Why Is An Open Orthodox Rabbi Seeking More Punishment For Rubashkin?


By Rabbi Avraham Gordimer

We have all read about Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, who calls himself the “Social Justice Rav”. Yanklowitz, who was recently referred to by the president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, where Yanklowitz was ordained, as “an inspiration” (see “We are trying to create more Rav Shmuly Yanklowitzes “– here), is known to many as the rabbi who endorses gay marriagereveres Spinoza and prays that the Temple not be rebuilt, among other unOrthodox declarations.

Yanklowitz began his very public rabbinical activity as a founder of Uri L’Tzedek, which refers to itself as an Orthodox social justice organization. One of Uri L’Tzedek’s initial endeavors was the launching of the Tav HaYosher “ethical kosher” certification program. Tav HaYosher does not focus on the kosher status of establishments’ food; instead, it focuses on treatment of workers and the like. While this is a noble goal, it is hard to understand how Tav HaYosher’s staff, which has no trained or licensed auditors or inspectors, takes upon itself the role of arbiters for compliance with immensely technical and intricate statutes, which are normatively in the jurisdiction of the government, and which require expertise that the Tav Hayosher staff lacks.

Uri L’Tzedek’s most well-known activity was its month-long international boycott of Agriprocessors, run by Sholom Rubashkin, in the summer of 2008.

This boycott followed a federal raid on Agriprocessors’ Postville facility relating to allegations of various practices regarding illegal workers at the facility, including conspiracy to harbor illegal immigrants, identity theft and document fraud. Immediately following the raid, Rubashkin was accused of bank fraud and related monetary offenses.

Although Rubashkin’s trial for immigration offenses was dismissed without prejudice, and Rubashkin was acquitted of child labor law violations in Iowa state court – all in 2009 – Uri L’Tzedek was on the warpath, prejudging Rubashkin as guilty on immigration, child labor and other offenses well before the courts even heard the cases. Rubashkin was initially charged in October and November of 2008, but the Uri L’Tzedek boycott occurred in the summer of 2008, several months before the charges.


Rubashkin was convicted of bank fraud and related monetary crimes, for which he was sentenced to 27 years imprisonment, but he was not convicted for the charges which formed the basis for the Uri L’Tzedek boycott.

Many prominent jurists have argued that Rubashkin’s conviction for monetary crimes was the result of gross prosecutorial misconduct. Let us assume, perhaps quite wrongly, that Rubashkin’s conviction was fair and square.

Nonetheless, an overwhelming bipartisan call from innumerable members of Congress, attorneys general and law professors affirmed that the 27-year prison sentence was woefully excessive, for others who have committed similar offenses were sentenced to a small fraction of Rubashkin’s sentence, and killers, rapists and other violent criminals were quite often dealt sentences far lighter than that of Rubashkin.

Upon review of Rubashkin’s case, President Trump commuted Rubashkin’s sentence, citing the voices of the countless lawmakers and others whose expert opinions supported the commutation. The White House specified that the President’s action was not a pardon, and restitution requirements and supervised release are in place.

Rubashkin was sentenced to jail in June of 2010 and was released in December of 2017; despite the commutation, he had served far more time in prison than others who have been convicted for the same offenses.

It was thus shocking to read Shmuly Yanklowitz’ Dec. 22 Newsweek article entitled “A Step Backwards for the Ethical Prouction of Kosher Meat“, lamenting the commutation of Rubashkin’s sentence and in effect seeking for Rubashkin to remain imprisoned. Yanklowitz writes:

“In May of 2008, Agriprocessors, the largest kosher slaughterhouse in America, was raided by I.C.E., in what was the largest immigration raid in U.S. history at that time.

“It put a stain on the moral reputation of the kosher industry in America due to frequent citations for illegal practices including violating wage laws and child labor laws, the abuse of animals, food safety violations, and environmental laws.

On Wednesday, when word came that Mr. Sholom Rubashkin’s sentence was commuted, I was in shock…

“Why is a community that is completely loyal to the Torah prohibitions against eating non-kosher food not loyal to the Torah prohibitions against oppressing workers (Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:14-15)? It is a question I fear I will wrestle with for the rest of my life.“Today, the family, friends, and supporters of Mr. Rubashkin will be celebrating, since their ordeal has been a deeply intense, personal matter.

“The rest of us, however, should separate the personal dynamic here—the celebration of a man reunited with his family—from the larger ethical issues at play.

We should mourn that our kosher systems continue to be broken, that they are consumed with ritual detail but largely neglectful and unconcerned with the ethical dynamics…

“The sposkesman for Ultra-Orthodox rabbis in America said on a panel we both spoke on at Yeshiva University a decade ago that “no one cares if the poet stinks” (i.e. people want kosher meat that tastes good and is cheap, but don’t care about the ethical route it took to the plate).

“I spent the last decade trying to prove him wrong. On Wednesday, he was proven correct.”

Aside from the immense misdeed of attacking Rubashkin and the kosher meat industry in a non-Jewish publication – something that an “Open Orthodox” colleague of Yanklowitz similarly did the week prior by accusing the Orthodox community of engaging in widespread harassment against women – please see here (and also herehere and here, for a few of the countless examples of Open Orthodox clergy taking to the non-Jewish press to attack Jewish interests), and aside from the fact that Yanklowitz dishonestly portrayed Rubashkin as guilty of practices for which he was acquitted/not convicted, and aside from Yanklowitz having grossly misrepresented the words of haredi Rabbi Avi Shafran (“the spokesman for Ultra-Orthodox rabbis”, as Yanklowitz describes him), and aside from Yanklowitz broadly and unfairly smearing the kosher food industry and kosher consumers, I am incredibly dismayed by Yanklowitz’ lack of sympathy for a person who was sent to prison for a term of multiple times what it should have been.

One would expect that a social justice advocate who has lobbied for prison reform would be happy for a man who was released from a sentence of excessively unfair incareration.

But this is no surprise. For in 2013, again detailing the crimes of a Jewish man (whom he compared to a leper) in the pages of a very popular non-Jewish publication, Yanklowitz argued against all efforts to seek Jonathan Pollard’s release:

The Israeli government and the international Jewish community should not be spending its precious time, energy and resources rallying for Pollard’s release.”

Yanklowitz’ sense of social justice apparently applies when the people asking for help are not Jewish. When it comes to Jews, it is fine to advertise their crimes in non-Jewish media and argue against helping them, in the world of Yanklowitz.

I am in no way exonerating wrongdoing, but for a “social justice rav” to lobby in global non-Jewish publications against the interests of imprisoned Jews smacks of something very wrong.

There are countless brazen, violent criminals who are set free on parole, and there are non-kosher slaughterhouses which are infamous for practices of animal cruelty. Why does Yanklowitz ignore these and turn his attention to Jewish cases, which he highlights in non-Jewish media, seeking harsh and negative consequences for these Jewish cases?

May Hashem save us from such internal foes.

This article first appeared at Arutz Sheva and appears here with permission of the author.

The writer is Chairman of the Rabbinic Circle of the Coalition for Jewish Values,” a public policy institute reflecting traditional Jewish thought. He serves on the editorial board of Jewish Action magazine, is a staff writer for the Cross-Currents website, and is a frequent contributor to Israel National News and a host of other publications. He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, and works as an account executive at a large Jewish organization based in Manhattan.



  1. You went very easy on him. ..We need someone to say it from the gut, not afraid to call him out for what he really is! It’s time to let the non jewish world know exactly who and what he is…since they tend to latch on and form opinions of us based on articles, not on facts.
    Time to say…we’re not taking this anymore. Not quietly allowing a NON ENTITY to spew hate and garbage around.
    He and they are a nobody. Hateful bitter people with an agenda. And civil rights is NOT their agenda!

    • Scary. This yankeloewitz guy ( he’s no rabbi) is a classic case of “The (Leon) Trotskys do the damage, and the (Leibele) Berensteins suffer for it.”

  2. He is not an “internal foe.” Rav Elchonon famously wrote B’Sheim the Chofetz Chaim that such people are without a doubt MiZera Amalek.
    Please stop referring to the Amaleki as a Rabbi.

  3. “I am in no way exonerating wrongdoing, but for a ‘social justice rav’ to lobby in global non-Jewish publications against the interests of imprisoned Jews smacks of something very wrong.”
    Nailed it.

  4. Iyh mashiach will soon be here and there will be a special place in the “olam haemes” for this yankowitz and the others like him

  5. “Why Is An Open Orthodox Rabbi Seeking More Punishment For Rubashkin?”
    Answer: Because he is a bona fide Am HaAretz and a Sonei Yisroel. Simple as that.

  6. I second the Concept that open Orthodox clergy should be referred to as clergy men or women not as Rabbi’s. They are amoratzim without yiras shomayim guilty of misleading their sometimes innocent flock who will never know better. Rav Moshe ztl when referring to reform clergy spelled out “Rabbi” as a Hebrew word clearly having no relation the the title Rav. Matzav should follow suit and edit all articles about Avi Weiss and the students of his institutions as clergy not as “Rabbi”. Words are important and meaningful.

  7. He says he is a ger. Which beis din worth its salt would have converted someone so divorced from authentic Torah values? I strongly suspect he is a goy gamur.

    • Check it out on wikipedia. It references an article in NYT written by himself. His father is Jewish, but mother is not. He claims to have undergone Orthodox conversion. Next task is to find who actually converted him, and why he didn’t become aware his philosophy.

  8. His veiws certainly call into question weather his kabalas mitzvos was valid. That in turn would render his geirus a non starter. I love and cherish all true geirim, but this guy is not one of the tribe!

  9. You attached his article about the 3rd temple, where he quotes the Rambam, that the Mitzvos of Korbonos was just a concession by Hashem so that we do what other peoples of world were doing in those times to their gods. And he writes that Rav Kook said that in the future their will be no animal sacrifices only Menochois. Never knew this.

  10. why?because they are rishay ‘yisroel’.thesee saygtz and rasha that preach in a church
    with a talis (you shuld listen to what stusim he said)..is no quesrtion begader mumer

  11. For all the issues one may have with the Rabbi in question here, the title to this article is woefully misleading: “Why Is An Open Orthodox Rabbi Seeking More Punishment For Rubashkin?”
    R Yanklowitz never says anything about seeking more punishment for Rubashkin, nor does R Shafran accuse R Yanklowitz of such. (The closest R Yanklowitz comes to that is saying that he was in shock – he doesn’t specify what the shock was about. Nor does he ask for more punishment. As such, R Shafran doesn’t accuse him of such).

    By freely engaging in such a misleading title, Matzav is staying true to their lack of journalistic integrity, finding itself in good company with all the other internet sensationalist tabloids.

    • Avi, Rasha Yanklowitz might not have explicitly called for more punishment for Rubashkin in the Newsweek article, but Yanklowitz, in the aforementioned article, did accuse, sanctimoniously and baselessly, the frum community of all kinds of abuses in the production of kosher meat, from theft of wages to child labor in sweat shops to animal cruelty to killing of the mother earth. Yanklowitz is a joke, his real agenda is to promote the anti-Torah leftist fascist-communist ideology and to dump on the frum community in the process. Becoming a ger tsedek is more than an acceptance of observance, it is becoming a part of Am Yisroel – associating oneself with the goyishe world as opposed to the Jewish nation is one sign of a fake geirus.

  12. We punish our own much more severely for much less severe offenses. Think of all the branding we do on our own people that blocks shidduchim made, keeps students from being accepted into schools and the list goes forever on. Yanklowitz in contrast walks carefree. What message does that send to our youth – which path are we making more inviting to them?

  13. There is plenty of room for us all In this world. Reform, Conservatism, Orthodox, Open Orthodox and Rabansksnism. Where does Satmar fit? Maybe a yeshivish Rabashkanism.

  14. The title is sheker. I see nothing saying anything remotely close to seeking more punishment. Aderaba, he says that Rubashkin and his family should celebrate. He does talk about some truths which are hard to digest. But to make a sheker headline?

    • Dear Lessor, here is some truth that is hard for you to digest: “open orthodoxy” is anything but orthodox, Yanklowitz is definitely an apikores – perhaps even a goy with a fake conversion, baseless accusations by the fascist-communists don’t magically become “some truths” – no matter how many times your Goebbels propaganda machine repeats it.

  15. priest yankelowitz…your ignorant of jewish law, mr so called clergy,
    one who is not ok in monetary laws is 100% kosher reliable on dietary laws.
    tosfos chuln 12a , paskened in hilchos shechita
    by the way what is a galach (yankelowith) commenting on jewish law…dont you preach in church
    with talis? And your maisis and madiach weiss bring in baptist church quire with baptist women, men (oisgeshnitae dresses)
    and sing in front of sifrei torah?

      • Mostly Agree,
        minus when Matzav publicized actual major Sins Open Anti Orthodox are involved in/promoting.

        After observing a Sotah and what does happen with her ! some will
        likely be more inclined to follow what she did
        (Hence Nazir is immediately next)


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