“He who saves just one person is as if he has saved the entire world – Talmud
“Judaism is not just about observing the holidays, and keeping it kosher. Judaism is about helping and caring for others, whether they are Jewish or not, rich or poor, black or white, and that’s what I want to do for Mr. Kenneth Bae. I’m helping him and seeing him not for being a Christian or Asian, but I’m helping him because he is a man in need.”
In this, my first blog for Times of Israel I want to introduce you the story of a man who is following what his beliefs are asking him to do despite others’ religion, race, or social status… His name is David Sugarman and this is his story:
David Pattashnick was a leading Lubavitcher rabbi, who immigrated to USA in the 20th century to launch the Lubavitcher movement called, Chabad in Baltimore, MD. In addition, he led Baltimore’s Lloyd Street Synagogue in 1845, which is the third oldest synagogue still standing in USA. today, his great-grandson David Sugarman is following his steps as a leader within the community as he started a social media movement where all are invited to join him. This social campaign is to bring Kenneth Bae back to the US from North Korea, where he has been imprisoned since April 2013. (Today makes 2 years since his imprisonment)
Originally from New Jersey, Sugarman is a sports agent who achieved success at a young age while on Wall Street. As a sports agent, he was only responsible for taking care of athletes’ finances, but also educating them on how to manage their wealth. After moving his business from Miami Beach to New York, Sugarman received a call from long-time friend, client and business partner Kenny Anderson that changed his life. Anderson was part of the envoy that traveled to North Korea with Dennis Rodman. The trip was heavily scrutinized by the media, as were the basketball all-stars who attended. Anderson and Sugarman appeared on CNN and as a result, the #BringBaeBack campaign was born.
Kenneth Bae is an American citizen who moved to China in 2005. He created a company called “Nations Tours” that specialized in tours of North Korea. However, on November 2012, Bae was arrested in the middle of a tour in Rason; an area on the North Eastern coast of North Korea. He was accused by the atheist/secular-elitist government nation of spreading religious material such as Christianism and was also speculated of carrying a Bible among other religious literature. Others in the North Korea’s government said that Bae was trying to set up a base for anti-government activities. He has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor camp. Currently, Bae is not the only American detainee in North Korea. The other prisoners are Matthew Miller, and Jeffrey Faule, but Bae gets the most attention, partially because of the social movement campaign and partially because of the length of his prison sentence. He has been imprisoned for more than 2 years, the longest time an American citizen has been serving as a prisoner in North Korea. Since 2009, North Korea has held American prisoners who were released after 7 months at most. Political figures and presidents sponsored most of these releases. In 2009 president Clinton attended the American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling’s liberation. Throughout Bae’s prison term he was visited by his Mother and he has consistently told family and those permitted to speak with him about his increasing health issues.
So why is Kenneth Bae still detained? What is the US government doing to ease a release for this man? It’s been said that the United States government is doing as much as it can to negotiate a release soon, but it seems as though there has been no solution to this problem. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson traveled to North Korea in January 2014 but wasn’t even allowed to see the prisoner.
“We are willing to consider a number of options to secure his release, but the duty is on the North Korean government to do so,” said Marie Harf, the State Department spokeswoman on a news conference in Washington last year.
It seems that as time keep moving on, this issue has either become harder to solve, or longer to negotiate for a possibly solution. However, three days ago the State Department spokesperson said “Our foremost goal is to resolve these cases and secure the earliest possible release of our detained U.S. citizens… it has been unhelpful for us to try to negotiate with North Korea through the media.”
This problem goes beyond just politics. This is more than an issue to considered not only for America but also for the world. Every person has the right as a human being to have the freedom of thinking and believing in anything they want.
More people vote for American Idol than appear to show support for Kenneth Bae “
“I believe the DPRK sees that releasing Bae is the right thing to do. Bae’s release will help to alter the public image of North Korea and Jong-un’s” said Sugarman. Just as the interview was ending he added, “My hope is to help in any way Bae’s release. I’ve already offered to change places with him but they did not take me up on that offer.”
Sugarman’s already achieved success with the awareness portion of the campaign, but he wants more, to convince the North Korean dictator, Kim-Jong-un, to release Kenneth Bae. Sugarman continues to have meetings with state officials, politicians, celebrities and anyone who will aid in the movement. The Bae family has waited far too long for the return of Kenneth.
I asked Sugarman, “Why do you do all this for? You are a successful sport agent who seems to have a well-established life, why add all this into your life?” His reply, “Judaism is not just about observing the holidays, and keeping it kosher. Judaism is about helping and caring for others, whether they are Jewish or not, rich or poor, black or white, and that’s what I want to do for Mr. Kenneth Bae. I’m helping him and seeing him not for being a Christian or Asian, but I’m helping him because he is a man in need.”
“We must be the change we want the world to be”