May 28, 2010


Published May 19, 2010, issue of May 28, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Will Rubashkin’s Punishment Fit the Crime?

Your May 14 article “Campaign for Rubashkin Paints Another View of Kosher Meat Scandal” paints an incomplete picture of the group of people who are protesting federal prosecutors’ efforts to have Sholom Rubashkin sentenced, initially, to a life sentence and now to a 25-year sentence.

It is not only Haredim who think that the proposed sentence is too harsh. Those objecting include former attorneys general, former U.S. attorneys, dozens of law professors and hundreds of lawyers. Those who are concerned about justice in the United States — not justice for Jews, but for all people — should look closely at the facts of the proposed sentence itself.

Your article mentioned only in passing the letter signed by former attorneys general Janet Reno, William Barr, Richard Thornburgh, Edwin Meese, Ramsey Clark and Nicholas Katzenbach. That letter states: “We cannot fathom how truly sound and sensible sentencing rules could call for a life sentence — or anything close to it — for Mr. Rubashkin, a 51-year-old, first-time, nonviolent offender.”

Good people naturally tend not to care when criminals are over-punished, and Sholom Rubashkin is certainly a criminal worthy of punishment. But the fairness of a justice system is measured in part by how the guilty are treated. The sentence that prosecutors are proposing is simply much too harsh.

Rabbi Michael J. Broyde
Professor of Law
Emory University School of Law
Atlanta, Ga.

Sholom Rubashkin may have been convicted for bank fraud, but his real crime, beyond the reach of secular prosecutors, was the debasement of kashrut.

Rubashkin pioneered a brilliant business model: Indifference to animal suffering, abusive labor practices and employment of illegal immigrants too afraid of deportation to complain — all this enabled him to produce product at rock-bottom cost. He then sold the cheap product into the premium kosher market.

However, the business model depended on the willingness of the kashrut certification establishment to ignore all ethical concerns, and declare the product kosher merely if the incision was ritually correct.

The result was a fraud on gullible kosher consumers like me who used to believe that keeping kosher was an ethical practice. Rubashkin, together with his enabling certifiers, sucked all of the morality out of kashrut.

The Orthodox community, which seems to be rallying to Rubashkin’s defense, should instead be condemning him for chilul Hashem — for bringing one of the most important Jewish religious practices into disrepute.

David E. Cher
Englewood, Colo.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover!
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • 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.