Photo Credit: Jewish Press

At the end of the 19th century, there was a famous espionage case involving Alfred Dreyfus. Dreyfus was an officer in the French army and he was accused of treason. The entire incident was a “frame-up,” but he was found guilty, stripped of his rank, and sent to jail. At a later date, Dreyfus was exonerated and the real culprits who had framed him were found and punished.

This case was a major example of the latent anti-Semitism that existed at the time, and according to many historians, was the reason Theodore Herzl began his campaign to seek a homeland and refuge for the Jewish people.

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In the early 1900s, a Jew named Mendel Beilis was placed on trial for allegedly killing a Christian child and using the blood to bake matzot. It was the old “blood libel” that over the centuries, beginning in the 12th century, repeatedly raised its ugly head, accusing the Jews of this heinous crime. This accusation is also contained in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a book which is used as a source by the haters of the Jewish people.

After a long and arduous trial and untold suffering by Beilis, the case against him was thrown out and he was acquitted. He nearly died while he was awaiting trial (which his accusers hoped for) but eventually was freed. The entire incident, however, demonstrated the latent anti-Semitism in Russia, and the tremendous challenges that the Jews had to endure during those trying times.

One would think that in this great country of the United States, where we have our freedom, there would be no need to worry about anti-Semitism. Certainly, we should at least be able to feel confident that a Jew would not be convicted of a crime without having a fair trial, and that after serving a sentence or being paroled, he would not still face excessive punishment and be treated with cruelty greater than anyone who has committed a similar crime.

Jonathan Pollard with his wife soon after he was released from prison after 30 years in 2015.

Over 30 years ago, our newspapers covered the incident of a young Jewish man, Jonathan Pollard, who was accused of giving over classified information to a friendly country – Israel. When the story hit the press, Jews were embarrassed. Many leaders disassociated themselves from him and from the case, and hoped that he would get “what he deserved.”

The case never came to trial. Pollard made a plea bargain which he entered on the promise that he would receive certain leniencies, among them that his wife would be excluded from punishment. The government at the last moment reneged on its promise, sending both Jonathan and his wife at the time, Anne, to prison. Jonathan was given a life sentence with no chance of parole. Anne was thrown into jail and suffered greatly because of her medical condition. She was eventually freed after serving five years.

A great deal has happened since that time. Jonathan Pollard was finally paroled in 2015, but the conditions of his parole are again unfair and cruel. He cannot emigrate to Israel which he yearns to do, and he remains in a situation of severe limitations on his daily life. He must wear an ankle bracelet equipped with a communication device allowing the authorities to keep track of him all hours of the day and night He has a curfew which he must abide by daily. Though Pollard is out of jail, he still suffers greatly. It’s time to end this terrible chapter of Jewish and American history and allow Jonathan to finally come home to Israel.

President Trump, you have the power to accomplish this. You, who have taken dynamic steps to insure the safety and security of the State of Israel, must realize that this sad chapter of the suffering of this man must end. Jonathan Pollard should be allowed to realize his dream to live in Israel.

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Rabbi Mordechai Weiss has been involved in Jewish education for the past forty-six years, serving as principal of various Hebrew day schools. He has received awards for his innovative programs and was chosen to receive the coveted Outstanding Principal award from the National Association of Private Schools. He now resides in Israel and is available for speaking engagements. Contact him at ravmordechai@aol.com or 914-368-5149.