Sunday, August 4, 2019

New Program Benefits Jewish Inmates and Their Visitors, Trump pardons a Jewish Inmate and HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS MORE LIKELY TO DEVELOP DEMENTIA – NEW STUDY

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Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works  with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money,  and spiritual engagement

The Torah states:

"And the King of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one was Shifrah and the name of the second was Puah" (Exodus 1:15).

Rashi, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki, informs us that Shifrah was a second name for Yocheved, Moses' mother. She was called Shifrah because she did things for the betterment (the meaning of the Hebrew word "Shifrah" is to "make better") of the infants in her care. Puah was another name for Miriam, Moses' sister. She was called Puah because of the comforting sounds ("poo, poo...") she would make to the infants as mothers do to calm a crying baby. Why, however, does the Torah give a second name?

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz, a Torah luminary who taught in the Mir Yeshiva, comments that when the Torah calls someone by a certain name it is because that name represents the essence of the person. The fact that Yocheved and Miriam were called by names that show how they helped the infants both physically and emotionally, means that this was an integral part of their very being. We see from here that what might appear to be minor actions can be part of an elevated level that will comprise the entire person.

When you experience love and compassion for others, you are emulating the attributes of the Almighty. The greater your act of kindness, the more elevated you become. A child who experiences warmth and love grows up to be a more loving person. This early conditioning will have life-long positive effects. Such a child will find it much easier to feel love for the Almighty and love for his fellow man. Whenever you make a young child feel good, be aware of the extent of your kindness. The deeper your appreciation for the chesed (kindness) you are doing, the more elevated you become!

Love Yehuda Lave

Trains To Ditch Requirement To Pre-Purchase Tickets?

New pilot program allows passengers to pay via credit card at the boarding gate.

Israel Railways will run a pilot program allowing passengers to board trains without purchasing tickets beforehand, instead paying via credit card at the entry and exit gates, Maarivreported.

Passage and charge through the gates will be via a special chip, EMV Contactless, which is incorporated into newer credit cards. Those passengers not part of the pilot program will be able to use their Rav Kav cards at the gates, in the same way they use other gates at the station.

The two-month pilot program is in cooperation with Isracard. In preparation for the pilot program, Israel Railways has installed "smart" entry and exit gates at several train stations, including: Tel Aviv Hahagana, Tel Aviv Hashalom, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Binyamina, Netanya, Rehovot, Lod, Yavneh East, and Modi'in Center. In the coming days, a smart gate will be installed in the train station in Be'er Yaakov as well.

During the pilot phase, the credit card will be charged daily for the purchase of a one-time ticket. Israel Railways plans to offer integrated purchases in the future, to allow purchases in accordance with the number of trips, and to suggest daily, weekly, or monthly passes. In addition, Israel Railways plans in the future to offer payment options in accordance with the traveler's profile, so that students and senior citizens can receive their relevant discounts.

Allowing passengers to pay via credit card at the boarding gate will especially help tourists, most of whom do not have a "Rav Kav" card, Maariv noted.

Quoting an Israel Railways statement, Maariv wrote: "Israel Railways invested many resources into integrating advanced technology to improve service and save time. Recently we carried out a successful pilot run which included automatic compensation in the case of delay, which is credited directly to the passenger's Rav Kav. In addition we now show how crowded the trains are both on our site and on our app, and also show how trains are moving in real time. In the coming months we will examine this pilot and based on the results we will decide whether to expand it to additional stations and to the general public."

As Cancellation Fines Drop, Buses Tend Not To Show Up

For delays, companies had to pay NIS 500 per delay of greater than 11 minutes until 2009, while they now only have to pay between NIS 53 and NIS 173, depending on the number of delays.

Although public transport continues to be a common source of complaint for Israelis, Channel 13 found that fines by the Transportation Ministry on bus companies for cancellations and delays have decreased substantially in recent years.

While fines per cancellation stood at between NIS 2,000 and NIS 2,500 until 2009, they now stand at around NIS 63 to NIS 173 per cancellation, depending on the percentage of buses canceled within a month. If 1% or less of the buses are canceled per month, which can amount to dozens of buses, the companies are exempt from paying any fine.

For delays, companies had to pay NIS 500 per delay of greater than 11 minutes until 2009, while they now only have to pay between NIS 53 and NIS 173, depending on the number of delays.

"Today, for a public transport company, it's almost more worthwhile to not send out a bus than to send it out," said Shimrit Nutman, chairwoman of the "15 Minutes" Public Transportation Alliance organization, an NGO that advocates for better public transportation. "It's almost worthwhile to not even send a bus out and to pay the fine."

Since the implementation of an electronic bus tracking system, it is easier for the Transportation Ministry to monitor tardy or canceled buses. As such, more fine are issued, which led the ministry to lower the amount per fine.

One public transport user described to Channel 13 how he waited at the bus station for a bus that was listed on an electronic sign as coming, as well as on an application approved by the Transportation Ministry, but the bus never came. He ended up having to pay more than NIS 120 for a taxi so he could get to work on time.

The amount of complaints by public transport users has skyrocketed by more than 15-fold from 2012 to 2018, according to Transportation Ministry data. While only 2,562 complaints were filed in 2012, some 41,445 complaints were filed in 2018. Forty percent of the complaints concerned delays or cancellations. Companies are fined NIS 150 to NIS 200 for each verified complaint in addition to lateness or cancellations.

The Channel 13 report recommended that travelers record evidence of public transport delays and cancellations. These recordings can then be used to file complaints to the company and initiate minor lawsuits that can lead to public transport users receiving appropriate financial compensation, which can reach thousands of shekels.


One daughter wrote that their mother "is always sick and doesn't have strength. Today's my birthday. I am 10, and half of my life I had no dad. Please let my dad come."BY BENJY SINGER

US President Donald Trump pardoned Israeli-born Ronen Nahmani on Monday, who had served four years of a 20-year sentence for conspiracy to distribute synthetic drugs he bought from suppliers in China. 

Trump's pardon followed a request by Nahmani's children and also because of his sick wife, Ruth, who is suffering from terminal cancer.

Ronen's three children, Ariella (11), Oriel (10) and Danielle (8), each wrote a letter to Trump requesting his presidential pardon.

"My mom is always sad and cries," Oriel's letter read, according to Ynet. "She is always sick and doesn't have strength. Today's my birthday. I am 10 and half of my life I had no dad. Please let my dad come. You will make me the happiest kid in the world."

"Our lives have become so sad and miserable," Ariella wrote. "And now my mother being sick, I am scared of her getting worse. Without her, the world will be a place where I won't be able to exist."

"Today, President Donald J. Trump commuted the prison sentence of Ronen Nahmani, an action strongly supported by many notable leaders from across the political spectrum, like representatives Hakeem Jeffries and Mark Meadows," according to a White House statement.

"Mr. Nahmani is a non-violent, first-time offender with no criminal history.  He has five young children at home and his wife is suffering from terminal cancer.  These extenuating circumstances underscore the urgency of his request for clemency.

Nahmani's prosecutors argued that he should be sentenced to at least 10 years in prison, but the judge then dismissed the statement, saying the defendant showed no remorse or concern for his victims who used the synthetic drug.

Fighting for Nahmani's sentence to be shortened were first-rate lawyers, including Alan Dershowitz and Gary Apple, who previously represented American Chabad member Sholom Rubashkin, who was also released from prison following Trump's intervention. The president dismissed Rubashkin's sentence in December 2017 and he was subsequently released from prison.

"This is a real case of pikuach nefesh (saving of life), because there are children here whose mother is seriously ill with cancer and whose father would have been in prison – and in the event the mother were to [pass away, they] would have been all alone," Dershowitz told Hamodia

"So what President Trump did was the right thing; he ought to be praised for saving lives and doing a mitzvah (commandment). This was a team effort involving lots of people, including Gary and many others who acted selflessly to bring about this pidyon shivuyim [redemption of captives]. And I think it will be an important part of President Trump's legacy that he did the right thing for the right reasons."

Behind the campaign for Nahmani's release was Moshe Morgatran, a New York Skver chassid follower. 

Nahmani, who also holds Israeli citizenship, may return to Israel with his family.


looks beautiful


The findings add to an ongoing debate about the psychological effects of trauma.BY SONIA EPSTEIN

Those who were exposed to the traumatic events of the Holocaust develop dementia at a rate 1.21 times higher than those who did not, a new study from the University of Haifa has reported.

The findings, recently published in The Journal of Traumatic Stress by Dr. Arad Kodesh, Prof. Itzhak Levav and Prof. Stephen Levine, add to an ongoing debate about the psychological effects of extreme adversity.

Some scientists hypothesize that those who experience horrific events may develop mechanisms that make them resistant to neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia, which is characterized by a decline in cognitive ability and a decrease in daily activity. Others argue, however, that the risk of developing these diseases may increase with exposure to trauma, Levine explained.

The University of Haifa researchers found that 16.5%  of those who were exposed to the Holocaust – more than 10,000 participants, or about one-fifth of the total study pool – contracted dementia, compared with a rate of 9.3% among the other participants.

The results of the study are therefore consistent with the hypothesis that exposure to the trauma of genocide increases vulnerability to the risk of dementia later in life.

The researchers analyzed registry data on 51,752 Israeli residents who were born between 1901 and 1945 and who did not have a history of dementia during the period 2002 and 2012, but who were still alive in 2012. They then reexamined whether those people developed the disease between January 2013 and October 2017.

The researchers classified participants by their exposure to the Holocaust based on government recognition and assigned hazard ratios from Cox proportional hazards-regression models to quantify risk of dementia, with adjustments made for demographic factors such as sex and age.

"The study findings are clinically significant in terms of the long-term identification of dementia among Holocaust survivors, and they may also be relevant regarding crimes against humanity in general," Levine said. "The findings highlight the need for careful monitoring of cognitive decline in risk populations that experienced extreme and protracted trauma in general, and Holocaust survivors in particular."


New Program Benefits Jewish Inmates and Their Visitors

First national program for volunteers to visit individual Jewish inmates at federal prisons across country By Howard Blas

Tell a friend you are going to federal prison and responses vary from surprise, to sarcastic comments, to questions about why a person would spend precious volunteer time visiting someone who had committed a crime. When I was asked to take part in a new visitation program as a reporter, my own first reaction to the assignment was one of nervousness and even embarrassment. What could I possibly have in common with these guys, even if we were both Jewish? What would we talk about? How would I explain my participation in this program to my friends and family members? Why would I go through an application and screening process just to visit people who had done something bad?

I spoke to a few friends who, much to my surprise, shared with me that each of their communities had several members who had spent time in prison. I began to think about those inmates' families and what it must be like to have a family member in prison. I wondered what it's like being Jewish in prison, and what the process of re-entering the Jewish community after release is like.

I'd have to venture inside a facility to find out.

A few months later, with the help and guidance of the Chabad-Lubavitch affiliated Aleph Institute—the leading Jewish organization caring for the incarcerated and their families—I found myself passing through a metal detector and having my hand stamped at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in New York, not far from City Hall. A federal facility known for its strict security, MCC is a 12-story concrete fortress in the heart of Manhattan, a place The New York Times quotes an inmate describing as "less hospitable than Guantanamo Bay"—he would know, he'd been in both. MCC is adjacent to the courthouse where I've gone for jury duty, but I'd never even known of its existence. Stripped of my phone, keys and wallet, and with only my reporter's notebook and pen in hand, an officer led me through a series of claustrophobic passageways, eventually to the visitation floor.

In the small, triangular-shaped room where I was told to wait for the Jewish inmates I'd be meeting one at a time, I noticed a would-be inspirational poster on the wall. "Make it happen," it cheerily read. "There is no challenge too great for those who have the will and heart to make it happen."

It dawned on me that though geographically close to my own home, I was in an alternate universe.

Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar, founder and director of the Aleph Institute Visitation Opens Up

The Aleph Institute was founded in 1981 by Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar at the express direction of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, who was an early and passionate proponent of criminal justice reform. With the goal of reaching out to Jews in limited environments, Aleph has a division dedicated to the incarcerated and a separate one working with the military. It has been a pioneer in both fields.

The guiding principle behind Aleph's prisoner initiatives, following the Rebbe's leadership, is that someone who has committed a criminal act is still dear to G‑d and created in His image, with religious responsibilities, the ability to improve, and human emotional needs. Above all, each person has a unique role to play in the world, and the goal must be to assist them in reintegrating into society, where they can resume their individual missions.

"When a person finds himself in a situation of 'after the sunset,'" the Rebbe wrote in a November 1977 Chanukah letter addressed to prisoners, "when the light of day has given way to gloom and darkness—as was the case in those ancient days under the oppressive Greek rule—one must not despair, G‑d forbid, but on the contrary, it is necessary to fortify oneself with complete trust in G‑d, the Essence of Goodness, and take heart in the firm belief that the darkness is only temporary, and it will soon be superseded by a bright light, which will be seen and felt all the more strongly through the supremacy of light over darkness, and by the intensity of the contrast."

Despair and despondency is part and parcel of prison life, a feeling of being alone in a harsh, dark world. That's why Aleph's motto is: "No one alone, no one forgotten."

And by feeling "not forgotten," the chances of making a smooth post-prison transition improves drastically. Of the nearly 2.2 million people incarcerated in the United States today, nearly 75 percent will return to prison within five years of release. As reform advocates continue to work on various programs across the system to lower the recidivism rate—including pre-sentencing diversion, drug rehabilitation and, crucially, educational efforts—one aspect that has continuously borne results are visitation programs. Prisoners who maintain connections with the world outside, members of their families and communities, have a far better chance of landing on their feet once they re-enter society.

Aleph has facilitated prison visits by Chabad rabbis and rabbinical students for decades, but as I learned from Aleph Visitation Circle coordinator Binah Banayan, the process is now opening up. In fact, the Aleph Visitation Circle recently became the first organized volunteer effort in the Jewish community to involve "regular people" outside the rabbinate in one on one prisoner visitation.

"The visitation program was started with the idea in mind that there are a lot of inmates that do not get any visits from their friends or family," explains Rabbi Dovid Raigorodsky, also an Aleph Visitation Circle coordinator. "This can leave them feeling very lonely, almost like they don't matter."

Aleph contacted the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to begin the work of setting up a one-on-one volunteer visitation program, and BOP eventually granted permission. Since September of 2018 the program has enlisted 65 active volunteers who have visited 20 different federal institutions nationwide, making over 250 visits to date. Another 30 volunteers are currently pending approval by the BOP.

The process of becoming a volunteer is fairly straight-forward. When I decided to make the plunge, I completed the online application form, provided references, and a few weeks later was accepted and offered several possible visitation dates at MCC.

I carefully read the rules about the prison dress code required for visitors and policies on what they may take inside into the prison (essentially nothing). Several days before my first visit, I was given the names and inmate numbers of two Jewish prisoners and told to report at MCC.

I found the entrance and approached the check- in window—not entirely confident the clerk would find the folder with the letter authorizing my visit. To my surprise, they had the information, and I headed in.

In the Tank A federal facility known for its strict security, MCC is a 12-story concrete fortress in the heart of Manhattan.

Like the rest of the building, and despite the inspirational posters, the visitation floor is not very welcoming. Several of the rooms were occupied by attorneys meeting with their clients, clad in their drab, brown prison garb. The vending machine, I noticed, was broken.

My meetings would last an hour each, and as I waited for the guards to return with the first inmate I'd spend time with, I wondered what we'd discuss.

The first prisoner, "S," was a man approximately 55 years old. He immediately put me at ease. We spoke about our lives and learned that we had children studying in the same university, lived in a similar neighborhood and were deeply connected to Jewish practice.

Though I didn't ask, he proceeded to tell me about his financial crimes. "Everybody has problems and makes mistakes," he told me. He'd already served 15 years in prison.

S spoke fondly and with great appreciation of the rabbis who visit regularly. "You meet these people, and you are magnetized to them. Getting visits means you are alive. Visitations are called 'not forgetting;' in here, you are forgotten to the world."

He seemed to know all of the Jewish inmates, including two women who work in the commissary. He described the experience of being a Jew in prison. "It is difficult. We are a minority in the U.S., and especially here!"

S expressed great appreciation for the visitation program. "Aleph is important because when you are in here, you live in a different world than outside; you are not in touch with society. Aleph helps you know what is going on outside; we live vicariously through others." S feels that the visits by Aleph will greatly help him make the adjustment to the outside world easier after all his years behind bars. "Aleph gives services for people to re-enter society, funds for relocating and to get on our way."

Minutes after S left our meeting to return to his job, "V," a muscular man in his mid-30s, entered the small room. He, too, is committed to Jewish practice and belief, and is upset at what he describes as the lack of services Jewish prisoners receive. "There are no religious services for Jews; we get juice on Friday nights for Shabbat—no challah. This year, we did start getting matzah for Passover."

V proudly says that he puts on his tallit and tefillin each day, and prayers three times a day.

V has struggled with addiction for many years, and acknowledges his past errors. "Everybody makes mistakes in life," he says, noting that "addiction is a sickness." At the same time, he points out, "everybody deserves a second chance … we are not bad people."

V, too, feels a kinship with other Jewish prisoners. Although it will be years before he is released, V remains positive. "I know G‑d is with me. I have faith. I keep going."

The Aleph Institute's Rewriting the Sentence summit on alternatives to incarceration took place on June 17-18, hosted at the Columbia Law School. Some 400 leading jurists gathered to discuss all aspects of criminal justice reform. A Fulfilling Experience

Though my first prison visit went smoothly, on the second attempt I learned it's not always that easy. For some reason the clerk at MCC couldn't find my authorization and I was sent away without seeing the inmates I was scheduled to visit. Even more frustrating, I had no way of communicating with the inmates to explain to them what happened.

I had never met or spoken with others who have decided to spend time visiting prisoners, and I wondered if their experience was similar to mine. What did they do or speak about on their visits?

Avrumi Frankel of Lakewood, N.J., has been visiting prisoners at nearby FCI (Federal Correctional Institution) Fort Dix for about a year. After seeing an ad looking for people to read the Megillah on Purim, Frankel eventually connected with the Aleph Visitation Circle and completed all the paperwork. He has made 15 prison visits since. As opposed to the MCC, where I had been, Frankel says the visiting room at FCI Fort Dix is one big room where he can meet with many inmates at once, a reflection of the various rules and regulations that govern each facility differently.

"It is a very fulfilling experience," Frankel says. "You feel that they are desperate for visitors, and that they really appreciate it. They feel good that people are thinking about them." Frankel points out that even people not on his list come over to him during the visiting time.

Frankel has developed an ongoing, evolving relationship with the Jewish prisoners, and he makes a point to say that he never judges them—that job has already been done by someone else.

"I don't think they are bad people," says Frankel. "I think they are good people who have made bad choices."

Another volunteer I got the chance to speak with was Rabbi Zalman Gansburg. Gansburg is co-director, together with his wife, Chani, of Chabad of Palmetto Bay and Deering Bay in Florida, but as opposed to going in as a rabbi, Gansburg chose to visit prison through the Aleph Visitation Circle the same way that all non-rabbinic visitors do.

"There is a special spiritual fulfillment visiting someone in prison; the impact you have on his life is amazing," Gansburg explains. As a Chabad emissary Gansburg is no stranger to assisting people from all walks of life, and yet he feels there is something special about the simple act of visiting the incarcerated.

"You see the impact right away," he says. "How can you not when the inmate tells you you're the first visitor they have had in over a year?"

The experience has shaped the way Gansburg views and relates to all people. "It's humbling. It brings you down to reality."

Gansburg's visits have also developed over time, and what started as friendly talk about life experiences and the like now involve a formal learning component. One of the men he visits got himself a Tanya, the foundational text of Chabad Chassidic philosophy, and each of them study the same section of the Tanya. Since Gansburg isn't allowed to bring in books, now when he visits they're able to discuss their studies and trade perspectives on the Torah they've both learned.

Rabbinical students visit prisoners. (File Photo)

Gansburg hopes his own experience will encourage others to volunteer with the Aleph Visitation Circle. "When you go into a prison and interact with someone behind bars, and talk to him and try to understand him, you expand your views on life and you are able to understand people more and life more. It makes you a better father, husband, son, brother, and above all, a better person."

Judging by my own experience 1,200 miles north, I couldn't agree more.

As the program expands, volunteers are needed in every city and state—especially Brooklyn, Miami, Los Angeles, and Chicago. To date, over one hundred and four prisoners have received visitors thanks to the program. The goal, Aleph says, "is to reach every Jewish prisoner and remind them that even in prison they are never alone or forgotten."

To volunteer for the Aleph Visiting Circle, visit their website or contact Sara Schmukler at, 310-598-2142 ext. 231.

See you tomorrow

Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

PO Box 7335, Rehavia Jerusalem 9107202


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