Russian jailbirds taught Judaism

By Nissan Tzur, February 24, 2011

Inmates in prisons around Moscow may soon be able to quote the Rambam and keep Shabbat, all thanks to a new educational project paid for by the Russian government.

Reports emerged recently that rabbis affiliated to the FJC (Federation of the Jewish Communities) will give lectures on Judaism and faith in local prisons. The project is a part of an initiative designed to give Russian inmates access to religion.

In an interview with RIA news agency, Rabbi Aaron Gurevich, head of the FJC's Russian department, said that the initiative is a result of an agreement between the Federal Penitentiary Service and his organisation. He added: "The new project addresses the need for better cultural relations between Russian believers and the state. We are very pleased that the supervisors of these detention centres agreed to these lectures."

The classes will be taught by Rabbi Gurevich himself, together with staff of the Chief Rabbinate of Russia. They will focus on Jewish tradition, High Holy Days, Shabbat, keeping kosher and halachah.

The FJC estimates that there are 1200 Jewish inmates in Russian penitentiaries.

Last updated: 2:18pm, February 24 2011