Let My People Eat

Jewish prisoners in Danish jails get to eat Kosher food thanks to Chabad Rabbi in CPH

Written by Shanie Barenboim

Having Kosher food as a default is taking for granted in big Jewish communities like Israel for example. But the situation in the prisons of Denmark can be challenging for those who want to observe Torah. Therefor, the Chabad Rabbi in Copenhagen, Yitzi Lowenthal, cares for the religious needs of the Jewish prisoners.

“I live here for the past 20 years, and I have visited about 25 Jews in jail”, he says. “Most of the Jewish people that get to Danish prison are convicted of drug dealing, for example Israelis that smuggle Khat, which is illegal here”.

Rabbi Yitzi Lowenthal with his family (private album)

How do you fulfill the special requests of Jewish prisoners?

“Usually I ask the Priests, and they help me to hand out Kosher food inside. In more urgent cases I try to find some solutions that Jewish traditions may offer. For instance, we had one quite religious girl that refused to eat all kinds of food she got. I was worried, so I told her that according to Judaism, you must eat because your life depends on it. Even though the food isn’t Kosher, she could eat fresh vegetables or dry food until I got the permission to send her Kosher meals”.

 What’s the story you remember the most?

“Two young Jewish women got to spend a month in custody over winter, and during Chanuka. I’ve asked the priest to take some Chanuka Doughnuts with him, and he asked the girls to come to his office in jail – they lit the candels thanks to him and got to observe the holiday”.

Chabad House in Copenhagen (taken by Shanie Barenboim)

How do you deal with the moral challenge of helping people that went  the wrong way?

“Part of the role of the Rabbi is to help a person that is going through a certain situation. If I’m able to give you meaning to what you’re doing, it’s gonna give you the strength to deal with the situation”.

This story is written for an audience in Israeli, and could be published on www.ynet.co.il