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Prisoners, Families and Torah
Mitzvot for the incarcerated souls...in and out of prison
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Prisoners, Families and Torah

Over eighteen years, the Aleph Institute in Miami has worked with more than ten thousand Jewish inmates in US prisons. The difficulties of prison life - ranging from family disruptions to shame and everything in between - create a condition referred to in Jewish law as "in some instances harsher than death." (Minchat Chinuch, mitzva 410.) We have employed the Torah method of behavior modification with prison inmates and received extraordinarily successful results. Although the success of our experiment is validated by anecdotal record rather than statistically controlled studies, the results speak for themselves.

Penologists, social scientists, and psychologists have struggled to find how to bring some purpose and meaning to the "dead time" of incarceration. High rates of recidivism point to the inadequacies of programs that try to make jail an experience that has some positive results.

A human being sentenced to serve time in prison undergoes fundamental change

A human being sentenced to serve time in prison undergoes fundamental change. The inmate suffers from helplessness, lack of choice, forced inactivity, loss of family involvement and environment, lack of purpose and motivation and, in many instances, a loss of desire to live.

Though some effort and research has been initiated to understand the prisoners, the inmate's family has not been addressed at all. This area is at least equally important.

Recognizing the unnatural environment of prison and the bizarre, tragic realities faced by the families of prisoners, the Lubavitcher Rebbe urged the introduction of Torah study, prayer, and Torah-commandment performance to the prisoners and their families. Responding to this mandate, the Aleph Institute organized trained rabbis and volunteers utilizing audio-visual equipment, books, and Torah-commandment paraphernalia (such as phylacteries and prayer shawls) to bring the Torah way of life into prisons. More than ten thousand men and women and their families have been exposed to Torah study, Torah-commandment observance, and prayer with various levels of intensity.

The results, as reflected by thousands of letters, personal accounts, and professional reactions of penology and criminology experts have been nothing short of phenomenal. We have records of individuals who entered prison totally dejected finding new meaning and purpose directly proportional to their spiritual involvement.

[Archives of the Aleph Institute, Bal Harbour, Florida]

These positive results affected the lives of both the prisoners and their families, not only during their sojourn behind bars but even after they returned to a normal environment.

Judges and prison officials have lauded the achievements of the Aleph Institute. If this approach can have a positive impact on the most extreme situation of prison, it can surely succeed in regular circumstances.

Activating the G-dly soul through performing Torah commandments and opening the doors for its expression brings about positive change in human behavior.

Condensed from the original article and reprinted with kind permission from B'Or HaTorah vol. XII (2000), pp.124-126.

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By Rabbi Sholom B. Lipskar   More articles...  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author
Rabbi Sholom B. Lipskar an emissary for the Lubavitcher Rebbe, he founded the Landow Yeshiva Center in Miami Beach in 1969, and in 1981 he founded both The Shul of Bal Harbour in Surfside, Florida and the Aleph Institute and the Educational Academy for the Elderly. He may be reached directly at sholom@aol.com


Reader Comments
Latest Comments:
Posted: Feb 10, 2016
This is a wonderful program, yahser koacah to the rabbis and volunteers who are instrumental in bringing this much needed program to prisoners. I think one of the saddest things... [is that] the penal system is set up to encourage recidivism with no effort made to rehabilitate.
Posted By Rachel Garber, Philadephia PA

Posted: Feb 9, 2014
Helping a Jewish inmate.
try these organizations...(forget pilot outreach!! PSsssss...big mistake)

403 Main Street
San Francisco, California 94105
(415) 291-0990
Email: rabbi@shalomspirit.org

4950 Murphy Canyon Road
San Diego, CA 92123
(858) 571-3444
Fax: (858) 571-0701
Email: outreach@ujfsd.org
Posted By Amichai Schneller, St.Cloud MN

Posted: Feb 9, 2014
Pilot outreach...
I found an organization that provides the Christian bible to inmates...
they call it "free on the inside," but I'm not seeing a jewish pilot outreach...
I will contact the pilot outreach, and request info...and paste it here for you...
or whom ever...I'm in no condition to physically get up and help this guy...I'm in MN.
but...I'll get some info.
Posted By Amichai Schneller, St.Cloud MN

Posted: Feb 9, 2014
Jailed Jews and Muslims
I know that incarcerated muslims get special food...they fill out a request slip
from a nurse, this follows in the category of- allergies, and what foods they can/can't have...they get the Koran, prayer times etc.etc...they even have a group study at some places. (I know a corrections officer) they go about being muslims, which is great for them...
but I haven't heard squat about how Jews are treated...if there's no outreach like that, for the said jewish prisoner, then tell him to see the prison nurse/doctors and suggest the allergies list....he's allergic to pork and other stuff obviously...in trying to get him literature to read and study, might be difficult, especially if he's the ONLY jew in jail at the time...they usually only cater to larger groups. with hopes that it will appease the majority of prisoners...keeping the peace, so-to-speak.
still, I think someone should sneak a copy in for him (if it comes to that)
Posted By Amichai Schneller, St.Cloud MN

Posted: Sep 23, 2011
Torahs for prisoners
I am an associate Christian chaplain in our county jail. In my area of service, there is Jewish prisoner who would enjoy having a copy of the Torah. Are you aware of an organization which would provide one to him?
Posted By Anonymous, fresno, ca


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Anger Remedy No. 1
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