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Going the Extra Mile

Message from the

Desk of Rabbi Steven Burg

Dear Aish Family,

One of the tenets I have tried to live by is to say the same things in public that I would in private.Therefore, I took the proverbial pen to paper last week to write an Op-Ed regarding who should be the new head of the Jewish Agency. I firmly believe that Aish’s foray into social media needs to be replicated by every responsible Jewish organization. We must speak the language of “the street.” Clearly, young Jews are communicating through social media. Therefore I loudly proclaimed that whoever takes over the $450,000,000 NGO needs to communicate directly to the younger generation about the importance of Israel and our heritage.

I have received a tremendous amount of feedback from Jews all around the world, Jewish Agency Board members and a few candidates. Please take the time to read my Op-Ed, “Why We Need to Care About the Jewish Agency,” and send me your thoughts.

Last week I had the honor and pleasure of traveling to Aish Detroit. Rabbi and Rebbetzin Simcha and Estee Tolwin have built a dynamic branch of Aish HaTorah. Perhaps what is most special about Detroit is that it was started by Simcha’s father, Rabbi Alon Tolwin, who was one of Rav Noach’s first students. The warmth and drive of the Tolwin family permeates every aspect of Aish Detroit. I knew this when traveling to Detroit, but I didn’t know the true picture until I sat with one of the Aish board members.

I landed and went straight to lunch with one of the more senior Aish Detroit board members. We spent over two hours discussing politics, religion and more. At one point, she shared with me a story about how she had come to realize that Rabbi Tolwin was her Rabbi for life. Her sister in Birmingham, Alabama had taken ill at a very young age and unfortunately passed away. She went for the funeral and her extended family was beyond distraught. Suddenly, the doorbell rang. She answered the door and before she knew it, Rabbi Tolwin walked in. On his own, he had flown in to be there for her and her family in a time of deep crisis. She shared that this selfless act defined her relationship with the Rabbi and she would support him for life.

This story really resonated with me. Rabbi Tolwin had chosen to act first and ask questions later. He knew there were Jews in pain and that the secret to Jewish continuity is that we are all family. Therefore he put everything aside and went to bring comfort to the family. This is and must continue to be Aish.

With Rosh HaShana coming in a few days, we must think about who we want to be this next year. Do we want to be the person who is self absorbed and focused on the image staring back at us from the mirror? Or do we want to be someone who puts others’ needs first. Who cares about our Jewish brothers and sisters above all else. At Aish, our ethos demands that we take responsibility for all Jews. To be successful, this task must be shrouded in love.

On behalf of my personal and Aish family, I want to wish you all a year full of love and laughter. A year of health and joy. A year of passion and dedication. A year of growth and inspiration. A year of spiritual closeness to the Almighty in Heaven. Shana Tova U’Metuka!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Steven Burg