My wife and I spent this past Thursday through Sunday at the Aish Partner’s Conference. The term partner in this context is anybody involved with in Aish in any way. The organization aims to be inclusive and if you want to: help bring Jews back to Judaism; avocate for Israel; or just learn Torah, then you’re welcome.
Many of the people I met there had heard of Beyond BT and the Aish people were supportive of the site. Everybody was approachable and we talked to many of the senior people about a number of issues. The speakers were fantastic and the program was packed with sessions. We attended about 15 different lectures and sessions on a wide variety of topics. They were all of extremely high quality. You can see the program here. My only complaint is that all the great videos they showed in the 2007 Accomplishment session on Moetzae Shabbos awakened my somewhat dormant taiva for Rock n Roll.
But the most amazing thing about the conference is how Aish, under Rabbi Noach Weinberg’s leadership, has taken Baalei Teshuva like you and me and empowered, enabled and assisted them in a wide array of projects that benefit Klal Yisroel. The vast majority of the key staff including Eric Coopersmith (CEO), Nechemia Coopersmith (Aish.Com head), Yitz Greenman (head of Discovery and Aish New York) and numerous others are Baalei Teshuva. Rav Noach recognizes the innovative power of Baalei Teshvua and is helping to unleash that power in signficant ways. We can all take pleasure in what they’ve done. (R’ Noach says: take pleasure, not pride in your accomplishments).
The theme of the conference was very focused on our mission as Jews, which is bringing G-d’s Torah to the entire world. The message is that each one of us can and should have a role in that mission. The conferences had several examples of individuals who have made significant impact through their efforts. Perhaps in subsequent posts I’ll share some insights from particular shiurim, but for now let me just leave you with a few of the projects that Baalei Teshuva powered Aish is accomplishing:
Aish.Com is the most innovative and comprehensive Torah oriented sight on the Web.
Project Inspire is a project to help and encourage Torah Observant Jews to share the wealth of Torah with their fellow Jews.
Aish Exploratorium is a state of the art museum which will introduce 350,000 Jews a year to Torah through the medium of Jewish History when they feel the tug of their heritage at the Kosel.
Hasbara is a program that educates and trains university students to be effective pro-Israel activists on their campuses.
Aish On Campus brings university students across North America an inspiring, fun and meaningful Jewish campus experience.
Aish Cafe serves a new brand of Jewish learning by bringing the best of education and entertainment straight to dorm rooms on campus.
Media Central cultivates relationships with journalists in Israel and provides them with an Israeli point of view on issues and events in the Middle East.
Jewish Pathways is for people who need to “catch up,” or who want to learn Torah in a more systematic, comprehensive way, Jewish Pathways courses are built around essential learning components like videos lectures, readings, slide shows and quizzes. Currently all the courses are being offered for free, so it might make sense to try it out today.
We’re big fans of anybody who spreads and supports Torah for BTs and PreTs, but after experiencing the conference (on my own dime) I’d have to say that Aish is firing on all cylinders.