Dear Henry, and all of the students in Albany we have been involved with over the last three years,
Since we officially accepted to take a position a month ago in Denver, Colorado, enabling me to make a Lebronesque return to my hometown, my current boss has asked that I officially submit a letter of resignation, which would serve as an official document stating that I am leaving Aish New York. While in life I do not view myself as a procrastinator, for this simple, quick task of writing a brief email, I continually find excuses to push it off. I push it off despite being certain that we are in fact leaving Albany, as we are under contract for a house in Denver, and the closing date is less than two weeks. The reason that I continually have been pushing off writing this letter, is that it is so very hard to leave this position. By leaving this position, I am leaving bosses I have cherished working for, an organization that gave me my first real opportunity that would go on to set me up for my life dream, and the broader Aish family; a family I have been a part of non stop ever since I was 12 years old, being involved in Aish Denver, later Aish Cleveland, Aish Boston, Aish Jerusalem, and finally, Aish New York. As difficult as it is leaving all of that behind, by far, it all pales in comparison to how difficult it is to leave you—the students--behind. We hope that it is no secret that we don’t just view our position as an ordinary job, and we don’t view you merely as people with whom we interact daily on the job. Because the truth is that we literally view you as members of our own family. When you are in pain, we are in pain. When you have triumphs, we bask in pride and happiness for you. And to be honest, leaving all of you behind, our precious students, is excruciatingly painful. It wasn't until this past weekend, graduation weekend, that I fully realized that I will no longer be seeing you on a regular basis, and that is a very difficult reality to come to grips with.
I wanted to leave some parting thoughts and blessings: To our incredible, inspiring graduates: I stay awake at night fearing that for you, your experience at Aish might just be the temporary, ‘college’ phase where you got into your Judaism; but will have no lasting impact on your life. That notion scares the heck out of me. Judaism is not a temporary phase, or a hobby. It is a lifestyle, infused with beauty, and depth. It is a way of life that our nation has lived by for the past 3000 years, where we have been charged with mission of being a light unto the nations. And while it will not guarantee you success or happiness in your life, and there are no promises everything will go according to your plan, I do guarantee you that it will provide you with a life infused with meaning. Please, all of you seniors, make a definitive decision, right now, to make a commitment in some capacity to how you will continually grow in your Judaism. I will be reaching out to all of you soon, trying to connect you to the post college versions of Aish, all of whom have incredible staff and inspiring programs. I intend on making some sort of weekly/biweekly online class. Decide that you will light shabbos candles every week, have a shabbos meal with your family, pray once a day, etc… But do something, however seemingly small it is. My wife and I took tremendous joy when over spring break, two girls sent us pictures of the foods they were making of recipes we gave them for their spring break shabbos meals away from Albany.
To all of the students: Be darn proud of your Jewish identities. If you transfer schools or go to grad school, don’t rely on people like our recruiters at Aish to knock on your doors; you go seek out the Jewish organizations yourself, because you are so beaming with Jewish pride, excited to continue your Jewish Journey. There is nothing in the world more depressing than when I ask a table of people if they are Jewish, and everyone denies being Jewish, until the Christian kid points at the Jew, cowering behind his books telling me that he is in fact Jewish. Don’t cower; be proud. Be proud to be a part of the religion that introduced morality to the world, that affirms we are all created in G-d’s image. Be proud to be part of the nation that has sent massive amounts of support to Nepal; that although Israel is but one percent of the world population, 30 percent of the international medical team in Nepal is from Israel. In short don’t be Jew-ISH, be a JEW!
To the girls: Never forget that you are the holy, pure daughters of our matriarchs, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. As Rabbi Feldheim used to say, you are princesses; real queens. Never settle for anyone who treats you as anything but the royalty you are. I will never forget on a trip I once staffed, a guy once went on a walk with one of you; I was tempted to take a baseball bat and chase him down, or beat him away. Make sure I approve before getting too serious.
To the boys: make sure you firmly reject the culture we are currently bombarded with that treats women as objects. Treat them as royalty. Never do anything to them you wouldn’t want done to your sister. If I hear of any of you acting inappropriately, I will find you, and you will suffer the consequences.
As Rabbi Schorr said before me as he left, “I am your Rabbi for life.” I am not just your rabbi for the 1-3 years you have known me; I am your rabbi for life. Now, instead of seeing each other in person regularly, we will just see each other on Facetime regularly, or for you losers with androids, on Skype. Please invite me to your weddings, keep me posted on your lives, and stay in touch. When you realize how much you long to live in a place which boasts 300 days of sunshine a year, I, or my wife, will welcome you to Denver, with open arms, depending on your gender.
With heartfelt love,