An Open Letter From Rabbi Shea Hecht to Congress on Behalf of Rubashkin
It must be an election year! That is why the grandstand letter which you sent to Mr. Rubashkin reached the press before it ever reached him. In writing to you about your letter to Mr. Rubashkin, I shall touch upon such points which you, an astute politician, are better aware of than I am. (Nevertheless, we all tend to overlook certain things when we have a particular goal in mind.)
First of all, Aaron Rubashkin is not a Rabbi, he never studied for the Rabbinate, he was never ordained, he never called himself “Rabbi” and he never claimed to be a Rabbi. Those who call him “Rabbi” are clearly trying to buttress their false claims and accusations by innuendo that as a man of the cloth he should be subject to even stricter rules than the average “Joe” on the street.
I shall also not address any specific claims which you note, since all are merely “alleged.” Most are imagined and all of them stem either from the antagonistic press, self-hating Jewish animal advocates, overzealous Immigration P.R. news people, and a gaggle of anti-Semitic perennial criticizers. More importantly, those charges which have actually been brought by any government agency will certainly be followed through with careful investigation. The accused will certainly be given the right to defend himself and there will definitely be the opportunity for proper public awareness when the issue is adjudicated and the individuals have their day in court.
So there is no reason for you or me to pre-judge or to take any of those accusations for more than what they are and, it behooves you to be more careful in quoting or
recounting some charges which are absolutely a figment of the imagination of the
press or of the animal advocates.
More to the point: When my grandfather was born in Brooklyn in 1895, that was back in the 19th Century, if a Jew wanted to have Kosher meat, he would go to the local chicken market, buy a chicken, bring it to the ritual slaughterer (Shochet) who would perform the Shechita in the proper traditional fashion, they would then pluck the chicken, take it home to soak and salt it, thereby Koshering the meat to prepare it for the table. It took a lot of time to get a piece of chicken for your Friday night meal.
If the family was well to do and could afford beef or lamb, they would wait until the local butcher put together enough families that could afford to buy a cow, a steer or a lamb and then again the Shochet would be summoned and all the processes of preparing Kosher meat would be done, locally, in the local butcher store, by the people who had been taught and trained in the traditional rules of preparing meat for the Kosher table. Again, time consuming, expensive and truly a luxury in those days.
Fast forward to the 21st Century: Many American entrepreneurs travel to the Far East and engage in countless varieties of business. The fact of the matter is that today our shirts are sewn, our toys are manufactured and even some of our food is prepared in China. In order for that commerce to take place, thousands of United States businessmen travel to the Far East every week and engage in the enterprise of procuring manufactured goods which we desperately need in the United States.
Many of them are traditional Jews. They would probably starve if not for the fact that Aaron Rubashkin has gone beyond the usual business culture to make sure that Kosher meat is provided for customers anywhere in the world, from South Padre Island, Texas, to Shanghai, Hong Kong and Bangkok. Which means that the issue here is of far greater importance than just a meat factory in Iowa. No other American food company nor any Israeli food company has been able to provide their Kosher products to such a broad customer base as Rubashkin.
As a fair minded American Yankee, I am ready to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he is absolutely innocent until proved guilty.
Here is my problem with your letter: The loyal and good electorate in the United States often hears of junkets taken by our elected officials to distant and exotic places around the world, for very important reasons, to find trading partners with the United States, to identify minority communities in various countries who need help, to spread democracy throughout the world and sometimes to provide certain raw materials or, to help find those raw materials which American commerce needs.
Well, I would now suggest a junket to Postville, Iowa and I would suggest that you and your colleagues who have signed on your letter, present a request to a local Rabbi from your communities to join together with you to meet with Aaron Rubashkin, to walk through the plant and to discuss the issues about which you write. After hearing only one side of the story (and not necessarily the side of authorized government officials,) that is the least we can expect.
I have not spoken to Aaron Rubashkin about this but my feeling is that he would be amenable to such an opportunity to host and show hospitality to a dozen elected Jewish officials in America. Once we are there and see for ourselves, hear for ourselves and are able to sense and analyze what is happening in the plant, what is happening among the workers, what is happening among the local citizens and the indigenous people of Iowa, then we will get a much better understanding, a much better perception and we will have the opportunity then, to make our suggestions.
I was happy to see that your letter ended by asking Mr. Rubashkin to respond to you and to tell you about the improvements that are being made under the new administration of his business. However, I feel that despite your request for such a written response, it will not have an impact unless you actually make that junket to Iowa to see for yourself. I would be very happy to join with you on such a trip and I remain available to you 24 hours a day either at my office or at my home or at my e-mail address:
My best wishes for a prosperous, happy and sweet New Year. Shana Tova!
Rabbi Sholem B. Hecht
Chairman, Executive Committee, NCFJE
My office telephone: (718) 735-0208
My office fax: (718) 735-4455
My home telephone: (718) 544-1333
My e-mail address: Lena@NCFJE.org