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Four Reasons Why Michael Cohen’s Pick Is The Most Jewish Prison

At the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, New York, one does not have to give up practicing Judaism for committing a crime. So like many offenders before him, Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, asked to be placed there after he was sentenced to three years in prison on fraud charges last month.

As The New York Times noted, Cohen could have chosen a prison camp with resort-like amenities, but instead he opted for Otisville, a “shabby, low-slung building … with an antiquated weight room, an uneven tennis court and no swimming pool.”

Most of Otisville’s inmates are Jewish — what’s the draw?

“For a Jewish person, there is no place like Otisville,” Earl Seth David, a former inmate, told the Times.

There is a full-time Hasidic chaplain. At Otisville, a minimum-security camp 75 miles northwest of New York City, dozens of Jewish inmates make up a congregation that meets three times a day for services, the Times reported. There are religious classes and weekly Shabbat services, which feature its own Torah scrolls. Inmates can also buy kippahs for $6.

Zizit meet uniform code. Orthodox inmates can wear zizit under their green prison uniforms, the Times reported.

Work shifts are scheduled around services and Shabbat. And, before holidays, observant men can be riven to a nearby town for mikvah baths, a ritual immersion. During Sukkot, they can eat meals in a wooden sukkah.

There are kosher vending machines. Plus there are three kosher meals a day, which come in pre-packaged trays that include items like matzo, gefilte fish, rugelach and seltzer. Shabbat is special: Inmates make the weekly meal in the kosher kitchen and eat it together on tables draped with bedsheets to look like tablecloths.

Alyssa Fisher is a news writer at the Forward. Email her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter at @alyssalfisher


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