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Morgantown, WV - Federal Prison Hosts Dedication of Torah Written for Jewish Inmates

Published on: February 1, 2010 05:10 PM
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A new Torah scroll written for the benefit of Jewish inmates across the United States is displayed for celebrants at the Morgantown Federal Correctional Institution in West Virginia.A new Torah scroll written for the benefit of Jewish inmates across the United States is displayed for celebrants at the Morgantown Federal Correctional Institution in West Virginia.

Morgantown, WV - In a first for a federal prison, inmates at the Morgantown Federal Correctional Institution in West Virginia joined family members, corrections officials and Jewish community leaders to dedicate a special Torah scroll written specifically for prisoners across the country.

Except for its location, the Torah dedication ceremony looked like any other: Celebrants filled in the holy scroll’s last letters with the help of a ritual scribe, and then danced with the Torah beneath a canopy and feasted on a special meal.

“We had an amazing response from the inmates and their families,” said Rabbi Aaron Lipskar, executive director of the Aleph Institute, a Chabad-Lubavitch organization based in Florida that sponsored the dedication and serves more than 4,000 Jewish inmates and their families by providing kosher food, prayer services, learning opportunities and counseling programs. “It was a life-altering experience for them and a unique event, because they were able to participate with their families. The concept of Torah is to bring light into the darkest of environments, and that’s just what happened.”

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Rabbi Shalom Lipskar, executive director of the Aleph Institute speaking inside the prisonRabbi Shalom Lipskar, executive director of the Aleph Institute speaking inside the prison

Some 70 guests, including 22 Jewish prisoners at Morgantown, attended the ceremony. Called the “No Jew Left Behind Torah” in reference to the sometimes-forgotten members of the Jewish community, the scroll was sponsored by David and Eda Schottenstein and dedicated in memory of Alta Shula Swerdlov, a three-year-old girl who perished in a Jerusalem traffic accident. The scroll was also dedicated in memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, directors of the Chabad House in Mumbai, India, and all the victims of the terrorist attacks there.
Ritual scribe Rabbi Moshe Klein, right, assists a celebrant in filling in one of the Torah’s last letters.

After the ceremony, one inmate, who asked to remain anonymous, said that he appreciated the chance to enjoy a happy occasion with his son.

“I’m in my fifth year in the [federal Bureau of Prisons] and this was the first, and probably only, opportunity that I’ve had to attend a religious ceremony with my six-year-old until I get out in 2016,” he said. “I spend so much effort in making sure that he keeps focused on the right things, and work very hard at keeping the family unit together and his moral compass [set].”

The “memories will last a very long time in my son’s mind,” he added.

According to Lipskar, many prisons with larger Jewish populations already have Torah scrolls on loan. The Morgantown Torah, however, fills a need expressed by inmates at some 450 institutions nationwide, and actually represents the collective efforts of that population: Many of the letters were “purchased” by prisoners and their families who donated money to the project, in some cases a dollar bill or a postage stamp.

The Torah, which will be housed in Morgantown on a temporary basis, will rotate through prisons where 10 Jewish inmates can form the necessary quorum for it to be read publicly.

“This Torah shows us that every person has a purpose, a goal, a mission in life,” said Lipskar. “This Torah will help the inmates to recognize their purpose in their environment and will help them to utilize their time properly and keep their families involved. Every Jew is important and has a connection to the Torah, regardless of the environment he is in.”


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1

 Feb 01, 2010 at 05:17 PM Anonymous Says:

Mamish a Gevaldig Kiddush Hashem!!! A beautiful growing Jewish community in the prison system. Acheinu Bnei Yisroel hanesunim batzara uBaShivya, Hamakom Yeracheim Aleihem veYotzieym....
Rachmana Litzlan.

2

 Feb 01, 2010 at 05:23 PM David Says:

Nice, I guess. Still, I'd rather that there weren't enough Jews in prison to warrant this kind of thing...

3

 Feb 01, 2010 at 05:32 PM LawAbidingCitizen Says:

What in the world does a sefer torah and its contents mean to a criminal sitting in a Federal pen?

4

 Feb 01, 2010 at 05:40 PM Anonymous Says:

Oh my!! What will we be celebrating next?!!???!!!!

5

 Feb 01, 2010 at 05:54 PM halacha Says:

It is assur to bring a sefer torah into a prison.

6

 Feb 01, 2010 at 06:03 PM rescue Says:

Reply to #1  
Anonymous Says:

Mamish a Gevaldig Kiddush Hashem!!! A beautiful growing Jewish community in the prison system. Acheinu Bnei Yisroel hanesunim batzara uBaShivya, Hamakom Yeracheim Aleihem veYotzieym....
Rachmana Litzlan.

kiddush hashem??????????
This is one of the biggest chillul hashem that can be. They're saying that there enought jews in prison to warrant a sefer torah.This isn't Europe 100 years ago where they could throw anyone they wanted into prison. These people did something to get there. What a chillul hashem.

7

 Feb 01, 2010 at 06:04 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
LawAbidingCitizen Says:

What in the world does a sefer torah and its contents mean to a criminal sitting in a Federal pen?

Have you ever heard of the word "tzuvah"?

8

 Feb 01, 2010 at 06:07 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
halacha Says:

It is assur to bring a sefer torah into a prison.

Source please?

9

 Feb 01, 2010 at 06:15 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #6  
rescue Says:

kiddush hashem??????????
This is one of the biggest chillul hashem that can be. They're saying that there enought jews in prison to warrant a sefer torah.This isn't Europe 100 years ago where they could throw anyone they wanted into prison. These people did something to get there. What a chillul hashem.

When I saw that first comment I knew a few of the brighter commenters on this site wouldn't be able to see the sarcasm ....and now a hundred people would jump on your comment for that .And everybody misses the point .

10

 Feb 01, 2010 at 06:28 PM Expatriate Owl Says:

UNDERSTAND that the inmates were not put there for being Mama's Golden Boys! UNDERSTAND that many pose a clear and present danger to your property, safety and life if they were let out free! UNDERSTAND that they are, at bottom line, criminals!

NEVERTHELESS --

They are outnumbered in prison by GOYIM, many of whom are vicious and dangerous antisemites (this includes some of the corrections officers). The GOYIM need to see that the Jews in prison have a support system, and have people outside who care for them. The GOYIM need to see that Jews will make a special effort to keep (at least some of) the mitzvos.

Your gut instinct, of course, may well be to ask WHO CARES if these Jewish miscreants in prison get beaten up by the goyishe inmates. But those goyishe inmates have friends on the outside, and many of them will eventually be released. Violence against Jews in prisons metastacizes to the outside! But so does respect for Jews!

And, note the Jewish jailbird in the story with the 6-year-old son: Better that the son should see the example of his father, for all his faults, keeping a mitzvah, and see Jews take care of their own!

It's not just for the Jewish jailbird!

11

 Feb 01, 2010 at 06:32 PM Shmuel Says:

Did they high lite the "ten commandments"

12

 Feb 01, 2010 at 06:44 PM Anonymous Says:

I hope they don't trade it for cigarettes

13

 Feb 01, 2010 at 06:48 PM Anonymous Says:

We are all in prison-the prison of galus. Following the Torah will set us free. Thank G-d, even Jews who are imprisoned still feel connected to Yiddishkeit, thanks to the Rebbe.

14

 Feb 01, 2010 at 06:56 PM Anonymous Says:

A shame !!! How people are judging other people. suddenly all dose so called jew lovers have lost all their love for a fellow jew? Sounds like you never learned any rambam or shulchen aruch!! One mitsvah is not connected to another ! If a yid did an avirah it "dose not" mean that you are puter from keeping the rest of the mitsvos. every mitvah a yid performs hakol reivach !!

15

 Feb 01, 2010 at 07:09 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
Expatriate Owl Says:

UNDERSTAND that the inmates were not put there for being Mama's Golden Boys! UNDERSTAND that many pose a clear and present danger to your property, safety and life if they were let out free! UNDERSTAND that they are, at bottom line, criminals!

NEVERTHELESS --

They are outnumbered in prison by GOYIM, many of whom are vicious and dangerous antisemites (this includes some of the corrections officers). The GOYIM need to see that the Jews in prison have a support system, and have people outside who care for them. The GOYIM need to see that Jews will make a special effort to keep (at least some of) the mitzvos.

Your gut instinct, of course, may well be to ask WHO CARES if these Jewish miscreants in prison get beaten up by the goyishe inmates. But those goyishe inmates have friends on the outside, and many of them will eventually be released. Violence against Jews in prisons metastacizes to the outside! But so does respect for Jews!

And, note the Jewish jailbird in the story with the 6-year-old son: Better that the son should see the example of his father, for all his faults, keeping a mitzvah, and see Jews take care of their own!

It's not just for the Jewish jailbird!

You made some good points, but I didn't like the "Who cares" comment, I care! and so do many other yidden, because we know that everyone has a weak moment and sometimes its a weak moment in the wrong place at the wrong time, which lands them in prison. Yes maybe its their fault, but in the same way you can tell people who are ill that its their fault because they smoked or didn't take care of themselves, so are you not going to give tsedaka to a sick person because its their fault?

16

 Feb 01, 2010 at 07:44 PM Andrew Says:

What a terrible story! It would be better to quietly donate an existing sefer Torah for this need. To make a big deal and have one specially written is a shanda.

Leave it to Chabad.

17

 Feb 01, 2010 at 08:05 PM ALTERK Says:

Reply to #3  
LawAbidingCitizen Says:

What in the world does a sefer torah and its contents mean to a criminal sitting in a Federal pen?

It means alot to them. It shows them , that we have not forgotten about them .Also it gives them CHIZZIK in life & they remain Jews that will keep further thier growing along with Judaisym

18

 Feb 01, 2010 at 08:50 PM Anonymous Says:

This special event may have brought every single last Jew in that prison to true Ahavas Yisroel and Yiras HaShem. Thir hearts are surely warmed for full teshuva!
Remember, if a man tells a woman "marry me because I am a tzaddik" and she agrees, they are halachicaly engaged! Becaue he may have embraced tshuva and had become a tzaddik!!!! This same principle now applies to th members of the Kehilla Kedosha of Morgantown!! May they merit their immediate release and join Klal Yisroel in embracing Moshiach, quickly in our time !!!!!

19

 Feb 01, 2010 at 08:58 PM Anonymous Says:

Shaine hagboh

20

 Feb 01, 2010 at 09:39 PM Expatriate Owl Says:

Reply to #15  
Anonymous Says:

You made some good points, but I didn't like the "Who cares" comment, I care! and so do many other yidden, because we know that everyone has a weak moment and sometimes its a weak moment in the wrong place at the wrong time, which lands them in prison. Yes maybe its their fault, but in the same way you can tell people who are ill that its their fault because they smoked or didn't take care of themselves, so are you not going to give tsedaka to a sick person because its their fault?

Read my comment (#10)!

Then read it again!

It DOES NOT say that MY gut instinct is to say "Who cares"!

To the contrary, it says YOUR gut instinct MAY WELL BE ..."

The auxiliary verbal phrase "may well be" is used to indicate a possibility of what some reader's logic MIGHT be. From there, it forecloses upon the validity of that possibility.

Because it is a GUT INSTINCT to dismiss the prison population as unworthy. A logic that some other readers had a very high probability of adopting needed to be addressed and disarmed, and cut off at the pass.

Posing the strawman argument thus demonstrated its invalidity.

I regret that you did not comprehend this when you read what I thought was plainly clear, and regret that you imputed to me a mindset which I specifically disavowed and invalidated.

21

 Feb 01, 2010 at 11:09 PM Anonymous Says:

I guess only the Rebbe and His shluchim now what Ahava Yisroel REALLY means.
This is not a concept from Chasidus, its actuallya a Gemarah that says "all Jewish people are like one body" hurting another Jew is like the Right hand Hurting the left hand. It has nothing to do with being right or wrong it had to do with the unconditionally brotherly love.
To all of you out there if RL if ever end up in jail....the REBBE and HIS SHLUCHIM will be there for you,

22

 Feb 01, 2010 at 11:34 PM Be Voil Says:

Reply to #9  
Anonymous Says:

When I saw that first comment I knew a few of the brighter commenters on this site wouldn't be able to see the sarcasm ....and now a hundred people would jump on your comment for that .And everybody misses the point .

Thank You # 9, for speaking up...
But # 10 is also very right!

23

 Feb 01, 2010 at 11:45 PM Anonymous Says:

When a person is in jail, doe not automaticaly make him for a criminal. Not paying taxes or stealing from an insurance company does not make one dangerous. Rubashkin is the nicest guy on earth was always there for anybody, but he is in jail.......you guys never had the "nisayon" to do these things.

24

 Feb 02, 2010 at 12:26 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #21  
Anonymous Says:

I guess only the Rebbe and His shluchim now what Ahava Yisroel REALLY means.
This is not a concept from Chasidus, its actuallya a Gemarah that says "all Jewish people are like one body" hurting another Jew is like the Right hand Hurting the left hand. It has nothing to do with being right or wrong it had to do with the unconditionally brotherly love.
To all of you out there if RL if ever end up in jail....the REBBE and HIS SHLUCHIM will be there for you,

Unless they've begun imprisoning the deceased, I doubt the rebbe will be there; Chabad's shluchim will, though.

25

 Feb 02, 2010 at 01:06 AM Anonymous Says:

This reminds of a question that came before Rabbi Swift in Pittsburgh. They had exactly a minyan in the jail over there and one of them was eligible for parole. This would end the minyan. He paskened that the person could do it anyway.

26

 Feb 02, 2010 at 01:09 AM WOW Says:

Look, all you holier than thou commentators. If you had to ever visit any federal (or NY, NJ, PA or FL state) prison you would sadly see many Yeshivah/kollel/heimesihe guys in there, MANY, too many! Then there are also so many Jews in there who don’t yet do all the mitsvois.

We do not condemn a Jew, EVER!! We concern ourselves with helping them get past this dark moment and bring the light or warmth of Torah to them.

NOTHING will bring more chizuk and inspiration to them than a TORAH!!

And for all of you naysayers, think if your husband, son or grandson was in there would you still say the say. Doubtful.

Let us show some Ahavas Yisrael once and for all. (and think before we comment)

27

 Feb 02, 2010 at 05:54 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #16  
Andrew Says:

What a terrible story! It would be better to quietly donate an existing sefer Torah for this need. To make a big deal and have one specially written is a shanda.

Leave it to Chabad.

"leave it to chabad" i guess thats your motto always, if im stranded somewhere and i need a good hot kosher meal, leave it to chabad!
what is wrong with you, chabad does such great work, is it only in your hard times that they are worth your time, but when iit comes to someone else their not worh it anymore, the shanda is on ppl can never think about anyone but themselves, imagine you or a relative of yours would be the one!!!....
enough said

28

 Feb 02, 2010 at 08:02 AM Mr. Green Says:

Reply to #13  
Anonymous Says:

We are all in prison-the prison of galus. Following the Torah will set us free. Thank G-d, even Jews who are imprisoned still feel connected to Yiddishkeit, thanks to the Rebbe.

Which Rebbe were you refering to?

29

 Feb 02, 2010 at 10:02 AM concerned Says:

someone in iowa may need this torah, heaven forbid.

30

 Feb 02, 2010 at 11:25 AM Andrew Says:

Reply to #27  
Anonymous Says:

"leave it to chabad" i guess thats your motto always, if im stranded somewhere and i need a good hot kosher meal, leave it to chabad!
what is wrong with you, chabad does such great work, is it only in your hard times that they are worth your time, but when iit comes to someone else their not worh it anymore, the shanda is on ppl can never think about anyone but themselves, imagine you or a relative of yours would be the one!!!....
enough said

It is a shanda. I understand that many frum Jews are in prison (and hopefully doing real teshuva). And that the need exists for sifrei Torah. My point is that it should be quietly donated, and not with a parade and big simcha.

Chabad does much good work. But it comes along with their mishegas.

31

 Feb 02, 2010 at 04:48 PM Monsey Man Says:

Reply to #17  
ALTERK Says:

It means alot to them. It shows them , that we have not forgotten about them .Also it gives them CHIZZIK in life & they remain Jews that will keep further thier growing along with Judaisym

Also it gives them CHIZZIK in life & they remain Jews that will keep further thier growing along with Judaisym”

We don't need these types of Jews growing along with Judaism. Better Jews should think first before commiting a crime. No? I hope my neighbors think first or they can wind up in this prison.

32

 Feb 02, 2010 at 05:40 PM Not Anonymous Says:

Reply to #31  
Monsey Man Says:

Also it gives them CHIZZIK in life & they remain Jews that will keep further thier growing along with Judaisym”

We don't need these types of Jews growing along with Judaism. Better Jews should think first before commiting a crime. No? I hope my neighbors think first or they can wind up in this prison.

Interesting perspective. So in your book there's no such thing as Teshuvah? You know, it happens that a person commits a crime, is sentenced to a certain number of years in prison, and during that time comes to regret his crime and resolve to lead an upright life. But we don't need such a Jew. And such a Jew should not be made to feel that he is as Jewish as any Jew on the outside, and that he is worthy of a Jewish celebration where he can proudly be a Jew. No, his Torah must be smuggled in. I'm sure the irony of the Jewish prison population warranting its own Sefer Torah was not lost on the prisoners there. The celebration certainly aroused both hirhurei teshuvah along with great Jewish pride, both laudable feelings. And these feelings will lead to greater commitment. Don't be so narrow-minded and focus on one aspect; try to see the broader picture.

33

 Jul 15, 2010 at 09:43 AM sofer Says:

While this is a big simcha it is saddening that a Torah is need in a prison!
For educational articles on Torahs, tefillin and mezuzahs visit www.stam.net.

34

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