Dear Aish Family,
I am writing this note from Santiago, Chile where I have spent the last few days with our Aish HaTorah branch. It is difficult to put into words what I have seen and felt. We always talk about Aish’s power to change the world. In this case, Aish has literally changed an entire country.
The main shul in Santiago is Aish HaTorah. When you walk into the lobby you are immediately struck by a beautiful painting of Rav Noach Weinberg, of blessed memory.
It is more than just a painting. Wherever one goes in the building, Jews are quoting Rav Noach as if he was still alive and visited last week.
The Aish shul houses both an Ashkenaz and a Sephardic congregation. The two groups get along beautifully and as a result of Aish’s phenomenal growth, a new shul is being built. I am writing this note in the temporary Aish offices so excuse the sawdust….
One statistic jumped out at me. On Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, 10% of all Jews in Santiago will be davening with Aish HaTorah! What really struck me was that wherever I went, I met alumni of Aish HaTorah. I have always been a fan of our Latino program in Jerusalem but I never dreamed of the unbelievable impact it had on countries across Latin America.
We had many discussions about the resurgence of Aish around the world and what our vision is. One point kept coming up over and over again: What makes Aish different from all other Jewish groups worldwide is that we are more than just rabbis, our goal is for every lay leader to get involved by teaching and fulfilling rabbinical duties. There is no such thing as a spectator at Aish HaTorah. We are all partners in the Almighty’s work.
One major topic that came up multiple times was that we must train our students in Jerusalem to get involved once they return home. When I return to Jerusalem I intend on creating a program called CBGB, which stands for Come Back Give Back. This program will train our students to get involved with outreach when they go back to their communities.
I want to relate one story that touched my heart. I met with the leadership of the Sephardic Aish Minyan and I mentioned to them that one of the reasons we are so committed to the growth of Aish in Latin America is because of the tragic murder of our beloved mentor, Rabbi Reuven Biermacher. He was the heart and soul of our Spanish program at Aish. After his funeral, we decided that the best way to answer anti-Semitic terrorism is to increase our programs and spread Judaism around the world. After I was finished speaking, one of the gentlemen in the room stood up to address the room. With tears in his eyes, he told us that when he studied at Aish, he learned with Rav Biermacher. Rav Biermacher taught him how a Jew should wash his hands every morning. Every day when he wakes up and says the blessing as he washes his hands, he remembers Rav Biermacher.
This is the story of the Jewish nation. No matter how many times we are pushed to the ground, we always get up and move forward. I want to thank the entire Aish HaTorah Chile community for opening their hearts and homes to me this week. I especially want to thank the staff of Aish Chile for the incredible and holy work that they are doing. Senior Rabbis Waissbluth and Tamim were incredible hosts and I cannot wait to reward their hospitality when they come to Jerusalem. I also want to thank Rabbi Meir Rosenberg, a Chilean native and the Director of Aish Latin America, for accompanying me on this trip. May the Almighty bless the community of Santiago with growth and passion in everything that they do.