Some 800 people took part in a Los Angeles rally on Monday evening, in support of convicted meat-plant owner Sholom Rubashkin of Iowa. Rubashkin was sentenced to 27 years in prison on Monday for various counts of financial fraud, after being earlier acquitted of violating labor laws.
The 800 Orthodox Jews came to support the Rubashkin family, including his wife and ten children, and to protest what many perceived as the thinly-disguised anti-Semitism of a disproportionate sentence. “For a 51-year-old man, 27 years is essentially a life sentence – and for a white-collar crime,” several said.
Rubashkin is the former CEO of the Postville, Iowa Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant, which was the world’s largest, producing half of the United States' kosher meat. It declared bankruptcy after the government raided it in May 2008. The plant has since been purchased and is trying to make a comeback, though it no longer produces kosher meat.
The Los Angeles rally featured several speakers, including one of Rubashkin’s sons, 23-year-old Meir Simcha, who arrived in the city on Monday. Prayers were also recited for the convicted man’s welfare.
The young Rubashkin spoke of his father’s strong faith, and of the family’s gratitude to the Jewish community for its support. “One of the things that gives [my father] strength is to know that he has the backing of the Jewish world,” he said, according to the Jewish Journal of LA.
Rabbis said that Rubashkin “is blatantly being treated unfairly,” and that the verdict was “outrageous,” a sign of “clear prejudice” and “certainly anti-Semitism.”
“No one condones criminal activity,” one rabbi said, “but the scapegoating [and] the viciousness is enough to send shivers down the spine.”
Some in the Jewish community have been hesitant to support Rubashkin because of PETA accusations against his shechita practices, and/or because he is a convicted lawbreaker. Others feel that even these considerations do not warrant a life sentence, or even 27 years in prison.