Chabad committee formed to help Rubashkin defense


NEW YORK (JTA) — Chabad members formed a committee to support the legal defense of former Agriprocessors manager Sholom Rubashkin.

Rubashkin, who managed the now-shuttered kosher meat plant in Postville, Iowa, was arrested in late October on charges that he helped illegal immigrants secure fraudulent documentation that permitted them to be employed at Agriprocessors. While free on bond he was arrested a second time on bank fraud charges. Rubashkin is now being held in custody following a judge’s determination that he poses a flight risk.

“We are a group of guys who, No. 1, are looking to help Rubashkin get out on bail,” committee member Rabbi Shea Hecht told JTA. “And No. 2, to voice our concern because we believe that much of this attack is not just an attack on the Rubashkin family and Agriprocessors, but it’s really an attack on kosher food. And it’s questionable if it’s one step beyond that — an attack on Jews.”

Prosecutors claimed that a travel bag with money, silver coins and passports were found in Rubashkin’s home and that — partly because Israel’s Law of Return grants Jews automatic citizenship — the former plant manager posed a risk of flight. Magistrate Judge Jon Scoles concurred and ordered Rubashkin detained until trial. A request to reconsider that decision was denied. Lawyers for Rubashkin are said to be considering an appeal.

The successful use of an argument based on Israel’s Law of Return has sparked significant concernnot only among members of Chabad, but in the wider Jewish world, where it is feared such claims could be used to deny bail to Jews on the basis of religion alone.

Leading figures from several Orthodox organizations, including the National Council of Young Israel and Agudath Israel of America, reportedly are planning solidarity visits to the prison in Dubuque, Iowa, where Rubashkin is being held.

A leading figure in the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Hecht serves on the board of the National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education, which is supporting the Rubashkin effort through an existing fund for the redemption of Jewish captives — a mitzvah known as pidyon shvuyim.

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