Reaching The Promised Land: The Exodus Story in an Age of Mass Incarceration

At Central Synagogue

In partnership with:,coherence%20in%20faith%2Drooted%20efforts.

How can the lessons from the Exodus story help us better understand issues of mass incarceration?

Take part in an incredible evening of learning on Sunday, March 21, 2021, from 4:00–6:00 pm, with Rabbi Hilly Haber, John Ducksworth of the multi-faith initiative Ending Mass Incarceration, and other faith leaders for an interactive conference that will include an engaging panel conversation, breakout room workshops, and musical performances.


Conference Schedule

  • 4:00 pm: Opening Remarks, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and The Rev. Dr., Senator Raphael G. Warnock

  • 4:05–4:50 pm: Plenary Panel Discussion
  • Learn about the EMI Network and why ending mass incarceration is a faith issue. Panelist will also be discussing what is happening in prisons and jails across the country right now, and the current state of criminal justice reform at the federal level. Meet the panelists:
    Pastor John Vaughn, Ebenezer Baptist Church

    Rabbi Lydia Medwin, The Temple

    John Ducksworth
    John Duckworth, EMI NY Director

    Rabbi Nicole Auerbach
    Moderated by: Rabbi Nicole Auerbach, Director of Congregational Engagement at Central Synagogue

  • 4:50–5:00 pm: Music on the “Main Stage,” Story from the Wilderness

  • 5:00–5:50 pm (Each session offered twice, 5:00–5:25 pm, 5:25–5:50 pm)
  • Participants can choose from several breakout room workshops.

    Let My People Go: Incorporating Criminal Justice Reform into the Seder; Led by Rabbi Barat Ellman, T’ruah; The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
    Rabbi Dr. Barat Ellman, a professor of religion and instructor in the Bard Prison Initiative, will share ways to incorporate criminal justice reform into the Haggadah and initiate just conversations around the Passover table.

    Egypt, the Wilderness, and the Promised Land: A Multi-Faith Text Study on the Exodus Story and Its Resonance with Incarceration and Coming Home
    Join Director of EMI NY, John Ducksworth, and writer, scholar Eric Waters as they dive into biblical texts through the lens of incarceration and re-entry.

    Renewable Rikers: A Case Study in the Connections between Mass Incarceration and Environmental Justice
    What are the connections between racial justice, environmental justice, and ending mass incarceration? Leaders of the “Renewable Rikers Campaign” Melissa Iachan, Senior Supervising Counsel in the Environmental Justice Program at NYLPI, and Darren Mack, co-founder of Freedom Agenda, will lead us in a conversation on the intersection of environmental and criminal justice.

    For You Were Strangers in the Land of Egypt: Immigration Detention and the Criminal Justice System; Led by Preston Neimeiser from the New Sanctuary Coalition.
    How is the system of immigration detention linked with that of mass incarceration? What can we learn from these connections and how can we begin to bring more justice and the spirit of liberation to more people?

    Working Across the Aisle: Lessons from the First Step Act
    Passed in 2018, The First Step Act was a bi-partisan bill to improve criminal justice outcomes. Join Matthew Charles and Kevin Ring of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) to learn more about the First Step Act, and the power of bi-partisanship to reform the criminal justice system. 

    Walking through the Wilderness: Coming Home from Jail and Prison
    Once they left Egypt, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years on their way to the Promised Land. What can we learn about the experience of re-entry from our biblical texts? Come and meet Chef Brandon Chrostowski, Founder and Executive Director of EDWINS. EDWINS provides returning citizens with a foundation in the culinary and hospitality industry while providing a support network necessary their long-term success.

  • 5:45–6:00 pm: Closing “Performance” and Blessing

  • Register


    About End Mass Incarceration (EMI):

    Mission: The Multi-Faith Initiative to End Mass Incarceration (EMI) leverages the powers of U.S. faith leaders and communities to emphatically demand and act to end mass incarceration.

    Goals: We engage congregations and their leaders to educate their communities and move them towards actions that end mass incarceration. We offer models and training in changing the narrative of incarceration and we lift up theologies of forgiveness, compassion, and justice. We lead faith communities in advocating for substantive change to public policy.

    Vision: EMI organizes an effective moral witness against the laws, policies, and policing practices that contribute to mass incarceration, drawing upon ancient traditions, moral vocabulary, and institutional strength to address the depth of this human rights catastrophe. We employ these strengths to seed an alternative system rooted in love, mercy, atonement, restoration, and transformation that promotes human thriving equitably for all.