Phenomenal Event at Aish HaTorah

Ben Packer,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Ben Packer
Originally from Petersburg, Virginia, Ben Packer moved to Israel in 1999, where he served in the IDF's Givati Brigade in the Gaza Strip. Ben served as a Rabbi on campus at Univ. of North Carolina and at Duke Univ. Ben now serves as Director of the Jerusalem Heritage House ( and Co-Director of Young Jewish Conservatives ( He lives in the Old City of Jerusalem with his wife and 6 children....

Today I felt honored and grateful to attend a phenomenal event - the completion and dedication of a new Torah Scroll in memory of "lone soldier" Max Steinberg, hy'd. Max had stayed in the Jerusalem Heritage House (where I'm the Director) mulitple times to hangout with his fellow "lone soldier" friends who lived in our facility during their service. He was always fun to have around and his tragic heroic death in the beginning of Operation "Protective Edge" in the Gaza Strip one year ago permeates our lives and acitivities on a constant basis.

The entire Steinberg Family continued to show the spectacular poise and dignity which they have displayed throughout the past year. The Steinbergs have consistently succeeded in expressing their deep sadness at the loss of their beloved son and brother, while at the same time faithfully and courageously declareing how heroic Max was and the justness of the cause for which he fought. Max died a hero's death and, as horribly sad as that is, his heroism must be remembered perpetually. Clearly the Steinberg famiy is intensely and very sincerely dedicated to this most worthy endeavor. 

There were many highlights to the event - one being the attendance of Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl, shlita, Chief Rabbi of the Old City and renowned halachic authority. However, I think one of the most impressive aspects of the event was the venue - Aish HaTorah World Center at the Western Wall.

It was a last minute decision to host the event at Aish. The previously arranged location simply wasn't large enough to accomodate the expected number of attendees.  With no hesitation, the recently installed CEO of Aish HaTorah International, Rabbi Steven Burg, offered the prime location to host the ceremony. Everyone knows that the summer is a very busy time for Aish HaTorah, hosting and educating thousands of Jewish university students, young professionals and not-so-young professionals. And yet, time and space were made available because of the significance of the event. If this is any indication of future decisions to be made by Rabbi Burg, I think we can enthusiastically expect Aish HaTorah reaching even higher heights of excellency than those that have already made them famous. Rav Yehuda Weinberg spoke movingly about how pleased his late father, Rav Noach Weinberg, zt'l, founder of Aish HaTorah, would have been to have taken part in such an inspiring event. 

Also attending the ceremony (another clutch last-minute decision) were participants of an Orthodox Union Israel Free Spirit Taglit-Birthright Israel group. Max and his siblings had participated in a Birthright Israel trip and it was on that trip that Max was inspired to return to Israel and join the army. I'm sure it was very moving for the current participants to be there and it added another powerfully symbolic aspect to the event. Again, classic Aish HaTorah.  

When I asked Rabbi Burg about the game-time decision to host, he told me "that building is Klal Yisrael's building". It certainly was today. Klal Yisrael should, G-d willing, enjoy many simchas at the Aish World Center at the Western Wall well into the future! 

Ben Packer

Old City, Jerusalem