Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jewish Groups Unite Behind President Peres' Personal Appeal For Pollard's Release

April 20, 2012


Contact: Aaron Troodler
(888) 897-7450

In an extraordinary display of unity, representatives of the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jewish movements all renewed their calls for clemency for Jonathan Pollard. In their appeals to President Obama, the Jewish leaders threw their weight behind an official request from Israeli President Shimon Peres to President Obama in which he formally asked that Jonathan Pollard be immediately released.

President Peres is scheduled to receive the Medal of Freedom from President Obama in June. The obvious irony of Mr. Peres receiving the Freedom medal while Pollard languishes in an American jail is keenly felt in Israel. To date, nearly 50,000 Israelis have signed a petition which urges Peres to use his influence and standing in Washington to ensure that Pollard is released before the upcoming medal ceremony, so that all Israelis can take pride in this achievement. [View the Hebrew petition or the English version.]

The calls for Pollard's release came from the Union for Reform Judaism, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Rabbinical Assembly, the National Council of Young Israel, Agudath Israel of America, and the Orthodox Union. In addition, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which is the central coordinating body representing 51 national Jewish organizations on issues of national and international concern, also contacted the President and renewed its call for clemency for Pollard.


In his letter to President Obama, Rabbi David Zweibel, Esq., the Executive Vice President Agudath Israel of America, expressed deep dismay at the White House's cruelty in stonewalling on a response to the numerous clemency requests that have been made for Pollard's release. The letter noted that Pollard's failing health injects a note of urgency into the situation that requires a swift response to his latest formal clemency request, which was filed nearly two years ago.

"Whatever the ordinary protocol and timetable for the processing of commutation of sentence applications, humanitarian considerations dictate that Mr. Pollard's dire health status should prompt an expedited review of his application," said Zweibel. "As you may be aware, less than two weeks ago on April 5, Mr. Pollard was hospitalized due to an emergency condition. He was released from the hospital this Sunday, April 15, and is now back in prison. Still, his medical condition is serious and has been deteriorating for some time, as many people who have visited him recently have testified. Under these circumstances, allowing the review process on his commutation application to stretch on indeterminately seems particularly cruel."

"Please, Mr. President, have mercy on this man who has languished in federal prison for more than 26 long and debilitating years, and whose very life may well be hanging in the balance," continued Zweibel. "The time is now to at long last respond - favorably - to his application for commutation of sentence."


"We respectfully request that the Obama Administration heed Israeli President Peres' request that President Obama grant Jonathan Pollard clemency on humanitarian grounds," said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, which represents more than 900 congregations throughout North America and an estimated 1.5 million Jews. "Under the U.S. criminal system, we think this is precisely the appropriate standard justifying clemency. First, Jonathan Pollard has been incarcerated for nearly 27 years, after pleading guilty to espionage to an ally. While we do not condone Mr. Pollard's actions, we believe he has served his time. In studying precedents, no other individual convicted of similar crimes has served such a lengthy sentence. Further, the humanitarian justification is intensified by his deteriorating health condition."

"We urge immediate clemency so that he may be surrounded by his loved ones while trying to recover from a grave illness that put him in the hospital over the Passover holiday," continued Jacobs. "Clemency is both the just and compassionate response in this situation."


"A few months ago we visited Jonathan Pollard in prison and came away concerned about his health and the medical challenges he faced," said Richard Stone, Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and Malcolm Hoenlein, its Executive Vice Chairman. "The news of his hospitalization has augmented those concerns. We join President Shimon Peres and scores of American intellectual, religious, political, and civic leaders in appealing for his prompt release. Given his clear expressions of remorse and pledges regarding his activities upon release, we believe the commutation of his unprecedentedly long sentence to the 27 years he has already served is warranted."

"President Peres is a cautious and judicious person and his letter comes only after much deliberation," continued Stone and Hoenlein. "We appreciate your kind consideration of his request which we strongly support."


"After more than a quarter of a century languishing in a federal prison, it is time for the United States to allow Jonathan Pollard to go home," said Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the Executive Vice President of the National Council of Young Israel, which has more than 25,000 member families, and over 200 branch synagogues throughout the United States, Canada, and Israel. "We sincerely hope that President Obama will promptly heed President Peres' call for Jonathan's immediate release and do the right thing before it is too late. Jonathan's medical condition has worsened considerably, and absent White House intervention on humanitarian grounds, he faces a frightening and uncertain future."

"When one considers the disproportionate nature of Jonathan Pollard's sentence, his continued expressions of remorse, and the multiple calls for his release from respected members of the national intelligence community, his ongoing incarceration defies logic and is a glaring miscarriage of justice," continued Lerner. "Every day that passes that Jonathan Pollard remains in prison is a terrible injustice and an absolute tragedy."


"United Synagogue joins Jewish and other religious organizations, members of Congress and other elected officials, and leaders across the world, in requesting that President Obama proceed with urgency in releasing Jonathan Pollard from prison," said Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO and Executive Vice President of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and Richard Skolnik, the International President of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which serves as a resource to more than 600 affiliated Conservative synagogues across North America.

"Pollard has been in prison since 1985 - nearly 27 years - serving longer than any other person convicted of espionage against the United States," continued Wernick and Skolnik. "Israeli President Shimon Peres also has asked the Obama administration to grant Pollard clemency for humanitarian reasons. Pollard's actions were not right or legal, but he has pled guilty and he has served his time. Now, the right and moral thing for the U.S. government to do is to permit him to spend time with his family, as he struggles to recover his health."


The Rabbinical Assembly, which is the international association of Conservative rabbis, notified its members reiterating its support for Pollard's release and noted that the organization passed four resolutions supporting clemency for Pollard over the past ten years.

"Whereas his sentence of life in prison abrogated the plea bargain with the federal prosecutor signed in June 1986, and now leaves Pollard serving a longer sentence than any other person convicted not of treason, but of the lesser crime of spying for a friendly nation," the Rabbinical Assembly said in its latest resolution.

"Whereas members of the United States Congress and former security officials have recently joined with leaders of American Jewish organizations to appeal to President Obama to commute Pollard's sentence to time served."

"Be it resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly urge President Obama to commute the sentence of Jonathan J. Pollard to time served."


"As the Vice President is aware, I joined with other American Jewish leaders to discuss this delicate matter with him in depth on November 21, 2011," said Dr. Simcha Katz, President of the Orthodox Union. "While I do not excuse or dismiss the grave transgressions Mr. Pollard committed, I do, however, believeclemency on humanitarian grounds is warranted."


Peres' formal request to the President came just days after Pollard became extremely ill and was rushed from his prison cell to an outside hospital for emergency medical treatment. Esther Pollard, Jonathan's wife, met with Peres and issued an impassioned plea for his assistance in ensuring that her husband is released, rather than being returned to prison, following his hospitalization.

Pollard has spent more than 26 years of an unprecedented life sentence languishing in a federal prison for passing classified information to Israel, an ally of the United States. The median sentence for this offense is 2 to 4 years. No one else in the history of the United States has ever received a life sentence for this offense.

See Also: