Dear Aish Family,
One of the questions I constantly get asked as I travel around the world is: “Are things really as good at Aish as your emails seem?” I always answer with an emphatic YES!! We are blessed to have a great staff and amazing lay partners. Having said that, we do get criticism from folks about some of the things that we do, and, as I believe in transparency to its core, I wanted to share two emails that I received this past week.
One of our writers from Aish.com was very upset with us because we didn’t publish an article they wrote. The article was about the BDS movement’s efforts to hurt Israel. The author accused us of not publishing the article due to the fact that we were afraid to offend our readers. I found the accusation fairly ironic given Aish’s long record of standing up for the Jewish people.
What was explained to this author and was perhaps misunderstood, was that in line with AISHVision 2030, we are working very hard to engage the 72% of the Jewish population in North America who have absolutely no interaction with anything Jewish in their lives. As a result we are refocusing our efforts to educate those who are totally unengaged. While many topics are important to demonstrate support for Israel, many of the articles are written in an advanced way with Judaic knowledge as a given. In essence, they are written for those who already agree with the content.
My good friend Danny Danon who was the former Israel Ambassador to the UN once pulled out a Bible and started reading from it at a session of the UN Security Council. He told me that his friends in Israel thought he had lost his mind. Danny said that in order to appreciate Israel’s position, it is crucial for the world to understand the 3500 year connection that the Jews have to the land of Israel.
If we really want to fight for Israel, we must take the time to educate our Jewish brothers and sisters as to the importance of Jewish wisdom and Israel in their lives. Too many antisemitic efforts to delegitimize Israel are being led by Jews. I believe that we are at fault for not educating these ignorant Jews about the beauty of their heritage.
Concurrently this week, we received feedback from an Orthodox follower of Aish.com. She stated that as a religious Jew, the articles were increasingly not as engaging for her and in some cases they were “too edgy.” She said she hoped we would return to a more conservative style so she would feel comfortable reengaging with Aish.com. While we were honored to have serviced this wonderful Jew for years, the truth is we probably won’t be able to in the future.
Our focus over the next 10 years is primarily to reach out to the totally unengaged, disinterested Jew. Our target is to inspire 3 million members of the Tribe to make Torah wisdom an important part of their lives. The affiliated Jewish community has many incredible tools to inspire the community. Aish must focus on the Jews for whom Israel and the Almighty have zero relevance.
This was the mandate given by our founder Rabbi Noach Weinberg and re-emphasized by our current spiritual leader, Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits. It is being carried out beautifully by our CMO, Jamie Geller, and Aish.com editor-in-chief, Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith. May the Almighty assist us in reconnecting ALL of His children to their precious heritage.
Rabbi Steven Burg