Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed)
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky called for the immediate release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard in a speech Wednesday night at the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial in Washington, DC.
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"Having raised the issue with both White House and cabinet officials in Washington, I am aware that this is a complicated matter for the American Jewish community," he said. "But today when there is a growing consensus in favor of Pollard's release among former Pentagon and CIA officials, American figures, legal authorities, the Israeli government, and American Jewish leaders, the time has come to vigorously and loudly demand his freedom. Twenty-six years is more than enough."
Sharansky served three years in prison and five years of forced labor as a prisoner of Zion in Russia.
The URJ biennial is touted as the biggest gathering of American Jewry,
and is both a celebration of and display of the power of America's
largest Jewish religious stream. Held at the National Harbor Convention
Center just outside of Washington DC, this year's event features such
heavyweights as Defense Minister Ehud Barak and US President Barack
Obama will address the gathering as the keynote speaker early Friday
afternoon. With Republican presidential campaigners upping the ante on
pro-Israel rhetoric in recent weeks, Friday's speech will provide an
opportunity for the president to address his key Jewish constituency. In
the 2008 presidential elections, Obama garnered nearly three-quarters
of the US Jewish votes, but he has been under steady fire for his policy
on the Middle East.
Barak, who is scheduled to speak on Thursday evening, has been in
Washington since earlier this week, meeting with Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton in a closed-door meeting on Wednesday afternoon. On
Thursday morning, Barak met with elementary school students at a local
Jewish day school, speaking about the legacy of prime minister Yitzhak
The URJ event marks the departure of the organization's leader for the
past 14 years, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, and the installation of a new
president, Rabbi Rick Jacobs. The conference, which was sold-out at
approximately 5,000 attendees, began on Wednesday and will continue
through to Saturday night.