Judaism inspires inmates

By Nissan Tzur, March 22, 2012

A Polish project to teach prisoners about Jewish culture as part of their rehabilitation is proving a huge success.

The Tikkun project, which was founded in 2003 by Jewish community leaders, aims to increase prisoners' tolerance of other cultures and religions. At the same time, prisoners are given the chance to help preserve and maintain Jewish cemeteries and other Jewish heritage sites in the country.

Thousands of Catholic inmates, from several prisons around Poland, participate in the programme every year.

Captain Tomasz Waclawek, Krakow's police spokesman, could barely suppress his excitement. "The programme has become very popular with the prisoners. They listen to lectures by Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, help preserve cemeteries and repair broken headstones, go on in tours of death camps and watch films on Jewish subjects."

Krzysztof, 45, a prisoner Trzebinia, in southern Poland, is serving 15 years for murder. In the past six months he has been working in the museum of Chrzanow, updating the museum's website on Jewish activities and exhibitions.

"This work has given me the chance to learn about Jewish culture, of which I knew almost nothing. Now I have discovered many beautiful and interesting things about Judaism. I am sure that this project will make me a much better person," Now, Krzysztof has one wish: "When I get out of jail, I would like to visit Israel. I have learned that it is a beautiful country."

Last updated: 4:27pm, March 22 2012