Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rabbinical students visit prison

There are only a handful of Jews in the Stafford Creek Correctional Center. They say a general lack of understanding about their faith is stressful. So is what feels like constant Christian proselytizing by fellow inmates and the occasional corrections officer.

But they say that even the neo-Nazis who roam the prison aren’t as obnoxious as the day-to-day indignities they face for wearing yarmulkes, or having to explain why pork pepperoni is not kosher.

Corrections Department Chaplain Gary Friedman in Olympia acknowledged that being estranged from the faith community is hard on Jewish inmates. “They build prisons (in rural areas)” where there aren’t many Jews, Friedman said. He estimated that 95 percent of the Washington State Jewish community — indeed, most of the “minority faiths,” like Islam and Buddhism — is on the I-5 corridor.

Which is why the Aleph Institute, a non-profit organization based in Miami, sent rabbinical students Mendel Sossonko, 23, and Berel Zaklikofsky, 24, across the Western states to visit prisons, including Stafford Creek. The mission is to connect Jewish inmates with their communities.

“We’re here to spend good Jewish quality time,” Zaklikofsky said Tuesday.

As Sossonko would tell the 10 or so inmates who dropped into the class at various times, “When one Jew meets another Jew, it is a happy thing. It’s a good day.”

That morning the rabbinical students had been at the Women’s Correctional Center at Purdy near Gig Harbor, where they had two inmate visitors, both of whom were unaware of the existence of the other Jewish inmate.

“We are here to hook it up,” Sossonko said, the English slang tinted with the young Hasid’s accent.


Another Big Kidush Hashem and Kidush Lubavitch.



Though prison visitation is a wonderful thing, done by various frum groups, it is not a good idea to show the faces of the inmates.

These people are fellow Jews with feelings and family. They do not need to be humiliated, and neither do their families.

When a person needs to serve a prison sentence, either due to his mistake, wrong doing, or due to a failure of the justice system, we should protect him from further humiliation.

Also, we all know what kind of damage this could do to his family, especially to his children's chances for a good shidduch.

Also, even a major mistake that ends up with a longer sentence, should not mean that the entire rest of his life is damaged more than it needs to be.

Often this is prevented by telling community and sometimes even family that he is away on an extended visit or business trip or some other story. In this way, when he returns to the community he is not shunned.

Remember, often a Jewish man is in prison for the smallest thing that does not mean he is a bad person. Or, remember, he can do Tshuva.

But, when we display his face to the entire community or to the world, those who recognize him will say, "OH! ... So THAT'S where he is!"

Then when he comes out, he finds people looking the other way, he finds he can't get a decent job, and can't walk down the street without shame and embarrassment.

and... all during this time, while his family are without husband & father, they now have to deal with the looks and remarks by thoughtless people.

Can you imagine the stress and pain of being without your husband and/or father, only to have added to that those "pitiful" looks of friends, or the teasing, cutting remarks of classmates.

Please let us not further damage fellow Jews by posting their photos online. It is bad enough the pix were in the newspapers, but this adds salt to the open wound, as well as multiplying the exposure.

I know someone who was in prison for years for "smuggling" a couple of diamonds into the country. He was wrong, but he was trying to help save money to pay for his oldest daughter's wedding, which at that time was still a few years away.

While he was in prison, his 5 sons and 4 other daughters were also without a father. They were protected from finding out why he was gone. They were told by their mother that he was away in a form of rehab.

Could you imagine what it would have done to them to find out he was in prison? .. or for those children's friends to see the photo on the internet?

Please remove the photos, or at least block the faces.

Remember, the damage from loshon hora can be just from an image online.

Thank you for reading this.


The inmates signed a paper agreeing to be in photos and were aware of the Media being present.

One of the Bochurim


B"H This is such a great mitzvah - Kiddush Hashem mamash.

I have a request for Chaptzem to please, please please continue to post the uplifting stories about our people - so many of us - in Eretz Yisrael and other places around the world need chizukim! This is exactly how it's done.

Todah and Yasher Koach!


I know that these guys committed terrible crimes but do they really deserve to be punished with Lubavitch? Isn't that double jeopardy?

Hey Boor al gabay boor:

Are you comparing Hashem with Lubatitch ח"ו?


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