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As execution day nears, advocates for Texas Jew on death row say hopes are dimming

(JTA) — A Chabad rabbi is planning a trip to Texas’ death row to lead a final ritual confession, and Alan Dershowitz is trying to call the governor, as advocates for a Jewish man set to be executed on Tuesday are losing hope that he will avert his sentence. 

The inmate, Jedidiah Murphy, killed 79-year-old Bertie Lee Cunningham during a carjacking in 2000 in Dallas County. He is due to die by lethal injection on Tuesday, Oct. 10, which is World Day Against the Death Penalty.

His case has mobilized Jewish opponents of the death penalty, including Dershowitz, the emeritus Harvard law professor and political commentator; Cantor Michael Zoosman, a former prison chaplain who runs L’Chaim, a Jewish anti-death penalty group; and Rabbi Dovid Goldstein, a Chabad rabbi in Houston who has advocated for Murphy for years.

But those advocates and Murphy all recognize that his opportunities to obtain clemency are running out. With days to go before the execution date, Murphy has written a thank-you letter to his supporters, parts of which Dershowitz shared with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 

“Please relay my sincere thanks to Professor Dershowitz for all that he has been putting into this,” Murphy wrote in the letter. “Should they deny clemency, chances are high that my time will be short.”

Since 1982, Texas has executed 583 people, according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty — a far larger number than any other state. 

Texas executed five men in 2022 and has executed the same number so far in 2023. Four more executions, including Murphy’s, are scheduled before the end of the year. If they are carried out, this year will see the most executions in the state since 2019, when Texas also carried out nine death sentences. 

It is possible to avoid a death sentence with just days to go. Exactly four years ago, Randy Halprin, who was also Jewish and scheduled to be executed on Oct. 10 of that year, was granted a stay of execution on the grounds that the judge who presided over his trial was antisemitic and used anti-Jewish slurs. Last year, Halprin was granted a new trial.  

In Murphy’s case, Dershowitz told JTA he was pessimistic about the prospects for a commutation. He has sought a conversation with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, but so far has not secured one.

In legal filings on Murphy’s behalf, Dershowitz has focused on the exacerbating circumstances that the prosecution cited to argue for the death penalty, including a kidnapping prior to the murder. But Murphy was never charged for that kidnapping, and there is evidence of an alibi. 

Dershowitz  has also argued that the jury’s conclusion that Murphy would again commit violence has been belied by his decades in prison without incident. The Texas Observer reported that Murphy has completed chaplaincy department programs and wants to be a field minister in prison.

“Hope is running out, obviously,” Dershowitz said. “And it would be a wasted, wasted life. This is a man who could do good in prison, helping to counsel other people and using his religious faith as a way of helping other people.” 

Goldstein, who in 2016 led Murphy through a bar mitzvah ceremony that included the laying of tefillin, or phylacteries, is now preparing for the possibility on Monday of conducting a much grimmer ritual with the prisoner — viddui, the traditional Jewish confession before death.

Zoosman says he communicates daily with Murphy.

“He’s hoping for the best but aware of the possibility of the worst, and I think we stand with him, supporting him as best we can,” Zoosman told JTA.

Murphy, was 25 when he shot and killed Cunningham and used her stolen credit cards to buy cigarettes and liquor. He recently told The Forward that he was high on cocaine and does not remember the incident. He has confessed to the crime. He did not respond to an email request for comment from JTA.

Murphy was abused as a child by his birth father and his adoptive father, and abandoned by his birth mother, who was Jewish, according to the Forward. The Observer reported that he sought mental health care in the year or so before murdering Cunningham, and doctors diagnosed him with mental dissociative identity disorder, major depression and alcohol dependency. They said he posed a threat.

The facility where Murphy is being held, the Allan B. Polunsky Unit, is named for a San Antonio man with Jewish heritage. The Observer reported that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has agreed to forgo the practice of embalming Murphy after his death, deferring to Jewish injunctions against tampering with a dead body.

The post As execution day nears, advocates for Texas Jew on death row say hopes are dimming appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Treasure Trove: How some sheet music in the Theresienstadt Ghetto became a symbol of hope

In 1941, the Nazis established the Theresienstadt Ghetto outside Prague. By the war’s end, 33,000 people died there and another 88,000 stayed there for months or years before being deported to extermination camps. Despite the tremendous overcrowding and very difficult conditions, the prisoners in Theresienstadt maintained a rich cultural life with lectures and performances. The […]

The post Treasure Trove: How some sheet music in the Theresienstadt Ghetto became a symbol of hope appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Protester Sets Self on Fire Outside Israeli Consulate in Atlanta

Illustrative. Anti-Israel protesters demonstrate outside AIPAC President Michael Tuchin’s vacation home in Los Angeles, Nov. 23, 2023. Photo: Screenshot

i24 NewsA protester was in critical condition on Friday after setting themself on fire outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. authorities said. A security guard who tried to intervene was also wounded.

A Palestinian flag found at the scene was part of the protest, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said at a news conference. He added that investigators did not believe there was any connection to terrorism and none of the consular staff was ever in danger.

JUST IN: A pro-Palestine protester is in critical condition after they set themselves on fire in “political protest” outside of the Israeli Consulate office in Atlanta.

The protester was reportedly draped in a Palestine flag.

The protester has severe burns and unfortunately, a…

— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) December 1, 2023

“We do not see any threat here,” he said. “We believe it was an act of extreme political protest that occurred.” Everyone inside the consulate building was said to be safe.

Anat Sultan-Dadon, Consul General of Israel to the southeastern U.S., said: “We are saddened to learn of the self-immolation at the entrance to the office building. It is tragic to see the hate and incitement toward Israel expressed in such a horrific way.”

“The sanctity of life is our highest value. Our prayers are with the security officer who was injured while trying to prevent this tragic act. We are grateful to the city of Atlanta’s law enforcement and first responders for all they do to ensure safety.”

The post Protester Sets Self on Fire Outside Israeli Consulate in Atlanta first appeared on

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Released Israeli Hostages Call for Captives to Be Freed

Relatives and supporters of hostages kidnapped on the deadly October 7 attack by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, rally for their release, after a temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas ended when the terrorist group broke it, in Tel Aviv, Israel, December 2, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Israeli hostages released in the past week by Hamas in Gaza called on Saturday for the immediate release of fellow captives left behind, a day after a temporary truce that had allowed scores to come home broke down.

Tens of thousands gathered at a rally in Tel Aviv outside Israel‘s defense headquarters, where they cheered Yelena Trupanov, 50, standing on a stage just two days after being freed.

“I came to thank you because without you I wouldn’t be here. Now we must bring back my (son) Sasha, and everyone. Now.”

Similar pleas from other released hostages were shown on video.

A seven-day truce, during which Hamas had released more than 100 hostages, collapsed on Friday after Hamas breached the ceasefire.

Israel said on Saturday it had recalled a Mossad intelligence agency team from Qatar, host of indirect negotiations with Hamas, accusing the Palestinian faction of reneging on a deal that would have freed all children and women held hostage.

More than 240 people – Israelis and foreign nationals – were abducted to Gaza on Oct 7. by Hamas terrorists who burst through the border with Israel and killed 1,200 people.

The post Released Israeli Hostages Call for Captives to Be Freed first appeared on

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