Niles rabbi wants to put God in prison

Rabbi Binyomin Scheiman with two inmates
Rabbi Binyomin Scheiman with two inmates

Here’s an article that ran in the Burr Ridge Sun-Times this summer:

BURR RIDGE — Maureen Headington has never spent a night in jail, but until recently she was in her own little prison.

“I didn’t leave my home here in Burr Ridge for months,” Headington said of the time following the deaths of both her parents.

Then she met Rabbi Binyomin Scheiman of Niles. As he has done for so many others, Scheiman helped Headington emerge from a dark place and to start living again.

“His work is about transforming darkness into light,” said Headington, who is now returning the favor by helping Scheiman to expand the ministry he began 33 years ago.

Scheiman travels 70,000 miles each year visiting Jewish inmates in jails and prisons across the state. He provides spiritual guidance, counseling and hope to Illinois inmates, ex-offenders and their families.

His goal is to turn people around and to help them stay out of prison.

Until recently, Scheiman’s efforts were funded by the state, but that funding has taken a hit. Rather than cut back, however, Scheiman has increased his fundraising efforts, with hopes of expanding the scope of his work.

“I lost my wife of 33 years to a battle with breast cancer in May,” Scheiman said.

He since has renamed the Jewish Prisoners Assistance Foundation the HINDA Institute, after his wife, Hinda.

“It’s an acronym for Helping Individuals Ascend,” Scheiman said.

With an annual fundraising goal of $250,000, the Des Plaines-based institute is expanding its focus to offer more support to people once they are released from custody. He hopes to offer more family mentoring and support, jobs assistance, and mental health services.

After a few months, the HINDA Institute has reached nearly one-quarter of its goal.

“We went from zero to 60 (thousand dollars),” Scheiman said.

To help spread the word, Scheiman is adding some speaking engagements to his already busy schedule.

His work is with individual people. But Headington said it is society that ultimately will benefit from fewer people heading back to prison. That fact was recognized in June when Scheiman accepted the Honorable Gerald C. Bender Humanitarian Award from the Decalogue Society of Lawyers.

“I’m humbled,” Scheiman said of the award. “I’m just doing what I’m doing.”

Reposted from original article in the Burr Ridge Sun-Times, August 02, 2013, BY SANDY ILLIAN BOSCH | | @sandydoings

(We have amended the spelling of “HINDA Institute” in this post.)

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