Pablo Manuel Diaz is an inmate in a Florida prison. He was born in Cuba 37 years ago. His mother was Jewish. Pablo Diaz is a Jew.
Diaz resides in the Blackwater Correctional Facility in Milton, Florida. He is serving a life sentence for very serious crimes. The prisoner has made an unusual request. He has petitioned the Florida Department of Corrections to allow him to undergo a circumcision in the prison infirmary.
A previous appeal had been turned down by the prison warden. Students from Stanford Law School’s Religious Clinic in California are helping with the case. They feel that federal law will affirm the request. They are willing to sue if Diaz is turned down.
One of the most basic tenets of Judaism is the law of circumcision. Throughout the ages it has been a visible and permanent affirmation that a man is, indeed, a Jew.
The rite of brit milah is traditionally performed on the eighth day of a boy’s life. Men who have this done as adults face a more painful and daunting challenge. Brit Yosef Yitzhak, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to providing free circumcisions to Jewish males of any age, has offered to make all arrangements at no charge.
Those who adhere to newly found jailhouse religion are often disparaged. It is easy for others to judge them. It is hard, however, to imagine that anyone would willingly put himself through this difficult procedure if the motivation was insincere.
There is another basic tenet in Judaism: teshuvah. A Jew has the ability to repent for his own sins by his own actions. He can put himself on a different path. He can make a change and return. His body can be locked up. His soul can soar.
Pablo Manuel Diaz is incarcerated in a correctional facility. How many of us are prisoners in our own lives, stuck in the rut of our own bad decisions and habits and in need of a way to break out?
Pirkei Avot advises, “Who is wise? He who learns from everyone.” Diaz is an unlikely role model, yet he seems to have shown the courage to make real changes in his life. It is never too late to do teshuvah and put one’s neshamah back on the proper path.
About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.
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