The Chutzpah Award Goes to Rabbi Lau

Justice4JP Release - April 30, 2003

The Chutzpah award goes to Rabbi Lau, who recently ended his 10 year term in office as Chief Rabbi, for his statements to B'Sheva Magazine. In spite of numerous halachic rulings to the contrary, Rabbi Lau attempts to deny that the Mitzvah of Pidyan shvuyim applies to Jonathan Pollard. Then, he perversely stands history on its head when he insists that, "Esther Pollard should remember that when she set up a tent in HaMashbir Square for Jonathan, Rabbi Lau was one of the first persons to come and see her."

J4JP would like to point out that Rabbi Lau did not come to HaMashbir Square to support the Pollards. He came on behalf of the Government of Israel to order Esther Pollard to end her hunger strike! J4JP also notes that this one "visit" to the hunger strike site in 1996 represents the sum and total of all of Rabbi Lau's involvement in the Pollard case in the 10 years that Lau held office. Below, Esther Pollard tells what really happened that day at HaMashbir Square.

Esther Pollard Responds:

How well we do remember, Rabbi Lau!

Jonathan's rabbi, HaRav Mordecai Eliyahu was in Butner N.C. with my husband that day in 1996 when you came to HaMashbir Square to order me to stop my hunger strike. You came with T.V. cameras and reporters and announced that if I did not end my hunger strike at once I would be in violation of Halacha. You insisted that I swear in front of the cameras that I would end my fast. I responded that Jonathan and I have a rabbi and that we would follow what our rabbi says. You berrated and mocked me publicly, insisted that no rabbi could possibly be guiding us, and challenged me to tell you the name of our rabbi. I refused to.

As soon as HaRav Eliyahu returned to Israel from his visit to Jonathan, he came to HaMashbir Square to bless me, just as he had publicly blessed me at the start of the hunger strike. I told HaRav Eliyahu about how you had tried to humiliate us publicly in order to force an end to the hunger strike, and how you had demanded to know who our rabbi is, but that I would not say. At first HaRav Eliyahu was puzzled. "But Esther," he said, "you know it is fine to name me as Jonathan's rabbi, why didn't you?" I replied, "Your Honor, Rabbi Lau only wanted your name to do harm, not good. Under such circumstances I could not comply." HaRav Eliyahu looked pained and he just nodded.

Rabbi Lau, now that you know who our rabbi is, perhaps you would like to know what he has written on the Mitzvah of Pidyan Shvuyim (The Redemption of A Captive) as it relates to my husband. The complete text is on the web at Here is an excerpt:

"In response to the question that others have asked you, namely whether the mitzvah of Pidyan Shvuyim (the redemption of a captive) is relevant in the case of the above-named, Jonathan Pollard.. Those who ask, should themselves be asked how it is that they could have any doubt. It should be clear that this is a great mitzvah and it is the obligation of all the nation of Israel no matter where they may be, to do everything that they can to assist and to aid with all of their strength and all of their means to work to extricate and free the Honorable Gentleman Jonathan Pollard, may G-d watch over him and protect him, who sacrificed himself, for the good of, and in order to save, all of the nation of Israel." [signed: HaRav Mordecai Eliyahu]

Rabbi Lau, why not also have a look at the Great Roshei Yeshiva's Declaration on the Mitzvah of Pidyan Shvuyim as it applies to Jonathan. See the original ad and signatures at here and the text alone at here.

There is also a full page ad in the New York Times on behalf of Jonathan signed by 1000 Rabbis that you might want to look at.

Then, if you would like to tell us why you refused, right up to your last day in office as Chief Rabbi, to honor your repeated promise to visit Jonathan; and why you never included Jonathan in public prayers, the people of Israel deserve an answer.

See Also:
  • Fasting for Jonathan
  • B'Sheva Part I: Interview With Esther Pollard: "The G-d of Israel Will Free Jonathan"
  • B'Sheva Part II: In the House of Slavery
  • Fatherly Love and Sage Guidance: HaRav Mordecai Eliyahu