Shmuley Boteach: The "Never-Ending Onslaught" Against Sholom Rubashkin
Shmuley Boteach is wrong.
To recap, the trial proved dozens of children illegally worked at Agriprocessors.
Sholom Rubashkin's defense centered around three assertions:
1. I was not responsible for the HR department; it reported to my brother Heshy.
2. Two or three minors were fired in 2007 when they were discovered, and this proves I did not want children working for me.
3. It isn't easy to ferret out minors – all these Latinos look like kids.
Rubashkin was able to get away with this defense because of a judge's ruling that excluded from evidence hundreds of Federal no-match letters sent by the Federal government to Sholom Rubashkin. Those letters each represented one employee, and showed that the employee's documentation and ID were false.
The judge wanted to keep the trial narrowly focused on two issues:
1. Did minors work at Agriprocessors?
2. Did they work under hazardous conditions prohibited by law?
By doing this the judge excluded irrefutable evidence proving Sholom Rubashkin knew many of his employees had used fake IDs and fake documents to get hired, and that he had taken no steps to remedy that situation.
The state notified Rubashkin of its child labor investigation in the months before the immigration raid.
The fact that the state made this notification, combined with the Federal no-match letters, proved Rubashkin knew there was a strong possibility kids were working in Agriprocessors and that Rubashkin did not act to stop it.
The jurors were not allowed to see this evidence and more like it. Without that evidence, the state had difficulty proving its case beyond all reasonable doubt.
But those of us who know about this evidence do not have to disregard it in judging Sholom Rubashkin.
In the same way, those of us who heard stories of rape, extortion and exploitation from these and other illegal Agriprocessors workers, and know people who warned Rubashkin about these crimes, do not need to ignore this evidence in judging Rubashkin, even though this evidence was also excluded by the judge, again to keep the trial narrowly focused.
The totality of the evidence proves Sholom Rubashkin's guilt.
The legal system bends over backward to protect the accused from the powers of the state. Sometimes that protects the innocent; other times it frees the guilty.
We accept the latter because we view the former as supremely important. We err on the side of freedom.
But that does not mean we need to believe OJ Simpson did not murder his ex-wife and her boyfriend, or that Lemerick Nelson did not murder Yankel Rosenbaum. And we do not have to believe Sholom Rubashkin was ignorant of the crimes being committed in his name.
Shmuley Boteach knows this. But Shmuley Boteach is not an honest man.
I also need to note that Boteach resorts to anti-Catholic bigotry in his attempt to make Sholom Rubashkin look like a martyr.
The nun Boteach denigrates spent hundreds of hours helping Agriprocessors workers survive the raid. She heard first hand about the abuses these workers suffered under Rubashkin, and she knows the kids he used like slaves.
She knows Rubashkin is guilty. And she has every right to say so.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach • Huffington PostSo much for Christian charity.
Sister Mary McCauley, the former pastoral administrator at St. Bridget's Catholic Church in Postville, Iowa, who provided support for families affected by the Agriprocessors raid, publicly condemned the complete acquittal of Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin on charges of child labor violations as a tragedy. "I was heartsick," she declared. "I had to just sit and deal with the heartbreak I was feeling."
Never mind that a jury deliberated only 12 hours to reach a verdict exonerating Rubashkin on all 67 counts. Never mind that Rubashkin, a father of ten with a long of history of charitable acts feeding the hungry and the poor, has been so demonized in the press that it was practically impossible for him to receive a fair trial, and still he was found innocent. The good sister is convinced that the man should have gone down. Her heart tells her so. The jury be damned.
When I, as a Rabbi and broadcaster, read of the unending accusations against countless priests and even nuns for molesting children, and against the Pope himself for covering it up, I went on the air on my radio show on America's most listened to station, WABC 77AM in New York City, and begged my audience to place the allegations in perspective. The Pope had been tried in a media circus without being given an opportunity to respond or defend himself. Further, all judgments about the morality of the Church had to be assessed in the context of the global good it does in running the world's largest network of orphanages, hospitals, and schools. Whatever crimes were committed against children by men and women sworn to G-d's work were despicable in the extreme and abomination against all that is decent. And they would have to be held accountable. But wait before you lynch any innocent man.
I was heavily criticized on the air by my own devoted listeners, with the angriest calls coming from Christians and Catholics. 'How can you defend our Church, Rabbi Shmuley? You who promotes family values and ethics? Do you not understand what these men have done?'
Yes, of course I understood. But allow the facts to emerge before you disparage the whole of the Church. Don't paint with a broad brush. Point a finger only at the Priests who are guilty and refrain from assailing the papacy itself until you hear more. Amid the caller onslaught, I stood my ground. All people carry the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.
Unless you're Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, that is, in which case even once you're found completely innocent on charges of child labor by a jury of your peers you are still guilty.
Senator Obama, campaigning in Iowa to be President in August 2008 and promising a new era of civil American political discourse, forgot his commitment when it came to Rubashkin: "When you read about a meatpacking plant hiring 13-year-olds, 14-year-olds -- that is some of the most dangerous, difficult work there is. They have kids in there wielding buzz saws and cleavers? It's ridiculous. And the only reason they're hiring these folks is because they want to avoid paying people decent wages and providing them decent benefits." The President is a politician and might be forgiven for pandering for votes, although it would still be encouraging if now, in light of the acquittal, he would publicly apologize for his slander. But sister McCauley is a nun consecrated to Christ and has no such excuse.
I have no doubt that the sister is a good woman who wants to defend immigrant children, even as they admitted under oath to falsifying their work papers in order to work at Agriprocessors. I agree Sister Mary that these children were desperate. The cowardice on the part of the American government in repeatedly failing to address the immigration crises with serious reforms leads to these tragedies. But does Sister Mary not reserve even a tiny sliver of her heart for Rubashkin's ten children, one of whom is autistic, even as their lives have been turned upside down as their father has been painted as the anti-Christ?
Let me be clear. I am on record in several columns as saying that Rubashkin is no hero. He has been found guilty of financial fraud and will be punished. Whatever good he and his family have done - and they are justly renowned for their charity and philanthropy - in no way cancels out his conviction, even if his intentions were to temporarily avert near-certain bankruptcy that was caused by an INS raid and eventually pay the bank back. Wearing a yarmulke and a beard, Rubashkin is a public representative of the Jewish faith and he has let us all down. In our religion there is no greater sin than desecrating the divine name. No doubt the pain Rubashkin feels in having done so is more excruciating than anything the penal system can do to him. He will have to repent of his actions before G-d and man. He will also have to serve time, tragic as that is for a man with a large family who are now destitute.
But the time served must be fair and just. For goodness sake, stop the never-ending lynching. Treat the man fairly. Prosecutors, stop portraying him as a monster. Stop the absurdity of demanding a life sentence. Don't subvert justice in the name of justice. Six former Attorney-Generals of the United States have already strongly condemned the recommendation for a life sentence. Let the insanity end.
On the home page of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom Sister Mary is affiliated, it declares, "We are women of steadfast love called to live the mission of Jesus through our core values of FREEDOM, CHARITY, EDUCATION, and JUSTICE." Those are values I applaud and respect. Are you listening sister?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the founder of This World: The Values Network. His new book is 'Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life.' (Basic Books) Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley. His website is www.shmuley.com