Even though I grew up being jewish, my family didn’t belong to any synagogue. I never went to hebrew school but was tutored at age 12 in time for my bar mitzvah.
My rabbi enjoyed working with me so much because I was a quick learner and, since I had a decent singing voice back then, he was hoping I would continue with my studies to eventually become a cantor but that did not occur.
Recently I found myself looking for and writing to female pen pals in prison out of sheer boredom. I like to draw cartoons and am creative in my letters to these imprisoned women who hopefully enjoy receiving my correspondence. As an ice-breaker, I usually include a copy of the Monopoly “Get out of jail free” card to be funny. Not done mean spirited.
I stumbled upon an online jewish organization in Miami that encourages its members to write to jewish inmates as a way to cheer them up. Their website quotes Maimonides as saying “Helping the imprisoned is the loftiest of all charitable acts, superseding all other forms.”
I may have gone slightly overboard in my caring.
I first wrote to an African American female in Alabama who held up a bank in Rhode Island using a fake bomb.
Next I wrote to a 47-year-old white woman from Texas who had a psychotic episode in 1998 and stabbed a man to death in order to sell his vehicle to supply her own crack cocaine habit. She now claims to have found Christianity and repented her evil ways.
I wrote to a Korean woman from New York who was guilty of mortgage fraud and swindled banks out of millions of dollars before getting caught.
I wrote to an African American woman from Atlanta GA who is locked up in Florida for mortgage fraud where she made defunct businesses appear active and applied for loans and lines of credit in their names.
I wrote to a beautiful hispanic woman who is originally from the Dominican Republic and only knows Spanish. I needed to use the internet to translate my words so she will hopefully understand me. That took work.
I am planning on writing to an African American woman in Las Vegas once I find out what her crime is. I am waiting to hear back from the Nevada Department of Corrections to see if they will disclose that info.
Lastly I decided that I wanted to include a jewish woman as my final pen pal. Instead of this Florida organization to match me up with someone, I went onto a prison pen pal website and did my own search by religion. I found three jewish ladies behind bars.
Two were very young so I opted for the third one who is closer to my age. She was convicted for 1st degree murder in Arizona. Yikes, I thought. I did some further research and googled her name. I was in for a shock.
Her horrific crime story was sensationalized all over the news eleven years ago. She was a former Las Vegas showgirl who killed her husband and disposed of his body using a chain saw. CBS ran her story on “48 Hours” and the Oxygen Cable Network did an
episode of “Snapped” about her case. She even had an investigative reporter write a book about it.
I changed my mind about writing a letter to her. Then I started feeling bad about her young son who lost both his father and his mother from this incident. He recently turned 18 and was likely raised by his paternal uncle.
Then I started feeling empathy for this convicted murderer who never got to see her son grow up and become a man. On his Facebook page he makes no references to his past. No acknowledgements of his mom in “cell block H.”
Her facility accepts first-time email messages so I decided to be nice and gathered tidbits of information about her son: jobs he held, activities he was involved in, girls he liked, etc. I also attached a small montage of his photos to go along with the email
so she could see what her boy currently looks like. I did it from the perspective of one jewish parent to another.
Even though she is condemned to serving a life sentence for a terrible crime she committed, she still should be entitled to know how her offspring is doing. I know I would want to know. So I gave her a small anonymous glimpse into her son’s life.
Heart strings plucked. My mitzvah mission completed.