The New Yorker, of all places, has a brief profile of Aish HaTorah-New York City and its outreach program geared to wealthy executives who donate large sums of money to Aish – "(average: ten thousand dollars)". In this very brief piece, the Aish rabbi manages to mislead (okay, lie to) his student once and mislead the reporter once. First, the lie to the student:
“Maybe we can talk a little bit about Hanukkah,” [Rabbi Stuart] Shiff said.
“O.K.,” the executive said. “Seven candles?”
“Eight! We light eight candles to commemorate a miracle. What’s the miracle we’re commemorating?”
“I don’t know.”
“They found oil in a temple that was desecrated by the Syrian-Greek army,” Shiff began. He got as far as the eight days, and the executive interrupted. “Where did they get the idea in the first place? That’s my question—who wrote the book?”
“The Maccabees,” Shiff said. “It’s history.”
“Yeah,” the executive said. “History I can buy.”
Of course, the only books written by the Maccabbees or their supporters are 1 and 2 Maccabees and neither mention any "miracle of oil." No Jewish source even hints at such a "miracle" until hundreds of years later, and those sources are all rabbinic, not Hasmonean. (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 .)
Now the lie to the reporter:
“We go everywhere,” Shiff said on the train. “We go to J. P. Morgan, Bear, Bloomberg, Goldman—and everybody is so different. It’s not about conforming to anything. That last guy, I think sometimes he thinks he’s not living up to my expectations of him. But I don’t have any expectations. My whole job is helping him to stay connected. We like questions.”
If Mr. Wealthy Executive were Mr. Poor Working Stiff Aish would have far more "expectations" of him. Why? Because, Mr. Wealthy Executive's money buys him a lot of leeway. Anyone who has spent significant time at Aish in Jerusalem knows that the amount of time spent of students varies with evidence of money and evidence of buying into the program. If you do not have evidence of money and if you have very real, challenging questions about the Aish presentation of Judaism, you won't last long at Aish. Conversely, that same student, full of probing questions and not buying the Aish spin, will last far longer if he or his family are wealthy. Aish actively weeds out nonconformists at all levels of their program. Anyone deemd to be "not Aish material" is quickly pushed out. This process is relentless and heartless.
Aish is built on deception. Rabbi Noach Weinberg has spent more than 40 years developing ways to "get" kids, to deceive them, to manipulate them, to trick them into observance. There is an oft repeated rumor about Rabbi Weinberg. He and his wife have lived separate lives for many years, in adjoining apartments. They are divorced in all but name. Both hush up the separation to protect Aish and its womens' school, EYHAT. I've heard this from EYHAT students, from Aish students, from former BTs and from current "outreach professionals."
Rabbi Wienberg is a fraud, a charlatan, a snake oil salesman out to snatch the souls of your friends and your children. But don't worry. Even if he can't get your soul, he'll take your money – guaranteed.