I spent Jewish New Year 5776 behind bars in Federal prison located in Otisville, NY, up in the Catskills. Most of the inmates in my unit of 100 were of the Jewish race. Some even practiced the Jewish religion.
The afternoon of the eve of Rosh Hashana the inmates were taken on a school bus, with bars, to a local ritual bath to take a dunk in the mikveh. The guys all lined up and walked down the steps into the bath, dunked their bodies, and then walked out, single file. Some guys were very heavy. I used to compare the walk into the mikveh waters to a herd of water buffalo’s. The fat guys didn’t like that joke. Too bad. They couldn’t catch me if they wanted to beat me up.
Being locked up in prison behind barbed wire 24/7 was humiliating, regardless of whether you were guilty, innocent, or did time before. Most guys thought they were innocent of course. Eventually you got used to being locked up, and didn’t realize there was a whole other parallel universe out there. The prison became your world, with the guards and inmates you dysfunctional family. To get transported out of the prison cocoon, in a bus with bars, and see free people stuck in traffic talking on their cell phones… It was shocking. Who were these strange people with rectangular devises growing out of their ears?
The first night of Rosh Hashana the Jewish inmates had a big meal. During the meal a couple of yeshiva students, from the Chabad organziation, were allowed into our little room to visit us. These guys must have been no more than 20 years old. They were sleeping in a trailer on the prison grounds and visiting us and inmate Rubashkin next door in the medium. Rubashkin used to have the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the country before he got convicted of bank fraud and sentenced to 27 years in Iowa. If he was sentenced in New York he would have got a fraction of that.
Inmate Ken Starr, who was locked up for ripping off such stars as Sylvester Stallone and Uma Thurman, hammed it up with these young yeshiva students. One of the boys said that he left his watch at home on purpose. He was afraid that we would steal it. How insulting, he didn’t have to tell us that.
The boys told us that Rubashkin offered a Jewish inmate a free meal, his meal, if he would come to services and hear the shofar. Inmate Useless told them that they should be honored to be here to visit us and Rubashkin, it is a big mitzvah, a good deed. Ken Starr said that they couldn’t get a gig in Belize or St. Tropez.
Ken Star told the boys that he had practiced Orthodox Judaism for more years than they were alive, that is, until he met a beautiful Roman Catholic girl. I am not sure if Ken was referring to his first or second wife. His second wife was a high class stripper from Scores. The boys complimented Ken Starr for his honesty, which is ironic, because Ken was locked up for lying and cheating movie stars out of millions of dollars.
After speaking with the youngsters, inmate Jack Chaz determined that he was a relative of one of them. Ken said he would never admit that he was related to one of these boys. One inmate suggested that we trade clothes with the boys and walk out of the prison and leave the boys in the cells.
We spent the next day praying that our numerous indiscretions, sins, misdemeanors, felonies, underlying acts in furtherance of a conspiracy, and additional acts of uncharged misconduct, be forgiven. Most of the services over the next two days were conducted by Ari Glucksman, of the Lakewood Weinstein ponzi conspiracy, Chaim, of the Newman brothers life insurance conspiracy, Rabbi Useless AKA the Jewish Indiana Jones who rescued Torah scrolls from Eastern Europe, mortgage fraud attorney Ben Turner who grew up in New Haven, Satmar Mendy, who had his Black girlfriend visit him every Shabbos, and Moshe Butler, AKA Teaneck Trouble, the inmate voted most likely to return to prison.
During services Jewish podiatrist inmate Dr. Muss couldn’t stop talking about finding a Jewish mate on a Russian matchmaker website. Attorney Levitins was supposed to help him with new prospects, as Levitins was Russian, and had some contact with people on the outside. Ken Starr suggested a couple of single women he knew from Hollywood, ie., Oprah, or Whoopie Goldberg. Whoopie has a Jewish sounding name, but she is not Jewish. Muss then sneezed and sprayed his seltzer all over my face and kosher kitchen Uri’s face. If he had done that to one of the other Russians he would have got a black eye. Uri laughed and said that Muss was having an exorcism.