I know I sound like a broken record but it is so great to see all of you again! I worked with Aish St. Louis Executive Director Rabbi Yosef David for a long time to find a date for me to come and speak. I rescheduled many times as covid kept getting in the way. This past week, I was finally able to make a special trip to St. Louis to coincide with the Annual Mark Raffie Memorial Lecture. This is an important event for Aish to honor the memory of Mark, who was a young man cut down in the prime of his life. Mark was at Aish participating in one of our events the day before he was killed. I was honored to spend time with his family and deliver the lecture.
Before the speech we had an Aish St. Louis Board Meeting. I don’t know of a more dedicated and passionate group than our partners in St. Louis. We spoke about AISHVision 2030 and specifically about how they could help locally. A large part of the conversation centered around social media and how we can combine our global efforts with our local chapter. I explained that we are producing 6-7 pieces of unique content a day, (that’s a lot by the way
), and we would be happy to share those so they could enhance their own efforts. It was so energizing to be back in the trenches and brainstorming again. We were joined by Aish St. Louis longtime Director of Education, Rabbi Shmuel Greenwald, who I am convinced is the most beloved Rabbi in the city.
I stayed with my friends and longtime Aish partners, Naomi Ruth and Charlie Deutsch. The last time the three of us were together was with Vice President Mike Pence at the Dan Family Aish World Center, just before covid. It was very special spending time with them and hearing stories about Rav Noach Weinberg, zt’l. I was grateful for the opportunity to bring them up to date with the progress of the organization. They were proud that Aish not only made it through covid, but saw unprecedented growth throughout. I also got to spend time with their two sons, Mathew and Zack. The future is strong in the Deutsch family!
As any avid Aish historian can tell you, the first branch outside of Israel was in St. Louis. What may not be as well known is that the person who brought Aish to St. Louis was the legendary lay leader, Kenneth Spetner. Therefore it was exciting for me to spend time with his son, Jonathan Spetner. Jonathan told me all the origin stories of how Aish started. I then briefed him on AishVision 2030 and what lies on the horizon. We parted ways and I headed back to New Jersey.
I was surprised when a few days later I received a message from Jonathan. He wrote:
“Hi. Enjoyed meeting last week. I’ve been thinking about our discussion concerning social media kiruv. It’s the most exciting kiruv approach I’ve heard in 30+ years. Although, like anything, it needs to be executed properly. I have some thoughts.”
This message touched my heart. I travel around the world explaining how all of us can reach our brothers and sisters. To receive a message from the son of the individual who got Aish started in the United States over 40 years ago, sharing that he thinks our vision is the most exciting approach he’s heard in over 30 years, was an affirmation of everything towards which we are working.
Every day so many of us are working as hard as we can to help bring 3 million Jews to Jewish wisdom. At Aish, we believe that we can absolutely get this done. Yet we cannot do this without so many of you helping us. It will take sweat, passion, drive, determination, focus and yes, a lot of money. Every time one of you responds to my emails telling me how you are participating; cheering us on; donating to the cause; telling us how exciting this journey is, it gives me and all of us at Aish a tremendous lift. Let’s stay positive and keep working to make sure every Jew has access to Jewish wisdom.