@Eastern State Penitentiary

Photos are from my tour of Eastern Penitentiary in Philadelphia. 

The prison cells were in these tomb thick concrete structures, freezing cold, and completely claustrophobic!

You have to stoop through a tiny doorway to get in and out. 

The cell with the car in it shows how small these prison cells were.  

There is a photo of a cell with a stinking toilet and also the one with a barbers chair. 

Then there is the picture of the fancy cell which is that of Al Capone’s (right after the regular disgusting cell). Pretty sure Capone had some real pull with the warden and guards, and I’m sure they were afraid to cross him.

There was even a synagogue in this frightful gothic-style prison with a light that says Shalom (peace).

One cell had art painted on the walls and had many of these dreamy-looking women in Island type spots so far away from the reality of these horrible prison conditions. 

It was also interesting the the prisoners inside these walls were I’m sure dying to get out, and yet the visitors to the prison were lined up at the ticket booth to get a glimpse inside. 

The whole experience was so full of juxtaposing contrasts. 

I feel like I learned a lot. Overall, a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live here! 😉

(Credit Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

Who’s Fasting For Whom

Today is the Jewish fast day of Tzom Gedaliah. 


Gedaliah had been appointed governor of Israel by the Babylonian conquers in 423 BCE.  However, within the year, Gedaliah was assassinated. This resulted in the remaining Judeans fleeing to Egypt and the Babylonian exile being firmly established until the return from this exile in 371 BCE. 


Literally for thousands of years the relatively small Israelite nation in the Holy Land was repeatedly attacked and conquered by the large surrounding empires of the Assyrians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans.


Despite this punishing history, when it came to the Fast of Gedaliah, my father used to inject a little light humor and say:

Gedaliah didn’t fast for me, so I am not going to fast for him.


I can still hear his words in my head and even now it still brings a warm smile to my face and happiness inside me. 


Upcoming next week is Yom Kippur–fasting and atonement. 😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Speedily Rebuild The Temple

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “Rebuilding The Temple, Healing Our People.”

Tisha B’Av (the 9th day of the month of Av) is on Shabbat this year, so we conduct the day of mourning and fast on Sunday. The destruction of the Temple and our subsequents exiles from the Holy Land are deeply traumatic periods of Jewish history. Needless to say, this is a very sad and scary time of year. However, we are living in the time of redemption, when after 2,000 years, the Jewish people have been blessed to be returned to their biblical homeland, Israel. Next up is the rebuilding of the Temple VERY SOON, please G-d.


Let us hope and pray that we are deserving of Hashem’s blessings and mercy, and that sadness will be completely turned into joy, the world will be healed, and peace will prevail.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Shame As An Effective Motivator

This last week protesters against Justice Kavanaugh came up against Senator Manchin (D. WV) in a head on confrontation. 


He was being interviewed by the media. 


But the protesters drowned him out with chants of “Shame” and “Shame on you!”


Similar to the series Game Of Thrones, where the evil Queen Cersis must “Take the walk of shame” for sleeping with and having a child with her own brother. 


She must walk through the city with all the people yelling “Shame” at her, spitting on her, throwing rotten vegetables at her, etc. 


There is no place to hide. 


Her hair has been shorn off. 


Her clothes have been stripped from her. 


Without her clothes and pretense, she is naked, but she is also naked because her soul is bearing her sin before everybody.


This week life imitated art and the protesters stood in judgment over Senator Manchin’s decision to vote yes for and support Kavanaugh.


He was surrounded by shame. 


It was not meant to be politic, respectful, or open any sort of dialogue, but simply to tear the Senator down and humiliate him for his decision. 


I could imagine how he must feel being surrounded by all these people telling him he was a disgrace and that should be completely ashamed of himself. 


There seemed no one left to strand up for him, defend him, and let him save face. 


I am not saying his decision was right or wrong, just that when seemingly everybody passes judgment on you as evil and a disgrace, there is no where to hide or anyone to defend himself in this mob lynching. 


I imagine that this feeling of shame is sort of what happens when we die and we must face everyone we dealt favorably and unfavorably with.  


For those who we wronged, the chant of shame echoes through G-d’s heavenly court. 


There is no place to hide as we must now pay the piper for each and every thing we did or didn’t do.  


Our deeds are no longer hidden, but exposed for everyone to see. 


We cannot pretend to be good when we were not.


The veil and pretense of righteousness disintegrates.


We are exposed for who we really are. 


Our true selves and our sins are there in full sight and for which we must bear out our ultimate shame. 😉


(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

An Arrogant Model Who Defiles The Holy Temple

Please see my new article, Naked Before G-d, in The Times of Israel. 

“In such a G-dly place [as the Kotel], where we are all spiritually naked for our actions before our Maker, [Belgian model,] Ms. Papen displayed not soul, but her haughty flesh.”


And like the Sotah in the bible, who drinks of “the bitter waters” for defiling the sanctity of her marriage, Ms. Papen will most certainly come to see the consequences for her defilement of the most sacred place of Judaism. 


I wouldn’t want to be her, seriously! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Blessings and The Curses

L-rd, Bless your loving children. 


And do swift justice to the wicked that seek their destruction. 


Bless those that stand guard at your heavenly and earthly gates. 


Curse those evil ones that make a mockery of your lofty kingship. 


Bless the humble and faithful to you and your laws.


Curse those that stand in arrogance and spread hate and vileness before you. 


Bless those that bless you and seek to do good. 


Curse those that curse you and do harm to your creations. 


Bless the righteous people with all that is good. 


Curse the wicked and tear them asunder so that they are utterly destroyed. 


L-rd, please hear your lowly servant and bring the ultimate redemption to your people. 


And verily discomfort, smite and throw to the depths of punishment and exile the cursed wicked. 


None can stand before you in their shame and disgrace. 


Do it for your name’s sake; do it for your children’s sake, do it for your justice’s sake, do it to make things right in your beautiful and perfect world. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

They Really Think They Deserve It

Sometimes I come across people with enormous wealth and power. 


Many wield it like they own it and deserve it. 


I wonder sometimes with billions of other people in the world without adequate food, water, plumbing, medicine, or a solid roof over the heads, how the mighty can think they are above it all. 


Do they look around–do they see anyone else but themselves?


They seem drunk with themselves and what they have–and very overconfident.


Worshipping self and all the honor and materialistic success–they forget where it comes from and what they are supposed to be doing with it to help others. 


Yet, G-d and His angels can strike in but a split second. 


Those that are high and mighty can be brought low and those that are in the depths of despair can be uplifted. 


But at the will of G-d Almighty.


At the top, people may erroneously think and come to believe that they are smarter or more deserving–and so what’s theirs is theirs for the taking and keeping. 


They think “To hell” with everyone else–they are the little people. 


Perhaps, they even come to enjoy squashing them underfoot.


They really believe and savor the power and even think it’s forever. 


Yet the wheel of life turns and often abruptly–illness, accidents, misfortune…it comes seemingly from nowhere when G-d breaths justice. 


How silly of the powerful and wealthy to think they are the untouchable and the forever mighty. 


G-d sees the good and the bad in the people–and ultimately, there is no escape from the King of Kings. 


Wealth and power are earthly and fleeting, but the will of G-d is all that endures. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)