Elie Zirkind of What, Where, When, a Baltimore’s Jewish monthly family magazine, recently interviewed renowned constitutional law expert and lawyer Nathan Lewin. Lewin is one of the most prominent attorneys in the United States and has defended numerous famous clients, including Richard Nixon. Mr. Lewin, however, sees himself primarily as a defender of freedom of religion – or, more accurately, a defender of the rights of the Jewish community and individuals in it. A pioneer in Jewish public interest litigation, he has argued 27 cases in the Supreme Court, many of them on Jewish issues.
The following is an excerpt of his interview as he comments strongly on the ongoing case brought by the government against Reb Shalom Mordechai Rubashkin:
EZ: What was your role in defending Sholom Rubashkin, and why did you agree to take his case?
NL: I am not representing Rubashkin any longer. I represented Rubashkin and Agriprocessors in a number of legal matters prior to the matter that is presently pending. I represented him in connection with the allegations that PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, suddenly made after they put somebody in the plant undercover – in what I thought was illegal trespass onto the premises – and took pictures of what was going on in the meat plant.
I have to say, unfortunately, that I thought the Orthodox community, including the Orthodox Union, did not sufficiently come to Rubashkin’s defense at that point, and that, I think, is what began the whole slide down for Agriprocessors. I think Rubashkin and Agriprocessors did an amazing job for the Jewish community, and were entitled to the support of the Jewish community. They were disappointed that they did not receive that support. The Jewish Forward even began a series of articles, many of which were filled with misrepresentations, lies, and false statements against Rubashkin.
As far as the current matter, regarding Agriprocessors having employed illegal aliens, it was a well-known fact that Agriprocessors employed illegal aliens – as does every other meat packing plant in the United States. It’s a perfect job for illegal aliens, who don’t know English and are willing to work in Iowa, in freezing temperatures, dragging around dead animals. Most Americans are not ready to do that. I will say definitively, from everything I saw, that Rubashkin treated his employees better than the employees are treated at all the major slaughterhouses in the United States. They were paid better and treated more humanely.
The Forward, for its own reasons, decided they were going to write exposes about Rubashkin’s employees. These exposes were false and were based on statements made by selected employees who had grievances. The result was that many Jews accepted what The Forward said, and then came the immigration raid. Federal officials decided to raid the plant, even though they did not do so for any other slaughterhouse.
Now the interesting thing is that, under the Obama administration, immigration officials have now changed their policy and are no longer raiding plants. They have decided to simply to talk employers to get them to fire their illegal employees. This was something Rubashkin was always prepared to do. Was Rubashkin’s system perfect? No. Many of his employees provided false papers.
Rubashkin is now being represented by local lawyers from Iowa. I hope he wins his case; he is entitled to win it.