One year ago I “celebrated” the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, along with the American holiday of Memorial Day, in Federal custody, in a prison in Upstate New York. The weather was very nice, but everything else… I wrote this blog on scraps of paper. I couldn’t go into the computer room because I had forwarded my blog to my friend Paul Bass at the New Haven Independent, who had published it on his website. The inmates found out and threatened to kill me. They also said they were going to call Paul Bass and threaten to kill him too. The last I checked I still have a pulse and Paul Bass is still reporting at the New Haven Independent.
I witnessed a fight between the Haitian witch doctor and another inmate. The witch doctor is an orthopedic surgeon. He was mad because another inmate criticized the way he broke down a cardboard box. The witch doctor has a very bad temper. He started screaming at the other inmate. But what was unusual about this fight was that the Haitian witch doctor made a very strange threat to the other inmate. He threatened that he would put himself into the SHU, ie., solitary confinement. Not that he would get the other inmate thrown in the SHU, but that he would go into the SHU himself to get away from the inmates who were driving him crazy every day in this prison unit. Unfortunately he did not make good on his threat and we had to put up with him.
Another strange thing happened. Inmate Neighborhood Mitch, who used to be a “bill collector” for the Gambino organized crime family, got into a big fight with a Jewish inmate named Schleider. Neighborhood Mitch was sitting in the visitors room talking with his attorney. The lawyer saw Schleider in the visiting room, and asked why Schleider was not in protective custody, because Schleider was a big time “rat.” Neighborhood Mitch doesn’t like rats, and started to scream at Schleider.
During the Shavuot holiday inmate Schleider took out a fancy silver plated kiddush cup with which to make the blessings over the grape juice. No wine allowed in prison. Schleider said the cup was worth $500 and he had 50 of them at home. Schleider didn’t want to have to use the Federal government issued plastic prison cups to make the holy blessings.
There were a couple of special prison issued silver plated kiddush cups that were used by the inmate rabbis in the camp. Schleider was using one of those special prison cups before he smuggled in his own cup. Some weeks prior Schleider had stolen Rabbi Pinter’s religious books and his gartel (religious belt). Pinter complained, but nobody did anything about it. Not sure why Schleider took the books. I think he was mad at Pinter for kicking him out of his Daf Yomi class.
Pinter was mad that his stuff was stolen by Schleider and none of the other inmates tried to get Schleider to cough it up. Pinter wasn’t going to rat out Schleider to the blueboyz, because then everyone would call him a “rat.” Nobody wants that title. In retaliation for Schleider taking Pinter’s stuff, Pinter’s friend Zaidy, the 80 year old Hasid, hid the special prison kiddush cup that Schleider was using.
Jacobowitz ordered his henchmen in the kosher kitchen crew not to serve a crumb of food for the Friday night dinner until Schleider’s kiddush cup was turned over. Zaidy stood his ground and wouldn’t hand over the cup. The hungry Russians went crazy and started cursing. Their favorite curse word is “Blat”. Not sure what “blat” means. Someone told me it meant prostitute. Someone else told me it is a vulgarity that applies to any situation.
It was a game of poker between Jacobowitz and Zaidy over the kiddush cup. Would Jacobowitz fold and serve the food without Zaidy coughing up the kiddush cup? Would Zaidy fold and produce the kiddush cup? Dr. Goldberg got angry and said he was “trying to grow in his Judaism but this behavior was stunting his growth.” Mortgage fraud attorney Ben Turner got mad and yelled that Zaidy and Jacobowitz were both wrong, and this childish behavior had to stop immediately. Solomonic words of wisdom from the mortgage fraud attorney. Nobody listened to King Solomon, who would have told these babies to cut the kiddush cup in half.
Half the guys in the room walked out. At my table some of the guys smuggled in matzoh and other food and started to eat tuna fish. Jacobowitz’ henchmen Ari Glucksman got mad at us for eating and yelled at us. Eventually Zaidy folded and produced the kiddush cup. It was like the Red Sea had parted. Food was served. Guys came back into the room as if nothing had happened. Jacobowitz and Zaidy gave each other a big hug. Everything was back to abnormal.
The prison had many activities scheduled for Memorial Day, such as basketball games, bocci ball, volleyball. The blueboyz posted the winners of the games on the bulletin board.
The Jews got a big shipment of cheesecake into the prison. Cheesecake is the traditional food eaten on Shavuot. The cheesecake got passed around the camp and shared, or sold, to the goyim. In 2014, when I first entered the prison, inmate Jacobowitz screamed at the Jewish inmates for sharing the cheesecake with the goyim. The cheesecake was special food for the Jews to have for religious purposes and was not to be bartered and exchanged with the goyim. If the blueboyz find out that the inmates are breaking the rules and acting like criminals they will cut us off and there will be no cheesecake next year. Please! The blueboyz fully expect the inmates to behave like criminals, we are convicted felons after all.
The Litvish Rabbi Pinter was banned from speaking this year. Inmates complained that his speeches had too much mussar. They didn’t like the way he told them about how important it was to be observant. He was an Orthodox rabbi after all, what do you expect?
Instead, other inmates gave speeches and spoke about how important it was to get along and cooperate in the community of inmates, which is not easy when you are living in close quarters with guys who are on edge all the time. The Sephardi Grand Rabbi Ben Haim, spoke, and invited the Head Blueboy Scalboni, into the room, and thanked him for allowing the Jews the freedom to practice their religion. He was basically kissing up, which is normal behavior in prison.
Every time I was in the chapel for religious services, an inmate would go to my bed and dump scraps of food on top of my bunk bed. It was very annoying. I suspected it was “Mork from Ork” the Connecticut albino chiropractor inmate who I wrote about in my blog. He was trying to get even with me.
I have to keep taking my blankets outside and shaking the food off, and then putting the blankets back in the wash. I was the first to use the nickname “Mork from Ork”, on my blog, because he looks like an alien, and then guys started to call him that. I don’t think he liked this nickname. I have resorted to removing my blankets from the bed, and just putting them on the bed when I go to sleep. If he puts junk on my mattress, big deal, I just wipe it off. It could have been worse. Inmates were pissing on the bed of inmate Lenny Kalish every day.