One of the most important aspects of being a Jew is the concept of community. Throughout the ages, the Jewish people have been known for the strength of our ability to support one another. Community is a mindset where members are there for each other on all levels. One of the disastrous side effects of the assimilation of the Jewish people has been this loss of the values-driven, covenantal community. At Aish, I believe we have built a community based on clear values and mutual respect.
Nowhere is this clearer than in our educational institutions. The Aish Yeshiva creates a beautiful atmosphere for millennial Jews to unite through a shared love of the Jewish people and the land of Israel. Many enter with limited Judaic knowledge. It is our goal for them to have all the tools at their disposal to elevate their Judaic journey. Many will tell you that at the Aish Yeshiva they have made best friends with whom they share life goals.
The question for so many that pass through our doors is what comes next. Where can they continue their journey onwards and join a thriving Jewish community. I traveled to Lakewood this past week to spend some time with the Torah Links organization which has built a beautiful Beis Medrash and dorm for students on a such a journey. Previously, I had only seen the building while under construction. Now that it is completed, the building is alive with energy and purpose. Many students are spending the summer there for a combination study and business internship program.
It was clear that this program would be a great place for our students to continue after their time at Aish. The staff could not be more excited for us to work together. I then traveled from Torah Links to a very special wedding of my good friend and Aish student Jordan Tuwiner. Many of our students can now spend time learning at Aish while working remotely. Jordan came to Aish from Texas to study and was able to simultaneously run his business from Jerusalem. After Aish, Jordan continued his Jewish studies at “The Shaar” which is a vibrant yeshiva program based in Far Rockaway. Aish students have gone to The Shaar and done extraordinarily well there. The staff is outstanding and the students are top notch. It was clear at the wedding how amazing and supportive The Shaar has been to Jordan on his personal journey.
On the opposite extreme, a close friend of mine told me a story that happened to their son. Their son is a good guy and recently has been rethinking his connections to Judaism. Recently, he decided that he wanted to go to shul so he went to a local synagogue. Walking in wearing jeans and a polo shirt, he was told that he was not dressed appropriately. Undeterred, he went home and changed into a suit. When he arrived back in the shul, he was told that this particular synagogue only accepted certain types of Jews and he was not welcome. In my personal opinion, the Jews in charge of that shul have totally and absolutely missed the boat on what Judaism is all about. I was reminded of a quote of a famous businessman: “Only the Jews can lose the same customer in five different ways.” Any institution claiming to be Jewish must keep their doors wide open to their brothers and sisters. We are all a part of the Almighty’s covenantal community.
I have spent much time thinking about the important role that Aish has played for so many of you. In many ways we are a community of like-minded Jews who believe in the strength of the Jewish people and Israel. We believe that the Almighty has given us the tools to live a full and qualitative life. We believe that we are stronger together. Torah Links and The Shaar are two examples of beautiful communities with whom Aish is blessed to partner. I hope this list continues to grow.
Aish must be a bridge for all of you to find local communities to strengthen and be a part of. Wherever I travel, I meet Jews who have been inspired by Aish to lead their local communities. I couldn’t be prouder of the role that all of you currently play and will play in strengthening the Jewish people around the world. Jews wither on the vine without other Jews. We are always stronger together. We are always stronger when belonging to a values-driven, covenantal community. May the Almighty bless us all with the passion and inspiration to build strong, lasting Jewish communities around the world.