Thursday, July 03, 2008

Tzedaka for Postville

The following is an excerpt from a letter sent to the AAOM by Robert Savit, physics professor at UMich, concerning what the Ann Arbor community is doing to help the former Agriprocessor employees in Postville, IA.

The ICE raid

On May 12, 2008, the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) part of the Department of Homeland Security, raided the Postville plant and detained nearly 400 undocumented workers, some of whom had false identity papers. In the following weeks, most of these workers were subjected to summary trials. About 300 of them were given prison sentences of 5 months to be followed by deportation. Another 45 or so (mostly women) were released to care for their young dependent children. These 45 were fitted with ankle bracelets to monitor their movements. The conditions of their release require them to remain in the state until their cases go to court—which will not be until October. They are forbidden from returning to any kind of work, including the packing plant. An additional 20 minors were also detained and released on humanitarian grounds, and they face a very similar situation to the adults on conditional release.

The current situation

The sentence of 5 months incarceration followed by deportation is an unusually harsh sentence and has created a humanitarian crisis in Postville. Postville is a very small community with little in the way of a social welfare system. As a result of the ICE raid, there are about 200 families of former workers at the plant that have no means of support. Their loved ones are currently in prison. These families cannot work, and continue to be tied to Postville until their loved ones are released from prison. The situation for those workers who were temporarily released is yet more uncertain in that their hearings are not scheduled until October. There is no organized relief agency in Postville, but some volunteers from the area have been working through a local church, St. Bridget’s, to provide what relief they can.


Agriprocessors is owned by orthodox Jews associated with the Chabad Lubovitch community. Agriprocessors, however, is not a Chabad organization. It is not an orthodox organization. It is not even a Jewish organization. It is merely a private business owned by orthodox, Lubovitch Jews. But in being a successful kosher meat packing plant, it is a very visible business with a very strong Jewish identity. As a result, even though there is nothing officially “Jewish” or officially “orthodox” about the business, its policies and actions necessarily reflect on the entire Jewish community, and in the perception of the non-Jewish world, has implications for the ethical foundations of our religion.

For these reasons it is vitally important that the Jewish community respond vigorously and publicly to the humanitarian crisis in Postville. We have organized a relief fund for the former workers of Agriprocessors. It is our intention to collect donations as quickly as possible from the Ann Arbor Jewish community and send those funds, on behalf of the entire Ann Arbor Jewish community, to the relief organization in Postville in support of their work with the families of the former employees of Agriprocessors. We will also work to publicize these donations and thereby try, as best we can, to counteract the public perception of unethical behavior by Agriprocessors. We hope that you will join us in donating generously to this effort.

Donations may be made on-line at using paypal. Please be sure to indicate Postville fund when prompted for the purpose of your donation. Donations can also be made by check made out to the Ann Arbor Orthodox Minyan and marked for the Postville fund. Checks should be sent to Ann Arbor Orthodox Minyan, 1606 Brooklyn, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. All funds collected will be sent to the St. Bridget’s Hispanic Relief Fund in Postville where they will be used to help provide basic services to the families of the workers.

Thanks very much for your help. Together we can make an important difference.


bachrach44 said...

I really really REALLY hate to say this, and maybe it's just the jaded pessimist in me, but I have a feeling that very little of the money you send will actually end up with the "poor illegal immigrants who need it". I don't know where it will end up, but I just feel like someone is trying a bit too hard and will be pocketing a significant portion of the money raised.

Zev said...

What information would lead you to say that? Whom do you think is going to pocket the money, the AAOM or the local church in Postville? There is not really any overhead in this opeartion.