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Jonathan Pollard lands in Israel • Rabbis find jobs despite pandemic • The best and worst of 2020
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Jonathan Pollard lands in Israel • Rabbis find jobs despite pandemic • The best and worst of 2020

Jonathan Pollard shortly after his arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport, Dec. 30, 2020, in a photo released by the Prime Minister's Office. (Courtesy)
Jonathan Pollard shortly after his arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport, Dec. 30, 2020, in a photo released by the Prime Minister's Office. (Courtesy)

Jonathan Pollard, the former U.S. Navy analyst convicted of spying for Israel, arrived in Israel early Wednesday morning, 35 years after he was first arrested and weeks after his parole ended.

Pollard, 66, and his wife Esther kissed the tarmac upon arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looked on, Times of Israel reports.

Netanyahu gave Pollard his citizenship application. “Now you can start life anew, with freedom and happiness. Now you are home,” the prime minister said.

Pollard flew from Newark overnight Tuesday on a private plane provided by philanthropist and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who along with Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders has lobbied for Pollard’s release for years.

Pollard was arrested in 1985 and was sentenced to life in prison two years later, despite pleading guilty in a deal his attorneys expected would result in a more lenient sentence. He passed thousands of crucial U.S. documents to Israel, straining relations between the two close allies.

Reactions: “Welcome home Jonathan Pollard! I’m in the business since 1983 and I think this is my most exciting night in the profession,” tweeted Boaz Bismuth, the editor in chief of Israel Hayom, which is owned by Adelson.

Also joining the celebrations via Twitter were Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevitch (Blue and White); Shas leader Arye Deri, the interior minister; and prime minister candidate Gideon Sa’ar (New Hope).

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, a political opponent of Netanyahu, said, “I suggest we lower our level of excitement, because it doesn’t help with the American defense system, which sees the Pollard affair as an unacceptable incident that violated acceptable codes between Israel and the U.S.”

Times of Israel has a roundup of Israeli media reaction.

Despite the challenges of hiring in the midst of the pandemic, some say the job market for new rabbis actually has improved because veteran rabbis are expediting retirement.

“I was surprised at the number of pulpit openings that keep popping up,” Rabbi Adir Yolkut, rabbi-in-residence at Temple Israel Center in White Plains, told JTA. Yolkut already has done some virtual interviews with synagogue search committees.

And the Lido Beach Synagogue on Long Island is planning to invite three leading candidates for weekday visits to give congregants a chance to meet them. As one might expect, the events will take place on Zoom.

Opinion

A New York Times story about a high school cheerleader who sent a racist Snapchat message has touched off a debate about the costs of “public shaming.” But as Andrew Silow-Carroll points out, Jewish organizations have also engaged in the rituals of shaming and cancel culture, in ways that are often counterproductive.

Best of 2020

Tablet has a list of the Top 10 Jewish Films of 2020, including Adam Sandler’s vehicle “Uncut Gems” and a Roy Cohn documentary.

Alma lists “The 50 Best Jewish Pop Culture Moments of 2020,” including the triumph of “Schitt’s Creek” and a “fantastic” Chanukah episode
of the series “High Maintenance.”

Israel21C has “20 reasons 2020 WASN’T the worst year in history,” starting with the Abraham Accords among Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Worst of 2020

Simon Wiesenthal Center released its annual “top ten” list of the year’s worst global anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incidents.

JTA remembers the notable people who died in 2020, from Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks to Rabbi Norman Lamm and the influential LGBTQ activist Larry Kramer.

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