Yom Kippur. The most popular holiday on the Jewish calendar. Other than Chanukah. In prison the Feds allow Jewish inmates to observe the holiday of Yom Kippur. The Feds figure they will save money by not having to feed Jewish inmates during this fast day.
In Federal prison the Jewish inmates have their own set of unwritten rules. Their own pecking order. The bluboyz don’t want to get involved in policing the inmates. The blueboyz don’t want to do any of the dirty work. Let the Jews rule themselves. And if anyone complains, send the Jews to the SHU.
This year the Jewish inmates voted on who was going to lead the Kol Nidrei prayers, the traditional prayers chanted on the eve of Yom Kippur. A Hasidic inmate by the name of Chaim was running against an inmate by the name of Artie. Chaim is a Hasidic Jew, complete with sidecurls, strings dangling from his pants, a giant skull cap, and a long beard. Artie grew up in the Satmar Hasidic world, but left that world many years ago. He shaved his beard and shaved his head. He donated his giant fur Hasidic hat to a poor Eskimo.
Artie knew all the prayers and liked to sing. He had an excellent concert hall voice. He could have been a star on Broadway. Instead, he had to settle on being a star behind bars.
The Hasidic Jews didn’t want Artie leading the holy Kol Nidrei prayers. An 80 year old Satmar Hasid named Naftuli was particularly upset about this. Naftuli tried to get everyone to vote for Hasidic Chaim. But Chaim couldn’t carry a note. Artie won by a landslide.
Naftuli and his friend Rabbi Pinter didn’t know what to do about Artie leading the prayers. They threatened to boycott services. In the end they showed up for Artie’s star performance. And it was a star performance indeed. I was there. This short, stocky, bald man with the thick Mr. Magoo eyeglasses brought the Big House down.
I think Artie felt he had achieved some kind of a victory when Naftuli and Pinter begrudgingly showed up for prayers. Naftuli and Pinter told me they went to services but didn’t respond “amen” when Artie chanted the prayers. I guess you could say they prayed in protest.
In other Jew news, the Jewish inmates learned that a Jewish inmate by the name of Muss just learned that he had fathered a long lost daughter. Approximately nine years ago Muss had a one night stand with some woman he met in Middletown, NY. The town of Middletown is not far from the Otisville prison. Unbeknown to Muss, this woman got pregnant. The woman had blood testing done and tracked Muss down to the Otisville Federal prison. She came to visit Muss with his 9 year old daughter. Muss was very happy. These strangers were a lot more friendly to Muss than the children Muss had with his ex-wife.
The Jewish inmates were very happy that Muss was now a father. They gave him a little party, singing “Mazel Tov!” The 80 year old Satmar Hasid Naftuli was not happy. The mother was not Jewish. Therefore the child was not Jewish. How could anyone celebrate such a thing!
There are many guys locked up who are on heavy duty psych medication. Especially white collar guys. White collar guys enter prison in the worst possible emotional state. Drug dealers and street thugs are familiar with jail. They have been getting into trouble since they were 13.
White collar guys get busted for the first time when they are 50 years old. In one indictment the Feds completely destroy their lives. The Feds take away their life savings. Their professional degrees are worthless. Their wives and children abandon them. Many are suicidal long before they check into prison. If they have not killed themselves by the time they self surrender, they will be prescribed heavy doses of psych drugs to keep them quiet.
Living with white collar criminals whose lives have just been destroyed is not easy. They are no longer mild mannered white collar professionals. They turn into angry and unstable individuals. It takes six months or more for them to settle down.
During Yom Kippur you are not supposed to eat or drink for 24 hours. If the white collar guys are fasting they cannot take their psych meds. Psych meds need to be taken with food. The Jewish inmates were worried that these guys would completely lose control if they were off their meds. But nothing happened. I think they were too weak from fasting to get into any trouble.