Dear Aish Family,
One of the greatest assets of Aish has been the strength of the amazing Jews involved around the world. There is not a week that goes by that I am not moved by the fortitude and passion of those that lead the Aish movement globally to build and grow. This past week I flew south to see the phenomenal growth of our movement. I started my week in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Seven years ago, I traveled to Buenos Aires to meet with two passionate brothers named Federico and Mariano Weil. They took me to an empty lot and started to describe to me the building they wanted to build there for Aish and the Jewish community. The area was replete with a large amount of Jews who were not connected to the greater Jewish community. Under the direction of Argentina Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi Daniel Oppenheimer, they set out to build a edifice quipped to educate all the Jews of the area. Seven years later I attended the grand opening of that magnificent building.
Over a thousand Jews crammed into the new space to celebrate the inauguration of the new building and the completion of a new Torah scroll to be used there. The atmosphere was electric. I was given the honor of speaking to the crowd. I spoke about how as Jews our actions long outlast our lives. One can only imagine the reaction of the builders of the Western Wall when informed that over two thousand years later millions of Jews would still be using their wall to pray. This building will stand as a major Argentinian educational institution for generations. There was not a dry eye in the house.
I didn’t have to wait long to see it in action. The next night I was asked to give a class to an amazing group of young Jewish entrepreneurs who were a part of Olami. Olami is a dynamic worldwide Jewish educational movement. In Latin America they are led by the dynamic Aish Alum Rabbi Meir Rosenberg. They are a strong partner of Aish. Partnering with Aish board member Federico Weil as my translator I was honored to speak to them about AISHVision2030. To see 75 young Jews come for a torah class in a building that until a few years ago was an empty field was a true dream come true.
The most moving moment of my time there did not occur in the building but in the apartment of Federico Weil. I was having lunch there with Aish Executive Director Ben Gonsher and Director of the Spanish program at the Aish Yeshiva Rabbi Zvi Klor. Mariano Weil joined us and asked if he could share some words of Jewish wisdom with us. He started to talk about the Purim story and how the Almighty’s role was hidden throughout. Yet the Almighty was constantly helping the Jews out through all the difficulties. Mariano related the many obstacles he and his brother encountered building this new project for Aish. To celebrate he purchased a new Megilah scroll for his brother which he handed to him. No truer words have ever been spoken. As Jews we always fight to survive and thrive. No matter how difficult our circumstances are we know that the Almighty has and always will stand with us. I invite all of you to travel to Argentina to visit this new Judaic palace.
After the inauguration, I traveled to nearby Aish Chile. Almost five years ago I traveled to Santiago with Dr. Stuart and Andrea Hytman to celebrate the completion of the Aish educational complex and synagogue there. It was time to return to see complex in action. After lunch with Aish Rabbi Eliyahu Tamim and long time Aish board member Joel Bendersky, we went to the local day school, Maimonides and met with the headmaster Ari Wurmann.
Then we went to see the Aish building. Here, too, Aish has partnered with Olami and NCSY to make sure that young Jews have a place to go. We then went to dinner at the Bendersky home and met with the Aish Chile Board. It was amazing to be surrounded by Jews whose only goal is to build the greater Jewish community. We spoke long into the night about AishVision 2030 and our commitment to the growth of Aish in Latin America. I am now on my way to spend Shabbos in Chicago with my good friend Rabbi Dr. Leonard Matanky and the KINS community of West Rogers Park.
Spending time in Argentina and Chile and seeing the tangible commitment of the local Aish leadership working to educate all of our Jewish brothers and sisters has been moving beyond words. When I was in Mexico last week my good friend Moises Rabinovitch stopped me in the middle of my AishVision2030 presentation and said if you are shooting for 20% of world Jewish population, then our goal in Mexico is 8000 Jews. I was blown away by the brilliance and simplicity of that statement.
My friends, I know that our goal of 3 million Jews seems overwhelming. Please go look up the Jewish population of your city and calculate what 20% would be. Now you know your goal! Let’s strengthen our efforts to show at least 20% of the unconnected Jews of your city the beauty of their heritage.