Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Tell the Stories of Today’s Jewish Heroes

May 20, 2013 3:17 pm 3 comments

Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel. Photo: David Shankbone.

Every week I spend time in the library with my children, often reading the biographies of different heroes. It is easy to find biographies of “heroes” from our generation – From Michael Jordan to Lebron James, Madonna to Bill Clinton, walk through any library and you will see plenty of biographies of modern personalities.  Many of them are still alive.

In our era in which the assimilation rate  of American Jewry is around 60%, one might ask who the Jewish heroes for people of this generation are? Who can today’s American Jew look to as a role model? It is not an easy question to answer for those who grow up in the ’80’s, ’90’s, and ’00’s – for whom living (well-known) Jewish heroes and role models could be helpful.

Undoubtedly within the Orthodox world there are Rabbis in the community who are well respected -assimilation amongst the Orthodox is less of a concern. And let’s accept and keep in mind the study by Steven Cohen of Hebrew Union College and Ari Kelman of the University of California at Davis which  showed that “non-Orthodox younger Jews, on the whole, feel much less attached to Israel than their elders,” with many professing “a near-total absence of positive feelings..” towards Judaism.

Indeed if one is not connected to Israel, can attending services on the High Holidays be enough to capture a positive feeling for Judaism?  Wouldn’t positive Jewish role models encourage more members of this constituency to remain in the fold?

Perhaps there should be more of an emphasis on highlighting the stories of the heroes of this generation as a means to inspire more young American Jews.  For example, the greatness of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson of Chabad – a holy man who died in 1994 who is universally recognized as the pioneer of Jewish outreach.  His story and amazing inspirational tale should be shared in Jewish homes – especially the non-Orthodox – throughout the United States.

There are many other American Jewish heroes of this generation whose biographies one wishes were shared with Jewish youth to inspire them. There is  Sheldon Adelson, who grew up dirt poor and today is one of the greatest philanthropists in the world. “I care more about the future of my people than anything else,” he said.  Awesome.

There is Elie Wiesel whose story of surviving the Holocaust is one which Jews must never forget.  And Rabbi Avi Weiss who has had perhaps more success in his outreach work than any other living Rabbi and has been at the forefront of so many important issues. Of course there are the countless heroes who fight for the defense of our people in Israel’s  Defense Forces.

There are of course many others.

Those of us with strong Jewish homes who try daily to give our children strong and valiant Jewish values are on the front line. As Moses says in the Torah, Chazak Ve-ematz – be strong and have Courage. Each of us should do all we can to impart heroic Jewish stories to the next generation.

P.S. – I wanted to share this most amazing gorgeous chuppah entrance – With more Jewish heroes there’ll be more awesome Jewish weddings like this.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO of New York based 5WPR. Read more of his writings on Jewish issues here.


  • Nadene van Staden

    Wow what a beautiful wedding and the singing is beautiful.I have always loved the Jewish weddings.You are right it is the parents who do not teach the children.

  • Richard Levy

    Rabbi Avi Weiss is an amazing special Jewish hero. So glad to see his name here. Holy Jew.

  • Markus E Brajtman


    I wish we could have weddings like this.
    I was so moved, esp watching a man kiss the hand of the Saphardi Chief Rabbi.

    What is happening to our Jewish children in USA?

    They should learn from our Jewish children in South Africa, who love their Judaism and Israel
    The problem is not the children, but the parents who could not care less about their Judaism and Israel.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Arts and Culture Beliefs and concepts What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David?

    What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David? –  “What’s that huge white bridal dress floating over the Tower of David?” That’s what visitors to Jerusalem’s Old City asked last week. The wedding gown, created by leading Israeli artist Motti Mizrachi, is part of the 2nd Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art, an event that blew into town as the Sukkot holiday got underway. Mizrachi, who lives and works in Tel Aviv, created the dress that floats majestically over the Tower of David, the main exhibition site […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    Israel is a holiday destination on many travelers’ bucket lists. No matter the style of holiday you are after, Israel has the answer. Whether you prefer to relax by the beach, hike up mountains in the desert, visit religious and historical sites, eat your way through the country or just enjoy some retail therapy, your journey through Israel will be one to remember. While there are obviously so many things to see and do, here is a list of 10 of […]

    Read more →
  • Pioneers/Philanthropists US & Canada Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO

    Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO – Jewish American fashion mogul Ralph Lauren announced his plan to step down as chief executive officer of the renowned fashion brand. The head of Gap Inc’s Old Navy brand will take over the position. The 75-year-old Lauren, who founded Ralph Lauren Corp. in 1967, will continue to serve as executive chairman and will continue leading the fashion house’s design team, according to a statement by the company. After the announcement, Ralph Lauren shares rose 3.79 percent while Gap shares […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Sports US & Canada Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish boxer Dustin Fleischer, who said his quest is to become the first world champion descended from a Holocaust survivor, stayed unbeaten with a first-round knockout. Fleischer, nicknamed “The White Tiger,” moved to 4-0 with the defeat of Ira Frank on Saturday night in Beach Haven, New Jersey, near his home, he reported after the fight on his Facebook page. The 26-year-old welterweight has won all his bouts by knockout. Read full story at JTA.

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Pioneers/Philanthropists Meet Israel’s Santa Claus, the Trustee Tasked With Handing Out Leona Helmsley’s Billions (INTERVIEW)

    Meet Israel’s Santa Claus, the Trustee Tasked With Handing Out Leona Helmsley’s Billions (INTERVIEW)

    Renowned New York attorney Sandor (Sandy) Frankel, one of four trustees of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, was in Israel earlier this month to look at additional philanthropic options and to observe the progress of those endeavors already funded – to the tune of multi-millions. Frankel, who recently joined the prestigious Park Avenue law firm Otterbourg P.C., met with Israeli politicians and other bigwigs to get a sense from them about which projects in the country […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Food Spirituality/Tradition ‘Pastry Secrets’ Arrive Just in Time for Rosh Hashanah

    ‘Pastry Secrets’ Arrive Just in Time for Rosh Hashanah – Babka. Strudel. Stollen. Danish pastry. Not to mention Gugelhopf and Charlotte. The names set the mouth to watering and conjure up lovingly concocted pastries that feed the body and comfort the soul. If you didn’t have a grandmother who baked these delicacies, you wish that you had. George Greenstein was never a grandmother, but his life as a baker provided his children and grandchildren with memories infused with the smell of fresh baked bread and rugelach. His daughters, Julia […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Spirituality/Tradition Fusing Israeli and Holocaust History, Novel Offers a ‘Middle Eastern Western’

    Fusing Israeli and Holocaust History, Novel Offers a ‘Middle Eastern Western’ – There is a game that all of us have played at some time in our lives. We ask ourselves: What would my life be like if I had gone to this school instead of that one, or if I had married this girl instead of that one? In their newly published book The Ambassador, authors Yehuda Avner and Matt Rees play that game with modern Jewish history. Avner — who died earlier this year, and was a speechwriter, secretary and adviser to […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Lifestyle A Toulouse Fashion Student Finds Style and Harmony in the Holy Land

    A Toulouse Fashion Student Finds Style and Harmony in the Holy Land

    A unique group of young fashion bloggers and designers recently visited Israel to learn more about the country’s fashion industry and diverse culture. Hailing from the Philippines, Korea, Kenya, Japan, Brazil, Spain, France, Germany, Russia, and the U.K., the 10 participants toured the country and met with top Israeli fashion designers throughout last week. “It was an amazing experience,” said Meissene Maghni from Toulouse, France — one of the participants of the program. “I’m Muslim and I really wanted to see Israel […]

    Read more →