Friday, November 13, 2009

Blood Libel or Justice?

The verdict is startling. Guilty on 86 of 91 counts of federal fraud. So said a unanimous jury of Shalom Rubashkin’s peers yesterday.

I am not here to pile on to this man’s travails. He is likely facing a very stiff price for his wrongdoing. And he still faces other charges on violations of immigration law. 72 counts. That trial is set for December. His attorney will appeal the verdict but as of now he has been taken into custody because he is considered a flight risk. A decision on bail will be made on November 18th.

Both he and his family seemed genuinely shocked by the verdict. I suppose that’s understandable. The entire family is now suffering. I can’t imagine what this has been like for someone who was on top of the world a few short years ago. He almost single handedly revitalized the town of Postville in Iowa. He was wealthy – had a reputation as a big philanthropist - a reputation for personal kindness - and the legitimate claim that his Kosher products were being distributed to far flung areas of the United States making it easier for Jews to buy kosher meat…. and at reasonable prices.

What happened?

We could in the past all speculate about his guilt or innocence about any of those charges. We can even now speculate about whether there was an overly zealous government investigation and prosecution. As we can even about Mr. Rubashkin simply not being aware that what he was doing was wrong. He still makes the claim that he is innocent even now after the verdict. Of course so do most people convicted of crimes. Prisons are full of them.

But I don’t think there can be too much doubt now about his actual guilt. The evidence was presented at trial – the jury looked at it and found him guilty. The best he can hope for is the mercy of the court.

I in fact feel bad for him now as he faces possible life imprisonment - from what I understand. That seems a little harsh. I tend to doubt that the verdict will be overturned on appeal. So I hope justice is tempered with mercy. But I do believe that the verdict was just.

I have already dealt with the massive Chilul HaShem aspect of this in the past. The evidence was indeed massive. All attempts to say otherwise are speculations from those trying to be Dan L’Kaf Zechus without knowing all the facts. They saw a religious Jew doing business and perhaps violating some minor laws - which everyone else violates and concluded that he was being unfairly targeted. They are trying to say he was railroaded either because he is a Jew or because of federal prosecutors were just over aggressive -trying to make a name for themselves. Well - maybe they were but that doesn’t lessen his guilt.

The jury had facts. There was a change of venue in order to avoid biases of jurors selected from a town that had fallen out of favor with him and his company. Jurors from another location found him guilty. Unless anti-Semitism can be proven the verdict was arrived at honestly. There is absolutely no reason to suspect anti-Semitism here.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post. calls it a blood libel - right in the title of its reactive post. The rest of the article treats him as though he was innocent and asks for donations and prayer on his behalf. I have no problem with personal donations or prayer. But I have a major issue with their attitude.

Blood Libel?!

Does Matzav think we still live in Czarist Russia? Do they not realize what they are saying? They think the government is so anti-Semitic that they are making up charges for the sole purpose of persecuting a Jew?!

What a sorry state of affairs when a website that supposedly represents Charedi thinking comes up with rhetoric like this! Is this the Charedi view of reality in this country? If it is, I don’t see how they can explain all the evidence to the contrary. I am not even going to attempt to list that evidence. It is enormous. Our acceptance as equals among men here is unprecedented in the history of the Jewish people.

We are more than accepted. We are admired. Yes there is unfortunately some stereotypical residue left from the past about what Jews look like and act like. But there is absolutely no argument about our integrity. Even though it should have come into question last year with all those misdeeds by religious Jews being reported in the media. Our reputation for integrity and honesty as a people is still intact.

If one Jew messes up, he messes up! Period. This is fortunately how the American people see this case. They do not generalize. Thank God. To scream blood libel here is an insult to the American people, to the the Rubashkin judge and jury, and an outrage to me!

Is it possible that all the jurors got it wrong? Sure - it’s possible. It’s always possible (although personally I doubt it in this case). I have to believe that in the vast majority of cases - jury verdicts of guilt or innocence are accurate. To call the verdict a blood libel is an insult to this country’s system of justice and by itself a major Chilul HaShem. has blinders on to the truth. They feel that a jury of his peers MUST be wrong. It is impossible for the jury to be right about this great Jewish humanitarian. They entirely bought the defense's perspective on this case. What they apparently don’t realize is that they may be missing something from their perspective. It may just be possible that the image they see of this man is a facade. But in its zeal to protect a religious Jew from harm in what they see as an unfair process and verdict - has embarrassed itself. Big time!