Aleph's History

The Aleph Institute was founded to address the needs of incarcerated Jews distributed among facilities across the country. Beginning in the 1980s, the U.S. prison system began to grow exponentially, scattering the small number of incarcerated Jews. This led many to slip through the cracks of most chaplaincy services. Most prisons did not provide Kosher meals and were unfamiliar with the needs of prisoners who wished to follow basic Jewish ritual practices. Today, there are nearly 2.3 million people impacted by incarceration — in Pennsylvania alone, there are 48,000 people behind bars — Including 85,000 Jewish men and women incarcerated across the country. Despite a slight decrease in these numbers and a heightened focus on prison reform in the last few years, the population under correction control is still so large that if it were its own state, it would be the 16th largest in the nation. The Aleph Institute works to allow incarcerated men and women, along with their families, access to spiritual, educational, religious, and advocacy support services.
In 1991, Rabbi Moishe Mayir Vogel opened the Aleph Institute North East Region in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For years, Rabbi Vogel worked to build a strong relationship between Rabbis, inmates, chaplains, and state officials. As the numbers of incarcerated Jewish men and women increased, the demand for programs and services grew. The Institute eventually outgrew its original office and there became a need for a brick-and-mortar establishment. In 2005, the Institute purchased a facility in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community, Squirrel Hill, where it continues to provide essential programs for incarcerated individuals and their families.
Today, the Aleph Institute has evolved into the nation's most effective advocate for Jewish prisoners and their loved ones. Involving faith-based organizations like the Aleph Institute in the rehabilitation process can drastically reduce rates of recidivism, or the likelihood of recommitting criminal acts and returning to prison, from 77% to 8% . The Aleph Institute offers a variety of programs and services to help individuals — and their families — while they are incarcerated and after their release. Aleph’s programs have been implemented in dozens of regional, state and federal correctional facilities. Aleph’s staff and strong volunteer base have gained the endorsement of a skeptical prison system, thereby according the organization with a unique level of confidence and responsibility. The Aleph Institute has carved out its niche as an organization working with Jews in dire need of guidance and direction to better their own lives, and support the loved ones who surround them.
If you know of someone in prison or a family of an inmate who needs help, please do not hesitate to call the Aleph Office. We stand with our motto..."No One Alone, No One Forgotten."