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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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And at no other time of year in the Jewish calendar does the role of a Jewish prison chaplain seem more essential. The period from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur is known as the Ten Days of Repentance.
Tradition and theology call on all Jews, of course, to engage in the soul-searching called heshbon ha-nefesh in Hebrew, and to make amends with repentance (or teshuva), prayer and charity. Yet this particular season of reflection and penitence comes after a banner year of proven or alleged misdeeds by Jews, from Bernard Madoff’s pyramid scheme to the violations of labor laws at the Agriprocessors kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa to the arrest of several New Jersey rabbis in a scandal involving political bribery and trafficking in human organs.
If Rabbi Gerard’s experience at Graterford sheds any light on how the convicted and incarcerated encounter the High Holy Days, it is light that strikes in some unexpected ways. (Officials at Graterford would not permit interviews with individual prisoners or the release of their names.)
Most of the Jewish inmates have come to feel remorse about their crimes, Rabbi Gerard said. One or two continue to profess their innocence. All wrestle with a mixture of remorse and defensiveness.
Read it all.
Previous entry (below): Ann McKenna Fromm: Politics and religion converge in end-of-life care
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