By Yisroel Besser, Mishpacha
Hershey Friedman‘s name captured the headlines last week following his bold purchase of the flailing Agriprocessors meat plant.
Yet it’s far from his first brush with publicity; in fact, this Montreal-based philanthropist is associated with yeshivos, seforim, charitable efforts, and Torah initiatives across the world.
In a rare interview to Mishpacha, he talked about his upbringing in Montreal, his earliest experience with the transformative power of tzedakah, his relationship with gedolim past and present, and his hopes for Agri and the Postville community of shochtim and mashgichim.
And though he readily admits that he loves a business challenge, Reb Hershey is at his most passionate when it comes to the topic of giving. “If you have, you have to be able to share,” he says.
Here is what he said about the Postville plant:
* Was it hard for you to buy the company that was the subject of so much hurt? What role will the Rubashkin family play, if any, in this company?
He waves away the question. “That is not for now. I will say this. Whatever the Rubashkin family did or did not do, they were victims of a massive witch hunt.
“They are wonderful people and sincerely motivated by a desire to provide Yidden with kosher meat, and they did us a valuable service.
“The last few months were very rough. The huge facility was shut down, the infrastructure of the Postville kehillah [was] seriously affected, and most of all, the kosher meat consumer was made to suffer. There was a monopoly situation, and that’s never a good thing.
“Ultimately, it is the consumers who are being forced to pay higher prices for quality meat. Can a Jewish family live without meat for Shabbos, Yom Tov, simchahs? The only solution was to recreate an open market and make it affordable to everyone.
“I also love a challenge. Believe me, I don’t need this for my parnassah, baruch Hashem, but the potential is tremendous. It’s a remarkable place, efficient and state of the art, and we hope to have it operating again soon.”
* How soon?
“Ideally, before the Yamim Tovim.”
* Will there be changes?
“Maybe at the top level, but not on the ground. They have great personnel in place — shochtim, mashgichim, and we hope that they can resume doing what they do best.”
* Will the hashgachah remain the same?
“We are still working that out, but we are committed to giving all kosher consumers a product that they can trust.”
Reb Hershey knows that it will be a tremendous amount of work to win the public relations battle and convince the locals of his good intentions. “The natives up in Iowa are very wary of us, and we will have to do our best to be a good neighbor.”
Read the full article in this week’s Mishpacha magazine