Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Power of the Penn

Sean Penn and Yanky Ostreicher - Photo Credit: CNN
Straight out of the movies. That is what the story of 54 year old father and grandfather,Yanky Ostreicher’s escape from Bolivia seemed like. I wrote about this Charedi Jew when I became aware of his plight via an article in Ami Magazine.

They featured a cover story about what was being done – and not done to help him. Long story short he was arrested on some trumped up charges of being involved in drug trafficking. It was obvious from all indications that Yanky was innocent.  A good willed former FBI agent by the name of Steve Moore (truly one of the Chasidei Umos HaOlam)  took up his cause. After doing a thorough study of the case he determined that a great injustice was being done in Bolivia. An American was falsely accused of a crime, never charged, and was left rotting in a notorious jail. Later another truly righteous gentile, New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith took up his cause as well. 

New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith
But no one was as successful as Academy Award winning actor, Sean Penn. He visited Yanky in Bolivia, managed to get him released from prison and put under house arrest.

But the story does not end there. Apparently Penn had arranged a clandestine rescue operation that landed Yanky in the United States just yesterday.  From Matzav
As of this writing, it is still not known where Yanky is being held. Penn has said that Yanky is safe, doing well, and receiving medical attention at an undisclosed location. That is all that is known right now.
Penn is emerging as a courageous hero for his role in the Ostreicher case. It was thanks to his involvement that the Bolivian president first had an intensive investigation into the case conducted, uncovering an extortion ring that took advantage of individuals accused of drug crimes. Some fifteen people, include prosecutors and an adviser at the Bolivian Interior Ministry, were arrested.
Yanky told the Associated Press one year ago, “If it weren’t for Sean Penn, I would be another statistic in Bolivia and I would die in prison.”
Indeed, Penn never abandoned him, constantly working to gain his release. 

Retired FBI Agent Steve Moore
I am overjoyed that this ordeal is over for Yanky and his family. They will no doubt soon be reunited. Truly a happy ending.

But I cannot end this post without commenting on the heroic and tenacious actions of actor Sean Penn. This is something we can all learn from.

Until his participation in this saga, I must admit that I did not think all that much of – or about Mr. Penn. His ultra-liberal politics were not my cup of tea to say the least. He was a vociferous opponent of the Bush administration’s involvement in Iraq.  His politics included appearances with people like Ralph Nader and he seemed comfortable in the company of dictators like Cuba’s Raul Castro and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. He even supported Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad in the civil war there.

But never judge people by their politics. Sean Penn is a great humanitarian who went to New Orleans to aid victims of Hurricane Katerina rolled up his sleeves and became physically involved in rescuing people.

And when he saw an injustice being done to another American in a foreign land, he not only rose to the occasion, but actively orchestrated escape.  I think we owe this man a tremendous debt of gratitude. He is a man who doesn’t just talk the talk. He walks the walk. Thank you Sean Penn.

The video below is from a 2012 Nightline presentation on ABC.

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