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Welcome to my blog. For those of you who do not know, I, Michael Szafranski, was recently released from the Federal Prison Camp in Miami, Florida where I spent 11 months. It took six years from the time that I knew I was under investigation to the day I reported to prison. In many ways those six years were worse than the 11 months I actually sat. This blog is going to deal with many of the issues facing people like myself who are just trying to navigate the legal system when they find out they are in trouble and are thrown into the crazy world that is our criminal justice system. My case was kind of high profile so I dealt with it all. I am sharing what I learned so that others will be a little more prepared as to how to deal with various situations and to hopefully shed a little bit of light on what really goes on in the system. Please email me with any questions and if you would like to utilize my consulting services. Appreciate any comments and critiques! Follow along as I publish my book at https://www.wattpad.com/user/whitecollarguru. Email me at mike@whitecollarguru.com with any questions.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Jew Haters Be Gone!

I try not to get angry. There are a few reasons for this but I have come to realize than getting angry produces few if any tangible results. However, I am not perfect (shocking, I know) and when I see blatant hatred stemming from ignorance and self righteousness I do get angry. I am not naive. I know anti-semitism exists and have come to accept it. I no longer get angry when I see other races making the most ridiculous and incorrect statements about Jews. I just do not care. However, what does anger me to no end is when I see the same type of anti-Jewish rhetoric coming from within the Jewish community. I am well aware this is completely off topic when compared to my other entries, but I do think that as I write it, a message that transcends religion and the underlying theme of anti semitism will emerge.

Last week I wrote about the release of Rabbi Sholom Rubashkin. I spoke about how happy I was to see him reunited with his family and how in many ways he was a true hero. That is my opinion and I am sticking to it. I even made reference to an article in a  Jewish publication about how he is not a hero. Obviously, I disagreed with the tone of the article, but everyone is free to have an opinion. What I did not like, and took offense to was the many Facebook posts by Orthodox Jews that I came across ridiculing the hero's welcome that Rubashkin received. They felt that while his sentence may have been disproportionate, the fact remains that he was convicted of a crime and therefore is not "deserving" of such an extravagant reception. And that was the kindest of the comments.

My first response to all you haters, is a question: Why do you care? Why does it bother you that people are rejoicing that his sentence was commuted? Do you think that you are so important that it is a reflection on you? Well guess what, you are not that important. Do you think that your opinions are so important that you are entitled to offer them even if they are based on ignorance? Guess what, they aren't. Are you so principled that when you perceive people acting in a manner that you do not agree with, you just cannot help yourself and must raise your voice to combat the injustice? To that I make the following observation: anyone who has ever made the argument that it is "the principle" is really using that as an excuse to cover up another motive. It never is the principle. For whatever reason, and I am talking primarily to the Modern Orthodox community with which I identify, you are threatened by how Rubashkin looks and the lifestyle he epitomizes. You feel the need to compensate for your own religious insecurities by spending your days pointing out problems within the branches of more traditional brands of Orthodoxy. Pointing out that they are glorifying a "criminal" makes you feel that your brand of Orthodoxy is more correct and that "they" are a bunch of hypocrites. Obviously, there is no one who committed a crime in the Modern Orthodox community. Oh that's right, they look like you and me so it's OK.

As to the argument that he is a criminal and criminals should not be glorified, I say this. Firstly, for purposes of this discussion I will entertain the possibility that this is a valid reason for you to be upset that others are celebrating. I will give you that Rubashkin was convicted of a crime. I am not going to point out all of the problems with the trial but yes it is true that he was convicted. I say it again, Rubashkin is a convicted felon. Does that mean he committed the crime for which he was convicted? Well I do not know the answer to that an neither do you. You believe what you read. Have you looked at all of the evidence? I sure haven't! Have you actually been through the criminal justice system? I should hope not, but I have been through it. What most of people do not know even though I have written about it, is that the system is on its best day biased. Prosecutors can twist evidence in any way they want without any repercussions. In general juries tend tp believe prosecutors. I have sat in discussions with prosecutors where they come up with something that is so far from the truth and they twist the evidence to conform to their version of the truth. When you challenge them, do you know what they say? And I quote: "Who do you think the jury will believe us or you?" They can set any narrative they want. Oh and by the way, they spend the months leading up to the trial poisoning the jury pool by leaking their version of events to the press.  Obviously no defendant is going to lay out his defense in the press, so the press only gets one side. Do you think anyone in Postville, Iowa had not heard about the case as well as the narrative spun by the prosecutors by the time it went to trial?  The point is a conviction does not necessarily mean a crime was actually committed.

To the principled objector I say the following: Are you so perfect? Have you never committed any crime. If the government were to take a hard look at you and spend even a year investigating every aspect of your life, do you think for a second that you will come up squeaky clean? Have you never made a mistake on your taxes? I have some news for you, if you made a mistake on your taxes or even if your accountant was overly aggressive which resulted in a lower payment, the IRS can very well decide that this was not a "mistake", and  that this was not "aggressive". No they can decide that you deliberately evaded taxes. According to the IRS website that can get you up to five years in prison. Here is another example for those of you who pay extra taxes just to make sure that doesn't happen to you. I am sure most of you drive on a regular basis. Have you seen those black and white signs on the street? Those signs post speed limits. By law you are not allowed to go above the speed limit. I challenge anyone in this country to show me that they abide by the speed limit 100% of the time. Most of the time we do not get caught and even if we do usually we get a fine or our lawyer handles it for us. Now imagine you your wife was late picking the kids up and was going 45 MPH in a 30 zone.  Now imagine that as she was rushing, a 4 year old kid ran into the street and before your wife can see the child, she hits it and the child dies. Suddenly your wife just became a murderer and can be charged with reckless driving and even involuntary manslaughter. She will probably go to jail. The fact that we do not get caught for many of the crimes we commit every day does not make us any less criminals. Unfortunately we are judged on the results of our actions and not on the actions themselves. Two people may both lie on their mortgage applications. Meanwhile one person strikes it rich while the other loses his job and cannot pay his mortgage. The bank looks into to person who is in default and discovers the lie. He gets charged with bank fraud and goes to prison while the other person, who committed the exact same crime faces no consequences.

Getting back to the wife example. Let's now assume she had to go to prison. Now, she gets out earlier than expected. You, her loving husband are so happy to have her home. The kids are ecstatic that they no longer have to exclusively eat take out for dinner. You decide you are going to make a celebration in honor of her return. It may be a dinner or it may be a party. How would you like it if someone said, how dare you throw a celebratory dinner, the woman is a murderer! She was even convicted of it. Now you know your wife to be anything but a murderer. You are happy she is home. She is your family. With regard to Rubashkin, many people felt like his family. Be it members of Chabad, Satmar or other parts of traditional orthodoxy, they simply felt as though he is a family member. Incidentally, I have found that most members of Chabad tend to be related. Well the family came out to celebrate! Why would you want to get involved and protest a familial celebration. It is none of your business anyway! No one is forcing you to actually, heaven forbid, celebrate the release of another Jew from prison. That would just be crazy. But do everyone a favor and keep your moth shut; no one needs to hear your negativity. Just leave well enough alone.

Now, again to my Modern Orthodox brethren I have another matter for you to consider. We all believe in repentance. Maimonides states that so important is repentance that when done correctly the sin is eradicated and is as if it has never happened. We are not even allowed to remind a person of his prior indiscretions! We are obligated to treat this person as though he never did anything wrong. Sadly, the US criminal justice system does not subscribe to this philosophy as we ex felons never have our rights fully restored, but Jewish law and I think most religious doctrine is clear; once a person has been punished it is as though the sin never took place. I am sure that even in the Modern Orthodox community we read Maimonides. I can tell you first hand, that while we may read it, sadly, we do not practice it; the traditional groups are much better at this. Now before you jump down my throat, I am not saying that people who are serious threats to the community such a child abusers, etc are to be welcomed as clearly we need to protect our children, but by in large we embrace the idea of repentance. What I am saying is that even if Rubashkin did commit the crimes that he was convicted of, he has certainly paid the price and certainly would have repented by now. To begrudge him celebrations based on actions that may or may not have been committed 10 years ago is contradictory to Jewish law. As far as I can tell, Modern Orthodoxy still embraces Jewish Law.

How do you think other branches of Judaism or even those from other religions are looking at you if they actually are reading the hateful words that you are writing? Do you think they are saying that you are "enlightened" for speaking out against the celebrations or do you think you look like a traitor to your own people. Like it or not, we are all one family. To air our dirty laundry in public is a disgrace. As the saying goes, if you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing. By publicly coming out against your own people you come across as someone so ashamed of his heritage that he needs to ingratiate himself in the eyes of others. In other words you are a self hater. You are no better than some members of other races who begrudge their heritage with the goal of gaining favor with others. It is disgusting.

So maybe I did get some important points across at least for those dealing with former felons. To assume that just because someone was convicted he is guilty is incorrect. It is also important to embrace those who have paid for their crimes and help them rejoin society. However, if you cannot help someone, then at the very least stay our of the way and let others rejoice his return to his family without your negativity. Then again, haters gonna hate hate hate.

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