Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Running the Books (copy)

Avi Steinberg was wandering aimlessly through his young adult life. Before he went to Harvard he possessed an insatiable fervor for his religion. He quit his high school basketball team called the MCATS to dedicate his life to the study of the “Torah”. At every opportunity he would pull his copy out and study it taking the rabbinic law literally to not waste time learning his religious rites.

Avi blames it all on Harvard. He had the best of intentions. He was, “determined to pray three times a day, keep kosher, learn “Torah” for x hours a day, wear his yarmulke and tzitzis with pride, [and] stay away from girls.” It was only a matter of time, his rabbis agreed, and he would become a sinner.

His rabbis were right. “All I did was chase girls, do drugs, and write a carefully argued, typo-ridden satire of a senior thesis paper on Bugs Bunny.” After graduating he bounced around from family to friends refusing to work. It was an ad on Craig’s List that provided a light at the end of Avi’s tunnel.

He was attending yet another wedding as his classmates moved forward with their lives, when he received a little tough love. Earlier that day he was cornered in the bathroom by Rabbi Blumenthal who questioned him about his future. It was a strained talk and they both left the room bitter. During the dance sequence of the ceremony where woman dance on one side and men on the other he was struck.

The blow was hard and accurate. It landed on his jaw and sent him crashing to the floor. “I looked up. Dancing expressionlessly was Rabbi Blumenthal. I was seized by the suspicion that it was he who had popped me, in fulfillment of the rabbinic dictum for dealing with the Bad Son, ‘you strike him in the teeth…’.”

Avi arose from the Hasidic mosh pit and went to his friend Yoni. He yelled over the music, “I think I’m going to prison.” Yoni replied, “Nice, and honestly, dude? It’d probably do you some good.”

This is Avi Steinberg’s true story as related in Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian. Forget that I am a librarian suggesting a book about a fellow librarian and read it for the many interesting events that propel Avi forward.

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