Tim­o­thy D. Lyt­ton is the author of the recent­ly pub­lished Kosher: Pri­vate Reg­u­la­tion in the Age of Indus­tri­al Food (Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press). He will be blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

The Toron­to Star recent­ly report­ed that sev­er­al fire­bomb­ings of kosher restau­rants in Que­bec may not be the work of anti-Semi­tes but rather part of a kosher restau­rant war in the pre­dom­i­nant­ly Jew­ish west-end neigh­bor­hood of Hamp­stead.” The Star described the lat­est bomb­ing in a June 15 article:

Around clos­ing time last week­end two men walked into Montréal’s Chops Resto-Bar, tossed a flam­ing Molo­tov cock­tail toward the bar and escaped on foot, though not before a secu­ri­ty cam­era picked them up.

The dam­age was lim­it­ed to a scorched sec­tion of the restaurant’s wall and shock among the 20-odd din­ers wrap­ping up their meal short­ly after mid­night Sat­ur­day. But there was clear­ly some­thing nefar­i­ous at play. This was the third time since 2011 that Chops, a kosher estab­lish­ment that serves Asian fusion cui­sine, had been tar­get­ed with a flam­ing bottle.

While shock­ing, this kind of vio­lence is not new in the kosher world. 

In one of the most noto­ri­ous cas­es, in 1906, a group of New York City poul­try dis­trib­u­tors orga­nized the Live Poul­try Com­mis­sion Mer­chants’ Pro­tec­tive Asso­ci­a­tion, which fixed whole­sale prices for kosher poul­try and forced poul­try retail­ers to buy exclu­sive­ly from the asso­ci­a­tion. The asso­ci­a­tion pun­ished retail­ers who refused to coop­er­ate by estab­lish­ing com­pet­ing stores that sold at low­er prices. 

Thir­teen asso­ci­a­tion mem­bers were ulti­mate­ly con­vict­ed of ille­gal price-fix­ing in 1911 based on the tes­ti­mo­ny of Bernard (Baruch) Baff, a poul­try retail­er. Baff’s horse and chick­ens were sub­se­quent­ly poi­soned, his sum­mer cot­tage and one of his stores were bombed, and he was gunned down in 1914 in the Wash­ing­ton Mar­ket by unknown assailants, who fled in a get­away car. 

The Baff mur­der remained unsolved for sev­er­al years, dur­ing which time sus­pi­cions focused on the poul­try dis­trib­u­tors. As it turned out, the mur­der was paid for by a group of one hun­dred poul­try retail­ers who resent­ed Baff’s dom­i­nance in the retail poul­try trade, which he achieved by deal­ing direct­ly with poul­try farm­ers, obtain­ing a fleet of trucks, and oper­at­ing his own slaugh­ter­ing oper­a­tions — there­by cut­ting out mid­dle­men and allow­ing him to charge low­er prices than his competitors.

While kosher food cer­ti­fi­ca­tion today is hard­ly a hotbed of extor­tion rack­ets and dri­ve-by shoot­ings, recent events in Que­bec hark back to a dark­er era in the his­to­ry of kosher corruption.

Tim­o­thy D. Lyt­ton is the Albert & Angela Farone Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor of Law at Albany Law School. He holds B.A. and J.D. degrees from Yale Uni­ver­si­ty and has served as a fel­low in the Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Pro­gram in Ethics and the Pro­fes­sions as well as the Hart­man Insti­tute for Advanced Jew­ish Stud­ies in Jerusalem. He is the author of Kosher: Pri­vate Reg­u­la­tion in the Age of Indus­tri­al Food recent­ly pub­lished by Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press (2013) and Hold­ing Bish­ops Account­able: How Law­suits Helped the Catholic Church Con­front Cler­gy Sex­u­al Abuse also pub­lished by Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press (2008). In addi­tion, he has pub­lished book chap­ters and arti­cles on the roots of law and jurispru­dence in bib­li­cal and rab­binic texts.

Tim­o­thy D. Lyt­ton | Jew­ish Book Coun­cil Tim­o­thy D. Lyt­ton is the Albert & Angela Farone Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor of Law at Albany Law School. He holds B.A. and J.D. degrees from Yale Uni­ver­si­ty and has served as a fel­low in the Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Pro­gram in Ethics and the Pro­fes­sions as well as the Hart­man Insti­tute for Advanced Jew­ish Stud­ies in Jerusalem. He is the author ofKosher: Pri­vate Reg­u­la­tion in the Age of Indus­tri­al Food recent­ly pub­lished by Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press (2013) and Hold­ing Bish­ops Account­able: How Law­suits Helped the Catholic Church Con­front Cler­gy Sex­u­al Abuse also pub­lished by Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press (2008). In addi­tion, he has pub­lished book chap­ters and arti­cles on the roots of law and jurispru­dence in bib­li­cal and rab­binic texts.