I live in New York City which is at the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic. I wear a face mask to walk my dog every day. People pass by and our dogs sniff each other while we chat from a social distance, and more than one dog owner has told me that they feel like they are in prison. One actually said, “I feel like I’m in solitary confinement.”
I asked, “Have you ever been in solitary confinement?” …
“It will be harder for you to be in prison than it was for me to be in a concentration camp.”
My 93-year-old mom, who survived the Holocaust, died of COVID-19 in an assisted living facility in New Jersey on April 5. I found out she was dead from a text with the words Baruch Dayan Haemet, the Jewish blessing at the time of death.
Only days earlier, my nephew called to tell me she had pneumonia, and had been tested for COVID-19. When he called back two days later to tell me she was rushed to the hospital because her oxygen level was poor, she was struggling to breathe, and her temperature was high, I knew my family would face the single most difficult decision any family has to make. …
I am a formerly incarcerated Jewish lesbian and the child of two Holocaust survivors. I served time in two federal prisons, including stints in solitary confinement.
On the first day of my incarceration, I requested and was given a Siddur — a Jewish prayer book. By the second day, I began saying the Sh’ma prayer over and over every day. It took no more than a few seconds to realize why I was repeating the Sh’ma and holding the prayer book. A story my father told me came to mind immediately.
In 1940, after the Nazis conquered Poland and came to power, a Jew carrying a Siddur, a tallit, and tefillin could be shot. Still, my father took his velvet pouch, which held his siddur, tallit and tefillin, to work. A Nazi stopped him, saw the items and decided to make an example of him. …
Witness to Mass Incarceration Receives
Matching Grant from The Good People Fund
For Immediate Release
Contact: Evie Litwok, witnesstoMI@gmail.com
New York — May 6, 2019- Witness to Mass Incarceration (WMI), a non-profit organization working to raise public awareness of conditions within the nation’s prisons and advance penal reforms, has received a major grant from The Good People Fund.
The matching grant, for $10,000, will support WMI’s efforts to increase its scope, reach and impact using documentation, leadership development, grassroots organizing, peer-to-peer support and community building.
WMI recently established a new initiative, the Suitcase Project, which gives those newly released from prison essential items such as a mobile phone, laptop computer, and gift cards to ease their reentry into society. The program focuses on women and members of the LGBTQ community, which WMI considers among the most vulnerable and least-supported populations both within and beyond prison. …
She described a journey through a darkness most know nothing about — that of a professional Jewish woman navigating the netherworld of prison life and later reemerging into society to reclaim her dignity and purpose.
Evie Litwok was at a New Jersey synagogue speaking at a social action Shabbat, and if her tale of a life bent to extremes by the criminal justice and penal systems created awareness through discomfort — and it did, judging alone from the air in the room — then she hit her mark.
“I am gifted with being articulate, and so I have to tell this story,” she said. “I need to use all my strength to make people aware and force change.” …
It looks like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman will at least be doing some time in federal prison for their parts in this college admissions scandal. And while the public generally has the perception that it will be a walk in the park for the celebrities, experts — including one who has served time in federal prison — say that’s just not true.
Those who follow celebrity legal matters have come to expect stars to spend just hours or minutes behind bars for misdeeds (see: Khloé Kardashian, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie). And because Operation Varsity Blues scandal is a bribery case based on the elite, including these actresses, paying huge sums of money to unlawfully get their children into college (with Loughlin paying out $500,000 and Huffman dropping $15,000), people think they’ll buy their way out of this, too. …
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Evie Litwok, EvieLitwok@gmail.com
Should Mass Incarceration include a body count when trapped behind bars?
March 4, 2019: The devastation of two back-to-back tornadoes became clear as the sun rose above Lee County, Alabama. Journalists are on site, reporting on the heroic acts of first responders going door to door, both to raise awareness of the disaster and call for help. Homes and businesses have been destroyed…debris is strewn for miles… but the attention and call for help is not for everyone — what about the people trapped in prisons? …
Before I left, my mother told me that prison would be harder for me than surviving the holocaust was for her. By the time I was incarcerated for a second time at age 60, I had been persecuted on the inside and out for being an open, unapologetic lesbian. When I wrote a public letter describing in detail the conditions of American prison camps, I was thrown in solitary confinement to face the torture of isolation. When I became ill, I was denied medical care and blamed for my illness. When I arrived back in New York after release, I was homeless. I had seen people suffer unspeakable abuse and neglect. …
Prison Is No Place For The Elderly — Even Paul Manafort
Evie Litwok is the Founder and Director of Witness to Mass Incarceration (WMI), a storytelling, interviewing and organizing archival project that documents the lives of formerly incarcerated women and other LGBTQ people.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort arrives at the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse for a hearing on June 15, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Paul Manafort is in hell tonight. …
I am a formerly incarcerated Jewish lesbian and the daughter of two survivors of the Holocaust.
In past years on Yom HaShoah, I watched my parents light candles and testify about their experience. Every time they spoke they relived the horrors they endured. For some seventy years, they, all survivors and the world, said “never again” and “never forget.”
My mother is 90 years-old and is no longer able to speak publicly about her life in the Lodz Ghetto and Auschwitz. …