As you read this, keep in mind the following facts:
1. Rabbi David Eliezrie has been identified in the press as a rabbi helping the Rubashkin family, the owners of Agriprocessors, with media.
2. Both Eiezrie, who serves as a sometime Chabad spokesman, and the Rubashkins are Chabad.
3. Eliezrie is…
… a friend of the Rubashkins.
4. The trip was paid for by Agriprocessors.
5. The Rubashkin family is financially supportive of some of these rabbis' organizations.
Yet Eliezrie discloses none of this and writes as if he and the other rabbis on that trip – some of them also friends of the Rubashkins, some of the also Chabad, the vast majority of them affiliated with groups publicly supportive of Agriprocessors – were impartial investigators. The were not.
Further, a three-hour walk through – pre-arranged with Agriprocessors, carried out without the element of surprise, and run under Rubashkin direction – hardly provides for the possibility of a fair, impartial, and thorough investigation – especially when displaced workers were not on the rabbis' agenda.
Yet Rabbi Eliezrie writes a letter that 'exonerates' Agriprocessors:
First-hand look at meat plant shows rabbi has been misled
Posted: August 8, 2008
Sadly, Rabbi Dennis Sasso has transgressed one of the most important and basic principles of Jewish Law, that you cannot judge an issue unless you have heard both sides and heard firsthand testimony ("A moral standard for eating kosher," Aug. 5).
I have just returned from a fact-finding mission of more than 25 rabbis to the Postville, Iowa, meatpacking plant. The reality we discovered was far different from the one that the rabbi claimed. We found a state-of-the-art plant; workers receiving fair wage and benefits such has health, dental and vacation pay; great attention to worker safety; and the use of the e-Verification system to ensure all workers are legal.
Apparently, the rabbi has relied on statements of the union that has a clear agenda and is trying to take over the plant.
The reality today in Pottsville is dramatically different from what he asserted. He has made accusations based on rumor instead of fact.
Rabbi David Eliezrie
President Rabbinical Council of Orange County
Yorba Linda, Calif.
Note Eliezrie has no problem blaming the union for all of Agriprocessors problems, as if the UFCW somehow managed to get state, federal and local law enforcement, more than 18 government agencies all totaled with enforcement actions stretching back years, to do its bidding.
This is a conspiracy theory on par with Elvis sightings and Holocaust denial, yet Eliezrie offers it up unashamed.
Rabbi Eliezrie is clearly truth-challenged, and this letter is not the only recent example.
Here is what Rabbi Eliezrie wrote yesterday on FailedMessiah.com. My remarks are added in italicized blue type:
I am not interested in entering into a long he said she said with Shmaya however I feel it is important to clear up the facts about the meeting with members of St. Bridget.
1. Less than 24 hours before the trip we received a fax letter from the Archbishop and then shortly afterward a second request from St. Bridget asking the group to meet with them. We could of easily ignored the request, said we got it too late etc.
Although St. Bridget's has been the very public face and voice of Agriprocessors illegal workers, feeding, clothing, housing and treating them, the rabbis did not put those illegal workers or St. Bridget's staff and volunteers on their original agenda.
This confirms what St. Bridget's people have been saying , what other local activists and media heard, and what I reported before the rabbis' visit.
2. Rabbi Lerner felt strongly this should be done. I agreed as did others. I called the church and finally reached the lay minister Paul and said we would be glad to meet him and we would attempt to modify the schedule. I told him our only conditions was that there be no press at the meeting. I did not tell him no workers. I was concerned that instead of real conversation it would be a public spectacle if the press was present.
a) Paul Real, Father Oudekirk, and others all say the condition for the meeting was "no union, no workers, no press."
b) By what right did the rabbis exclude the union? Is the union somehow anti-Torah? The union has been granted the legal right to organize Agriprocessors. Many pre-raid workers supported it. Shouldn't the rabbis at least hear what union reps have to say?
c) Eliezrie admits the scheduling of the meeting was done last minute, just before the meeting took place.
Why wasn't the meeting scheduled earlier, so St. Bridget's people could hold a time and a location?
Why wasn't it scheduled earlier in the day, so all rabbis could attend?
Eliezrie, Lerner and their rabbis had plenty of time to meet the Rubashkin family and eat lunch at the plant and hear Rubashkin-chosen speakers. But these "investigators" could not find the time to properly meet with those hurt by Agriprocessors and those who have devoted much of their lives to helping them.
3. We set up the meeting for 2 PM. There had been a thundershower that created a power outage delaying our entering the plant and things had shlepped. I called the Church to tell them we would be late. Rabbi Lerner announced to the group that whoever wanted should stay and they would need to change their tickets. This would have been at the expense of Rubashkin. I and Lerner called the travel agents to change our flights to stay. Two other rabbis, one of whom was driving also stayed.
This contradicts what Rabbi Lerner said on Zev Brenner's Talkline radio show. It also contradicts what my sources tell me.
Here's Lerner's quote:
"…at 2:30 I got up and said, rabbosai, rabbis, walking backwards, if we're going to make our planes, were going to have to start moving now. If you wait 15, 20 minutes, someone's going to miss a plane, and there are not a lot of flights out of these airports. We flew into Madison, we flew into Dubuque, Iowa, we flew into another city, because there is no airport within a 2 1/2 , 3 hour drive from Postville. I said, 'We have a meeting scheduled at 2' – that was the one they scheduled with the people of St. Bridget's and some of the former workers – 'everybody is invited to come. But if you go, I cannot take the responsibility for you getting back.…"
This is what my source says happened, as well. In other words, Eliezrie is wrong.
4. We were surprised when we came to the meeting and there was no workers. Our conditions had been no press. They had misunderstood us.
Again, everyone involved from St. Bridget's says they were told, "no union, no workers, no press."
5. We listened to the concerns of Mr. Rael and his associate and later communicated them to them management. We also suggested that there be a system of regular meetings between management and the Paul Rael and his associate. We left our our cards and numbers and remain committed to continue this process of exploring in depth specific cases of alleged abuse and seek solutions.
I am sure that Shmaya will question our efforts motives etc. However anyone of the group could have stayed and no one is being prevented in returning and meeting with the people from St. Bridgets. One of the great tragedies is the lack of communication between them and the church leaders. With a bit of conversation many some real issues could be resolved and if some people are truly deserving of assistance that could be facilitated.
I think the plant management is open and I am hopeful that Mr. Rael and friends will also be.
On a personal note the flight that night was canceled, the one also the next morning from Dubuque. I had to drive 3 hours to Chicago and finally flew to LA at 2 PM arriving home an hour before Shabbos after fighting rush hour traffic in LA.
There are two further points. Each has been made by others more clearly and better that I ever would have.
1. The question of a repeat offender. Agriprocessors and the Rubashkin family are repeat offenders, with long histories of criminal and illegal conduct.
Why should they be trusted now?
And why is a brief scheduled visit to Agriprocessors by non-experts authoritative, especially when much of their findings are based on trusting Agriprocessors?
2. The question of impartiality. Are rabbis allowed to conceal financial and other connections to, what are, in effect, litigants in a case before them?
The answer to the question is a resounding no, yet that is exactly what these rabbis, led by Rabbi Lerner and Rabbi Eliezrie, have done.
Lerner and Eliezrie contradict themselves. They conduct themselves in ways every non-Orthodox school child knows to be wrong.
Luke Ford compared these rabbis' Agriprocessors "inspection" to Red Cross "inspections" of Nazi-controlled ghettos and concentration camps during the Holocaust.
But I think Luke's comparison is wrong. The Red Cross wasn't intentionally abetting crimes. Rabbis Eliezrie, Lerner, et al, are.
[Hat Tip for the Eliezrie letter: Ben Max.]