Dont close hearts to Jews whove strayed

We all make mistakes. Some of us have made more than others, or repeated the same blunders. Our missteps, however, don't make us any less Jewish.

That fact sometimes gets forgotten when someone in our community falls from grace.

Certainly, Jewish prisoners have more time than the rest of us to reflect on their mistakes. While they already have been punished by the criminal justice system, most face a second sentence imposed by families, former friends and congregations when they return — the sentence of judgment.

This borders on double jeopardy, in which a criminal is tried twice for the same crime.

Perhaps, we as a Jewish community are selective about whom we forgive. If Jews who have committed crimes make real tshuvah (repentance), who are we to continue to judge them?

Most ex-convicts probably feel too ashamed to return to their communities. But whether their fall from grace with the community is actual or perceived, the anguish is real. If they affiliate at all, most go to a congregation where they are not known.

Many in the Jewish community have taken a compassionate stance on Jewish inmates through recent donations and visits to the federal women's facility in Dublin. The outpouring of support followed a March article in the Bulletin about four Jewish inmates there.

One of the prisoners later wrote to the Bulletin about how much the attention has meant to her. The donations and visits have reaffirmed her Jewish identity, and she looks forward to affiliating with a synagogue when she's released.

Those who responded to the article should be commended for their activism. Now, let's not forget those among us like Nancy Mizrahi profiled in this week's Bulletin. She and other former inmates still need our support and forgiveness.