Exhaling deeply after each breath, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker Rebbe, blasted the federal judge that sentenced Sholom Rubashkin for what he called, “corrupt thinking” and a “corrupt way of acting.”
“What’s happening here?” Rabbi Perlow asked the over 1,000 men and women who gathered in The White Shul for a rally on Dec. 22 for the imprisoned former executive vice president of Agriprocessors. “This is not the European governments who persecute us. Who would’ve thought in this community of freedom and justice this could happen?”
Equal parts rally and Jewish theater, the event raised $160,000 for Rubashkin’s legal defense team. He is currently serving a 27-year prison sentence for bank fraud. The event had been heavily promoted inside the local Jewish community by numerous local rabbinical figures who encouraged their congregants to attend. Several of the rabbis sat on the dais including Rabbi Yitzchak Knobel of Yeshiva Gedolah of the Five Towns, Rabbi Yaakov Reisman of the Agudah of Far Rockaway and Rabbi Naftali Jaeger of the Shor Yoshuv Institute. The podium before the dais was draped with a poster of the heavily bearded face of Rubashkin alongside an American flag.
The crowd rose in small waves before each approaching rabbinical dignitary.
“Can’t be caught in Brach’s tonight,” one man muttered to his neighbor.
The event was also preceded by a robo-call from Rubashkin’s daughter, Roza Weiss.
“We are so thankful for all the tremendous help and support… Your presence and participation are a tremendous chizuk to our entire family and enables us to continue the effort to free our dear father who we will be reunited with soon.”
With the exception of Rabbi Pinchos Lipshutz, the editor of Yated Ne’eman and the man primarily responsible for fund-raising for the Rubashkin campaign, the speakers struck a complicated note: Sholom Rubashkin was certainly not innocent, but he didn’t deserve the punishment he received.
“None of us says Sholom Mordechai is innocent in the way he and his business ran,” Rabbi Perlow said. “But there’s a shuir (measurement); there’s a gvul (boundary). There’s a way of looking into people’s behavior.”