Stanley I. Robin
After ten years in three pulpits as an Assistant Rabbi, religious educator/Associate Rabbi, and Rabbi, I realized that I needed a different, more fulfilling Rabbinate.
During my last four years as a pulpit Rabbi, I was also a part-time prison Chaplain serving Jewish men in minimum, medium, and maximum custodies (Tehachapi and San Luis Obispo State Prisons).
As time passed, I realized this was my Rabbinate. Two values helped me to choose this prison Rabbinate:
- The importance of establishing good relationships with Jewish and non-Jewish Chaplains as I did in the Army Chaplaincy.
- People need, more than anything else, different levels of professional and semi-professional clinical help to begin freeing themselves from the “layers of mud” (protective mechanisms) that prevented them from experiencing confidence and happiness.
Using these two principles, I created meaningful and joyful Jewish programs for Jewish inmates and their families for Rosh Hashanah and Passover. These included dinners and religious services. Once again, lives were enriched. Families were reconciled.
I also celebrated many other Jewish holidays with the men: Sukkahs were built and the men were able to celebrate the holiday in it. We also celebrated most of the other Jewish holidays with religious services, music, films, and festival foods.
At California Men’s Colony (prison), San Luis Obispo, California, I created a Jewish AA inmate program with the assistance of an AA Jewish free person (20 years alcohol/drug free). The Protestant Chaplain assisted me in a variety of ways to make this program succeed. The program successfully continues today even though I served several other prisons after CMC and finally retired ten years later. I still consult with the Rabbi, the AA Jewish person, and the same Protestant Chaplain.
In other prisons that I later served, I successfully continued many of these programs.
I also was instrumental in helping part-time non-Jewish programs to succeed: Native Americans, Muslims, and Buddhists. Again lives were physically and mentally “saved,” and family ties were strengthened.
The cooperation of other Chaplains, both Jewish and non-Jewish, the prison staffs and Wardens, the Los Angeles Jewish Chaplaincy Board, and, of course, what I learned at HUC, have enabled me to continue to fulfill my life as a Rabbi and a mench.