A Bar Mitzvah on Death Row
A rabbi in Texas helped killer imprisoned on Death Row achieve his dreams of finally becoming a man, religiously of course. Chabad.org reports that Rabbi Dovid Goldstein, lead Jewish chaplain in the Texas prison system, worked tirelessly to help inmate Jedidiah Murphy have a Bar Mitzvah.
Murphy is obviously well passed puberty, but he grew up in foster care and never had a Bar Mitzvah. While in prison, he could not wrap tefillin because the state law forbids inmates from having direct physical contact with visitors. Goldstein spent three months making arrangements and on Feb. 2 he was finally successful.
“When he saw that I brought the tefillin for him, he smiled — and no one ever smiles on death row,” Goldstein told Chabad.org. “I had to give the guards the tefillin and kippah, as he was on the other side of a glass wall the whole time. He put a kippah on his head, and followed my lead as he wrapped the tefillin and said the Shema together. I purchased some chips and soda from the vending machine, and we had a bar mitzvah reception.”
Murphy has spent 15 years on death row in the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas. He was convicted in October 2000 of shooting and killing a 79 year-old woman, stealing her car and credit cards, and then using the credit cards to purchase alcohol and cigarettes.
A letter written by Murphy is posted on the website deathrow-usa.com. In it he writes, “To me that is all that life really is…a chance to get it right. I’m still trying to get it right and I could use all the help I can get.”
This story "A Bar Mitzvah on Death Row" was written by Emily Siegel.