National Geographic : 2005 Jun
become that Sholom Rubashkin was quoted calling Rekow an anti-Semite. Now Rekow says he's glad the Hasidim came to Postville. "The Jewish people don't cause any problems whatsoever," he says. And the plant has helped turn the town's moribund economy around, employing 700 people from 14 countries and processing more than 100 million dollars worth of livestock a year. Postville's population grew 55 percent in the 1990s to nearly 2,300-about ten times the rate for the rest of the state. Today half the pupils in Postville's kindergarten are Spanish-speaking children of workers at AgriProcessors and other nearby plants. The town has both a popular Mexican restaurant and a kosher deli. The visitors center sells gifts representing the mixed heritage of the new Postville, from painted wooden crosses to glass figurines of bar mitzvah boys. Nina Taylor, who runs the gift shop, says, yes, she could send me to people "who want to go back to the '50s. But if we go back there, we'd be a dead town." Rubashkin says his people have simply learned to fit in. They invite neighbors to their bar mitzvahs and have grown to appreciate a mowed lawn. "We don't look down on anybody. We share the same family val ues. And we learned the custom of saying 'hello. You do that in New York and people think you're nuts." Now that PETA has targeted AgriProcessors-a threat from true outsiders-the town has rallied round. The city council passed a reso lution renouncing "unfounded and unproven attacks on AgriProcessors, Inc. or its kosher processing." When I'd first asked Rubashkin for a tour of the slaughterhouse, he was wary, asking why I wanted to see it. I said that without it there wouldn't be much to Post ville. "The locals don't want to hear that," he said rue fully. I said that's exactly what the locals had been telling me. For a man who rarely pauses, he did so for a second before replying, "Then things have really changed." l TALKING KOSHER Find more Postville images and join a discussion about kosher practices at nationalgeographic.com/magazine/0506. Cradling the youngest of his ten children, Sholom Rubashkin (above) wraps up business before the Jewish Sabbath (Shabbat) begins and all work must cease. When his father bought AgriProcessors, Rubashkin moved his family from Brooklyn to the Midwest. Younger members of Postville's Hasidim-including these women who cover their eyes in prayer to usher in Shabbat (below)-call this corner of Iowa home. And after 18 years, so does Sholom: "Until the Messiah comes," he says, "I'm staying right here."