HELP OUR FORGOTTEN
ITS THE JEWISH THING TO
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 dont 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.