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The Right Side of History       

Sivan Rahav-Meir finds common ground wherever she lands

Where: Tenafly, New Jersey (just over the George Washington Bridge from Manhattan)
Who: One of the US’s largest concentrations of former Israelis (where Hebrew can be heard all over, even in the public schools), alongside a smaller American Jewish enclave
My takeaway: Let’s give everyone an opportunity to align with the side of emes 


Perhaps it’s because my husband Yedidya and I are both Israeli media personalities who’ve somehow been tabbed to make visits to communities all over. Every kehillah is special in its own unique way, and we’re grateful for the invitations and opportunities to interface with our brothers and sisters around the Jewish world.
Join me as I share some of these new connections

ONEchild of Tenafly, a young man named Edan Alexander, was born in Tel Aviv, grew up in New Jersey, returned to Israel as a lone soldier, and was kidnapped during the Simchas Torah massacre. Since then, many events have been held in the city in the merit of Edan ben Yael. You can’t go into a local supermarket or gas station without seeing his picture, and prayers for his welfare are on everyone’s lips. That’s probably why the Jews of Tenafly were so tuned into the other guests there for Shabbos who joined us at the last minute.

The week we were invited, after a communal Kabbalas Shabbos at the Tenafly shul, some 400 community members made their way into the large hall for the Friday night seudah, led by Rabbi Yitzchak Gershovitz, a Chabad emissary and the official shaliach of the Israeli expat community. He introduced my husband Yedidya and me as the guest speakers — but then he introduced another couple, Ran and Orly Gilboa from Petach Tikvah, who, we would soon learn, were the real guests this Shabbos.

The Gilboas are the parents of Daniella, also kidnapped by Hamas on October 7 and still being held in Gaza. They arrived in the US as part of a delegation of families of hostages, and spent several grueling days in diplomatic meetings with ambassadors, journalists, and congressmen. The whirlwind of activity in Washington was over on Friday around noontime.

The Gilboas are shomrei Shabbos — Ran has been going it alone for the past few years, and Orly joined him recently, in order to boost their spiritual merits and that of their kidnapped daughter. In a race against the clock, they managed to drive to New Jersey, finally reaching the home of Israeli friends with only minutes to spare before Shabbos. Now, they’re here with us — totally unexpectedly, but made to feel right at home.

Orly shared her ordeal over the past week, in which she felt at times as if she was selling her soul. “I had to sit with the Qatari ambassador to the UN and speak to her politely, while inside my heart was breaking. It’s so good that Shabbat is here, so good to be in a Jewish community. Now I no longer have to put on an act.”

Tenafly has a vibrant, growing American-born Jewish community as well, led by Rabbi Mordechai Shain, who came to town in 1993 with a vision but not too many other resources. Now, together with Rabbi Gershovitz, he runs Lubavitch on the Palisades — a multimillion-dollar Jewish life center from a windfall donation (the community is affluent and well-heeled) that offers a daily minyan, adult education classes, a Jewish day school, a mikveh, and other amenities. While most community members wouldn’t define themselves as religious, many send their children to the local Jewish school and attend Torah classes (which generally rotate among the homes of community members and create a sense of active engagement), Shabbos tefillos, and other activities.

This is a community of proud Jews, and the war in Israel has only served to strengthen their Jewish identity.

Between Shalom Aleichem and Kiddush, Rabbi Gershovitz stood up and announced that they would sing Eishes Chayil.

“Chaverim,” he said, “this song was written by Shlomo Hamelech and is traditionally dedicated to our wives or mothers. Some interpret it as praise for the Torah, the Shechinah, or the Jewish People. Tonight, let us direct these powerful words from Tenafly to Gaza in a heartfelt message of strength to Daniella bas Orly, who is being held captive in a Hamas tunnel.”

The people who filled the hall may not have known Daniella personally, but as they sang, they became one family.

Later, when I asked Orly what gives her strength during these trying times, she said, “Moments like these, moments like Eishet Chayil. We feel we’re part of a bigger story, embraced by a wonderful nation. That’s what helps me hold my head up high.”

Shabbos morning at the community kiddush, Ran and Orly shared the nightmare of the past few months and answered questions. Sometimes they were the ones to wipe their tears, sometimes it was their listeners. But one thing is certain: Hearing about the kidnapped Israelis on the news is nothing like seeing their parents standing in front of you.

One of the people present turned to Ran and Orly and said, “I’ve been listening to both of you, here and in media appearances, and I’ve actually been a bit surprised by the tone of your mission on behalf of your daughter. You’re always asking, always giving thanks. I think you should consider a shift in your approach. There’s no need to thank the Qatari ambassador to the UN, or to approach any senator with pleas. On the contrary, you should remind them that they are being presented with the privilege of being on the side of light, on the right side of history! You’re offering them a choice to embrace goodness, to choose life, and to be remembered as having made the moral choice at a pivotal juncture. You’re giving them the greatest gift, the chance to align with Israel, to side with the Jewish People, to side with Hashem. Speak with the confidence of your Jewish pride.”

Since that Shabbos, I’ve been contemplating two key lessons that are really applicable to anyone, anywhere: First, that if you’re a Jew, no matter where you come from, you’re a brother and you belong. And second, we shouldn’t portray ourselves as the world’s nebachs. We ought to present our Jewish identity with unabashed confidence, especially in these times. Instead of groveling, we’re inviting everyone we meet to make the correct choice, offering them the privilege to stand with us on the right and bright side of history, and choosing to align with integrity, righteousness, truth, and light.


Sivan Rahav-Meir, Israeli television news presenter, was voted by Globes as one of the most popular female media personalities in Israel and by the Jerusalem Post as one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world. Sivan began her media career at age 6, interviewing for a kids’ news magazine and youth television. She became religious as a teenager, and has since been working for national media and teaching Torah through various platforms. Her inspirational “Daily Thought” is translated to 17 languages.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1008)

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