Purim in Prison
Tamar YonahTamar Yonah hosts the most popular English speaking radio talk-show in...
I thought I would post this email that I received from a listener, 'Daniel Davidson'. I changed all the names and ID numbers to protect his privacy and to prevent any trouble for him.
With Purim approaching I wanted to share a short Purim story with you. This was either my second or third Purim in a Federal Prison a painfully miserable place. Purim in Prison was difficult to celebrate, usually the Jewish Inmates where allowed to gather once to read the megillah (scroll of Esther), and hamentashen (customary Purim danish) was unheard of. In the Federal Prison I was in, at this point, all other religions received pretty much whatever they needed for their holidays, the Jews however was a different story.
Just before the Festival of Purim I received word from one of the officers that I was to report to the FDC (Federal Detention Center) Lt. Lynch (name has been changed) wanted to see me immediately. Now to know Lt. Lynch is to hate him, he is from the deep south, he never made it as a policeman as he had wanted so he resigned himself to be a prison guard. When Lynch wanted to see you, you knew it was going to be bad and the meanest of Inmates were not so brave when they had to see Lynch.
I arrived at the FDC, went through the multiple gates and steel doors till I came to Lt. Lynch’s office. I held my breath and knocked on his door. Lynch yelled from inside to enter and I did. As I entered the office I saw Lynch and two other Guards sitting behind a table with a small package sitting on the table in front of him, the package had been opened.
“What the hell do you think you are doing Davidson?” screamed Lynch.
I took another breath and responded “I don’t know what you me Lt.”
Then Lynch began a long rant of curses directed toward me while the other two laughed.
“What the hell is this?” Lynch demanded to know as he showed me the contents of the package. To my surprise the package contained 8 beautiful hamentashen sent by the Aleph Institute, a Chabad Organization who help Jewish Prisoners in prison, in fact the only Jewish Organization.
“Those are hamentashen sir, we need them for the Jewish holiday of Purim that begins tonight.” I answered.
“Jew food huh Davidson.” Said Lynch.
“Yeah, I guess you could say that Lt.” I answered cautiously.
“Do you think I am going to let you have this Jew food Davidson?" asked Lynch.
Not knowing what to say exactly or what I had walked into I didn’t answer right away. I felt like a mouse who had just been cornered by three dangerous snakes. “Answer me G-d D--- you inmate.” Screamed Lynch.
I jumped backwards in reaction and finally said.
“Sir, that was sent by an approved organization that helps Jewish Inmates in Prison and we are entitled to have then for our holiday.”
“You F------ Jews think you have something coming do you? I will show you what you have coming XZ890-421 (that is my number they used to keep track of you and to de-humanize a person), you have NOTHING.” Then Lynch passed the hamentashen around to each of the other guards who where being very entertained by Lynch and myself standing there. They opened all the beautiful hamentashen and began eating them.
I asked angrily. “Permission to leave Lt.?”
“No boy you stand there till I tell you to leave.” Lynch answered with a mouthful of hamentashen and laughing. I stood there for what seemed forever burning with hatred for these pathetic pigs and watched them finish the last hamentashen. My expression was of pure hatred I am sure but inside I was screaming out to Ha Shem asking Him when would this end, how could this have happened? To be innocent of the charges that put me there was irrelevant at this point. I only asked HaShem on a few occasions Why did You put me here? What good could possibly come of this? This was one of those times I asked. I still remember in full detail how I felt. The hopelessness of being a slave of people like this, the fact there was no one to help, no one would come to rescue me (and the other Jews in prison).
For whatever reason HaShem had decreed that I should be here. My face burned with a combination of hatred and pain, I chocked back the tears as I watched these three anti-Semitic pigs finish off the last of the hammentashin and wipe the crumbs from their ugly faces. I stood there for a few more minutes while they laughed and taunted the Jew before Lynch told me to leave and warned me that they would be watching all of the Jews.
I returned to the Prison Population to meet with the other Jewish Men that night for the reading of the Megillah to share with them what had happened. As William Kay, a Jewish Inmate from Hawaii, read the megillah we watched Lt. Lynch stand at the door watching us. In that place those little hamentashen were more important than what they would be on the outside. The were just another part of Jewishness that we were continually denied as we lived among those who made it clear they where our enemy’s.
B’’H this year we will make our own hamentashen at home and celebrate Purim in our Shul and Jewish community with hopes that ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’ we will be home. I since learned that the goyims place was to teach us who and what we are as Jews and our place in the world. The lack of Jewish Identity we learned from a secular family, Ha Shem gave to us in Prison. For this I will always be grateful to HaShem for the lessons over those 9 years in hell for there I learned how important I am as a Jew, how important the Jewish Community is and how precious our State of Israel, the freedom we have is a gift from G-d and we need to cherish every moment we are free. Israel with all her faults is the greatest place in the world.