30 April 2012

AISH - Don't get burned!

8 Iyyar 5772
Day 23 of the Omer
Disturbing news about Aish HaTorah continues to come to light.

Today, Rabbi Lazer Brody reported the following via his Lazer Beams Blog:

I received an email from Chaim Michel (pen name, to protect his privacy for obvious reasons), calling my attention to his article, "What Husbands Need to Know" on Aish.com, where he attributes saving his virtually hopeless marriage to "The Garden of Peace" by our beloved rabbi and spiritual guide Rav Shalom Arush shlit"a. Chaim was quite upset that the Aish editors toned down his praise for Rav Arush and the book as well as removed some of his most important points, such as the necessity to guard one's eyes and maintain personal holiness to assure marital bliss. When he confronted them about it, they purportedly told him, "those parts are not for our readers." [emphasis mine]

Last December, I wrote to them to point out that their featured Hanukah video actually promoted Hellenism and this was their response, in part:

The strategy behind Chanukah: Rock of Ages is to reach totally unaffiliated, disconnected Jews who have no interest in Judaism. An entertaining, viral film that gets enormous traffic and exposure in mainstream media (the Chanukah film was just featured on The Today Show) gets people to visit Aish.com, where we have treasure trove of articles and films that explore the deeper Torah-based meaning of Chanukah and Judaism.

The idea seems to be to hide the fact that Torah makes demands on us. I don't think you can apply marketing techniques to Torah. This reminds me of the old bait and switch tactic - lure them in with some feel-good video and then hope the real Truth will grab and hold them.

They cite numbers and percentages as proof that their methods achieve success:

...Aish.com has an impressive track record in outreach. Our recent user's survey showed that over 80% of non-frum Jews told us that Aish.com has given them a better understanding of Judaism and has increased their sense of Jewish pride. 59% said they have increased their Jewish observance. Our last two viral films garnered just under 10,000 new email subscribers. That is an enormous success."
But the Torah teaches us that quality is superior to quantity. If Aish believes, as has been hinted, that the ends justify the means and that they measure their success by the numbers of subscribers to their email list, is anything off-limits?

Pastor Hagee on the Roof (of Aish haTorah) - Update

...Jewish Israel contacted the administration of the Aish HaTorah World Center at the Kotel and asked if they were aware that Pastor Hagee had visited their center and was filmed proclaiming the gospel from their roof. Shira Plotkin, Private Events Coordinator, spoke with me and confirmed that Hagee had indeed been at Aish. Jewish Israel remained on the phone as Ms. Plotkin and Mordechai David, Director of Operations for the Aish World Center, viewed the video. This writer was asked to give Aish some time to formulate a response before releasing a report.

About an hour after the initial phone conversation, Jewish Israel was called by Yossi Lapko, who introduced himself as the personal assistant to Rabbi Yehuda Weinberg, the COO of Aish Jerusalem. Mr. Lapko told Jewish Israelthat Aish can't take responsibility for what is said or done on their rooftop and that they have no control over tourists or guests. Lapko confirmed that he is fully aware of the fact that Hagee is a celebrated mega pastor and that he was aware of Hagee's visit to Aish last week. However, Mr. Lapko claims it was not a pre-planned visit with a film crew or entourage. Lapko reiterated that the Aish building is frequented by many visitors.

Mr. Lapko did feel that the content of the video was terrible and he said he would have stopped it had he known what was being said, but he clearly wanted to underplay the incident - referring to it as, "like spilt milk". Jewish Israelwas also told that Aish has no plans to change their visitation policy at this time or to caution guests to respect the nature and location of their site. Lapko also seemed opposed to having any type of supervision on the roof.
[emphasis mine]

One has to wonder if Aish has accepted donations from Hagee as have so many others. And if so, if the acceptance of "donations" might play a bigger role in directing decisions at Aish.

Could this perceived willingness to bend the rules for what some might see as the greater good be behind one very questionable "rabbi's" recent advice to an equally questionable conversion candidate? Having already been rejected by the most outstanding conversion schools, she was coached to approach Aish with instructions to emphasize to them that the family has money and might be convinced to endow Aish with some of it, ostensibly in gratitude for their assistance.

Once one steps onto that very slippery slope called compromise, no matter how worthy the cause, one can never be entirely sure of where one will end up.