I am writing this email from an EL AL plane. By the time you receive this I will be back in Israel. I was in Israel at the start of the war and then came back to New York for two days to be there for the bris of Isaac Zion Erber, the son of my close friends and AISH partners Bari & Daniel Erber. Obviously I had thought to just stay in Israel due to the war but I realized that bringing a Jewish boy into his heritage through the covenant of a bris is everything that our enemies stand against.
I knew I made the right decision when I heard the name. Isaac was the only one of our Patriarchs who never left Israel throughout his lifetime. Zion is the affectionate name given to Jerusalem and Israel. This child represents the future of the Jewish people which is eternally tied to the fate of Israel.
My flight to Israel was supposed to take off from JFK at 2am but was delayed many hours. On the check in line I spoke with a young man who had been in Texas visiting his brother. He was called up by the IDF and immediately made his way to New York so he could rejoin his unit and defend the land of Israel. Everyone’s suitcases were bursting with supplies for our soldiers in Israel. When I finished checking in at 3:30am there were two different makeshift refreshment stations for the passengers. The mood on the flight was amazing. This was our country and no war was going to keep the Jews out.
So many emotions have run through my heart over the past few days: incredible sadness at what has transpired; tremendous pride at the heroes who raced down south to save Jews; and, an unbreakable commitment to do whatever I can do strengthen the Jewish people. When I traveled to Kiev last year many asked me why I would head into a war zone. I told them that my brothers and sisters were there and they needed to know that we had not forgotten them. I feel the same way now. I rushed back to Israel because I want my greater Israeli family to know that we are with them no matter what may come.
At Aish I couldn’t be prouder of our staff. They have been working around the clock to help the war effort on every level and to keep all of our students safe. The most important role that I believe we are playing is online. I have spoken over the years about the need to engage using social media. Aish has the largest social media presence of any Jewish organization around the world. As such, we saw it as our duty to support Israel and the Jewish people. As a result, our output has quadrupled and we are making our voice very loud.
Hannah Abutbul, our Spanish-language Social Media Manager, posted a heartfelt and emotional perspective which she recorded from her bomb shelter on the Southern Border as bombs were exploding overhead. This video was seen by over 4.5 MILLION people worldwide and was featured on Mexican national television. The content our team is creating is authentic, genuine and being heard by people all over the world.
As a consequence, the enemy has targeted us. At one point yesterday, over a 10-minute span, our Firewall on aish.com blocked 1000’s of cyber attacks. We are constantly targeted online but this level of onslaught is unprecedented. We have had many thousands of hateful antisemitic comments placed in the comments section of our content across all social media platforms. We have become the #1 target of antisemites online. Frankly, I wear this as a badge of courage.
I highly encourage our donor base to partner with us as we fight this cyberwar on behalf of the Jewish people. I almost never ask directly for contributions in this weekly email but we are maxing out our funding as we take on this unexpected fight. Aish will stand tall against all who seek to attack the Jewish Nation.
In my two short days in America, every Jew with whom I interacted asked me how they could help. It reminded me of the stories that I was told about my grandfather who passed away when my father was eleven. He was an inspector in the New York harbor for ships coming from overseas. Because of his access he was able to smuggle guns to Israel for the War of Independence. I find that same spirit alive and well today.
We Jews will always be here for each other. No matter what the world says, we know that Judaism has brought ethics and morality to the world. We know that there is good and evil in the world. We know that we must stand strong and united in the face of that evil. My friends, many have tried to break our spirit and failed. We will persevere. It doesn’t mean we aren’t heartbroken. I am sitting near a woman on my flight who is traveling to Israel to bury her daughter. All I want to do is sit with her and cry. Yet she is remarkably strong. She hugged many of the soldiers on our flight. The Jewish nation will survive and thrive as we always do.
עם ישראל חי
With much love and affection from Jerusalem.