A Matter of Priority

When President Obama held back-to-back meetings with leaders of major Jewish organizations and Jewish supporters — including major political contributors — it would have been the perfect opportunity for them to plead with the president about something that ought to have been at the very top of the list of priorities.

Tragically, it wasn’t.

After the meetings, it became apparent that not a single one of the more than 30 Jewish individuals present at the meetings rose to the occasion. The president had invited them to the White House in order to try to alleviate the deeply rooted concerns within the Jewish community about the deal with Iran, and to convince them that he values his relationship with American Jewry and shares their concerns about the safety of Israel and the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

We can only imagine what would have occurred had these organizational leaders and advocates decided to use the rare opportunity of a face-to-face meeting with the president to actually do something important and meaningful.

We can only imagine the enormous unity that would have occurred had they responded by saying: “Mr. President, since you are seeking to assure us all that you are sensitive to our concerns and truly dedicated to having a strong and productive relationship with both American Jewry and the people of Israel, we ask you to make a concrete gesture to this effect.

“Mr. President, the best assurance that Israel and the American Jewish community are indeed protected and favorably considered by your administration is the dispensation of equal justice. Don’t just tell us you care. Please, show us. End the travesty of justice perpetrated on an Israeli agent who has been sitting in an American prison for a grossly disproportionate 30 years, with no respite. Release Jonathan Pollard and send him home to Israel. That will reassure us more than all the fine words and expressions of solidarity that we are hearing now. Thank you, Mr. President.”

We will never know what the president’s response would have been, since, sadly, that request wasn’t made. What we do know is that a perfect opportunity for a significant act of hishtadlus for pidyon shevuyim was missed.

For the past few years, the Bureau of Prisons had indicated a “30-year mandatory release date” of November 2015 for Pollard. However, in a recent written communication, the Parole Commission blatantly indicated to Jonathan that this date isn’t automatic, and there is every likelihood that they will insist he serve 45 years to natural life, Rachmana litzlan.

In the coming months, the U.S. government will lay down its final position on whether it will finally relent and grant him parole. Therefore, the next weeks and months are vital in the effort to obtain his release.

As readers of Hamodia are well aware, it is now clear to every intelligent observer that the reason Jonathan is still in prison isn’t because of what he did three decades ago. No one else who did what he did has served anything near the term that Jonathan already has. He is still in jail because of who he is and whom he tried to help.

In every generation, it was our willingness to be moser nefesh on behalf of our brethren that earned us the respect of governments the world over. It seems almost inconceivable that a people — which on numerous occasions, through the strength of unity and determination rescued Jews from the claws of vicious dictatorships — should lose its courage and remain silent when it comes to ending a travesty being perpetrated by a malchus shel chessed.

We are privileged to live in a democracy, where we are expected to speak up against acts of injustice, especially one of such magnitude. Those who prefer to sweep the tragic saga of Jonathan Pollard under the political rug are essentially making a mockery of the Jewish people in the eyes of the nations.

With the exception of the handful of individuals who have worked tirelessly on Jonathan’s behalf for many years, all of us are at fault for what happened last week in the White House. For far too long, we as a community have largely remained silent while this sacred mitzvah of pidyon shevuyim has been relegated to the back burner for the sake of political correctness.

The day will come that each and every one of us will be asked: A Jew named Yehonoson ben Malka sat in an American prison because he was a Jew. What did you do to help him see the light of freedom?

At that moment of truth, no excuses will be accepted.

As Jews, we are cognizant of the fact that ultimately we will be judged not by our successes but by how hard we tried. It is imperative that all of us do our part to end this terrible injustice and obtain freedom for one of our own. We must not only extensively lobby every elected official who can possibly sway the president, but must also place pressure on the leadership of Jewish organizations and make it clear that the sacred obligation of pidyon shevuyim for Jonathan Pollard must be at the very top of their priority list.

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