Saturday, March 31, 2007

Believer: Sandra Anderson

Minneapolis-StPaul Star-Tribune features a brief profile of Orthodox minister Sandra Anderson.


Friday, March 30, 2007

Prison ministry helps reverse effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

How one ministry tries to help inmates with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome:

"Recent research reports that over 50% of people in prison may have some form of FAS, and Dr. David Schuringa, president of international prison ministry Crossroad Bible Institute, estimates that this figure may be as high as 80% for repeat offenders.

The symptoms of FASD and FAE include behavioral problems, emotional immaturity, poor abstract thinking skills, inability to foresee consequences and communication deficiencies. It is not hard to imagine that many children born with these diseases end up struggling through school, unable to hold a job, brushing with the law and eventually behind bars.

Crossroad Bible Institute, a non-profit organization reaching people in prison with faith-based reentry education, seeks to help these sufferers of FAS and its related diseases.

CBI’s program links imprisoned people with caring mentors who correct their lessons and respond with letters of encouragement. Through consistently completing CBI’s courses, students slowly develop the skills required for successful reentry.

Rather than continuing to repeat the destructive patterns of their disease, CBI students with FAS, FASD or FAE are equipped for successful integration into society. With curriculum that encourages the development of spiritual disciplines and practical skills, CBI is reaching out to the sufferers of a mother’s poor judgment or ignorance with the truth of the Bible. "


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

How the Prisoners Saved Their Rabbi’s Daughter

The blog Heichal HaNegina presents an excerpt from the book A Tzaddik in Our Time: The Life of Rabbi Aryeh Levin by Simcha Raz. Reb Aryeh served as an unpaid prison chaplain in Palestine during the British Occupation, starting in the 1920's. Part of the excerpt shows the kind of relationship that can be built up between a prison chaplain and those they serve. Reb Aryeh's daughter had been struck down suddenly with paralysis:

The next Shabbos the prisoners flocked around him and asked how his daughter was. "As well as can be expected," he said emotionally.
During the Torah reading, an unusual thing occurred during the Mi Sheberach (“may he be blessed”) prayer recited after each of the seven aliyos, in which one asks the L-rd to bless and protect the man just called to the Torah. It is customary that the man called to the Torah pledges a sum to charity.

As Rav Aryeh duly recited the Mi Sheberach for the first prisoner called to the Torah, he was taken by surprise to hear the man announce that he was pledging a day of his life for the recovery of the good rabbi’s daughter. When the time came for the Mi Sheberach of the second called, he announced that he forfeited a week of his life for the sake of the sick woman. The third man called pledged a month of his lifespan; and so it went. At last it was the turn of the seventh man, Dov Tamari, who later became a professor at the Technion in Haifa.

"What is our life in prison worth," he cried, "compared to our rabbi’s anguish? I pledge all the remaining days of my life to the complete recovery of our rabbi’s daughter!"

Rav Aryeh looked at the young man and burst into tears. He was moved beyond words to see how devoted these men were to him and how much affection they bore him. Unable to continue with the prayer service, he shook hands warmly with every single one of the inmates and went straight home.

That evening, after Shabbos, members of his family came to tell him that his daughter was beginning to show signs of recovery: she had started to move some limbs. A few days went by, and her health returned completely, in utter contradiction to the medical prognosis, which predicted a long period of illness and convalescence.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Muslim prison chaplain claims more hate directed at him

A Muslim chaplain at the main Connecticut women's prison has reported religious discrimination aimed at him:

The Advocate - Muslim prison chaplain claims more hate directed at him: "A childhood picture of Bilal Asari, who is black, among a group of white children, that has been hanging in his office was defaced. Someone painted over Asari's black face with white correction fluid and scrawled a racial slur across the photo in red ink.

[Department of Corrections] spokesman Brian Garnett said Friday the agency was investigating what he calls 'vile and bigoted behavior.'

Asari said someone came into his locked office at J.B. Gates Correctional Institution in Niantic to deface the photo, which he said his mother had given him to remind him of how far he had come from the days when he was bused to an all-white school.

Asari said the incident is just the latest in a series of incidents of racial and religious discrimination he has faced from employees at the prison."