Sisterhood Blog

Roza Weiss: Rubashkin Daughter, Wife of Accused Molester

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

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It was hard not to feel sympathy for Roza Hinda Weiss as she stood before some 700 Lubavitch women last Sunday night and asked them for money.

At an “Emergency Rally for Pidyon Shvuyim,” or Redeeming a Captive, she was trying to raise $1.5 million for her father’s legal appeal. In November her father, Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, was convicted on 86 counts of financial fraud relating to Agriprocessors, the country’s biggest kosher meat processing plant, which he ran and was owned by his family.

Weiss, a tiny young woman in her 20s wearing glasses, a simple sweater and skirt and a dark sheitel, seemed fragile, as she stood on stage in the Crown Heights girls’ school. Her voice broke slightly as she related the trials of going door to door in Monsey, N.Y., after her father’s arrest in October 2008, asking Hasidic Jews there for money on cold fall nights as her husband and three very young daughters waited in the car.

Little did most at the rally know that the very next morning Roza would be by her husband’s side in an Albany courthouse as Rabbi Yaakov Weiss pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child in a plea bargain relating to charges rooted in his sexual molestation of two 13-year-old boys in 2007.

One of his victims is the son of another Chabad family that lives in a nearby town.

Weiss was found guilty of one count of child endangerment, but admitted his guilt under oath, acknowledging that he “touched his penis to the buttocks” of two different boys in the Albany community mikvah, and on the phone urged one of his victims to lie to his mother and police about it.

At the time this molestation took place, the Weisses had two very young daughters and Roza was pregnant with their third. Her husband was teaching children in the Hebrew school he established in Colonie, along with doing other outreach work for which emissaries of the Chabad movement are known. The Chabad organization in charge of emissaries suspended him when he was indicted last August.

Because Weiss accepted the plea bargain that was offered by the DA in order to “spare the children the rigors of a trial,” the prosecutor told me, his maximum sentence will be 60 days in jail. He will be on probation for three years but is not required to register as a sex offender.

I wonder, what must it be like to be Roza Hinda Weiss, nee Rubashkin?

She grew up in a family of great means that was known, according to its many Lubavitch supporters, for its great charity. To be a Rubashkin in the world of Lubavitch was close to being royalty.

Before its downfall, Rubashkin Industries had annual income of $84.9 million, according to a widely-cited Dunn & Bradstreet report.

What happened to all that money?

His supporters needed to raise money to fund Rubashkin’s initial defense, and have already spent $2 million. Support is being solicited by committees like that at the Lubavitch, Crown Heights-based National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education formed to free this “captive.”

Though his supporters and advisors urged Rubashkin to accept a plea bargain offered by prosecutors before trial began, he proclaimed his innocence and, often carrying a picture of the late Lubavitcher rebbe as he went in and out of court, decided to go through with the trial.

And what is it like to be the mother of three very young children and married to a man who has pled guilty to sexually molesting 13-year-old boys in a mikvah?

Like most Lubavitch girls, Roza married early and she and her new husband began having children right away.

Will she continue to stand by her man now that he is a convicted child sexual molester?

Even if she wants a divorce, he holds the power because he must grant her a Jewish divorce, or “get,” which according to Orthodox Jewish law only husbands can grant wives.

If her husband’s downfall had happened before her father’s, she would have had access to the tools – i.e. money and influence – used by some Orthodox fathers in the cases when their estranged sons-in-law are refusing to give their daughters a get.

But now Roza Weiss no longer has access to that money and influence, or even to her imprisoned father. Instead of people coming to her to ask for help, she is asking them.

It is hard to know whether to pity her as a victim of the wrongdoings of the men closest to her, or view her with a different kind of pity, as someone who has totally bought (at least publicly) into the view that her father is a victim and bears no responsibility for defrauding banks and vendors of tens of millions of dollars. We also ought not forget the hundreds of South American workers, many illegal aliens, who were exploited by Agriprocessors’ management by being underpaid, undertrained and forced to live in Rubashkin-owned housing. While related federal charges against Sholom Rubashkin have been dropped, state labor department charges have not.

What she thinks of her husband is hard to say, but it is also hard to imagine living with a man under these circumstances, which she will do at least until his sentencing, slated for March 1st.

One thing was made clear in her speech to the Jewish women of Crown Heights, many of whom were moved by the young woman’s plight to write checks for her father’s legal defense fund: beneath Roza Weiss’ fragile exterior lies a woman whose determination is forged of steel.

Sarah Wed. Jan 13, 2010

I can't imagine it, so I don't.

Not being her, or her husband, or her father, and not having intimate knowledge of either of the cases, and not being privy to her relationship with her husband or her father - I don't think there's any room for judgments or even speculation. Only she knows whether she wants a divorce, and only he knows whether he will grant it if she does. I can only imagine that this is not an easy time for her, not least because of the sense of living under a microscope.

AFS Wed. Jan 13, 2010

While it's true that according to halacha a man must agree to give his wife a get, the way that you present it, that a get can only occur if a woman is fortunate enough to have the "the tools – i.e. money and influence" is quite skewed and laden with an agenda.

There are unfortunately cases of agunot out there (women who have trouble obtaining gets from their husbands), but not only are these infrequent occurences, there's no correlation between trouble obtaining gets and lack of "money and influence."

SG Wed. Jan 13, 2010

She is definitely not in an easy place. Think of it, as you said, she is only in her twenties and has three kids already....

Sarah Wed. Jan 13, 2010

I can't imagine it, so I don't.

Not being her, or her husband, or her father, and not having intimate knowledge of either of the cases, and not being privy to her relationship with her husband or her father - I don't think there's any room for judgments or even speculation. Only she knows whether she wants a divorce, and only he knows whether he will grant it if she does. I can only imagine that this is not an easy time for her, not least because of the sense of living under a microscope.

Elana Thu. Jan 14, 2010

Debra --

Great reporting, as usual.

I have to say that I, too, am torn about this. On the one hand, she is a victim here in some ways. On the other hand, we all have choices in life. Although I understand the need to support one's family, we also have moral obligations to listen to victims. She has a responsibility to society as well as to her husband and father. The choice to support a suspected molester, even a family member, is not necessarily the right one. Reminds me of Gila Katsav.... victim or enabler?

In any case, the rush within the haredi community to raise money for the guy's legal fees is perhaps the most troubling. That money should go to victims of sexual abuse, not to some expensive defense lawyer. That's a real shonda...

Beth Parness Thu. Jan 14, 2010

Roza Hinda Weiss is an enabler...both for her father and for her husband, neither of whom she can think of as being guilty of the crimes with which they are charged. She can no more stand the thought of her powerful and wealthy father exploiting children and migrant workers, not to mention torturing the chickens he is supposed to have ritually slaughtered humanely, but must deny her husband's illness. She must deny these allegations for her childrens' sake, and for her sanity! How can her children ever marry within this community when they grow up? What future can they have? We have not only "a moral obligation to listen to the victims" of her husband's sexual abuse but to protect any future victims of a man that would not be listed as a registered sex offender, and will most likely teach again, and work around children! This is a very tragic and DANGEROUS situation, compounded by this very insular community's reaction to the news. Thank you for this very important, sensitive and well written article!

Beth Parness Thu. Jan 14, 2010

I would like to add that I applaud Chabad's action to suspend Rabbi Yaacov Weiss upon his indictment last August. This is a young woman caught in a tragic and terrible bind.

Elana Thu. Jan 14, 2010

yeah, beth, i pretty much agree with you...protecting victims and future victims should be paramount...

Sarah Thu. Jan 14, 2010

A bit unfair for Debra to talk about whether Mrs. wife will seek a divorce.

Prominent American women (Clinton etc.) stood by their man.

It's easy to speculate from the outside.

Debra should be more careful.

Yankel Thu. Jan 14, 2010

There is great tragedy in the life of Roza, however I feel Debra Cohen has crossed a line. Does this poor girl have enough to deal with without the journalist speculation of her motives or feelings.

nearby Thu. Jan 14, 2010

As someone who lives nearby and has seen her zeal firsthand, I implore you not to feel sorry for her. She supports her husband to the fullest, believing in his innocence. This is not to protect herself or her children. This is a zeal in its own right, to the point of a vehement hatred against anyone who dare believe the victims families.

Local Yokel Sun. Jan 17, 2010

I concur with nearby, and I also live nearby.

They will stoop to the lowest level to even tell lies in order to try to get opposers to lose their jobs! Of course, you'll never see their names attached, but they have a whole cult of deluded people willing to do their bidding. Check out the WNYT coverage!!!

LGL Mon. Jan 18, 2010

Hey Debra - thanks for bringing this case to my attention. How tragic...everything about it. But i mostly cant get my mind off the molestation part. Kol hakavod for whomever pressed charges on Weiss to begin with, we *really* need to encourage our Jewish boys get their voices out about these traumatic experiences and help get justice for those who care to seek it.

MCS Mon. Jan 18, 2010

The tragedy of this story is that it is repeated throughout the community. Too often the community gathers round the perpetrator and denies the reality of what has transpired. Family members are caught in the tap of community expectations and mores, no place to get substantive help. As long as we continue to protect perpetrators to avoid the shanda, we will see more stories like this. Time to make a change in attitude and educate the young to speak out about abuse to people who will believe and care for them and punish the perpetrators, remove them from positions of power.

shocked Wed. Jan 20, 2010

It is sad to read an article written by someone who obviously is missing so much information. Firstly, I don't see where or how it is relevant, to the case of Weiss, about the situation his father-in-law is in. Don't mix apples and oranges. But since you found it necessary to heap on more dirt for your lovely story, it behooves me to set you straight. Agri processors was raided in May of 2008 for alleged illegal immigrant workers. The unprecedented process and means by which the raid was done is material for an expose on our legal system. But for the sake of brevity I'll move on. Following the raid Agri processors faced sever employment shortage and had to cut shifts and production forcing them to file for bankrupcy, not unlike Bear Stearns, GM, Chrysler, Lehman Brothers, etc. As in every bankrupcy case creditors file suit to receive their portion, or as much of it as possible. The lending bank for Agri did just that. Somehow, the Feds knowing full well that their immigration charges will not hold in a court of law, jumped at the case and turned it into a federal fiasco, heaping unfounded and unbased charges, like they were going out of style. Note, that the bank has never claimed fraud, they were merely following civil procedures in a bankrupcy case. But you would never know that, right? You know why, because you weren't in the court room when Judge Reade refused the bank to testify. You were also not in the room when Judge Reade sent out the jury during the testimony of many of Agri's employees, some who admitted to have been coerced into testifying - falsely - against Rubashkin. Contrary to your claims, the feds have dropped all the illegal immigration and labor charges which, if you have followed the case you would be realize, was the basis of the raid which caused the subsequent bankrupcy by Agri. Might it be interesting to know that the presiding Judge, Linda Reade is the very judge who authorised the raid in the first place. Mind you, if you know any law, is against the Constitution. You might also want to read up a little on Judge Reade's track record as a ruthless, lawless, narcissistic being. Before you start down the slippery road of inaccurate reporting, it might be wise of you to check the facts.

Beth Parness Thu. Jan 21, 2010

Why did "shocked" not leave their name? For someone who accuses the writer of "missing so much information", and claims to have such first hand information I find this most basic omission quite startling. Does "shocked" fear the consequences of speaking out even in favor of Agri Processors or Mrs. Weiss?

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