Divrei Matir Asurim Editorial Policies

Contributions to Divrei Matir Asurim are encouraged.

Materials sought for Divrei Matir Asurim

  • Jewish content that does not assume familiarity with the Torah cycle or other concepts in Judaism;
  • Material that is accessible from a range of Jewish backgrounds, practices, and beliefs;
  • Material in keeping with general guidelines created for Matir Asurim holiday resources apply (see below).

Editorial practice AVOIDS — or edits around — materials

  • on social justice topics that call for action which won’t be possible for folks inside;
    • might be fine if the point was to REPORT, for an incarcerated audience, which might just be an editorial issue;
    • also might work if the idea were to relate a Torah portion to an issue in a more informative, rather than directive way
  • on abolition or related social justice topics speaking from an entirely outside perspective, calling attention to incarceration as a foreign thing or something “we don’t usually” talk about;
  • that talk about, rather than to/for, incarcerated people, noting their resilience and capacity for teshuvah, etc, as though this were  surprising and worthy of “our” praise
    • If the entire piece is from such a perspective, it’s probably not for Divrei Matir Asurim;
    • if small portion of a piece — a few sentences or paragraph — seems out of place for Divrei Matir Asurim, but the overall material seems worthwhile, authors can be asked to approve edits or slightly different framing
  • that assume readers have easy access to synagogue or community life, in the sense of being able to observe daily, shabbat, or holiday prayers and events in community or in the usual way, i.e., with certain foods or on a specific schedule or with wine for kiddish, etc.
  • highly specific to one branch or movement of Judaism
  • are too full of complicated sentence structure and vocabulary that seems unlikely to work, without major editing, for Divrei Matir Asurim INSIDE readers;
    • some material that seems otherwise on point might just be too academic or complex in style;
    • if an author is amenable, however, much is possible — some authors have already been quite generous is

Some materials listed above — including Dvrei torah, calls to action, or analyses of issues around incarceration intended for OUTSIDE members — can be shared through this website, our monthly e-news, and other channels. If you have something to share for outside members, let us know.

Schedule: Divrei Matir Asurim appears monthly at or near Rosh Chodesh. Submissions should be received ten days before Rosh Chodesh of intended publication. Content includes discussion of recent or upcoming Torah portions and related topics. But schedule is not rigid. Some writers have asked for long lead times, others choose to write on short notice. Inquiries at any time are welcome.

There is currently no schedule for sharing materials with our outside readership. Just let us know what’s on your mind to share.

Contact Virginia Spatz, ethreporter at gmail, with submissions and suggestions.

STYLE SHEET: In the works. Suggestions welcome.

The Hebrew four-letter name of God should not be used in order to facilitate printing and sharing where careful disposal of sacred text is not possible.

HOLIDAY RESOURCES: Guidelines for Submitting Content 

Matir Asurim: Jewish Care Network for Incarcerated People is an emerging network of community organizers and activists, people directly impacted by incarceration, artists, rabbis, chaplains, healers and dreamers creating Jewish care and providing resources for people who are incarcerated.

We know that our incarcerated community members have powerful Torah to offer us, and we know that abolition must be and will be led by those directly impacted by prisons – which is to say that this is not a charity project. This is a strategy of care. We are creating these resources as points of connection and as a way to build a spiritual practice with our expansive Jewish community. 

When creating content, there is a balance between writing from your heart while also being aware of the power dynamics between inside/outside community members. We ask that everyone who is contributing (especially those who do not have direct experience with the prison system) be mindful of their unique positionality while creating content.

Some guidelines around power dynamics, adapted from our penpal training:

  • We are seeking to build relationships across prison walls that affirm people and their identities. We encourage you to be non-judgemental, flexible, and open in your writing.
  • Your relationship will benefit by letting go of a savior complex. Remember, this is a reciprocal relationship, with both people  benefitting and learning from the experience.
  • Ask yourself what assumptions you might have about people who are incarcerated, and how this might impact your writing.
  • Don’t make demands or suggestions about remorse or teshuvah. You don’t know the life events that led to whatever happened, or even the facts/nature of what happened.