Throughout the years of his leadership, the Lubavitcher Rebbe addressed a topic that had been avoided by leaders for a long time. Raising the plight of inmates who are serving their time in prison, the Rebbe urged reform in the American prison system, encouraging an approach of rehabilitation and training for a life of meaning and purpose. Both while inside the prison walls and for when they would regain their freedom once again.
Indeed, it was under the Rebbe’s leadership and direction that Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar, the Rebbe’s emissary to Florida, founded the Aleph Institute to cater to the needs of the Jewish inmates across the USA. Today, Aleph serves thousands of Jewish inmates in American prisons each year.
As it impacts and changes the lives of so many who others have cast away, Aleph is always finding new ways to uplift and inspire. Now, after much time and effort, they have brought these commitments to an entirely new level. Over the last few weeks, Aleph, in partnership with Jewish Educational Media, has started to make JEM’s multimedia productions available to inmates, free of charge.
Hosted by JPay, a platform that allows prisoners to engage with the outside world, the videos of and about the Lubavitcher Rebbe are supported on all of their approved devices.
Rabbi Menachem Katz is Aleph’s director of military and prison outreach. He sees this project as a tremendous tool for educating and rehabilitating the prisoners towards a normal life on the outside. “In the short time that they’ve been accessible so far, Jewish inmates have already reached out to us to express their immense gratitude for the uplifting inspiration that these videos bring them. In testimonials about the new program, some have already described having a crowd of their gentile cellmates joining them as they watch.”
Director of JEM, Rabbi Elkanah Shmotkin, hailed this new frontier in bringing the Rebbe’s teachings to the world. “When the Rebbe spoke about changing our focus in dealing with prisoners, I don’t think we actually thought we’d be able to make that change in such a direct way. Bringing the Rebbe’s words to the inmates and showing them the infinite value that he saw in them, will certainly uplift and inspire.”
But the campaign to change the current approach to prison isn’t stopping with the inmates themselves. Rabbi Shmotkin added, “Through the hard work of individuals at Aleph, we’ve also seen lots of success in bringing the Rebbe’s message of prison reform to a number of politicians and lawmakers involved in this area.”
To those working at Aleph and JEM, this is just another small step in making a much bigger change.