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Thanking Those Who Stand With Us

One of the things that has become crystal clear in the last few months is who is an ally of our people and who is not. October 7th was the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. It wasn’t an action of war. It was a cowardly attack on men, women, and children, for no reason other than the fact that they were Jewish. The ultimate crime of those massacred was that they dared to live in the land which has been the Jewish homeland for 3,500 years. As a result, we have seen globally who has stood with the Jewish Nation and who has not. 

It was with this in mind that we at Aish eagerly offered to host the former boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, Jr. at the Dan Family Aish World Center when we were approached regarding his visit to Israel. We had hosted the “Champ” once before and have come to know him as a staunch supporter of Israel. Shortly after the October 7th massacre, Floyd sent his private plane filled with supplies for Israel as a public demonstration of support. The trip this week was aimed at showing his solidarity, an opportunity for him to loudly express his love and affection for the Jewish people.


Floyd Mayweather with Rabbi Burg at Aish


I waited in his hotel to accompany him to Aish. After a late start due to his flight schedule, we headed to Aish. He was fresh off the plane and Aish would be his first stop. We walked through the Old City and so many precious Jews thanked him for his support. When we got to Aish many of our students were there and began singing about the upcoming holiday of Purim, accompanying him to our roof. On our rooftop, our students sang a song from the Shabbos service called Nishmas. Floyd sang with them and they all enjoyed it. 

We then presented him with an award called the “Champion for Israel Award.” I thanked him for his steadfast support for Israel as we presented him with a custom-made Kippah with his company’s logo. We then went to the Western Wall where Floyd prayed for peace. We left the Old City of Jerusalem to have dinner. I thought that would be the end of the night until I found out that we were headed to an IDF Air Force base at 1:00 a.m.!


Flpyd Mayweather with Rabbi Burg at Aish


The Air Force base was to be the first of many that Floyd would visit on his four-day trip. Every base that we went to the soldiers embraced Floyd. In return, he would sign autographs and tell them how important their work was. The love was palpable and it was clear that Floyd was lifting the spirits of so many soldiers. We also visited Magen David Adom and United Hatzalah where both of these emergency response groups walked us through how they save lives daily. 

The highlight of the trip for me was when we visited the Sheba Medical Center. Sheba is a holy place where so many wounded warriors from the IDF who have lost limbs come for rehabilitation and to get back on their sometimes prosthetic feet. We got out of the vehicles and immediately were surrounded by wheelchairs of heroes. I spotted IDF soldier Shalom Shitrit who had lost a leg on October 7th and had just addressed Aish’s Project Inspire convention in Connecticut. Shalom had brought his own pair of boxing gloves to the meeting which Floyd happily signed. 

It was at this event that I was publicly introduced as “Floyd’s Rabbi.” So many of the heroes there asked me for a blessing. I kept telling them that it needed to be reversed and they needed to give me a blessing as these are the righteous Jews of our generation. We went inside to have a more formal conversation with the patients. Inside we were surrounded by young men who each had a long road ahead of them. Floyd was very touched by the scene and decided to address the group in a way I hadn’t yet seen. 

The Champ told them that they were all heroes. They had sacrificed for their Nation and that was special. They all had challenges ahead of them and were strong enough to persevere. He told them about a difficult personal situation that happened within his own family. He then said something compelling. He told them that it was true that he was undefeated in the ring, going 50 – 0, yet in life he had many losses and setbacks. He always persevered and knew that these young men had the heart to overcome their challenges. I looked around the room and saw from the faces of these young men that he had lifted their souls.


Floyd Mayweather at Tel Hashomer Hospital


I walked away from this week with an understanding that as a people we need to acknowledge who has our back and who does not. One would think that in all the highfalutin academic universities in America, which so many Jews worked to build philanthropically and academically, we would find support. Yet almost across the board, we have been deeply hurt by all the hate and antisemitism spewed on campus. 

Here was a world-champion boxer who did not grow up within the Jewish community and certainly did not have a connection to Israel until later in life. Floyd had looked at the world and understood that the Jews were a special people. He therefore came to embrace us at one of our lowest moments to lift us up. Many asked me about the context of this visit. I explained that if someone with three times the number of followers on Instagram than the number of people who live in the entire State of Israel wants to stand with us, we must embrace him fully and completely. 

As Jews, we are so enmeshed in our fight for survival that we forget that a part of that process is thanking those who stand with us. We have indeed been let down by so many around the world who have rushed to condemn the Jews and Israel. Yet, so many others have showered us with love, and in the end, love always trumps hate. We must thank our allies around the world profusely for standing with Israel. For standing with the Jewish people. For standing with the Almighty. I would encourage all of you to find someone who has supported us in our darkest moments and express your heartfelt thanks to them for doing the right thing.