LANSING (AP) — Michigan’s prison system is keeping Jewish inmates from celebrating Hanukkah because they are not allowed to use matches or lighters, according to a national humanitarian organization.
The Surfside, Florida-based Aleph Institute says prisoners are unable to light menorahs over the eight-day Hanukkah observance that started Saturday.
Michigan’s Corrections officials “should have a little compassion,” Rabbi Menachem Katz told The Detroit News.
“Instead of trying to figure out a way to work it out, they say ‘no,'” said Katz, director of prison and military outreach for the Aleph Institute.
A few dozen prisoners have asked to light menorahs, Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz told the Detroit Free Press.
But prison policy prevents inmates from possessing candles, lighters and other incendiary devices during group religious services or activities.
The rule is in line with federal prisons and other state prisons, according to Gautz, who noted that it was an oversight for a few Michigan prison facilities that previously allowed some inmates to have and light candles during Hanukkah.
Inmates can light menorahs if prison staffers or volunteers hold the matches or lighters for them, he added.
Katz said that would be difficult because staffers or volunteers would have to attend ceremonies each of Hanukkah’s eight nights.
The Aleph Institute sent 20 boxes of Hanukkah candles to a facility in Macomb County, near Detroit. The institute was told a rabbi would need to visit the prison to light the menorahs.
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