Pollard's Sentence Assailed at Cedarhurst Rally

Leon Schwartzbaum - The Jewish Week (NY) - December 17, 1992

Almost 1,000 people who know and care about Jonathan Pollard gathered recently at Temple Beth El in Cedarhurst in support of the man who is serving a life sentence in a federal prison for spying for Israel.

"Public figures are staying away from this case as if it were the plague," said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.). "It is time that I speak out. This is not a Jewish cause, but it is a cause that Jews understand."

Rabbi Ave Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale told the audience, many of them wearing lapel buttons supporting efforts to free Pollard, that he "has become a Jewish American political prisoner" who is serving a term far longer than any imposed for a similar crime.

"He was arrested as an American but was sentenced as a Jew," Weiss said, "in a perversion of American justice."

"It's time that the American people understand that it could happen to anyone," said Seymour Reich, past president of B'nai B'rith International and past chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Reich said he was there because it is time for the American Jewish community to speak out.

Carol Pollard Levy, Jonathan's sister, blamed Caspar Weinberger, then secretary of defense, for influencing the Justice Department to renege on its agreement for leniency in exchange for Pollard's cooperation.

Characterizing Weinberger's motive as "a visceral dislike for Israel," she read an excerpt of the former cabinet officer's memorandum to the sentencing judge. In it he described Pollard's crime as "the worst case of spying."

Organized by the Five Towns Jewish Council and the Jewish Political Caucus, the rally was sponsored by Congregation Beth Sholom (Lawrence), Congregation Shaaray Tefila (Lawrence), Congregation Sons of Israel (Woodmere), Temple Beth El (Cedarhurst), Temple Hillel (North Woodmere), Hewlett-East Rockaway Jewish Centre and the Sephardic Temple (Cedarhurst).

Peggy Weinstein, president of the Jewish Political Caucus, said the nonpartisan organization based its support for issues and candidates on the answer to the question "Is it good for the Jews?"

Pollard's case is one of the causes taken up by the caucus. Another rally is scheduled for Dec. 15 at Temple Israel in Great neck.

Each speaker at the recent rally commented on the large attendance and the interest in Pollard that such a turnout represented.

Pollard's sister told the audience of Jonathan's longtime commitment to Jewish causes and to the people of Israel. She recalled his dismay at finding that information vital to Israel's survival was being withheld, despite an agreement between the two countries to share such intelligence.

Ackerman, whose district includes parts of northern Queens and the North Shore of Nassau County, said the country is standing by while an injustice is being done. He said although Pollard broke the law by giving Israel classified information about Arab unclear, chemical and biological weapons, his crime didn't jeopardize or compromise American security.

He pointed out that other convicted spies, such as the Walker family, committed acts of treason and espionage far more serious but received less punishment than Pollard's life sentence in solitary confinement.

"And why?" Ackerman asked. "So that a message might be sent out to the Jews: 'You'd better stay in your place. You'd better know who you are. There was no equality, no balance. Jonathan Pollard has been denied all of the days of his life in order to send out that message."

Ackerman added that it was intolerable that a Jew in this society would be treated differently from any others.

President-elect Bill Clinton has said he will review the Pollard case. Reich urged the audience to continue to make Clinton, President Bush and New York congressional representatives aware of their support for commutation of his sentence.