Reform, Conservative leaders visit Pollard in prison

Religious leaders vow to intensify their efforts to bring about the release of Israeli agent after visiting him at North Carolina prison.

Gil Hoffman - The Jerusalem Post - July 17, 2013

The leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements in the United States vowed to intensify their efforts to bring about the release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard after visiting him at Butner Federal Penitentiary in North Carolina last week.

Pollard has not been in well enough health to receive visitors for several months. But he made an exception for the Reform and Conservative leaders in a visit organized by Young Israel executive director emeritus Rabbi Pesach Lerner, who has led efforts to bring about Pollard's release.

Union for Reform Judaism president Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the Reform movement's Religious Action Center director Rabbi David Saperstein, Rabbinical Assembly executive vice president Rabbi Julie Schonfeld and Rabbinical Assembly former president Rabbi Alvin Berkun met Pollard for two hours and heard about his plight.

The rabbis said they found Pollard in frail health due to his long incarceration and the range of physical ailments from which he suffers. They reasserted, more strongly than ever, that his release is overdue. They said that hearing the painful narrative of his long years in prison renewed their determination to help secure his release.

Together, as representatives of the largest streams in the American Jewish religious community, the RA, RAC and URJ renewed their call for US President Barack Obama to immediately commute Pollard's sentence and release him from prison. Pollard has served 28 years - the longest sentence for any individual convicted of similar offenses in the United States.

The leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements have been engaged in vigorous advocacy for years, passing resolutions, issuing public statements, advocating for Pollard's clemency to four presidential administrations and to Congress, and working with their large number of member rabbis across the nation who have regularly preached and written on the unfairness and inequity of Pollard's sentence.

Pollard's wife, Esther, said that she and her husband appreciated the renewed and strongly-expressed commitment of the Reform and Conservative Jewish leaders to press for Jonathan's immediate release via presidential commutation of his sentence to time served.

"The Reform and Conservative constituencies in the USA have a close and influential relationship with President Obama and are in a position to articulate to the president, the concern for Jonathan that all of world Jewry feels," Esther Pollard said. "We believe that the positive interventions planned by the Reform and Conservative leadership, particularly now, when Jonathan's health is so frail, can make all the difference and save his life. We hope and pray that with their help, and the support of all leaders, Jonathan can be home for his birthday, August 7th, and he can finally receive the medical care he so desperately needs."

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