Dear Aish Family,
One of the refrains that I have heard often since coming to Aish HaTorah over two years ago has been the question of how much of a priority outreach should be in the community. Many feel that the real priority of the Jewish community should be in-reach to strengthen Orthodox Jews and we don’t have the capacity to spend time and dollars on outreach. I have found this approach to be tremendously shortsighted and disingenuous.
Our entire religion was founded by Abraham who made it a priority to reach out to all people in the hopes of teaching and spreading monotheism. In essence, Judaism has always been a religion of outreach and to ignore reaching out to our Jewish brothers and sisters would be catastrophic. It would mean that we have given up on igniting the fire in our fellow Jews soul. Not very palatable at all.
This past week I attended the wedding of the daughter of one of Aish’s long time supporters. Charles and Naomi Ruth Deutsch have been the backbone of support for Aish St. Louis since its early days as Aish HaTorah’s first branch worldwide. I met Charlie Deutsch, as he is known to friends and colleagues, on my trip to St. Louis a year ago. We spent time talking about the Jewish community and Aish. It was a very warm conversation and I looked forward to continuing the relationship. When I heard the great news that Charlie was making a wedding I arranged my schedule to be able to attend.
Being that I had only met Charlie in person once I arranged to go to the wedding with the indefatigable and charismatic Rabbi Yosef David as my “wingman”. Unfortunately, Rabbi David got caught in NYC traffic and I wound up attending the very beginning of the wedding alone. So at the Chosson’s Tisch (Grooms gathering), I made my way over to Charlie to reintroduce myself and wish him Mazel Tov. What ensued moved me beyond words.
When Charlie saw me he jumped up from his chair and gave me a kiss and a hug. He then proceeded to quiet the room and announced that the head of Aish HaTorah was in attendance and how much he owed to Aish. He went on to tell me that Aish HaTorah had put him on the path of Torah observance and he was forever grateful. He then took me around to whoever was near to introduce me and praise Aish HaTorah. Here I was trying to show respect to the father of the bride and he could not stop showing respect for me. It was breathtaking.
After my moving introduction, I began to look around the room. There were many Rabbis or Jewish organizations that Charlie was a strong supporter of in St. Louis and around the world. So many of the Rabbis there told me amazing stories of Charlie’s generosity and how he was always there for them. It was then I realized that outreach and in-reach were like two sides of a coin that could not exist without each other. Due to the fact that Aish HaTorah had engaged with Charlie all those years ago, one of the pillars of the Orthodox community was now taking responsibility for the entire Jewish world.
As Jews, we have no idea how many Rebbi Akiva’s and Charlie Deutch’s there are in the world waiting to be engaged. It is our duty to connect with every Jew and offer them the opportunity to learn Torah and study their heritage. Reaching out is what defines the Jewish religion. We can leave no Jewish man or woman behind. In our generation, so many Jews walk away from the Almighty not due to any choice they made but due to ignorance of the Almighty’s wisdom. Aish is committed to doubling our efforts to make sure that every Jew has the opportunity to study Torah regardless of background or Judaic knowledge. Outreach is so core to Judaism that in many ways it is the eleventh commandment. May the Almighty grant us the strength to reach out to ALL of His children.
Warm regards and good shabbos!