Rabbinic delegation meets with Rubashkin

NEW YORK (JTA) – A delegation of Orthodox rabbis met with jailed Agriprocessors official Sholom Rubashkin.

The delegation — which included representatives of the Orthodox Union, the Rabbinical Council of America, the National Council of Young Israel, Agudath Israel of America and Chabad-Lubavitch — met Rubashkin on Monday at the Dubuque County Jail in Iowa, where he is being held until trial.

A federal magistrate judge declined to release Rubashkin on bail after ruling last month that he posed a flight risk. The decision has prompted protest letters from several national Jewish groups concerned that prosecutors had based their argument against bail in part on Israel’s Law of Return, which guarantees Israeli citizenship to all Jews.

Rubashkin is facing a range of charges related to his management of the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant in Postville.

Rabbi David Zwiebel, Agudah’s executive vice president for government and public affairs, told JTA the purpose of the visit was to offer Rubashkin support and to generate some publicity for the organization’s effort to persuade the Department of Justice to institute a policy against U.S. attorneys invoking the Law of Return in bail hearings for Jewish defendants.

Agudah, along with the Anti-Defamation League and the Orthodox Union, have sent letters to outgoing U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey claiming that the prosecution’s argument is a danger to American Jews. The groups have not adopted a position on Rubashkin’s guilt or innocence. The Department of Justice has not yet responded to the letters.

Participants in the meeting said Rubashkin, who was dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, was in high spirits but was upset about the lack of access to his family, particularly his autistic son. Rubashkin expressed confidence that he would be exonerated when the case finally comes to trial in September.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Rubashkin led the group in prayer.

“I have to tell you, it was one of the most moving experiences I’ve had in some time,” Zwiebel said of the prayer service.
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