July 9, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Aaron Troodler
Jewish Leaders Thank Congressmen Engel and Smith for Spearheading Unprecedented Bi-Partisan Effort
As an historic bi-partisan "Dear Colleague" letter is being circulated in the U.S. House of Representatives in support of clemency for Jonathan Pollard, a coalition representing the full spectrum of American Jewry has united to urge Members of Congress to sign this urgent plea to President Obama, and to express its gratitude to the lawmakers who initiated this extraordinary bi-partisan effort. Representatives of the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jewish movements have issued written pleas to lawmakers, as well as to their respective constituencies, to generate support for this unprecedented effort to free Pollard.
Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Congressman Christopher Smith (R-NJ), both of whom are veteran members of the House of Representatives, are soliciting signatures on a letter to President Obama, which urges the President to commute Pollard's sentence to time served. The letter marks the first time Congressional Democrats and Republicans have joined forces in an effort to secure Pollard's release.
"Acting on the broad consensus of its member organizations, the Conference of Presidents has long supported humanitarian interventions to gain clemency for Jonathan Pollard now in his 27th year of imprisonment," said Richard Stone, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
"The Congressional letter led by Rep. Engel and Rep. Smith and joined by a large bipartisan group of their colleagues is an important initiative. We urge our member organizations to reach out to their members and affiliates to secure as many co-sponsors as possible. The growing number of elected officials and leaders of all faiths who have called on the President to grant clemency is a recognition that Pollard has served longer than anyone for a comparable crime and it is time for him to be released," continued Stone and Hoenlein.
"On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, with membership of more than 1800 Reform rabbis, we write to request your support for clemency for Jonathan Pollard and to urge you to join a letter to that effect to the President, currently being circulated by Representatives Eliot Engel and Chris Smith," wrote Rabbi David Saperstein, the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, in a letter to Members of Congress.
"Mr. Pollard has been imprisoned for 27 years, one of the longest prison terms of any American ever convicted of spying for an ally of the United States. Our reason for supporting clemency for Mr. Pollard's sentence is not out of a belief that he is innocent, but instead is motivated by a need for fair and just criminal sentencing....[W]e urge you to join this call for clemency, asking the President to act with mercy and grant Jonathan Pollard long-overdue clemency," continued Rabbi Saperstein.
"Reps. Eliot Engel and Chris Smith are co-sponsoring this letter to President Obama urging him to commute the sentence of Jonathan Pollard," wrote the Rabbinical Assembly, which is the international association of Conservative rabbis, in a letter to its membership. "The RA has passed four resolutions most recently in 2011 urging the President to release Mr. Pollard from prison. He has served 27 years, the longest sentence ever given for spying for an ally. We ask those of you residing in the US to communicate with your representative asking him/her to sign the letter being circulated by Reps. Engel and Smith."
"We write on behalf of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation's largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, to request your support for a grant of clemency to Mr. Jonathan Pollard. Specifically, we urge you to co-sign the 'Dear Colleague' letter to the President currently being circulated by Representatives Engel and Smith," wrote Dr. Simcha Katz, President of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Rabbi Steven Burg, Managing Director of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the International Director of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, and Nathan J. Diament, Director of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America's Institute for Public Affairs, in a letter that was sent to Members of Congress.
"As Reps. Engel and Smith state, Mr. Pollard broke the law and deserved to be punished for his crime. However, his health is reportedly declining - he has recently been hospitalized for kidney and gallstone problems. It is also clear that Mr. Pollard, who has already been in prison for 27 years, has served a disproportionately severe sentence. The Orthodox Union has joined with others in the Jewish community to state that we believe the time has come for the President to grant him clemency."
Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the Executive Vice President, Emeritus of the National Council of Young Israel, which has more than 25,000 member families and approximately 140 branch synagogues throughout the United States, Canada, and Israel, noted that the National Council of Young Israel has also been working to generate additional support for the "Dear Colleague" letter. The National Council of Young Israel has been intimately and actively involved with Jonathan Pollard's plight for approximately 20 years, and has been one of the vocal and most ardent supporters of the movement to free Pollard. Rabbi Lerner communicates regularly with Jonathan Pollard and his wife Esther, and is considered by Jonathan to be his clergy.
The Committee to Free Jonathan Pollard stands united with the coalition of American Jewish leaders in urging people across the United States to contact their Congressional representatives as soon as possible to request that they sign onto this historic bi-partisan letter. People can go online in order to identify their Congressional representative and get his or her contact information.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Rabbinical Assembly, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, and the National Council of Young Israel strongly encourage their members, congregants, and rabbis to call their representative's Washington, DC office and ask to speak to, or leave a message for, the representative's Chief of Staff and let them know that as one of their constituents, you are asking them to sign onto the bi-partisan Engel-Smith "Dear Colleague" letter that is circulating in the House of Representatives, which calls for clemency for Jonathan Pollard.
Pollard has spent more than 26 years of an unprecedented life sentence languishing in a federal prison for passing classified information to Israel, an ally of the United States. The median sentence for this offense is 2 to 4 years. No one else in the history of the United States has ever received a life sentence for this offense.
Pollard received his life sentence without benefit of trial, as the result of a plea agreement which he honored and the government abrogated.
Pollard has repeatedly expressed his remorse publicly and in private in letters to many Presidents and others. His health has severely deteriorated after nearly three decades in prison.
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