Alan Hurwitz, who started his career in education and wound up involved in a life of crime, passed away on June 6 after contracting COVID-19. He was released from prison on compassionate grounds in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hurwitz was born on Jan. 18, 1941, in Detroit to Theodor and Minnie Hurwitz. He was raised in a liberal Jewish home as part of a family that valued Jewish history and traditions, which inspired him to campaign for education reform and desegregation.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in education at Wayne State University after an unsuccessful first attempt and service in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

Hurwitz began his career in a middle school teaching English and social studies, and joined several committees and task forces to make education accessible to all and to strive to end school violence.

After 30 years in the classroom, Hurwitz began to spiral as he reflected on the failures of a system he felt he could not fix. He developed a drug addiction that led to criminal behavior.

In 1992, he was charged with robbing 18 banks in multiple states, earning the moniker of the “Zombie Bandit” in the process, and served 12 years in prison. He was arrested for another series of robberies in 2008.

In prison, Hurwitz expressed regret for the trauma he may have caused bank employees he had threatened and returned to the job that had given him fulfillment in his early years: teaching his fellow inmates English and history.

Hurwitz is survived by four children.

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