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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Dear Aish Family,

Whenever a movement is created, there is a charismatic individual at its center. For us that is undoubtedly and undisputedly Rabbi Noah Weinberg, zt”l. This coming week marks his 13th yahrtzeit (anniversary of his death). It is hard to believe that so much time has gone by since we have lost our teacher, mentor and friend. We mourn his loss every day.

This past week was the yahrtzeit of the great Sephardic Rabbi Israel Abuhatzeira, zt”l also known as the Baba Sali. Rabbi Alon Tolwin, one of the first students of Rabbi Weinberg, was a neighbor of the Baba Sali and relayed the following story. Rabbi Weinberg was visiting Rabbi Tolwin’s home right before he was to go to America to raise funds for Aish. Together with fellow Aish student Rabbi Kalman Packouz zt”l, Rabbi Tolwin urged Rabbi Weinberg to go next door to the Baba Sali to get a blessing. Many thousands of Jews descended upon the small apartment of the Baba Sali for a blessing every day. They thought it would be worthwhile for Aish.


Rabbi Weinberg at first was hesitant and then decided that he would go to this great Kabbalist. He returned a short while later and they eagerly asked how it went. Rabbi Weinberg said it was the strangest thing; as he entered, the Baba Sali leapt from his chair and ran over to him. He said “I don’t know who you are but you must give me a blessing”. They asked, “So what did you do?” With a big smile and a chuckle Rabbi Weinberg said “I blessed him and then he blessed me.”

There is no doubt that as Rabbi Weinberg walked in the door the Baba Sali realized he was one of the most outstanding Jews of their generation. This story took place forty years ago when Aish was in its infancy primarily fueled by the love coming out of Rabbi Weinberg’s heart. That was only part of the equation. Rabbi Weinberg knew that to make his vision a reality he would need philanthropic partners as well.

I had the extreme honor this past week of visiting with one of the giants of the Jewish world Leslie Dan, in Bal Harbour, Florida. Mr. Dan was one of the earliest and most significant supporters of Rabbi Weinberg’s dream. We spoke about his relationship with Aish and his general lifelong philosophy. Mr. Dan articulated the role the Almighty has played in his life and the sense of duty that one must give back to their community.

In terms of his major support for the Aish buildings facing the Western Wall he felt that an organization such as Aish must have a home base that people can walk into and experience the educational components that we have to offer. We discussed how the world has changed and as a result AISHVision 2030 is focused on social media because that’s where the Jews are. He also spoke with tremendous pride that his children Dr. Stuart and Andrea Hytman have continued to play a large role in Aish’s future. That is what Judaism is all about. Handing the reins of leadership to the next generation.

Sitting with Mr. Dan, I shared with him what had brought me to Aish seven years ago. After meeting the group of lay partners involved, I was sold. It was the greatest group of leaders I had ever seen collected in one organization. I now realize that this was Rabbi Weinberg’s greatest talent. He had a special ability to inspire donors to not just give money but to rally around the cause of inspiring the next generation of Jews. Mr. Dan and his close friend former Aish International President Harvey Hecker zt”l partnered with Rabbi Weinberg to start a movement which is still growing at a rapid pace.


As we enter into this holy week of Rabbi Weinberg’s 13th yahrtzeit let us all commit to continue to work towards building Aish into the greatest Jewish movement ever assembled. We must focus on what brought us to this moment. We must recognize that giants like Rabbi Weinberg and Mr. Dan gave their hearts and souls to empower the Jewish Nation to focus on the Almighty.

We must refocus Jews on being a beacon of light for a world struggling with morality and ethics. ‘Am Yisroel Chai’ is not just a statement that the Nation of Israel is alive. It is a commandment to give life to all of those around us. Thank you Rabbi Weinberg and Mr. Dan for showing us the way. We will work hard to make you proud every day. Am Yisroel Chai.