People in and around the small northern Iowa community of Postville are gathering donations to help care for former Agriprocessors employees left in the lurch by mass arrests, deportations of immigrant workers, and layoffs resulting from the firm’s legal problems.

But as donations of money, food and clothing come in for the hundreds of affected families  one Jewish organization is intent on helping only one person, indicted former chief executive Sholom M. Rubashkin.

The Aleph Institute, a Jewish prisoner outreach organization, began a legal defense fund specifically to benefit Rubashkin, who faces federal charges for harboring illegal immigrants as well as for defrauding a multi-million dollar bank, according to Shmarya Rosenberg of Failed Messiah blog,

Most former Agriprocessors workers — including the Jewish workers –are not getting such special attention. They are living by charity, waiting for long-promised paychecks that have yet to materialize.

The laid-off workers are desperate, one former Agriprocessors worker told Jeff Abbas of the local radio station KPVL, on Thursday.

Abbas: The situation is that we have people here in town who have not received paychecks, who have been having food handed out to them from here in the multi-cultural center. … There are a lot of ex-cons and a lot of people who have ’street smarts’ mixed in this group, right?

Worker: Yes.

Abbas: What are they talking about? What happens if we don’t get checks this week?

Worker: Well, most of the people I’m around is getting fed up because they keep putting it off day after day after day — talking about they are going to get their checks. So, they are talking about robbing IGA, where there ain’t no cameras, and the Bore, and Club 51, and every lady that they see coming from those little restaurants, walking with little money bags to the bank. See, they’ve been watching this for a week or two. … The dudes I know, they are criminally-minded and they will do that.

This particular worker spoke before leaving Postville to seek employment in the Waterloo-area. He said he had no desire to take part in the violence he believes will be perpetrated if paychecks are not given to the former workers.

The worker also indicated that possibly because of news reports that Rubashkin had $20,000 in cash and precious metals in his home, the disgruntled employees might target Rubashkin personally.

“Who they really, really want is the man who ran Agriprocessors — the one that’s in jail,” the worker said during the interview. “They want to go up in his house, rob him — because they know he’s got money in his house.”

Because of such threats, local police have stepped up security around the Jewish schools in Postville.

Several agencies in Postville have been collecting donations of food, warm clothing and money to aid the former workers. People from all walks of life and many nations have been reduced to relying on the charity of others for food and shelter. The town’s kosher grocery has closed, meaning the demand for kosher foods — especially kosher milk and baby formula–is strong.

The Aleph Institute, by contrast, seeks to help only the Rubashkin family, according to Failed Messiah. The group was founded by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Lipskar, a senior rabbi in the fundamentalist Chabad-Lubavitch movement of Judaism, which the Rubashkin family embraces. The movement spurns contacts with the non-Jewish world for the sake of establishing the purest faith.  On Wednesday, the organization’s Web site and other Chabad-affiliated sites posted pleas for prayers and donations for the Rubashkin family with links to a newly-established Aleph Defense Fund.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jon Scoles is expected to rule today on whether or not Sholom Rubashkin will remain in U.S. Marshal custody or will be released on bail.

Those interested in making a non-monetary donation for Agriprocessor families can phone KPVL at (563) 864-7954 for more information. Monetary donations should be made out to and mailed to: St. Paul Agri Workers Relief Fund, P.O. Box 875, Postville, IA 52162.