I hope everyone had a wonderful Purim. The atmosphere in Jerusalem was electrifying. As Jews, we love celebrating Purim because the story has all the elements of our history contained within. A terrible antisemite seeks our destruction enabled by a foolish and weak governing body. In the end, due to the Almighty’s broader plan and the courage of a young woman, we persevere. Today, so many years later, we still face the same hate against our people. We must always trust in the Almighty that he is looking out for us and know that there are courageous Jews who will always step forward to fight for us.
This past week the Aish family suffered a sudden and tragic loss. Rabbi David Geffen is known among many of the students of Rabbi Noach Weinberg, zt’l as one of the most talented rabbis to come out of Aish. Rav Noach was famous for telling his students that if he had ten of the right Jews, he could change the world. Often he would say that Rabbi David Geffen was certainly one of those ten.
I met Rabbi Geffen early in my tenure at Aish. My close friend Jake Aronov highly recommended that we get together to share what each of us was working on. Rabbi Geffen came to my office in Jerusalem and shared his Loving World curriculum. He had mastered a teaching technique that would help students from all walks of life become better human beings. This was not a program designed for Jews alone. This was a plan to transform the entire world.
Rabbi Geffen’s background was in engineering. He studied Mathematics and Computer Science at Leeds University in the United Kingdom. He used that background to become a “Love Engineer” spreading love and kindness around the world. On his website lovingworld.com you can review the independent results of a survey done by the Gauteng Department of Education in South Africa. Incidents of bullying, violence, racism, drug abuse etc. were down significantly after they had incorporated the loving world curriculum into their classrooms.
The sheer audacity of Rabbi Geffen’s approach impressed me tremendously. He had set out to make the planet Earth a kinder and gentler place for everybody. It was the first initiative I had come across that really seemed to fulfill the Jewish mandate of being a ‘light unto the nations.’ As amazing as his program is, that was not the most important part of our meeting for me.
Rabbi Geffen told me that he had been watching what we had been doing to revitalize Aish. We spoke about the history of Aish. I shared that I had read at least 100 historical strategic plans for Aish and that almost every meeting I was having with previous students of Aish involved them giving me direction as to how they viewed the path forward. Many times these points of view were at odds with one another.
Rabbi Geffen told me that he thought we were on the right path and that we should focus on what we thought the right direction was. He said he had total faith in me and I should feel confident in leading Aish. This was one of the most uplifting meetings I have ever had. By the end of the meeting, I understood why Rabbi Weinberg had such confidence in Rabbi Geffen. He clearly thought about what was objectively good for the world and was not agenda driven. His demeanor was one of building up those around him without having to tear anyone down.
I was stunned at the news that Rabbi Geffen had suddenly left this world. A world that he strived to make better for every citizen of mankind. That meeting was the only one we had together but its impact made an indelible impression on my heart. He understood his “Why” better than anyone I had spoken with. His North Star was to make the world a kinder and more loving place.
I hope that we can achieve that clarity with AISHVision 2030 as well. Our job is to bring Jewish wisdom to the entire Jewish people so that we can be a true light unto the nations; so that we can impact humanity the way Rabbi Geffen sought to do. I would like to dedicate our efforts in memory of this gentle, loving giant. May his memory continue to be an inspiration to us all.