewish people is to perpetuate our most precious  values of the good and the just into broader society. Our messianic dream is the creation of a society where Torah values are brought into the world to create a more just and holy civilization.

The disparate gap between rich and poor is one of the most troubling moral issues in America today. Much of the problem has to do with unfair wages that block social mobility. The federal wage floor for most workers today is $7.25 an hour, paying at most around $15,000 annually for 40 hours/week (not including the millions of “invisible people” being exploited at under minimum wage). The issue of increasing the minimum wage has become muddied with partisanship, as politics, today, trumps justice. There was no increase from September 1997 until July 2007, at which point the minimum wage had fallen 22 percent in constant dollars while corporate profits had increased by 50 percent (Time magazine, July 24, 2009). Even then, the wage only rose from $5.85 in July 2007 to its current level of $7.25 in July 2009. Some have noted that the decline in value of the minimum wage has coincided with the decline of the American middle class, as previously the minimum wage offered families a chance to climb into the middle class, but now the gap is too wide. We must acknowledge just how far below subsistence the minimum wage has fallen. There has been a major decline of the real value of the minimum wage and the earned-income tax credit has been crucial in helping to fill the gap (aiming to benefit low-income families with children and not just all low-wage workers).

Some argue that raising the cost of labor will hurt workers, because employers will then hire fewer workers. In a few instances this may be true, but overall many economists and researchers have shown this to be false. Speaking to this issue, Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Solow stated that “… the evidence of job loss is weak. And the fact that the evidence is weak suggests that the impact on jobs is small.”

Current state unemployment statistics (October 2013) tend to support Solow on this. For example, of the four states with a minimum wage below the federal standard, two (Minnesota and Wyoming) have unemployment rates below the average, while two (Arkansas and Georgia) have unemployment rates above the average. Of the five states with no minimum wage, South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi have unemployment rates higher than the national average, while Alabama and Louisiana have lower unemployment rates. Thus, there is no substantive evidence to support the idea that a minimum wage adversely affects employment, or that a lower wage helps employment. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman recently helped to debunk the myth that raising the minimum wage leads to job losses. Studies have shown that when states raised their minimum wage they experienced no significant impact on employment compared to states that did not raise wages. Further, today, 76 percent of voters support raising the minimum wage. It’s a win-win because workers are empowered to sustain themselves, the government gives less “hand-outs,” and businesses flourish as that new income leads to increased spending.

Furthermore, minimum wage workers tend to work in industries that cannot be outsourced or eliminated (e.g., the fast-food and hotel industries), so it is unlikely that a rise in minimum wage would reduce these jobs. One significant study looking at the food industry found that raising the minimum wage did not result in employers trimming their workforce, and dozens of studies have confirmed these conclusions. For example, a study looking at airport employees found that not only did higher wages not lead to lower employment, but, in fact, led to reduced employee turnover.

We must consider not only the microeconomics but also the macroeconomics. There is evidence to suggest that when low-wage workers have more spending power, this creates demand for labor and employment opportunities. For example, in 2006 the Economic Policy Institute estimated that raising the minimum wage from $6.55 to $7.25 would increase consumer spending by $5.5 billion, potentially offering a much-needed boon to the economy.

A final objection to raising the minimum wage is that those who work in these largely menial jobs are teenagers who are simply trying to earn extra cash, and therefore there is no need for a wage increase. As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich pointed out, this is untrue. Among the 15 million people working in minimum wage jobs today:

90 percent are age 20 or older.

• 50 percent are full-time employees.

• 25 percent are parents.

But at the end of the day, minimum wage reform is not enough. A minimum wage increase will not bring low-wage-earning families out of poverty. We must embrace a living wage to truly improve the lives of the millions of our fellow Americans who are living in abject poverty. The 2010 U.S. Census revealed the extent of U.S. poverty in graphic detail:

• Nearly 47 million people live in poverty (15 percent of the population), the highest number ever recorded. Of these, more than 20 million lived in extreme poverty (i.e., an income less than half the poverty level).

• Among children, 22 percent live in poverty.

• More than 17 million households are food insecure, the highest number ever recorded.

• Some 50 million people lack medical insurance, which will increase if enrollment under the Affordable Care Act is unsuccessful.

The sheer injustice of economic inequality is overwhelming. From 2007 to 2010, the average American family lost 39 percent of its wealth, while at the same time, 95 percent of all new wealth generated was accumulated by the wealthiest 1 percent of the population. It has been estimated that six members of the Walton family (heirs to the Walmart fortune) own more wealth than 41.5 percent of Americans (nearly 49 million families). Is it too much of an encroachment on the wealth of the Walton family to encourage them to pay their workers more? Is it morally tolerable that the employee of a multibillion-dollar company is paid poverty-level wages?

It is our Jewish obligation to lead this fight for justice. The Rema, the great 16th century Polish authority, teaches that when one is involved in an issue of public monies, one must engage (act and vote) l’shem shamayim, for the sake of heaven (i.e., for reasons not based on self-interest) (Choshen Mishpat 163:1). It is crucial, and our religious duty, that Jews vociferously advocate for systemic change for the poor.

In Judaic doctrine, rabbis have limited the earning power of owners selling essential food so as to help the poor through the laws of “onaah” (fair pricing). The owner is forbidden from keeping more than one-sixth profit in order that others could be sustained as well (Bava Batra 90a, Choshen Mishpat 231:20). For the rabbis, the value of maintaining a just society where the needs of all can be met trumps the full autonomy of owners to maximize their profits to no end.

The primary wage responsibilities fall upon employers. Rebbeinu Yonah, the 13th century Spanish rabbi, taught:

“Be careful not to afflict a living creature, whether animal or fowl, and even more so not to afflict a human being, who is created in G-d’s image. If you want to hire workers and you find that they are poor, they should become like poor members of your household. You should not disgrace them, for you shall command them respectfully, and should pay their salaries (Sefer HaYirah).”

Rebbeinu Yonah teaches that when we hire a worker and find that he/she is still poor after we pay them, then we must treat them as b’nei beitecha (members of our households). If we choose to become an employer, then we must take responsibility to ensure our workers do not live in poverty.

The minimum wage, in its current state, is a collective violation of the biblical prohibition of oshek (worker oppression), as workers remain poor while they work to their full capacity (Leviticus 19:15). The previous verse tells us that we must not be enablers of lifnei iver (social wrongs), linking the two responsibilities of fair wages and Jewish activism. Now is the time for a collective Jewish intervention to ensure that those who work can live.

I have experienced the challenges of Jewish activism on this issue. Tav HaYosher (Uri L’Tzedek’s ethical seal for kosher restaurants) has encountered unique and anomalous apathy in the Los Angeles kosher community. Personal wealth and low food costs have been prioritized over proper worker compensation and dignity. What is perhaps most troubling about my experience is that Tav HaYosher is only asking for the basic law to be followed, paying workers minimum wage and nothing more, and this, tragically, is asking too much for many kosher consumers and owners. The indifference from some in the Jewish community is deeply troubling.

Today, one working on the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour will have a gross annual income $12,000-$14,500, based on a 35- to 40-hour work week, after which federal and state income tax, Social Security and other taxes are then deducted. It is simply morally repugnant to argue that one working all day every day should live in poverty. As Barbara Ehrenreich, who once described her vain attempt to survive on a wage (above the minimum) in “Nickel and Dimed,” wrote in 2007: “There is no moral justification for a minimum wage lower than a living wage. And given the experience of the … states that have raised their minimum wages, there isn’t even an amoral economic justification.”

Today, change is needed and the Jewish community has a crucial role to play. We should heed the word of President Barack Obama: “… let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty.”

I believe we will get there, but I am not a total optimist. I am a possibilist. I believe we will only get there if we engage in courageous leadership. The Jewish community has a crucial role to play.


Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is executive director of the Valley Beit Midrash, founder and president of Uri L’Tzedek, founder and CEO of the Shamayim V’Aretz Institute and the author of “Jewish Ethics & Social Justice: A Guide for the 21st Century.” Newsweek named Rav Shmuly one of the top 50 rabbis in America.

Should Israel boycott McDonald’s?: No Happy Meal for you!


This story originally appeared on themedialine.org.

When it comes to Israel and the Palestinians, everything, even a hamburger, is political. Israelis who live in areas that Israel acquired in 1967 are up in arms over McDonald’s decision not to open a branch in the mall that will be built in Ariel over the next year.

In Israel, the McDonald’s franchise is private and is owned by Omri Padan, one of the founders of the dovish group Peace Now, which opposes Israeli building in post-1967 areas. There are 170 McDonald’s restaurants in Israel, about 40 of which are kosher. The company’s website claims it is the largest employer of youth in Israel, giving jobs to 3000 teenagers, along with 1000 adults.

Padan declined to give an interview to The Media Line but his office sent a one-line reply.

“This has always been the policy of Dr. Omri Padan,” referring to the decision not to open restaurants in Ariel, the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967, or even East Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed.

Some in Israel welcomed Padan’s decision.

“In every democratic country everyone has the right to decide where to live and where to open his business,” Yariv Oppenheimer, the director general of Peace Now told The Media Line. “Padan did not want to take part in “settlement” activity. He thins the “settlements” are damaging to Israel and we agree.”

Some right-wing leaders disagreed.

Settler leader Yigal Dilmony said that while he doesn’t support boycotts consumers should vote with their wallets.

“Every citizen who cares about the state of Israel should think before he buys a burger who is he financing?” Dilmony asked The Media Line. “Burger Ranch (a rival local Israeli chain) said they will open in the new mall. Israeli citizens should support those chains with Zionist values.

Others went even further.

“I urge the public to boycott anyone who boycotts it,” Housing Minister Uri Ariel said. “Only then will they get the message and the boycotts will stop.”

Oppenheimer of Peace Now reacted sharply saying Padan’s decision is not a boycott.

“Nobody is saying that “settlers” are not allowed to buy McDonald’s,” he said, referring to Israelis who live in post-1967 areas. “You can’t fault him for not building in a place they don’t want to remain part of Israel.”

The dispute erupted as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the region for yet another attempt to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Palestinians say that all of the areas that Israel acquired in 1967 must become part of the Palestinian state and all 330,000 Jewish residents there must leave. Israel says it wants to hold onto what it calls “settlement blocs” including Ariel.

“I think the decision not to open a McDonald’s here is a mistake and hurts a large population,” Ariel mayor Eliezer Shaviro told The Media Line. “Any kind of boycott is a mistake and causes more division.”

Shaviro says residents are trying hard for coexistence with their Palestinian neighbors.

“In our industrial zone we have factories where Israelis and Palestinians work together and Palestinians make five times what they would in Nablus or Ramallah,” he said, referring to two nearby Palestinian towns. “If there is a boycott on Ariel, these factories might have to fire workers, and the Palestinians will join the cycle of violence instead of the “cycle of income.”

It is not the first time that Ariel, which boasts a university of 13,000 students, both Arabs and Jews has been in the news. In 2011, 165 academics said they would not participate in academic functions at Ariel University because it sits on post-1967 land.

A year earlier, dozens of actors said they would not participate in cultural events there.

Israelis are especially sensitive to boycotts as the country has recently been the target. Recently, physicist Steven Hawking pulled out of a conference to protest Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has stepped up activity and dozens of artists including musician Elvis Costello and actors Dustin Hoffman and Meg Ryan have cancelled appearances.

Others have rejected the boycott calls. Barbra Streisand played to tens of thousands of enraptured fans earlier this month, and Alicia Keys appears next month.

Travel Briefs


Music Festival Celebrates Jewish New Orleans

Hot on the heels of Mardi Gras, a recovering Big Easy will soon play host to the inaugural New Orleans International Jewish Music Festival. The two-day gathering on April 1-2 will celebrate the rebuilding of Jewish New Orleans following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Featured artists include The New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars, Blue Fringe, Neshama Carlebach, Moshav Band, Sam Glaser, RebbeSoul, Theresa Andersson, Yom Hadash and Voices of Israel. U.S. artists will kick off the April 1 concert at The Howlin’ Wolf with a Havdallah service, while the April 2 show at Tulane University will feature a mix of U.S. and international acts. Sponsors include the Hiddur Mitzvah Project, Moment Magazine and the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.

For more information, visit www.hiddurmitzvah.org or call (504) 780-5612.

Kosher Signs for Israeli McDonald’s

Two branches of McDonald’s in Israel are getting new signs so prospective customers know those outlets are kosher. Under an initiative championed by the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, Yisrael Meir Lau, the two branches of the fast-food chain in the city that have rabbinical certification are getting new Hebrew-language signs with “kosher” clearly marked in the national colors of blue and white.

“I feared that tourists or youths from outside Tel Aviv would come for a visit, eat at a kosher branch and assume that all of the McDonald’s branches in Israel are kosher,” Lau was quoted saying in Yediot Achronot last week.

The remainder of the some 100 branches in Israel retain the distinctive white, yellow and red signs in English.

Arab Airline Slams Israel Deal With Soccer Team

An Arab country’s national airline criticized the decision of a British soccer team it sponsors to promote Israeli tourism. Emirates Airlines, which pays $5.2 million for the naming rights to Arsenal’s new stadium, and whose logo appears on team jerseys, censured the $600,000 deal, which will go into effect for the 2006-2007 season, with an option to renew for another year. Israel will be promoted on LCD billboards in Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium in London, on banner ads on the team’s Web site and in its official magazine, where the Jewish state will be billed as Arsenal’s “official and exclusive travel destination.”

The club said it cleared the deal with UAE officials, but a spokesman for the national carrier denied this, calling the deal “unfortunate,” and adding that the company will “do our best to persuade Arsenal not to renew its deal with Israel.”

Israeli Tourism Ministry officials said the ads will “broaden Israel’s appeal to sun and fun-seekers,” and hope they will bring an added 2 million tourists to the country.

Mubarak Woos Israeli Tourists

Egypt’s president reportedly called on Israeli tourists avoiding his country to reconsider their plans. Yediot Achronot quoted a letter sent recently by Hosni Mubarak to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, in which he pledged that security at Sinai resorts was satisfactory.

“The Israelis have nothing to worry about,” Mubarak wrote. “We want to promote tourism and are doing everything to protect tourists.”

Israelis, who long flocked to Sinai, largely have avoided it since a series of Islamist suicide bombings killed dozens of vacationers there in 2004. In the past few years, Israel repeatedly has issued advisories against its citizens visiting neighboring Arab countries. Some Israelis believe they’re not truly welcome in Egypt, despite the 27-year-old peace accord between the countries.

Yediot quoted Mubarak as adding in his letter, “We will never return to the path of war. This is our strategic decision, and we will keep with it.”

The Foreign Ministry did not immediately confirm the report.

Dublin Opens a Jewish House

The Dublin Jewish community opened a house with kosher facilities for students and young professionals. Located in a former Jewish retirement home near the core of Dublin’s Jewish population on the city’s south side, the house is open to any Jews living in, working in or visiting Dublin. In addition to providing living space for observant Jews in a city with limited kosher facilities, the house is intended as a place for social contact between the Irish Jewish community and the growing number of Jews who have moved to Ireland for work or study, according to Rabbi Zalman Lent, Dublin’s Chabad rabbi, who spearheaded the project with his wife, Rifky. The house’s eight residents celebrated their first Shabbat there on Feb. 24.

Passport for Jet-Setting Pets

Looking for the purrrfect way to keep your pet’s trip to Israel from being a ruff one? El Al has introduced the “Pet Passport,” a single document for pet owners that contains medical and vaccination information, dietary and grooming instructions, space for a photo and personality details, and even a travel diary for your dog or cat. The passport, created by Pocket Reference Journals, follows the 2001 launch of El Al’s Points for Pets, a frequent-flyer program so your furry friend can earns points toward future travel on the Israeli airline.

To receive a complimentary copy of the passport, call (212) 852-0628.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Journal staff and Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

 

World Briefs


Italian Journalist Killed

A freelance journalist was killed in Ramallah. Israeli officials said they were investigating whether Israeli or Palestinian fire caused the death Wednesday of Italian journalist Raffaele Ciriello and the wounding of a French photographer. The officials added that Ramallah had been declared a closed military area the night before and was off-limits to civilians. While not taking responsibility, Israel’s Foreign Ministry expressed “sorrow for any harm caused to civilians and members of the press.” Ciriello, 42, was on assignment for the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

Israel Suspects Hezbollah Link

Israeli officials suspect Hezbollah links in Tuesday’s terror attack near the Israel-Lebanon border that killed six Israelis. Another seven people were wounded when terrorists fired at passing cars. Israel believes Hezbollah may be attempting to open a new front on the northern border to widen the Arab-Israeli conflict and help the Palestinian cause.

Passover Makes the Comics

A U.S. comic strip is featuring a Passover storyline. In “Edge City,” which runs in 33 U.S. newspapers, the Ardins will be preparing for, and participating in, their family seder. The storyline begins March 18. “The funny pages are full of Christmas and Easter references as well as a growing trend toward ethnically specific strips. We felt that a strip that includes an American family’s Jewish culture could make a valuable contribution to the diversity of the comic pages,” said one of the strip’s co-creators, Patty LaBan.

Britain Wants to Keep Farrakhan Ban

British officials are seeking to maintain a ban preventing Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan from entering the country. The officials claimed before an appeals court Tuesday that a Farrakhan visit could stir up racial tension. Farrakhan was banned in 1986 because Britain said he had expressed views that were racist and anti-Semitic. But last July, the ban was overturned by London’s High Court.

Holocaust Novel Wins Top Prize

A book about a Holocaust survivor searching for his parents’ identity won a prestigious literary prize. “Austerlitz,” by W.G. Sebald, an acclaimed German-born novelist who wrote about the Holocaust and memory, won the National Book Critics Circle fiction prize, awarded Monday in New York. Sebald died last December in a car crash in England at the age of 57.

Muslim Group Sues U.S.

A Muslim charity that is based in Texas filed a lawsuit after the Bush administration froze the group’s financial assets for allegedly funneling money to terrorists.

The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development denies any ties with Hamas.

The lawsuit filed last Friday in Washington contends the Bush administration violated the group’s constitutional rights. The group calls itself the largest Muslim charity in the United States.

McDonald’s Fried on Beef Tallow

Some kosher groups may receive money from McDonald’s in a french fry settlement.

The money would be part of an apology from the American fast food company for using beef tallow in its french fry oil without disclosing that fact.

The main recipients of the reported $10 million settlement will be groups representing vegetarians.

Children’s nutrition groups, as well as those representing Hindus and Sikhs, will also receive some of the money.

Briefs courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Hate Israel, Love McFalafel


It wasn’t the idea of a McFalafel that sparked the ire of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), but a McDonald’s ad campaign in Egypt for the new falafel patty.

The commercial featured an innocuous jingle with the lyrics “If you eat a bite, you can’t stop before finishing the whole roll.” But the singer was Shaaban Abdel-Rahim, who has recently become a major star in Egypt with his first chart-topping single, “I Hate Israel.”

Roughly translated from the Arabic, the song goes like this: “I hate Israel/ I’ll say it if asked/ Even if I die or if I’m imprisoned/ I hate Israel.”

“Certainly, McDonald’s can find a way to sell falafel without enlisting a hate-monger as a spokesman,” said Shulamit Bahat, AJC’s acting executive director.

McDonald’s pulled the campaign immediately after AJC expressed their concerns. “It’s not in our nature to offend anyone,” a McDonald’s spokesman noted, blaming the ad on a “local marketing initiative by McDonald’s Egypt that was obviously not researched.”

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