The problems with the Lubavitch

More money raised by Lubavitch for Rubashkin scum

New York, NY – Chabad Committee Formed to Help Rubashkin Defense

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Published on: Dec 30, 2008 at 04:18 PM

New York, NY – A group of Lubavitch Chassidim, members of the Chabad Jewish Community in Brooklyn, NY, is planning on monitoring the well being of Shalom Mordechai Rubashkin, imprisoned head of the Agriprocessors Kosher meat plant in Postville, IA.

The group, which has years of experience in assisting community members with legal troubles, turned their attention to Rubashkin six weeks ago. Called The Committee of Concerned Anash for Pidyon Shevuyim (Anash meaning Chassidim, Pidyon Shevuyim – the mitzva of redemption of prisoners) will focus on assisting the Rubashkin family.

The Committee is working with top lawyers for the best defense and a public relations group, and will be collecting funds for the legal defense and keeping the community involved.

Committee members include Levi Balkany, Yingy Bistritsky, Ari Chitrik, Sholom Duchman, Mendel Feller, Noson Hecht, Shea Hecht, Shmuli Hecht, Sholem B. Hecht, Sholom B. Lipskar, Benjy Stock, Zalman Vishedsky and Yaakov Weiss. They are joined by Suri Ciment, Hindy Labkowski and Molly Resnick.

In a press release sent to COLlive, they wrote: “The committee wants the public to know they are the official group to assist and aid the Rubashkins, endorsed by the family. The committee has years of experience in dealing with pidyon shevuyim cases, and now they have turned their attention to helping Sholom Rubashkin.”

Several members of the committee held a private meeting today (Sunday) at the offices of The National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education (NCFJE), a Brooklyn-based educational and humanitarian organization (which both Hecht brothers direct).

Following the meeting – of which COLlive was invited to photograph but not record – the committee held a press conference for the Lubavitch media in an effort to “call on the worldwide Lubavitch community to take action, get involved, and donate to the Rubashkin legal fund.”

Other Jewish groups are expected to speak out on behalf of Rubashkin, citing that “the case is now an attack against shechita.”

Rabbi Pesach Lerner of Young Israel and Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel of Agudas Yisroel are said to be planning a trip to Iowa to meet with Rubashkin in prison.

This Tuesday, lawyers from Grefe and Sidney will be visiting Crown Heights to meet with the committee and residents. They are scheduled to meet with Aron Rubashkin, patriarch and founder of the Agri plant.

“Lubavitch in Crown Heights, and around the world, needs to know – from S. Padre Island, Texas to Shanghai, China, Kosher meat was available because of the Rubashkins,” Rabbi Sholem Ber Hecht said. “Any traveler, as well, benefitted from Rubashkin. This affects every single person that eats kosher throughout the world.”


The Mafioso Family of Rubashkin’s…Lubavitch warloads of kosher meat
December 11, 2008, 7:17 pm
Filed under: crime, Ethics, Kosher, Nebraska slaughter house | Tags: ,

The following story is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Village Voice on Dec. 3, 2008. The author is Elizabeth Dwoskin.

Until three years ago, Miriam Shear and her husband were philanthropists who had given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Jewish charities, supporting schools in Boca Raton, Florida, Memphis, and Louisville. They say that the Rubashkins’ strong-arm business practices drove them into bankruptcy.

The Shears had grown wealthy selling alarm systems and life insurance. As members of a small community of Orthodox Jews living in Memphis, they ran a successful kosher-food bank that served a few hundred Jewish families. Incensed at what they say were astronomical prices for kosher food—a three-pound block of cheese at Kroeger’s, the only grocery in town, cost $25—the couple decided to open a rival store in 2003. They called their business the Kosher Case Club. Hoping to expand into meat and poultry, Shear met with Heshy Rubashkin at Lubinsky’s annual kosher-food show in New York. But Heshy, who was already doing a brisk business with Kroeger’s, refused to sell to her, she says.

Shear found another distributor in Atlanta and began selling meat processed by two of Rubashkin’s competitors, Empire Kosher and Alle Processing, and chicken shipped from Canada. Shear says she was able to significantly bring down the price of perishable items—she sold cheese blocks for $16, and skinless, boneless chicken that went for $18 at Kroegers she sold for $8. Shear says that she quickly learned how easy it was to profit by creating competition in a niche industry in which prices were being kept artificially high. After the Memphis Jewish Journal featured her store in an article, she was so successful that customers began driving from as far as New Orleans to shop there. Soon, she began to receive calls from Jews in other parts of the South who wanted her to open additional stores. In Tampa, where the only kosher meat for sale came from Agriprocessors, grocers told her that shipments sometimes contained meat so discolored that it had to be thrown away. But if you complained to the Rubashkins, they told her, the orders would simply stop coming. Members of the Lubavitch sect told Shear something that has been corroborated by others: Their rabbis told them that they should only buy meat from Agriprocessors—nothing else was considered pure enough.

In 2005, Shear met with the regional representative for her Atlanta distributor, Hudie Lipszyc. She says Lipszyc had driven six hours from Atlanta because he needed to tell her something. The distributor warned her to get out of the kosher-food business, telling her, she says, that if she didn’t, the Rubashkins would retaliate.

She says he actually used the words, “They are going to squash you,” which turned out to be the same phrase two other people later used to describe the Rubashkins. And when she told Lipszyc she had no plans to close her store, he told her that she was actually in danger.

(Lipszyc tells the Voice that he did, indeed, warn Shear that she should leave the business, but he denies warning her specifically about the Rubashkins. He says he may have used the word “squashed,” but if he did, it referred to competition generally. He denies that his warning referred to physical danger.)

Incensed, Shear told Lipszyc that not only was she going to ignore his advice, but she planned to open another store in Detroit.

Before she moved to Detroit, however, she consulted with the vaad, the local rabbinical council there. Detroit had only one kosher grocery store, One Stop Kosher, and the meat counter in the back was run by Shlomo Luss, a Rubashkin distributor, who serviced the entire region. In Detroit, Agriprocessors meat was also the main source in town. Shear wanted to obtain permission from the rabbis before opening up shop. As she was driving back to Memphis, she received a phone call from the vaad: They gave her the go-ahead and assured her that she wouldn’t be treading on anybody’s territory.

The Shears immediately turned the car around and drove back to Michigan. They purchased a home, renovated a warehouse, and bought thousands of dollars’ worth of cash registers, freezers, and other equipment necessary to run a store.

In September 2005, a few weeks before they were going to open the branch, Shear got another call from the vaad: The distributor was taking her to a rabbinical court. Shear called the distributor. Shear says Luss threatened to spread a rumor that the Canadian chicken looked so clean because it was bleached, and that the meat she was going to sell didn’t hold up to kosher standards. Once again, she says, she was told that the Rubashkins would “squash” her. Luss couldn’t be reached for comment.

Soon, Shear’s friends began to tell her about rumors spreading in the community: that her meat lacked kosher certification. Shear scrambled to get a certification letter from the Orthodox Union. She tacked the letter up in her store. But the rabbinical court made things difficult, issuing the decision that she could sell meat only by the caseload, which she says made it almost impossible to do business. (The vaad disputed this at the time.) She ignored the decision and went ahead. But a month after opening, some distributors that she had lined up to stock the store with products suddenly stopped selling to her. Shear says they didn’t return her calls.

In July 2006, nine months after opening, the Shears shut the doors of their Detroit store. They were almost bankrupt. Their house went into foreclosure. They say they could barely afford to pay their children’s health insurance. They packed up 12 suitcases and moved to Israel, where Shear is working two part-time jobs to pay the bills. “We went from being very wealthy people to being totally financially devastated. And from something that started as a mitzvah,” she says, using the Hebrew word for “good deed.” “We went from being people who gave in the six figures of tzedakah [charity] to being totally wiped out. This has been a total nightmare.”

The Shears’ ordeal was well known in Detroit’s Jewish community and sparked an internal battle within the vaad itself. In September 2006, the Shears received a settlement of $160,000 from the distributor and the vaad. The settlement was just enough, she says, to make up for the salary she had lost during the year. In 2006, the Justice Department began an antitrust investigation into the entire kosher-meat industry.

Shear isn’t the only person who says the Rubashkins don’t always play fair. Simon Fields owns a kosher supermarket in South Florida. He says that when he stopped selling Rubashkin products five years ago, the local Lubavitch rabbi told his congregants to stop buying meat from his store because it was no longer kosher, even though he had a valid Orthodox Union certification.

Agriprocessors Plant reopens without Lubavitch Management
December 11, 2008, 6:58 pm
Filed under: Nebraska slaughter house | Tags: , ,

Shuttered Meat Plant Edges Back Into Business, but Its Town Is Still Struggling

Published: December 4, 2008

A bankruptcy trustee reopened a kosher meat plant in Iowa on Wednesday in a move intended to comfort a town that has been economically crippled since 389 illegal immigrants were arrested at the plant in May.

But judging from an angry meeting on Wednesday night, the reopening of the Agriprocessors plant in Postville — and the rehiring of more than 200 workers — produced more acrimony than solace, with many workers upset that they had not been called back to their jobs.

Many workers also complained to the bankruptcy trustee, Joseph Sarachek, who organized the meeting, that the plant, until recently the nation’s largest kosher meat producer, had failed to pay them wages they were owed for the two or more weeks before it closed on Nov. 14.

“It was one of the most hostile meetings I’ve ever been to,” Jeff Abbas, manager of KPVL, the local radio station, which has led a community effort to help laid-off plant employees, said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “I felt a little sorry for Sarachek, because there were so many questions he couldn’t answer: When will we be paid? When will we go back to work?”

Mr. Sarachek, a bankruptcy expert from New York, was appointed trustee after the plant’s owner, the Rubashkin family, filed for bankruptcy last month. The plant’s kosher certification was threatened after it was fined $10 million for wage violations and faced criminal charges for 9,300 child labor violations.

Mr. Sarachek said in a telephone interview that he had rushed to reopen the plant because Agriprocessors owned 700,000 chickens that needed to be slaughtered. A bankruptcy judge authorized him to spend $2.5 million to run the plant through next Friday.

“Our game plan is to begin with the chickens, then deal with some of the cooked meats and to actively market the company for sale,” he said. He has hired as top assistants two consultants with decades of experience in kosher meat production, Arnold Mikelberg and Allan Gluck.

Mr. Sarachek said the budget he was given to run the plant was not enough for him to cover the $500,000 owed in back wages. So he promised to repay quickly only those people who were rehired, as a way to attract workers back to a plant. (Others owed back pay need to apply to the bankruptcy judge.)

At the meeting on Wednesday, one woman, eager for her job and back wages, shouted, “Tell me where I’m supposed to go and what I’m supposed to do.”

The plant, which employed more than 800 workers last spring, has long been the economic heart of Postville, a town of about 2,000 residents. Its closing created shock and despair.

Some 160 workers legally in this country from Palau were stranded, but many have since been hired at other meatpacking plants in Iowa. Scores of Orthodox Jewish workers who lived in Postville were left without work, as were dozens of African-Americans from around the Midwest who had moved to Postville to take jobs at Agriprocessors.

“The disaster has so many layers,” said Maryn Olson, the acting coordinator of the Postville Response Coalition, a group of religious organizations, news media and government agencies helping to provide food, shelter and money to hard-pressed families. “I’ve seen dozens of people every day coming for help. People need money to do their laundry. People need $5 to put gas in their car to take someone to the doctor. People need rent money, money for their heat, their lights.”

Each Wednesday, 150 people line up at the local food pantry. Local churches are playing a pivotal role in feeding and sheltering more than 30 Hispanic women arrested at the plant and awaiting deportation — for some it has been slowed by their having children born in America. The churches are also helping some 20 Hispanic workers who were arrested, given G.P.S. ankle bracelets and ordered by prosecutors to stay in the area, so they can testify against Agriprocessors and its managers.

The plant’s former chief executive, Sholom Rubashkin, is in jail, awaiting a trial on felony charges of bank fraud, harboring illegal immigrants for profit and abetting document fraud and identity theft.

Referring to the plant’s long-time practice of hiring illegal immigrants before the raids last May, the Rev. Paul Ouderkirk of St. Bridget’s Catholic Church, said, “The sword of Damocles was hanging over the Rubashkins and it fell, and when it hit them, it hit the city.”

Like many other residents, Father Ouderkirk said he remained unsure whether to be optimistic or pessimistic about the potential sale of the plant.

“I’d say Hanukkah and Christmas are to be very sad in town,” he said. “A lot of people are unemployed, including a lot of Jewish families. It’s a major catastrophe, what’s happened here.”

Lubavitch Agriprocessors also have a plant in Nebraska…..Abusing the Indians at Local Pride?

June 23, 2005…10:52 am

Rubashkin Set To Open New Nebraska Slaughterhouse In Cooperation With Oglala Sioux And Pine Ridge Indian Reservation – USDA Must Approve But Is Expected To Do So Tomorrow – USDA Still Refusing To Release Results Of Last Year’s Investigation

GORDON, Neb. An Iowa meatpacking firm that has drawn fire from an animal-rights group has bought an old packing plant in Gordon, Neb., and plans to process kosher beef, lamb and bison products using workers from the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

If the plant passes a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection scheduled for Friday it could begin slaughtering cattle as soon as Monday, according to Tally Plume, executive director of the Oglala Oyate Woitancan Empowerment Zone, which encompasses the reservation.

The firm, Local Pride, announced this week that it would begin hiring and training local workers for the plant. The plant will employ 40 to 50 local residents, according to a Local Pride news release. Plume said many of the workers would be tribal members.

Local Pride is owned by the Rubashkin family, which also owns Agriprocessors, operators of a kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa.

Local Pride is working with the empowerment zone, created on the reservation in 1999, along with the Oglala Sioux Tribe Workforce in Action Program, the city of Gordon and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

Plume said the empowerment zone board expanded the zone, with USDA approval, to include 300 acres where the plant is located in Gordon, 36 miles southeast of Pine Ridge village.

Plume said the project considered Gordon for a site because the reservation lacks infrastructure to accommodate such a facility.

By being in the empowerment zone, Local Pride will be able to get a tax break for hiring tribal members, Plume said.

Reservation residents already have undergone training at the Postville plant.

“The potential for employment on this project could get pretty high,” Plume said. He said the Postsville plant began with about 50 employees and now has 700 workers.…

Meanwhile, Plume said he was not worried about allegations by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that Agriprocessors’ Postville plant uses cruel slaughtering methods that violate federal rules and strict kosher slaughtering standards.

PETA cited a video secretly made by an activist working undercover at the plant that showed workers using large knives to slice cows’ throats, as required for kosher preparation. The video also shows some of the cows then stumbling around for as long as three minutes. PETA says the animals were still alive and suffering.

Plant officials say the animals’ movements are involuntary and that massive blood loss to the brain brought on by slitting their throats renders them insensitive to pain within seconds.…

Plume said he is confident that the USDA probe will exonerate the Iowa plant. He said rabbis will be present at the Gordon plant as well.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency also filed a lawsuit accusing the Postville plant of exceeding limits set in wastewater discharge permits and failing to submit proper risk management plans or hazardous chemical inventory forms.

Plant spokesman Mike Thomas told the Courier that those matters have already been resolved with city and state officials.…

The USDA is expected to find against Rubashkin in the PETA-exposed throat-ripping scandal. But the USDA has been moving slowly and has refused to release the findings from last year’s investigation.

The Jewish community has a long history with Pine Ridge and the Oglala Sioux. Most of it good; some, not. The tribe’s positive exposure to Orthodox Judaism has largely been through left-leaning Orthodox Jews, including at least one rabbi, Moshe Lichtman, who practice a sort of social action, peace and justice style, Judaism and who work with non-Orthodox Jews.

But the Rubashkin family has a history of illegal and anti-social behavior – a history that includes bank fraud, misappropriating union dues paid by it’s employees, the documented recruitment of illegal alien workers, repeated EPA violations and the original Postville controversy.

One wonders whether the Oglala Sioux have trusted too much, based on their past experience with an atypical “bein adam lehaveyro“* Orthodoxy.

*In Judaism, the mitzvot (commandments) are broken down into two main parts, “bein adam lehaveryro,” between people, and “bein adam lemakom,” between people and G-d. Although both parts are meant to be equal, Orthodoxy tends to put more weight on commandments between people and G-d (for instance, prayer and keeping kosher) and to minimize the interpersonal and social justice commandments (for instance, not stealing union dues).

Filed under Kosher Business?, Kosher Meat Scandal