Metro woman weds spy in secret prison ceremony

June 9, 1994 - Jim Wilkes - The Toronto Star

A Metro woman has broken her silence to reveal she has married in prison one of America's most notorious spies. But Elaine Zeitz is keeping most of the details top secret. She'll only say that her wedding ceremony with convicted spy Jonathan Pollard at the federal penitentiary in Butner, N.C., was "informal."

And for what she calls "security reasons," Zeitz won't say whether she knew the former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst before 1990, won't disclose when the ceremony took place, nor who performed it.

Pollard, 39, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 after pleading guilty to providing U.S. military secrets to Israel. He was said to have passed thousands of top-secret documents - enough to fill a closet - to authorities in Jerusalem.

Pollard's first wife, Ann, from whom he is divorced and who now lives in Israel, received a five-year prison term for unauthorized possession of national defence documents.

Zeitz, who runs a North York center for children with learning disabilities, says she and Pollard have gone public with the news of their marriage in a new effort to win his freedom. U.S. President Bill Clinton refused to commute Pollard's sentence in March despite a plea from Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and calls for clemency by Jewish groups around the world.

"Jonathan and I decided that the most unimpeachable voice in support of a man is his wife - even if it means sacrificing our personal privacy," Zeitz says. "I'm doing this to save his life. Essentially, now he's been buried alive."

Although Pollard was convicted of one count of passing classified information to an ally, Zeitz claims he was never accused before a court of being a traitor or harming his country. Those accusations came since his imprisonment, she says, from high-ranking officials, including Clinton.

"He was given a sentence consistent with enemy agents," Zeitz says. "It amounts to a legal redefinition of Israel as an enemy state."

She says Pollard was caught in a "political showdown" between Israel and the United States. "He broke the law and he realizes he had to be punished. There's no way we're saying he's above the law. But the punishment should fit the crime."

Zeitz says that, after exchanging a few letters with Pollard, they knew they'd be together, sooner or later. "We were committed to each other from the very start," she says. "It's a triumph of love over adversity."

Zeitz says their prison ceremony was "very bittersweet. It tore my heart out to leave him." North Carolina officials say they have no record of a Pollard marriage under state law. But Zeitz says the ceremony was "according to Jewish tradition in a Jewish traditional way."

Such a ceremony wouldn't require a rabbi, according to Rabbi Philip Scheim of Metro's Beth David synagogue. The service could be conducted by "any person who is knowledgeable and authoritative in Jewish law," he says.

Zeitz says she'll continue her crusade to win Pollard's release and plans to settle with him in Jerusalem once - and if - he's freed from prison. "We want to lead a very private and quiet life, to be together and raise a family," she says. "But as long as he's in prison, I'm in prison, too."