On Tuesday, July 31st, Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) visited Jonathan Pollard at the Federal Correctional Complex at Butner, North Carolina. Hikind, along with Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President of the National Council of Young Israel; Dr. Joseph Geliebter, Director of the Rabbi Leib Geliebter Memorial Foundation; and Wolf Sender, District Manager of Community Board 12, spoke with Pollard for two-and-a-half hours. “Jonathan told me, ‘I know I broke the law; all I ask for is proportionality.’ And where is our proportionality? Where has the American Jewish community collectively been on an issue that will define our generation? Have we done enough? Absolutely not,” says Hikind.
“What has happened in your life in the last 22 years? Perhaps you’ve married, had children, maybe even become a grandparent; you have lived your life, with all the ups and downs which that entails, and all that time Jonathan Pollard has languished in prison for a crime which has netted others a far lighter sentence than a life term.
“It was humbling to look into the eyes of a man who spent 22 years of his life in confinement, and see a faith so deep and strong that even in federal detention, he has stringently adhered to the laws of Kashrus, under the harshest of circumstances, though he is in very poor health. His condition is not being monitored or treated adequately and is deteriorating. He became a baal Teshuva more than 15 years ago and has never looked back, only forward. He has paid his debt. All he wants is to go home to Israel and be with his dear and beloved wife, Esther.
“Jonathan’s prolonged incarceration is a tragedy which reflects poorly on all of us. The life sentence he received was disproportionate and disparate to that of individuals convicted of a similar crime. And it was a lifetime until the American Jewish community acknowledged its responsibility to Jonathan. It was very late in coming. And it’s not enough. All of us need to do more. If we all did 1/100th of what Rabbi Lerner has done, Jonathan’s sentence could have already been commuted. Jonathan is an extraordinary individual who has committed himself to Yiddishkeit. It is time we wholly committed ourselves to his release. The National Council of Young Israel is once again launching a national call-in drive to ask the President to commute Jonathan’s sentence. It’s time.
“As the Yomim Noraim approach and we are asking Hashem to bestow His mercy upon us and judge us favorably, we must show Hashem that we are merciful and worthy of merit. This is our generation’s nisayon: Have we fully extended ourselves in the mitzvah of pidyon shvuyim to redeem Jonathan? A crime….yes. A debt…yes. A life…yes, not a life sentence. We have to pull together now as a community to pull for Pollard. We must insist that our rabbinic leadership speak about Jonathan often, especially during the Yomim Noraim. We cannot rest until he’s in Israel.”
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