This week has been a sad week for the Jewish people. We mourned for the Temple which was destroyed 2000 years ago. Yet, in the midst of our sadness there is always hope. This past week, Aish ordained six young rabbis in Jerusalem. I was honored to speak at their graduation. These young men from varying backgrounds have studied long and hard to become the future leaders of the Jewish nation.
One of the members of the cohort was chosen to speak at the celebration. Rabbi Andre Oziel grew up in Hawaii and toured the world as a professional surfer. Longtime AISH partner, Dick Horowitz met Andre and stayed in touch with him, always advising him to take a break from his career to learn more about his heritage. Finally Andre decided that perhaps some time for introspection was warranted and he came to study at Aish.
After many years of hard work, Andre completed the rigorous course of study to become a Rabbi. Just as beautiful was seeing his wife Rachel with her parents, my dear friends Robin and Elliott Broidy, and his children at the celebration. Andre spoke about his journey back to Judaism. It was a challenging path, including undergoing an adult bris milah as part of that journey.
Perhaps the most moving moment was when Andre spoke about having lost his father before he was born. Andre shared how much it means to him to watch his children grow up, not having known his own father. It inspired me to no end seeing how much Andre has been able to grow and achieve. I have no doubt that Andre’s father is smiling from heaven.
This is the story of the Jewish people. We have suffered so many catastrophic setbacks yet we push forward. We have an energy to succeed and serve no matter what obstacles come our way. 2000 years ago, our Temple was burned to the ground and we were exiled. No one thought we had a chance at survival. Yet, here we are in a beautiful, rebuilt Israel.
I know that many are despondent over the current political fights in Israel. There is no doubt that we must strive to unify our people. We must also know that the Jewish Nation is strong and will survive. With that knowledge we can survive any threat to our existence and unity. May the Almighty grant us the clarity to come together as the family that we are.