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The Real Cleveland Guardians

Message from the 

Desk of Rabbi Steven Burg

Dear Aish Family,

I hope all of you are doing well as the summer wanes. We are watching the spread of the new Delta variant in Israel very closely. We are thankful that all of our students have been able to arrive in Israel and we are looking forward to welcoming the last of our student group flights next week. 


I have spent the past six years at Aish traveling to all of our branches far and wide. There were only two left on my list that I had never visited; Cleveland and Australia. Now I am down to one. I spent a few days earlier this week in Cleveland. In the 90’s, I spent a tremendous amount of time in Cleveland as I worked with Jewish teens in the Midwest regional area. As my travels played out in the past decade, I just never made it back to my old stomping grounds. 



I started my trip by having dinner with Rabbi Arieh Friedner who is an older colleague and a wonderful Jewish outreach professional. At the end of our meal it was time for us to go to evening services. I told him that it had been at least twenty-five years since I had last been to Greenroad Synagogue so I would like to go pray there. Rabbi Binyamin Blau, the Rabbi at Greenroad Synagogue, is a terrific person and I wanted to say hello. The last time I was at the synagogue, Irving Stone, the legendary businessman and Jewish philanthropist attended the Havdalah service with a room full of teenagers. It was an amazing scene of the connectivity of generations. So I set out to the Greenwood Synagogue. 


I was shocked when I pulled up. The synagogue had been completely rebuilt. It was pristine and beautiful. As I entered I found out that it had been dedicated in the past few weeks. Unfortunately, the Rabbi was not there and as a result, I was drafted to say a few words of Torah during the service. After we were done I was approached by a number of young men who I had known 25 years ago as teenagers, including the President, Dr. Paul “Pinky” Mikhli. It was amazing seeing these young men running the community. It gave me an important perspective on how Judaism works. We must always train the youth of our community to lead. Then we must open opportunities to them and hand over the reins of the Judaic journey in which we are all active participants. 



The next day I visited with Rabbi Pinchas Landis who runs Partners Cleveland. Rabbi Landis is one of the most dynamic and thoughtful educators I have known throughout the years. Partners Cleveland is a terrific organization that promotes Jewish wisdom on a large scale. I shared AISHVision 2030 with him and we spoke about collaboration. 



For most of the rest of the day I met and discussed strategy with the team that runs Aish Cleveland. One of the highlights for me in my travels is getting to understand how Aish has transformed so many cities around the world. The two dynamic Aish couples, Rabbi and Rebbetzin Chaim and Barrie Feld and Rabbi and Rebbetzin Yehuda and Channah Appel came to Cleveland over thirty years ago and helped to transform the city into a major hub for Judaic knowledge and spiritual growth. Most people, after three decades of building, would like to rest on their laurels and talk about what they’ve accomplished. That is not how Aish works. We always look forward and focus on what’s next. 



We spoke about their outreach on college campuses which expands from Pennsylvania to Indiana! Rabbi Appel told me that although he is now much older than when he started with campus work, in some ways he is better equipped today to give over wisdom in a different, non-threatening way. It was so impressive to hear how someone could adjust and increase their effectiveness. Rabbi Feld and I spoke about the broader vision of Aish around the world. In many organizations, when a new approach comes out from “headquarters” people are cynical and sarcastic. That is just not how Aish works. Rabbi Feld was making a pitch to use Cleveland as a focal point for our new initiative! I spent two hours with Rebbetzin Feld discussing her Chizuk Mission which has brought spiritual energy and passionate Judaism to thousands of homes around North America. In short, I left these meetings charged and elated about the future of Aish. 



My final meeting of my trip was with the Chairman of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, David Heller. I didn’t know what to expect going into the meeting as it was our first. We talked about AISHVision 2030 and the role of Jewish wisdom in enhancing life. David started to describe his own journey towards Jewish wisdom and the many causes he was involved in to promote Jewish wisdom. I was humbled because here was a lay leader who has been working on AISHVision 2030 since long before we came up with the concept. I felt privileged and proud when he told me of the prominent role has played for him and the organizations he is involved with. I look forward to continuing and building our friendship. 


Every day I am out on the road and I am meeting passionate Jews like David who are rolling up their sleeves to help bring Jews back to our heritage. We must all continue to fight the good fight and inspire the next generation of Jewish leaders. 


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Steve Burg