Aish HaTorah celebrates 25 years of success

The essence of Aish HaTorah is that Jews have to take responsibility.

Rabbi Yehuda Appel, co-director of Aish HaTorah of Cleveland, said that was a key message from Rabbi Noah Weinberg – who founded Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem in 1974 – when Appel founded a branch of the organization in Cleveland in 1990.

“The world is divided into two types of people: those who take responsibility and those who just let it slide,” Appel told a crowd of more than 600 when Aish HaTorah of Cleveland celebrated its 25th anniversary Dec. 2 at Executive Caterers at Landerhaven in Mayfield Heights. “Jews are vectors of responsibility in the world; that’s what we need to do.”

Appel and his wife, Channah, and co-director Rabbi Chaim Feld and his wife, Barrie, were honored at the event. Feld joined Appel as co-director in 1991.

A video presentation highlighting Aish Cleveland’s programs included a tribute to Irving I. Stone, a philanthropist and founder of American Greetings Corp. who provided the funding to bring Aish HaTorah to Cleveland. Stone died in 2000.

Charlie Harary, co-founder and CEO of H3 Capital LLC, a venture capital firm based in New York, was the keynote speaker.

Other messages passed on by Weinberg, Appel said, were that Jews don’t say “I can’t,” and they don’t look at themselves as “I’s.”

“A Jew sees the world as a ‘we,’ not an ‘I,’” he said. “Once you start to do that, amazing things happen.

“When I came to Cleveland 25 years ago, I didn’t see how I was going to make this thing work. But all of a sudden, we had 40 students – not because I was such a great teacher, but because it was the place to be.”

Appel said he feels blessed because there isn’t anything his wife, Channah, won’t do for people. Channah Appel heads Aish Cleveland’s chesed (kindness) department and is director of its Russian outreach program.

“She never says, ‘I can’t,’ and my kids have inherited that,” he said.

Appel added it has been “an enormous privilege” for him to have served as co-director with Feld the past 24 years.

“Chaim is so special,” he said. “He truly walks the walk and talks the talk. What’s most important to me is he lives the Jewish people.”

Feld praised Appel for his “humility and generosity” and said he’s proud of his wife, Barrie, founder and head of Aish’s Chayil, Aish Cleveland’s women’s division.

“I’ve watched her blossom into a superstar, and I’m so thankful and blessed that I have such a special soulmate,” Feld said.

Harary, a senior lecturer for the Orthodox Union and Aish HaTorah, spoke about the importance of going “all in” and taking responsibility.

“My message for each of us is that we never allow ourselves to stand by a firepit and not jump in, if we believe in it,” he said. “We should never wake up in the morning and say, ‘I am just.’”

A dessert reception for sponsors followed the program.

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