Hasmonean High School has cancelled a talk due to be given by an American Chasidic man convicted of fraud but freed by Donald Trump.
Former kosher slaughterhouse boss Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, who had his 27-year sentence commuted by the US president after serving eight years behind bars, is due to speak around London during his five-day visit next week.
Among the venues to have been booked was the Hendon school, but after concerns were raised, executive headteacher Andrew McCluskey said it had withdrawn as host, saying he had no wish to be associated with the disgraced New Yorker, whose host of supporters say he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.
“Hasmonean cannot be associated with events of this kind and nor would we wish to be,” said McClusky, in response to a complaint raised by New North London Synagogue Rabbi Jeremy Gordon.
“This event appears to have been booked via a third party and the contents/speaker were not made clear until the advertisement appeared. As soon as I was made aware of the nature of the event, I ensured that it was cancelled, which it now has been.”
McClusky’s decision reflects widespread anger among some British Jews that Rubashkin is being feted by sections of the community, but Orthodox supporters say he will be welcomed to the capital – his latest stop in a post-prison PR tour.
Rubashkin ran his father Aaron’s firm Agriprocessors, a business turning over $300 million a year which owned the biggest US kosher slaughterhouse before it was raided by 900 US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in 2008, leading to almost 400 arrests.
He was later convicted of 86 counts of financial fraud including bank fraud, mail and wire fraud, and money-laundering, and after being sentenced him to 27 years in prison, prosecutors dropped the 72 immigration charges against him. However bipartisan lobbying led to Trump commuting his sentence.
A petition calling for all organisations hosting Rubashkin to cancel his appearance has been launched, but to-date Hasmonean is understood to be the only venue to do so. He is due to speak in Stamford Hill, Golders Green and Gateshead.
Rubashkin has maintained his innocence throughout and has many high-profile supporters, among them acclaimed law professor Alan Dershowitz, who told Jewish News: “In my more than 60-year career, I have never seen such unfair treatment and injustice as in the case of Sholom Rubashkin. I have never seen a more bipartisan, diverse group of people seeking justice than in this case. If I had to narrow it down, there were three things in this case that helped galvanise such overwhelming support: the excessive sentence, the whiff of anti-Semitism and the prosecutorial and judicial misconduct.”
While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.
That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.
We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.
Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”