(Note: I have tried to represent here my own memories as accurately as possible. If you know the facts to be otherwise you may very well be correct.)
To whom it may concern:
This Tes Tamuz, I was extremely moved by the achdus and chessed of so many yidden at the rally in Boro Park for Sholom Mordechai. Observing so many yidden, Chassidim of all different krizen, litvisher, mizrachi ect., all showing up in the thousands with genuine concern for a yid they don’t even know, really touched my heart. However the reason that I was there is because I do know Rabbi Rubashkin. My family lives 3 hours away in S. Paul, the sister city of Postville. We in fact visit quite often and are close friends of the Rubashkin’s. My older brothers used to go down to help complete the minyan on shobbos in Piostville’s early years. Nearly every simchas-torah and shavuos of my childhood was spent there. Later, I learnt in their yeshiva for a year.
In my opinion, from my experiences there, I can say that there is no nicer town or more beautiful community than that of Postville Iowa. It is a nice quiet shtetle with no billboards or slums or shmutz, vechulu, and at the same time, home to a very vibrant, strong, close knit kihilla. It’s a community of such varimkiet, such erlichkeit and such chassidishkeit; if you would go there you would feel that it’s geshmak to be a yid. Talmidai chachomim, mashpiim, melamdim, shuchtim, mashgichim, chassidishe balibatim with dynamic personalities, sit with pushiter tmimusdiger yidden and daven together in one minyan in the One Shul of Postville. I think every one should come and visit for even one shobbos and they will be astounded by the beauty and achdus to be found in Postville, a True American Shtetle It’s the best place to raise frume kinder in this modern world.
And all of this was directly built, cultivated and maintained by Reb Sholom Mordechai. I have seen first hand many times how he labored to nurture the positive avir of this community. I recall that on simchas-torah every year, even though generally there were more Lubavicher bochurim and youngeliet there on yontiv than from other Krizen, Reb Sholom Mordechai always made sure that there were always 1 or 2 hakofois of only heimishe nigunim. Whenever Rosh Chodesh was on Shabbos, he sent up one of the Poilisher Chassidim to be chazzan for Mussaf so that they wouldn’t lose out on their special Nussach Hatiffilah. He made a special Melave Malka for them in shul every week with fish platters and meat vechulu. Soon it came out that many people were going home for Melave Malka and there weren’t so many coming to shul. So Rabbi Rubashkin invited all the bochurim from the yeshiva to come, and to encourage us he set up a competition. He said that he would buy a ticket to NY for Yud Shvat (the yortziet of the frierdiker Rebbe in 1950 and Kabbalas HaNissius of the Rebbe in 1951) for the bochur who says the best Ba’al Shem Tov story at Melave Malka by that time. So of course we all started coming every week with stories prepared. By Yud Shvat most of us had forgotten that there was even a prize and we were all just coming to say the stories and enjoy the nigunim and of course the food. I remember that my roommate was listening to Avraham Fried’s “A gutte vuch” all week in order to learn it so that he could sing along with Rabbi Rubashkin at Melave Malka. However, 2 bochurim who never forgot to say a story even one week both wanted a ticket, so he bought them one each. For some reason, Melave Malka was not such a big thing in my house and I learnt almost all I know about Melave Malka from Sholom Mordechai, including all the Lubavitcher Melave Malkadike Nigunim. Everywhere I went after that, whenever I prave’ed Melave Malka, I have dedicated it to Sholom Mordechai saying “here’s what he taught me, now I will teach you.”
Rabbi Rubashkin was very close to us bochurim and he used to always come learn with us in zal when he had the chance. Every Shabbos he would invite us to his house for the seuda with a big smile. I came many times. There was always the best food and lots of guests. One week I noticed that after the seuda he sat down with a sefer. When I looked to see what it was I saw that it was a sefer tehillim. I figured he was just catching up on the yoim tehilim(al pi takanas haRebbe Rayat”z). But I observed that he was still saying tehilim some hours later. Over a few weeks I realized that Rabbi Rubashkin says the whole tehilim every shobbos. (Recently someone told me that he says the whole tehilim every day and that he took this on for his son Moishe. I have not yet confirmed this.)Once when I was a little kid, my family was walking back to his house with his family for seudas yom-tov. We were discussing how life would be like when moshiach comes. I innocently asked, “But if the shor habar will be so big, who will be able be able to process it all??” Sholom Mordechai laughed and said, “Don’t worry; Agri will be able to process the whole thing!”
I have always known Rabbi Rubashkin to be a Ba’al Chessed in every way. I am just a bochur and have no idea the full enormity of what he did for people. I can only say what I remember. I recall overhearing him tell my father years ago that yeshivois charge way too much tuition and that one day he will open a yeshiva in Postville that he will sponsor so that parents will only pay minimum. And that’s where Postville’s yeshiva came from. I also once heard him explaining to someone the following: Some of the farmers that raise cattle have a practice that when a cow has a baby, the leave the calf with the mother for only one or two weeks. After that they separate them and raise the calf on formula. This is done because the mother will not have another calf if she if nursing one already. Other cattle farmers leave the calves with their mother for longer. They discovered at Agri that the cattle that that were separated from their mothers early had a much higher percentage that were not Glatt because the trauma made them unhealthy. So Sholom Mordechai paid the cattle farmers extra to leave the calves with their mothers longer so that they would grow up healthier. Does such a person look to torture animals? I think not.
This Shavous I again went to Postville for Yontiv. After the Seuda by Heshy Rubashkin’s I told a story to all the young cousins about the misiras nefesh of Chassidim in Siberia to help encourage them. At one point I was talking about how the chossid’s wife sent him matzah and Sholom Mordechai’s 3 year old son excitedly exclaimed, “Oh! Just like when we went on Pesach Sheini to visit Tatty and passed him Matza through the bars!” I couldn’t continue. What can you say to that?
When I was in yeshiva Rabbi Rubashkin had a program called 20/20. The way it worked was that if a bochur came 20 minutes early (farshtait zich after mikva) to seder chassidus in the morning, and he stayed 20 minutes after seder at night for a whole week, he gets 20 dollars from Reb Sholom Mordechai at the end of the week. I myself got over $220 dollars from Sholom Mordechai over that year and I was only in shiur alef! So there I was sitting on Tes Tamuz in Boro Park relizing that this Ish Hachessed, Sholom Mordechai, now needs my money.
I emptied my wallet. Kipshotui. How could I not.
I was at the sentence hearing in Iowa. We watched from a screen in another room and therefore I could see Sholom Mordechai straight on. Just seeing this heiliker yid sitting in an orange jumpsuit shocked me so much I felt like crying right then. At the end of the hearing Sholom Mordechai was given a chance to speak. He finished of his words with the following, “For me, any amount [of yeas] is a life sentence. When a Jewish person passes away he says Shema Yisroel. So:‘Shema Yisroel, Hashem Elikainu, Hashem Echad.(biShaim Hamalchus)”
Can you imagine? I burst into tears. At that moment I made a Hachloto Toiva that was hard for me but I keep to it ad hayiom hazeh. The very idea that Sholom Mordechai is sitting jail right is so mind boggling, so hipech hasichel. Water would be naturally dry before this made any sense to me. Hashem should help that Sholom Mordechai Halevi Ben Rivka should have a Geula Shelaima immediately! There is no reason in the world that he should be going through this. We must daven and ask the Aibishter to send Moshiach already, as the pussuk says ‘bila hamaves lanetzach’ –all the klipois will be swept away and this alma dishikra will be a Dirah Loi Yisborach. And my we be zoiche to hear Reb Sholom Mordechai, and his father and brothers and sons singing on the steps of the Bais Hamikdash, Tiboneh Bihimeirah Uviyamainu Mamush!!