Message from the Desk of Rabbi Steven Burg
Dear Aish Family,
Greetings from Jerusalem! It has been a busy week here at the Dan Family Aish World Center!
I started the week by attending the final banquet for our Aish Gesher students. They headed home after a tremendous – and challenging year studying at Aish. We might think that between Covid-19 and the recent war with Hamas that their experience may have been dampened. But this incredible group of young men kept the focus through it all on their personal development. They bonded with each other and their outstanding teachers perhaps even more than in ‘typical’ years. Many of the students will be returning next year after the summer break.
That same evening, we watched an IDF induction ceremony (Tekes) at the Western Wall. The ceremony was particularly special for me because my nephew was sworn in. I told the Aish students that as we sat at the Gesher banquet, there were 300 young men their age who had chosen to dedicate themselves to keeping Jews safe. The young men at Gesher must also make a decision as to how they will be caring for their fellow Jews. We are living in difficult times where the Jewish community is suffering physically and spiritually. We need all hands on deck!
The next day Aish was privileged to host a very special program for mothers and daughters who lost loved ones in the Meron tragedy. They travelled from all over the country to the Aish World Center for a day of learning and bonding, healing and inspiration. I shared with them my personal connection and loss at Meron. My community of Bergenfield, NJ lost the young tzadik, Donnie Morris, a’h, and is mourning along with all of them. I said that the definition of being a Jew is the connection we maintain around the world, and that we are with them, wherever we are.
I then told them that as life moves on, they will be celebrating many Jewish life cycle events. I invited them to return to celebrate with their new family at Aish. I was overwhelmed by their gratitude. There was not a dry eye in the room from Aish staff and the families alike.
I also had a chance to meet with many of Aish’s political friends. I visited with my good friend, Yaakov HaGoel, the Chairman of the World Zionist Organization. The WZO has been very supportive of Aish and we are proud of our partnership. It was also a pleasure to host the indefatigable Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum. She is in charge of tourism for Jerusalem and we spoke about the timetable for Israel opening up to the diaspora. Lastly, I had a chance to spend some time with President-Elect Isaac Herzog who was the past Chairman of the Jewish Agency. I told him that I looked forward to continuing to work with him in his new position
My friends, it was a busy week, and indicative of how much the world is starting to open up. Aish is always working hard to serve the Jewish nation, and we are starting to be able to do more so in person again. I can’t wait to host all of you here in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Steve Burg