This past Monday night we hosted the Triumph Leadership Innovation Jewish Social Impact “Pitch Night.” Secular Israeli millennials have completed a six-month “TLi accelerator” in which they learn about the disconnect of their peers in Israel and abroad from their Judaism, and from each other. They also learn about how to take personal responsibility for being part of the solution. Their half-year includes a trip to New York where they meet both Jewish leaders and their American counterparts. We trained them to create social impact programs for Jews around the world. So this past Monday, each team presented the big innovative idea they have been working on to increase the connection and identity of their fellow Jews to a distinguished panel of professionals and Jewish leaders. That panel chose winners who received seed funding to go out and complete their projects and change the world!
As the sun set in Jerusalem, families and friends, as well as top leading figures from Israeli society, Aish partners and friends gathered to watch their professionally prepared presentations on the Aish rooftop. This is work we are doing together, and we needed to celebrate it – together.
The next morning, I had a chance to have multiple back-to-back meetings with my direct reports for their half-year review. We are blessed to have an executive team where every single one of them could lead an organization by themselves. Everyone at Aish understands that by working together the collective is greater than what they could accomplish by themselves.
One of the things that struck me when I came to the Old City of Jerusalem seven years ago was the fact that there was not much communication among the groups that operate here. So many of us have walked through the Armenian Quarter yet have no clue who the Armenians are. I extended an invitation to the leadership of the Armenian Quarter, which they enthusiastically accepted. I had lunch with Father Koren and Father Wazgan who both lead the Armenian Seminary and Armenian Patriarche in the Old City of Jerusalem.
We had a very good conversation about the history of the Armenians and their connection to Jerusalem. I told them that my goal in bringing them to Aish was simply to get to know my neighbors. They told me that by inviting them to visit Aish, they felt I had broken the glass that separated us. There are issues that come up from time to time and now we know how to reach out to each other.
After they left I was able to spend time with a dynamic group of young men. They had come from a Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva in Brooklyn to spend time immersed in Jewish wisdom in Israel. They had come to Aish to visit with our Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits, and glean his scholarly wisdom. I had the opportunity to meet with the group in my office and discuss AISHVision 2030 with them. We talked about our methodologies for reaching out to 3 million Jews and how important it is.
I then continued on to dinner on the Diener Terrace overlooking the Western Wall. We hosted Chargee d’Affaires, Ines Demiri of the Embassy of the Republic of Kosovo in Jerusalem. We were joined by my good friends General Amir Avivi and Eli Pieprz. Kosovo, a Muslim country, had established its Embassy in Jerusalem in support of Israel. I got to know Ambassador Demiri who is an unabashedly dynamic pro-Israel diplomat. As Jews, we are extremely good at knowing who our enemies are. We are not always as good at expressing our thanks to those that have our backs. We graciously thanked her for her support of Israel and made plans to visit her Embassy in the coming weeks.
I then took the elevator down to the Gindi Hall at the Aish World Center to join the closing banquet for the Aish Summer Kollel (ASK). I had a chance to address these future leaders of the Jewish people who had spent their summer training at Aish to become passionate educators. They gave me an ASK polo shirt which I will wear with pride.
I then communicated with a dynamic podcast host named Yaakov Langer whose show “Inspiration for the Nation” is absolutely terrific. He reached out to tell me that an interview we had taped was being posted that evening. I sent him the information he needed and the conversation which focused on AISHVision 2030 was sent out to cyberspace.
There were even more meetings, introductions and visits that happened in between all of these events, but this gives you a sampling of the unique intensity of what just twenty-four hours looks like here at Aish. We are so blessed to have this extraordinary space in the heart of Jerusalem where the world truly comes together.
My friends, there is so much for all of us to do. I am constantly asked by so many what can you do for AISHVision 2030. The answer is simple. As Nike so famously said years ago: “Just Do It.”
Engage those around you. Offer them a taste of Jewish wisdom. Embrace your fellow man. Thank them for their support and kindness if warranted. In essence, be a mensch. Together, we will all continue down the road of kindness to one another and fulfilling our destiny as a people.