May 28, 2013
Yeshiva for Imprisoned Women
Shlucha Chanie Lipskar, Judy Adouth, Leah Lipskar and Rochel Katz recently visited Coleman Federal Prison Camp near Orlando, for their first time teaching female inmates.
By Adam Bell - Chabad.org
For Jews in prison, incarceration can keep them isolated from their family and their faith. But thanks to the Aleph Institute, a Florida-based nonprofit, they and their loved ones receive some much-needed help from an organization that has been providing assistance for more than three decades.
In fact, the institute's Yeshiva in Prison program recently expanded to include a visit for the first time to female prisoners, said Rabbi Aaron Lipskar, executive director of the institute.
The program spans 3 days of interactive classroom-style work. Yeshiva volunteers work with inmates in small groups or on a one-on-one basis to provide introspection using the Torah. Inmates learn how to live as a Jew despite their surroundings.
The program covers many topics, including Jewish law, ethics, explanatory prayer services, kosher dietary laws, faith and reason, and Kabbalah. Daily afternoon lectures focus on the idea of personal responsibility, self-control and the skills for accepting authority.
The idea is to help channel the inmate's energies in a positive manner, which could improve a sense of personal responsibility, explained the rabbi.
Earlier this month, program volunteers Rebbetzin Chanie Lipskar, Judy Adouth, Leah Lipskar and Rochel Katz went to Coleman Federal Prison Camp near Orlando, Fla., for their first time teaching female inmates.
The three-day sessions included a full-day program—8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.—of interactive classroom-style learning. The volunteers also divided the women into smaller focus groups, each concentrating on a prepared course subject by the teacher.
Katz said of the experience: "I've gained as much as the inmates have, if not more."
She alluded to preconceptions regarding inmates and prison culture in general, and noted that they can often be misguided. "Some of the women were doctors, and lawyers—educated women with tears running down their faces in gratitude for myself and my colleagues taking the time to spend the day with them," she said.
Chaplain Yolanda Garcia works there, and called the Yeshiva program "awesome."
"I think the women felt a sense of womanhood being around Jewish female representatives," she said. "I actually received a ‘thank you' card from them. It taught them how to get along with each other and pray with each other."
Garcia welcomed the opportunity for the program to return to the prison camp. Rabbi Lipskar responded that the group will absolutely come back to female prisons.