Whoever Saves One Life...
Whoever Saves One Life...
It's an expression you may have heard if you've studied Talmud, or possibly by (l'havdil) watching Schindler's List. This axiom is the expression of what is arguably one of Judaism's most beautiful teachings, that of the greatness of the human being. Each individual man, woman and child is created in the image of the Holy One, Blessed be He.

Our Sages teach that each person can say "bishvili nivra ha'olam" (for my sake the world was created), and in so doing, he or she is expressing a profound fundamental truth about the universe.

One who saves a single life, it is as if he or she saves the whole world. And one who murders an individual spits in the face of the divine image, and it is as if he or she destroys an entire world. There is one life right now that deserves our attention. His is not in immediate jeopardy, but he sits imprisoned as the result of a gross miscarriage of justice. The individual to whom I am referring is Sholom Rubashkin (click the name for internet campaign in his behalf). The former Agriprocessors exec  found himself in hot water over alleged bank fraud and child labor law violations.

"So?" you may be asking (assuming you are unfamiliar with the details of the case), "what's wrong with locking such a man up for 27 years, and exacting $27 million in restitution to boot?" You mean, aside from the fact that at his age, this could amount to a life sentence?

And aside from the fact that the judge decided that the persecution, excuse me, prosecution, wasn't being harsh enough, and decided to tack on an extra two years to the recommended sentence? (I can almost see Judge Reade eyeballing the poor chasid and reading his sentence and adding: "Two extra years, because I don't like your face!")

And can how about this judge? Rubashkin's lawyers filed for a new trial when they discovered that Reade was actively involved in the investigation and subsequent raid of the Agriprocessor's plant in Postville, Iowa. Federal law and U.S. Supreme Court rulings would have required Reade to remove herself from the trial, they argue. Do they really need legal precedent for this?

A close friend of mine who happens to be a prominent attorney once explained to me that a reputable judge will remove him or herself from a trial if they know one of the litigants. Even if they are confident in their ability to judge the case impartially, anyone with a legal education knows that the mere appearance of impartiality is basically inseparable from impartiality itself. They scrupulously avoid a situation where they would risk even the appearance of impropriety, even if they were certain none would take place (in Jewish Law, we call this maaris ayin).

By the way, their motion for a mistrial was denied by Judge Reade. Are we the only ones who see the problem with this?

Truly, the Rubashkin Case has made a thorough mockery of our justice system. And it's a wrong that begs to be righted.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court refused to grant a new trial for Rubashkin. Apparently the judge's active involvement with prosecution is not considered sufficient cause to throw out the original case. (And if that isn't, then what is?)

Rubashkin's appellate team is saying their next step will be to take their client's case to the Supreme Court.

In the meantime, our readers can go to JusticeForSholom.org and read up on the case. They also provide a link to the latest petition on Rubashkin's behalf on the White House's webpage.

With all that's going on in New York recently, the anti-Israel rallies, the pro-Israel rallies, the UN-sponsored hate speech by heads of state... with all the saber-rattling taking place on a global scale, it's easy to forget about the individuals.

So spare a moment for Sholom Rubashkin.

And for Alan Gross, the American contractor who is being imprisoned by Cuba for having the chutzpah to set up internet access for the island nation's Jewish community.

Think of Jonathan Pollard, who, because he spied for a Jewish country, received a sentence harsher than those given to Soviet agents.

Let us not forget about Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit, who, if still alive, remains in terrorist captivity for more than half a decade. And Ilan Grapel, who, we hope, may be on the way to release from an Egyptian prison.

These individuals are Am Yisrael. And as we enter a new year, let us call out to our Father in Heaven and pray for their safe and speedy release, that they may again know the freedom that so many of us take for granted. We are our brothers' keepers, and we cannot remain silent.