Dear Aish Family,
This past week I had the great honor of joining over one thousand Jewish leaders from around the world in Basel, Switzerland, on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the first World Zionist Congress. The first Congress was convened in response to the overt antisemitism of the Dreyfus Affair. Captain Alfred Dreyfus was framed and wrongly accused of espionage in France in 1894. He was convicted based on forged documents, largely due to antisemitism. This made Theodore Herzl and others realize that as Jews we needed a homeland where we would be free from these attacks. This laid the groundwork for the creation of the State of Israel.
One of the highlights for me was reuniting with a young Jewish leader named Jehuda Spielman. Jehuda worked for Aish for three years. Soon after he moved back to his hometown of Zurich, the 26 year-old ran for a seat on the Zurich municipal council. He became the only Orthodox Jew to sit on the council. As a result, he told me that he has done a tremendous amount of interviews. Many of the questions revolve around his religion. He told me that his time at Aish helped to prepare him to talk about the positive aspects of Judaism. I am very proud of Jehuda’s achievements.
The conference left me thinking a lot about the state of the Jewish people. There is no doubt that antisemitism has shaped so much of us as a nation. Whenever a world leader comes to Israel, they are brought to the national Holocaust memorial, Yad VaShem, in order to understand the journey of the Jewish people and why we are so vigilant in our defense. We must monitor and call out antisemitism around the world to defend our brothers and sisters. Yet, we cannot only define ourselves by those who hate us.
When I came to Aish almost eight years ago I spent the first four years in a reactive state fixing the issues that were holding us back. One day some of my partners sat me down and said it’s time to shift from being reactive to proactive. That is how we came to create AishVision 2030. It is time for the entire Jewish people to stop being reactive and to start being proactive.
Antisemitism certainly helped us as a people understand that we needed a country of our own. That we needed to return home to Israel. Alas, that is not enough to carry us forward. We must set a vision for the future as a people. We must work to educate every Jew about our heritage. Both those in Israel and the diaspora must understand that Judaism is a movement filled with love. Yes, there are those that hate us, but we will not let them define us. We are the Almighty’s children. He put us in this earth to be a light unto the nations. We will carry that beautiful torch no matter what is done to try to stop us.
This exciting vision will ignite the hearts of the next generation. We have so much to give the world. Let us not let the haters control our narrative. Let us show the world what being Jewish is all about. Am Yisroel Chai.