Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Rubashkin Affair

Elliot Ganchrow writes:

I would state at the outset that I have not discussed this particular post with my father and therefore it reflects only my thoughts. I would add that my symphathies go out to the Rubashkin family who must live with their husband/father who sits in federal prison. However there are serious questions that must be raised with the conduct of the Jewish leadership/Rabbinate with respect to the Rubashkin case.
For those unfamiliar with the Rubashkin case, Sholom Rubashkin, the owner of Agriprocessors, was arrested in 2008 after an immigration raid on his meat plant. He was subsequently charged with labor violations and with bank fraud. In 2009 he was convicted in federal court on 86 counts of bank fraud but acquitted on the labor charges. He was sentenced to 27 years in federal prison. The Jewish community has mobilized in publicizing this case and many Rabbis have been vocal in urging rallies and donations on behalf of the Rubashkin case. Less than a month ago, a letter from many (but not all) orthodox rabbis of the Five Towns was circulated which publicized a rally at the White Shul on behalf of Rubashkin. This set off a number of letters to local Jewish newspapers raising difficult questions as to the community's handling of the case. This led to a response from a local Rabbi (published in last week's Five Town Jewish Times) which dismissed out of hand many of the questions being raised (as if these questions shouldn't be raised in the first place.) His responses were non-responsive on the important points and raised the question as to whether these issues had even been considered by the local rabbis before getting behind this rally. Here are a number of the issues which have been raised by the Rubashkin case:

1. Do the Rabbis believe that Mr. Rubashkin is completely innocent or that he is guilty as charged on the bank fraud charges but that his sentence is unfair? If the latter, should we be rallying for convicted felons whose guilt is not being questioned.

2. Do they really believe that the federal prosecutors/judges/jury involved in this case are involved in some anti-semitic conspiracy? After all, the US Attorney General at the time of Rubshkin's arrest was Michael Mukasey, an Orthodox Jew who sends his kids to Ramaz. Was Mukasey the head of an anti-semitic Justice Department? It seems unlikely.

3. Is Rubashkin the only victim of the "anti-semitic" Justice Department? If there are more victims out there, why are we not speaking out about them? If there are no other victims, why would the Justice Department single out a single Jew in their ant-semitic plot? Were they prodded by PETA? Why would the Bush Administration care about PETA? And if the Justice Department is targeting Orthodox Jews, shouldn't we rally outside the White House to protest this anti-semitism?

4. Have we really considered the ramifications of accusing the Justice Department of anti-semitism?

5. Is it wise to rally on behalf on convicted felons? How is it not a chilul hashem in that we are getting behind an individual who was convicted by a federal jury of theft?

6. Why are we doing all this for this particular defendant? There are other Jewish convicts who claim innocence (although not anti-semitism)? Should we hold rallies for all Jewish convicts who proclaim their innocence?

7. Is this best use of our community's time and money? Would it not be wiser to support Tomchei Shabbos and Project Eliezer with our community's money?

8. How about a rally to support Gilad Shalit? The silence of certain segments of Orthodoxy on Gilad Shalit is deafening.

9. How about a rally which stresses the evils of bank fraud and money laundering?

10. Is this really a case of Pidyon Shvuyim and if it is, what are the ramifications for the community money that is set aside for other charities/shuls?

11. What is the point of a community rally on behalf of a convicted felon? Are we trying to influence the Court of Appeals that will hear Rubashkin's appeal? Its unlikely that federal judges in St. Louis will be influenced by a rally of supporters. Are we trying to influence the federal prosecutors? Unlikely, since we are saying they are anti-semitic. Are we trying to get him a Presidential pardon? If you are believe Obama is going to pardon this individual then you are kidding yourself. So what is the point of a rally? Is it purely to say tehilim for this individual? Then there are sick people in our communities which deserve a separate rally first before rallies for others.
It would be beneficial if those Rabbis who signed onto to this movement to clearly explain why the stress on this particular case has been made and what they are trying to accomplish.