November 24, 2008

Sadness in Postville is a Sad Day for Jewish Community and America

Here is a picture that I gathered of what life is like from people living in the Postville community these days: smiles are hard to come by as Postville’s Jewish community and even non-Jewish resident endure nightmarish conditions. The conversation, say residents, invariably turns to how much longer to hang on. A few have already packed their bags leaving their community behind for an uncertain future back East. There are the constant threats from the utility companies to cut off service. The once thriving Agriprocessors plant is a virtual ghost town as some schochtim cling to the rumors that a suitor or savior will return them to their former jobs. The look on people’s face tells the story. Shelves in the kosher store are virtually empty with shipments of food arriving to some from relatives in other parts of the country. There is talk of relief from some Jewish communities as well. The yeshiva continues to function, but the teachers have not been paid in weeks. How long can they continue before they prematurely end the school year?

When the discussion is not on their own plight, it quickly turns to the sad state of affairs for the Rubashkins, once the heroes, the providers, and the benefactors of the entire community. Now a federal magistrate judge won’t allow Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, who remains in a Dubuque jail on bank fraud charges, to return to his despondent family, who he loves so dearly. Eyewitnesses say that he is being treated like a hardened criminal and not like someone accused of a white collar crime. Some who own houses were amongst 500 homeowners who offered their house as collateral if Rubashkin fled the country, as the government convinced Judge Jon Scoles that he would. Prosecutors claimed in a hearing Wednesday that a travel bag packed with passports and $20,000 in cash and silver coins, was found in Rubashkin’s home. Rubashkin’s attorneys claimed that he was deeply connected to his family and the Postville community and posed no risk of flight. The once proud Rubashkin and his family desperately need assistance to cope with their mounting legal bills. A community effort to help is underway. Who would have believed?

The non- Jews in Postville also show worry on their faces. There is virtually no alternate industry in the community to help them support their families. The impact of what happened here is felt throughout the region, from local gas stations to cattle growers. It is a life full of sadness these days in Postville, but the rest of the Jewish community and indeed America has thrown this community to the dogs. How sad!