When a Jewish person dies in prison, there may be nobody to organize or pay for the burial. The chaplains at Hinda Institute are often called to help facilitate the logistics for a Jewish burial.

Sometimes we are the "only family" for our clients on the outside as well. All Jewish lives have meaning and value and deserve funerals that are done with the respect and dignity deserving of a Jewish soul.

We want to thank Chicago Jewish Funerals for their generous sponsorship

 funeralhome.jpg

  CIRCLE OF GIVING

Rabbi Shneur Scheiman had been visiting a Jewish man; M at the prison hospital for over 6 years. During that time, M was happy to put on tefillin (phylacteries) and reconnect with his Judaism and G‑d. At some point due to his illness, his arm became too weak and the tefillin bothered him. Rabbi Shneur Scheiman and M decided to put tefillin on his head only which continued monthly despite him being in a terrible mood most times due to pain.

Rabbi Shneur Scheiman continues: "For the past few months, he was so moody and weak that he did not agree to put on any Tefillin, but we continued to visit him and tried to make him smile. On Monday August 26th, I had my monthly visit to that prison. I considered skipping the visit to this man, figuring that he'd likely not be interested in even talking. I decided to go to him anyways. He was sitting up in a wheelchair (usually he's in bed) and looked relatively good. I asked him if he would like to put on Tefillin. He said "Yes". Seeing that it may be possible this time, I asked if we can put Tefillin on his arm, something he hadn't done in many, many months. He agreed. I carefully wrapped Tefillin on his shriveled arm, making sure not to cause him discomfort. Together we recited the Shema (Jewish prayer attesting to belief in one G‑d). His soul must have known that this was the last chance- 10 days later, his soul returned to its maker. " Who knows what the mission of M's soul was in this world, but in some way he did good and returned (did teshuvah). 

The circle of caring and story does not end here however. We needed to give M a Jewish burial. Mr. David Jacobsen of Chicago Funeral Homes once again stepped up to the plate. Despite the fact that we have imposed on him time and again, he obviously has a tremendously kind Jewish heart and empathizes with human suffering. We now just needed to transport the body. Another client of ours L who had been out of prison for 17 years empathized with this other Jew he did not even know and donated the $750 for the transport.  This was a true example of community and "chesed shel emet"; real charity without recompense. 

We want to thank the mysterious L for his kindness and Mr. Jacobsen for his continual kindness support which is above and beyond the call of duty and finally our chaplains for never giving up hope. 


 

SAVING SOULS - SUPPORTING OUR CLIENTS FOR LIFE AND THEN BEYOND

When Masha (a fictitious name to protect the privacy of the individual) passed away this year, there were no funds or family to organize her burial.  Masha had battled an addiction to alcohol her whole life. At one point, Masha became incarcerated for about a year related to her addiction. Eventually her two boys were taken from her and taken to foster homes and Masha lost touch with them. Despite these losses, Masha fought her demons with great strength to regain self-respect. She finally got control of her addiction while in tremendous pain from illness. She was never incarcerated again. Bubbe Masha will be remembered for her generous and kind nature and continual uproarious sense of humor, despite being in a wheelchair and in pain. Masha never forgot her compatriots in the correctional institute and would send them money or deli sandwiches. As much as possible, Masha tried to stay connected to her heritage.    

Masha had been a client of the Hinda Institute for over 20 years and was always happy to receive our weekly phone calls, visits and holiday packages. Masha fought for dignity in life and deserved to die with Jewish dignity.  While she had kind non Jewish friends, no one including Masha had the resources for a Jewish burial. The only options were an ignoble mass burial or even worse a mass cremation which is against Jewish law. The Hinda Institute stepped in. With the help of Mr. David Jacobson and Jeremy Seaver from Chicago Jewish Funeral Homes, Masha got a true Jewish burial; a burial that celebrated her life, her courageous Jewish soul and her successes -- because every Jewish life counts. Masha, we will miss you. A special thank you to Mr. David Jacobson from Chicago Jewish Funeral Homes for sponsoring this Jewish burial. We are grateful, and we are sure Masha in heaven is as well.