WASHINGTON, December 18, 2000 — Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, today forwarded a letter from Rhea Schindler to President Clinton urging that convicted spy Jonathan Pollard be freed. Pollard was convicted in 1984 of spying for Israel, and has served one of the longest prison terms of any American ever convicted of spying for an ally of the United States.
The letter was written by Rhea Schindler, widow of the late Rabbi Alexander Schindler, who served as both President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (1973–1996) and Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (1976–1978). Rabbi Schindler, who passed away unexpectedly in November, was one of American Jewry's most passionate and respected voices, especially on issues relating to the American-Israeli relationship.
In the letter, Mrs. Schindler cites her husband's long-time commitment to Jonathan Pollard's case and the personal friendship that she and Rabbi Schindler developed with Pollard. "We do not deny his guilt, nor does he, but he has paid the price — sixteen years in prison," she writes.
Rabbi Saperstein, a longtime friend of the Schindlers who has a history of working closely with President Clinton on issues from civil rights to international debt relief, agreed to forward the letter to the President. Saperstein has also worked on the Pollard case, having visited Pollard in prison last year and having repeatedly spoken out in favor of clemency for Pollard.
Speaking of the letter, Saperstein said, "There is no couple in American Jewish life whom I respect and admire more than Alex and Rhea Schindler. After the amazing accomplishments of Alex's life, it is an honor to be able to continue his commitment to see Jonathan Pollard freed from prison. As Rhea writes to the President, commuting Pollard's sentence 'would be an act of justice and compassion'; no other qualities could better reflect the commitments by which Alex led his life."
The complete text of Mrs. Schindler's letter follows:
Dear President Clinton:
My husband, Rabbi Alexander Schindler died November fifteenth. One of the issues he felt strongly about was the executive incarceration of Jonathan Pollard. I do not need to repeat the details of the case, as I know you are very conversant with them. Alex visited Jonathan on several occasions in North Carolina, and we were both on the phone with him at least three times a week.
We do not deny his guilt, nor does he, but we believe he has paid the price — sixteen years in prison. What spy, working for an ally of the U.S., has been imprisoned this long?
I pray that before leaving office you will find the strength to pardon Jonathan Pollard. It would be an act of justice and compassion.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis.