We go to print with news of the petirah of Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, zt’l. Although time does not permit an elaborate essay or even the composition of a properly ordered piece, I wanted to share thoughts that came to mind.
The first thought is the timing of his passing, less than 24 hours after the Israeli coalition government dissolved, an event that effectively delays the attempts by ardent secularists to implement enforced conscription of yeshivah students.
The fact is that Torah is the greatest shemirah (protection). More dangerous than Iran with the bomb is a situation of Jews without Torah, c’v. As the Gadol Hador, HaRav Elyashiv not only taught and exemplified Torah values, but was a fountainhead through which Torah flowed down into the world, and which ultimately protected the generation from all sorts of physical and spiritual dangers.
Who knows if during his last days, as his body lay in a debilitated state, his holy neshamah was not rampaging through the heavens to get the decree of forced conscription torn up, and that only after he succeeded was he recalled by the Heavenly Court? Who knows…? It would certainly be a fitting final act for a man who literally dedicated every moment of his life to Torah.
Even though Sholom Rubashkin’s 27-year sentence is ludicrous and unprecedented for the crimes he was charged with, it was not death by hanging given to Leo Frank. Even though many believe anti-Semitism influenced (and influences) the Rubashkin case, the proceedings were not conducted as a mob shouted, “Hang the Jew!”
Nevertheless, one is struck by this similarity between the cases: Each was a grave miscarriage of justice where the justice system itself was/is blind to its own shortcomings. (At least in the Leo Frank case, the State of Georgia eventually admitted its blindness, albeit 70 years later.)
I, like so many others, find it incredible that the judge whose judgment was being questioned in the recent appeal was a backup and had influence on the court that reviewed the appeal!
This was the same judge, Linda Reade, who was discovered to have had several secret meetings with law enforcement long before the arrests at Agriprocessors (for more details see Zman Sivan 5770/June 2010)! It was Judge Reade whom ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) memoranda indicated had taken an organizational role in the immigration raid; attended weekly meetings; personally requested a meeting with personnel from the many branches of law enforcement who would participate in the raid; and requested updates and final game plans.
How can a person work with law enforcement, which worked with the prosecution, and then serve a judge in that case?!?
Yet, Reade denied having performed any functions that fall within the executive branch (i.e. law enforcement) which may have reflected an irreconcilable stain on her impartiality.
I don’t claim to know American law. Maybe according to the US justice system this is perfectly legal. But, that’s the difference between a man-made law and a Divine one.
The Torah tells us: “Don’t take a bribe, for bribery blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous” (Devarim 16:19). The emphasis is on “the wise” and “the righteous.” Even they can be blinded by impartiality.
The Gemara offers several cases of Jewish judges who disqualified themselves for even the minutest influences. When Shmuel was walking on a bridge and a man lent him a hand, Shmuel disqualified himself from judging his case.
When Rebbi Yishmael b’Rebbi Yossi encountered a sharecropper who did him the tiny favor of bringing him his fruit a day earlier than usual he disqualified himself from judging his case. Indeed, as Rabbi Yishmael listened to the case (as an observer) he found himself conjuring up arguments in favor of the sharecropper.
“I didn’t take a bribe,” Rebbi Yishmael declared, “and had I taken the fruit, it would have been mine – yet I was biased!”
This issue of Zman comes out during the Yemei HaDin, “Days Judgment.” If we make an extra effort to painfully examine where we are being moreh heter on ourselves, maybe in that merit a measure of objectivity will descend upon those with power over Sholom Rubashkin’s life and help them come to their senses long before they did in the case of Leo Frank.
It launched the Ku Klux Klan and the Anti-Defamation League. It inflamed a community and ignited a nation. It brought out the worst in people and the best in people….
It is the tragic story of Leo Frank – and it happened in America.
Standing trial for murdering a Christian girl as crowds outside the courtroom screamed for his blood — intimidating witnesses, jury members, judges and politicians — the evidence against Leo Frank was so full of holes that the judge later declared that he was innocent. The lawyer of his main accuser eventually acknowledged that the accuser himself was the murderer.
Yet, none of that was able to stem the tsunami of anti-Semitism. Even as convincing new evidence demonstrating his innocence came to surface, a mob – later discovered to include high-ranking politicians and prominent Georgian community members – abducted Frank right out of prison and lynched him.
Terrifying and infuriating, the story of Leo Frank touches on so many raw nerves that even today, almost a century later, people are afraid to bring up the subject for fear of inflaming old passions and stirring old hatreds.
August 6, 1913. The atmosphere in the streets is fraught with tension. Frenzied hordes march around government buildings, wielding rifles and other weapons. They surround the courthouse where the trial of a Jew falsely accused of murdering a young Christian girl is taking place.
“Hang the Jew or we’ll hang you!” the crowds shout raucously, brandishing their weapons.
“Kill the Jews who killed our savior!” resonates in the street.
The atmosphere is reminiscent of the medieval pogroms of Europe. Rabble-rousing sermons by local priests and other anti-Semitic leaders have aroused the passions of the ignorant masses. And the minority of rational, level-headed individuals are simply too intimidated to take a stand against the blatant injustice and rabid anti-Semitism. It is just too risky.
It reads like an old-world legend from the Middle Ages, but incredibly this happened in the twentieth century in the United States – land of the free and home of the brave.
The city was Atlanta, capital of Georgia. The frenzied hordes wielding rifles and other weapons were red-blooded American citizens. The government building they surrounded was the Fulton County Superior Court House of Atlanta.
The governor of Georgia, a respected and popular man, is trying desperately to keep the situation under control. He has called in the National Guard and the military to protect Jewish neighborhoods. Privately, he has prayed that justice prevail and that he will not have to use force. However, he does not, at that point, fathom how deep the hatred runs and how inflamed the passions have become. Neither does he know the steep price he will pay for trying to help the hapless Jew.
Then, just like now, the Jews of Atlanta felt safe and secure as American citizens with equal rights to pursue the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They lived under the illusion that their non-Jewish neighbors regarded them as equals, and that anti-Semitism was relatively non-existent in America. Then their illusion was shattered. Abruptly, they were faced with the shocking realization that even after doing their utmost to assimilate into the American melting pot, they were no less immune from virulent anti-Semitism than their openly Jewish relatives in the “alte heim.”
This past August 17 marked the 96th anniversary of that dark chapter in American history, when an innocent Jew named Leo Frank was lynched by a group of Americans, not exclusively by low-class, uneducated street ruffians, but by the elite of Atlanta society, including elected officials and judges. Zman headed south on a fact-finding mission to the Jewish community in Atlanta to speak with community leaders, relatives and others well-read in the Leo Frank saga who have invested much effort clearing Frank’s name decades after his brutal murder.
Read the entire story in this month’s issue…
In last month’s issue of Zman, the cover story was about Nathan Lewin, who will be leading the team that will appeal the verdict against Sholom Rubashkin, who claims innocence. (Click here to see Zman‘s earlier article on Rubashkin.) As part of the Lewin article, he discussed Judge Reade, the judge who presided over the case, and pointed out numerous unprecedented and suspicious actions on her part during the trial. (Stay tuned to this blog for a possible partial post of that story later this month.)
Now, as reported on YWN, news has just broken which truly incriminates Judge Reade.
BREAKING NEWS: New Evidence Shows Judge Reade Unlawfully Presided Over Rubashkin Trial, Participated In Raid Planning
(Thursday, August 5th, 2010)
12:28PM EST: New documents produced in response to a Freedom of Information Act request show that U.S. District Court Chief Judge Linda Reade met frequently with the law-enforcement team that was actively engaged in the planning of the May 2008 raid on the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant and participated in preparations for the raid. On this account, Judge Reade should have been legally disqualified from presiding at the federal trial of Sholom Rubashkin.
The Av issue of Zman has three great articles about Tisha B’av by Rabbi Paysach Krohn, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman and Rabbi Yosef Carlebach, Hy’d (leader of German Jewry until the Nazis murdered him and his congregation).
In addition, the cover story is about Nathan Lewin, Esq. Friend of Supreme Court justices, champion of Jewish causes for half a century – Nathan Lewin talks candidly about his rabbinic roots, the Rubashkin appeal (which he now leads) and his remarkable life.
Exclusive Interview with Nathan Lewin
When Zman Magazine traveled to Mr. Lewin’s office for this exclusive interview we expected to get the most up-to-date information on the heart-wrenching Rubashkin saga, which shook every fair-minded person to the core. We hoped, as well, to gain a possible glimpse about the future direction of the appeal. What we did not expect, was to obtain, at the same time, an incredibly and refreshingly candid interview about the personal life and mesiras nefesh of one of Torah Jewry’s leading legal minds, who also happens to be the grandson and great-grandson of renowned, chashuv rabbonim.
The rest of the issue shapes up as follows:
The Miracle at the Epic Battle of El Alamein
As the Final Solution raged in Europe in 1942, General Erwin Rommel, the invincible “Desert Fox,” bore down on the Jewish community in Palestine. Only a miracle could have saved them. And, indeed, the story of how the Allies finally stopped Rommel at El Alamein is not only the story of the turning point in World War II but the story of how spiritual causes are at the root of all of life’s physical effects.
The construction of what was intended to be a glorious skyscraper turned out to be a debacle that sealed the country’s impoverished international image. An expose of the small, self-important but dangerous totalitarian state led by one of the world’s most villainous madmen.
Deep in the Catskill Mountains, near Hancock, NY, a terror training camp called Islamberg has set down roots. The camp is headed by a radical Islamic militant group that is alleged to have played a role in the assassination of Jewish American journalist Daniel Perl in Pakistan.
Nearly a millennium ago, Rashi described a locale in the sea where unusually strong magnetic forces present difficulties for ships that navigate its waters. Could this to be an allusion to the same forces that operate in the “Bermuda Triangle,” an area in the Atlantic Ocean between Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico famous for its mysterious and tragic history? Hundreds of ships and aircraft are said to have vanished in this region without leaving a trace, and compasses are known to fail there often. Of the survivors, many tell of frightening experiences they faced.
Michel Hollard and the V-1 Rockets
During the turbulent era of the Second World War, Frenchman Michel Hollard distinguished himself as one of the most outstanding figures in the world of espionage, the “man who literally saved London” by discovering and spying on Hitler’s V-1 rocket program, the secret, super-weapon of its day.
In the time since our first article of the Rubashkin case came out, Sholom Rubashkin has been found innocent of all 83 (down from 9,311) charges of violating child labor laws. This is significant, because it was the presumption of egregious violation of such laws that led to the unprecedented military-style action against the plant (detailed below), which, in turn, led to the inability of the company to meet its financial obligations, which, in turn, served as the foundation of the situation that led to the charges of bank fraud. In other words, it set up a chain reaction that should never have been set in motion.
Today, June 21, word has just come out that Sholom Rubashkin will be sentenced to 27 years, which is more than that recommended by the prosecution (although less than the outrageous life sentence originally suggested and subsequently withdrawn when, among other things, former attorney generals, including Janet Reno, denounced the sentence as unfathomable).
In any event, in light of today’s events, I wanted to post most of the rest of the Rubashkin article as it appeared in our June issue.
There are few states in the US where the unions possess the immense power that they do in Iowa. The politicians, aware of their significant influence on voters, are out to please them.
For years now, the unions have had their sights set on Agriprocessors, one of the only big businesses in Iowa to work out their own arrangements without completely deferring to the powerful unions, and they finally decided that the time has come to go to war against the enemy.
The unions were not alone in this venture. They had the full support and backing of many groups on the political left and right who all had one thing in common, a xenophobic hatred of outsiders… and Jews. The Rubashkins were the ones who broke the decades-strong barriers and self-imposed isolation of the Iowans. They were the first to establish a successful Jewish business in an area where outsiders were regarded with distrust. Postville residents did eventually learn to appreciate the economic bounty the Rubashkins brought to their neighborhood, but that was still not enough to suppress the latent anti-Semitism that pervaded.
Agriprocessors’ high profile success had struck a raw nerve, and there was no way they were going to be allowed to continue business as usual in Iowa.
An Al-Qaeda Terror Camp?
In the spring of 2008, things were relatively calm in Postville, but as it turned out, it was the calm that comes before the storm.
Read the rest of this entry »
The cover story in this month’s issue of Zman magazine is about Sholom Rubashkin. Although his story is ostensibly well-known in observant circles, the truth is that many people do not really know what went on and is going on. While other articles on the subject have typically ranged from 2,500-4,000 words, this story is almost 25,000 words! Yes, it’s a load. But it tells the story from A-Z, although in truth one would probably need 250,000 words to do it justice. The article in this month’s Zman was composed by a reporter who went to Iowa for a full week to meet with everyone from Rubashkin (in prison) to the mayor of Postville. The following is an excerpt starting at the beginning of the article, covering the history of the Rubashkins, and stopping just before the troubles begin. Before the excerpt, here is a list of the sub-headings just to give readers a feel of how much material there is to cover.
- The Whole Truth The Rubashkin Story
- The Nazis Arrive
- The Beginning of Rubashkin’s Meat
- The Tranquil Iowan Culture
- Postville – a Brief History
- Founding a Jewish Presence
- Run-ins with the Locals
- Working Out the Differences
- The Largest Slaughterhouse in the World
- Troubles Begin
- Jews Take Over from PETA
- The Unkosher Kashrus Organization
- A Systematic Campaign to Ruin Rubashkin’s Name
- An Al-Qaeda Terror Camp?
- “La Migra” Appears on the Scene
- The Unsubstantiated Immigration Accusations
- Sidebar: A Visit to the Linn County Jail
- The Military Invasion
- The Government Comes Down Hard
- The Demolition: A Thoroughly Planned Strategy
- $10 Million Becomes $26 Million
- Deliberate Destruction of Agriprocessors
- The Arrest
- The Raid on the Rubashkin Residence
- Imprisoned Again
- Bitachon in all Circumstances
- Mesiras Nefesh for Yiddishkeit
- Blaming the Victim
- No Way to Keep Track of Time
- Lobbying to be Released for Pesach
- The One who Came to Give Encouragement Receives it Himself
Aaron (Avrohom Aharon) Rubashkin is the patriarch who first planted the roots of the now well-respected Rubashkin family in the United States, the man who founded the famous Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa. He lives in Boro Park and davens in the Kossoner Beis Medrash on 14th Avenue.
Mesiras nefesh runs in Reb Avrohom Aharon’s blood. His father, Reb Shneur Zalman Yissochor Getzel Rubashkin, lived during the worst of communist Russia’s anti-religious repression. He regularly risked his life to raise his two sons and two daughters as observant Jews.
Reb Avrohom Aharon was born in 1929 in the city of Neville, where his ancestors had dwelt for over 200 years. He remarks that the city once boasted 10,000 Jews, all of whom were Chassidim, mostly Lubavitch. The city was home to 16 shuls, but by the 1930s, the communists had closed all but three, one of which was barely a shack.
In Reb Avrohom Aharon’s office hangs a portrait of his father sporting a long white beard. Reb Avrohom Aharon points to the picture and proudly tells us, “Despite the constant danger, he wore that white beard with pride right through our last day in Russia.”