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We read in Tractate Berachot: Once when Rabbi Chanina became gravely ill, Rabbi Yochanan came by and sat down to visit him. ...Rabbi Yochanan remembered that Rabbi Chanina healed someone with the exact same illness. Rabbi Yochanan then said, “rabbi, why don’t you heal yourself?” He responded, “Prisoners cannot take themselves out of their own prison.” Thereupon, Rabbi Yochanan got up and healed him.

The main Jewish precepts that prove that one is Jewish, to be merciful, humble and to do deeds of lovingkindness, can be fulfilled by reaching out to our brothers and sisters in prisons and jails. You can express your compassion and solidarity with them by becoming volunteers to visit them or conduct classes, collect Jewish books and ritual items, become a penpal, and even donate funds to help by just filling out the form.

Some shocking quotes
regarding Jewish prisoners

"They've already violated the tenets of their faiths by doing whatever it was that got them sent to prison in the first place."

Spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections [DOC], in response to a media inquiry as to why the DOC would implement a highly restrictive 'grooming' policy [e.g. no beards, no long hair, etc.] that would require Orthodox Jewish, Native American, Sikh and some other minority religion prisoners to violate tenets of their various faiths

"If they're so religious, what are they doing in prison?"

Prison Warden / Jewish Federation Director

Jewish Prisoner Services International [JPSI] staff and volunteers have almost come to expect this kind of illogical rhetoric from correctional administrators, prison staff and even much of the secular, civilian world, but when it comes from our own community, it's particularly alarming. Because of such attitudes, the burgeoning tragedy of imprisoned Jews and their families is ignored by major Jewish organizations that would routinely provide funding to assist other Jews and even fornon-Jewish causes. And, though court, jail and prison related cases are referred to us by other Jewish social service agencies, resources of these agencies are rarely shared with us. Thus, JPSI is left to struggle through by limited support from individuals, a handful of small foundation grants and the generosity of our own volunteers.