Op-Ed: How Rubashkin Can Win


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By Dovid Efune: 

The Rubashkin fiasco continues to rock the Jewish world; the story is complex and contains many intricate details, but one thing that many seem to agree on is that there is something askew about the way it has been handled by the judiciary. This recently became startlingly apparent when federal prosecutors recommended that Sholom Rubashkin receive a life sentence, alleging that his elaborate scheme to cheat the Agriprocessors plant’s lender, his attempted cover-up, the number of victims and other factors justify the severity of the called for sentencing.

In many countries a life sentence is the most severe punishment that can be meted out and it is usually reserved for such crimes as murder, high treason, violent cases of drug or human trafficking, or aggravated burglary or robbery resulting in death or grievous bodily harm. Sholom Rubashkin is being charged with bank fraud, a crime for which sentencing does vary immensely, but to be calling for a life sentence is clearly grossly unjust.

Although the justice system can be flawed and there are often many loopholes and cracks, the sad reality is that Sholom Rubashkin is facing the justice system at its very weakest. Being that the case is high profile and has been well covered in the press, the outcome is open to a plethora of external influences and it is in cases such as these when Justice is most diminished.

Bank fraud cases are by no means a rare commodity in America, but for many of the players involved in the judicial process, this extent of limelight exposure is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get noticed and there seems to be  many seeking to take advantage of this. Whether a lawyer, judge, criminal prosecutor or politician trying to prove their mettle, or how harshly they can deliver the strong arm of the law.

A case such as this one can quickly become a circus of individuals trying to catch someone’s eye and get noticed, especially when egos and personal interests are intertwined with the sentencing, the trial is no longer about justice. Even candidate Obama made reference to the case on the campaign trail, and was very quick to take sides.

The higher the profile of the case, the more likely external agendas will impact upon it.

The flip side of this negative element is that the outcome of such a case can possibly be influenced by overwhelming public opinion. By drawing public attention to the inconsistencies of the case, the perversion of justice and the underlying causes or individuals that are facilitating it, the powers that be may see the personal benefits of a fair judgment.

It is therefore of crucial importance that those fighting on behalf of Sholom Rubashkin’s cause are smart about the messages that they convey in attempting to influence the outcome of the trial.

Firstly it important that the arguments can appeal to as wide a public as possible,  keeping in mind that the influence of the Orthodox community is limited and they already stand on the right side of reason, to truly have the desired effect the target audience must be significantly expanded.

What will appeal to the sympathy of the masses is not the fact that Sholom Rubashkin was charitable, prays three times a day or has a beard, because this does not address the matter at hand, namely the accusations of bank fraud. Similarly claiming that he is innocent or a saint of sorts will further delegitimize the cause and undermine the credence of his supporters.
Claims of anti Semitism are also unlikely to have much grounding and certainly detract from the correct focus of this case.

The message should be pointed, simple and straight to the point, calling for balanced and reasonable justice, nothing more and nothing less. If Sholom Rubashkin is being made an example of to fulfill personal agendas this is a cause worth fighting for, not just for Jews but for all Americans whose constitution is based on the ideals of liberty and justice for all.

The Author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at [email protected].

(YWN Desk – NYC)


  1. Let us start a tehillim campaign beginning today on behalf of sholom mordechai halaivi ben rivka.
    I will bli neder say kapitel 1 – 10 every day until Thursday, his trial date. Let’s have the whole tehillim recited on his behalf as a zechus.
    Please post on YWN which kapilach you accept as a zechus.

  2. I have been recently thinking about the why’s of this case. One of the things that have been pointed out in the Yated Ne’eman is that the frum commmunity in the beginning also played judge, jury, and jailer, also became cynical and didn’t believe in Rubashkin’s innocence.

    However, I think part of the reason why that happened is because we as a people have become so used to scandals in our community. We are not shocked anymore when something is done horrendous and the perpetrator deserves time. Or, we don’t believe the victim and side with the perpetrator. I think that this is a nisayon for us to look at when we do come out for or against another Jew in trouble with the law, that we become familiar with all of the facts including the viewpoint of the victim.

    But, the writer also alludes to the possible political motivation of this. I still insist that this is a warning shot from the S.E.I.U. to the Jews; if you try to impede our ability to unionize one of your institutions, then this will be your fate too. Don’t let them get away with these bully tactics!