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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 24, 2009 i an on By Richard Greenberg WASHINGTON (WASH- INGTON JEWISH WEEK)--A federal prosecutor typically spends no more than half a dozen years with the govern- ment before graduating to private practice, where the prospect of serious money beckons. BaruchWeiss did not follow that well-worn career path, and those who know him are not surprised. Shortly after graduating cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1981--first abandoning Harvard Medical School when he discovered he didn't really want to be a doctor--Weiss was hired by Rudolph Giuliani to fight crime under the auspices of the U. S. Attorney's Office that has jurisdiction over New York City. He stayed for 18 years, then put in four more years with the feds in Washington before joining a prestigious law firm inD. C. In remarks at his going- away party in New York in 2002, Weiss--who has since made his name represent- ing two Jewish clients in headline-grabbing criminal cases--presented a personal manifesto of sorts. It offered an insight into why he became a prosecutor, why he stayed so long and perhaps why he is routinely described in terms not al- ways associated with up-and- coming Washington lawyers: idealistic, unassuming, loyal, a mensch. Weiss' friend and neighbor, John Donvan, a correspondent with ABC's "Nightline," has referred to him, without a hint of irony, as "the classiest man in Washington." Weiss told his colleagues at his 2002 sendoff that he remembered holding the hand of his father;, a Holocaust survivor, as they walked to synagogue on Shabbat in Manhattan decades ago. "When he would pass a policeman, he would almost involuntarily squeeze my hand/'Weiss, now 52, recalled in a recent interview. "He was obviously very stressed, even though he had taught us that the policeman is your friend. I sensed from this that he could never rid himself of the view that law enforcement and the uniform were vehicles for the worst kind of evil ever visited on mankind." One reason Weiss became a prosecutor, it eventually dawned on him, was to dem- onstra.te to his father that government could be a force for good, that in America, decent and dedicated public servants -- Jews and non-Jews alike- -proudly work to ensure that the rule of law 15revails,. not the whim of demagogues. "So I went to the U. S. At- torney's Office and I stayed," he continued in his interview. "I was surrounded by people who really did the right thing. They became friends, good friends. I felt a comfort level ~ight away. And I think that vindicated my view about what this country is." The Bible famously com- mands, "Justice, justice you shall pursue," which is often interpreted to mean that one must seek righteous ends through righteous means. "I think Baruch personifies that," said Nobel laureate and author Elie Wiesel, who has known Weiss since he was a child. That biblical imperative continues to drive Weiss, "according,to friends and colleagues, even though his venue for pursuing justice has changed and he now occupies much snazzier office space than ever. As a partner in the law firm of Arent Fox since 2006, Weiss has drawn on skills he devel- oped by immersing himself in the Talmud as well as by prosecuting wrongdoers for more than two decades. During his tenure at the U. S. Attorney's Office in New York, for example, he worked to extradite Hamas leader Abu Marzouk from the United States to Israel, but politics apparently intervened. Israel decided not to take him be- cause peace seemed likely. "Israel made a mistake," Weiss said, adding later, "It was a well-intentioned mistake to further the peace process." Terrorism figured promi- nently in another case he worked on at the U. S. Attor- "ney's Offic --the appeal of the convictions handed down in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Weiss went on to hold high-level legal posts in Wash- ington at the Department of Treasury, as assistant general counsel for enforcement, and then at the Department of Homeland Security, where his positions included associate general counsel. His two best-known cli- ents at Arent Fox are Keith Weissman, a former senior analyst at the American Israel PublicAffairs Committee, and Sholom Rubashkin, former managerof the now-defunct Agriprocessors kosher meat plant in Postville, Iowa. Weissman and co-defen- dant Steve Rosen, also a former AIPAC staffer, who is being represented by local attorney Abbe Lowell, are charged with violating the World War I-vintage Espio- nage Act for allegedly passing along classified information on Iran to unauthorized individuals, including Israeli Embassy officials. "These guys really are in- nocent," Weiss insisted in an interview, elaborating that by exchanging information with members of the foreign policy establishment, Weissman and Rosen were breaking no law, but rather were .engaging in a routine and perfectly lawful Washington political ritual that has been practiced "since time immemorial." Some Jewish organizations have suggested that the sensi-' tive and emotional issue of dual loyalty has reared its head in the AIPAC prosecution. Weiss isn't sure, maintaining in an e-mail that "we just do not know what triggered, the investigation [into the defendants' activities], and as much as we would like to know, [we are] not surewe will ever find out." A spokesperson for the prosecutor's office in ithe case declined comment. A spokesperson for AIPAC, which has not been charged with wrongdoing, could not be reached for comment. Rubashkinfaces an array of federal charges filed last year in connection with the opera- tion of the ill-fated Agripro- cessors plant, including bank fraud, money laundering and helping illegal immigrants procure fake documents. Rubashkin turned for help to Rabbi Levi Shemtov, direc- tor of the American Friends of Chabad Lubavitch Wash- ington office. Shemtov then contacted Weiss, a longtime friend whose areas of respon- sibility at Homeland Security had included immigration enforcement. Weiss was retained specifi- cally to press for Rubaskhin's release on bail pending the start of his trial: a move that federal prosecutors opposed on controversial -- some said inflammatory- -g~ounds. They argued during a Nov. 19 hearing that Rubashkin should remain in custody until the trial because he posed a heightened flight risk. The prosecutors contended that Israelmight present a convenient refuge for Ru- bashkin because the nation grants automatic citizenship to all Jews through its Law of Return, and Rubashkin, of course, is Jewish. "The Law of Return busi- ness really got into his kishkes," Shemtov said of Weiss. "I was stunned," Weiss said. "So I guess if you're Jewish, you get locked up with greater frequency than if you're a non- Jew? For me that converted the Rubashkin matter from a case into a cause." Magistrate Judge Jon Scoles ruled in favor of the prosecu- tion. In an appeal brief filed on behalf of his client, Weiss said there is virtually no evidence that a prosecutor had ever argued that an American Jew might not show up in court because of the Law of Return. By the.government's logic, the brief continued, all Jews therefore can be viewed as posing a heightened flight risk "simply because they are Jews." Weiss concluded, "It is ironic that a law designed to provide refuge to persecuted Jews has now become the basis for detaining Jews who might otherwise have been released pending trial." In late January, Linda Reade, chief judge of the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, granted Rubashkin's release on $500,000 bond, with other provisions attached, ruling thatalthough he might indeed flee, reasonable "measures could mitigate that risk. A spokesperson for the prosecu- tion declined comment, "If you think of the federal government's case as a rock," said one observer who asked not to be named, "Baruch destroyed it with the drip, drip, drip water torture of legal exegesis." Weiss is no stranger to textual gymnastics, having grown up in a home steeped in rigorous intellectual give- and-take and advanced Jewish scholarship, with an emphasis on the Talmud, virtually a handbook for future lawyers, "We never went on vaca- tion," recalled Weiss, the oldest of three boys. "For fun, we argued around the Shabbat table about almost anything." His mother, Tzipora Hager Halivni, who died last sum- mer, was a Holocaust histo- rian and Auschwitz survivor with a doctorate in Yiddish and Hebrew literature. His father, David Weiss Halivni, now 81 and living in Israel, is a renowned Talmu- dic scholar, a so-called "boy genius," who first earned rab- binic ordination as ateenager in Europe before the Holo- caust decimated his world. Beginning at age 8 or 9, Weiss regularly delved into the Talmud with his father, who pioneered an exacting approach to studying the text Weiss said "taught me to not always accept the standard answer as the answer." Weiss received a master's degree in Talmud from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and has conducted an infor- mal Talmud class for years. He said his study of Juda- ism's signature repository of mind-sharpening argumenta- tion and reasoning "certainly gave me a head start" in de- veloping lawyerly thinking. Weiss' wife, journalist Laura Blumenfeld--who has observed the Weiss clan in action--is also intimately fa- miliarwith the dogged pursuit of justice, havingwalked that path herself. (They live in the District with their three children, and attend Conser- vative Adas Israel Congrega- tion, Orthodox Kesher Israel Congregati0n and Chabad in the District.) Blumenfeld's father was . shot in Jerusalem in 1986 by a terrorist, but he survived. Sl'e later resolved to confront the man who had tried to kill her father, and she wrote about her quest in a 2002 book titled "Revenge: A Story of Hope." In her book Blumenfeld, a reporter with the national staff of The Washington Post, recounts Weiss' nightmares of being captured by the Nazis, as well as his fantasies ofretaliat, ing with bombs from above. "Maybe it's not so much what Baruch is chasing," she said, "but what is chasing him -- the injustice done to the generation before him, the generation of the Holocaust." Whatever his motivation, Weiss' "purpose in life is to undo injustice," added Blu- menfeld, who said "there is something almost superhu- man" about her husband's drive to do the right thing. "He is the consummate law man," she continued, deter- mined to demonstrate that the courtroom is superior to "the crack of the whip." Richard Greenberg is the associate editor at the Wash- " ington Jewish Week. By Jaclde Jacobs the Endicott Johnson Shoe Corp. He noted that job COLUMBUS, Ohio (JTA)--opportunities at Endicott In September 1984, Ronald Johnson once were known Reagan visited what he called throughout Europe. Immi- the "Valley of Opportunity," a - grants from Poland, Russia, region in New York's southern tier that encompasses the triple cities of Binghamton, Johnson City and Endicott. President Reagan ~poke of the area's industrial origins and the past prosperity of one of its storied businesses, Czechoslovakia, italy and a dozen other countries came to America's shores armed with only their dreams and a few simple words of English: "Which way E J?" That one-liner was all they needed to find their way to Handy man and GeneralMaintenance Air Conditioning Electrical Plumbing Carpentry Formerly handled maintenance at JCC References available STEVE'S SERVICES Call Steve Doyle at (386) 668-8960 new lives in the Valley of Op- portunity. "They asked only for the chance towork," the president said. "Family helped family and neighbor helped neigh- bor, schools were built, houses were constructed, churches and synagogues were estab- lished. And this valley became home to some of the proudest communities in our nation, towns that had seen firsthand all that free men and women can accomplish." As a student at SUNY Bing- hamton in the 1970s, I studied the life of the immigrant com- munities that helped build the Triple Cities. Using census data spanning nearly a cen- tury, I researched intra-urban ethnic migration patterns in Binghamton, tracking down the dwelling places of its first Italian newcomers. I mapped their mobility and pursuit of the American dream over three generations and re- corded the ethnic origins of those who followed in their footsteps. My first job after college was as a community planner at Binghamton's United Way. One of my frequent stops was the American Civic As- sociation. It was headed by a very competent director, Anna Marie deLaurentis. She was a busy lady. In 1978, her agency serveff 1,385 people. Of that number, 34 percent were new arrivals. The organization was deeply' involved at the time with the "boat people." The American Civic Association sponsored 200 Vietnamese refugees that year, finding them clothes, homes, employ- ment and other essentials for which it received government resettlement grants of $250 per person. In addition to the Vietnam- ese, deLaurentis' staff and volunteers helped resettle other new Americans, includ- ing Jews from Rome, Eastern Eul opeans and a number of Lebanese refugees. The asso- ciation's entire annual budget was $65,776. To keep its bud- get lean, the association did. not carry medical insurance for its staff. After several years at the United Way, I became director of the Jewish fed- eration in Binghamton, which served a small Jewish community where everyone knew each other. One of its volunteers was a woman with 10 children named Ro- bertaKing. Everyone called her Bobble, She taught Eng- lish as a second langua~ge. Quite recently, at age 72, she began volunteering at the American Civic Asso- ciation, where she lost her life last week at the hands of a Vietnamese immigrant named Jiverly Wong. It's not known why Wong killed Bobbie, 12 others and then himself, clearly, however, Binghamton was not his valley of opportunity. Until the Cold War ended, the Triple Cities never experi- enced an economic downfall, due in part to its defense- heavy industries. The area was the birthplace of IBM, Singer Link and Eureka Tents, and is the headquarters of Universal Instruments and McIntosh Laboratories. Dr.. Andrai Kilmer's famous pat- ent medicine Swamp Root for many years was shipped worldwide from a huge fac- tory on Chenango and Lewis streets. Times have changed since Binghamton's heyday. A cigar industry that employed 6,000 hands at 50 locations is but a distant memory. The Endicott Johnson factories and tanner- ies that once-had 20,000 people on the payroll are demolished, ictims of changing styles, bad - management decisions and cheap foreign labor. IBM, with 388,000 employeeswor!dwide, is now based elsewhere. The city's last Agfa cameras rolled off the production lines in the 1990s. Many of Binghamton's stately homes are now funeral parlors. When employed, Jiverly Wong earned $9 an hour. While on unemployment, he received $200 a week. With his limited English, he once told a co-w9rker thatAmerica sucks. Bobbie King, whose me- morial service was at Temple Concord housedin Kilmer's former mansion--would have disagreed. Jackie Jacobs is executive director of the Columbus, Ohio, Jewish Foundation.