“What I learned leading High Holiday services at Rikers Island”

TABLET MAG
Rosh Hashanah Behind Bars
by Yitzhak Bronstein
September 5, 2018

I awoke to the now familiar smell of a hard green pillow, its fire-resistant plastic pressed against my face. Nearby my friend lay on his cot several inches off the floor saying modeh ani, the prayer of gratitude recited daily upon waking. Outside our room a correctional officer—definitely don’t refer to him as a prison guard—stared at his desk, slowly collecting overtime until the end of his 16-hour weekend shift. My friend and I were here to lead Rosh Hashanah services for the Jewish residents of Rikers Island, the overcrowded New York City jail complex notorious for its violence. READ MORE

ETTINGER REPORT Rosh Hashanah (New Year) guide for the perplexed, 2018  Commemoration is a central Jewish value – a prerequisite for national cohesion, survival, an enhanced future and abstention from past critical errors. On the other hand, forgetfulness spells ignorance, loss of critical values and lessons, and therefore the tendency to repeat past errors.

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