Two Forgotten Jews

We live in a very busy world, that is getting busier all the time. With all the modern conveniences we have (I really call them “toys”) which promises to make life simpler and easier, all statistics show that the modern man and woman have less family time, less free time and more stress than ever before. We are constantly running, texting and calling. We dovin Shacharis in the morning – when it is still dark outside – so we can get to work on time. We come home 20 minutes before Shabbos starts and run to Shul on Friday night with wet hair. To summarize life: We are always in a rush with little time to focus. Sad, but true.

With this kind of life, it is very easy to forget things, even very important things. After all, who has time to remember all the things we do and especially if these things are outside our daily life – who even thinks about them? If this is true, and unfortunately it is, how sad and tragic! Is this what life is all about – paying bills, shopping for food, answering emails and going to Shul? What about our destiny, our mission in life, our purpose? What about helping others and lending a hand? What about caring for those who need help? It is vital that we sit down and rearrange our “to-do list”, making sure that we focus – not only on ourselves – but on others as well. We need to stop, think and refocus. We need to understand that, above everything else, we are Jews – members of the nation chosen by Hashem Himself!! – and that we must make time to assist others in that exclusive club.

When I recently sat down and thought about this, I came up with two names of fellow Jews who have all been forgotten by the entire Jewish world. These men’s stories are completely different and their circumstances are worlds apart but they share one horrible thing: They are both rotting away in an American prison. I am referring to Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin and we must figure out a way to help them.

Let me start with Sholom Rubashkin. First of all, we need to publicize his name – which has virtually been forgotten. The injustice done to him is incredible and 100% anti-Semitic. He was convicted of a crime that carries an average sentence (to a first-time offender, which he was) of 12 months, but he received 27 YEARS in prison! When this happened, there was a public outcry, a concert on his behalf and various fund-raisers to help with his legal defense and PR campaign. However, in the last few years he has fallen off the radar screen. I have not heard his name, read anything about his case – nothing. But it is worse than that. I have not heard any of the leading Rabbonim ask that we say Tehillim for him, learn a mishna for him or even give Tzedaka for him. He is simply rotting in prison and maybe in a few years he will jump back into the headlines for a few weeks. Is this what we have become… a “flavor-of-the-month” religion where different things pop into our conscience when it is “in” or “cool”? In the meantime, do we simply let our brother rot away? We must do something NOW! Saying that we are busy is not a valid excuse. This case must be back in center stage and even schools must teach about it. Keep Sholom Rubashkin in your prayers, your thoughts and your conversations. Write about him to the local papers, on Facebook and speak to your politicians. Sentencing a first-time offender to 27 years for a non-violent crime when the average is ONE year is horribly wrong and must be reversed immediately. Do what you can to help him.

This, of course, leads me to write about Jonathan Pollard – Yehonatan ben Malka – which is the biggest stain on Israel and the entire Jewish world in the last generation. As of this writing, this Jew has been in maximum security prison for 10,300 days – which is over 28 YEARS!!! I want to emphasize that again: Jonathan Pollard has already sat in jail – with rapists, pedophiles and murderers for more than 28 years. I have seen this jail with my own eyes because I visited Jonathan five times, in an effort to help him as best as I can. I do not want to use these lines to go into his case but permit me to write just one fact. The average sentence given to one who was convicted of the exact same crimes as Jonathan is between 2-4 years. This means that even if he received the maximum of that average, he should have been released 24 years ago! Instead, he is still in prison with no end in sight.

Similar to what I wrote above, Pollard makes headlines about once a year. I remember that his plight was featured at the annual Agudah convention in 2006. They spoke about his case, passed a resolution about how they felt and discussed it in great detail. That is all fine and good except for one thing: What have they done since that convention? Are Agudah shuls saying the prayer to free Jonathan Pollard that was written by the great Rav Mordechai Eliyahu? Are Sefardi shuls saying that prayer? Are ANY shuls saying it??? Unfortunately, I know the answer to that question and the reason is because that Pollard is no longer in style. He is a relic from the past and nobody wants to unsettle their busy life with an old problem that keeps nagging away. Who has time for these things? If anything, our community needs to deal with modern problems like the “knockout” game (a serious problem, by the way, and one that I will address in a future article) and therefore we have no time for Pollard.

How tragic when these words are spoken! How un-Jewish! Pollard is an old problem from the past??? Jonathan Pollard is today and now. He is not a “problem” he is a hero who sacrificed his life for our people. We MUST help him. Let me inform you of a secret; Even if you disagree with me that Pollard is a hero, at least help him on the humanity side of it! I will not debate the issue of what he did – to me it is clear – but can we at least agree on the injustice of sitting in prison for over 28 years on a crime whose average was between 2 and 4???

Let me state another point: Jonathan Pollard’s name has recently crept back into the news. Secretary of State John Kerry mentioned him and Israeli President Shimon Peres mentioned him as well. These men have discussed releasing Pollard because of the recent revelations that America spied on Israel and also in context of the Arab terrorist prisoner release. We must understand – and make this point crystal clear – that releasing Jonathan Pollard has NOTHING TO DO with releasing blood-thirsty Arab terrorists. Mentioning him in the same sentence with beasts who slaughtered Jews is an insult to this great hero. The two concepts are not connected in any way! Furthermore, the fact that the American government spied on Israel has nothing to do with Pollard. What needs to be done is to prosecute those American spies to the full extent of the law. At the same time – but not connected to that scandal in any way – is the fact that Jonathan Pollard must immediately be released. 28 years (and still going…) is MORE than enough and this injustice must stop right away.

Dearest friends, please make time for these two Jews. I realize that your lives are busy and hectic but you must find time to help them before it is too late. Familiarize yourself with their cases (www.JusticeForSholom.org and www.JonathanPollard.org). Then, speak about them, dovin for them and keep their names at the top of everyone’s minds. Only when these forgotten Jews are no longer forgotten, will they have a serious chance at freedom. May that happen soon.