One of the staples of Aish throughout our history has been the Discovery Seminar. These intellectually stimulating classes made any and every Jew that participated think long and hard about the divinity of the Bible. So many Jews walked into those rooms unsure whether Judaism played any role in their lives. Everyone left understanding the relevance and importance of Judaism on the world stage and so many made life changes as a result.
It is within this context that I was exceptionally proud that Aish New York made the important decision to resume the Discovery Seminar in Manhattan this past week. We were sold out and received rave reviews. As we tweak our content and make sure that our curriculum is up to date, keep a sharp eye out for a Discovery seminar in your neighborhood.
This past Shabbos, my family and I traveled to Lakewood, NJ. Over the past few months I have gotten to know many of the Jews in Lakewood and I was impressed by their dedication to Jewish outreach and engagement. I have known some of the members of the premier organization, Torah Links which is based in Lakewood for many years. They have always played an important role in bringing Jews closer to Jewish wisdom.
During a meeting facilitated by Aish alumnus Jeff Schachter with Michael Bauman, Rabbi Yehuda Farber and Rabbi Aaron Gruman a few months ago, they told Rabbi Elliot Mathias and me about their plans to build an educational center for young men in their community. I was eager to see it for myself so I accepted Michael’s invitation to spend Shabbos at his home.
Over Shabbos I met so many amazing Lakewood Jews who care so deeply for the Jewish people. It was a pleasure getting to know Aish Alumnus, Dr. Howard Lebowitz who was instrumental in this project, and it was clear that this center would be cared for by the entire community. Saturday night arrived and my family and I were given a VIP tour of the facility. There are no words to describe how exquisite the building is. It was built to accommodate students who already had studied in Israel and needed a place to continue their studies. Every inch is well planned. There are study areas and also rooms to do outside work they may have as well. This program will become the most amazing pipeline for our students as they return to America.
The highlight of the center was a synagogue ark which dates back to the 1500’s in Italy. Due to assimilation and intermarriage, the Italian Jewish community had shrunk over the centuries. As a result, a number of synagogues stood abandoned. Someone had brought this particular ark to Israel where it sat in a storage facility. When the Torah Links facility was under construction, someone suggested that it would be a monumental center piece. So it was acquired, shipped and reassembled in New Jersey. As Michael said to me, what better sign that the Jewish people are thriving than to take an ark that had been abandoned due to assimilation and place it in a facility where young men would reclaim their heritage.
I was so moved by my visit. Here was a thriving Jewish community which could have rested on its laurels. The Jews of Lakewood have no shortage of people studying Jewish wisdom and practicing Jewish rituals. Yet, they built a large institution right in the middle of their community to celebrate and welcome Jews they have never met. This is what being a Jew is all about. We care for brothers and sisters that we have never met. AishVision 2030 is not just Aish’s vision. It is a vision for the Jewish Nation. We are only as strong as the love that Jews have for each other and the Almighty. I am indebted to the entire Bauman family for opening up their home so graciously to the Burgs so we could be inspired by their commitment to the Jewish people. I want to invite all of you to stop in Lakewood to see this magnificent palace. Then you must return to your homes and create your own space for the Jews that you have not met yet.