In my career, I have had many highlights that have capped off long, hard efforts. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing work that has taken years to accomplish come to fruition. I had such a moment this past week when nearly nine years of dedicated efforts at Aish seemed to come together in the most magnificent way at the first annual Aish Legacy Summit in Miami.
When I started as the CEO of Aish, one of the first things I did was hit the road and travel around the world to meet members of the Aish family. In every city I found myself, I met incredible communal leaders who had channeled the passion of Aish founder, Rabbi Noach Weinberg, zt’l and set out to uplift the Jewish world. I kept thinking to myself that I needed to get all these glorious people in the same room.
The concept became a reality when two of our dedicated lay leaders, Dani Erber and Josef Loeffler each suggested that now is the time to convene the top members of Aish’s Pillar Society to talk about Aish’s strategic plan for the next few years. Originally we had planned to host the summit in early December, but after October 7, we decided to push the meetings to February.
A packed schedule was created so the participants could get comprehensive briefings on everything we are doing at Aish. Perhaps the most important discussion focused on AISHVision 2030. Three years ago, we set a goal to touch three million Jews and connect them to Jewish wisdom. Many thought and actually told me that we were insane. They said it was just too big a number and we needed to set our sights a little lower. I told all these naysayers that, with all due respect, (Editor’s note: when someone says “with all due respect” they really mean: “let me set you straight”), Aish needs to think bigger than big. Aish needs to set the bar higher than anyone ever could have imagined. We are not just the people of the book. We are a Nation of dreamers. That’s our legacy. That is Aish.
At the time, we had the very popular aish.com website, but otherwise, we had almost no social media presence to speak of. That is when we hired Jamie Geller as our CMO. To say she has taken us to a new level is the understatement of the century. In the last three years, we have amassed almost four million followers and by the end of this year, we will have surpassed over a billion video views. We very well could hang up our hats, declare victory seven years early, and cruise for the next seven years, but we are Aish. We never stop pushing forward. Ever. Period.
We discussed how we would now take this major population and create deeper dives for them to explore their Judaism. Rabbi Dovid Rosman, the Director of the Aish Educational Institute which covers much of our in-person programming including our Yeshiva and Seminary, gave an overview of the 62,437 participants in our Jerusalem Torah programs. This number does not include the educational programs at all of our Aish-affiliated branches around the world. In effect, in addition to our online efforts, we are educating hundreds of thousands of Jews in person around the world.
The highlight of the Legacy Summit was the banquet hosted by Michelle and Bob Diener at their home on Indian Creek Island. With a picturesque background of the sunset, we gathered to hear beautiful music from Aryeh Kunstler and words of inspiration from Aish Israel Co-Founder and Director, Rabbi Etiel Goldwicht. We were blessed to have with us the world-renowned philanthropist and businessman, Leslie Dan. Mr. Dan was Rabbi Noach Weinberg’s partner in building Aish from the start. Leslie shared that they used to fax jokes back and forth to raise each other’s spirits. At 94 years young, Mr. Dan is still very close to Aish and often sends me messages after receiving my weekly emails. We are blessed to have his children, Dr. Stuart and Andrea Hytman involved with Aish at the highest levels and the first Aish Legacy Award celebrated this inter-generational leadership.
In my keynote address which you can watch here, I spoke about the foundational building blocks of Aish and our guiding principles that will catapult us to greater heights. Being together in one room with so many philanthropic Jewish leaders and ensuring that we are aligned in our mission to Embrace, Educate, and Empower the Jewish nation, was the highlight of my career. I encourage all of you to watch the videos from the summit. Our mission has never been more important and our strength is in our unity. Unity of purpose. Unity of mission. Unity as a family. Unity with the Almighty. Together we will uplift this world so high that we will have to look down to see heaven.