By Yehuda Ceitlin, Editor of COLlive
Sioux Falls, SD – The jury in the trial of Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, accused of financial crimes, has been educated in the difficulties of running a kosher meatpacking plant.
Rubashkin, 50, and a father of 10, faces a maximum 1,280-year prison sentence if convicted of all counts.
Rabbi Chaim Kohn, a witness for the defense, told the Sioux Falls, S.D. jurors they should not judge Rubashkin on the way he handled the business.
“People warned them (the Rubashkins) not to take on a company of this size,” said Kohn, Dayan of K’hal Adath Jeshurun, a Shul in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, referring to the risks of running such a large operation.
Until 2006, Rabbi Kohn, who works for the KAJ supervision, was the head Mashgiach at the Rubashkin-owned AgriProcessors in Postville, Iowa.
In his eloquent testimony, Kohn detailed the many challenges of operating a Jewish-run plant of such magnitude.
“For the first three years they were extremely concerned with cash flow, and in later years faced other challenges, such as hiring a gentile corporation for doing maintenance work and trucking on Shabbos,” he said.
Asked by an attorney whether he was referring to work on the plant, Kohn answered ironically, “I hope we are talking about the plant in this trial.”
Some of the 16 members of the jury chuckled.
The jury was also told that Rubashkin was responsible for the founding of Jewish communal life in the town, a requirement for employing observant Jews.
Rubashkin was credited with opening and funding a shul, 2 schools, a Mikvah and a grocery. “He was the point-man in the family for communal matters and was quite good at it,” Kohn said.
Outside the jury’s presence (which U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade dismissed citing irrelevance), Kohn recalled how People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) castigated Agri for what they claimed was the practice of ripping out live cows’ throats.
“PETA has an agenda and a prejudice against Kosher,” Kohn said. “Sholom traveled numerous time to New York to deal with it. It was an assault on Kashrus.”
While Kohn was later replaced in Agri by Nitra Rabbi Menachem Weissmandl of Monsey, N.Y., Kohn called Rubashkin “a fast learner and undoubtedly an honest person.”
Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Monday. The judge is expected to sum up the case on Tuesday.
Rubashkin Trial Coverage:
+ Rubashkin: I Made Mistakes
+ Lawyers Decline Elder Rubashkin
+ 200 Visited Rubashkin’s Trial
+ Justice in Middle America
+ ‘Please Attend Rubashkin Trial’
+ Hecht: Rubashkin will be Vindicated
+ Rubashkin Rejected Plea Deal
+ Busload Travels to South Dakota
+ Rubashkin Trial Starts Tuesday
+ Newspaper Ads Demand Justice
+ Error Halts Rubashkin Appeal
+ Rubashkin Daughter Pleads Help