Rabbi Lerner's letter to Jonathan Pollard after meeting with President Obama

Justice4JPnews - March 3, 2011

The following letter was written by Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President of the National Council of Young Israel, who is spearheading the Pollard clemency campaign in the US, to Jonathan Pollard, updating him on the Conference of Presidents' mission to Washington and their meeting with President Barack Obama. The letter is being shared with the permission of both the author and the recipient.

New York
March 2, 2011 B"H

Dear Jonathan,

Allow me to review the events of the last 48 hours re the Conference of Presidents mission to Washington.

The Conference of Presidents had a scheduled visit to Washington DC for Tuesday March 1, 2011. About 50 members of the Conference were signed on to go. I was one of those going, representing the National Council of Young Israel. I planned to fly down Tuesday morning and fly back to NY after the meetings.

On Monday Feb. 28, there was a conference call for all the participants, to discuss the mission-- the schedule, protocol, who we would be meeting with, etc. We were told that the plan was to meet with the President, it was on his schedule, but his schedule could change as the day progressed.

During the course of the call, questions were asked regarding what subject matter would be discussed, what questions could be asked, etc. Participants asked, among other things, if we could bring up, with the President, the situation of Jonathan Pollard.

The Conference leadership replied---our views on the matter are well known, therefore, yes, for sure, questions about the plight of Pollard could be asked.

On Tuesday, March 1, 2011, at about 1 pm we went to the White House. We were ushered into what I think is the official executive dining room. A large picture of President Abraham Lincoln was on one wall, and a large picture of President George Washington could be seen in the next room. There were over 50 of us, in addition to a few government officials. The tables were arranged in a very large square taking up almost the entire room.

There were assigned place cards at every seat, with the President and the Chairman and Exec Vice Chairman of the Conference sitting under the picture of President Lincoln. At each place was a glass of water, a few pieces of White House stationary and a pencil

I was sitting at what would be the far left corner across from the President, which made my seat one of the first ones the President would pass when he entered through the main door entering the room.

Before the President arrived, we heard from Dennis Ross, Special Assistant to the President, and Dan Shapiro of the National Security Council.

When the President entered, he shook the hand of each of us, starting from those in my corner, and he circled the room and shook the hand of each person present.

After introductory remarks from the Conference chairman, the President discussed various issues--Iran, Middle East, Israel, etc

The President then said he would rather answer questions. The President suggested that the Conference chairman be the one to decide who is to ask the questions, so those who do not get picked would not be mad at him.

About 5-6 questions were then asked and answered. There were many, many more people who raised their hand ----myself among them----to be recognized to ask a question, but obviously there was a limited time frame for questions.

In preparation for this meeting, and in the hope that I would be able to ask a question, make a comment, etc.I had prepared my comments--and had them printed on a 3x4 inch cardstock.

I had a few copies of the card with me.

On the card was typed--

Dear Mr. President,

Our thoughts and prayers are with you during these difficult and challenging times. Please allow me to share the concern of members of the Conference and many members and leaders of the greater Jewish and non-Jewish community regarding, Jonathan Pollard.

After more than 25 years of incarceration, in view of his repeated expressions of remorse, and in light of Pollard's severely deteriorated health, we respectfully ask that you take into account the numerous calls for his release --by the Prime Minister and Knesset of Israel, and by numerous former senior U.S. government officials--- and commute Jonathan Pollard's sentence to time served without further delay.

Rabbi Pesach Lerner
Executive Vice President
National Council of Young Israel
111 John St., Suite 450
New York, NY 10038
212-929-1525 ext. 100

When it became obvious that I would not be called on---the President said he had time for two more questions, and after those two people were chosen and answered, I had a thought.--- I had the cards printed, maybe I can hand one to the President.

After the President answered the two final questions, Malcolm Hoenlein, Conference vice chairman, spoke and gave the President a gift. After the presentation, the President arose, as we all did.

Now, I thought, was my chance and I began to move towards the President as he would walk out.
I saw that I had a few minutes as the President was talking to people and had not yet begun to move.

Dennis Ross had been sitting 5 or 6 spaces to my right, so I walked over to Dennis, said hello, and gave him one of the cards. I explained, "This is a question I did not have a chance to ask-about clemency for Jonathan Pollard." I asked him to read the card and pass my comments on.
He took the card and said thank you.

I then proceeded to the President and was able to stand right next to him.
He was signing an autograph for one of our group to give to her son.
The president looked up, I was right there.
I shook his hand--
I said, "Mr. President, this is the question I was not able to ask you.
It's about clemency for Jonathan Pollard."
I gave him the card, which he took.
He said, "Thank you, I will read it."
He had the card in his hand as he continued to walk, stopping to greet others until he went out through the kitchen entrance.

When Malcolm Hoenlein saw what I did, he asked me, did you mention Pollard?
I said "Yes."
He then told me that he and Alan Solow, Conference chairman, discussed it with White House staff, during meetings they had that morning, before the Conference mission started.

I can only hope and pray that the President heard the urgency in my voice when I mentioned "clemency for Jonathan Pollard" and that he reads the card with the kind of attention this issue deserves.


Take care, Jonathan.
Talk to you soon.