Urgent Question for the Conference of Presidents
A letter to Malcolm Hoenlein from Esther Pollard
Justice4JP Release - March 27, 2001
Mr. Malcolm Hoenlein, Exec. Vice Chairman
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
Thursday, March 22, 2001 B"H
BY FACSIMILE: 2 page transmission
It was good to see you and speak with you during my recent trip to New York. Jonathan and I appreciated your reiterating for myself and Rabbi Lerner the commitment of the Conference to securing Jonathan's release. Your personal words of support and promise to advocate for Jonathan echoed the sentiments that were expressed in your January 23, 2001 media release which stated, "We will continue our efforts [for Pollard] with the Bush administration and hope that the new President will take this under serious consideration."
In 1996, in the midst of a hunger strike in Jerusalem, I received a phone call from Leon Levy - the first and only phone call that I have ever received from any official of the Conference of Presidents. He told me that he was calling at the request of my husband's rabbi, HaRav Mordecai Eliyahu shlita, to express the support of the Conference of Presidents for my husband. He told me that the Conference was deeply committed to my husband's release and that the Conference would continue its intensive efforts on Jonathan's behalf. I responded by thanking him for his sentiments and asking, " My husband will be calling here in about 15 minutes. I am sure that it would be meaningful to him to know what it is that the Conference is doing for him. Could you please tell me what initiatives have been undertaken on his behalf?" There was dead silence on the other end of the phone.
The above incident came to mind when only days after our meeting in New York, the Conference of Presidents and a number of major Jewish organizations sent representatives, yourself included, to the White House to meet with the new president, George W. Bush. While the Conference of Presidents had never before included Jonathan on any of its official agenda in White House meetings, we were sure that this time it would be different. After all, Jonathan is now in his 16th year of a life sentence; he is desperately ill; he has a strong legal case to support requests for his release; his release was promised to Israel at Wye; and last but not least, Jewish leaders had so shamed themselves with their open support of a pardon for Marc Rich that the best way to redeem themselves in the eyes of the Jewish community would be to make amends for their long-standing silence on the issue of Jonathan Pollard.
We waited to hear that among the "broad range of concerns to the Jewish community" that the Conference brought to the attention of President Bush, was the issue of Jonathan Pollard. But again all there was, was this deafening silence. Not a word about Pollard.
No one was surprised when Abe Foxman did not raise the Pollard case with the President. His hypocritical stand is well known. The ADL's strong advocacy on behalf of Marc Rich, in sharp contrast to their stubborn refusal to take a position on the Pollard case because they "cannot find any anti-Semitism in the Pollard case" speaks for itself. Clearly there was no anti-Semitism in the Rich case either, just a lot of donor dollars.
But there was an expectation of both decency and judicious advocacy from those leaders and groups that publicly claim to be concerned about my husband, and that -at least on paper- support his release. If the judicial inequities of the case were not sufficient reason for Jewish voices to be heard by the President, then the fact that Jonathan is so ill that we fear a tragedy (G-d forbid) before his case makes its long way through the courts, would seem to be ample reason for an urgent appeal at this time.
It is with a deep sense of disappointment that I write this letter to you at my husband's instruction. He said that I must write to ask, in view of the above, just what it is that the Conference is doing to support his release that allows it to publicly present itself as a legitimate advocate of the case? I look forward to hearing from you.
[Mrs. Jonathan Pollard]
cc Mr. Ronald Lauder
Mr. Seymour Reich