Rabbis Gather in Support of Rubashkin

By Nathan Guttman

Published January 26, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A group of seven rabbis took to the podium January 26, in front of three reporters, to make the case for the pre-sentencing release of Sholom Rubashkin, the former owner of the kosher meat processing plant Agriprocessors. The rabbis went so far as to offer up eight Torah scrolls to secure the release of Rubashkin, who was convicted in November 2009 on 86 counts of financial fraud and is awaiting sentencing at the Linn County correctional center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Rubashkin’s supporters who gathered January 26, all from the Orthodox community, did not dispute his conviction, but rather questioned the decision to keep him incarcerated before sentencing. In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the rabbis argued that insistence of prosecutors to keep Rubashkin behind bars is not justified and is “particularly cruel.”

“Employing illegal aliens and committing bank fraud,” the letter states, “do not warrant the extreme draconian sanction of pre-sentencing imprisonment.”

In their letter, the rabbis claim Rubashkin cannot attend communal prayer services or perform Jewish observances while in prison and that, due to the lack of kosher food, he has eaten only cold food since being incarcerated.

“It’s a humanitarian issue,” said Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel of the fervently Orthodox Agudath Israel. “The local and federal prosecutors have been extraordinarily inflexible and harsh in terms of their own approach to this matter.”

When asked if he believed there was an underlying antisemitic bias that led prosecutors and courts to insist on pre-sentencing incarceration for Rubashkin, Zwiebel replied, “I can’t say we have any evidence of antisemitism over here” and added that “if you use the term inappropriately when its not warranted you’ll only generate more of it.”

Prosecutors had argued in court that Rubashkin could be a flight risk, basing their claim on the fact that large sums of cash were found at his home. Supporters of the former Agriprocessors owner said the court was offered numerous measures to secure Rubashkin’s bail, such as 24-hour security and an electronic ankle bracelet. Members of the Orthodox community also put up 43 homes, worth a total of $8 million, to ensure Rubashkin shows up in court and, in an unusual move, the letter to Holder reveals that rabbis were also willing to offer eight Torah scrolls as security — agreeing to have them confiscated if Rubashkin skips bail. “According to our tradition this is something which is done only in the most extraordinary and extreme of circumstances,” said Zwiebel.

Among the rabbis attending the press conference was Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. Tannenbaum had his own run-in with the law, when in 1996 he pleaded guilty to tax evasions and served 10 months in prison.

From the National Press Building in Washington, the Rubashkin-supporting rabbis walked to the Department of Justice in order to hand-deliver their letter to Holder. It is not clear yet when Rubashkin’s sentencing will take place, and if the Attorney General will opt to intervene before the sentence is delivered.

Below, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel from Agudath Israel of America speaks at a press conference:






Find us on Facebook!
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.