Sarasota News Leader

06/21/2013

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Sarasota News Leader June 21, 2013 OPINION Page 62 A SEDER BEHIND BARS` By Rabbi Ari Shapiro Contributing Writer COMMENTARY It was Erev Passover, the night of the first Seder, and people around the world were gathered together in homes and communities, with family and friends discussing the Passover story, their personal significance of Mitzrayim, a narrow place and their passage towards freedom. What is your narrow place that prevented you from living a good life and caused you to enter a life of crime?" At first there was silence. It took a moment or two for one person to speak, but once the ice was broken, the discussion gained momentum. In the safety of our little community, each person bravely told his story and spoke But what happens when your home or com- of his struggles while the others listened remunity is a fortress of stone and metal fences spectfully. It was as if the Sea of Reeds parted topped with razor wire? You are alone, with and they were walking through. no family, with no real friends, even though I then said, "Many of you have long sentences; there are hundreds of people in this commusome are doing life. Is it possible to find freenity. The impact of your crime and the length dom in here?" of your sentence loom large in your mind. Again a moment of silence, and then, "These As the Jewish chaplain at a large state prison walls can only imprison my body, but my mind in Arcadia, I spend every Friday with the Jewand my soul are free. The system can make ish inmates, and it has been my custom to be me do as it wishes and make me go where it with them for the first Seder of Passover as says, but it cannot direct my mind." well. It is true. Those inmates who come to terms Each of the 17 inmates present at our Seder with their incarceration and do not fight the this year took part in the service by reading a system do "easy time." Mentally, they can be portion of the Haggadah. The meal was sump"carried on eagles' wings" and soar freely tuous and made possible by donations raised through the universe. by Jewish Family and Children's Services and the families of some inmates. May their flights be peaceful. Following Birkat HaMazon (grace after Rabbi Ari Shapiro teaches adult education meals) and the singing of traditional Pass- and Religious School classes at Temple Sinai over songs, I asked, "What is your Mitzrayim? in Sarasota. %

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