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You Don’t Get It

When my cousins were in the army, my aunt refused to leave the country. For years, she made sure to stick around just in case something happened to them.

Aside from the level of devotion this demonstrated, which I can only be jealous of, it’s illustrative of something that few Charedi mothers have to deal with.

When my mother would get dressed during my childhood, she’d consider what underwear she was wearing so that if she was caught in a terror attack she’d remain modest on the way to the hospital.

These were the stories my mother would tell at the Shabbat table. Aside from the lovely experience of hearing your mother talk like that as a child, it’s illustrative of what few Americans have to deal with.

So when people blindly encourage Aliyah. When the wave flags in support of Israel. When they remain “staunch advocates for Israel,” hear this: you don’t get it.

My brother lost comrades from his military service. Go explain to someone that their friend got blown up because they were born in Israel, but if they were born in the US they’d be deliberating over which university to go to.

Even my parents, who chose to put themselves through that shit as adults, do not understand.

What it’s like to grow up in Israel as a child, surrounded by constant struggle and strife. Swapping the innocence of your formative of years of your life for trauma. In school, in the army, walking down the street.

And if you don’t get it yourself, if you haven’t done it firsthand, then you are treating others like cannon fodder. Pawns in your own plan.

The freedom, expansiveness, and opportunities available in North America and Europe are unparalleled, despite the many issues that are still prevalent there. They are a rare privilege that many people would cut off their right arm to experience.

To leave that because you are restless, want something more, want to belong, is your prerogative. Go add trauma to the gaping hole in your heart.

To make that other people’s reality, including your children’s, is outside your right.

Americans cheering on Israelis.

Fathers cheering on their sons.

Ba’al Teshuvas cheering on their FFB children.

Don’t push others to places you’ve never gone.

Israel Didn’t Have a Right to Exist

With all the shit that has been going down in Israel, I figured it was about time I wrote about my take on the subject.

(See how you don’t even need a date to acknowledge that there is shit going on in Israel?)

Let’s start with a few premises. The first being that you’re an atheist, or at least agnostic enough to not claim that God speaks directly to you. Because in any other situation that would be called schizophrenia.

If God told you that this god-forsaken mountain is yours, and simultaneously told Muhammad over there that the same mountain is his, well, shit is about to go down.

Oh wait, it already has.

So this exploration will mostly be around secular Zionism, because as soon as religion comes into play it becomes a much larger, and more immobile shitshow argument.

People talk about “does Israel have a right to exist?” but I really believe there is a question that supersedes this, which is “did Israel have a right to exist?”

Did Israel have a right to exist?

No. I don’t believe it had.

Look, I am a proponent of Jews, who have been historically disproportionately persecuted, having their own land and their own ability to defend themselves.

But I believe that choosing Palestine as that land of choice, for what is basically nostalgic reasons, was a gross miscalculation that has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people and the misery of so many more.

Let’s start with who is a Jew, which is a huge argument in itself, but I’m gonna go with the genetics and culture approach. Sefaradi and Ashkenazi Jews have almost nothing in common. They don’t like marrying each other. They get completely different results on genetic tests.

Ashkenazi Jews act like white Europeans with more neuroses and indigestion; Sfaradi Jews are glorified Arabs who choose to worship God instead of Allah, and whose prayers would be indiscernible to the casual observer from that of any mosque.

So to make the case that both of these parties have a claim to a specific plot of land in the Middle East requires us to travel so far back in time to a supposed common ancestry that it has no measurable trace in today’s reality.

We end up with a claim based entirely on a lot of folk songs and prayers (the latter of which the secular zionist has already rejected), and this is not enough to essentially show up as a white colonist and claim this land as yours.

It doesn’t matter how backward the current natives are.

It doesn’t matter that much of the country is swampland.

It doesn’t matter that your presence has introduced huge increases to everyone’s quality of life.

The British could make the same claim about India. And they were colonists.

Choosing to go back to one of the most contested, volatile places in the entire world in an attempt to escape persecution is a very, very bad idea.

I do believe that establishing a Jew country of some kind in Africa or Alaska would have been a far less dramatic and destructive move. Heck, Germany should have partitioned part of its own country and given it to the Jews, along with a whole bunch of tanks, after what they put the Jews through.

So yeah, Israel didn’t have a right to exist.

Buying land from a local colonizing power (The Ottomans) and then settling it, does not give you a claim to the land.

The United Nations voting in favor of Israel’s establishment, does not either.

In what world could you possibly describe Berel Shemerlotvitz of Lumza Poland as being indigenous to the land of Israel?

Another angle: Israel’s entire indigenous claim to the country is based on an ever earlier colonizing enterprise they undertook 3,000 years ago when they conquered parts of the land from other nations.

Maybe this land should really be Hitite land? We’re choosing a snapshot in time that happened thousands of years ago, pointing specifically to it, and saying “see, that’s ours.”

… Nor does anybody else

But here’s the flip side. Most of the countries of the world didn’t have the right to be established based on these same principles. They all colonized and conquered countries and oppressed the local indigenous populations.

The United States. Canada. They are all sitting on stolen, indigenous lands, with a track record of treating the remnants of those people like shit far into the 20th century.

So Israel pulled the same move, and for arguably more justified (desperate) reasons, ones that were not fueled by greed as much as the urge for survival. They initiated this during a time that all the major empires were still actively colonizing, my assumption is that similar attempts would not fly in today’s climates.

They then rebuffed attacks from foreign countries that had no real business getting involved – if Jordan really cared about Palestinian human rights, they might have done a better job treating Palestinian refugees in their own land.

I’m including the Six-day war in this. Preempting a strike against foreign countries who have repeatedly threatened to annihilate you is not some sort of absurd move. Needing to wait for someone with a murderous track record to make the first move is ridiculous.

So Israel conquers parts of the land that had been previously colonized by other countries – Jordan had been squatting on the West Bank, Syria in the Golan Heights. These lands were not more Jordanian or Syrian, they had all been Ottoman until a few years before.

The indigenous people of the land that we call Israel have been fucked for generations, and blaming Israel disproportionately for that is not ok.

So what is to be done about the state of Israel?

I have no real fucking clue. The Western world does not know how to contend with Middle Eastern tribalism, and Israel claims to be a western country, although that claim often feels tenuous.

A shift in attitude

I believe that the main shift that needs to occur is a shifting of perspective about what was.

Canada takes this to the extreme, as it plagues itself with guilt over being a colonist. That often results in pathetic lip service and empty claims.

Nonetheless, it would serve Israel to drop the entitlement, to take the attitude of “We fucked up in the past, how can we correct this?”

How would things be different if we didn’t pretend living in Israel was our God-given right?

To me, a solid way of doing this would be through education. Treat any Arab and Palestinian child within your political reach like Canada would treat an aboriginal child today (or better, if Canada is failing at doing what it claims to be doing).

Education lifts everyone up, and allowing Palestinians to teach warped views of reality and hate is a human rights violation to the children involved. All Israeli Arabs should be given a fair education and be required to learn Hebrew so they can function in Israeli society; their neighborhoods should not be neglected by municipalities as 3rd class ghettos.

Conversely, Israelis should be fairly taught about Israel’s own track record and failings. Arabic really should be a required second language in Israel, I have yet to meet a single Ashkenazi Israeli who speaks Arabic other than Robby Berman.

The current situation solves little

At this point, Israel is a shitshow.

A difficult place to live economically – houses are incredibly unaffordable; and politically – there have been five elections in the last two years and the current government is a bunch of far-right racists and fanatics.

They allow huge parts of the country to be run by a religious minority that believes religion supersedes democracy – and this demographic is growing with each passing year. There is little separation of church and state. Go try to get married as a gay man in Israel. Go try to catch a bus on Saturday in Tel Aviv.

Israel is destined to become one of the most crowded countries in the world in the coming decades, with the majority of that being the high birth rate of less-educated Arabs and Jews (Charedim). This does not bode well for a country where accidentally stepping on someone’s toe can start world war III.

Putting all the Jews in one shitty spot does not contribute to promises of their continuity. Especially when they are surrounded on all sides by countries that are committed to destroying them. Spreading Jews all around the world has ironically been a much better strategy for Jewish longevity if that apparently is a value (it’s one I don’t share).

The Jews were doing relatively well in the United States even before the founding of Israel as a country, and the fading away of the systemic anti-semitism that still prevailed there can be traced to the overall progress of society – the same way African Americans are treated better today and racism is publically decried now.

Jews should continue advocating on their own behalf, while also letting up a bit on their obsessive infatuation with being persecuted. I can understand the tribal inclination to look out for our own kind. This is necessary and has served us well in the past, while at the same time we should be fighting for the rights of all minorities, not just our own. A rising tide lifts all ships.

It is interesting to observe the many left-leaning secular Jews in the US still taking a more right-wing stance when it comes to Israel. It’s hypocritical. They create special loopholes in their mind when it comes to Israel’s aggression, racism and conservative behaviors.

You can say almost anything you want about Judaism and still find a synagogue you can attend in your city. Condemn Israel’s actions and you might find yourself out on the street.

Stay Away

Here’s my takeaway, the most practical thing I can suggest: stay away.

Israel’s continuous drive to encourage more people to move to Israel, through efforts like Birthright or Nefesh B’Nefesh, serves its own nefarious goals but does not keep in mind the needs of most individuals.

To get up and move to Israel from your comfy middle-class lifestyle in the United States or Canada, is to thrust yourself into a world of corruption and economic struggle, war and terrorism, and a guaranteed drop in your quality of life. It can be a really terrible experience for children in particular.

You may feel Isolated in North America, surrounded by people who are different than you. This is the nature of being a minority. Get therapy. Deal with the loneliness, with the need to belong. Getting up and moving to Israel so that you’re no longer a minority solves one problem and creates many others, often at other people’s expense.

Shlemple and the Holocaust Museum

With the help of AI, I am now able to attend to my true calling of being a children’s storybook author.

This book is about pride.

Jewish pride.

The best kind.

Call Me Noah – The Musical

I made a song about a certain someone. No clue if anyone else will like it. But it was good for my healing.

You gotta admit that the metaphor of Noah’s ark sinking is a good one though.

Here it is on Spotify:

Freidom Fighter is Absolute Truth

Here’s how we know that everything on this website is 100% true:

(And let me preface this by saying that we don’t know anything with absolute certainty, so it’s ok that you don’t know with absolute certainty as long as you know it with the same amount of certainty that you know everything else, because the nature of knowledge is complex and who are we to really know? Maybe we’re just brains in a jar? It stands, therefore, that you can believe whatever you want, with absolute certainty, especially in a paragraph that uses the words “clarity” and “certainty” a lot)

  • I have a long-lasting tradition of telling this to my kids, and no one as a collective has ever told their kids a bullshit story to shut them up or make them behave.
  • The 4th letter of every sixth word in Deuteronomy spells “Freidom Fighter”, and the odds of this happening are 1 in 56,000,000. Compare that to the book “War and Peace”, where the odds are 1 in 69,000,000.
  • Everyone hates Freidom Fighter more than any other blog on the internet. This is proof that it is The Chosen Blog.
  • Even people who disagree with my posts have still said that the writing is really good. And some of them are mathematicians, doctors, and scientists. Heck, some non-Jews have read parts of it!
  • Other blogs about similar topics actually refer back to my blog, this is the blog that sparked many of the most popular blogs in the world today.
  • This blog has made many predictions, about 50% of which have consistently come true. For example: right now, as you read this, it’s sunny out.
  • I have scientific facts on here. I’ve been saying them before scientists were, and although scientists actually don’t agree with these facts you can clearly see that I preceded, nay, predicted, science.
  • Everything anyone in the world has ever done, thought, or felt, was inspired by articles I wrote on here. You can know this because I wrote about a range of human thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and simultaneously you can see people all over the world engaging in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
  • This blog is so complicated. There are articles that link to other articles. There are over 100,000 words. Let’s not even get started on the code that runs this thing. It could never have happened at random. Therefore, it has a unique creator (me). Consequently, it’s obvious I have a detailed plan for how you should live your life, including (of course) that when a kid gets their first baby tooth you should pull it out with a plier and sacrifice it unto me because it pleases me greatly. I will deliver my messages to you via cryptic letters hidden under your recycling bin every couple of months, and it will be up to you to decipher what I mean. If you get it wrong, I will reset you, if you get my drift. If you need help interpreting it, you’ll find that people named Steve are really good at doing that. Seek out anyone and everyone named Steve and follow all of their opinions.
  • The world is full of difficult choices and behaviors that you need to make. Wouldn’t it be more fun if you let me make all of them for you? You’ll never have to feel guilty again.

I will add more proofs here as I think of them, or as scientists discover them and they fit with what I’m trying to say here.

What’s My Hebrew Birthday?

Are you wondering how old you are in Jewish?

This handy dandy guide will convert your English birth date into the equivalent in Hebrew years.

Give it a shot and be amazed!

Your Jewish Age

Wow! According to Judaism you are years old.

How we arrived at these numbers:

According to Gerald Schroeder, renowned physicist who also just happens to be religious, the bible’s six days of creation actually mean 13.7 billion years.

Since you are days old, you’re actually in Schroeder years.

Which is impressive, because you don’t look a day over . Isn’t Judaism neat?

Remembering Rabbi Noach Weinberg, Founder of Aish Hatorah

who was rabbi noach weinberg noah aish hatorah

One of my earliest memories of Rabbi Noach Weinberg, also known by the more anglicized name of Noah Weinberg, was when I encountered him in the street as a young child. I was intimidated by him, but he gave me the brightest smile and fished through his briefcase for a lollypop. (I can’t remember whether he found one or was apologetic for not having one.)

This memory is a confusing one because this is the same person who dragged two generations and thousands of people into the cult of Orthodox Judaism in general and his specific brand of evangelical outreach that Aish Hatorah, the institute he founded, was famous for.

On a personal level, he stole my father from me, modeling parental absenteeism in the way he fathered his own 12 kids; my father followed suit, traveling for almost a third out of every year, and immersing himself in his work even when he was in the country.

Rabbi Noach Weinberg sacrificed the well-being of his family and followers for the sake of “saving the Jewish people,” and I do not doubt that his overall intentions were altruistic.

Ironically though, it was Rabbi Noach Weinberg who would often remind people that the road to hell was paved with good intentions, and in many of his obsessive references to Hitler, he would point out that the dictator probably believed he was doing the right thing.

It is unfortunate that “Rav Noach” as his devotees referred to him, fell into the trap that Nietze warned of – whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.

Blinded by His Smile

Rabbi Noach Weinberg was incredibly charismatic, and he utilized his power to its fullest potential, inspiring followers to fulfill an idealized mission of saving souls, while also fueling their feelings of guilt and inadequacy by reminding them that there was so much still to do.

Using graphic analogies that compared intermarriage (Jews marrying non-Jews) to the gas chambers, he caused his followers to live in a perpetual state of emergency, frantically trying to convert unaffiliated Jews to the beauty of the religion while believing with starry-eyed conviction that their actions were heralding the arrival of the Messiah.

In his legendary rousing speeches, often delivered during the Jewish holidays (he was frequently absent on fundraising trips the rest of the year), Rabbi Noach Weinberg would paint flowery pictures of ideal utopias (“And the desert bloomed!”), while also using strong language like “bloody” and “hell” to drive his point home.

On Purim, Rabbi Weinberg would get extremely drunk and physically slap his students who would come to visit him, for things like not remembering some commandment that he particularly like or some Jewish text or idea he believed should always be on the tip of your tongue (I personally witnessed this). The next moment he would break into a wide smile – of course he deeply loved you; he was just worried you weren’t meeting your potential. Push and pull.

By Hook or Crook

To many of the most steadfast devotees he attracted in the late 70s and 80s, he represented a father figure, and they desperately craved his validation and approval.

Rabbi Noach would deliberately play with this desire, withholding approval or keeping his opinions cryptic. He often spoke of “only needing 10 true leaders to change the world,” yet would claim that he had only met one or two people who met his criteria for a “true leader” and refused to reveal who those people were. This type of language and behavior served to create the right amount of uncertainty within his followers to perpetuate permanent feelings of inadequacy and internal competition.

For Rabbi Noach Weinberg, the ultimate idealistic end justified many unethical means. There were legends told of the lengths to which he and his associates colluded to try to drag people into the walls of his institution to engage in debate about “meaning,” “truth,” and “Jewish wisdom.”

In one notable example, a person who was just looking for a bathroom was brought in to meet with Rabbi Weinberg, and only after 15 minutes of discussion was this “confusion” clarified. (the primary perpetrator of this incident was Meir Schuster, but Rabbi Weinberg was clearly complacent in the broader agenda, and the fact that this tale was often retold with amusement bordering on admiration, is telling)

An Idealized Judaism

Rabbi Noach Weinberg understood, correctly, that Orthodox Judaism’s dogmatic, outdated, and rigid worldviews and laws would not appeal to the average secular, unaffiliated Jew.

Instead, he developed an extensive curriculum of classes and materials that redirected the focus, emphasizing the uniqueness of what it meant to be Jewish, including outsized claims about how much Jews had shaped society and “introduced morality to civilization.”

The obsessive focus on Jewish pride was justified as a means to a larger end of creating a utopia for all of humanity – if Jews just tapped into their roots, they’d then in turn solve the rest of the world’s problems. (There was continuous whitewashing and justification around the fact that inevitably most socially influential Jews were also extremely secular and often atheists)

Another recurring message was that of personal growth and self-actualization. Rabbi Noach claimed to provide keys for living a more meaningful life and navigating its many challenges, packaging these concepts in catchy classes and seminars with names like “The 5 Levels of Pleasure” and “The 48 Ways to Wisdom”.

In reality, much of the “beauty of Jewish life” that was portrayed to the many people who were brought through the walls of Aish Hatorah’s Yeshiva in Jerusalem, were idealized portrayals of reality, carefully curated to hide the true reality that many of Aish’s teachers, leaders, and families struggled with.

After preaching about possessing secrets to a happy marriage for decades (and shitting on secular society for having so many “broken homes”), at least four different Aish rabbis all got divorced within a few years of each other. The next generation did not fare much better, with another spate of divorces afflicting the children they married off (including myself).

I have heard from several sources, but have no proof, that Rabbi Weinberg himself was estranged from his own wife and did not live with her, but that this fact was hushed up.

Rabbi Noach Weinberg’s wife, Rebbetzin Dinah Weinberg, was a strict and dogmatic principal of her own tiny women’s seminary located in the heart of the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem. Her rule was so extreme that her school never managed to maintain more than a handful of students at a time – it did manage to claim my mother as a victim though.

Behind the smiling faces and delicious food served by Aish families to unaffiliated college students who were invited for weekend Shabbat meals, were severe mental health and personality disorders, violence, and repressed emotions, and parents who were more committed to their mission than parenting their children.

The Morality Obsession

Noach Weinberg had an obsession with morality. He would speak of it constantly, and always in extremes. Humanity was the best, but they were also the worst. Jews used to be the best, a light unto the nations that shaped and created anything that is good and right in the world (contrast that with the opinion of a different person named Noach) but now they were at their worst.

Weinberg preached objective morality, where we could not possibly know what right or wrong was without external guidelines. He had a deep mistrust of human intentions and one’s inner compass, preferring to delegate the entire decision-making process to God, once he had proven to himself that one existed. (And how important must it have been to him that there be a God, if the alternative was no absolute right and wrong, no external sense of direction?) Suppressing one’s own intuition is a fundamental tenet of dogmatic beliefs, and it explains a lot of the subsequent behaviors expressed by him and his followers.

Morality was used for everything – to establish a need for God, to prove that there was a God, and to stoke the fears of a world without it. Ironically, this was used to justify a great many immoral things, both in the methods in which people were sold morality and in the ideas themselves. Weinberg’s morality was firmly consequentialist, allowing for many nefarious means to justify the goodness it promised at the end, as described earlier.

Then of course there were the many damaging ideas that rabbinical Judaism contained – ones which Weinberg believed were part of the complete package, and therefore were good for you even if they didn’t seem that way. Genocide was a bad thing, of course, but if it was Amalek that was okay. Murder was a bad thing, certainly, but if it was capital punishment for a variety of arbitrary sins, that was okay. Basic human rights were our invention, but if you were a woman or a biblically condoned slave, well, that was part of God’s plan for you.

To this day, my father’s biggest issue with us non-religious children is our “immorality.” We pose an existential threat to our own “potential” and are net-detractors from society for not keeping Shabbat, being non-monogamous, or being gay. This, while he uses every means necessary to criticize “radical Islam,” such as invoking the backwardness of their laws and worldviews which are ironically very similar to his own, or pretending to care about gay rights even though his opinion on the subject is clear. It’s the objectively moral result that matters, and he’ll fight you ’till the end over what that “objective truth” is, after which everything else falls neatly apart into place.

The armchair psychotherapist in me believes that Rabbi Noach Weinberg’s obsession with morality was his own flawed way of coping with his Holocaust trauma (he was 15 when the war ended, and he must have undoubtedly been impacted by it). It explains why he constantly referred to Hitler, drew comparisons to Nazis, and sought continuous inspiration by taking students and Rabbis to visit concentration camps.

To make sense of all this evil, Weinberg needed to reduce all of life into a black-and-white, good and evil paradigm, one where the Jews were ultimately good, ultimately winning, and whose oppression and downfalls only proved their uniqueness – anti-Semitism was one of the foundational proofs he used to prove God (anti-Semitism is so unique + the Torah predicted there would be anti-Semitism = the Torah must be the work of God).

Impractical Leadership

Rabbi Noach Weinberg’s key strength was vision and charisma; beyond that, he proved to be terrible at organizational management and a very poor judge of character. The daily runnings of his organization were plagued with continued politics and backstabbing, with him appointing incompetent people to key roles despite the protests of many of his advisors.

There were multiple incidents where people had their paychecks cut due to lack of funds, or were fired for political reasons, sometimes being re-hired shortly thereafter. Many people were treated like shit, their unwavering loyalty over decades of service thrown in their faces when they were no longer needed.

At a certain point, towards the end of his life, Rabbi Weinberg conducted an overhaul of the Aish Hatorah Yeshiva, firing several long-time key leaders, including Rabbi Yitzchak Berkowitz (who is now, ironically, the new Rosh Yeshiva of Aish Hatorah) and replaced them with the maverick Meir Pogrow, who promised to teach the new returnees to the faith more Torah in less time.

Rabbi Meir Pogrow was indeed brilliant, but he contained a Napoleon complex within his diminutive 5-foot frame, and it did not take long for anyone who spoke with him to see that he was a complete asshole. Rabbi Weinberg had prioritized Pogrow’s Torah knowledge over the character traits and personal refinement that he so often touted as the purpose of Judaism, which were glaringly absent in Pogrow.

After several years of running amok in the Yeshiva, Rabbi Pogrow was sent with a group of students to start a “Super Kollel” branch of Aish Hatorah somewhere in Texas. While there, he was accused of abuse of power and grooming underage students. He has since left religion behind and was last seen somewhere in the Philippines.

The worst example of Rabbi Noach’s leadership decisions, which cast some doubt on his idealism versus personal motivations, was his choice to appoint his own son, Rabbi Hillel Weinberg, as his successor after his death.

Rabbi Hillel Weinberg was seen as clearly unfit to lead by everyone else in Aish’s leadership. Whereas Rabbi Weinberg had grown up in New York and commanded English to its fullest potential, his son had been raised in a sheltered neighborhood in Jerusalem and barely spoke English. Rabbi Weinberg had a fair knowledge of worldly ideas and cultural concepts, having studied in the US and apparently possessing a Master’s degree. His son had not been similarly educated.

The most embarrassing development of this decision was that even after Rabbi Hillel Weinberg’s inability to lead become clear once he assumed the role of Rosh Yeshiva, he still refused to step down for several years. It took multiple legal battles in Jewish courts, as well as being paid off financially, for him to finally move on. Once again, Rav Noach’s vision proved to be idealized and impractical, with little regard for reality.

A Legacy Worth Questioning

After his death, Rabbi Noah Weinberg’s status only grew. Aish.com features annual articles about his greatness. His many shortcomings continue to be further whitewashed, as is common after people’s deaths.

Even mainstream Orthodox Judaism, which largely disagreed with or ignored him as a fringe movement and as lacking enough of their much-idealized intellectual Torah knowledge, has begun to embrace him after his death.

Rabbi Weinberg represents an idea that at most seemed good on paper, but has soundly failed the tests of reality. Many of his “successes” represent untold amounts of suffering, in the form of disenchanted people dragged into the clutches of Orthodox Judaism just long enough to become ensnared in it, through religious spouses and multiple children.

These “successes” were executed by his minions, who sacrificed their own identities and relationships for the sake of an idealized and impractical vision. There is a gaping, ugly gash that runs through two generations of Aish alumni, while the remaining Aish infrastructure sprinkles glitter over the destruction and frantically applies lipstick to the pig’s mouth.

Underlying much of Aish Hatorah’s track record is a deep sense of hypocrisy. Of not practicing what one preaches. Of promising but not delivering. Of selling universalism and implementing favoritism. And I believe this incongruence stemmed from Noach Weinberg’s own character flaws, emotional imbalances, and lack of self-awareness.

The Means and The End

Did Rabbi Noach Weinberg have good intentions? I believe he did, for the most part. You can see kindness in his eyes and in his beaming smile.

Yet to rely on smiles and intentions to absolve him of the destruction caused by his “vision,” would commit what Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman would describe as “the mistake of judg[ing] policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”

It’s sad to acknowledge a person’s good side when you just want to hate them. It would be much simpler if life were divided simply down the middle as Noach Weinberg preached, with Good and Bad and Jews and Non-Jews all cleanly delineated. It’s sad to recognize just how far from reality an entire generation’s dreams and aspirations have landed – doing untold damage instead of the good they so desperately were trying for.

Would I have the courage to call Noach Weinberg a cult leader to his face? Maybe not. He really was large than life, and I, a mere mortal, do not have an almighty God to back me up.

But the fact that I may only have the strength or clarity to call him out after he was dead should not diminish my right to do so.

So I just did.

Something’s Gotta Give

My partner just came back from an eight-day silent meditation retreat. She remarked (with some jealousy) how all the serious meditation teachers were childless, which seemed necessary for one to seriously pursue enlightenment. They were thus free to traipse around from one retreat to the next, unfettered by responsibility as they perused the inner workings of their mind.

I agree. I had spent the last ten days singlehandedly watching our two kids, which put a real damper on my ability to ambitiously execute on my idealistic goals of building a global online hypnotherapy clinic for The Betterment of All Humanity. I want to be saving the world, but I need to make dinner.

They say that when it comes to projects you can only get two out of three of: Price, Quality and Speed. I extend a similar theory to life – you can only get two of three of: Family, Ambitions, and Leisure/Self-actualization. (I argue, without giving it too much thought, that Leisure and Self-actualization are different ways humans fulfill the same core, fairly selfish, desire)

If you try to do all three, you’ll end up with a max of 66% on each. Shore’s Theorum, we can call it.

And this brings me to Aish Hatorah. (I bet you were wondering when Aish would appear. Thanks for waiting) They missed this crucial point. They somehow thought they could have all three.

Apparently, you need to actually raise your kids for them to be happy, and not, as my father apparently expected, rely on their school, community, and neighborhood to do the job.

So it was Family who suffered, and possibly self-actualization, judging by the character of some of the people at Aish. (Maybe they did the unusual and put 200% into Ambition and 0% into everything else?)

Now, instead of sufficing themselves with the usual “two kids and a dog” that my Orthodox Rabbis used to deride secular families for having, Team Aish went The Orthodox Way and had a shitload of kids, five, six, nine, 12, whom they promptly neglected. Because why fuck up a little when you can fuck up a lot?

It’s worth noting that abandoning your family is nothing new. Even Buddhist have done it, and I generally like Buddhists. Buddha Himself did it. Rabbi Akiva did it. Popular contemporary Buddhist teacher Tejania did it.

And I condemn them all.

You gotta eat the shitcake you baked.

You gotta sleep in the bed you made.

Your past performance may affect future outcomes.

The world may not achieve enlightenment at your irresponsible hands.

And maybe we wouldn’t have the key to Nirvana.

And maybe we wouldn’t have saved the Jewish people from a spiritual holocaust.

But maybe you’d be doing your job.

What is Aish Hatorah? Is Aish a cult?

is aish a cult - the aish hatorah building in front of the western wall in jerusalem, founded by rabbi Noah Weinberg

Aish Hatorah, or Aish, as it eventually changed its name to be in order to be more hip with the youths, is an institute and movement with an overt agenda of getting Jews to be more religious than they currently are. Their tactics often result in accusations of Aish being a cult, and in this article, I’ll attempt to address these claims in detail.

Generally, Jews don’t believe in proselytizing. Orthodox Jews actually make it very difficult for non-Jews to convert to Judaism even if the person wants to. But if the person is already Jewish, there is a huge mission of bringing someone “back to the faith” and getting them to adopt more Jewish practices, which is typically a key to measuring someone’s Jewishness.

There are a few core obligations that Orthodox Judaism gets particularly excited about. At the top of the list is marrying a Jew, since this is seen as a key to “Jewish continuity.” Below that God-tier expectation, you’ll find the “Big Three” practices: keeping Shabbat, observing Kosher dietary laws, and family purity. This last one means a couple abstaining from all touch and sex for two weeks out of every month when a woman menstruates – and then her needing to immerse in a ritual bath to become “pure.”

While the average Orthodox Jew would love nothing more than to see a secular or reform Jew become more religious, they’d usually limit themselves to an occasional dinner or spirited debate. A few organizations though, have committed themselves to proactively trying to get Jews to be more religious, through a variety of well-honed tactics. The most famous and successful of these are Chabad and Aish Hatorah.

Aish was founded in the 70s by Noach Weinberg, a charismatic and passionate leader who was obsessed with comparing the “spiritual devastation” that was the trend of American Jewry becoming more secular, with the Holocaust.

He would continuously conflate the two, claiming that the current “spiritual holocaust” was worse because it was destroying people’s souls, whereas Hitler had only killed Jews’ bodies.

With this hardline vision and an obsession with “leadership,” he was able to convince generations of secular Jews to not only become religious but to then turn around and recruit others to the cause.

These Ba’al Teshuva ‘returnees to the faith,’ as they were known, lived in parallel to regular Orthodox Jews. They often had less Jewish education, since they had grown up secular, and they never quite learned to fit in with their general Orthodox surroundings, preferring to devote themselves fully to their “mission.”

The Strategy

Aish developed a strategic methodology over the years, to convert the maximum number of Jewish souls to “appreciate the beauty and wisdom of their heritage.”

They recognized early on that presenting many of the ugly, outdated, conservative truths about Judaism’s approach to women and gay rights, personal expression, and strict lifestyle requirements, would not appeal to the average secular person.

Instead, they whitewashed many of these issues, developing apologetic arguments for when the topics were raised, and focusing instead on presenting Judaism as a key to personal growth and fulfillment. (It’s fascinating to note that this is the exact approach taken by the New York-based cult NXIVM, popularized by the HBO documentary ‘The Vow‘, which showcases a lot of parallel terminology and practices which were very common at Aish ).

Classes were developed to both “prove” that Judaism was true, and to teach ways in which people could find “Pleasure”, maximize their potential, and appreciate the “unique Jewish contribution to civilization.”

Aish recognized that college years were a pivotal time for young adults who are still finding themselves, and they focused on reaching students at that age by sending Rabbis to college campuses to recruit. (This strategy is equally popular amongst other dogmatic religious groups, such as Christian and Muslim ones)

A key tactic employed was bringing students on all-expense paid trips to Israel, where they would be treated to endless positive attention and peak experiences while touring the country on weeks-long adventures.

Along the way, they’d be given classes on Jewish topics and exposed to seemingly down-to-earth and relatable religious people who would engage them in philosophical and emotional debate. The goal was to get them to stay in Israel, and having these conversations and experiences while they were away from their natural home environment was a key part of the strategy.

Specific programs were created at Aish Hatorah geared towards people’s current interest and commitment levels. The Discovery Seminar was a one-day program full of proofs of God’s existence. Essentials was a cycle of beginner-friendly classes that further elaborated on these proofs, strategies for living a better life, and the uniqueness of the Jewish experience.

Once someone committed to staying, they’d be eased into Intermediate I and II, then eventually onboarded to the regular ‘Yeshivat Aish Hatorah’ program. At each stage, they’d be exposed to more of Judaism’s darker or less appealing sides and encouraged to observe more strict Jewish practices. (Compare this to the way Scientology slowly exposes people to the weirder stuff only once they are deeply entrenched)

Someone in Essentials might be hitting on girls in the local square and hitting up the bars every evening. By the time they were in Intermediate II, they were being encouraged to dress in black and white, break up with their non-Jewish girlfriend if they had one, and spend endless hours in the study hall.

Within a few years, armed with a minimal amount of Jewish knowledge and a half-assed, self-defined Rabbinical ordination, they’d be sent off to a “branch” to recruit the next generation of college students. Rinse and repeat.

So, is Aish a cult?

Let’s begin by defining the criteria for a cult. There are different definitions for what constitutes a cult, although many share similarities and overlaps.

Former cult member Steve Hassan wrote a book on combating cults, where he defines four criteria under his “BITE Model”, where cults seek to control the Behavior, Information, Thinking, and Emotions of their members.

Under this model, a lot of Orthodox Judaism would already fit into this definition of a cult. Aish took things a step further, with a charismatic leader who was intimately involved in “inspiring” his “leaders” to action through extremist hyperbole, on one hand conveying the “opportunity” and “merit” of their role, while also employing guilt and fear to motivate people.

Here’s how the BITE Model often expresses itself in Orthodox Judaism in general, and in Aish in particular, to help us assess if Aish is a cult.


Orthodox Judaism strictly controls the way a person behaves and goes about their day. There are endless laws to follow, things you can and cannot do. Men must pray three times a day and are supposed to spend every spare moment studying Torah. Women are taught to act and dress modestly and that their role is to build a “Jewish home” by having babies, cooking and cleaning, and supporting their husbands.

People must seek guidance from higher up Rabbis for everyday questions regarding their lives, from what food is kosher, to submitting their wife’s underwear for review, to what schools to send their kids to.

Cults function as their own subcultures with their own ritual behaviors and ways of speaking. In Orthodox Judaism, language is peppered with Yiddish, and code words are used to describe certain things, often in a way that leaves outsiders oblivious to covert agendas. For example, BT was short for Ba’al Teshuvas, returnees to the faith, while FFBs were those who were Frum From Birth, born religious.

At Aish, people were methodically encouraged to adopt ever-increasing amounts of Orthodox behaviors and to turn to their Rabbis for guidance in more and more aspects of their lives. It was easy to identify how long someone had been religious by the way they dressed in the study hall (had they finally cut their long hair?), and the types of questions they were asking the Rabbis (Rabbi, what should I do if accidentally tied my shoes in the wrong order?).


In Orthodox Judaism, there is an overt agenda of shielding oneself from “Secular Influences.” All secular content is strictly avoided or censured, from books to movies to newspapers. The internet is perceived as an extreme threat because of the ready access to information that it provides. Specially filtered devices are the norm, and custom textbooks, news, and media solutions are created as alternatives.

Aish took a more insidious approach to this tactic. They presented as well-educated and open-minded, willing to engage in any form of debate on any topic. In reality, the discussions were always happening on their own terms – with a student thousands of miles from family or others they could consult with.

Answers to common questions were carefully scripted and addressed. If someone proved to be particularly stubborn in a class or presentation, they were often sidelined and asked to “discuss their questions in private” so as not to “disrupt the flow of the class.” This way, dissenting opinions were quieted, while general social proof principles were used to show just how many smart people had already agreed with what was being taught.

People were only exposed to incriminating information once they were seen to be sufficiently “insiders” and deemed ready. If a law seemed weird or unexplainable, it was often explained that its reasoning is Kabbalistic and that we “aren’t on the level to understand it”, thus making it one’s own shortcoming.


Orthodox Judaism gravitates toward black-and-white world views (down to the clothes they wear), an extreme “us versus them” that manifests in both Jews vs. Non-Jews, as well as Religious vs. Secular Jew thinking. There is a single word that is used to convey this, “Mishelanu”, one of us. (This is also the title of the excellent documentary about ex-religious Jews)

Certain thoughts are considered impure or improper, such as thoughts of heresy or sexual fantasy, and techniques are taught to stop these thoughts by shifting to Jewish study or prayer (one law states that one can even repeat religious texts in the bathroom, where they are normally banned if it’s necessary to prevent “bad thoughts”)

At Aish, many intellectual criticisms were actively denied, rationalized, or justified in a systematic way. Ultimately, the goal was to get people to “buy in” to the Orthodox worldview – starting with the fact that God existed, He had chosen the Jews for a special mission, and had given them the Torah through public revelation.

Suggestions that they may be a cult were proactively criticized and diffused by joking about cults and how they either were or weren’t behaving like one. One joke about brainwashing was that “Sometimes brains get dirty, and they do need washing.” Other times rabbis and senior students would laughingly reassure new recruits that they themselves had also suspected Aish of being a cult when they first got involved in it.

Noach Weinberg himself revived and popularized the “Six Constant Mitzvos”, ideas related to God’s existence that one was encouraged to repeat on a loop, during every waking moment.


Orthodox Judaism seeks to strictly control what and how people feel things. Fear and guilt are at the root of many motivations, Charedim or “the fearful ones” is the common name for Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel. Specific holidays necessitate feeling specific emotions – happiness on Purim, sadness on Tisha B’av, Awe on Rosh Hashanah.

Positioned as “spiritually responsible” for the entire world, any global catastrophe, and all the more so one that befalls Jews is pointed to by leaders as evidence that members are not fulfilling their obligations to each other and to God.

Aish Hatorah’s mission was impossibly grand. By saving the Jewish people, they in turn would be a “light unto the nation”, ushering a utopia for all of reality and heralding the arrival of the Messiah, who would only come if enough Jews became properly observant of Jewish law.

At Aish, people were promised a gateway to happiness and higher levels of meaning if they adopted a more spiritual Jewish life. They were extolled the unique privilege and opportunity to “save other Jews” and made to feel guilty if they “didn’t live up to their potential” and assume a leadership position. People who just left and got normal jobs were seen as sellouts, seeking material comforts and simple lives instead of making the harder, better choice.

Noach Weinberg would give fiery speeches about the spiritual holocaust that was unfolding throughout the world. On Tisha B’av, when people typically mourn the destruction of the Jewish temple 2,000 years ago, students were encouraged to get up and speak about the “spiritual destruction” of their home countries, in the form of intermarriage or lack of Jewish identity.

Ignorance was seen and regularly compared to, Hitler’s destruction of European Jewry in the Holocaust. Aish’s leaders were compared to those who had helped people escape the Holocaust, simultaneously praising each soul saved as unique, while also placing it against the backdrop of all those who hadn’t been saved yet.

Many within Aish Hatorah’s leadership operated with a constant state of guilt or inadequacy, working very long hours often with little or no pay during the many times of financial hardship when the organization couldn’t raise enough funds, yet feeling like they had not done enough.

My Assessment: Aish is a Cult

Judaism does not believe in evangelizing outsiders. But based on all the above, I believe it is fair to describe Aish as an evangelical Jewish cult, devoted to converting Jews to a far more religious and dogmatic worldview. This was done under the influence of a charismatic and emotionally manipulative leader under the guise of promoting education and personal actualization.

Aish builds upon the already culty Orthodox Judaism and adds an extra layer of intense leadership, hardline cause, and devoted followers who sacrificed their own personal lives and needs for the sake of their shared mission.

As an aside, it’s worth noting that Hassan defines four different groups of cults, with the most recognizable one being Religious cults. Aish fits well into a secondary category of self-help/educational cults as well, as this is a key part of their ideology, strategy, and narrative. (the other two types are Political cults and Commercial cults).

Like many cults, Aish has done a great job preserving its reputation. They got testimonials from Bill Clinton, held lavish dinners and raised funds from secular Jewish donors, and built large, beautiful buildings in prime real estate locations. In many ways, their goals aligned with those of the Israeli government, which is also keen on driving immigration to Israel and “increased Jewish pride”, and they received support in the form of funding and real estate grants.

Their main center is located in one of the most coveted spots to a traditional Jew, right across from the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where they can easily target the millions of people who visit the historic landmark each year.

My Aish Hatorah Experience

I write much of this from my own personal experience.

Both my parents were deeply involved in Aish for over twenty years, my father then moved on and started his own educational institution with similar philosophical goals and agendas.

My father’s story began when his twin brother accidentally walked into the Aish Hatorah building in Jerusalem when he was 17. My father decided (stupidly) to go save him, believing (correctly) that he’d joined a cult – and after having bought my grandparents a book about the Moonies. After “preparing” by studying for a minor in undergraduate philosophy, he did what no untrained professional is ever supposed to do, and ventured to Israel to debate seasoned professionals twice his age. After a month of arguing, he lost the battle.

Aish was run by three pairs of Canadian brothers who had influential positions within the organization – the brothers Shore, Schwartz, and Coopersmith. My father was the Chief Operating Officer of Aish Hatorah, traveling for many months out of the year to manage the dozens of branches Aish had around the world (which all fed back to the Aish Hatorah Yeshiva in Jerusalem).

He ascribed to the Orthodox belief in mass procreation and had nine children, but was largely absent for over a decade as he devoted himself to “the mission.” There were many years when Aish couldn’t raise enough funds to pay its staff, but my father continued to work for free for months at a time.

My siblings and I were all sent to extremely religious Orthodox schools, at the advice of my parent’s rabbis. Even when these proved to be terrible for us, being systemically abusive both physically and emotionally, my parents kept us “in the system” since this was seen as the only environment worth being in.

Every weekend, we’d host a multitude of guests; secular college students to whom we’d show “the beauty of Shabbat” and a “warm Jewish home.” They’d be wined and dined, given attention and warm hospitality, and convinced that we were living a happier and more fulfilled life.

In reality, my mother struggled with a myriad of mental health issues, while my father was emotionally distant, judgemental, and prone to bouts of anger; their relationship was tumultuous and unstable. My siblings and I fought continuously, struggled in school, and never fit in. My mother had no interest in cooking or hosting anyone who didn’t perfectly fit the evangelical agenda – non-Jews or already-religious Jews were not part of the plan.

You would have seen none of that if you had been our guest for a meal. Our tactics worked well, and we influenced dozens of people to become religious. Some went on to become successful rabbis and “leaders” in their own right, others, I happen to know, are miserable now, straddled with children and failing relationships, plagued by a system of religion they no longer believe in.

I grew up in this environment, surrounded by the language and purpose of Aish at home and on weekends, and exposed to conventional Orthodox ideology while at school. I bought in, and I planned on being part of the next generation of Jewish leaders.

In my early teens, I would spend every waking moment studying texts, literally reading from them as I walked to and from synagogue to my house. I taught myself the Six Constant Mitzvos and repeated them in my mind ad-nauseum, from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to sleep.

In addition to both my parents, three of my uncles also became religious through Aish and worked in various positions within the organization. Even my grandmother, who remained secular, was recruited to call other worried parents and convince them that their child was not, in fact, in a cult. (She now regrets doing this)

This was a classic example of the proactive damage control Aish undertook to preserve their reputation and keep families from intervening during the critical time when their children were being influenced.

After struggling in conventional Orthodox high schools for several years, I attended Aish for a year, was married at the age of 22 in an arranged marriage to the daughter of another Aish Rabbi, and became an ordained Rabbi myself.

I have since left religion (you can read more about my personal story in my biography) and am vehemently critical of organized religion in general and Orthodox Judaism and Aish in particular. I tried to keep this article as neutral as possible, drawing upon my extensive knowledge of Jewish texts and philosophy, as well as both Aish and Orthodox Jewish culture which I experienced firsthand.

Is Aish a cult? Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide. But keep them at arm’s length while you arrive at your conclusions. Asking a cult if they are a cult is not a very trustworthy way to arrive at an honest answer.

Supplemental reading

Since publishing this post, I’ve had a few other pieces shared with me that also examined Aish decades ago. I’m linking to them here (jump to page 11 for the cult parts) and here for your convenience.

Jerusalem Flakes

The streets were windy.


Grey and overbearing.

Little slits carved into limestone to accommodate passerby.

Endless tunnels, where people lived over the street.

Never walking in a straight line for more a few steps.

This was home. Safe. Familiar.

Where you had to worry about getting stabbed if you walked one block too far.

Where endless tourists jostled you as a mere non playable character in their adventure through an ancient city.

The walls were so unbelievably close. A ring around the mind.

It’s just you, the streets, and the word of God.

And half the streets were off limits because there were women there.

God hates women.

It was a known fact.

The walls didn’t keep the enemy out. They kept you in.

There was no greenery to speak of.

 Anytime a tree died, a new one was not planted in it is place.

Because the rabbis. Because religion. Because God hates trees.

Just grey, grey, grey.

The sunlight couldn’t hit your bedroom winder because you were too close to the wall of the neighbor’s house.

 So close you could almost touch it. Oh wait, you could actually touch it.

A place where neighbors windows opened to your own courtyard.

Where the neighbors crying baby woke you up at night.

Where four schools released themselves on to the streets to play recess games below your window.

You can hide, but you cannot seek.

His idea of adventure was walking around the galityza rooftops, where you could peer down through the grates into the bustling market below. As close to danger as was comfortable.

Those grates weren’t always there. There were added after some Jewish terrorist dropped some grenades down there. The hero we need.

You know who was cool? The kids two grades above. They dangled from the side buildings, with just their fist around the railing keeping them from falling three stories. This is how they proved their bravery.

Also fighting with Arabs. Always with the fighting with Arabs.

By the time his grade rolled around, the teachers had tamed them.

They only had one legendary fight with Arabs. He missed it, he had pneumonia that day.

Teachers taken away in handcuffs.

Classmates identified days later by police detectives because of their distinctive red hair, arrested, and then released at the behest of Charedi politicians.

Fighting for freedom never felt so claustrophobic.

The camera zooms out. The entire city, with its ramparts, battlements and church spires, contained in a bowl.

The bowl is on a table in a bar.

He adds a copious amount of whipped cream on top.

Who eats whipped cream in a bar? He does.

He adds a cherry on top. The kind you can never get in Israel. Big, juicy, like the the spies would have brought back from the land of milk and honey. Two men to a peach, the legend went. Those sizes hadn’t been seen since. Everything was tiny now.

King David’s on the right, talking about Titties and Beer. King Solomon on the left, taking notes. This is good shit, might be a topic for a new book.

He shovels a spoon in, and takes a bite.

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