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Another Fallen Angel

Dear Aish Family,

I know I sound like a broken record when I consistently talk about all of you as the Aish family. It may sound trite or patronizing but I really truly feel this way about all of you. We share a common purpose. A common vision. A common language. We are “comrades-in-arms” and therefore are connected as brothers and sisters.

As such, I would like to share a few thoughts from this week. As we were preparing for the wedding of one of our most popular students, Will Wolfowich, we received the heartbreaking news that one of our students, Joshua Carr a’h, suddenly passed away. Josh had spent time during the covid outbreak, learning and growing at our Yeshiva, and his death is a blow to all who knew him. In this video made only a few weeks ago, Josh talks about the great gift of Torah that he received from his good friend at Aish, Evan Hendel, who convinced him to start studying Talmud every day.

Josh recently completed tractate Rosh HaShana. This gave him a new view on life as he recently was in the ICU for over two weeks. As he awoke from his coma, Josh’s first thoughts were: “I have to catch up on my Talmud study.” The Torah gave Josh, who has been battling illness all his life, a perspective on living and ultimately dying. Our hearts go out to the Carr family during this difficult time. I would ask that all of us study Torah in his merit.

Concurrently with mourning this sad loss, we celebrated the very joyous wedding of Will and Elisheva. Will has been studying at Aish for the past few years. His story was famously written up in an article a few years ago. His path back was not simple. An incredibly inquisitive and passionate person, Will at first came to Israel traveling to many Palestinian villages looking for answers. Eventually he found himself at our Yeshiva where he could ask any question and find many people willing and able to provide intelligent, thoughtful answers.

As I travel around the world many times, I get asked why we have a Yeshiva at the core of our institution. Our goal is to spread Jewish wisdom to three million Jews. The Yeshiva only covers a few hundred students and is costly. How is the Yeshiva mission aligned to AISHVision 2030? Surely there must be more cost-effective ways to accomplish our goals.

My feelings on the matter are plain and simple. The Jewish Nation has always been strengthened and our continuity has been insured by the institution called the Yeshiva. Going all the way back to the Bible, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob studied at the first Yeshiva of Shem and Ever. The Talmud was written at the famous Yeshivas of Sura and Pumpedisa. The Yeshiva has always been the heart of the Jewish people and thus it is the heart of Aish.

We know that Will will now become a great leader among the Jewish people because he is being trained at the greatest leadership academy ever known to mankind. The Yeshiva. Our Yeshiva gives every student a pathway to living just as it did for Josh Carr, a’h until his untimely death. We all must learn how to live life to its fullest until our road in this world ends.

I also want to highlight the role of a very special couple. Will comes from a very loving family, who we were delighted to host for the wedding. Yet, it is hard to be so far from family. Rachel and Alex Katz have consistently opened their home to all of our Yeshiva students. Will and so many others have become a part of the Katz family. Thank you Rachel and Alex for showing us what it is like to love our fellow Jews.

My friends, love is really what this world comes down to. A world without love is no world at all. We must love to live and we must live to love. We must love our families. We must love the Almighty. We must love ALL Jews. We must love each other. You are my family. You are the Aish family. I love you all and I hope you can learn to love each other. There is no greater gift that we can give our Father in heaven than for his children to love one another.