NEW YORK (JTA) -- The U.S. Department of Justice again has declined to intervene in the sentencing of a convicted kosher meat executive.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer wrote in a letter Monday that concerns about the sentencing of former Agriprocessors executive Sholom Rubashkin were best raised with the presiding judge in northern Iowa, Linda Reade, or with local federal prosecutors.
People who do bad things should be punished. It is something we learn in our schools and teach in our synagogues.
But as Jews, we are often conflicted when one of our own commits a crime. While a sense of community may give some the urge to protect a community member, we are embarrassed that the crime has come from someone who carries a Jewish identity. And we are steadfast that those responsible must face the same punishment as everyone else. Advocating for or even anticipating anything less would send the wrong message about our community.
"Gold drive for Rubashkin!" read the subject line in my inbox. I knew that millions were being spent to defend Sholom Rubashkin, but when I read the email calling people to donate their gold to the defense fund, I was shocked. This gold drive, combined with a petition to the US Attorney seeking to get 50,000 signatures asking for better treatment of Rubashkin, is being pitched under the premise of the mitzvah of "Pidyon Shevyuiim" (redeeming of captives).
Rash of recent prosecutions may leave community open to political backlash.
Assistant Managing Editor
In the wake of recent scandals involving local Orthodox Jews, some sociologists think there could soon be a backlash against the political power of what has long been one of the most sought-after voting blocs.
“Situations like this have a cumulative effect,” said William Helmreich, a professor of sociology at City College and director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College.
In wake of Agriprocessors, RCA targets ‘wrongdoing.’
A few months after the Conservative movement unveiled a first draft of its “Magen Tzedek” standards for evaluating whether kosher food companies comply with Jewish ethical teachings, a centrist Orthodox group has issued its own “principles and ethical guidelines” for the kosher food industry.
As liberal groups hope bank fraud conviction leads to better business practices, Orthodox ones question zeal of prosecution.
Sholom Rubashkin, the manager of the now-infamous Agriprocessors kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa, has only completed one of two federal trials, and already — barring a successful appeal — he is looking at a life in prison.
The prospect of such severe punishment — for a man who many credit with making affordable kosher food available in previously underserved markets and for contributing generously to tzedakah, particularly to the Chabad community — has some Orthodox Jews complaining that the kosher meat tycoon is more victim than criminal.
At the same time, liberal Jewish groups that have been critical of the company’s practices — particularly its alleged mistreatment of workers — are hoping the conviction prompts better business practices in the kosher industry and Jewish nonprofit sector.
Jason Herman, a Manhattan Orthodox rabbi and kosher meat consumer, has stopped buying the beef and poultry sold by AgriProcessors. Now, when he shops at the Upper West Side’s Kosher Marketplace, he takes care to choose only products from its competitors.