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Monday, June 13, 2011

Baseless Prayers: Why Are Orthodox Jews Petitioning For The Release Of The Great Kosher Liar?

   There are prayer rallies slated for a few days from now for the fellow featured on the poster above. You may be curious as to who he is- is he an ailing religious leader or political prisoner? No, he's Sholom M. Rubashkin, and he's one of the reasons why I don't consume flesh foods.  Despite the fact that his actions helped inspire my vegetarianism and later questioning of religion altogether, he's still not a nice guy.

  Sholom Rubashkin ran the world's largest kosher slaughterhouse on behalf of his father. Located in Postville, Iowa, the plant produced poultry, lamb, and cattle meat products for both the discerning kosher consumer as well as non-kosher beef cuts under the name Iowa's Best Beef. Coming from an agricultural area, I purchased products made by this company because I was under the illusion that the animals were more humanely raised and slaughtered. While this may be true of other companies, Aaron Rubashkin's kosher products were anything but.

  Agriprocessors had been whispered about for a long time before the cops showed up in 2008. They'd paid a $600 000 fine for dumping effluent waste into the ecosystem and PeTA had issued a damning report about unimaginable abuses to both man and beast. The corporation had tried to stifle union mandates, didn't pay workers correctly, hired thousands of undocumented workers and children, and had paid off USDA inspectors. In May 2008, ICE arrested 389 undocumented workers, many from Central and South America, but some from places as far away as the Ukraine and Israel. In October of the same year, they were fined $9.9 million by the Iowa Labor Commission for financial abuse of employees that included unlawful deductions and outright refusing to pay employees. The heat was on, and I wrote a lengthy account of their evils and how I personally felt defrauded by the Rubashkins.

  Naturally, Sholom and Aaron Rubashkin were arrested in a complaint that included over 10, 000 criminal counts. For all intents and purposes, they skated on the immigration and child labor charges. A supervisor names Juan Carlos Espinoza was sentenced to 3 years in prison, the company itself acknowledged some wrongs, and the company filed for bankruptcy and was sold.

  Sholom Rubashkin did get his time behind bars. He was convicted last year of 86 counts of fraud, money laundering, and various other types of financial corruption related to defrauding a bank of $35 million by artificially inflating the value of the company. The 50 year old father of 10 was sentenced to 27 years in prison and ordered to pay $26.8 million in restitution. Justice is served, right? Well, not exactly.

  The Rubashkins have always been quite a revered family, and Sholom Rubashkin has used his political connections and local celebrity to petition for a reduction in his sentence, which he's translated in the appeal, which will begin to be heard Wednesday. DNC Chairwoman Schultz appealed to Eric Holder on behalf of folks like Anthony Weiner and Jerrold Nadler and Rep. Yvette Clark said her constituents felt the sentence was too high and were scared that the price of kosher meat would rise, even though Agri is now owned by a Canadian company. We also have all of these prayer requests, calling for us to join the "global Jewish community" in hoping for the release of a guy who doesn't care about anyone but himself.

  I, for one, think that Sholom Rubashkin belongs in a cell until he is 77 years old. He orchestrated a fraud on banks to be sure, but also on hundreds of thousands of people who thought that their product was kosher when it wasn't. He ran a network that bullied the competition out of business and endorsed horrendous abuses of hundreds of human beings and millions of animals. Sholom Rubashkin's company ordered workers to use dull blades, hang cattle by their feet, and rip out tracheas, which are not only violations of kashrut, but humane standards. Combine this with the fact that he lied repeatedly to law enforcement officials and you have the ultimate example of a wolf in lamb's clothing.

  I have no idea why the Orthodox are standing behind a man like this, after all, he deliberately sold them products that violated the religious laws to which they adhere. Even if they don't care about his financial atrocities and abuses of foreign workers, even if they think they're above the scads of little brown children who were forced to work for next to nothing in deplorable conditions, they should feel insulted by being lied to by a greedy sociopath named Sholom Rubashkin.

  Sholom Rubashkin did get a heavy sentence, and he absolutely deserves it. The Bernie Madoff of the food industry did anything to make a profit. He made all of his customers complicit in human and animal abuses and stole from his employees, competitors, and banks. If there is one puny positive, it's in the fact that Agriprocessors caused people to rethink food and our superstitions surrounding how it should get to the table.

  Scary poster courtesy of Shmarya Rosenberg at Failed Messiah

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