Israelis protest for Jonathan Pollard in Jerusalem 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Israeli Council of Progressive (Reform) Rabbis recently drafted an emotional
letter to US President Barack Obama pleading with him to release Israeli agent
The Pollard case was once seen as an issue that was
primarily promoted by right-wing and Orthodox Jews. But lately Reform rabbis in
America and now in Israel have adopted the case as a human rights issue at the
top of their agenda.
The Israeli Reform rabbis drafted their letter amid
increasing pressure on Obama to commute Pollard’s sentence to the more than 26
years of his life term he has already served. The pressure is expected to
intensify ahead of Obama’s meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on
Monday in Washington.
“We Jewish leaders primarily base our request to
you on the humanitarian compassion that unites us all,” the rabbis wrote. “Mr.
President, Pollard entered prison at age 30 and now he is close to
The price that he paid for his actions was harsh, difficult and
irreversible. His life has already been destroyed and his medical condition is
bad and getting worse.” The rabbis noted that Pollard had expressed complete
remorse for his actions personally and publicly many times.
“He and his
wife already will not be able to bring children into this world as they had
dreamed,” the rabbis wrote. “All they have left to ask for is to enable him to
live the remainder of his life as a free man.”
The rabbis added that such
a humanitarian step would reflect the values of justice, compassion and fairness
that the United States was built on. In writing the letter, the Israelis joined
their American rabbinical counterparts on the Pollard bandwagon.
Eric Yoffie, the immediate past president of the Reform Movement, and Rabbi
David Saperstein, director of the Reform Religious Action Center, met with Obama
privately after the president spoke at a Reform Conference in Washington in
Nearly half the meeting was devoted to the Pollard
In their appeal to the president, the rabbis stressed that
commuting Pollard’s sentence was a matter of consensus throughout the Jewish
community. But Yoffie emphasized that while Pollard’s release was important to
the Jewish community as a whole, “it is especially important to the Reform
The rabbis said after the December meeting that they
felt the president had listened to their appeal with a sympathetic ear. They
told people they felt encouraged and that they were expecting movement on the
Pollard issue “soon.”
“Hopefully we will see some progress in the
not-too-distant future in terms of getting clemency for Jonathan Pollard,”
Saperstein said in a video calling for Pollard’s release that has been
circulating on YouTube.
American Jewish leaders expressed cautious
optimism that the Obama-Netanyahu meeting could lead to Pollard’s
“The time is ripe now,” a prominent American Jewish leader said.
“The upcoming summit with Netanyahu next week provides the president with the
perfect opportunity to release Pollard – a gesture that would be appreciated by
Jews around the world, especially the Reform movement, his greatest supporters.”