Sholom Rubashkin, CEO of kosher meat provider Agriprocessors was arrested on October 30 and charged with violations of immigration and child labor laws. In 2004, Agriprocessors was also the subject of a shocking undercover video made by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, in which animals were slaughtered in cruel (and according to many authorities, non-kosher) methods.
And Bernie Madoff needs no introduction.
…in sharp contrast to what is developing in the kosher meat industry, there has been no move afoot to establish something akin to “Hechsher Tzedek,” a rabbinic certificate of ethical excellence, for financial institutions. After all, how is it that when so many of the people going to jail on Wall Street turn out to be Jewish, the Modern Orthodox and Conservative movements have not immediately launched a campaign, as they are doing with kosher meat, to evaluate firms that invest Jewish money to ensure that they conform to the highest ethical norms in terms of treatment of employees and overcompensation of dead-beat executives?
Boteach’s intent was to contrast the attitudes of liberal Jews (for Boteach, Modern Orthodox is liberal) toward a corrupt kosher butcher with those toward a corrupt financier, but I’m more interested in the similarities than the differences.
There are anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews. We all know what they are. One is that there are a disproportionate number of unethical Jews in business and finance. Is it true? Probably not, but it’s impossible to tell. There are plenty of non-Jewish corporate criminals to go around. Let’s not forget Enron’s Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling (although their Jewish CFO, Andy Fastow, went to jail too), WorldCom’s Bernie Ebbers, Tyco’s L. Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Swartz, or Adelphia’s John and Timothy Rigas.
Unfortunately, Jews are noticeable (and if people don’t notice, the anti-Semites help them notice). One Madoff or Rubashkin cancels a thousand honest and decent people.
I often hear that nothing that Jews do can possibly affect what antisemites say about them, and this is true. But what Jews do can affect what normal people think. Madoff and Rubashkin each violated numerous commandments — the Torah explicitly commands that employees must be treated justly, cruelty to animals is forbidden, and of course the injunction לא תגנב [You shall not steal] is found in the Ten Commandments. Madoff’s crime is especially heinous because so many charities suffered at his hands, but both of them blackened the name of the Jewish People.
There is no central authority in Judaism, so it’s not possible to cut someone off from his people or put him to death by stoning, two biblical punishments that might be applied to [alleged, but I believe them to be guilty] criminals like these. To be fair, Rubashkin seems to have some supporters, although like Boteach they mostly talk about his treatment — especially a particularly stupid statement by prosecutors — and not his actions.
It is disappointing that so few Orthodox authorities have disputed the technical kashrut of Agriprocessors’ meat (no, I’m not a rabbi, but I challenge anyone to watch the video and explain how what appears there is kosher slaughter). Although Rubashkin was arrested for other crimes, like Madoff, Agriprocessors defrauded Jews — those who thought they were buying kosher meat.
Madoff doesn’t seem to have any supporters, possibly because he stole from everyone. His own sons contacted the FBI after Madoff admitted the fraud to them.
Bradley Burston said that Madoff was a Christmas present to anti-Semites. I suppose the timing of Rubashkin’s arrest would make him a Halloween present.
Sholom Rubashkin does the ‘perp walk’