Thursday, January 03, 2019

Celebrating Rubashkin

Yated publisher, Rabbi Pinchos Lipshutz addressing the audience (screenshot)
To say I was disgusted is putting it mildly.

A few weeks ago a mass gathering was held that was attended by over 7000 people. It was shamelessly broadcast to over 75,000 people all over the globe. It was a celebration billed as the one year anniversary of the release of Shalom Rubashkin from prison.

I was disgusted for several reasons. But first let me restate what I have said about that event. His early release from prison was just. The 27 year prison sentence he received for the crime he committed was far in excess for what  a first time offender of a white collar crime should have been.

Anyone with the slightest sense of justice would have to admit that this was so. Which many prominent legal scholars across the political spectrum seemed to agree about. As did the vast majority of congress on both sides of the political aisle.  President Trump’s commutation of Rubashkin’s sentence to ‘time served’ was the right decision. 8 years in prison was more than enough.

That should have ended it. Rubshkin should have gone home humbled by the experience; personally grateful to the President for his early release... and from there gone on quietly with his life.  Justice was served.

But that is not what happened. His release was immediately and openly celebrated widely by many religious Jews across the globe. And the celebration continues. It has hardly died down - as noted by the video presentation below.

To  celebrate his release one year later as though it was the best thing to ever happen to the Jewish people is an affront to values that Judaism holds so dear. Values of honesty, integrity and the rule of law. These are things that Mr. Rubashkin observed in the breach. He showed dishonesty, a lack of integrity… and he broke the law.

The reasons he did that are beside the point. He was guilty of what he was accused. And in the process caused the kind of Chilul HaShem I constantly rail against: defrauding the government. If I remember correctly he was convicted of creating phony accounts receivable in order to secure a $27 million loan from a bank. A loan he was unable to repay. It doesn't matter that he thought he would be able to repay it later through future income.Nor that he did it to save his business. He committed a crime by claiming to have collateral which he did not have - causing a $27 million loss to a bank!

There is no way a convicted felon should be celebrated just because he was released early from prison. And yet one year later the opposite is true. Rubashkin is hailed as a Tzadik! …as some sort of saint whose character should be emulated. Stories abound about his time in prison... his faith in God, his religious fervor, and his model behavior as a prisoner. 

What is overlooked is that his religious fervor was apparently absent when he cheated a federally insured bank out of many millions!

Nor was it there when his former company hired illegal aliens. It doesn’t really matter that ‘everybody else was doing it’. Including companies far larger than his. As a Jew he was obligated to be a light unto the nations. Not to violate the law because everyone else has.

And that doesn’t even address allegations of mistreating his employees or mistreating animals before they were slaughtered in his meat packing house, Agriprocessors . But even giving him the benefit of the doubt about those allegations (which he denies) - it still leaves the fraud for which he was convicted. Very few of even his defenders deny what he did. They just try and explain it away when challenged about it.

But that is only half the story of this terrible event. The focus of much of it was the virtual idol worship of the President. A President whose character should make him the last person in the world to worship. I need not go into detail about that. Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to his almost daily behavior can only cringe in embarrassment that a man like this is the leader of our nation.

This does not take away from his accomplishments in office which have benefited those of us who are religious Jews. (The details of which are beyond the scope of this post.) We should certainly express our Hakoras HaTov – gratitude to him for that. Which has appropriately been done by various Orthodox organizations when the occasion warranted it.

What was done here, however, was an abomination. the President’s accomplishments do not diminish his terrible character nor the embarrassment we should all feel about a man like that representing us to the world. We should not be idolizing him.  There is absolutely no way that kind of praise should be publicly  heaped upon him. I see no justification for it.

That 7000 religious looking Jews can give the President a standing ovation; treating him practically like the Messiah is at the very least an embarrassment, in my view. In fact the entire event was! This is not the image that that religious Jews should be presenting to the world. And as I said, I am disgusted by it.