Keren Hateshuva's Jerusalem program is generously supported by the
Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
Keren Hatshuva was founded in 1972 by Rabbi Avraham Hazan, the Israel Police and Prisons’ Service Chief Chaplain. He established this voluntary non – profit organization in order to assist ex- convicts in their first fragile steps outside the prison walls.
The most important need was to separate them from their former life of crime. Rabbi Hazan came to an amazing realization that had proved itself time after time in reality: Any ex –convict that reintegrated into normative society through carefully measured and systematic Torah observance was substantially more successful in remaining part of the greater community, thus contributing to his own self-actualization, his family and neighbors and to the entire society.
Rabbi Hazan established Keren Hatshuva precisely to assist these ex- convicts who committed themselves to a Torah – observant lifestyle. His efforts were endorsed and supported by all the ministers of police during his tenure and subsequent retirement – Chaim Bar Lev, Shlomo Hillel and Tzachi Hanegbi.
Rabbi Hazan directed the Keren through his official retirement in 1992, eventually turning over chairmanship and management of the organization to his son Yoel, in 2000. Over the past seven years, Yoel Hazan has had the challenging task of directing the Keren through a period of change and diminishing government funding, but has the good fortune to be supported in his efforts by an experienced and motivated Board of Directors, who willingly volunteer of their time, expertise and money in order to ensure the work of the Keren.
The Keren has earned admiration and regard from all the government authorities involved in rehabilitation of offenders – from the Israel Prison Service, through the Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Authority. Research conducted by the IPS in 1999 revealed an astounding finding: 92% of the Keren’s clientele were successfully integrated back into normative life. This finding is significant when compared to the recidivism rates of all offenders who do not participate in any rehabilitation program; the latter rate hovers at 67%, the Keren’s rate is an astounding 8%. Independent research conducted by Bar Ilan University criminologist, Dr. Uri Timor in his doctoral thesis, reinforces the qualitative gap between the Keren’s approach and other programs. Further, Dr Timor demonstrated that the Keren’s long –term success rates are unparalleled, and that the reality on the ground might provide even more spectacular results.
The Keren operates in several realms, but its prime task is to identify potential candidates while they are still in prison. The Israel Prison Services cedes responsibility for the relevant offenders’ rehabilitation to the Keren, and immediately upon the prisoner’s release, the Keren begins the challenging task of finding him employment and in certain cases, identifies relevant professional retraining programs. In addition, the Keren assists the former convicts with medical and dental treatment where necessary, encourages, counsels and helps its clientele to renew their family life – or for single ex- offenders to get married, and even provides funding for family lifecycle celebration expenses, especially for newly – born children.
Yet another support realm lies in locating and renting apartments for ex- offenders in “clean” and safe neighborhoods, far from the previous cities where they first slipped into a life of crime. Finally, the Kern provides funding for essential pre- festival expenses, social bonding events, vacation and recreation excursions. Through its long experience, the Keren –through its staff, leadership and volunteers - has come to be seen as the default family that many of its clients lacked in those critical teen and young adult years before sliding into crime.