The wrong way to send a message
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The wrong way to send a message

Yonah Metzger, Israel’s chief Ashkenazic rabbi, has sent the American president a message that sounds very like a threat.

“If Obama wants another term as president, he must immediately release [Jonathan] Pollard,” he said in a Shabbat sermon at a Jerusalem synagogue, according to various reports.

He was reportedly quick to add, “I’m not making a prophesy, but rather echoing the frustrations of numerous American Jews who voted for him and are disappointed by his lackadaisical approach to the numerous appeals for Pollard’s release.”

Yes, they are numerous. The growing feeling in the American Jewish community, even among schoolchildren (see our last issue), is that Pollard, a Navy analyst who has served 25 years of a life sentence for spying for Israel, has been punished enough.

And indeed, he has been punished far more stringently than others convicted of similar crimes.

But is it wise, seemly, appropriate, politic, good for the Jews for a chief rabbi of Israel to tell the U.S. president – from the pulpit, yet – what to do if he wants to keep his job?

We can think of many tasks the president should undertake and complete in order to win re-election: How about ending a war or two? How about protecting the most vulnerable among us from cuts to their social safety nets? How about fulfilling his promises and his promise?

Some of these, of course, are not entirely within his power – not without the cooperation of Congress and a heaping amount of luck.

Still, there are many things Obama can do and American Jews have a right to ask that he do them. This, however, is not the way to go about it. We would not want the pope to issue political warnings to our president, whoever he (or she) may be, and the same goes for chief rabbis.

RKB

Yonah Metzger, Israel’s chief Ashkenazic rabbi, has sent the American president a message that sounds very like a threat.

“If Obama wants another term as president, he must immediately release [Jonathan] Pollard,” he said in a Shabbat sermon at a Jerusalem synagogue, according to various reports.

He was reportedly quick to add, “I’m not making a prophesy, but rather echoing the frustrations of numerous American Jews who voted for him and are disappointed by his lackadaisical approach to the numerous appeals for Pollard’s release.”

Yes, they are numerous. The growing feeling in the American Jewish community, even among schoolchildren (see our last issue), is that Pollard, a Navy analyst who has served 25 years of a life sentence for spying for Israel, has been punished enough.

And indeed, he has been punished far more stringently than others convicted of similar crimes.

But is it wise, seemly, appropriate, politic, good for the Jews for a chief rabbi of Israel to tell the U.S. president – from the pulpit, yet – what to do if he wants to keep his job?

We can think of many tasks the president should undertake and complete in order to win re-election: How about ending a war or two? How about protecting the most vulnerable among us from cuts to their social safety nets? How about fulfilling his promises and his promise?

Some of these, of course, are not entirely within his power – not without the cooperation of Congress and a heaping amount of luck.

Still, there are many things Obama can do and American Jews have a right to ask that he do them. This, however, is not the way to go about it. We would not want the pope to issue political warnings to our president, whoever he (or she) may be, and the same goes for chief rabbis.

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