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The Postville Pogrom – that Nobody Admits was a Pogrom

[1]

Sholom Rubashkin, one of the former managers of Agriprocessors, who was serving 27 years in prison until his sentence was commuted by President Trump.

3,607 words

Stephen G. Bloom
Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America
New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000

Many readers might not know that a surprisingly nasty fight took place in Postville, Iowa between whites and Jews more than a decade ago. The affair – or at least the lead-up to the climax of the affair – was described by the Jewish Professor of Journalism Stephen G. Bloom of Iowa City in his book Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America. At the center of it all was a kosher meat-processing facility called Agriprocessors that was owned by a group of Orthodox Jews of the Lubavitch sect. The situation in Postville was not very different from that of Eastern Europe in the late nineteenth century: Jews came to a small town, caused trouble, and were eventually purged in a pogrom. How the affair occurred will be explored below, from a White Nationalist perspective.

Most of the research for this article will come from the book mentioned above, but there was also a PBS documentary [2] about the incident, Postville: When Cultures Collide, that is also important. Although the book’s version of the story ends in 2000, the conflict persisted for years afterwards, so other sources were used as well. Indeed, in 2008, the Department of Homeland Security launched a raid against Agriprocessors’ illegal immigrant employees and arrested the Jewish owners of the plant for a number of crimes. After 2008, the worst elements of Jewish power were broken in Postville, although some Jews remain to this day.

When Postville was first published, I didn’t read it, but I did see a C-SPAN Book TV interview with the author. Shortly thereafter, I became embroiled in America’s overseas adventures with the military for several years and promptly forgot about the matter. But I was drawn to reinvestigate the story when I spotted the book while killing time at the library, when I was serving as a taxi driver for young teenagers goofing off at the library – or as they called it, “studying.”

The Economics of the Rural Midwest

It’s not a big secret that agriculture is an important part of the economy of the Midwest, and this is especially so in Iowa. One significant component of the region’s agricultural production is butchering livestock. Industrial-scale butchering first arose in Chicago, and historically, the industry’s leaders were often Yankees from New England. One such Yankee is Gustavus Franklin Swift (1839-1903), who founded a meatpacking empire in Chicago that still exists today. Swift was born in Massachusetts. For decades, meatpacking in places like Chicago and Green Bay provided middle-class jobs and supported world-class cities [3]. After the 1970s, meatpacking companies began to relocate their facilities to small towns. In part, the purpose of this move was to lower labor costs by moving to locations where it was more difficult for unions to organize, and where it was easier to exploit illegal immigrant workers.


[4]

[5]

The Corn Belt on top, cattle production on the bottom. Postville, as in many other towns across the Midwest, is positioned at the nexus of cattle grazing and feed-growing areas. While the big agriculture companies have increased their stock value by moving slaughterhouses to the countryside, the middle-class jobs in the big cities are long gone, as are the associated industries, such as tanning brush production.

 

Today, the whole of the meatpacking industry has changed from the stable, union shop, good-wage worksites of the past to something more like a sordid swindle. The massive agribusiness companies descend on a small town with a great deal of capital and clout. They promise jobs in exchange for tax breaks, and get the town to invest its own money in sewage and other infrastructure required for them to operate. The local economy does indeed get a semi-bump, but most of the labor force typically comes from illegal immigrants, so much of the profit ends up flowing not only out of the town, but out of the country. And in many cases, the company will simply move on to the next town once the tax breaks expire, leaving the community they are abandoning to pay the infrastructure costs.

Small towns with meatpacking plants are usually unhappy places. This author even once met a man who proudly described how he’d led his local community in an effort to prevent a slaughterhouse from opening a facility in his county. In 1987, however, the ugly reality of the meatpacking industry was not yet well-known, and Postville, Iowa[1] [6] was desperate for investment. At that time, the Iowa economy was still struggling to recover from the Farm Crisis [7] of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Enter Aaron Rubashkin. Rubashkin is a Russian-born Orthodox Jew dialed into the Orthodox Lubavitch Jewish community in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. He purchased an abandoned slaughterhouse in Postville and turned it into a large kosher butchery. Postville got its economic semi-bump, but problems between the Jews and Iowans began immediately afterwards and persisted for decades.

Prof. Bloom got wind of the situation and went down to visit Postville in the mid-1990s to see what was what. It is clear that by the time he arrived (on one occasion, he mentions the year 1996), tensions were at full steam. The Iowans had made their stand against the Jews by deciding to hold a referendum to allow the town of Postville to annex the land on which the kosher meat-processing plant stood. If the town annexed the land, the Iowans would then be able to raise taxes and better control the Lubavitchers. The annexation issue was thus a vote on the status of Jews in Postville by the native Nordic Iowans of the town.

A Liberal, Semi-Hostile Jew Looks at Relations Between Hasidic Jews & Nordic Iowans

Bloom begins his account by frankly describing his suppressed, but deep-seated, dislike of the Iowans. He writes that after living in Iowa for a while:

I began to understand what Edna Ferber [the author of an anti-white novel that became the movie Giant [8]], who grew up as a Jew in the southeastern Iowa town of Ottumwa, wrote about in her 1938 autobiography, A Peculiar Treasure. “Business was bad, the town was poor, its people were frightened, resentful, and stupid. There was, for a place of its size and locality, an unusually large rough element. As naturally as could be, they searched for a minority on whom to vent their dissatisfaction with the world. And there we were, and there I was, the scapegoat of the ages.”[2] [9]

This author suspects that most of Ferber’s Iowan neighbors didn’t know she was a Jew unless she told them. Her “scapegoat” experiences were a fantasy, and the “resentments” she describes were projections of her own attitudes. (“Gangs” in 1930s Iowa – really?) However, it is notable that Bloom is identifying with Ferber’s sentiments, although he also states that Iowans are polite, honest, and tolerant. Bloom even describes an incident from his childhood where his father stormed out of a restaurant based on an insult that Bloom admits was probably imaginary.

During his investigation, Bloom discovered that the Jews were very rude to Postville’s civic leaders. They often cheated contractors and handymen by spreading out their payments over many months – when they didn’t simply throw away the bill, that is. They drove too fast on the roads and tried to hustle the local merchants. One Jewish woman tried to bribe a policeman, and one Rabbi stole some handmade leather sheaths from a woman, insisting that he’d already paid for them. And they didn’t bother to take care of the yards surrounding their homes – something which may seem trivial on the surface, but which is still a sign of disrespect. In the Midwest, a town displaying bad yards is a town that is dying.

Another crisis occurred involving Postville’s municipal swimming pool. The Iowans were concerned that the Hasidic Jews would demand “Jews only” hours. Iowans would thus be displaced from an amenity which they had built and paid for.[3] [10] There were also a great many zoning and building use violations. About this, Bloom writes:

If the city of Postville tried to enforce any ordinance the Jews disagreed with, the immediate cry was anti-Semitism. If a local complained about the noise from the shul, if anyone disagreed about annexation, he or she was quickly branded an anti-Semite. Ultimately, I discovered, carrying on a conversation with any of the Postville Hasidim was virtually impossible. If you didn’t agree, you were at fault, part of the problem. You were paving the way for the ultimate destruction of the Jews, the world’s Chosen People. There was no room for compromise, no room for negotiation, no room for anything but total and complete submission.[4] [11]

[12]

Agriprocessors in its heyday.

Toward the end of Postville, Bloom’s attitudes grow more hostile to the Lubavitchers. This is particularly noticeable when he describes the September 27, 1991 crime spree [13] of Lubavitchers Pinchas Lew and Phillip Stillman.[5] [14] The pair got drunk, removed the license plate from their car, and robbed two townspeople at gunpoint. They shot one woman – she was able to recover, but the bullet was permanently lodged in her spine, causing her constant pain for the rest of her life. In Brooklyn, Stillman had been part of an Orthodox crime gang, and he left for Iowa after one of his gang’s members was murdered, execution-style.

Stillman was an adopted Colombian street kid and didn’t get much help from his community, but the imprisonment of a full-blooded Jew, Pinchas Lew, caused an uproar in Postville’s Jewish community. The Orthodox considered Lew’s imprisonment an unjust kidnapping. The Jews called for help from their community back in Brooklyn and raised enormous sums for Lew’s bail and legal defense. In the end, Lew received very little punishment for his crime.

Stillman and Lew became bad-optics ambassadors for the Hasidic community in Iowa, and the Lubavitchers’ leadership did not realize the scale of the disaster. None of them checked up on the victims, or made a profession of remorse, or even so much as offered them a free slab of kosher beef. Instead, the Jews loudly supported their criminals, and, as always, ignored those whom they had harmed. In an interesting case of self-imposed blindness, Aaron Rubashkin could only say to Bloom, “No matter what we do, the goyim always find fault with us.”

By the end of his book, Bloom is clearly thoroughly disgusted by the Lubavitchers’ behavior. Indeed, he ends up coming out in favor of the annexation. The annexation vote was successful, although the story continued, eventually leading to the pogrom.

Postville’s Jews Were Engaged in Serious Crimes

When the mainstream media deals with Orthodox Jews, they tuck them into a category somewhat like the many peculiar Protestant sects that stretch across the Midwest, such as the Plymouth Brethren or the Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch Dunkards. Orthodox Jews, however, are a separate race hiding behind a religion. They have carved out a biological and economic niche based on predation and parasitism. Furthermore, unlike Christianity, their religion isn’t universalist: It has one set of rules for those in the group and another, entirely predatory set of rules for those outside of it. In other words, their conflict with the Iowans was not really about lawn care, it was about the fact that they were committing very serious crimes. To name only some of them:

Iowa: A Land Without a People for a People without a Land?

Postville: When Cultures Collide is interesting in that it uses the normal J-Left methods of evading the truth about what was going on in Postville – namely, an aggressive Jewish sect behaving badly. The documentary uses the standard set of tricks to downplay the concerns of whites. For example, the Jews are shown to be “just like” the Iowans, and we see them playing baseball, having cookouts, and so on. But there is no mention of the 1991 crime spree, the zoning violations, or any of the other problems.

The documentary is condescending towards the Iowans from the outset. It claims that most of the townspeople didn’t know who its most prominent citizen, Nobel Peace Prizewinner John R. Mott, Jr., was. From this point of view, Iowa might be considered a land without a people for a people without a land. (They have no culture! They don’t even know who their hero, Mott, was!) The town’s whites are shown dressed in work clothes, and they tend to be less than eloquent. When Jews are shown, they are wearing Iowa-style clothing and speak very clearly. These are the same sort of tricks that were used in the 1991 movie, Blood in the Face [18]. Well-spoken whites are never seen, and the less eloquent ones are given plenty of screen time. Illegal immigrant crime is also downplayed. One Mexican activist interviewed claims the Iowans are simply “ignorant.”

An interesting footnote about Bloom’s book is that while this author clearly remembers media coverage of it on channels such as C-SPAN when the book first came out, little of it can be found online today. If one searches for Stephen G. Bloom and Postville on YouTube, you find material related to Bloom’s other projects, as well as amateur videos that aren’t worth describing. The likely reason for this memory-holing is the 2008 Postville pogrom.

The Pogrom

According to later popular accounts, in nineteenth-century Russia, pogroms are said to have been cases of Cossacks and white townspeople attacking harmless, blameless Jews, such as in 1971’s Fiddler on the Roof [19]. This author suspects that in reality, the pogroms of those days were conducted for reasons much like what happened in Postville. Indeed, the Iowan-Jew conflict in Postville paralleled other Jew-Gentile conflicts that were occurring at the time. The problems with the Jews in Postville began the very afternoon when Aaron Rubashkin purchased the abandoned slaughterhouse in 1987, even though the conflict didn’t come out into the open until a mayor who endorsed the slaughterhouse annexation plan was elected in 1991. This time frame precisely matches that of the First Intifada in Palestine. Also in 1991, the same sorts of Jews as those who lived in Postville sparked a riot in Crown Heights, Brooklyn (the very place where many of the Postville Lubavitchers were from) after a Jew ran over several black children in a car accident, departing the scene in a “Jews only” ambulance while the children were left dead and injured in the street. In other words, Palestinian Arabs, Nordic Iowans, and New York blacks – vastly different peoples – reacted negatively to Jews at the same time for basically the same reasons.

The Postville Pogrom, such as it was, consisted of a raid by Immigration Officials from the Department of Homeland Security on May 12, 2008. Hundreds of Illegal immigrants who were employed at Agriprocessors were arrested, as were as the plant’s managers. Agriprocessors went bankrupt in November of that year. While the power of the Postville Jews had been broken, Postville’s economy was severely affected by the affair. The Postville Iowans experienced something like what Great Britain experienced after the Second World War: they had won, but impoverished themselves in accomplishing it. It became very difficult for the Postville town government to meet the loan payments stemming from the water treatment plant that had been built to process the slaughterhouse’s wastewater once Agriprocessors declared bankruptcy and no longer paid taxes.

A new, less offensive group of Orthodox Jews eventually purchased the kosher slaughterhouse and ran it on a smaller scale. But the damage was done: local property values plummeted and the illegal Hispanics were replaced by legal, but infinitely more problematic, Somali refugees. A good after-action summary with a pro-migrant slant can be found here [16].  And in 2017, President Trump commuted the 27-year sentence [20] of one of Agriprocessor’s managers, Sholom Rubashkin.

A Final Summation

Notes

[1] [21] Yankees (and in this case, many American Midlanders of the Quaker/German Culture) versus the Jews:

[22]

Iowa, especially northern Iowa, was defined by old-stock Americans with roots in New England. Researchers found that the earliest whites in the region, who settled there in the 1850s, were from the extended New England portions of upstate New York, southern Michigan, and southwestern Wisconsin. Postville is thus on the edge of Yankee culture, and northeast Iowa is a partial extension of New England. In the map above, the blue areas show voters for John C. Frémont in the 1856 US Presidential Election superimposed on a map of the Midwest. This is a very good proxy for the location of New Englanders. The sharpest Jew-goyim conflicts in the United States usually involve a white with ancestors from the original English stock, New England Yankees. The reason for continuously stating this fact is to improve upon white advocacy efforts by in-reaching to Americans from the North.

Postville’s most illustrious citizen was John R. Mott, Jr. (1865-1955). Mott was the son of Postville’s Mayor and grew up in the town. He would go on to work on ecumenical fellowship between Christian denominations, and would win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946. Mott’s family origins were in upstate New York, a Yankee region.

It is important to note, however, that Postville is also situated on the edge of America’s Midlands culture, which was formed by Quakers and New Sweden colonists in the southern Delaware River Valley. The Midlanders searched high and low for German immigrants to add to their numbers. In Postville, the majority of the town were of German ancestry and attended St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Bloom tends to describe the conflict in religious – not racial – terms. In his view, the Iowans are German Lutherans and the Jews are just whites who happen to have a different religion.

[23]

Another view of Iowa’s cultural blocs [24], which shows the Yankee influence in the north and the Quaker influence, originating in Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, in the south.

[2] [25] Bloom, Postville, p. 13

[3] [26] The Hasidim did get “Jews only” hours, but because the lifeguards were all female, the men couldn’t use the pool.

[4] [27] Bloom, Postville, p. 198.

[5] [28] In prison, Stillman has continued to be nothing but a crook [29].

[6] [30] Kosher slaughter methods exist to humanely slaughter animals. If done right, this can be true. However, as with all taboos, there is a down side. Essentially, taboos become a thing when the letter of the law attains greater value than the spirit of the law. And kosher methods don’t always make for a clean kill. Non-kosher captive bolt guns are a far more humane technique. Bloom also describes the slaughterhouse’s purifying bath. The bath met the standards of Jewish law, but to use it, one needed to take a shower with soap and hot water before entering, given that the bath itself was quite nasty, containing floating hair and grease, and one needed another shower after “purifying” in it.