By COLlive reporter
Prison reform lobbyist Moshe Margareten says the words of the Rebbe during a farbrengen at 770 Eastern Parkway helped changed the mind of U.S. James Risch of Idaho.
Margarten has been working for decades on prison reform which has recently culminated in the Senate’s passing of a bill signed by President Donald Trump in December.
He told Mishpacha Magazine that one of the Chassidic leaders whose influence made a difference in this effort was the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
In their lobbying efforts, Margarten and his colleagues often enlisted local Chabad shluchim to help lobby their state’s representatives. For his meeting with Risch, a rock-ribbed conservative who was against any sort of prison reform, they asked Idaho Shliach Rabbi Mendel Lifshitz to join.
During the meeting with the Senator, Rabbi Lifshitz played a video clip of a Sicha the Rebbe delivered at a farbrengen in which he addresses the Jewish perspective on imprisonment, explaining that prison isn’t a normative punishment in the Torah because a person shouldn’t be confined like animals are.
The Rebbe stated that people are meant to be productive, and even when they must be incarcerated, there must be things they can do in confinement to enable them to redeem and rehabilitate themselves.
Mishpacha reported that after watching the clip, Senator Risch turned to his visitors and said, “He makes sense – count me as a yes vote on prison reform. Your rabbi was way ahead of me.”
VIDEO: The Rebbe speaking about prison
Margarten later explained on Twitter that the senator ultimately voted against the bill, explaining: “When we met with Risch the bill was an ONLY prison reform bill, without drug sentencing. He was at first even against that bill but at the meeting was convinced to support it. The Rebbe discussed rehabilitation, not sentencing.”