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February 29, 1980 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1980-02-29

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

8 Friday, February 29, 1980

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Inmate Describes Jewish Life at Jackson

Caricatures

By BEN GALLOB

(Copyright 1980, JTA, Inc.)

for you party

By

SAM FIELD

Call

399-1320

A Jewish inmate serving
a life term in Jackson
(Mich.) State Prison, de-
scribing himself as one of
"20 known Jews" in a prison
population of nearly 6,000,
has reported that he and
some of the other Jewish
prisoners are pondering
legal action in the federal
courts to compel the ad-
ministration to permit the
Jewish inmates to perform
religious duties.

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The frustrations of some
of the Jewish inmates "in
the largest walled peniten-
tiary in the world," and
their battle with the prison
administration to be
allowed to be more obser-
vant were described in a
"Message From a Jew in
Prison," which appeared in
"Reform Judaism," pub-
lished eight times a year by
the Union of American He-
brew Congregations.
Mark W. Ernst, No.
154653, reported that the
prison Jews had a minyan
and "our rabbi," Reform
Rabbi Irwin Tanenbaum.
Ernst added "there are
others on the outside" who
help the Jewish Prisoners to
"keep our Jewish heritage
and culture alive, here be-
hind the walls."
He reported that these
included "a young
Hasidic Jew" from Ann
Arbor, who visits the
prison almost every Sun-
day "to teach us the Or-
thodox interpretation of
the Torah and Talmud"
and an Orthodox rabbi
from Southfield who
comes to the prison three
times a month, "meeting
with us in friendship and
learning and love of
God."
Ernst declared that con-
gregants of Rabbi Tanen-
baum's Temple Beth Israel
supported the rabbi in his
efforts for the Jewish in-
mates "and they also con-
tribute as individuals. They
have purchased and pre-
pared the food for our Seder.
They have accompanied the
rabbi into the prison and
celebrated the High Holy
Days with us, bringing
smiles, warmth and friend-
ship to what would other-
wise be a depressing time,
when we start thinking
about our families" and past
holidays.

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He said anti-Semitism
did exist in the prison and
that "there is more of it
found at the administrative
level than among "the resi-
dents," particularly when
"our group" tries to arrange
programs for the Jewish
inmates: Ernst said the
show of prejudice was sub-
tle: "we are told 'there's too
few of you to make it practi-
cal or worth our. while.' "

He asserted that the ad-
ministration's negative re-
sponses do not deter the
Jewish inmates, reporting
that "we are trying to get
the administration to allow
our brothers at other outly-
ing Michigan institutions
to come in for the High Holy
Day services." Another
project is an effort to "insti-
tute a dietary program for

those of us that need to fol-
low kosher laws."
'Ernst reported the
group is also trying to get
permission "to have our
families share Pesach
and High Holy Day serv-
ices at our small temple."
Currently, he reported,
"we are being denied all
of these requests which,
by the religious freedom
laws of the Constitution,
we should be allowed."
Ernst did not explain
what he meant by the
Jewish inmates' "tem-
ple."
He wrote that, under
existing conditions,
"Halakha is almost im-
possible to observe here in
any area other than prayer.
Guards have defiled our
tefilin by dismantling them
in search of contraband.
They have been unrespon-
sive regarding theft from
our temple and have 'lost'
clearances for outside
guests coming to our reli-
gious services." He declared
that "it doesn't happen all
the time but it does happen
enough to suggest that it's
not all just imagination or
coincidence."

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Court Rules on Aid, Union

NEW YORK (JTA) —
The U.S. Supreme Court's
five-to-four decision last
week upholding the con-
stitutionality of New York
State's 1974 Required Serv-
ices Law (RSL) was wel-
comed by the Jewish legal
organization which repre-
sented the state's Jewish
day schools.
Howard Zuckerman,
president of the National
Jewish Commission on Law
and Public Affairs (COLPA)
said the ruling marked the
first time the Supreme
Court has approved any
state funds being paid di-
rectly to religious-
sponsored day schools for
educationally-related ac-
tivities.
Zuckerman said that
previously the Supreme
Court had approved as con-
stitutional funding only for
transportation and
textbooks, and in neither
category did the state funds
go directly to the schools.
At stake for Jewish day
schools in New York state
is about$1 million a year
in state funds to pay for
mandated services. The
battle had pitted Or-
thodox Jewish organiza-
tions, the principal spon-
sors of Jewish day
schools, against Public
Education and Religious
Liberty (PEARL), an um-
brella group which op-
poses government funds
for non-public schools.
In another ruling affect-
ing Jewish education, in a
case involving efforts of

His Lordship

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For persons locked up be-
hind the walls "there are so
few things that are able to
stop or temporarily halt the
dehumanizing effect of
prison life. He added "our
small congregation and our
rabbi are the major positive
forces in our striving to re-
main men and not turn into
caged animals."

MANNY CH4JDNOW'S

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