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A MESSAGE FROM THE DESK OF RABBI STEVEN BERG




By RABBI STEVEN BERG

Dear Aish Family,
 
I want to begin by saying THANK YOU! Many of you were so incredibly generous in contributing and donating this past week as 2020 came to a close. Our “AISH-Vision 2030” to get 3 million Jews to study Torah starts today! We will need all of you to roll up your sleeves and dig deeply into your pockets to make our dream a reality. We will need the three “W’s” from all of you. Wealth, wisdom and work. Buckle your seatbelts because it will be an amazing ten year ride as we fundamentally affect the hearts and minds of Jews across the world. 

I was very moved this week when I saw the video of Jonathan and Esther Pollard landing in Israel. There is no doubt that the story is a complex one. Jonathan was imprisoned for 30 years for spying on behalf of Israel against the United States. I remember being a teenager in camp when Jonathan’s father-in-law came to speak to us about his case and the unusual punitive penalty that was handed down. It is something that has been on the minds of the greater Jewish community for decades. 

When the Pollards landed in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu was waiting by the plane to hand them Israeli passports. In an amazing moment of gratitude, Jonathan motioned for the Prime Minister to wait as they both got down on the ground to kiss the land of Israel. 

There are two governing Judaic principles that have kept the Jewish Nation together for 3000 years. The first is that we never leave a Jew behind. No matter where a Jew lives they are part of the greater Jewish family and we will always do everything in our power to save them. The second is that Israel is home. Period. End of story. Welcome home Jonathan and Esther. 

There is and will always be one homeland for the Jewish people and that is Israel. We must transmit that value to the Jewish youth around the world. To see Jonathan, after 30 years of incarceration and yearning to go to Israel, get on his hands and knees to kiss the tarmac as his first action, symbolized the Jewish yearning for Israel throughout the ages.

As soon as the current worldwide pandemic gets under control one of the first orders of business for the Jews of the diaspora must be to travel to Israel. Aish will be waiting to welcome you with open arms. 

... Shalom,
Rabbi Steven Burg
CEO, Aish Global


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BRILLIANT AND HUMBLE, VISIONARY AND PRAGMATIC


By RABBI YAKOV HOROWITZ

Dear Friends,

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski zt'l, who was niftar at
age

90 due to complications from COVID-19 yesterday,

was brilliant and humble (below, see the short,

remarkable video of his levaya), visionary and

pragmatic, fluent in the  teachings of the

Chassidish Rebbis and the thought leaders in psychiatry

and addiction treatment.

At great personal risk, he was a voice for the voiceless victims of domestic violence decades before it became acceptable to do so in our pubic squares.

I am forever grateful for, and frankly astounded by, the countess hours he selflessly devoted to mentoring me when I began advocating for teens-at-risk in 1996, and years later for abuse victims.

I will deeply miss and always treasure his wisdom, his words of encouragement, his delightful chuckle, and his fatherly pat on my hand.

Yehi Zichro Baruch — May his memory be for a blessing.

Yakov Horowitz

​                             WILL WE EVER RETURN TO PRE-COVID19 NORMS?

NEW YORK – As the world continues to vaccinate and look toward the future after the COVID-19 pandemic, the Orthodox Union, the nation’s oldest and largest umbrella organization for the North American Orthodox Jewish community, convened executive directors from 55 North American synagogues to begin to gear up for the re-opening of full community and synagogue activities.  

They discussed the challenges brought upon by the pandemic as well as how their communities, rabbis and youth program leaders were able to provide innovative programming in ways that ensured the safety of their membership and met the needs of those with particularly high risks, such as the elderly. 

The group also delved into the economic impact the pandemic had on their shuls’ revenue streams, like large simchas and other fundraisers as well as the hopes that the vaccine administration will help their synagogues and congregants eventually return to normal operations, and events in the near future.  

The executive directors come from more than 55 U.S. synagogues across California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia participated in the virtual confab. The Canadian contingent joined from a handful of shuls in Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto.

“Once it was safe to do so, our shuls began to slowly re-open in line with local health, government and halachic guidance,” said Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer. “With limited in-person attendance as mandated by each state’s unique situation, these synagogues had to rapidly pivot to address their communities’ needs as well as the economic impact the pandemic had on their members and how it would affect the synagogues future participation and stability.” 

“As we look to the near future, and hopefully a period of successful and expedited vaccine administration, many of our shuls are left contemplating what’s next and how to resume their pre-COVID19 normal operations once it’s safe to do so,” said OU Synagogue & Community Services Long Island and Queens Regional Director Yehuda Friedman “It’s inspiring to see how these executive directors rose to the challenges of the moment and keep forging along during this tumultuous time. 

Founded in 1898, the Orthodox Union, (OU), serves as the voice of American Orthodox Jewry, with over 400 congregations in its synagogue network. As the umbrella organization for American Orthodox Jewry, the OU is at the forefront of advocacy work on both state and federal levels, outreach to Jewish teens and young professionals through NCSY, Israel Free Spirit Birthright, Yachad and OU Press, among many other divisions and programs.

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