Tag Archives: Rebbetzin

Jew of the Week: Sivan Rahav-Meir

Israel’s Favourite News Anchor – and Rebbetzin

Sivan Rahav (b. 1981) was born in Herzliya to a secular family. She knew she wanted to be a journalist from childhood, and would already interview her friends in second grade. By 8, she earned herself a “children’s press” card, and by 14 was interviewing the likes of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. Meanwhile, Rahav used her journalistic skills to dig into her roots, and soon returned to Orthodox observance. After finishing high school early, she completed her degree in political science from Tel-Aviv University in just two years, then served in the IDF as a military reporter. During this time, she met her future husband, a fellow Orthodox IDF reporter, Yedidya Meir. The two still work on their biggest stories together – Yedidya hosting a show on Radio Kol Chai and writing for the B’Sheva newspaper, and Sivan hosting a show on Galei Tzahal (Army Radio), writing for Yediot Ahronot (Israel’s largest newspaper), and hosting Channel 2’s prime-time television news hour. During her last maternity leave (after giving birth to her fifth child), she realized she was tired of the negativity and politics of news, and decided to devote more time to spreading positive, spiritual Jewish wisdom. She started giving weekly Torah classes in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, which now draw over 1000 people in packed venues. A master of social media, her Torah thoughts regularly reach over a million listeners through Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, and YouTube. Rahav-Meir also published a bestselling book on the weekly parasha, translated into English last year. In addition to recently being voted Israel’s favourite female news personality, she has become one of Israel’s most successful kiruv speakers, and a tremendous role model for all baalei teshuva. Rahav-Meir is making waves in the world of Israeli journalism, too, and helping to stem the long-standing anti-religious bias of the secular Israeli media. “For secular reporters,” she says, “Judaism was always a problem. But I wanted to talk about it as a solution.”

Words of the Week

The media is seeking instances where religion is excessive, extreme… I think the media doesn’t cover the real things that are happening. Take selichot, for example: Every year 100,000 people come to the Kotel for the last night of selichot. The Kotel plaza is full [but it’s not covered in the news], yet when an old band comes to sing in Ramat Gan’s park and draws 1,000 or 10,000 people, the media will livestream the event and the reporters will be there…
– Sivan Rahav-Meir

Jew of the Week: Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

JungreisEsther Jungreis (1936-2016) was born in Hungary, the daughter of a rabbi. During the Holocaust, the family was sent to Bergen-Belsen, and later loaded up on a train headed for Auschwitz. On route, they managed to escape to Switzerland with the help of Rudolph Kastner’s Aid and Rescue Committee. The quota for migrants to Israel was filled, so the family was given papers to go to the States. Jungreis went on to marry a rabbi and settled in North Woodmere, New York, where the couple founded the town’s Jewish Center and Congregation Ohr Torah. Seeing the rampant assimilation in the United States, Jungreis made it her life’s work to prevent what she saw as a “spiritual holocaust”. In 1973, she started an organization called Hineni, aimed at inspiring Jewish youth to return to their roots. Under her dedicated leadership and moving speeches, Hineni grew to become an international organization, no longer focused solely on youth but rousing countless young and old alike. Jungreis organized events and gave lectures around the world – visiting fifteen or more countries a year was normal for her. Her weekly class drew as many as 1500 people at a time. Meanwhile, Jungreis wrote a regular column for The Jewish Press (the world’s largest English-language Jewish paper) for some 45 years, making it the longest running column in the publication’s history. She also wrote four best-selling books, and had a television programme. In 2004, the Rebbetzin spoke at the Republican National Convention, and in 2008 was selected by President Bush to join him on his delegation to Jerusalem for Israel’s 60th anniversary. Today, she is recognized as one of the central pioneers of the modern kiruv (Jewish outreach) movement. Sadly, the Rebbetzin passed away yesterday. She worked tirelessly until the very end, and in her last article – published just last week – finished with these words: “When will we wake up? When will we don our priestly garments and fulfill our G-d-given destiny and be ‘a light unto all mankind’?”

Words of the Week

A long life is not good enough, but a good life is long enough.
– Rabbi Theodore Meshulem Jungreis

Jew of the Week: Rebbetzin Henny Machlis

Rebbetzin Henny Machlis (Photo Credit: Joan Roth)

Rebbetzin Henny Machlis (Photo Credit: Joan Roth)

Henny Machlis (1957-2015) was born and raised in Brooklyn, the daughter of an Orthodox rabbi. She studied genetics, dietetics, and education at both Brooklyn College and Yeshiva University. Shortly after marrying Rabbi Mordechai Machlis, the two opened up their home to host people for Sabbath meals. Their inspiring words of wisdom and delicious cooking brought more and more guests. Soon, the Machlis family was hosting between 200 and 300 guests for Shabbat meals each week! Among their guests were students, immigrants, and tourists, widows and orphans, the impoverished, homeless, and mentally ill. Many of these slept over for days or weeks, on their couches, tables, and even in their van. Rebbetzin Machlis would cook for 8 hours straight to prepare for each Shabbat, with the help of her 13 kids. Cleaning up would often take until Tuesday. Each Shabbat cost the family $2500, some of which was covered by donations, but most came from their own modest funds, together with many loans, and even the sale of their personal belongings. Amazingly, the family only took off one week a year, during the holiday of Passover. Their door was never locked, and people regularly came in for a safe place to stay. At the same time, the Rebbetzin taught a regular women’s class on Jewish philosophy, while mentoring and advising countless others. Despite her hard work, Machlis was famous for always being cheerful, calm, warm, and modest. Over the past 36 years, her family has hosted over 400,000 people. Sadly, Rebbetzin Machlis passed away last month after a battle with cancer. Many visited her in the hospital, and even there, the Rebbetzin continued her kindness, giving up her own hospital bed to give homeless people a place to rest. At her funeral, a stranger pushed aside her son to draw nearer, saying “I have to get closer. She’s my mother.” Indeed, many consider Henny Machlis their spiritual mother. One person said of her: “When I was with her, I felt embraced by God.” Click here to read more about Henny Machlis’s story.

Words of the Week

Wisdom from Rebbetzin Machlis:

“All giving is a little bit of imitating God. Giving builds one’s character, and makes one more God-like.”

“Rebbe Nachman of Breslov says that when you cook, the energy that you cook with goes into the food. So if you cook with a lot of anger, you can give people food poisoning. But if you cook with joy, you can give them good health.”

“We are living in the midst of a spiritual holocaust. Most Jews today have no idea of the beauty and depth of Judaism. How can we not do everything in our power, including going into debt, to reach out to our fellow Jews?”