September 1, 2006
"Jolly Jones," as I like to call him, is doing a two life sentence for a double homicide. It was an awful crime and not
worth writing about. He's also been known to suffer from periods of deep depression.
Mister Jones has been in prison for perhaps six or seven years. But it was only a handful of months ago that he became
a Christian. Now he's been attending the chapel services and Bible studies. In addition, these days Mister Jones could often
be seen walking around the facility with a big smile. And this is why I've nicknamed him "Jolly," which seems to make him
laugh and smile even more.
I try to spend time with Jolly when I'm at his housing unit as part of my job assignment. He lives in E-North. Today, for
example, he and I spent almost an hour talking about Jesus Christ and discussing subjects like temptation and "spiritual warfare."
And I was thrilled to observe the level of his joy and the intensity of his interest in Christianity.
So when it was time for me to leave E-North for the day, seeing Jolly's joy and enthusiasm encouraged me greatly. It was
a reminder, too, that my labor for the Lord is not in vain.
September 3, 2006
Early in the morning, when I awoke at dawn, I looked out from my
little window and beheld a lovely display of God's creation. My cell's window overlooks the prison's large grass and dirt
recreation yard and ball field where the men can play soccer, football and softball. There's also an oval shaped running track
This morning, however, there were at least 150 or more birds of several different species gathered and mixed together under
a pouring rain. I watched as they took turns splashing in a series of large puddles that appeared to be several inches deep
in some spots.
For the past few days my area has been getting a lot of rain from the tail end of tropical storm "Ernesto," which has made
its way to this part of the country from the Caribbean, where it began.
But it was the now wet and muddy field that I was able to see dozens of common sparrows, a splay of scattered robins, and
a flock of perhaps a hundred or more black birds, all splashing about in those big puddles of water. While, at the same time,
perhaps a dozen or so large black crows wandered impassively through the crowd.
In addition, many of the birds were eating, too. It looked like an endless sea of fluttering wings. As each bird would
fly and leap to different sections of the yard, their beaks would immediately begin to peck at the ground in their search
for grass seeds, tiny bugs or worms. They also appeared to be oblivious to one another, obviously concerned with fattening
themselves as much as possible in preparation for the coming winter.
Although it was wonderful to watch these creatures as they splashed with sheer pleasure, I did feel a twinge of jealousy
at their freedom. I assume that not one of them has ever had to sit in a cage for any length of time, not even for a day.
I was amazed, too, at the way the different varieties of birds got along. Robins walked fearlessly in front of the sharp
beaks of crows, while all the birds grazed side-by-side or shared puddles.
I'm thankful to have seen something beautiful on a cloudy and gray-sky morning.
September 5, 2006
And let us not be weary in well doing:
for in due season we shall reap,
if we faint not.
The above Scripture greatly encouraged me today in light of what I've been experiencing during my afternoons at the prison's
"Intermediate Care Program (E-North)." This is a part of the facility where some of the inmates who are mentally challenged
The handful of Christians who live in this area have become increasingly hungry for God's word, and they've been expressing
a desire for a deeper walk with Jesus. I have, as a result, been elated to see such a thirst in these men.
Nowadays, whenever I come to work, one or more of the guys will want to talk to me about the Lord, or they'll have a question
about the Bible. I've noticed, too, that each man has an aura of peace and joy within him.
Yet there's been times, however, during the many years of working here, when it seemed as if I was laboring in a dry and
barren field. I've gone through periods of discouragement because of it. But there's been a change for the better. Therefore
I cannot quit. I'm seeing that there is more work to do and more souls to touch. E-North has become a ripe field for a precious
September 9, 2006
SWEET CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP
My heart is filled with happiness. When I went to the recreation yard on this sunny Saturday morning I ran into a few of
my Christian friends who happen to live in different cell blocks than me. And since I don't get to see them every day, it
was refreshing to spend the 90 minute period with them because these guys always have a lot of encouragement to give out.
The best part, though, was being with one of the men who's new to the faith. Approximately six months ago he received Jesus
as his Savior. Today, however, I found him bursting with spiritual energy and joy. I also stood next to him as he made an
attempt to share the gospel with a close friend of his.
Watching this young Christian make his first attempt at soul-winning, and observing his passion for Christ, was very uplifting.
Then, later in the afternoon, there was a Bible study and worship hour in the prison's chapel. It's been a wonderful day!
September 11, 2006
A DAY OF REMEMBRANCE
Today is the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks upon the United States of America. 9/11, therefore,
because of the horrific destruction and the tremendous loss of life, will live on forever in infamy.
But in memory of this event, at 10 o'clock in the morning, the Superintendent of the facility opened the chapel so that
a memorial service could be held for those prisoners who wished to attend. And I went.
I believe that, for the most part, the atmosphere of the nation, especially in and around New York City, has been sad and
somber. Many are reflecting on the tragedy. Right now we're a nation in pain.
I was pleased, however, to see about sixty-five men show up. There was also a fair representation of the various races
which make up the prison's population. Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, and a few men of Asian decent were in attendance. I sat
near the back where I was able to observe things.
The service was directed by two of the facility's chaplains. My chaplain, Pastor Carl Stiglich, when it was his turn to
speak, read from Psalm 103.
Much of the service, though, was devoted to saying prayers for the families of those who died as well as for those who
survived the attacks and are still recovering from their injuries. We are encouraged by these clergymen to think about our
own mortality, too.
What came to mind, as the chaplains were giving their respective but similar messages, was a verse from the Bible, which
says: "Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little
time, and then vanish away (James 4:14)."
Life is short. When we compare it to eternity it's like one tiny grain of sand on a beach that's hundreds of miles long.
Eternity has no end. It's forever.
September 12, 2006
Yesterday I wrote about the memorial service that was held in the prison's chapel. It was a poignant event, and a time
for reflection, mourning, and prayer.
And along this line, with all the bloodshed and suffering that goes on in the world, I'd love to say that, within a few
years, hopefully, men will have learned to make peace with one another, thus putting an end to terrorism. That acts of violence,
such as what happened on September 11, 2001 on United States soil, will never happen again. But this would be wishful thinking.
Regrettably, the reality is, that for fallen mankind, with our proud hearts and our voracious appetites for possessions
and power, the kind of peace which makes for an end to war and terrorism, will always remain out of reach.
Unfortunately, more acts of terrorism will occur in America. When? I have no idea. But it's only a matter of time. And
I base my belief on the fact that the world contains many hate-filled, demonically inspired ideologies which have already
brainwashed multitudes of people. Furthermore, these individuals, I believe, are already under the control and influence of
the powers of darkness. Their minds and hearts are possessed by demons, and these creatures will not rest until they wreck
more havoc upon humanity. They are violent gods who take pleasure in hurting the earth and destroying God's most prized creation,
Not to understand this is spiritual blindness and blissful ignorance. The enemies of, not only America, are indeed preparing
for more onslaughts of terrorism. They're Hell's henchmen, and they will not go away.
So what is he answer? I believe the answer is one that's been in front of our faces for centuries, but many of us have
been blind to it. The answer can be found in the holy Bible, and it is God. He is the One in whom we must place our trust
and hope. And I am not referring to the monetized deity whose name is imprinted on America's dollars and coins, our popular
financial "God" who will surely fail when our economy crumbles. Rather, I'm referring to the omnipotent God of Abraham, Isaac,
The Creator of the universe is a living being. He is not a remote deity who's inaccessible and detached. Instead He's a
being of compassion, justice and truth. He is the One who can heal and restore. And according to Psalm 46:9, the Almighty
also has the power to make wars cease.
For now, however, because man was given a free will, the Lord will never force Himself upon the world. But He does love
us, and He will come to our aid when we, as individuals, invite Him into our hearts. And He will assist our nation when our
leaders humble themselves and call upon Him.
September 13, 2006
A BABBLING IDIOT
What will this babbler say?
It is always a challenge to share my faith in Jesus with those who do not believe in Him. And such has been the case with
a Jewish man who's a journalist as well as an intellectual. He writes for a secular magazine that's based in New York City.
Recently I had the opportunity to speak him recently because, at the time, he was hoping to write an article about me;
it was published this week.
Although I did not want to do an interview, regrettably, I allowed two well-meaning friends to talk me into meeting with
the writer. And I did eventually decide to try to make the best of the situation, especially since these friends had already
granted him lengthy interviews without my knowledge. Through their actions, unfortunately, he already obtained enough material
and information to do a story anyway. So at this point I reasoned within myself that I should do my part to honor the Lord
by sharing with him my story of redemption and hope.
Yet when a person speaks to another individual about spiritual matters and about one's personal belief in God, it is very
easy to be misunderstood. The apostle Paul had this problem. Now so do I.
In the book of Acts, for example, when Paul, as an evangelist, entered the huge city of Athens, which is now the Capital
city of Greece, and when he saw the citizens of this region giving themselves over to all kinds of idols and pagan superstitions,
he became "stirred" in his heart. And he responded to the idolatry by preaching to them the gospel.
Paul gave the populace the story about Jesus' birth, death and resurrection, and Christ's payment for their sins with His
Meanwhile, the highly educated crowd of philosophers and Stoics, the latter who believed that human beings should be free
from passion and should calmly accept all occurrences in life as products of the divine will, did what proud people often
do when they hear the gospel for the first time and refuse to believe it. They mocked him. They called Paul a "babbler" and
a teller of "strange tales." In other words, they labeled the apostle a "babbling idiot" and they laughed in his face.
Of no surprise, of course, if I could fast-forward two thousand years to the present, after having read what has been written
about me, the writer of the article has placed me into the same category. Praise the Lord!
While I am only a servant of the Lord Jesus and not an apostle, it is encouraging, however, to have something in common
with one of the greatest characters from the New Testament. I'm honored!
September 14, 2006
THE APOSTLE DAVID?
Yesterday I wrote about a magazine article that had recently come out about me. It wasn't a bad piece, and it has some
positive parts. Nevertheless, because of what was written, it's probably best for me to comment on it further. And for the
next few journal entries I may do so.
Leave it to Madison Avenue, however, to create images of people, albeit false images.
In the article titled, "The Devil in David Berkowitz," the subheading said, in part, ". . . a growing flock of renegade
Christians believe he's an apostle of the Lord." This is ridiculous!
The writer, as it turned out, based this idea on three friends of mine: MaryAnn and her husband, Jimmy, and MaryAnn's sister,
Jeannie. I've known these people for approximately two years.
It was shortly after our first visit, though, when MaryAnn suddenly decided within herself that I was an "apostle." She
somehow managed to convince her husband and sister of it, too. And when MaryAnn later shared this with me, I immediately discounted
the idea and I kindly, but bluntly, told her so. I also said that I am not into seeking titles, and I am terribly afraid when
any Christian is placed upon a pedestal by someone.
In any event, MaryAnn, especially, continued to think of me along this line. I was not happy about it either, and I would
always tell her so whenever she'd broach the subject. Yet at the same time I believed that MaryAnn meant no harm by saying
this, and that it was simply her way of trying to encourage me.
Unfortunately, however, when MaryAnn first met me with the journalist, and she began to give him personal information about
me without my knowledge or permission, her belief about my being an apostle was of course one of the things she told him.
And as one might expect from the secular media, they would run wild with it. "David Berkowitz is an apostle sent by God!"
But what this Madison Avenue based article did not say, I will now say in my behalf. Other than MaryAnn, Jimmy and Jeannie,
out of the few dozen Christian friends I have, a small number who visit me on occasion, but most of whom my only contact with
is via letters, not a single one of them has ever viewed me as such. And if the implications brought forth in the article
were not so serious, such a claim would actually be comical.
I've never founded a church. I have no followers. And none of my friends, other than these three well-meaning but misguided
souls, have ever tried to tag me with such a title.
In addition, I do not lead a "flock of renegade Christians." Other than MaryAnn, Jeannie and Jimmy, who do not attend a
local church (which I think is a big mistake on their part), most of my other friends are members of congregations, and they
attend church regularly. While a few are, for various reasons, still seeking a good church to join.
But I have absolutely never told or encouraged anyone to stop attending a church and to follow me instead, as the article
seemed to portray. The media, it seems, works wonders with distortions, and such twistings of the truth are to be expected.
P.S. See my journal entry "Betrayal" for more about this matter.
September 15, 2006
THE PEDESTAL OF DOOM
". . . and thou hast tried them which say
they are apostles, and are not, and
found them liars."
I must confess that I have a deep fear with regard to giving titles to individuals within the church and, inadvertently,
lifting them up to levels of praise that almost seems to equal the adoration we must reserve only for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, however, as a lay person I have observed so much of this within the Christian community. We have, on occasion,
been guilty of elevating people and making them into "super saints" and superstars. We've placed them on manmade pedestals
and admire them to such a degree that we lose sight of their humanity. And we somehow forget that they're only frail flesh
capable of falling at any moment.
Yesterday, for instance, I wrote about a few well-meaning friends whom, it appears to me, have placed me on a pedestal
of their own making. In their eyes I've become an apostle and a "holy" man. I am neither.
While I long to live in close union with God, I am content to be known as that of "brother" or "servant." Likewise, my
holiness, as with all Christians, comes from the Lord. He alone has clothed me with His garments of righteousness. He alone
has set me apart, as God has done for every believer in Christ, to be used as a "holy" vessel of honor. But it is all His
doing, and not mine or anyone else's.
Although there are some within the church who desire positions of prominence and power, and who covet such things for themselves,
most of who ignorantly place other Christians on a pedestal and give them excessive praise, probably mean well. Nevertheless,
it is scary to lift up other men and women. And it is also dangerous because God, I believe, is not going to share His glory.
In addition, if by chance a Christian loves being in a high position of power and prestige, then let me state this: He
will come down. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (I Corinthians 10:12).
After all, throughout the history of the church many a self-appointed or man-appointed apostle, prophet, leader or minister
has crashed. And those who are puffed up with pride will in due time be deflated; sometimes it's for the whole world to see
I wish, therefore, to be a lowly disciple who shoulders his cross cheerfully and courageously. I want to love my fellow
man and walk in humility before the Lord. And to always have a deep gratitude for all Jesus has done for me.
September 20, 2006
And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God,
and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great
are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true
are thy ways, thou King of saints.
It is a gorgeous early fall day here in upstate New York. Huge piles of white cotton clouds have helped to fill a sparkling
With the Jewish New Year, also known as Rosh Hashanah*, only a few days away, I have been doing a lot of reading from the
Psalms. I love the Psalms because they deal with reality. Pain, persecution, disappointment and despair are intertwined with
joy, hope, worship, and the writer's deep love for the Creator. The Psalms cover the full spectrum of human emotions.
I believe, too, that the Lord Jesus could call me homeward at any time. And as a member of the "bride" of Christ, I long
for my eternal home, which is heaven.
So as Rosh Hashanah and the Jewish "High Holy Days" draw near, and as many hearts have begun to open themselves up for
introspection, the thought is always with me that this could be my last year on this side of eternity.
I hope, however, that when I stand before the Lord to give account of my life, I will not be told that I had advertently
left many unfinished tasks behind. I pray, instead, that I hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
*Rosh Hashanah is also called the "Feast of Trumpets." It represents not just a new beginning, but the
beginning of creation, as well as the creation of man.
September 26, 2006
I recently received a letter from my friend "David L." He is a Christian who lives in the State of Indiana. For many years
David has been deeply involved with prison ministry work on a volunteer basis. So in addition to raising a family and having
to earn a living, he goes into the local maximum security prison in his area to tell the inmates about Jesus Christ.
Because of his devotion to this kind of Christian work, he told me in his letter, that he's been "certified" by the Indiana
Department of Corrections as a volunteer chaplain. Prior to his appointment, David had been going into the New Castle facility
at set times in order to conduct worship services, or visit with, counsel, or pray for any man who asked him to. Now, however,
with his new position he is able to enter the prison anytime. He could spend as many hours as he wants behind the steel doors,
and he's even been given permission to use the paid chaplain's office when he needs to.
Yet is was only during this past summer, David wrote, when "as many as 500 men" gathered together at the prison's ball
field for an outdoor evangelistic service, that he realized so many of the prisoners were members of gangs, with an especially
large number belonging to the "Aryan Brotherhood."
David explained that all the gang members were "clearly visible" because of their respective tattoos. He also said that
the Aryan group were not wearing their shirts. And he was shocked to see so many with "elaborate Adolf Hitler portraits" being
"proudly displayed" on their backs.
As a man who's been incarcerated for almost thirty years, I have seen firsthand how gangs do their recruiting, and then
end up holding each other, in my opinion, in physical and psychological captivity. Thus I was saddened to learn about the
men at New Castle who've given their lives and souls to one of the gangs which proliferate there, as they do in many correctional
facilities throughout the United States.
I believe that men (and women, too) join gangs because of the rebellion that can be found in every human heart. It is a
way for them to snub their noses at the authorities. It is also a means of expressing anger towards both society and its judicial
Furthermore, any individual who comes to prison loses some of his rights as a citizen and, to a greater degree, his personal
power. Being a prisoner means you now have an identification number and not just a name. Being numbered is in itself a method
of dehumanization. And then comes being yelled at by prison guards, and sometimes being ordered to do menial and meaningless
tasks, or having to follow what are often mindless orders.
An inmate can be ordered at any time to submit to a search for contraband. Sometimes you could be strip-searched to a point
where you must stand naked before one or more guards. Likewise your cell or living quarters could also be searched at any
moment. The guards will go through your clothing and bedding, and all your personal items to include family photos and letters
from home. And these items could be confiscated for any reason, and there isn't much you could do about it.
Being in a gang, therefore, gives a man a certain sense of power and status. Although, I think, this is an illusion on
his part because, with one exception, he'll get treated by the staff the same as any other inmate. The exception would be
if a prison guard is a member of this same gang, which does happen. The guard may then give breaks to the inmate. And, more
than likely, the guard is also being used as a "mule" by the gang's leaders to bring illegal items like drugs, alcohol or
weapons into the prison from the outside.
Generally, however, if a man is not a member of a gang, he may be fearful of offending those who are. I've also heard,
through the prison's grapevine, and from men who've done time in other states, that a number of these facilities are almost
completely gang controlled. These institutions of "rehabilitation" now border on anarchy because of it. Like cancer cells,
gangs extend their deadly tentacles. Their reach, depending upon the size and influence of a particular gang, could extend
far beyond the walls of any given prison.
If, for example, a man is a member of a gang he may take comfort thinking that, if he has a problem with another man who's
not affiliated with a gang, or is in a different gang, that his "homeboys" will take his back and help him, or even hurt the
other party for him. Yet I also know, from listening to many stories of guys who are presently in a gang, or who have left
one, that there's a lot of betrayal and double-crossing that goes on. Thus one's trust in his group can be a false one. He
could find himself in a jam, and he could end up standing alone and unprotected.
In addition, membership in a gang could be something or a substitute to having a family. Many men who are incarcerated
never enjoyed a good and healthy relationship with one or both parents, or with other family members.
They've hailed from dysfunctional homes and from an environment of poverty, pain and strife. Their homes were places filled
with anger and alcohol or drug abuse. And as a result, deep within the souls of these men is an innate longing, still unsatisfied,
to belong to a loving family. The gang, therefore, becomes their family and they bond together with other wounded who, I believe,
that deep within each one of them, is an unhappy child.
It's a sad and tragic mix. Men, who are already in prison and have lost many of their freedoms, must now abide not only
by the rules set forth by the prison's management, but also by the rules of the gang.
These gang members will now be watched constantly by both the correction officers and each other. As the bonding between
gang members is generally weak, and because beneath the surface there is a lot of distrust amongst themselves, they will monitor
and spy on their co-members all the time.
In my view, these men have become actors fulfilling an imaginary "macho man" role, yet destroying themselves and others
in the process. And as a result, they feel trapped. Most, I believe, would leave the gang if they could. They can, of course.
But it is risky.
Many a man whom I have spoken to has quietly admitted that gang membership is farce. It is like being in a cult. And perhaps
it is only with divine intervention that a man could walk away from such a living hell, and live to tell about it.
THE ARYAN BROTHERHOOD
Yesterday I wrote about prisoners and gangs. My friend, David L., a working class family man with children of his own,
serves God by helping prisoners with their spiritual needs. David has been doing volunteer work as a Christian at the New
Castle prison for many years. Recently he was awarded the position as a "volunteer chaplain." This allows him to work and
function just like a regular paid chaplain, but without collecting a salary.
In a recent letter David told me about the various gangs at New Castle. The one with the most members, he wrote, is the
Aryan Brotherhood. This particular gang has a ruthless and fear-generating reputation in jails and correctional facilities
throughout the United States, especially in the west and Midwest. Thousands of inmates are, today, members of this organization.
Many more are probably "wannabe" members.
As a Jew, I find it especially troublesome that an Aryan gang, which primarily espouses the teachings and beliefs set forth
by Germany's long deceased dictator, Adolf Hitler, would flourish in this day and age.
Hitler, meanwhile, took his own life in 1945 while he was trapped inside a cold Berlin bunker. He was surrounded and about
to be captured by Allied troops. He committed suicide rather than having to face justice for his war crimes.
To the members of the Aryan Brotherhood, however, Hitler is still very much alive. Not physically, of course, but in spirit.
They worship him and revere his ideals.
Even though Adoph Hitler is dead, it is of no surprise to me, that someone like him would become a hero in the minds of
those who join the Aryan Brotherhood, or to other individuals who belong to different Neo-Nazi groups. They see Hitler, I
believe, as a rebel and a fighter, and as a strong leader. In their eyes he was able to control millions of people. Hitler
compelled a nation to do his bidding, even to commit acts of mass murder and genocide. What a handy, albeit pathetic, role
model for men with bitter hearts who stew in perpetual anger.
I pity those who follow Hitler. I am convinced that God has something better for each one of them. To me, Hitler is not
just a corpse in a grave. His soul is in Hell. Even at this moment his soul is in a place of torment where he awaits what
the Bible calls the "great white throne." This is the place of final judgment where God will open His books and call into
account every Christian rejecting sinner who refused God's wonderful gift of salvation. And after this will be, for these
same individuals, an inescapable "Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15)."
I think, too, that if these deluded and misled members of the Aryan Brotherhood could have the opportunity to see Adold
Hitler as he is at this moment, a tormented soul who's screaming and begging for something as simple as a drop of water, they
would then see their "god" for what he really is: a miserable, cowardly, and eternally doomed man.
Adolf Hitler was a loser. His followers, if they do not repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus Christ and
what the Lord did for them on the cross of Calvary, will eventually meet the same fate as Hitler. How tragic. How needless.
September 30, 2006
NEYSA HAS DIED
It was on December 8, 2001 that a quiet and private miracle took place between two ordinary people and the Creator of the
universe. The mother of murder victim Stacy Moskowitz and I talked to each other over the telephone. With her permission I
called Neysa Moskowitz from the prison's recreation yard. She was living in Florida at the time.
Neysa and I had been corresponding via letters before the opportunity presented itself to speak with her over the phone.
I longed for this moment, and it was an answer to many years of prayers that something like this would happen. I've always
wanted the chance to apologize in person to those whom I hurt. Now, at least, even though it was only with one individual,
my prayers were finally being answered.
Our relationship continued for a while. I ended up talking with Mrs. Moskowitz on several occasions, and we also kept up
our exchange of letters. Unfortunately, however, things would only progress so far before our communications came to an end.
Nevertheless, a large degree of healing came out of this, as well as a measure of forgiveness.
But today I learned the sad news that Neysa Moskowitz has died. In an article by reporter Andrea Peyser, which appeared
in the New York Post titled "A Mom Dies Forgiving Son of Sam," dated Thursday, September 28, 2006 (page 33), it was announced
that Neysa had passed away in her apartment in Miami Beach at the age of 73. I know she had been suffering from cancer for
a long time.
Neysa died alone. It hasn't hit me yet that she's really gone. And even though we'd lost touch and haven't communicated
for several years, I will miss her.