November 24, 2017

Max Frankel Jewish Prisoner Program

B’nai B’rith Denver has sponsored Passover Seders and Rosh Hashanah services for over 60 years and volunteers are needed to help with this program.  If you are unable to actually go to the correctional facility, Ed can use help getting kosher food donated and asking for donations to offset expenses.  The following story describes the 2010 Passover Seder.  If you are interested, please email Ed Koplin.

Max Frankel

On Tuesday March 30, 2010, four B’nai B’rith members made the 220 mile round trip to the medium security Fremont Correctional Facility to conduct the annual Passover Seder.

This year’s Seder was attended by 8 inmates. According to tradition, some non-Jewish inmates were invited to attend. A few inmates have converted to Judaism while incarcerated; with the help of the Jewish inmates, they have learned to read Hebrew and very often know the Seder service better than we do. An abbreviated Seder is conducted due to the time allotted by the Prison management. No candles or matches are allowed so we use electric candle sticks. While the Seder is shortened, it is still a traditional one except for the absence of the..” opening the door for Elijah” portion in consideration of the inmate’s incarceration.

The inmates were very appreciative of our annual trek to conduct the Seder. They participated in the service and enjoyed the Kosher Pesach food supplied by B’nai B’rith. The menu included matzah, charoset (made by the inmates from the apples, nuts, honey & raisins),horseradish, pre-sliced meats , herring, hard boiled eggs donated by East Side Kosher Deli (Eggs must be peeled and vacuum-sealed to be brought into the Facility) gefilte fish, chopped liver, grape juice, Coke products, pickles, and assorted candies & sweets.

Prison Passover

Lay Rabbi Allan Markman and Ed Koplin shop for Kosher food weeks prior to the Passover visit since all food on the menu must be pre-approved by the CDOC, in addition to being factory sealed and unopened. No longer can we have charoset made by the Temple Sisterhood, as used to be the case when Uncle Max Frankel, (of blessed memory), brought with him individually packaged servings in plastic-wrapped paper cups. All food items are closely inspected by a guard.

Over the past couple of years, volunteering has become more difficult due to the Colorado Department of Corrections new security requirements that all Faith-Based Volunteers take a basic 8-hour CDOC Prison Training Class, plus a 4-hour follow up class each year. Following approval of their application process, volunteers must take a Facility Orientation at each prison the volunteer visits so they are fully aware of the Facility/Prison layout. In addition, each volunteer is subjected to an intensive security check prior to each visit, as well as a personal screening at entry to the facility.

“As a result many of our Volunteers have just not been able to cope with the new time-consuming security requirements, and have dropped out of our Program and we are deeply appreciative of our B’nai B’rith volunteers who helped make the 2010 Seder a great success due to their personal effort and commitment to this mitzvah”… said Ed Koplin, co chair of the Max Frankel Jewish Prisoner Program. Allan Markman, Jonnie Pizer, and Gerald Rosenblatt contributed to making this Seder a great success by giving up most of their second day of Pesach to visit the Jewish Inmates.