It's almost a given that Passover is spent with one's family, but when iron bars separate loved ones, the approach of the holiday can portend feelings of loneliness and despair.

This year, however, the Aleph Institute, a Florida-based Chabad-Lubavitch service that caters to the needs of Jewish inmates and their families, is working to ensure that those in and out of jail cells appreciate the spiritual freedom that Passover represents.

Participants of support groups coordinated by Aleph's Family Services Division, for example, are organizing their own communal Seders. One of them will take place at the home of a Florida woman whose husband is incarcerated in another state.

"It's the only way I'll have a Seder," said another woman, a 93-year-old whose 56-year-old daughter is serving time behind bars. The woman explained that she wouldn't go to a Seder anywhere else because of the stigma of having a child in prison. But at the Aleph Seder, she'll be able to bond with people facing similar challenges. Everyone will bring a separate dish, and Aleph will provide the matzah, wine and other assorted items.

Those who take part in the monthly support groups in New York and Florida say the meetings are the only time they can talk about having a loved one in prison. The sessions center on coping with, and overcoming, the obstacles facing inmates' relatives.

"It's a downward spiral from the moment of arrest," one wife explained. "All of a sudden, you're in a crisis situation you have no control over, and it doesn't end."

Outside of the support group meetings, members tend to keep to themselves, circulating very little in their communities. When Rachel Baum, Aleph's family services coordinator, initiated the idea of hosting their own Seders, the response was immediate.

One mother will be making the Seder inside a prison for her son, and is providing the food and accoutrements for all 10 Jewish inmates there.

"It's the most I can do, and the least I can do," she said. "He's my son. He's in prison for a long time, and I'm really grateful to the Aleph Institute for working it out with the prison so that I can go."

According to Rabbi Zvi Boyarsky, Aleph's director of family services, Passover is especially meaningful for the inmates who learn in Aleph's Yeshiva-in-Prison programs. He said that his division has received numerous requests from inmates worried about how their family members would celebrate the holiday, which begins April 19.

"Inmates write and ask us to help their families," said Boyarsky. "And families call and ask us to help their loved ones in prison. It's unthinkable that there might be a Jew in prison, or a family member alone somewhere, who can't get matzah and grape juice for Passover."

Rabbi Menachem Katz, director of prison programs for Aleph, reported, however, that this year's shipment of Passover supplies will be the organization's largest. Prisoners have already begun receiving matzah, grape juice, shelf-stable charoset, prepared meals, gefilte fish, soup bouillon, horseradish and chocolate.

Said Katz: "Because of our increased ability to get more food packages into the prisons, our shipments this year are greater than ever before."