Jewish inmates in New Jersey state prisons will be permitted, for the first time in a uniform policy, to celebrate Chanukah with lit menorahs.
Matt Schuman, spokesperson with the New Jersey Department of Corrections, said in the past, the prison system’s policy on menorah lighting during Chanukah was decided on a case-by-case basis.
“We wanted to have a uniform policy that applies to every facility in the department, which was something that we hadn’t had in the past. So in conjunction with representatives of the Jewish community, we came up with a policy that complies with fire regulations and at the same time, will not disrupt the safe and secure operation of any New Jersey department of corrections facilities,” Schuman said, according to CBS News.
This year, there will be a room dedicated to menorah lighting and a staff member or community volunteer will light the candles together with the inmates.
“Our goal is to respect and accommodate religious traditions as best we can in our institutions,” said New Jersey’s Corrections Commissioner Gary Lanigan, according to Lubavitch.com. “I am pleased that collaborative discussions between the Governor’s Office, the Corrections Department and leaders from New Jersey’s Jewish community have resulted in this pilot program.”
“This is a momentous change in policy,” added Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Livingston, New Jersey. “Having people be able to celebrate their traditions is an important part of their rehabilitation.”