Inmates at Rikers Island prison were treated to simcha yom tov with a sukkah on site, dancing, shaking lulav and esrog and davening.
Have you ever thought what Sukkos would look like in a dark and cold prison cell or what it would be like? What about how such a lonely experience could be so overwhelming?
No Sukkah to eat. No Yom Tov food to enjoy. No lulav and esrog to shake. No dancing music. No Torah for a minyan. All that remains are the memories of the past and the painful reality of inability to perform the Mitzvot of Sukkos.
Thanks to the Lubavitch Youth Organization (LYO) for not letting a Sukkos through, while a Yid sits behind bars without the means to truly live Zman Simchaseinu. LYO strives for the Yidden of Rikers Island to receive and experience the joys of Sukkos.
Early Thursday morning, the day of Chol Hamoed, a bus full of Yungerleit and Bochurim headed to Rikers Island to bring the Mitzvot of Sukkos and the joy of Yom Tov to Neshamos who had been eagerly awaiting this opportunity.
Security cleared, the group happily made their way to the large gymnasium, as the sounds of V’samachta B’chagecha echoed through the long corridors of darkness, bringing light and warmth to all who were close enough. to hear.
In this large hall, facial expressions began to change. The mood started to change and the positive vibes picked up speed. There was so much human interaction between one Yid and another that the smiles and laughter began to create a ripple effect throughout the room.
Thanks to Avigdor Zeitlin and his orchestra, a full orchestra was put together. The Arba Minim slowly made its way into the room, enabling everyone to fulfill this precious mitzvah. Then, in small teams, through metal detectors, the Yidden made their way to the Sukkah. Once inside the canvas walls and under the bamboo mat, a warm Leishev B’Sukkah was made. Yidden was inspired and uplifted by learning that being in the Sukkah is like sitting in Hashem’s arms, regardless of a person’s position. With tablecloths on the tables, a full Yom Tov meal, complete with snacks and treats, was spread out for everyone to enjoy.
An even greater treat, a Sefer Torah was taken to prison, something rare and extremely special. Everyone could hear the sweet melodies of Torah leining, and every Yid got Aliyah!
Once the Torah was wrapped in a Tallis, the dancing and singing began. With each new song that played, the joy in the room intensified. Bringing everyone together to participate, no one was left out, everyone was involved. Clown costumes were put on and juggling acts were performed. The room was warm and everyone was filled with joy.
At one point during the celebrations, a woman said, “This is the happiest day of my life.
Another individual, upon seeing a photo of the Rebbe, wept and said, “The Rebbe touches my heart.
The program ended with an emotional Ani Maamin standing together with her arms wrapped around each other. Then the Shema was recited, and the organizers expressed their desire to celebrate with everyone freely outside very soon!
Everything was packed up and loaded back onto the bus. It was a beautiful day and a truly uplifting event. The organizers of this day said: “Thank you to the Rebbe and the kochos granted to LYO, and to all the volunteers, to be able to organize this event.
Thanks are also in order for the rabbi Zalman Tevel, who organized and organized all the events of the day. and to Rabbi Hecht, Rabbi Kresmersid and Rabbi Mia, Chaplains of Rikers Island, who have been so dedicated to ensuring that the needs of every Jew on Rikers Island are met.
Additionally, this program was dedicated to the memory of R’ Avrahom ben Chaim Mordechai a”h Kessler, whose Shloishim was on that day. May his Neshoma have an aliyah.
May we not need to organize events like this in the future!