By: Ely Rosenzveig
Published: February 24th, 2014
Photo Credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash90
At the time of Jonathan's apprehension, I was the Rabbi of Sinai Synagogue in South Bend, Indiana, a traditional, Modern Orthodox congregation. Pollard's family was very active in the synagogue for decades. Jonathan celebrated his Bar Mitzvah there.
Jonathan's parents, Molly (Mildred) and Dr. Morris Pollard, were ardent Zionists, and among the most prominent members of the South Bend Jewish community. Morris was a world-renowned microbiologist, who headed the Lobund Laboratory, and an award-winning professor at Notre Dame University. I was very close to both parents. We shared many a festive Shabbat meal together at our home.
I cannot begin to tell you how shattered and devastated Morris and Molly were over this whole sordid saga. It essentially destroyed their lives. Morris, a decorated WW2 army veteran, winner of a Commendation Medal and three Presidential Citations, who rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, was a fierce patriot, and could not begin to comprehend the charges against Jonathan that questioned Jonathan's upbringing, and his family's loyalties.
From the start, Morris and Molly advocated for leniency for Jonathan. As my career brought me to Springfield, Massachusetts, and Stamford, Connecticut, I invited Morris to address my congregations in an effort to rally support for his son.
I spent more than seven hours with Jonathan outside his prison cell in Marion, Illinois. He was kept in a subterranean vault, in solitary confinement, several floors below ground, in a cell near that of John Anthony Walker, Jr., who committed treason in what is considered the most damaging Russian spy-ring in history. Walker constantly bombarded Jonathan with anti-Semitic drivel, and Jonathan showed the scars of that incessant abuse. Jonathan was brought to me in handcuffs and leg shackles. His pallor did not seem human. I had never seen anyone whose skin was so white and pasty, as though he had never seen the sun. It was a pitiful sight to behold.
When I saw Jonathan in jail, in 1987, he seemed to have aged then well beyond his years. Imagine how he must be doing now, in 2014.
I corresponded with Jonathan and visited his then wife, Anne Henderson Pollard, in a prison in Danbury, Connecticut. I wrote an amicus memorandum to Jonathan's sentencing judge, Aubrey Robinson, pleading for leniency, a message undoubtedly lost on the Court, and also penned articles in the general and Jewish press advocating for Jonathan.
I wrote about my visit with Jonathan. I stressed that our democratic ideals and our unique system of justice are tested most and best by our fair and balanced treatment of those who do the unsavory deed, and are universally condemned and vilified for it. I also described Jonathan as an angry young man, not the easiest to root for. I noted as well that just because Jonathan indisputably erred does not mean, therefore, that we should throw away the key to his cell.
This is a theme to which I still wholeheartedly subscribe. Yet, my words reflected an insensitivity to the emotional toll that Jonathan's ordeal must have taken on him. I focused indelicately on his anger, and was oblivious to his circumstances. My words hurt Morris and Molly deeply, and, after that, they refused all contact with me.
In response, I inexplicably buried my support for Jonathan then and there. I no longer advocated for Jonathan on any level, and, for a long time, I would not follow closely the unfolding story.
Pollard - Read The Rest