RV’s, Rabbis and Rosh Hashana

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The trailer was packed, and the gear was loaded. The three men jumped in, excited for the journey that lay ahead. Only they weren’t setting out on an ordinary camping trip. there would be no hikes or camp fires or beautiful sights to see. Just barbed wires, iron fences and concrete walls.

But despite the austere setting, it would nevertheless be one of their most meaningful experiences ever.

This past Yom Kippur, three Aleph volunteers, traveled to the Taft Correctional Facility in California. They ate and slept in a rented camper parked in the prison lot at night. And they lead Yom Kippur evening and day services in the prison chapel throughout the high holy days for a group of Jewish inmates.

On erev Yom Kippur, volunteer Tzvi explained to each prisoner that in forgiving himself, he is allowing G-d and others to forgive him. The next day, he and his fellow volunteers emphasized a lesson tied to the story of Yonah. They noted that when we can accept G-d’s plan, it is then that things will be calm, and we will be able to fall asleep—just as Yonah found peace only once he accepted the rough ocean waves that confronted him.

One inspired Jew said:

“It was the highlight of the year…I was always searching for other religions and until today never wanted to be Jewish, and after I now want to sign up for Aleph…I’ve been here for 5 years and only once was I at a service, but after this experience I hope to go a lot more.”

The volunteers were also deeply moved by the opportunity to share Yom Kippur with incarcerated Jews. “The time spent there was the most spiritual and inspirational holiday any of us ever experienced.”

Each year, young Aleph Rabbis and volunteers camp out in hotels and RVs and travel to prisons around the country on Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Passover.