Spark the flame

Celebrating Tu B'Shevat At Aish HaTorah

Locked up in the Old City of Jerusalem, I am amazed at Aish HaTorah’s ability to spread light all over the globe. Their relentless pursuit to find and create the next generation of Jewish leaders has not dwindled since Covid plagued the world; rather it intensified.

It was a powerful message when Aish took on the unexpected risks and financial costs to invest in me and the other students, rather than sending us home like many other yeshivas. We saw this at the very beginning, during the initial lockdown, when for the first time in Aish’s history they hosted Passover Seders within their World Center. There was one problem though, our Rabbis were unable to come in. I was fortunate to grow up having Passover Seders every year but for many of the other students, this would be their first.

Seeing the Kotel during our meals while singing “Next year in Jerusalem” from our Haggadahs is a memory I will never forget. Not only that, but the same students who never attended a seder before coming to Aish stepped up to become table leaders. This experience highlighted for me what Aish is all about; creating a culture where no amount of adversity will get in the way of one’s ability to become a Jewish leader.

During that lockdown, only a small handful of students knew how to read the Torah. It took a lot of time for these few guys to prepare the difficult reading for Shabbos. It was so inspiring that once the lockdown ended Aish immediately taught everyone interested in how to read from the ancient text as well. Most students did not know how to read Hebrew until recently; now, nearly everyone knows how to read directly from the scroll, including myself. Thanks to these lessons, I was able to recite the Haf-Torah for my ten year Bar Mitzvah anniversary this past Fall. This showed me another amazing characteristic about Aish; they are swift problem solvers. When they see an area for growth in their students, they organize a program to help develop that skill.

Another thing about Aish I find incredible is that they teach life skills as well as Judaism. One of my morning classes spent weeks on goal setting. I decided my big goal while at yeshiva was to read the entire Chumash. With the help of the Rabbis who answered all of my ten million questions on the parshas, I was able to complete the Chumash by Simchat Torah. My new goal is to reread it with Rashi’s commentary as well as complete the entire Tanakh. With the support of the Rabbis and my peers, I know this is possible and I will accomplish my goals.

The tremendous support here is something I adore about Aish’s culture. In college, I felt silenced whenever I said something that went against the mainstream. Here, rather than being shut down for having an opinion someone disagrees with, diversity of thought is welcomed and allows me to have productive conversations.

It is always amazing to support someone else when an opportunity arrives, but people here do not wait, they create opportunities to give support and “love to their fellow like themselves.” Not once have I seen someone be bullied here; rather, I constantly see people receiving unconditional support, compliments, smiles and positive energy. I have watched people come into the doors of Aish with low self-esteem, who now walk with a newly found stride of confidence. Aish has a culture of building everyone up. I have seen it change the lives of many people who I am proud to call my friends for life. 

When it is time for me to leave, I want to bring the mentality of lighting up the world wherever I go. One program teaching me how to do this is the Aish Ambassadors Program. This incredible opportunity has given me training, mentors, and seminars that teach the best approaches on how to be an effective leader. All of this training will help me and others continue to spread Aish’s spark wherever we go to build others up, turn frowns into smiles, restore Jewish pride and create a brighter world.

The profound meaning Aish has had on my life has been transformative. However, their outreach is not only within its own walls. There are a lot of Jews out there who need support too.

While in University, I realized the majority of my campus’s Jewish population did not care about their Jewish roots. It was heartbreaking when I realized that there are many Jews who do not connect to Judaism.

Aish has also taken notice and is launching its boldest initiative ever to connect and inspire three million Jews within the next ten years to discover the rich, powerful, deep and historic roots of their Jewish heritage. Judaism’s traditions and divine holiness has contributed to mankind more than any other civilization in world history. Thanks to Aish, within ten years millions of Jews will realize how special they are; individually and as a whole.

You too can be on the front lines with Aish, helping respark Jewish pride. By contributing to this year’s Causematch Campaign, you will be spreading four thousand years worth of tradition, Torah wisdom and positivity around the globe! All contributions will be quadrupled until February 16th. Please help change the world by contributing using this link Light Up The Entire World!

I hope everyone is blessed to come to a place like Aish to find inner happiness and unlock their ultimate potentials. The community here is the most positive environment I have ever been in and with your support, you can help spread this light across the globe too.

It still feels unreal seeing the Kotel every day from my bedroom window. I think how lucky I am to have spent the last two years at Aish HaTorah and the impact it has made in my life. Now it’s your chance to help inspire the Jewish Nation. Get involved in your own communities. Take time to learn more ways to spark the flame within yourself and others. Check out aish.com to learn more about its mission, and to connect via its incredible resources.

Thank you for all the support and continue being a light to the world!

About the Author
Currently a student at Aish HaTorah, Jacob is experienced in Israeli advocacy and very passionate to spread awareness for Jewish and Israeli causes.
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