Neve Shalom Jewish Prison
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New Year’s Message
Jewish Prison Outreach


Jewish Prison Outreach isa joint project of the Rabbinical Association of St. Louis, Jewish Family and Children’s Service, and Congregation Neve Shalom. We want to remind you that we are thinking of you at this time of the year, and wishing you an optimistic new year, good and sweet, dependable and true.

As I am writing this, we are moving to the end of the Hebrew month of Elul and the beginning of Tishri, which means Rosh Hashanah, the new moon of Tishri. My favorite teaching on this time of the year has to do with the moon as metaphor for what we learn during these days of awe.

We are taught that on Rosh Hashanah, we draw something new into the world, entirely new, something that has not been here before. There is so much hope in that. Whatever it is that we are drawing into the world, it is like the moon – difficult to discern at the new moon. It takes a few weeks for that newness to reveal itself fully, like the moon, until the full moon of Sukkot.

Every year we are learning something new, every year we are drawing something entirely new into the world. How we draw it in is through some common ways, some uncommon ways. Some common ways are these: prayer, acts of kindness, through our giving natures. Some uncommon ways are these: patience, faith, belief that even though the rewards may not be clear, they are present. Something good and beautiful and new and hopeful will follow whatever the circumstances.

This year as in all years we are praying for peace, we are anticipating it, waiting for it, a kind of active sense of waiting. We are always hopeful. We believe in the future, it’s as dependable as the moon. Every month the moon appears in outline at the beginning of the month, every month the moon plumps into fullness by the fifteenth of the month, every month it shrinks again in the cycle. Dependable and true, like the wisdom we are drawing down.

Let us hear from you, a good and sweet year,

Rabbi James Stone Goodman
For Jewish Prison Outreach

 

Thanksgiving Message


Dear friend of Jewish Prison Outreach,


I am writing this several weeks before Thanksgiving, in the year 5771 since the
creation of the world as we reckon time.


Thanksgiving has a specific Jewish sensibility. The celebration that it is based on
is the meal that the Pilgrims celebrated after the first successful harvest in1621.
They only had to wait a year, I imagine it was a long year, but by that second
year they had a harvest galore. The Wampanoag and the Pilgrims ate together
at Plymouth Massachusetts and they built the notion of a celebratory meal on the
model of the Hebrew Bible (see Deuteromony 26:3 and following).

It’s the story of the wandering Aramean, first you share the first fruits of your plantings, then you tell your story.


I enclose a blessing I have written for Thanksgiving based on the account in our
Bible. I hope you have an opportunity to speak it this year in a meaningful way.


Blessing


When you enter the land,
go to the holy man,
take baskets of first fruits,
go where God tells you.


Give your baskets to the holy man,
then – tell him what happened, in brief:
we have been lost, we are coming home.
End the story with gratitude.
Bow down and sit together with the holy ones
and the strangers among you.
Eat together.


Set up large stones,
inscribe these teachings,
every word,
on the stones.


Today you have become a people of God.
Live in that for a long time.
Let blessings pour out of you like a fountain.
After each blessing,
thunder: amen.


You will be blessed in the city and in the suburbs,
through your children yourselves and your ancestors,
blessed will you be in your coming and in your going,
blessed will you be at the top and at the bottom,
the whole journey will be blessed.


You will be blessed among the huts
and other holy places.

I swear,

Amen.

 

 

Some of the prisons I have visited
have a large common room
with vending machines
where I sit with the prisoners.

In some I am separated
by thick windows
with telephones
like in the movies
we are five or six feet away from each other
we speak by telephone.

Our group
Jewish Prison Outreach
we are getting started
we are compiling a list of prison contacts
we are asking our contacts
to instruct us:
how can we help?

We do as we are
Instructed.