The next day Aish Director of Political Affairs, Yanky Schwartz, accompanied me to the commemorative ceremony at the military cemetery at Har Herzl. Initially we made a wrong turn and instead of going into the VIP entrance we walked into the main entrance with over 150,000 other people. It was very crowded and it took us a long time to get our bearings. We exited the cemetery and found the entrance where we needed to be. Arriving in the hall where the program was to take place we met my good friend and brother Rafael Cohen who is the Director of Har Herzl and Director of Foreign Relations for the WZO. Rafael reserved seats for us a few rows behind the Prime Minister and President.
As we just made it with a few minutes to spare Rafael said he felt bad that we got lost. I told him that I wasn’t sorry at all. It was a heavenly gift of a wrong turn. At the cemetery I saw the Jewish Nation in action; every age, every background; every type of Jew. They had all come out to express that although the soldiers buried there are not physically with us, they still have a special place in our hearts. I was reminded of a quote by the famous Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal, who said that when he went to Heaven he would be asked by the millions of Jews who perished in the camps what he had done. He said he would respond simply: “I didn’t forget you.” I have said often that the secret to the longevity of the Jewish Nation is the love that we feel for one another. Even after we have departed this world. In some ways, our love for one another only gets stronger. I also wanted to relate another interaction I had this past week which was built on love.
A few years ago, Aish Israel led by the dynamic duo of Rabbi Shimmy Kaufman and Rabbi Etiel Goldwicht started a program called TLi, Triumph Leadership Innovation. A cohort of 40 Israeli millennials are a part of a three-month program to create innovative start up ideas to help the global Jewish community. The program culminates with a ‘pitch night’ on the roof of Aish and the winning team receives funding for their idea. Most of the participants come from a secular background and have served in serious positions within the IDF. As part of the program the participants take an 8-day trip to New York to experience the Jewish community there firsthand.
A few years ago one of our donors suggested that he would sponsor a night in a hotel in Williamsburg where members of the Hasidic community there could meet and discuss various issues in a comfortable environment. For the past few years, my travel schedule had not allowed me to participate in this particular event. This year, I bent over backwards to make sure I could attend.
My friends, there are no words to describe the scene. Jews who differed on so many issues sat and talked about their differences over drinks. They had a band and the participants began dancing with their Hasidic brethren. I looked up and saw Rabbi Etiel on someone’s shoulders as the group sang Am Yisrael Chai. The love in that room was real and overwhelming.
I found myself in both places shedding tears. In Williamsburg they were tears of joy seeing Jews connecting and loving one another. In Har Herzl, they were tears of gratitude for those who sacrificed their lives so our Nation could survive and thrive. My precious brothers and sisters, this is what Judaism is all about. It is about loving one another. It is about defending one another. It is about coming together as a unified family as the Almighty intended us to be. If we successfully keep the message of unity and love in our hearts then nothing can stop the Jewish Nation.
with open arms.