A Jew in Prison Camp

Jeffrey Abramowitz
3 min readNov 17, 2015

Reaching Out www.jewishprisoner.com

Issue No. 320 Year Mar Cheshvan5776 November 2015

A Jewish Educational Publication for the Confined

Dear Rabbi Spritzer,

Thank you for your assistance in helping me secure an earlier release so that I may observe and celebrate the Jewish High Holidays with my family. The fact that I am a conservative Jew and not orthodox did
not matter to you and the moment I wrote, you responded in kind. My arrival at this camp was about three years ago, and didn’t really know how to relate with being ashamed, humiliated, embarrassed, dis-
graced and in prison, void from all posses sions. I was a lost soul looking for direction and a definition of what and how.

As a member of a secular Jewish community, and a successful lawyer who once had everything, a terrific family and a contin gent of family and friends, almost all of which seems to disappear with the sound of
the Judges gravel. To say I was lost is an understatement. Martin Luther King Jr once said, “In the end we remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”.

Upon arriving here, I went to the chapel; no minyan, no tallis, no congrega tion, just me, a siddur and G-d. Although my time in prison may not have healed all wounds that I have caused, but it has given
me the opportunity to learn lessons of humility, honesty, tolerance and has blessed me with a chance to begin my life anew. I can at least try to fix all that I have broken.

I believe that no individual is perfect and at some point in our lives will make mistakes. In fact, mistakes and errors of judgement, our imperfections, make us who we are and define us as human beings.
It is our errors in judgement, morality or ethical flaws, which forces us to learn about life, face our fallibility and reminds us of the human need to strive to make the world a better place. Yet despite the inevitability
of our errors and miscues in life, we have not quite grasped the concept of forgiveness. For many, the mistakes of others are not recognized as a tool toward understanding, learning and improvement, but used as a weapon to belittle, ostracize or inflict pain upon another.

The Jewish faith teaches us compassion, understanding and the importance of forgiveness, and yet few truly understand and
fewer practice this very basic precept. King Solomon taught us that seven times a righteous man falls down and seven times he stands back up. A righteous person is not necessarily one that was born righteous,
but one who becomes so, by standing up despite the fact that he may have erred in his way. I believe that G-d judges us not by the mistakes we make, but by how we deal with those mistakes and our willingness to
redress the wrongs and make amends.

As the High Holidays were approaching and the half way house date that was given to me was for after the Holidays, I was at a loss. I have come to understand that reli gion cannot be used as a crutch, to rely upon as we walk through life, but should serve as a Manuel or guidebook which aids
us in building a purposeful existence. With your ongoing help especially with advanc ing my release date to before Rosh Hashanah, you are allowing me the oppor tunity to continue on my path of tshuva, of
return to G-d.

I am proud to be Jewish and even more proud to the fact that with each challenge that I may face, it is through the Jewish traditions, customs and teachings that I became a stronger and better person in this world.

Thank you is not enough but it is coming from deep in my soul.

Jeffery

Federal Prison Camp Waymart,PA

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Jeffrey Abramowitz

Jeffrey Abramowitz, J.D. is the Executive Director of Reentry Services for JEVS Human Services and Program Director of Looking Forward Philadelphia.