Sholom Rubashkin and two of his children
Sholom Rubashkin and two of his children Israel news photo: Justice for Sholom

A New Year's campaign to free former Agriprocessors kosher meat packing owner Sholom Rubashkin has hit the Internet, led by the renowned Aleph Institute.

The campaign is timed to coincide with the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and appeals to supporters and others to sign an online petition pushing for Rubashkin's release from prison.

A father of ten with no previous convictions, the 52 year old Rubashkin was sentenced to 27 years in federal prison on charges of bank fraud. He was charged with defaulting on loans after his funds were frozen during a federal investigation into child labor violations that he was ultimately acquitted of, and immigration-related charges that the prosecution eventually declined to pursue.

The life sentence recommendation for a first-time offender was at the time deemed by a number of prominent attorneys – including Kenneth Starr, former Attorney General Janet Reno, and Professor Alan Dershowitz – as “disproportionate and shocking.”

Tens of thousands were shocked by the 2009 sentence, considered unduly harsh and tantamount to life in prison.

The petition, which is being sent to the White House, urges President Barack Obama and the U.S. Justice Department to investigate “the extremely troubling circumstances surrounding [Rubashkin's] prosecution, trial and sentencing.”

The organization urges people to sign the petition, saying it will be a tangible expression of unity with the many thousands of other Jews concerned about Rubashkin and his family, and who are “extremely troubled by the shocking circumstances of his case.”

As noted in the petition, 47 members of the House of Representatives have separately and independently written to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding an investigation into Rubashkin's prosecution, which the petition labels a “gross misjustice.” In addition, 75 law professors and former U.S. Attorneys, including three Deputy Attorneys General have likewise called for an investigation into prosecutorial misconduct in the case.

The Aleph Institute is a U.S.-based NGO founded by Rabbi Sholom Lipskar more than 30 years ago at the direction of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. The organization provides  services to families in crisis, and to individuals in the military and institutional systems. But the organization is best known for its work with individuals and institutions in the criminal justice system, particularly involving faith-based rehabilitation and preventive ethics education programs through its Center for Halacha and American Law (CHAL).

To sign the petition, click here.  Then click "Create an account" and fill out the form. Check your email and click on the link. Finally, click on "sign this petition."