As the effort to gain clemency for Jonathan Pollard continues to grow, the Chicago-based Rabbi Capers C. Funnye, Jr. wrote to President Obama and called upon him to free Pollard (the full text of the letter appears below). What makes Rabbi Funnye’s call for clemency so unique is that Funnye is related to the President. Rabbi Funnye’s mother, Verdelle Robinson Funnye, and First Lady Michelle Obama’s paternal grandfather, Frasier Robinson, Jr., were brother and sister, which makes Funnye and Michelle Obama first cousins, once removed.
Rabbi Funnye is a Jewish African American who serves as the chief rabbi of the Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Chicago, which is one of the largest black synagogues in America. He is a co-founder of the Alliance of Black Jews and a Senior Research Associate for the Institute of Jewish and Community Research, located in San Francisco, California. Rabbi Funnye is the first African-American member of the Chicago Board of Rabbis.
“Jonathan Pollard has served over 25 years in prison for a crime that he has expressed great remorse publicly and privately for committing against our country,” wrote Rabbi Funnye in his letter to the President. “I write to add my voice to the many voices that have appealed to you for clemency by commuting Jonathan Pollard’s sentence to time served.”
Rabbi Funnye’s letter to the President comes amidst a groundswell of support for clemency for Pollard among prominent government officials, high-ranking individuals in the national intelligence arena, leading professionals in the legal world, and renowned religious and communal leaders. Pollard has spent the past 25 years in a federal prison for passing classified information to Israel.
Former CIA Director James Woolsey, former White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum, former Deputy Attorney General and Harvard Law Professor Philip Heymann, former Senator and Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dennis DeConcini, and Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York, each of whom had the opportunity to thoroughly review Pollard’s classified file and is fully familiar with the circumstances of his case, have called for Pollard’s release.
In addition, a wide array of American leaders have called for a commutation of Pollard’s grossly disproportionate sentence, including former Vice President Dan Quayle, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former Arkansas governor and former Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, former Senator and Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Arlen Specter, Senator Charles Schumer of New York, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, former New York City Mayor and former Republican Presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, well-known conservative leader Gary Bauer, Rev. Theodore Hesburgh of Notre Dame, Pastor John Hagee, and Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, who was President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama’s law professor at Harvard and remains friends with them today.
The following is the text of Rabbi Funnye’s letter to President Obama:
January 25, 2011
The Honorable Barack Hussein Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
I write to add my voice to the many voices that have appealed to you for clemency by commuting Jonathan Pollard’s sentence to time served.
Jonathan Pollard has served over 25 years in prison for a crime that he has expressed great remorse publicly and privately for committing against our country. Mr. Pollard pled guilty under a plea agreement with which he fully complied but the sentencing judge ignored the normal course of action in these matters.
It is with great humility and knowing your sense of fairness, that I ask you to give the matter of commuting the sentence of Jonathan Pollard every consideration.
Rabbi Capers C. Funnye, Jr.
(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)