On November 8 and 9, the Young Israel of New Rochelle hosted an Israeli power couple as scholars-in-residence. Sivan Rahav-Meir and Yedidya Meir are the North American shlichim of the World Mizrachi movement for 5780. Rahav-Meir is a news reporter on Israel’s Arutz 12 TV, a columnist for Yediot Aharonot and appears weekly on Galei Zahal (Army Radio). Hundreds attend her weekly parshat hashavua lectures which are also broadcast to thousands more worldwide. She was voted by Globes newspaper as most popular female media personality in Israel, listed on Forbes Top 50 Influential Women in Israel and the Jerusalem Post’s 50 most influential Jews in the World. Her husband broadcasts his own dvar torah radio program.
The Meir family resided this year in North Woodmere, and they visited many communities, schools and campuses that represent religious zionism. Both speakers manage a 31-hour, 5 ½-day work cycle as they continue their professional work in Israel while living in our time zone and criss-crossing the continent. Rahav-Meir even has a dual time zone watch for living here while working there. Their Israeli work pauses every Friday morning, when Shabbat starts there until motzei Shabbat here.
TheFriday night oneg included Rahav-Meir’s ‘Personal Stories of Journalism and Judaism.’ As she progressed professionally, she became more observant, married Meir and raised their five children. Her last maternity leave enabled her to examine all aspects of her life. She realized she was pitching stories skewed to please her producers’ viewpoints. As the network’s Knesset correspondent, she also noticed a change in the relationship between the MKs and the media. Previously, politicians would approach her “to get the message out.” With the rapid news cycle and social media, she saw this as less necessary. She began writing popular daily blogs on news stories and Torah that included her own subjective opinions.
Rahav-Meir further described the challenges of having her family here during their shlichut year. While there are many advantages to living in a large Orthodox community, there are also many challenges to living in the U.S.. She observed that the shuls in Israel are de facto components of Israeli communities, while shuls here are necessary anchors of religious observance.
Meir introduced himself as her “Uber” and part-time cameraman. At the same time, he also travels the continent to present his radio show.
On Shabbat morning, Meir gave a dvar Torah commemorating the 25th yahrzeit of Rav Shlomo Carlebach. He described his experience of Carlebach’s final trip to Israel. Meir arrived late and missed what became the final Carlebach concert in Israel. Later that month, he and his friend attended a Klezmer festival in Tzfat. The friend had his guitar with him but was not scheduled to perform. Somehow, he was recruited for an impromptu Carlebach-style concert at a Tzfat old-age home. Seeing the old men dancing in their wheelchairs reminded him of one prophetic description preceding Moshiach’s return. Decades later, he still regrets his missed opportunity that summer. His message was that we should live like Moshiach is coming tomorrow.
Following the main minyan, Rahav-Meir described her journey from a seventh-generation Israeli child in secular Herzliya to the shomer Shabbat professional she is today. She said that she “never met a Dati person until age 15.” Her first full Shabbat experience was while visiting new friends in Be’er Sheva, and feeling like she was in an alternative universe with all the “odd” behavior she witnessed. Her eventual Shabbat observance led a secular friend to move his Friday night birthday party to Saturday night, to also accommodate another “noodnik” shomer Shabbat guest, Meir. They met there and have been married for 16 years.
Both scholars gave an afternoon armchair chat in Hebrew on the topic, “Politics in Israel.” While they did not have any solutions for the political confusion of the last year in Israel, they described many of the nuances that have become the basis for the prolonged electoral process. On election night, Rahav-Meir earned a record for having presented the longest live feed in Israeli television history.
To follow the Meirs’ journey during shlichut and receive their daily divrei Torah, visit www.sivanrahavmeir.com and join their WhatsApp group by texting names to 310-425-3859.
By Judy Berger