By COLlive reporter
Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, whose fight for justice has united Jews worldwide, has given his first interview to a newspaper since being sentenced to 27 years in prison.
45 members of Congress and 6 former Attorneys General have questioned the handling of the trial of the former manager of a kosher meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa.
In an article published in the expended Sukkos edition of the Mishpacha Magazine, the father of 10 children is quoted saying, “my body isn’t in the right place now, but my soul is not constrained by it.”
Yisroel Besser, Mishpacha’s contributing editor, has paid 3 visits to the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, NY, where Rubashkin is serving. Scheduled date of release: March 6, 2033.
“I felt connected to Reb Sholom Mordechai from the minute I met him that clear summer day four years ago,” Besser says about his initial and previous interview conducted in Rubashkin’s home in Postville.
Besser told COLlive.com he has since felt drawn to Rubashkin, the family and the cause. He attributed his own affinity to Rubashkin to R’ Pinny Lipschutz, editor of the Lakewood-based Yated Neeman weekly who become a close friend and staunch advocate for Rubashkin.
Besser first visit to Otisville was along with Lipschutz, and he recalls listening “in amazement” as the 2 friends — one a talmid of Brisk and the other, a Lubavitcher chossid– speaking “with an understanding of brothers, a bond formed through fire and water- and steel.”
In the second and third visit to the prison, the Canadian-based Besser was accompanied by his father, Rabbi Shlomo Besser, Rabbi of the B’nei Israel shtiebel on Manhattan’s 84th Street.
“Over 1,400 days in prison, a diet of matzos and tuna fish and unimaginable loneliness and he looks great,” Besser wrote in the article titled “Free Spirit.”
“His eyes haven’t lost their gleam — if anything, they’re brighter than ever — and he looks vibrant and hearty. The insipid brown of his uniform does nothing to dim his luster,” he wrote.
Besser wondered, “how could it be that his eyes are brighter than ever, his emunah stronger than a rock?” The answer: When there’s nothing outside, Rubashkin said, you have to reach deep inward. – and discover tools most people are fortunate not to have to use.
Speaking to COLlive.com, Besser pointed out a deeper significance of the Rubashkin saga.
“It is no secret that, to many in the wider Jewish community, particularly in the yeshiva community, Lubavitch is looked at somewhat warily,” he says. “Your typical yeshiva bochur knows little about Chabad, just that they drive Mitzvah Tanks or that they wear strange yarmulkas. The yeshiva world isn’t really exposed to the depth and glory of chassidus, not even through stories.”
“And then suddenly, a chassidishe maaseh is happening before their eyes, in 2013. The protagonist isn’t a Rebbe. Rather, a relatively ordinary Jew, a butcher. And yet, he is teaching the world about real emunah, chizuk, mesiras nefesh, simcha… all the ideals of chassidus. And the world is taking notice.”
Besser, author of “Warmed By Their Fire – Intimate Glimpses of Inspiring Leaders,” called Rubashkin “a modern day hero,” and that “when the seudas hoda’a happens, they will come from Lakewood and from Crown Heights and meet in the middle…”
The Sukkos issue of Mishpacha is now available in Jewish stores or by subscription at mishpacha.com