Recent years have brought remarkable change to Russia's citizens, especially to its Jews. But for the incarcerated segment of the country's population, change is moving at a snail's pace, if at all.
That may begin to change now that Russia's infamous IK-22 prison some 350 miles east of Moscow, will receive a gift that will give inmates jobs and help them adapt to society once they are released, says a JTA report.
The Russian Jewish Congress, the Federation of Jewish Communities and the Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations are donating 33 machines for a new sewing facility in Russia's only prison camp for foreigners.
The JTA reports that according to a questionnaire sent to prisons this year, 242 Jewish prisoners are incarcerated in Russia. But, it goes on to say that Chabad's Rabbi Aron Gurevich of the Federation of Jewish Communities believes the number is probably closer to 1,000, with the disparity reflecting prisoners' reluctance to reveal their identity. "Many prisoners may not want to disclose their Jewish background, while some others may have falsely indicated they were Jewish in order to receive additional humanitarian aid from the Jewish community," the report attributes to Gurevitch.
With Chabad in the US in the vanguard of outreach to Jewish prisoners under its well established Aleph Institute, the trio may find themselves looking westward for inspiration and ideas in rehabilitating this neglected population.