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June 23, 2011 6:19 pm

Shalom Rubashkin’s Universal Narrative

avatar by Dovid Efune

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Yet again, the plight of Agriprocessors boss Shalom Rubashkin has been the subject of more media attention, as his attorneys argued an appeal before a panel of judges in Missouri last week. The ruling was however delayed.

At this juncture it is widely accepted that his overzealous sentencing by District Court Judge Linda Reade, was a gross perversion of justice. What is at stake here however, is the contention that the judge should in reality have been disqualified from presiding over the case, due to her active and early engagement with law enforcement officials leading up to the raid on the Iowa meatpacking plant. As lawyer Nathan Lewin argued that it certainly appeared “that the judge had stepped into the shoes of a prosecutor.”

Writing on the subject last year, I surmised that due to the high profile nature of the case, it was vulnerable to manipulation by individuals seeking to make a name for themselves. Now it seems apparent that Linda Reade is a primary culprit in this self-glorifying stunt, pulling the strings from very early on in the case she has penned her own narrative from beginning to end, trampling on her mandate for impartiality.

A few minutes on Google is enough to indicate that the Rubashkin trial is by far the highest profile case that a she has presided over. She seems determined not to let this ‘opportunity’ to make a statement with her sentencing, pass by.

Luckily, but also as a matter of common sense, a significant number of prominent individuals has come out in his defense. This group includes Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Eliot Engel, Carolyn McCarthy, Edolphus Towns, Carolyn Maloney, Steve Israel and Yvette Clarke amongst others. Additionally the head of the Democratic National Committee, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has been active on Rubashkin’s behalf, as well as a number of former U.S. Attorneys General and esteemed Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.

The Rubashkin case is by no means a limited matter of a community supporting one of their own, or knee jerk Jewish huddling, but a matter of national significance. The integrity of the American justice system has been challenged by the effects of mass media influence and the culture of judicial arrogance.

Activists who are campaigning on behalf of Rubashkin are aware that in order to counterbalance the established prejudice, it is of primary importance to effectively communicate the relevance of this cause to the widest possible audience.

It is crucial that those involved in this campaign, do not allow the cause to be considered in the eyes of lawmakers as just an orthodox Jewish one, or even solely a Jewish one for that matter. The focal point of the Rubashkin cause is not only connected to the man himself, but rather to the cause of Justice and fairness not limited to an individual and effecting all.

Some of the initiatives that have been implemented up until this point, may have been well meaning, but neglected to address this concern. As a consequence, their impact may be limited, possibly even having an adverse effect on the outcome.

For example, the Unity for Justice Campaign produced a video that strongly suggested that support for the cause was limited to Orthodox Jews. This is a gross misrepresentation considering the vast array of public figures that have come forward in support for justice. Any media materials produced with the aim of building popular support for Rubashkin, must include statements made by the most recognizable and influential champions of the cause.

The Shalom Across America program, is a powerful initiative if the correct message is conveyed. I would suggest however that the depiction of a tipped scale would be appropriate to incorporate into the imagery. This would immediately convey the crux of the cause that is being fought for and the necessity for broad involvement, while appealing to people’s most basic moral sense.

Make no mistake, the fight for fairness and impartiality in America’s courts is broad and far reaching in its appeal. A concerted and continued effort to educate the public is vitally important, and as long as the messages are correctly packaged, they can go a long way.

The Author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at defune@gjcf.com.

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  • larry

    here is the bottom line. This incident made people question how their meat is being produced and where its coming from. Kosher, not kosher, this is a hot topic in this day and age. Meat, while delicious, should not be consumed in the volume and frequency that today’s society has become accustomed to. It has led to a myriad of diseases (high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity etc),caused untold pollution of our land and strains our countries resources

    Eating less meat, and caring about what we put into our bodies is incredibly, vitally important to our well being. When we eat animals especially, we should know that the animals are being manufactured humanely (some minimal standards at least) , the workers rights are being preserved in the factory, and what we are eating is not pumped with steroids, hormones and all sorts of other garbage. When I say a bracha over my food, this is of major concern to me, as it should be to all. If it means less meat, but BETTER meat, so be it, we will be better for it.

    Zalman – if we demand more organic, healthier products the cost will come down. As Jews we should hold these demands as virtues of what is labeled kosher (especially when it comes to eating meat).

    Dovid – I do not work for any of the above mentioned organizations. Just a regular yid, who wants fair and balanced (not alarmist) reporting.

  • Dovid

    Brad wrote: “I rarely if ever have seen an article from the Frum world condemning Rubashkin for failing to meet basic Jewish ideals in the workplace, which led to this issue to begin with.”

    Rubashkin was initially charged with more than 9,000 state labor violations, he was prosecuted on less than 100, and acquitted on all. The fact that you would repeat false rumors and dramatic media reports that have been disproved over and over to bolster your call for consumption of “sustainable/eco/labor” meat (whatever the hell that is; the cows form unions?)that lives up to “true Jewish values,” shows that you are blinded by your left-wing ideology. Quit quoting every Hechsher Tzedek press release you ever read (or wrote,) and think and talk like an honest man not a committed party apparatchik.

  • brad

    “This is a gross misrepresentation considering the vast array of public figures that have come forward in support for justice.” Dovid these are politicians who like to support those causes their constituents support, what else would you expect.

    While I agree the sentencing did not fit the the crime, I rarely if ever have seen an article from the Frum world condemning Rubashkin for failing to meet basic Jewish ideals in the workplace, which led to this issue to begin with. If I am wrong show me the articles…there are two issues 1)the religious world covering up for one of their own 2) the religious world flipping the issue into a case of anti antisemitism. Its worth talking about BOTH issues..

    The best thing to come of all this – the growth of the Kosher organic meat movement. which i implore all of your readers to support. Sustainable, Eco, fair to its workers, true Jewish values upheld, and much better product, that we can all be proud of. Grow and Behold, Mitzah Meat etc

    • Zalman

      “I rarely if ever have seen an article from the Frum world condemning Rubashkin for failing to meet basic Jewish ideals in the workplace, which led to this issue to begin with.”
      Can you please enumerate on those Jewish ideals in the workplace that Rubashkin was lacking? Is it that he hired undocumented workers? Are anti-immigration policies a Jewish ideal? Is it that he did not allow his company to unionize? Perhaps his alleged hiring of underage immigrant workers of which he was acquitted. Or maybe the ridiculous claims of Peta that all Shechita is cruel and immoral. You make it sound like he abused his workers or mistreated them. That is of course a libel
      If “The best thing to come of all this – the growth of the Kosher organic meat movement” for the wealthy Kosher Jews that can afford it, then the worst thing is the huge rise in Kosher meat prices that hit so many middle class and poor kosher families.
      How many families stopped eating meat or limit it to Shabbat thanks to your wonderful ‘Jewish values’ of organic eco meat?