As the state trial on child-labor violations prepared to open this week in Waterloo, Iowa, Sholom Mordechai entered the courtroom dressed in a suit, flashing a warm smile toward his family and friends. His bearing radiated faith and hope.
It was impossible to detect any signs of the ordeal he had endured the week before in Black Hawk County prison. Sholom Mordechai has not spoken out about the incident. But a blistering letter to Sheriff Thompson by Rabbi Avrohom Blesofsky of Iowa City, tells the story.
The letter calls on Thompson to apologize to Sholom Mordechai for trampling on his religious and constitutional rights during a temporary incarceration there last week.
Federal marshals had moved Sholom Mordechai to the Black Hawk County prison to have him closer to the Waterloo courthouse where his state trial is taking place. Although he had been assured that kosher food would be provided and accommodations would be made for his religious needs, upon his arrival he found just the opposite.
This past week, the achdus of Klal Yisroel was on clear display as numerous gatherings were held at various locations across the United States, with Yidden joining together to say Tehillim and hear divrei hisorerus as zechuyos for Reb Sholom Mordechai ben Rivkah Rubashkin, whose sentencing hearings were held at the end of last week in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Jews of all stripes and affiliations - most who do not know Reb Sholom Mordechai at all - gathered for the sole purpose of beseeching Hakadosh Boruch Hu to grant this tremendous baal chessed and yirei Shomayim a personal geulah v’yeshuah following a travesty of justice and the most trying period of his life, during which he has been incarcerated and forced to spend his days behind bars unjustly.
The Never-Ending Persecution of Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin
In the latest chapter of a bitter, never-ending persecution, Sholom Mordechai was brought to court in Waterloo, Iowa, Tuesday for the preliminary proceedings in a state trial on child-labor charges, not having eaten for 24 hours.
Arriving at the jail in Black Hawk County, where he was supposed to be incarcerated for the duration of 3-week trial, he was forced through a repetition of what he endured immediately at the close of his November-December trial in North Dakota. No provisions had been made for kosher food; his yarmulka, tzitzis were removed for being outside “regulations,” and his talis, tefillin and seforim were confiscated.
In the final days before Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin’s sentencing, public outcry against the government’s recommendation of life imprisonment, capped by sharp criticism from distinguished legal experts, has rattled the composure of Iowa prosecutors in the case.
An ABC News report cited a flood of letters, phone calls and emails to the Justice Department and to Judge Linda Reade, as well as numerous op-ed articles slamming prosecutors for an extremist position denounced as “grotesque,” “deeply flawed,” “absurd” and “draconian.”
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Northern Iowa told ABC News his office is concerned about the unexpected campaign in defense of Sholom Mordechai. “We’re seeing thousands of emails, we’ve seen recent letters by a former congressman and others,” he said, calling the protests “an orchestrated effort to spread misinformation and raise people’s concerns falsely.”
As Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin sits in an Iowa jail awaiting a possible life sentence, a strong grassroots effort has ramped up protests against what is now commonly recognized as an excessively harsh prosecution bordering on fanaticism.
Articles and editorials in both Jewish and secular publications have questioned the government’s calling for the most severe punishment imaginable, for a non-violent offense by a person with no prior criminal history.
A petition carrying over 28,000 signatures representing a cross-section of concerned citizens, as well as many people from other countries, have urged Iowa U.S. Attorney Stephanie Rose to ensure fairness and justice for Sholom Mordechai.
Most recently, a kol korei on behalf of Sholom Mordechai signed by gedolim from all sects of Klal Yisroel exhorted the Jewish community to be proactive, to protest the disproportionate severity meted out to Sholom Mordechai and to demand a fair sentence.
With the wider Jewish community finally waking up to the travesty of justice now playing out in the final stages, the comments of historian Edwin Black, in an op-ed regarding the Rubashkin case published on The Cutting Edge site, are sobering.
“By some appearances, it seems as though many in the Jewish community have maintained a stance either of silence or stern condemnation. That very quiet abandonment may have tacitly green-lighted prosecutors that co-religionists would not speak up in face of excessive action,” Black mused.