A proposal for a letter from the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council supporting parole for Jonathan Pollard was sidelined on Tuesday in response to objections on procedural grounds.
Pollard will be eligible for parole in November, after serving 10 years of his life sentence. The Parole Board hearings could be conducted as early as May, according his attorney.
A single paragraph of the proposed letter was put forward by the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marina and Sonoma Counties for consideration by the NJCRAC delegates on the last night of the group’s annual plenum.
The proposed paragraph, which read, “The NJCRAC calls upon the Parole Board to act favorably on Pollard’s parole application,” was endorsed by NJCRAC’s Ad Hoc Committee on the Pollard Case.
Several members of the committee said before the vote that they expected it to be easily endorsed by representatives of NJCRAC’s 117 local and 13 national member agencies.
But when the proposal was presented Tuesday night, several delegates objected to being asked to vote on it without having a chance to present it to their own boards of directors.
Among those who said they would abstain from the vote for that reason were representatives of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Jewish War Veterans, B’nai B’irth International, the American Jewish Committee and the National Council of Jewish Women.
After about 20 minutes of debate on the procedural issues, a motion passed to table the proposal until a letter is drawn up and presented to the member agencies for their formal consideration and approval in the coming weeks.
“It would have been nice to pass it here,” said Rabbi Douglas Kahn, executive director of the San Francisco JCRC. “But I am quite confident that it will soon be approved and a letter from NJCRAC will be sent.”
The NJCRAC ad hoc committee had met earlier in the day Tuesday with Pollard’s lawyer, Nancy Luque, in a two-hour closed-door meeting.
Participants in the meeting said that while Luque was still pushing for commutation of Pollard’s life sentence, they felt that advocating that he be released when he first becomes eligible for parole was the route for NJCRAC to take.
Considering commutation would “divide our community and would not be helpful to Pollard,” said one participant in the meeting with Luque.
After years of staying out of the debate, NJCRAC last year passed its first resolution regarding clemency for Pollard.
The group voted to send a letter to President Clinton indicating that some in the Jewish community believed Pollard was unjustly sentenced. But the letter fell short of actually recommending clemency for the former Navy analyst.