Over the years we have developed a close relationship with the UJA Federation of New York. So when they called and asked us to host the Mayor of New York City for dinner we quickly accepted. As the time grew close, his staff asked if could arrange a place where Mayor Adams could video conference with his staff back in New York. With pleasure, I offered my office. So before dinner, the headquarters of Aish Global became the global headquarters of New York City. Personally, I had an opportunity to thank the Mayor for his thoughtful letter to my family after my father’s passing. The Mayor, who knew my father, kindly described him as a “force to be reckoned with in NYC politics.”
I was honored to attend the dinner hosted by UJA Federation’s dynamic leader, Eric Goldstein who I have known and respected for many years. At the meal, many of the guests presented their programs in Israel. The last speaker surprised and inspired me. He stood and said that he wanted to explain to the Mayor where he was sitting. The gentleman said that forty years ago his father was a secular Jew traveling the world looking for spirituality. His father went to all the different eastern religions trying to find meaning in his life. Eventually, he made his way to Israel and wound up standing in front of the Western Wall. There, he met his friend named Dave who offered to bring him for a meal at Aish. He stayed for two years and reconnected with his Jewish heritage. This guest said he owed his entire family’s Jewishness to Aish. I have heard similar stories from Jews all around the world. This really is the story of Aish and I was so thankful that this gentleman gave Mayor Adams a taste of the work that we do.
Concurrent to hosting the Mayor, this week we launched the new academic year for our Yeshiva. My first stop was to speak to a group at our recently refurbished Spanish Beis Medrash which opened in our new location. To say it is beautiful would be an understatement. I encourage all of you to stop in and visit the next time you are in the Old City. I spoke to the students and visitors and told them how important Aish’s commitment was to the Jews of Latin America. I am so proud of Rabbi Zvi Klor who has led this effort for so many years, and his staff for their tireless dedication to bringing Jewish wisdom to our Spanish speaking brothers and sisters. Many thanks to Aish alumnus Rabbi Meir Rosenberg who serves as the Executive Vice President of Olami and Managing Director of Latin America for his assistance in making our Spanish dreams come true.
I then went to meet with the staff of our internationally recognized Aish Gesher program which has just undergone a name change. Less than a year ago, we were fortunate to dance on the roof of Aish with a new Torah dedicated by Bari and Dani Erber. As the year progressed, we had many conversations with the Erber family about doing something transformative and meaningful at Aish. One of their passions is building the future leaders of the Jewish people. We spoke about the vision of Aish founder, Rabbi Noach Weinberg, zt’l, to help facilitate the growth of the future leaders of the Jewish people. I was extraordinarily touched when the Erber’s decided to not only financially support the growing Gesher program, but to lend their family name to our efforts. As of this week the men’s and women’s program has officially been renamed the Aish Erber Family Gesher program. We are referring to it as EFG@Aish. It was truly touching to hear the students passionately singing the new name of the school at the Kotel.