Dear Aish Family,
This week was jam packed. As all of you know we just entered into the second year of AISHVision 2030. Our executive team gathered for two days of meetings to evaluate how we did over the past year and focus on what needs to be done over the coming year to reach our goal of connecting 3 million Jews to Jewish wisdom. Thankfully we accomplished almost all of our fourth quarter goals, with clear markers to adjust or complete the rest!
Our major strategies revolve around the Americas (North & South) and Israel. Given the different constituencies, we have two concurrent but different strategies in place. Rabbi Elliot Mathias is leading the Global strategy while Rabbi Shimmy Kaufman is coordinating all aspects of our work in Israel. Both of those voices are crucial on our Executive Leadership Team as we continue to engage World Jewry.
Right after our meetings, I headed down to Washington, DC. I was happy to finally have a chance to meet in person with Chanan Weissman, the new White House liaison to the Jewish community. I first met Chanan eight years ago at an event at the Waldorf apartment of then UN Ambassador Samantha Powers. Chanan is a serious government professional who has served in many capacities including at the State Department and the White House National Security Council.
Our conversation covered a broad range of topics including issues important to Jews in America and Israel. We delved into the recent antisemitic hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. I told him that I felt what happened there is reflective of our 2000 year experience in the Diaspora. While Jews may argue amongst ourselves, whenever a Jew is threatened by an outside enemy we hold our collective breaths and unite in support of our brothers and sisters.
I told him that we were looking forward to hosting the new US Ambassador to Israel, Thomas Nides, in a few weeks. We ended by pledging to work together and we look forward to hosting Chanan on a zoom call for our leadership across the United States. We are also looking forward to a post-covid world when we can bring our Aish leadership to the White House for a productive dialogue.
My extensive travel has taken on a new dimension due to my requirement of saying Kaddish for my father this year. When and how I travel revolves around my ability to connect to a minyan (prayer quorum). I specifically drove from New Jersey to Washington and back so I could ensure “Kaddish flexibility.” As I headed out of Washington I called my good friend and Baltimore resident. Rabbi Jonah Lerner, to ask his advice on where to stop for the afternoon prayer of Mincha. He asked me to check my waze to see when I could arrive in Baltimore. I told him it was set for approximately 3:08. He directed me to the “The Hat Box” mens apparel store, where they have Mincha at 3:15. In I walked, surrounded by suits and shirts… and over two dozen Jews who prayed together.
I found that prayer service to be amongst the most meaningful that I have experienced. As a Jew just passing through I was able to join with my Jewish family to turn a regular store into a place of love for the Almighty. The Western Wall that the Dan Family Aish World Center faces is the holiest place for Jews in the world. Yet, that doesn’t stop us, whenever and wherever, from turning any space around the world that we utilize for prayer and Torah study into a holy place.