A tragedy has taken place today. The devastation is not just for a man sentenced to a life behind bars; nor is the pain limited to his family who are condemned to grow up without their father. This injustice affects more than the thousands of people in his community whose lives he has touched; it affects all Jews throughout the world and the entire American nation. Today, the American justice system failed and as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
In conclusion to a two year mockery of the judicial process, the U.S. District Court Judge presiding over Shalom Mordechai Rubashkin’s case announced today that she intends to sentence him to 27 years in prison (in addition to demanding restitution of over $30 million). In a legal memorandum, Justice Linda Reade stated that the 27 year sentence was “sufficient, but not greater than necessary”. Never mind that the sentence is way beyond the punishment doled out in similar cases (see the disparity memo), it is even harsher than the prosecution had asked for!
I am no legal scholar, neither am I privy to the undisclosed details in the trial; however, it seems clear that this fracas has been a perversion of justice from the very beginning. Nathan Lewin, a preeminent constitutional lawyer and legal scholar, who has been assisting Shalom’s defense team decried “the way this case was handled may go down in history as a permanent stain on American justice”. Some are already calling this trial “the Dreyfus Affair of the 21st century”.
The “enlightened minds” of the world (and the documentary “Defamation”) would have you believe that anti-Semitism no longer exists. One who cries anti-Semitism today is labeled provincial and portrayed as being stuck in a “shtetl mentality”. Make no mistake about it - anti-Semitism today is alive and strong. For the most part it has been replaced with anti-Zionism (the same beast with a different name), yet it rears its ugly head every so often. Helen Thomas and Libby Davies are not aberrations from the norm, rather their only mistake was to voice the thoughts held by many others. From the world’s constant censure of Israel (see Israel and the Surrender of the West” in today’s WSJ), to New Zealand’s (and soon European) bans on shechita, and finally this well publicized case of scapegoating “the Jew”, it is clear that the oldest bigotry in the world persists in modern times.
The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rabbi Y. Y. Scheerson) stated that “Amerika is nisht anderish (America is not different)” when he arrived in the U.S. over 70 years ago. In the 1970s, Rabbi Meir Kahane warned us not to “suffer from a national amnesia”; lest we forget that in the 1930s German Jews felt entirely comfortable and integrated in German society (I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the 1933 Nazi law banning shechita). American Jewry must recognize that America is not our home and that the world is not our friend. Although the United States has been a kind and welcoming home to the Jews over the years, we must always remember that at the end of the day we will be standing alone with only God by our side.
When I heard the terrible news this morning, my initial instinct was to run into the streets and scream in anger; however, I believe that what we need to do is to continue to be beacons of righteousness and justice to the world and hopefully they will learn from us. In addition, I ask everyone to continue to contribute to the Rubashkin family’s fund (to help with legal costs) and to express our collective outrage to our political leaders.
Finally, it is imperative that we continue to pray on Shalom Mordechai’s behalf, both individually and at the many rallies held today around the world where Jews will be gathering in unity to show support for Shalom and to pray on his behalf. God works in mysterious ways and can orchestrate miracles in the 25th hour. I would like to conclude with a prayer that Shalom Mordechai HaLevi ben Rivkah should have a personal deliverance and that we should all merit the ultimate redemption speedily in our time.