Missed Pardon/Pardons And Pollard
Jewish Week (NY) - Letters to the Editor - March 5, 2001
Imagine what could have been: A wealthy fugitive living abroad becomes a generous supporter of numerous social and political causes. Tirelessly and incessantly he orchestrates and instructs his minions. He effectively uses his millions to increase his influence. He has a purpose.
As a result of his labor and attention, the powerful join in his cause. Finally, as a result of his effort, intrigue and influence, a pardon is issued for Jonathan Pollard. We would have said, "Marc Rich, what a mensch."
Pardons And Pollard
Rabbi Eric Yoffie tells us "we should be ashamed of ourselves" ("Shameful Display In Pardons," Feb. 16). Although I agree with his premise, I do not agree with much of his detail.
For the record, every religious leader and organization that I know has condemned as inexcusable all theft, tax evasion, diversion of funds, etc., regardless of the rationale behind such an activity. In fact, even the New Square community has said the actions of these four individuals were "most assuredly inexcusable."
These men were sentenced, are still incarcerated and will remain in prison for many months. They all have to pay restitution. What they did was wrong.
The question becomes motivation: Were they treated differently than secular universities that were accused of similar actions (i.e. NYU and Stanford, and not other yeshivas, as Rabbi Yoffie says), and health (one of the men, a 39-year-old father of 10, has suffered a stroke and is still in prison).
It was because they believed these men received a harsher punishment than individuals and institutions convicted of similar crimes that the leaders of New Square decided to ask the president to bring the punishment more in line with the facts and circumstances of the case.
Let us not confuse their guilt, to which we all agree, with their asking for rachmanut, compassion, after the sentence and as they serve their prison term.
But Rabbi Yoffie missed the opportunity when he only expressed your shame for those pardoned. "We should be ashamed of ourselves" because we did not do enough so that Jonathan Pollard would be pardoned. The rabbi and I, and many others, have signed letters on Jonathan's behalf but it is time to start again, in a stronger fashion, to fight for the release of Jonathan Pollard.
Rabbi Pesach Lerner
Executive Vice President, National Council of Young Israel
New York, N.Y.
See Also: The Clemency Page