The Brussels-based European Aleph Institute has announced the opening of its new, Five-Point Purim program for Jewish prisoners, elderly and ill throughout Europe.
The program, overseen by Aleph Director Rabbi Levi Kanelsky, is designed to bring a happy Purim to many thousands of people in various European countries. It contains five features:
- "Feasting and Happiness" - Purim meals, as required by Jewish Law, accompanied by live music
- "Megillah Reading" - the printing and dissemination of thousands of copies of Megillat Esther, one of the 24 books of the Bible and the one that is read aloud in synagogues twice during the Purim holiday. The Books will be translated into five languages.
- "Mishlo'ach Manot" - the Rabbinically-ordained sending of food packages to friends on Purim
- "Matanot LaEvyonim" - in fulfillment of the requirement to give charity to the poor on Purim. Coupons for various stores and prison canteens are distributed.
- "Az Lama Lo Kol Yom Purim?" - In possible answer to the question why we do not celebrate Purim every day, a surprise gift described as "revolutionary" will be distributed.
The total cost of the campaign is expected to reach one million Euros, subsidized largely by the European Jewish Development Fund (EJDF). Rabbis and Jewish communal leaders throughout the continent have been contacted to sign up.
The EJDF was founded two years ago by Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor for the specific goal of strengthening Jewish life in Europe. It supports programs aimed at building Jewish identity and Jewish pride, especially by re-connecting young people with their rich and vital Jewish past. It also focuses on addressing such serious threats to Jewish life in Europe as assimilation, anti-Semitism and racism.
The European Aleph Institute is an affiliate of the Florida-based Aleph Institute, which runs educational and kindness programs for Jewish prisoners throughout the United States. The number of Jewish prisoners in the United States is estimated at between 5,000 and 8,000, out of some two million prisoners in total. This puts the Jewish representation at about a fifth or less of its proportionate representation in the American population.
Representatives of Aleph visit Jews even in remote prisons throughout the U.S. They further encourage writing and encouraging Jewish prisoners, via programs such as www.jewishpenpals.org.
The European Aleph program similarly places an emphasis on the estimated Jewish prisoners in Europe. After its recent Chanukah program, European Aleph Institute Executive-Director Rabbi Levi Kanelsky said, "Chanukah is the festival of lights and we must send this light to all places of darkness - especially to those in prison and to the hearts of the inmates."