One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is that I get to travel and meet all of you. Jews are amazing and inspiring. Everywhere I go I hear the most incredible stories. This past week was no exception as I was honored to be the Scholar-in-Residence last Shabbos at the Green Road Synagogue in Cleveland.
I spent the early part of my career working and traveling around the Midwest. Much of that time was spent in the Jewish community of Cleveland. Recently, I reconnected with an amazing Jew named Dr. Paul “Pinky” Mikhli. He is the President of the Green Road Synagogue and a community leader. Dr. Mikhli asked me to come spend a Shabbos and share AishVision2030 with everyone.
Friday night I had dinner with Eliav and Caroline Sharvit and their family. What is amazing is that I was able to hear about the local communal issues while sharing the global challenges to reaching Jews that presumably aren’t so interested in being reached. It is a balance to make sure that the connected Jewish community stays that way while trying to reconnect the majority of Jews. This may be the most challenging period in Jewish history as we try to bring back so many disconnected Jews while maintaining the smaller, but significant, affiliated Jewish community.
Shabbos day I spoke three times. My two major addresses were on the topic of responsibility and where it stems from in the Bible on an individual level and on a national level. The last topic was about the challenges to maintaining spirituality. The responses were warm and engaging. I told the congregation that my most vivid memory from their synagogue was seeing the great Jewish leader and philanthropist, Irving Stone attend a moving havdalah ceremony there decades before. After my last address, I was approached by the dynamic young Rabbinic Intern, Rabbi Gabe Falk. He told me that he appreciated my clarity of message. I told him that this is what Aish is all about. We all must take responsibility for the Jewish people. It is not much more complicated than that. To be a family we must look after each other even if we have never met. I was also honored that the former director of Aish’s Discovery program and Aish Cleveland founder, Rabbi Yehuda Appel, came to all my talks.
When one leaves a city you always wonder if your message was heard. You pour out your heart and try to convey a message that you believe is crucial to the success of the Jewish Nation. Did anyone hear? Almost as soon as I got home I got a call from Dr. Mikhli. He told me that he heard my message of taking responsibility and he wanted to connect Aish to the Cleveland Jewish News so we could reach more Jews. Then I received a few more messages from folks that were at my talks about what they were doing or wanted to do. I was touched beyond words.
The bottom line is that as Jews we always want to do the right thing. Unfortunately, life gets in the way and we get distracted. Let us learn from the Jews of Cleveland. This Shabbos, sit with your families. Discuss a plan for you to take responsibility. There are communal needs all around us. The Almighty is cheering us on as we grow to love and support one another. Nothing in life is more important than what we choose to do for each other.
Join AishVision2030 as we take responsibility for the Jewish Nation.