Aish HaTorah is a world leader in creative Jewish educational programs and leadership training, dedicated to answering the vital question, "Why be Jewish?"
Aish HaTorah, founded in Jerusalem by Rabbi Noah Weinberg in 1974, is dedicated to revitalizing the Jewish people by providing opportunities for Jews of all backgrounds to discover their heritage in an atmosphere of open inquiry and mutual respect.
Aish.com, the largest Jewish learning site, features articles and audio segments on spirituality, parenting, dating, weekly Torah portion, Holocaust studies, and Ask the Rabbi. The site operates a 24-hour live webcam from the Western Wall, which has registered 20 million visits. Spin-off sites in Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Russian are all leading websites in their respective languages.
Aish HaTorah's headquarters is in the Old City of Jerusalem, where the government of Israel awarded Aish a coveted piece of land -- 40 percent of the frontage facing the Western Wall. Construction is nearing completion on a hitech outreach center that features a rooftop vista overlooking the Temple Mount, and the Kirk Douglas Theatre which will house a dramatic film presentation of the Jewish contribution to humanity. Scheduled to open in 2009, the outreach center anticipates 350,000 visitors annually. As CNN's Larry King said: "What better location could there be for an institution single-mindedly dedicated to reaching and teaching Jews their heritage?"
Beyond Jewish education, Aish HaTorah is known as a staunch defender of Israel, and has launched various Israel advocacy programs. Aish celebrates Israel Independence Day and Jerusalem Day, and proudly flies the flag of Israel above its World Center at the Western Wall. Over 500 people have made aliyah directly through their involvement with Aish HaTorah.
The name Aish HaTorah, literally "Fire of Torah," was inspired by the talmudic story of Rebbe Akiva, a 40-year-old shepherd who could not even read the Aleph-Bet. One day, he came across a stone that had been holed out by a constant drip of water. He concluded: If something as soft as water could carve a hole in solid rock, then how much more so can Torah -- which is fire -- make an indelible impression on my heart. Rebbe Akiva committed himself to study Torah, and went on to become the greatest sage of his generation, with 24,000 students learning under him at one time.
As Elie Weisel said: "Aish HaTorah means to me the passion of teaching, the passion of learning. The study of Torah, the source of Jewish values, is the way to Jewish survival."
Aish HaTorah's Educational Philosophy
* Judaism is not all or nothing; it is a journey where every step counts, to be pursued according to one's own pace and interest.
* Every Jew is worthy of profound respect, no matter their level of observance, knowledge or affiliation. We never know who is a better Jew.
* Mitzvot (commandments) are not rituals, but opportunities for personal growth, to be studied and understood.
* Torah is wisdom for living, teaching us how to maximize our potential and pleasure in life.
* The Jewish people's history and destiny is to serve as a light unto the nations. The Torah's ideas have civilized the world and can continue to do so, if the Jewish people as a nation continues to accept the challenge.