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Lead by Example

Dear Aish Family,

It was so good to see so many of you in person this past week in Jerusalem. So many Jews have made it their business to return to Israel after two long years. The streets are teeming with people. Friday night at the Kotel was the fullest it’s been in a very long time. Aish hosted both the Chizuk mission and Aish Destiny mission this past week. The message has gone out loud and clear that Israel is open for business again!!

One of the most special things that I get to do in my job is meeting with students. As I am often at Aish until late at night I let the students know that they can come speak to me in my office. I also had the chance to address the Yeshivat HaKotel Leadership Program this week as I do every year. Many times our talks center around the next steps these young men will take in life and ultimately how to become a leader.

One young student came into my office and immediately started to speak about what was going on in Ukraine. He told me how much it troubled him and how concerned he was about the direction of the world. Then he changed the subject and said that the real reason he was there was to discuss how to become a leader. I told him that at Aish our philosophy revolves around taking responsibility to solve issues facing the Jewish people. If the war in Ukraine truly bothered him he should go out and try to help the Jews there.

Earlier this week we coordinated a public zoom call with Rabbi Refael Kruskal who as the CEO of the Tikvah Odessa Children’s Home for orphans, personally saw the evacuation of hundreds of children. Even though we just finished our major fundraising campaign for the year we asked all of you to contribute to help the Jews of Ukraine. One doesn’t become a leader by talking. One becomes a leader by doing!

Two of our students took this approach to heart. Although Aish student Shmuli Vladimirskiy now lives in Chicago, his father comes from Kyiv, Ukraine. When he heard all that was happening, Shmuli reached out to the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine Rabbi Yakov Bleich to determine what the needs were. He then started a social media campaign to raise tens of thousands of dollars for the Jews of Ukraine.

Shmuli then found out about a field hospital near Kyiv which needed diapers, baby wipes, baby food, etc. He joined with Aish student Eitan Kastner of Long Island to raise thousands of dollars from friends in Israel. They then set out to buy these products and located a humanitarian plane that could deliver the items. They said they were inspired by Aish Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits, who stood up in the Beis Medrash and told the students they each have a responsibility as a Jew to help the world.

Shmuli and Eitan embody the spirit of Aish. For almost 50 years Aish has been at the forefront of creating and facilitating leaders for our community. What is the secret to Aish’s success? It is by telling our students that one needs to lead by example. If one spots an issue, the next step is to roll up one’s sleeves and try to fix the problem. Please take this lesson to heart.

Look around your community. Look around the world. See what needs fixing. Get involved with an organization that is doing good work. If you can’t find one, start your own organization. This is the way to lead. This is the way to partner with our Creator to make the world better.

Our single most important mission in life is to leave the world a better place than we found it. You won’t regret it.