Prominent Rabbonim Visit Reb Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin


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ruba1.jpgSpecial to the Yated Neeman:

The scene was surreal. Reb Sholom Rubashkin standing in jail in bright orange prison sweats with the words “Dubuque County Jail” emblazoned across the back, incongruously wearing a borrowed black hat and gartel as he said the words of chazoras hashatz. It was the first time that he was zoche to daven with a minyan since his incarceration on November 14. Reb Sholom, who in an unprecedented and troubling ruling was denied bail by the magistrate, davened with great feeling, as the words emotionally poured from his mouth. “Go’el Yisroel – Who redeems Israel. Ki lishuascha kivinu kol hayom – for Your salvation we hope everyday…”

Indeed, the scene may have been surreal, but the circumstances of Reb Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin’s imprisonment are certainly not. They are downright troubling.

On Monday, January 12, a remarkable gathering took place at the Dubuque County Jail. Rabbinic leaders representing a broad range of the cross-section of American Jewry came to the Dubuque Iowa Jail where they met with Sholom for about one and a half hours, after which they held a press conference outside of the jail.

The group included Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Agudath Israel of America; Rabbi Pesach Lerner, National Council of Young Israel; Rabbi Yaakov Wasser, Rabbinical Council of America; Rabbi Moshe Elefant, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; Rabbi Shimon Hecht, National Committee for Furtherance of Jewish Education; and Rabbi Yossi Jacobson, Chabad Lubavitch International. Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud Horabbonim, was slated to attend but was unable to do so at the last moment.

In conversations with the Yated, Rabbi Zwiebel, Rabbi Lerner and Rabbi Hecht all expressed the profound feeling of chizuk that they felt Reb Sholom had received from the visit. Most amazing was that they all expressed a feeling of chizuk that they themselves got from undertaking the trip, speaking with Mr. Rubashkin and davening with him. “This was the primary purpose for which we undertook the trip,” said Rabbi Lerner. “To give chizuk to Reb Sholom.”

The second purpose of the trip was to express concern over the reason for which the magistrate refused bail for Mr. Rubashkin. Mr. Rubashkin is being forced to sit in prison because he has been deemed a “flight risk” as a result of the Israeli “Law of Return” that grants automatic citizenship to Jews. This represents a precedent that could conceivably be used in the future to deny bail to any Jew.

The third purpose of the trip was to express their collective feeling that Sholom Rubashkin does not represent a flight risk, and declare their trust in Mr. Rubashkin by publicly putting the reputation and credibility of each of their organizations on the line. “Sholom is well aware of how many people have advocated on his behalf, and a betrayal of their confidence would cause irrevocable damage to himself, his family, his community, and the many honorable individuals who have shown their support for him,” said Rabbi Yaakov Wasser.

“We are just seeking fair and equal treatment, from the justice system, for Mr. Rubashkin, no more and no less than anyone who applies for bail. At the same time, we are here to visit Mr. Rubashkin and hopefully give him strength to get through this difficult ordeal. This continued incarceration, while he awaits his day in court, is difficult for him and his family,” said Rabbi Lerner.

The delegation headed out of New York early Monday morning, changed planes in Chicago and finally arrived in snowy, freezing Dubuque, Iowa, where they were joined by some local rabbis. Although each rabbi was originally to be allotted a fifteen-minute slot to visit privately with Reb Sholom, in the end the prison authorities permitted all of the rabbis to visit together and they were thus able to daven Minchah together.

“It was clear,” said Rabbi Hecht, “that Reb Sholom derived tremendous chizuk from the visit. Nevertheless, Reb Sholom told me and the other rabbonim that although he now seems upbeat, there are times when it is extremely difficult. Being separated from his family, his children and especially his autistic child, with whom he has a special relationship, is very hard.”

“In fact, Reb Sholom is not even allowed to meet with his younger children. Even the periodic meetings with his wife are by video conference,” explained Rabbi Hecht. “The only Jews with access to him are clergy. Yes, his religious needs, seforim and kosher food are provided for, but Sholom Rubashkin belongs at home with his family until he has his day in court.”

Rabbi Zwiebel related that davening Minchah in the jail was something that he was sure none of the rabbonim will ever forget. “It was an extremely moving experience; an experience that simply can’t be put into words… seeing Reb Sholom, nobly serving as chazzan in orange prison clothing… experiencing the heartfelt tefillos of all who were present…”

Indeed, at the press conference following the visit, the rabbis declared “that not only is Sholom Rubashkin not a flight risk, but he wants the opportunity to face his accusers. He wants his day in court to prove his innocence in face of the serious charges leveled against him. The rabbis also argued “that not only would Rubashkin dishonor himself by fleeing, he would dishonor all of the rabbis and organizations who have supported him.”
Since his detention, they said, dozens of Jewish Iowans have offered their homes as collateral for bail, totaling $2 million, as has a Brooklyn man whose home is valued at $4 million. The court has also received nearly 300 letters testifying to Sholom’s character. Nevertheless, the government continues to insist that he be confined to prison.

The rabbis explained that the imprisonment is unnecessary, excessive and discriminatory against all Jewish Americans. They were highly critical of the U.S. Attorney’s office, which has taken the extraordinary step of classifying Mr. Rubashkin as a flight risk because of his Jewish heritage, arguing that the “Law of Return” would enable him to flee to Israel. During the press conference, Sholom Rubashkin’s attorney, Guy Cook, said that “According to the way the Law of Return has been applied to Mr. Rubashkin, Attorney General Michael Mukassey or Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff would present the same flight risk if indicted for a crime.”

Indeed, in a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukkasey, Rabbi Zwiebel wrote: “It is ironic that the very law of return that was designed to save Jews from oppression was now being used by the American government to treat Jews as second class citizens by deeming them as flight risks. The implications of this ruling are painfully ironic. The State of Israel, shortly after its founding, enacted the Law of Return to assure Jews in countries where they are treated as second-class citizens that they had a home in the Jewish State. Now, under the logic of Magistrate ruling – and the federal prosecutors who advanced the argument – the very fact that the Law of Return exists is basis for treating an American Jewish defendant as a second-class citizen, keeping him confined in pretrial detention under circumstances where non-Jews might well be released pending trial. The implications of this ruling are also breathtakingly staggering. The notion that Israel’s Law of Return makes Jewish defendants greater flight risks than their non-Jewish counterparts could result in wholesale denials of bail to Jewish defendants who would otherwise be eligible for release pending trial merely on the basis of their religious identity. Needless to say, this ruling is both deeply offensive and extremely troubling.”

Steve Savitsky, Orthodox Union President, also wrote a letter to the Attorney General expressing his concern over the troubling use of the law of return as reason to deny bail.
On the way home, the delegation ran into a snowstorm that severely delayed them. At one point it looked as if they would have to spend the night in Chicago. Rabbi Hecht related: “I and the other rabbonim were not very pleased about the prospect of having to spend a night away from our homes and our families. Then, I thought to myself, maybe Hashem is sending us a message. We were disappointed about having to spend one unexpected night away from our own beloved mishpochos. Imagine how Reb Sholom feels – being held, all alone in the Dubuque prison, without bail, for dubious reasons. This is a lesson from Above to all of us, to think about Reb Sholom’s predicament, to gain a sense of imo anochi b’tzarah – I am with him in his time of difficulty – and do all that we can to obtain his release. We must daven and daven. We must petition the proper authorities to release Reb Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin from prison and permit him, as an American citizen, to have his day in court to prove his innocence.”

The Yated has set up a fund to help pay Sholom Mordechai’s legal bills. Please contribute to help him get the legal representation he is entitled to by sending a check to Pidyon Shvuyim Fund, 53 Olympia Lane, Monsey NY 10952.

The above article and many others appear in this weeks Yaten Ne’eman.

(YWN Desk – NYC)


  1. Why is Rabbi Rubashkin treated differently than Mr. Madoff? They are both Jews. The law of return would apply to both of them. Why is one in a mansion with a bracelet on his ankle and the other in a prison guared by great big skin heads?

  2. This certainly makes me think differently about this issue. I worry that we are making excuses for someone who may have blatantly and flagrantly broken the law of the land that protects us all. Good intentions and otherwise good character are not a substitute for adhering to yashrus ALL the time.

    Is there a vindictive against Reb Shalom? Maybe. That’s all the more reason to make sure you are never accused of anything that would attract the attention of the authorities.

    It should be a lesson to all of us to keep a low profile by doing the right thing ALL the time.

    I wish him every brocho in the world. And I will daven that he be released very soon. That’s the least a yid can do for another.

  3. Time to leave Shmutz LaAretz and come to Eretz Yisroel!
    Rubashkin cannot, but ALL other Jews should leave the ant-Jewish USA. Be careful when we have a new administration. All that is happening will be blamed on the Jews.
    It has een done before and it can happen again.
    At least Hashem himself watches over Our Israel.
    That can only be said about Israel!

  4. I try not to be hard-hearted, but with all the people suffering financially and even for lack of food – is Israel and US, why is the Yeted setting up a fund for legal fees???

  5. Why is Rabbi Rubashkin treated differently than Mr. Madoff? — prejudice (perhaps because one looks like a Jew and the other someone who looks normal even though he has Jewish ancestry, and even more possibly, because one is in his “home turf” and the other is an “out of towner”. Since there is a constitutional right to bail, these matters should be litigated vigorously.

    The “double citizenship” argument is absurd since many countries will liberally restore citizenship to descendants of 19th century emmigrants (in part to reduce labor shortages and avoid the need of important workers who are even more foreign).

    There might be a legitimate argument since R. Rubashkin’s alleged offenses are largely political (hiring Hispanic and other aliens) and most countries don’t extradite for other countries political offenses, whereas Madoff’s alleged crimes are not only illegal everywhere, but he would be arrested in every country whose citizens he allegedly ripped off (including Israel, Switzerland and the European Union). It is unlikely the US will make such an argument since it doesn’t want to admit to the agenda of persecuting hard-working Hispanic migrant workers, and therefore can’t tell the court that he’s a political prisoner.

    Note that the United States Attorney involved in the case, as well as his boss, will be unemployed as of noon next Tuesday, so this might be a very good time to press the issue.

    P.S. and maybe they should bring the critters to the schochet instead of the other way around (which is what we traditionally did) – better to help the economy of the states we live in rather than places we don’t.

  6. There are many times in history when absurd ideas have carried the day. Frequently the only difference between two situations is the Jewish factor.

  7. It disturbs me how quick the Jewish community resorts to claims of anti-Semitism and other tactics which frighten the public for no purpose. Perhaps the fact that Madoff made bail when Rubashkin didn’t point to the notion that it isn’t a Jewish issue. Madoff, while a horrible criminal, has been cooperative with the government and poses no flight risk. Rubashkin’s first act upon being released for the first time was to throw a party. Then, when the police came to arrest him for the second time, they found that he had his bags packed and a passport and money laid out. He was obviously considering running, most likely to Israel.

    Instead of getting all worked up over a man who broke the law, the community would be better served dealing with more pressing issues. How many of the Rabbis who visited Rubashkin took the time to go to a rally and support Israel in its time of war? How many of the people who are contributing to Rubashkin’s legal bills have worried about the financial woes of the people being bombarded by Arab rockets? The community needs to stop looking for anti-Semitism around every corner, and concentrate on the real threats to Judaism.

  8. “Instead of getting all worked up over a man who broke the law . . .”

    To #7: Without a conviction, guilty plea, or confession, you should not be saying with such certainty that he broke the law.

  9. This has nothing to do with Anti Semitism. Rubashkin is not in jail for being Jewish. He is there for reasons we all know. People are responsible for their actions. He said גואל ישראל with כוונה.,Hopefully סלח לנו שומע תפלה השיבנו also.

  10. “How many of the Rabbis who visited Rubashkin took the time to go to a rally and support Israel in its time of war?”

    The Rabbis who particapted are a wonderful collection of community leaders/Rabbonim, many who have dedicated their life to the service of the Klal. Their tireless work for all Jews is legendary. This cross section of Jewsh leaders on behalf of a fellow Yid is a breath of fresh air that gives hope to the idea of Achdus.

    Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Agudath Israel of America; Rabbi Pesach Lerner, National Council of Young Israel; Rabbi Yaakov Wasser, Rabbinical Council of America; Rabbi Moshe Elefant, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; Rabbi Shimon Hecht, National Committee for Furtherance of Jewish Education; and Rabbi Yossi Jacobson, Chabad Lubavitch International.

    And then comes along #7 to throw the whole thing in the garbage.
    Dear #7 you are not at all familiar with these men and it would behoove you to do a little fact checking before you foolishly knock these tremendous Askonim.They live and breath Klal yisroel, Eretz Yisroel and ahavas Yisroel. You are entitled to your opinion but why must you make your attacks with such broad strokes especially when your dead wrong. These are some of the best people that we have, a little Derech Eretz is in order.

    ok lets get back to Madoff now.

  11. BS”D

    These Torah askonim are our true leaders for whom EVERY Jew EVERYWHERE counts. They are the SAME people busy organizing help to E”Y and worrying about anti-Semitism in Europe.

  12. It is heartening to see, that the achdus displayed by Mumbai, wasn’t temporary, and that Gedolim of all sorts, went to vist Rabbi Rubashkin. It just shows you who gets just, or freedom, at what price, and with what lawyers. “Steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king.” –Zusha Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan).

  13. You Wrote:
    Time to leave Shmutz LaAretz and come to Eretz Yisroel!
    Comment by shalomk —
    “Shmutz Laaretz”?
    Why the baby names?

  14. I usialy do not read posts that people leave, but for some reason tonight i felt compelled to do so. After reading some of the posts I am so dissapointed in Klal Yisroel. What are we fighting for? In a lot of the posts someone is bashing someone else or calling others names…You may disagree if youd like but do it in a way thats appropriate. dont we all want Moshiach? Then we must all JOIN TOGETHER and fight as one instead of against each other. A jew is a jew did he err–who cares? if the Yated wants to collect money and you dont feel like that is correct dont send your money. send it to some other organazation. No one is making you do anything but you dont have to put down anyone either. We have to join together to bring Moshiach Quickly in our days.

  15. Why does it seem to me that every time I go on this website, no matter what the issue is, someone has something negative to say? There’s an expression that goes, “If you don’t have anything good to say, then don’t say anything.” Why do you think that all these things are happening in the world? Hashem is trying to get us to be b’achdus. Unfortunately the only way that it seems to be working is through something as terrible as war and the loss of money. WHY SUFFER?
    Did you ever think about the songs that your youngsters are learning in school? V’ahavta L’rayacha Kamocha… what’s mine is yours I’ll share with you, when you need me I’ll come through. This is what is says in the Torah.” – Are the teachers teaching this for nothing? Maybe this is why children are so chutzpadik today. They learn one thing in school and yet they see the total opposite from their parents.
    The future of all of Klal Yisroel is in your hands. Don’t wait, make the right decision and bring Moshiach now!

  16. RightMinded MO might need to pay a little visit to his own Orthodox Rabbi and let him know about the opinions contained in his posts…

  17. #16
    Rabbi Pesach Lerner yes the same Rabbi Lerner in this group has been the most vocal, most forceful, most dedicated, tireless Askan on behalf of J. Pollard.He has basically given the last few months to that end, yet there he was in Postville this week. Great man.
    #7 Helping one in need does not preclude us from helping others.

    There are numerous differences between the two cases and they should not be compared.
    For the sake of unity though, let us agree that any Jew in an unfortunate situation is deserving of help.
    In this case:
    Both are in Jail and efforts should be made, where possible, to assist them. However J. Pollard by all accounts has his best chance now i”h to see freedom and so his case becomes time sensitive, hence the major push.

    With Hashems help, S. Rubashkin will see victory in a court room shortly. Pollard has exhausted all other legal remedies and needs the mercy of a President (among other notable differences).

  18. For that matter isn’t it unjust to leave a man in the midst of a christian jail, a religion that is known for sure and there is no denying that they have killed with their own hands millions of jews throughout the ages? It is far more dangerous to leave this Jew in their jail then the chances are for him to jump bail to Israel. It totally amazes me the naivete of this Attorney General Michael Mukkasey. Does he feel that since the christains haven’t been actively murdering jews for the past 65 years (except for the christain nation’s exhaustive demands that the Jewish nation not defend itself from the ARAB murderers)therefore christains are considered safe to Jews? Sure under a rule of law. But in prison what law rules?