Tag Archives: Chabad

Jews of the Week: Zalman Shazar and Reuven Rivlin

Two Israeli Presidents

Reuven Rivlin (b. 1939) was born in Jerusalem to a family descended from the great Vilna Gaon, that made aliyah in 1809. His father was a Hebrew University professor who first translated the Koran into Hebrew. Not surprisingly, Rivlin speaks Arabic fluently. That made him a key asset during those years when he served in the IDF Intelligence Corps. In the Six-Day War, Rivlin fought with the Jerusalem Brigade. He later studied law at Hebrew University, and served on Jerusalem’s City Council. In 1988, he was elected chairman of Likud and took his first seat in the Knesset. In 2003, he became Knesset Speaker, a position he held until 2014, when he was elected Israel’s tenth president. In that election, he had the support of Arab MKs, despite the fact that he has always been very right-wing, heavily criticized the withdrawal from Gaza, declared that “West Bank settlements are as Israeli as Tel Aviv”, and continues to push for a one-state solution. Nonetheless, he has been praised for building bridges in Israel, and being an eloquent spokesperson on the state’s behalf. Rivlin is a vegetarian and a big supporter of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team, which he once managed decades ago. Earlier this month, his term as Israel’s president came to an end, and he has been replaced by (former Jew of the Week) Isaac Herzog.

Schneur Zalman Rubashov (1889-1974) was born in the Belorussian town of Mir, near Minsk, to a deeply religious Chabad family, and was named after Chabad’s founder, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. From a young age, he was drawn to Zionism and was also a member of Jewish self-defence organizations in Eastern Europe. He regularly wrote articles for a number of Yiddish publications. After being released from the Russian army in 1924, he made aliyah and settled in Tel-Aviv, changing his last name to “Shazar” (an acronym of his full name). There he worked for the Histadrut (Israel’s national trade union) and also as a journalist. In 1947, Shazar was part of the Jewish delegation to the UN during the critical Partition Plan vote. He was elected to the first Knesset in 1949 and became the new state’s Minister of Education. In 1963, Shazar was elected Israel’s third president. He wrote a goodwill message that was taken by the Apollo 11 crew to the moon, where it still rests. On it he wrote: “From the President of Israel in Jerusalem with hope for ‘abundance of peace so long as the moon endures’ (Psalms 72:7).” Shazar was a devoted member of the “Chein Circle” for Hasidic study in Jerusalem, often hosting the group in his presidential residence. He became a student of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and later helped him produce his renowned translation and commentary of the Talmud. Shazar kept a regular correspondence with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and often visited him in Brooklyn. He co-founded Kfar Chabad in Israel. Shazar passed away shortly after completing his second term as Israel’s president. Today, his portrait appears on the Israeli 200 shekel note.

Words of the Week

I have no doubt, and my positions are known, that the status of Judaism according to halachah is what has kept us going for 3,800 years.
– Reuven Rivlin

President Shazar toasts the Lubavitcher Rebbe at Chabad headquarters (770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn)

Jew of the Week: Larry King

King of Interviews

Lawrence Harvey Zeiger (1933-2021) was born in Brooklyn to Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Belarus. His father died when he was just a child, leaving the family impoverished. Young Larry was fascinated by radio and always wished to become a broadcaster. In Miami, he found a job cleaning at a radio station and, when the station’s broadcaster suddenly left the show, Larry was given a chance to take his place. The manager said “Zeiger” was not a good stage name, so Larry quickly chose “King” (based on an ad he had just seen for King’s Wholesale Liquor store). He got the job to radio DJ for three hours every morning, earning $50 a week. King soon started doing interviews, too, and would occasionally have a celebrity who was in town to do a show. He was then hired as a commentator for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. It was in 1978 when The Larry King Show aired its first episode (on radio). It would be broadcast live every weekday at midnight, starting with a one-hour interview and followed by several hours of discussion. By 1985, King was a household name and was hired by CNN to star in a television version of his interview show. CNN’s Larry King Live went on to set a Guinness World Record as the “longest-running TV show hosted by the same person on the same network”. Many iconic moments took place in his studio, including the Perot-Gore debate of 1993 (which became CNN’s most-watched segment ever), and the joint interview of Rabin and Arafat in 1995. Famous people loved to come on his show because he asked simple questions and made his interviewees feel at ease. He famously avoided reading up on his guests, preferring not to know much about them. King retired in 2010 after 25 years and a whopping 6000 episodes. Over that same time period, he was a regular columnist for USA Today. King went on to do several more popular shows on other networks, including Larry King Now and Politicking with Larry King. Over the years, he made countless appearances in sit-coms, commercials, movies, cartoons, and even the WWE. All in all, King conducted some 60,000 interviews over his career. He won two Peabody Awards for excellence in broadcasting and was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. After suffering a heart attack in 1987, King started the Larry King Cardiac Foundation which has donated millions to pay for life-saving heart surgeries for people who cannot afford them. He also helped raise millions for Israel and for Chabad. He generally identified as a “Jewish agnostic” and said several years ago: “I love being Jewish, am proud of my Jewishness, and I love Israel.” Sadly, Larry King passed away earlier this year.

Words of the Week

Everyone loves the truth, but not everyone tells the truth.
– Yiddish proverb

Jews of the Week: Mitchell Schwartz and Ali Marpet

Jewish Super Bowl Showdown

Mitchell Schwartz
(Credit: Jeffrey Beall)

Mitchell Bryan Mendel Schwartz (b. 1989) was born in California and raised in a religious Conservative Jewish home. By the time he started high school, he was 6’5″ and weighed 240 pounds—so he started playing football. Very quickly, he dominated the game, and just a couple of years later was California high schools’ Offensive Lineman of the Year. He was also an all-star baseball pitcher, and an honour roll student with a near-perfect GPA. Not surprisingly, many colleges wanted him, and he chose to go to UC Berkeley where he majored in American Studies. Over his four-year college career, he didn’t miss a single game. In 2012, Schwartz was drafted to the NFL by the Cleveland Browns. He went on to play all 16 games in his impressive rookie season. After several more successful seasons, he signed a 5-year, $33 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs, making him one of the highest paid tackles in the sport. Schwartz wears his Judaism proudly, and co-authored a book with his brother Geoff (also an NFL player) called Eat my Schwartz: Our Story of NFL Football, Food, Family, and Faith. He is a big supporter of Kansas City’s Chabad of Leawood, and has lit the city’s public menorah. Last year, he helped lead the Chiefs to a Super Bowl victory. Until then, he had never missed a single game in his entire NFL career. Unfortunately, that incredible streak ended earlier this season, though his team still made it to the Super Bowl, and will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has their own Jewish all-star:

Ali Marpet
(Credit: buccaneers.com)

Alexander “Ali” Marpet (b. 1993) was born in New York to a traditional Jewish family. He was also a big high school football (and basketball) success. Marpet studied economics and public policy at Hobart College, which is not a particularly strong athletic school and doesn’t even award athletic scholarships. Only one other player in the history of the college ever made it to the NFL. Marpet went there anyways, and led their football team to multiple championship appearances. He was drafted to the NFL in 2016 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his rookie season, he was voted the best pass-blocker among rookies and 12th-best run-blocking guard overall. In 2018, he signed a 5-year, $55 million extension with the Buccaneers, making him one of the highest paid guards in the NFL. Marpet once described how, while on Birthright Israel, the classic camel ride in the desert didn’t go so well for him since he weighed over 300 pounds and the camel wasn’t too happy about that! He has stated that he is honoured to represent all Jews as a professional athlete. Marpet hopes to win his first championship ring this Sunday.

Words of the Week

Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.
– Chinese Proverb