The winners of this year’s Slingshot competition

A Wider Bridge
Amir
Ask Big Questions
AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps
*BBYO Stand UP
*City Harvest’s Kosher Initiative
Council of Jewish Emigre Community Organizations
*The David Project
Eden Village Camp
Footsteps
G-dcast
Haggadot.com
Havurah at Camp Tel Yehudah
*HEKDESH
Hidden Sparks
Innovation: Africa
J’Burgh
*J-Teen Leadership
Jewish Farm School
*Jewish Learning Venture
*Jewish New Teacher Project
The Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation
*Jewish Without Walls (JWOW)
Jews for Racial & Economic Justice
*Jews United for Justice
*JOIN for Justice
The Kavana Cooperative
*Kavod v’Nichum
Kevah
*The Kitchen
*Luria Academy of Brooklyn
Matan
Mazeltot.org
*Mishkan Chicago
MyJewishLearning, Inc.
Nehirim
*NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change
OurJewishCommunity.org
The Pearlstone Center
Rabbis Without Borders
Ramah Service Corps
*Ramah Tikvah Network
Rimon: The Minnesota Jewish Arts Council
*Shoresh at Bela Farm
The Tribe
Urban Adamah
Wilderness Torah
Wise Aging
*Yeshivat Maharat
Yiddish Book Center

Judaism And Criminal Justice

“There is no Jewish concept of incarceration,” said Gary Friedman, a chaplain and chairman of Jewish Prisoner Services International.

In Judaism, justice is carried out in a community setting to get the offender to learn from the experience and have a chance to become a productive member of society again. This approach, Friedman said, is at odds with the United States’ criminal justice system.

“All punishments in Judaism are intended to teach the offender a lesson, not to destroy their life,” he said. “Incarceration is a life wasted, a life not serving its Godly purpose.”

His organization compiled relevant biblical passages and quotes from Jewish thinkers on the subject and posted them online. Here are some of the citations:

Genesis 39-40: Prison in a foreign culture – false testimony puts Joseph in prison. Rabbi Joseph Hertz’s Pentateuch, p. 149, commentary on Gen. 40:2: “The light of a superior mind and soul cannot be hidden even in a prison.”

Isaiah 61:1: “…(God) has sent me to…proclaim release to the captives, and liberation to the imprisoned…”

In Isaiah 42:6-7, the prophet likens confinement to spiritual blindness and imprisonment: “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness, I have taken hold of your hand, and kept you, and appointed you for a covenant of the people, for a light to the nations, to open the blinded eyes, to bring out the imprisoned from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

Psalm 146:7-8: “…God releases the captives, (and) opens the eyes of the blind.”

Talmud Berachot: “Once when Rabbi Chanina became gravely ill, Rabbi Yochanan came by and sat down to visit him. While speaking with him, Rabbi Yochanan remembered that Chanina had healed someone with the exact same illness. Rabbi Yochanan then said, ‘Rabbi Chanina, why don’t you heal yourself?’ Rabbi Chanina replied, ‘Prisoners cannot take themselves out of their own prison.’ Rabbi Yochanan then got up and healed him.”

Judaism On Trial

Several trials of Jewish people have become quite well known over time, not because of the nature of the crime, but because of what some say are outrageous punishments.

One of the most well-known cases is that of Jonathan Pollard, who was working as a civil intelligence analyst when he passed classified information to Israel. This information he passed on was about the nuclear, chemical and biological welfare capabilities of Syria, Iraq, Libya and Iran for use against Israel. He was sentenced to life on one count of espionage in March 1987. He is up for parole and could be released in 2015.

Rabbi Menachem Katz, director of prison and military outreach at the Aleph Institute, said it’s a miscarriage of justice that he’s still in prison. He plead guilty with the understanding he would get some bit of compassion, which did not happen, Rabbi Katz said.

“He was spying for an ally. He wasn’t spying for Russia,” Rabbi Katz said. “ … He was helping them, not with information on how to get a one-up on the United States, but with information on how they can protect their citizens from an attack by an Arab enemy state.”

Aleph and other organizations have advocated for Pollard’s release.

Another case in which Rabbi Katz and others feel the punishment does not fit the crime is that of Sholom Rubashkin.

He was the CEO of Agriprocessors, based in Postville, Iowa, which was once the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse and packing plant. He was convicted of 86 counts of financial fraud in 2009, including bank, mail and wire fraud and money laundering. He is serving a 27-year prison sentence at a federal prison in New York.

Rabbi Katz believes anti-Semitism played a role in the sentencing. While he acknowledges this was no way to run a business, he noted that Rubashkin was not pocketing the money himself.

“They pulled every trick out of the bag to make it look a lot worse than it was,” Rabbi Katz said.

In 2011, a U.S. Circuit of Appeals judge denied his bid for a new trial after attorneys argued the first trial was unfair. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in October 2012, and again attorneys argued that the first trial was unfair and that the 27-year sentence was excessive for a first-time, nonviolent offender.

The courts have also wrestled with issue of kosher food in prisons going as far back as the 1920s and still do to this day.

In 1975, a federal judge ruled that Jewish prisoners in federal prisons have a constitutional right to kosher food. The issue was brought up by Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defense League, who was not originally provided with kosher meals when he was assigned to a federal prison. Many jurisdictions nationwide followed suit. “That’s what got the kosher ball rolling,” said Chaplian Gary Friedman, chairman of Jewish Prisoner Services International.

In 2012, the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Max Moussazadeh, who is doing time for serving as a lookout in a 1993 shooting death of a man during a robbery, has a right to be served kosher food, so as not to infringe on his beliefs. He sued the State of Texas after he was moved to a facility that did not provide kosher meals free of charge to inmates, but only sold kosher food at its commissary.

Earlier this year, the Florida Department of Corrections announced it will offer kosher meals in all state prisons by the end of the year, following a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in South Florida. It was slated to begin in July at one of the larger institutions and to expand to 60 other facilities by the end of the year.

Jewish Prisoner Outreach

Last Yom Kippur, students from Maryland Hillel visited prisoners at six jails.

Last Yom Kippur, students from Maryland Hillel visited prisoners at six jails.

Incarcerated Jews have to spend Yom Kippur behind bars. With small Jewish prison populations, limited resources and accommodations, the holiday is a scaled-down version of what it is on the outside.

But with the help of Maryland Hillel at the University of Maryland, College Park, 27 college students visited six prisons this year. They taught the prisoners about the holiday, led services and listened to the inmates talk about why they’re in prison.

“Our first year, we had intended to do more of a traditional Yom Kippur prayer service, but we quickly decided that wasn’t the best idea because these people had limited knowledge, and to them it wasn’t interesting,” said Noah Stein, a senior who participated last year and was one of two students who organized and expanded the effort this year. “ … It’s a lot more important to have good conversations with them rather than force them to do a 10-hour davening.”

The groups rented RVs and stayed near the prisons, which were in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. They spent time with the prisoners Friday night, Saturday morning and Saturday evening.

“We, as a community and individuals, believe in the power of one and the power of being selfless,” said Ari Israel, executive director of Maryland Hillel. He helped the students with training, got them talitot, Torahs and food from Hillel. He thought the effort delighted prisoners and gave them a small piece of the greater Jewish community.

“This is definitely not your synagogue or my synagogue in any shape or form,” he said.

The Hillel effort is just one of many ways to Jewish community tries to help out the incarcerated members of the community. The Jewish Big Brother Big Sister League, Jewish Prisoner Services, Jewish Community Services and the Aleph Institute are among the organizations that work to keep those on the inside connected to life on the outside through advocacy, visits, programming, books and other resources.

“Judaism is not a solo religion, it’s a communal religion,” said Barbara Roswell, who teaches with the Goucher Prison Education Partnership. The partnership allows prisoners to take classes and earn college credits, and it also brings college students to correctional facilities for some classes, to learn alongside inmates.

“I think that the quality of religious life for any group is [largely shaped by] the folks who come in and as big as that community,” she said.

Jewish Prisoner Services, a program Jewish Community Services has run since 1916, has 14 volunteers who go once a month to eight different correctional institutions, including a psychiatric hospital, to visit Jewish inmates. Most of the volunteers are retired men, some of whom have been volunteering for 30 years.

“They might be talking about holidays, they might be talking about Israel, they might be discussing d’var Torah that week, they might be answering questions the inmates have,” said Beth Hecht, senior manager of volunteer services at JCS. “ … Over the years, we’ve taught basic Hebrew if the inmates are interested in that.”

While these efforts help members of the Jewish community behind bars, Roswell thinks the community could be doing much more to help.

“Religion fills a role that nothing else in prison can fill,” she said.

The 26 Recommendations

1. Improve the housing stock through code enforcement, help to homeowners and technical assistance to communities.

2. Address the high number of distressed vacant properties through renovation or other strategies.

3. Preserve Park Heights Avenue as a pedestrian-friendly “Urban Boulevard.”

4. Ensure that development projects are compatible with the integrity and stability of the neighborhood.

5. Promote development that complements existing neighborhoods.

6. Create positive change along Reisterstown Road through a strong merchants association, aesthetic improvements, strategic marketing and enforcement of rules and regulations.

7. Improve parking, marketing, signage and streetscape within the Mount Washington Village commercial area.

8. Develop the Jones Falls Trail and Western Run Spur as a community wide family amenity.

9. Protect Western Run Park and encourage its use as a community amenity.

10. Promote, maintain and continue to improve Luckman Park. In progress.

11. Continue implementation of the Northwest Park Master Plan with the goal of making the park a hub for recreation in Northwest Baltimore.

12. Develop and implement a plan to improve the athletic fields at the Pimlico Public Safety Academy.

13. Identify and develop “pocket parks” to provide informal play spaces, gardens or “lawns” for the community in areas where larger parks are not immediately accessible.

14. Promote a “Greening Program” for Northwest Baltimore that involves citizens, city agencies and nonprofit groups.

15. Complete and implement a traffic plan for the entire SNAP area to improve traffic safety and flow.

16. Improve alternative modes of transportation making it easier for people to get around Northwest Baltimore without a car.

17. Promote pedestrian use of Park Heights Avenue by making it an easier, more pleasant place to walk.

18. Address traffic concerns surrounding schools and improve safety for children traveling to and from school through the Safe Routes to School programs at local public and private schools.

19. Continue and strengthen the NW School Community Partnership.

20. Enhance and modernize school operations.

21. Offer adult education at area public schools.

22. Offer educational opportunities at local community facilities.

23. Improve community participation in public safety.

24. Strengthen and support citizen volunteer safety groups.

25. Partner with the fire department regarding long-term plans for the Glen Avenue fire station.

26. Partner with the police department regarding long-terms plans for the Northwest District police headquarters.

Orthodox Union Launches App for Jewish College Students

The Orthodox Union’s NextGen Division launched an app, Jewniversity Resources, that helps connect college students with Jewish activities, organizations and resources on campus.

The app helps students find kosher food, Shabbat observance options, minyanim, organizations for social and learning opportunities and what Jewish organizations are on campus.

The app is free for iPhones, iPads and featured online at www.bit.ly/JewUMap.

OU NextGen includes NCSY, Israel Free Spirit Birthright, Heart to Heart and the Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) program.

The app allows college students to better familiarize themselves with Jewish life on campus, and serves as a useful tool for high school students to research colleges they may potentially apply to.

Available at the iTunes app Store, Jewniversity Resources offers information for more than 100 campuses—from Adelphi University in New York to York University in Toronto—across the United States, Canada and Israel.

Jewniversity Resources was built keeping in mind that there are many organizations providing resources for a meaningful Jewish experience, from community colleges to the most selective four-year schools. Information on the app also includes contacts and services provided by national organizations such as Aish HaTorah, Aish Connections, Hillel, Chabad, MEOR, and local groups.

“The app was created to assist in enabling students to lead full Orthodox lives and take full advantage of the university experience at all levels,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuck, director of OU Alumni Connections.

According to Rabbi Marchuck, collecting and regularly updating Jewish resources on campuses has been a work-in-progress by the OU NextGen Division for the past few years using social media, student surveys, and professional networking. The information allows the OU to stay connected with alumni, and to understand the Jewish opportunities and challenges within university life to better provide for Jewish students.

Rabbi Marchuck added that a project of such complexity will be continually updated—both in terms of adding information to campuses already listed, and adding new campuses to the list. More advanced features of the app, along with a user-version for Android, are expected to come out in the near future.

-Marc Shapiro

ISRAELI FRESH LEMON CHICKEN

(Meat; make one and freeze one)
2 chickens, cut into eighths or equivalent of boneless portions (you can remove the skin after cooking is complete)
2 onions, cut into large chunks
2 whole lemons
12 to 16 sprigs fresh oregano
8 cloves fresh garlic, halved
Fine sea salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste, optional
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup kalamata olives, whole, for garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place chicken in single layers, skin side up, into two 9-by-13-inch baking pans. Add the onion chunks. Slice the lemons in half lengthwise. Squeeze the lemon halves over the chicken. Cut each lemon half into 4 pieces; add to the chicken. Set aside 4 sprigs of oregano and strip the oregano leaves from the rest. Scatter the leaves and the stripped sprigs over the chicken. Add the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the olive oil and wine. Toss the mixture together. You can add a little flour and thicken the sauce in a small saucepan to thicken, if desired. Sprinkle the chopped olives over the chicken. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes to an hour or until the chicken is fully cooked. Transfer to platter and garnish with whole olives and reserved oregano sprigs. Each casserole will have 6-plus servings. Sometimes I add a small jar of marinated or sliced canned quartered artichokes, drained well. It’s good to freeze one of the cooked chickens.

CHICKEN CACCIATORE

2 to 2 1/2 pounds frying chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 sprigs fresh parsley
1 clove fresh peeled garlic
1 medium onion, quartered
1 16-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 pound small whole button mushrooms

Make the sauce preferably in a food processor or a blender that can be “pulsed.” Process the parsley, garlic and onion until medium fine. Add tomatoes and seasonings and process just to break up the tomatoes, but leave them slightly chunky. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken and drain off excess fat. Pour the sauce over the chicken in pan. Tilt cover just slightly and simmer for 45 minutes or until chicken tests tender. Add the mushrooms the last 15 minutes, stirring with the sauce occasionally. You can substitute canned diced tomatoes for the whole ones. Serves 4.