Reform, Conservative leaders meet Pollard, call for clemency

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements met with convicted spy for Israel Jonathan Pollard and renewed their calls on President Obama for his compassionate release.

Both movements said in a statement issued Monday that Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Reform’s Religious Action Center; Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly; and Rabbi Alvin Berkun, the R.A.’s past president, visited Pollard for two hours at the federal prison in Butner, N.C., on July 11.

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“The rabbis found Pollard in frail health due to his long incarceration and to the range of physical ailments from which he suffers,” the statement said.

“The rabbis reassert, more strongly than ever, that his release is overdue. Hearing the painful narrative of his long years in prison renewed their determination to help secure his release.”

The letter noted that the rabbis and other Jewish community backers of clemency for Pollard remain “condemnatory of his actions regarding the underlying offense,” but say his life sentence has been disproportionate.

Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, has been imprisoned since his arrest in late 1985.

The movement calling for clemency has gathered momentum in recent years, accruing a number of lawmakers in Congress as well as former officials of both Republican and Democratic administrations, including some who were involved in government when he was captured and have been privy to intelligence around the case.