By David Saffer
An American Jew who served eight years of a 27-year sentence on multiple counts of fraud arrives in London for a series of inspirational talks this month (January 17).
Sholom Rubashkin, who works for the Aleph Institute, was sensationally pardoned by US President Donald Trump in December 2017.
He is set to give addresses in Stamford Hill and Golders Green during a five-day visit.
Lambasted in some media quarters, he has been lauded elsewhere for being harshly treated by the US judiciary.
Father of 10 children, he ran US’s largest kosher meat-processing company from his Iowa family headquarters, following a largescale raid, he was convicted of 86 counts of fraud and money laundering in 2009.
Prosecutors dismissed 72 immigration charges against him.
The Rubashkin case became an obsession of bipartisan leaders in the US political, legal and judicial establishment.
Under the Obama administration, more than 60 members of Congress from both sides of the
aisle called on Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the case for its excessive sentence and allegations of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct.
Every (living) former US Attorney General and two former Directors of the FBI, together with hundreds of others, were so outraged by the miscarriage of justice they advocated (pro bono and) publicly for this gross injustice to be redressed.
Nancy Pelosi, who became Speaker of the US House of Representatives earlier this week, wrote a powerful letter to Rubashkin’s attorney, Gary Apfel, advocating the release of Rubashkin.
Ultimately, on the last day of Chanukah 2017, with bipartisan support, President Trump commuted Rubashkin’s sentence and he was immediately released from prison, bringing a decade’s saga to a conclusion, saving him 19 years of prison.
Rubashkin’s eventual pardon had come about after intense lobbying.
“A bipartisan group of more than 100 former high-ranking and distinguished Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, prosecutors, judges, and legal scholars have expressed concerns about the evidentiary proceedings in Mr. Rubashkins case and the severity of his sentence,” noted a White House statement at the time.
Mr Apfel, a partner at national law firm Pepper Hamilton, came on as pro bono counsel for Rubashkin in 2013.
“History will remember Rubashkin as the American Dreyfus,” he said.
Harvard Law professor, Alan Dershowitz, one of America’s most prominent attorneys, joined the effort to correct the injustice in this case.
The Rubashkin case exposed the American Jewish community to some of the deep dark issues of the American criminal justice system. American Jews have since become active in advocating for criminal justice reform that affects the broader American society.
A group of Chassidim were behind the popular bipartisan First Step Act that passed with overwhelming support from both parties and was signed into law in December 2018.
Since his commutation, Rubashkin has travelled tirelessly across the United States, as well as Israel, Belgium, Austria, Italy and Ukraine, to speak and inspire thousands of people to strengthen their faith and trust in G-d even while enduring life’s challenges.
Rubashkin has shared with 584 groups what he learned in his eight years of prison about keeping his faith and his values.
Themes include “finding G-d in darkness” and “overcoming adversity with joy”.
Rubashkin has also volunteered hundreds of hours visiting with individuals in hospitals, many of whom with terminal illnesses, and many more people in their homes suffering from so many of life’s hardships.
This is the backdrop to the visit, and the community are encouraged to attend his highly anticipated talks.