Jews Held Abroad Win Very Different Reactions at Home

Freedom for Ostreicher — Others Jailed With Little Sign of Hope


By Nathan Guttman

Published December 26, 2013, issue of December 27, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

One famous figure who did get involved was Hollywood film actor Sean Penn. A personal friend of Bolivian President Evo Morales, Penn lobbied Morales on Ostreicher’s behalf in October 2012. Penn’s lobbying persuaded Bolivian authorities to release Ostreicher from prison, where he’d been kept since June 2011, and place him under house arrest, from which he reportedly escaped on December 13 to make his way home.

Warren Weinstein is another Jewish American in captivity. An aid worker operating in Pakistan, Weinstein was abducted by Al Qaeda terrorists in 2011 and is believed to be held in Afghanistan. His case was largely ignored by the Jewish community until he made a public appeal in September 2012 to his wife to engage the Jewish community in his struggle for freedom.

“Please make as many contacts as you can with Jewish communities in the United States in order to put pressure on the American government, on President Obama, to work with and accept the demands of the mujahedeen,” he said in a video message sent by his captors.

Jewish organizations would not respond to questions about Weinstein’s request, but several officials in leading groups said that there has been no change in policy regarding Weinstein after his appeal, and that Jewish organizations still believe there is no room for a public campaign. One official, however, noted that it could be possible that Jewish leaders have raised the issue of Weinstein’s fate in private meetings with American and international leaders.

The usefulness of organized Jewish involvement, or the community’s apparent decision to avoid such involvement, has yet to be determined in each of these cases. Communal mobilization on behalf of Gross has not led thus far to any results. More recently, the absence of any visible action on behalf of Weinstein and Levinson has done little to help their situations.

As for Ostreicher, communal support, albeit limited largely to Orthdox circles, assisted in raising awareness of his case, as did the involvement of members of Congress and of Penn. But ultimately it was an internal Bolivian investigation that led to the weakening of the legal case against Ostreicher, allowing his move to house arrest and eventual escape back to the United States.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter @nathanguttman


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.