The Forward Backs Off

… and should be commended for it.

Readers may recall that several months ago, I lampooned The Forward for categorizing support for Sholom Rubashkin as having “exposed the vastly different worldviews that can exist inside and outside the ultra-Orthodox community” — thus categorizing Janet Reno, five other US Attorneys General, and many other non-Jewish judges and attorneys as Charedi. Now the same writer, Gal Beckerman, has taken an entirely new course, writing that “Even the ACLU Says Judge’s Action Argues for New Rubashkin Trial.”

The Forward could have ignored the story, or renewed its earlier attempt to characterize all the supporters of Rubashkin’s legal defense as either “ultra-Orthodox” Jews incapable of believing that one of their own could break the law, as Samuel Heilman put it in the earlier article (in fact, like Pollard’s supporters, all acknowledge that he did something wrong, yet question the disproportionate severity of the sentence), or those “convinced” to support him. Instead, this article focuses entirely upon non-Orthodox support for Rubashkin’s defense, with special emphasis upon the ACLU and another organization otherwise critical of both Rubashkin and Agriprocessors.

The ACLU has never been known as an ally of the Orthodox community; it is far more often found on the opposite side of a legal proceeding. The few exceptions have most often supported individual Jews whose workplace, usually the government, was attempting to impede their own observance.

Yet the ACLU of Iowa, the Washington Legal Foundation and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers all just filed amicus curiae briefs in support of the Rubashkin team’s request for a new trial. All of them criticized Judge Reade for going beyond simple logistical planning into active collaboration with prosecutors as early as 10 months before the Agriprocessors raid, in which she even discussed the prosecution strategy and intended plea offers for the workers who would be arrested.

“Judges should not be so closely involved with the prosecution,” said Ronald Rotunda, a professor of jurisprudence at Chapman University who wrote the brief for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “A natural reading of the e-mails gives the unfortunate conclusion that the judge, having been invested in this elaborate raid, felt she had to have something to show for it.”

The article closes with another supportive quote — from Jane Ramsey, executive director of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, identified as another “frequent critic” of Agriprocessors. One could argue, if anything, that this article gives insufficient space to those who felt the sentence was warranted and the judge’s actions appropriate. Taken together, they do offer a more balanced picture, and The Forward and Gal Beckerman should be commended for that.

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8 Responses

  1. dr. bill says:

    I doubt Gal Beckerman sees this as backing off; the issues are just multi-faceted. i as others continue to be appalled by use of terms like “his mistakes” and the use of the term pidyon shivuim. Both indicate the gulf between the impressions of his supporters and some others. That said, he got a rather harsh sentence. Did his behavior even during the trial contribute – probably; did the judge exhibit at least the appearance of bias – certainly. In any systems of laws, you should be punished based on your crimes versus your likability or demeanor.

  2. Reb Yid says:

    Since you bring up Pollard:

    Interesting that Jews across the denominational spectrum are finally on board here.

    But in the general political spectrum, only Congressional Democrats are pushing the Pollard release. The only Republicans who have signed on to the current campaign are those who are no longer in office, like George Shultz.

    For many on the list who have embraced Republicans for their “hard nosed” politics, where is the outcry? Perhaps it would be wise to take a closer, critical look at the worldview of those that you embrace uncritically. Surely if the roles were reversed and only Republicans were on board (no Democrats), we’d be hearing plenty about this from many bloggers and commenters on this board.

  3. Bob Miller says:

    What exactly did the Democrats accomplish for Pollard when they were in power?

  4. Reb Yid says:


    Until recently, neither party has done much of anything over the past several decades. Both have been in control of various branches during that stretch; there’s plenty of blame to go around.

    But, as they say, enough is enough. This has stretched on for far too long and finally, finally, there is growing political will–at least on one side–to make this happen.

    So it’s worth asking: why is not a single Republican currently holding a national political office willing to support Pollard’s release?

  5. Ori says:

    To continue Bob Miller’s point, the Democrats are currently in power as far as the Pollard issue is concerned. Pollard needs a presidential pardon, and the president, last time I checked, was a Democrat.

  6. Reb Yid says:

    So far, 3 Republicans (Reagan, Bush I and Bush II) and 1 Democrat (Clinton) have failed to pardon him. Let’s reserve judgment on Obama until, like his predecessors, he nears the conclusion of his term, where pardons are usually issued.

  7. BTG says:

    Perhaps we should have been Dan L’Kaf Zechus towards the Forward? 😉

  8. Joe Hill says:

    Reagan and Bush I could not realistically have pardoned him under any circumstances, given how long he served when they still served in Office. Clinton was the first President that realistically could have pardoned him — and yet refused to, even while pardoning a bunch of cronies of his.

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