August 15, 2023
The Central Conference of American Rabbis calls for the immediate release of Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter who has been wrongly incarcerated in Russia, facing false charges of espionage, since March 2023. Gershkovich is a Jewish U.S. citizen, whose parents found refuge in this country in 1979 after fleeing oppression in the Soviet Union.
The CCAR commends actions taken by the Biden Administration, beginning only days after Gershkovich’s detention by designating Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained,” a classification created by Congress in the 2020 Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act. The act empowers the United States to work diligently to secure Gershkovich’s release, even by employing a prisoner exchange.i Most recently, Gershkovich’s parents have said that President Biden had vowed do “whatever it takes” to liberate their son from Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison and bring him home to the United States.ii
Pidyon sh’vuyim, freeing captives, is a central mitzvah (commandment) of Judaism.iii CCAR rabbis were among those who led the North American Jewish community as it engaged fervently and consistently in the effort to free Jewish people from Soviet persecution over a period of decades. We are similarly committed to freedom for American Jewish journalist Evan Gershkovich.
The CCAR pledges its support to the Biden Administration as it intensifies its already-extensive efforts to secure Evan Gershkovich’s freedom, so that he may return to his critical journalistic work of shedding light on the world’s injustices.
Reform rabbis join Evan Gershkovich’s parents, and all who love him, in prayer for his safety and for his speedy release.
Rabbi Erica Asch
Rabbi Hara E. Person
Central Conference of American Rabbis
i Michael Crowley, “The State Department declares Evan Gershkovich ‘wrongfully detained’ by Russia,” The New York Times, April 10, 2023.
ii Victoria Kim, “Biden Vowed to Bring Gershkovich Home, His Parents Say,” The New York Times, July 12, 2023.
iii Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Dei-ah 252:1.