Never Again


rabbi-lipschutz-shalom-rubashkin-smallBy Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Is it anti-Semitism? Everyone I meet who brings up the Rubashkin case has the same question. Was Sholom Mordechai targeted for prosecution because he is a Jew? Was the disproportionate sentence he received tied to his religion?

It is a fair question, with no fair answer. We see what was done to him. We see that he was prosecuted for crimes for which no one was ever charged in the history of the United States. We see that he received a sentence so blatantly exaggerated when compared with any sentence handed down to anyone previously convicted of similar crimes. We see the way the prosecutors set him up as one of the most evil men ever to walk the streets of Iowa. Yet, when it came down to it, they couldn’t prove any of their charges and had him sent away for actions totally unrelated to the onslaught of the federal government with its now infamous 2008 raid.

We are now in the period of the Three Weeks. This week we bentch Chodesh Av. This time of year commemorates the calamities the Jewish people have faced going back to the years we spent in the desert before we entered Eretz Yisroel. When we accepted the Torah at Har Sinai, “sinah yordah le’olam,” an irrational hatred took hold of the nations of the world. They hate us without rhyme or reason. There is no rational explanation for it. That’s just the way it is.

Ever since we were thrown out of our land, we have suffered at the hands of oppressors. Wherever we have been in the Diaspora, our hosts have been repelled by us. They said we were too clean or too dirty, too rich or too poor, too good in business, thiefs, crooks, and parasites. We were taxed into poverty, forced to live in ghettos, and forced to wear yellow stars, not only in Germany.

They forced us to convert to Christianity or be burned at the stake. People who converted were burned anyway, because their conversion wasn’t genuine. We poisoned the drinking water, they said. We killed little babies for the Seder, they claimed with all seriousness. We were kicked out of country after country, and in those countries where we were allowed to remain, we were rounded up and burned alive. This happened in countries such as England. Yes, England. In France they burned the Talmud. In Italy too.

Our lives were made miserable. Our children were taken into the Czar’s army at young ages and never heard from again. We were forced to build coliseums and then sent into them to fight starved lions until they ate us for dinner. We were sold into slavery and sent around the world in chains.

We were persecuted by every means that civilized man could dream of, and the collective memory of the Jewish people has not forgotten it. Many Jews have adopted the slogan “Never Again.” They think that by saying it, they can ensure that never again will we be singled out for murder, pillage, torture, or inhumane treatment. But we know that is not true.

We look around the world and see Iran arming itself with nuclear weaponry and we watch a world sitting by, barely lifting a finger. Can we truly say, “Never Again”?

We see the State of Israel held to a double standard by all nations of the world. Can we say, “Never Again”?

We see Jews being targeted for derision again all across Europe. Can we say, “Never Again”?

We see an American president publicly humiliate the Israeli prime minister. Can we really say that America will always be there for Israel and ensure that never again will the Jewish people be liquidated?

We see what happens when Israel attempts to enforce a blockade that’s intended to hamper the ability of their terrorist enemies to rearm themselves. We see a world gone mad in hypocritical condemnation of a besieged country as it tries to defend itself. Can we really say, “Never Again”?

Recently, a Jewish group met with Vice President Joe Biden. In an unguarded, off-the-record moment, he said to them, “You people have a saying of ‘Never Again.’ Well, let me tell you that it could happen again in an instant.”

And he ought to know.

We also ought to know, and we do. We know that our existence here is tenuous. We are thankful for the freedoms granted us by the great country in which we reside. We are as patriotic as our neighbors and recognize how lucky we are to live at this time in this place. But we know our history and we are always on edge, constantly on the lookout for signs of “it” rearing its ugly head. We are always on the defensive and doing our best to protect ourselves. We do what we can in the form of hishtadlus to make sure that it won’t happen again and that it won’t happen here.

And then we see a Jew’s business targeted in a way in which no other business was ever targeted. We see that business blasted in the media as a hotbed of all forms of evil. We see that Jew painted as an individual who has taken advantage of the poor and the weak. We see that Jew locked in jail awaiting trial, denied release on bail because he is a Jew who can run off to Israel.

When we see all this, what do we expect people to think?

We have been chased from country to country and have been victimized by courts of justice around the world for millennia. We are a nation whose members have been jailed on libelous charges since time immemorial. When we see one of our own found guilty by a biased judge who prevented a jury from hearing the truth, and then we watch in horror as that man receives a life sentence in jail, what do people expect us to think?

When the trial outcome and the sentencing don’t stand the test of common sense, what are people supposed to think? When they see five people submit affidavits that they were threatened with forfeiture by the government if they would purchase the man’s business and hire any of his relatives, and then they see in a sentencing memorandum that the judge ignored their testimony in favor of the word of a government-hired lawyer who testified that it never happened, what do you expect people to think?

When people see that this fine gentleman was found guilty of defrauding a bank of $26 million, they wonder how the government arrived at that number. They wonder why the $21 million of interest he paid on that loan doesn’t count towards the $26 million he is accused of causing the bank to lose.

Above all, people wonder why the man is sitting in jail for causing the bank a loss which was caused by nothing less than the government’s unprecedented actions which forced the company into bankruptcy, something Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin could never have anticipated. Whatever actions he did or didn’t do had nothing to do with the business’s ultimate bankruptcy.

Can anyone blame our people, who have been persecuted forever and finally planted roots in this wonderful country thinking that it would be different here, for wondering in bewilderment and exasperation when they see these things taking place?

This country’s government is based on the principle of being of the people, by the people, for the people – in the words of President Abraham Lincoln – not against the people due to the power and influence of entrenched interests, unions, radical vegetarians, and out-of-control prosecutors. People have a sense of fear that the politicians are ruining the country and want to stop them before they can do more damage to the social fiber of the United States.

People are astonished that a 13-story mosque is being welcomed at the site where 3,000 people died at the hands of Islamic murderers. The edifice will cost $100 million and people wonder who will be paying for it. Politicians welcome the building in a bizarre, gullible and naïve commemoration of diversity, and in the name of tolerance and brotherhood. Following that line of reasoning, Nazis should be permitted to construct a memorial at Auschwitz.

People feel that respect for the values which make this country great is under attack and they worry whether it can happen here.

Am Yisroel is rallying to the side of Sholom Mordechai ben Rivkah and doing all they can to ensure that he is given a fair chance at appealing the awful verdict he received. The achdus generated in the wake of his trial is unprecedented in recent years and we pray that it will help bring the final redemption closer.

Am Yisroel is comprised of maaminim bnei maaminim, who know that all that transpires in the world is for a higher purpose and that nothing is haphazard. However, as a people who have suffered so much, we pine for the arrival of Moshiach.

We are currently marking days of aveilus for the churbanos and tragedies our nation has endured, and we pray that they won’t ever happen again. We have had enough pain and enough tzaros. We have been victimized by enough courts and plead for Eliyahu Hanovi to come and tell us that the geulah is here.

Is it anti-Semitism? Who knows? We don’t know why things happen. We only know what happened and we know that there is something wrong in Iowa. We see a lone Jew in Cedar Rapids treated the way Israel is treated at the United Nations, and we shudder.

And we continue to wonder. Can it happen here? Is it anti-Semitism? Is the ancient scourge of humanity rearing its ugly head again? Is the ancient curse taking root here? Can it happen again?

We lift up our eyes in prayer and we pray, “Hashem, please. Never Again.”

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  1. I heard on the radio that this week, at a July 4th parade in Iowa, there was a group of horses which went wild from the parade, and stampeded people. I don’t remember the exact outcome but people were hurt and I think at least one person was killed.
    I was wondering if anyone besides myself made the connection, that a meshunadik thing in Iowa- Hashem was sending them a message, with animals, no less.

  2. Question: If a Non-Yid, father of nine, would be sentenced by an aggressive judge, to an unfair long prison term, Would we Klal Yisroel also be making all these Asifos and protests against that un-justice.

    But yet we are constantly calculating, who and who, of the Non-Yidden sacrificed their life during WWII, to try to save Jews.

  3. Dear R. Lipschutz,

    Didnt Mr. Lewin, SMR’s own attorney just say clearly otherwise?

    “Defense lawyers dismissed any notion that anti-Semitism underpinned the case. “Nobody responsible has made that allegation,” Lewin said.

  4. its not anti-semetism. the judge is known for giving harsh sentences. RUBASHKIN WAS NOT THE VICTIM OF ANTI-SEMETISM!

  5. Ari,

    What is the point of your first comment? It has no bearing on the facts on hand. I am sure if you asked a yid if such a sentence were harsh, he would concur. I am sure that he people seeking such concurence would be those seeking justice becaus ethey were a friend or a relative of the individual. Well guess what, most of us feel a friend/familial connection with other yiddin and can specifically identify with R Sholom Mordechai. It is therefor fully understandable why we make asifos for him even when we may not take the lead in a case were it was not someone from our group.

    The question you ask is a shallow diversionary attempt without any merit.

  6. To Ari
    Good Point

    Halevei, that we should not have this “group” mantality, and we should start caring and worrying, for the well-being of all HKB”H’s children, young and old.

    Than we could truly ask Hashem for “Never-Again”.

  7. The rational explanation of the hate is jealousy, because the Jews are a chosen ones. Now this is not scientific therefore no logical rationality could be applied.

  8. President Barack (Husaine) Obama is what we need for moshiach to come. You see before Moshiach comes the whole entire world is going to be against Israel & the jews. Now, you can’t just have President Bush & the United States go against Israel, you need a Muslim to rule America & THEN go against Israel. The way Judaism works is that if your mother is jewish then you are jewish. Muslims are just the opposite, if your father is Muslim then you are a Muslim & that is what Barack Obama is. (a Muslim from his fathers side) Now with America under Muslim/Bnei Yishmael rulership Moshiach can come.

  9. I am a bit confused by the article. On the one hand R’ Lipschutz says that we live in a great country that has always treated us fairly, yet on the other hand there is clear anti-Semitism at play here and SMR was no to blame for that which he was convicted of. It can’t work both ways. This week another member of our community was sentenced to 85 years and I have yet to see anyone standing up for this other Jew. Why is there a double standard in our community with regards to sentencing. If SMR was the victim of anti Semitism and was treated the way he was because of a rogue anti Semitic judge than surely this other man was as well yet there is silence from our community for this other Jew. What’s going on?

  10. This is a case of anti semitisim and the judge being called harsh from previous cases too. Well that doesnt change the situation

  11. Donny. Mr Lewin said what he said because he wrote in a newspaper published in Mid America & you never know what can boomerang.
    Having said that maybe R’ Pinchas’s piece should not have posted ??? ?????

  12. That makes no sense. Some young Jews died in the US this week. What was the message there? Or is there only messages when there are stampeding horses involved?

  13. simcha,

    Adaraba, if you feel this person that you know was unjustly sentenced, why don’t you speak up and let all of know about it and we can add it to SMR case and it will be stronger reaction to the unjust system! The fact that other people were unjustly sentenced and no one did anything doesn’t mean we have to be quite now too. Maybe if we rally against the unjust in SMR case, other files will be opened and more people will benefit!

  14. # 14. I did not hear of another Jew being sentenced for such a long term, so I hav no idea what that is all about, but I certainly thank R’Pinny for this beautiful article. And in my opinion, if it is not anti-semitism, then what is this?? Certainly not justice!!

  15. If it walks like a duck talks like a…

    Reb Pinchus is not saying it is, but rather what it looks like.

    Not every Jew is the victim of Antisemitism & There many Non-Jews who are not Antisemitic.

    However there ARE non Jews who hate Jews for no rational reason, & there are Jewish victims of such hate.

    Was this the case here?

    You be the Judge.

  16. Don’t know who you are, but I wouldn’t want to part of your family. You think to think it unethical to CORRECTLY stick up for ones own.

    By the way it just so happens to be, that the Jewish people in general care way more about other people/nations than others…

  17. “No responsible person has said it WAS Antisemitism”, which is exactly why Rabbi Pinny didn’t.

    There were many factors in this case which lead to the Judges verdict.

    The point made in this article is that if you start at the beginning… And compare it to the end… Then it “looks like a duck”.

  18. Phenominal article! May we continue to have achdus among ALL THE YIDDEN EVERYWHERE then we surely will see Moshiach!!!!!

  19. Here ya go:

    – A man with a history of fraud has been sentenced to 85 years in prison for his latest conviction — a real estate fraud that prosecutors say swindled 250 people out of $23 million.

    [The defendant] received the sentence Tuesday from federal Judge Kimba Wood in Manhattan.

    The 55-year-old was convicted during a three-week trial in a fraud that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said “stole millions of dollars from hundreds of investors through trickery and deceit.”

    He was the former managing partner of Cobalt Capital Funding LLC. He and two others founded the company in late 2003 to carry out the South Beach, Fla.,-based real estate scam.

    He pleaded guilty in another case in 2001 to securities fraud, wire fraud and bribery.

  20. We should teach America a lesson and all pick ourselves up and leave. That’ll show em all. Eretz Yisroel? No, the Gov’t hates us Chareidim. London? No, too many Muslims. Canada? No, way too many anti-semites. France? Nope. Sweden? Nah, trouble with Kashrus. Oh yes, terrible Anti-Semitism here in America.

  21. To #24
    In the case you bring it seems the mand admitted hi guilt and was sentances accordingly as anyother man would be.
    Read the article from Rabbi Pinny Lipshutz the point is SMR was not treated as anyone else would be.
    He should not have been found guilty,

  22. B”H, I do not know of another Jew sentenced to prison. I don’t think there is any contradiction to what Nat Lewin said and what Rabbi Lipschutz wrote (which as always was beautifully written). Up until this point, no responsible adult working for SMR would pull the anti-Semitism card. Unfortunately, many of us yell anti-Semite in the heat wave!!
    Once Sholom Mordechai received the most unjust, outrageous, never precedented, sentence, Reb Pinny probably feels there’s nothing to lose now, and very articulately, he doesn’t write the words clearly.

  23. Rabbi Lipshutz, you quoted the fact that from Har Sinai, “sinah yordah le’olam”.

    You could have even quoted from a Midrash on our very parsha:
    ??? ???? ?’ ????? ???”? ??? ???? ??? ????? ???? ??? ???? ?’ ????? ??? ????? ???? ??? ??? ???? ??? ???? ???? ????? ?? ????? ???? ??? ??? ???? ??????? ?? ????? ????? ?? ????? ????? ?????? ?? ????? ???? ?? ??? ?????? ????? ????? ?????? ?????? ??? ????? ???? ????? ???? ??? ???? ????? ??? ??? ???? ?’ ?????