- Jewish chaplain Gary Friedman wasn't surprised when he learned that incarcerated neo-Nazi gang members were claiming to be Jews at the Clallam Bay Corrections Center on the Olympic Peninsula. In fact, the chairman of the Seattle-based Jewish Prisoner Services International had been expecting the news. Nationwide, "There is this amazing phenomenon of non-Jews claiming to be Jewish," says Friedman.
Across the country, prisoners of every ethnicity, faith, and political viewpoint, including neo-Nazis, latch onto Judaism for a variety of reasons. Of the 120 prisoners in this state who are granted a kosher diet, only a dozen are Jewish, Friedman says. Seattle Weekly's interviews with Washington prisoners who have declared themselves Jewish and are receiving kosher food have yet to yield an actual Jew. Interviews with these prisoners and prison officials reveal a host of reasons for the fakery. Some like the prison kosher diet better than regular institutional chow—one prisoner says it tastes better, another claims it's more nutritious, and a third says it helped him lose weight. Others use the opportunity to write to Jewish organizations asking for money. "All us Jews are rich, right? We get deposit slips for inmate accounts!" says Friedman.
It seems that most of these claims are made to get the kosher meals, which tend to be better than standard prison fare.
This immediate brought to my mind the dietary habits of some Christian Identity folks, who come to their beliefs -- including the notion that Jews are the descendants of Satan and that nonwhites are soulless "mud people" -- from an arcane and frankly dubious reading of the Old Testament. But because of that, they also observe closely the many dietary prohibitions and restrictions.
The Montana Freemen were especially noteworthy for this. During their 81-day standoff in Jordan, meeting their dietary needs was part of their ongoing negotiations with the FBI.
In any event, the piece also delves into a prison-based outfit called the Aryan Family, which seems to be unique to the Clallam Bay prison; the Aryan Brotherhood is far more widespread. But the piece gives some real insights into how these groups operate, in and out of prison. Definitely worth a full read.