Prisoners are Worthy of Respect

On the weekend after Shavuos 5745, the Aleph Institute organized a two-week Torah Study Retreat in Crown Heights for Jews in federal prisons.

in the program was participation in the Rebbe's farbrengen (public gathering) on Shabbos afternoon.

Shortly before the farbrengen, Rabbi Leibl Groner, the Rebbe's secretary, came looking for the institute's director, Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar. "The Rebbe has asked," Rabbi Groner told him, "that the prisoners not be seated together at the farbrengen, but be interspersed among the crowd."

Rabbi Lipskar looked at him quizzically; he had reserved seating in one area, and re-seating the participants would involve considerable adjustments. Rabbi Groner, however, proceeded to explain the Rebbe's reason. If they are seated together, the Rebbe had said, people will ask who they are. It will be said that they are prisoners, and this will be embarrassing to them. To prevent this from happening, they should be seated separately.

The Rebbe also explained that although at the end of the farbrengen he would be distributing bottles of mashkeh, he would not give a bottle to this group, although they were most deserving of this extra concern. This would attract attention, and their identity would be revealed. Rather than risk causing them embarrassment, the Rebbe preferred not to give them mashkeh. Instead, the Rebbe raised their spirits by including in that farbrengen an extraordinarily forward-looking dissertation concerning prisoners.

The Chabad Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson shows great sensitivity to the dignity, feelings & respect of Jewish federal prisoners visiting him in 770, taking great pains to insure that no negative attention is drawn to them, that they shouldn't be embarrassed