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Standing Strong

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Those two words are certainly not used enough in our everyday life and they certainly can’t be overused when thanking all of you for your support of the global Aish community. We have worked so hard online and around the world in the last few months to deliver Jewish wisdom to our brothers and sisters in the most far-flung locations. This past week, you have all responded loudly by supporting our Aish Unity Campaign to help us raise over 4 million dollars! 


We could not continue our previous hard work without your love and support, so I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart. I also want to thank all of our staff led by our indefatigable Executive Director, Rabbi Ben Gonsher for their round-the-clock herculean efforts to partner with all of you in supporting Aish. Our students in the Yeshiva and Seminary played a big role in our success. The lessons that all of you gave them in your gracious responses were inspiring. I feel blessed to play a leadership role in the most incredible and loving movement of Jews on the planet. Thank you and may it be the Almighty’s will that we will all grow together. 


This past week started with a mixture of sorrow and inspiration for me. Many of you have heard about the rally in Teaneck by antisemites in front of a local synagogue. The crime that the local Jewish community was accused of was hosting a speaker from Zaka, the heroic organization that handled the burial of the holy Jews who were slaughtered on 10/7 in Israel. As a result, pro-terror antisemitic protestors were bused in to intimidate the local Jewish community and to instigate a pogrom. 


In response, the entire Teaneck Jewish community came out to show that they would not tolerate these evil threats against their community. There was a strengthened spirit in the air with an understanding that the Teaneck community would always stand alongside their brothers and sisters in Israel. In my opinion, I believe that this event crossed a red line for the Jewish community and that we need to speak out strongly.


Teaneck Jewish community rally for Israel


It is one thing to demonstrate at a political rally. I may not agree with the other side but I understand the right to express one’s opinion no matter how wrong it may be. This rally crossed over any lines of civility. To come to a predominantly Jewish town, while targeting a local house of worship and threaten to “globalize the intifada” means that you want to physically hurt Jews. If not for the police presence, for which we were very thankful, many Jews could have been beaten and perhaps killed. We must not let the evil actions of these violent antisemites stop the Jewish community from standing strong. We must continue to stand by each other and stand up against these bullies. 


Later in the week, I attended the Hertog Forum for National Security war briefing by American and Israeli political and military leaders in Washington with my good friend Dr. Avishai Neuman. Dr. Neuman is not only a parent of an Aish seminary student, but also one of the founders of the Hatzolah Air Emergency Response Team. This incredible team is ready to go anywhere in the world to airlift Jews to safety. Listening to Avishai tell story after story about how his medical team would drop everything to jet off to save Jews was awe-inspiring. Their love for every Jew and the care in which they place the physical well-being of our nation is outstanding. Avishai and his teammates have been to Israel countless times to help Israeli medical personnel service and the IDF. This is the definition of what it means to be a Jew. 


Dr. Avishai Neuman, MK Ben Barak, and Rabbi Steven Burg


As amazing and informative as the conference was, I was prepared in advance by the inspirational Shabbat I shared with the West Side Institutional Synagogue (WSIS), and the special guests who joined me. WSIS held a Shabbos reunion for their Israel Solidarity Mission which Aish hosted in February. We shared a beautiful meal Friday night and I addressed the group the next day in synagogue. I was so honored that my family was hosted by my good friends Sander and Tracy Gerber for lunch Shabbos day at their home. Sander is one of the heroes of the Jewish people. Against the conventional wisdom of the organized Jewish community, he single-handedly ensured the passage of the Taylor Force Act in Congress in March of 2018 and made the term “pay for slay” part of the conversation. Since then, the US Government, by law, cannot pay the Palestinian Authority money that was being funneled to the families of terrorists as a reward for murdering Jews. 


Rabbi Steven Burg, Senator Tom Cotton, and Dr. Avishai Neuman


I was elated to find out that we were also being joined by my very good friend, UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan, and his wonderful wife. Unfortunately, this year Aish will not be able to host our annual Pesach Seder at the UN due to the nature of the current climate there. Gilad has been an unbelievable fighter for the Jewish people in the harshest antisemitic location in the world. 


Dani and Bari Erber, Gilad Erdan, and Rabbi Steven Burg


Listening to these two giants discuss every aspect of world politics and hearing their viewpoints was breathtaking for me. It truly gave me hope for the future and crystallized the Aish doctrine. Aish has always been about activism in any way, shape, or form. To be a Jew you must stand proud for ethics and justice. We have always been the light in a world of darkness. What preserves our moral compass and gives us a proper direction has always been Jewish wisdom. Through the prism of the Almighty’s guidance, we can indeed change the world. We must change the world. It is our mission and our duty. We must spread goodness and kindness. We must reach out to every one of our brothers and sisters around the world to guide them toward a life of meaning and activism. The Jewish Nation must collectively make this world better for our having walked its roads. Let us all continue to stand for what is right and just while continuing to pray for an unending era of peace and prosperity.