Dear Aish Family,
What a week!! I arrived in Israel a week ago and it has been nonstop from the get-go. The holiday season is extraordinarily beautiful in Israel and especially at Aish. This past Monday was a special day for Aish – and for me personally. Before covid started, Dani and Bari Erber called me up. Every year the Erber family donates a Torah to a different organization and in 2019 they wanted to give one to Aish. Unfortunately, due to Covid their generous offer had to be put on hold….
Since my father, zt’l, passed away one year ago on Rosh Hashanah, the Erbers made the decision to donate the Torah in memory of my father and Bari’s grandmother, as they were siblings. It meant the world to me that a Torah connected to my family will now be at Aish for our community to utilize. All of our yeshiva students were able to write letters in the Torah, as well as some of our invited guests. When we were finished we danced with the Torah from the Dan Family Aish World Center over to the Beis Medrash. The joy in the air was palpable and extremely moving.
After the Torah dedication, we gathered to officially reopen the Aish World Center. We were blessed to hear words of inspiration from Aish Executive Board member Dr. Stuart Hytman and Aish Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits.
Stuart and Andrea Hytman were the main financial supporters of the Dan Family Aish World Center when it was built, and continue to be our strongest partners. I was honored to present them with a world-famous Waterdale sketch of Rav Noach Weinberg on glass. (This original piece that we worked with the company on is now available for purchase online.)
This amazing day was the perfect way to go into Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur has always been the highlight of my year at Aish. This was my eighth time spending the holiday at the yeshiva and it did not disappoint. Due to our phenomenal growth, we moved the prayers from the Beis Medrash to the Goldman Banquet Hall so we could fit over 100 more people. We then transformed the Beis Medrash into a Sephardic Minyan for our Latin American students. There were over 700 students praying at Aish this Yom Kippur – many for the first time!!
The prayers are led by our staff and the atmosphere is electric. My favorite part was the singing of Adon Olam on the night of Yom Kippur. It is the most moving rendition of that song I have ever heard. At the end of Yom Kippur, the entire group sings and dances with tremendous energy despite the fact that they’ve been fasting for over 25 hours.
As I looked around that room I saw so many students deep in prayer. Many of these students did not know what prayer was a few months ago and were now locked in deep conversation with the Almighty. As joyous as the celebrating was, I found myself unable to join in the dancing. I know that as packed and special as this room was, there are so many of our brothers and sisters who had no idea that Yom Kippur occurred. I always leave Yom Kippur at Aish with the understanding that as much as we have accomplished, there is still so much more to do.
This is why AishVision 2030 is so important. We must continue to seek out our fellow Jews and expose them to the inspirational, uplifting power of our heritage. As we embark on this new year, let us commit together to creating more awareness and spirituality throughout the Jewish Nation.