As we were waiting to check out, this Chasidic Yid started to talk to me. He explained that he had 12 children and spent a lot of time buying food to feed all of those hungry, yet cute, mouths. The conversation was pleasant enough until it took a bizarre turn. He said, “Rabbi Burg (how did he know my name?!?) this is all Aish HaTorah’s fault.” I looked at him strangely and he started to explain.
Moshe/Marcus, (we were heading to a first name basis at that point), told me that he grew up in a totally unaffiliated family where the only Jewishness they had was that every few months his ”Zeide” would visit and they would have a Friday night dinner. Other than those few meals every year they had no connection to Judaism. While in graduate school, one of his friends suggested they go to a seminar that was being given locally called “Discovery.” Marcus had no interest but his friend asked him to come as his “wingman”.
Moshe looked at me and said with tears in his eyes, “So you see Rabbi Burg, my amazing wife, my amazing children, my amazing journey started because of Aish HaTorah. I get your email every week and cheer Aish on from Boro Park. Keep up your strength because we Jews need the Aish team”. I was completely overwhelmed by this conversation and even more so by the realization of the responsibility that comes with being on #TeamAish.
There are so many of our precious brothers and sisters who have walked away from us. They have not left us by choice. They have wandered away because no one ever made a strong case for being part of the Jewish nation and connecting to the Almighty. We all need to continue to reach out to the special Jews all around us. We must invite them to Shabbat meals. We must invite them to Torah classes. We must invite them to Aish Destiny Missions. We must make sure every Jew knows that Aish is holding the door to Judaic knowledge wide open to them. May the Almighty give us the strength and passion to warmly embrace every single Jew.