New York – A broad-based interfaith coalition comprised of more than 500 members of the clergy and community leaders sent a letter today to President Barack Obama, in which they called on the President to commute the sentence of Jonathan Pollard.
The signatories on the letter include prominent religious and communal leaders from a wide array of Christian and Jewish communities, including representatives of Alliance for Jewish Renewal, American Values, Amit, Association of Reform Zionists of America, B’nai B’rith International, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Christians United for Israel, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, EMUNAH of America, Florida Council of Churches, Hebrew Union College, Hillel, JCC’s of North America, Jewish Women International, National Council of Young Israel, New York Board of Rabbis, ORT America, Inc., Orthodox Union, Rabbinical Council of America, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Religious Zionists of America-Mizrachi, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Union for Reform Judaism, Yeshiva University, and the Zionist Organization of America.
“We, the undersigned over five hundred religious and communal leaders representative of the broad spectrum of the American faith community – wish to add our voices in support of clemency for Jonathan Pollard,” wrote the religious and communal leaders. “We are united in the fundamental belief that ‘Justice, only justice, shall you pursue’ (Deuteronomy 16:20), which rests at the core of our moral principles and system of justice.”
“Commuting his sentence to time served would be a wholly appropriate exercise of your power of clemency – as well as a matter of basic fairness and American justice,” continued the religious and communal leaders. “It would also represent a clear sense of compassion and reconciliation – a sign of hope much needed in today’s world of tension and turmoil.”
The letter was spearheaded by David Nyer, an Orthodox Jewish activist, who collaborated on this effort with many Jewish and non-Jewish organizations. Nyer noted that Jonathan Pollard’s life sentence is grossly disproportionate when compared to the sentences of others who have spied for allied nations. In addition, countless elected officials, individuals from the national intelligence arena and the legal world, as well as religious and community leaders, have described Pollard’s sentence as excessive, and have called for his sentence to be commuted.
Pollard, who just began his 26th year in federal prison, has repeatedly expressed his remorse publicly and in private in letters to many Presidents and others. His health has deteriorated significantly during his two-and-a-half decades in prison.
“Jonathan Pollard has already served 25 years – much longer than anyone else having committed the same offense,” said well-known Conservative Republican leader Gary Bauer, the President of American Values. “He has repeatedly expressed remorse; his health is deteriorating. I join many other prominent figures from across the political spectrum in urging President Obama to exercise simple American justice, clemency, and compassion on his behalf.”
“I have written president Obama seeking a pardon for Jonathan Pollard,” said Professor Charles J. Ogletree, the Jesse Climenko Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and the Director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice. “I hope the President grants the wishes of many who have supported a pardon for Mr. Pollard.” Professor Ogletree, who was President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama’s law professor at Harvard and remains friends with them today, recently sent his own letter to the President concerning Jonathan Pollard.
Rabbi Donald A. Levy, the Rabbi of Temple Beit Torah in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and a Chaplain, Major in the United States Air Force (retired), is a signatory on the letter and has asked President Obama to commute Jonathan Pollard’s sentence. Rabbi Levy was on active duty in the U.S. Navy and working as a cryptologist when Jonathan Pollard was arrested. At the time, Rabbi Levy was chosen to participate in the team assessing the damage potentially caused by Jonathan Pollard’s disclosures.
“There was nothing that we came across to indicate that Pollard gave information to any country but Israel,” said Rabbi Levy. “Further, the information he probably disclosed consisted primarily of daily operational intelligence summaries, information that is extremely perishable. It did not appear to me at the time that the information he gave Israel should have resulted in a life sentence.”
“It appears that Mr. Pollard is in prison not because of the crime he committed but due to geopolitics,” said Carlos M. Salinas, former Acting Director of Government Relations for Amnesty International USA. “No human being should ever be a chit in such a game.”
“After spending the past quarter-century in a jail cell, it is time for the United States to open the prison gates and allow Jonathan Pollard to return home to his wife, his family, and the Jewish people,” said Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the Executive Vice President of the National Council of Young Israel. Rabbi Lerner, who communicates regularly with Jonathan Pollard and his wife Esther, and is considered by Jonathan to be his clergy, has been intimately and actively involved with Jonathan Pollard’s plight for almost 20 years.
“I urge President Obama to heed the calls of prominent law enforcement personnel, renowned legal professionals, and many other elected officials, professors of law, and community leaders, all of whom concur that Jonathan Pollard’s life sentence is grossly disproportionate when compared to the sentences of others who have spied for allied nations,” continued Rabbi Lerner.
“As he enters his 26th year of imprisonment, Jonathan Pollard has paid disproportionately for the crimes for which he has repeatedly expressed remorse,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “It is time that he be released and allowed to rebuild his life. It is now a humanitarian matter that calls for compassion and justice.”
“The time has come for Jonathan Pollard to be released from prison,” said Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. “Having already served a quarter of a century, his time in prison greatly exceeds that of many whose crimes are more serious. Justice has been done, and must now be tempered by mercy. Clemency is now the moral choice.”