President Reuven Rivlin in the West Bank Peduel settlement.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Up until October 7, 2001, there was no synagogue on the grounds of the official residence of the president of the state.
Then along came American businessman Ira Rennert.
Rennert, who had already contributed a great deal to Jerusalem, wanted to do something to honor the president, who at the time was Moshe Katsav. Israel’s public servants are not allowed to accept gifts for themselves and must either pay for personal gifts or relinquish them.
Katsav suggested that it would not hurt for the nation’s No. 1 citizen to have a synagogue close at hand where he could go to prayers without security hassles.
The synagogue was duly inaugurated with great fanfare in the presence of prime minister Ariel Sharon, Shas rabbinical leader Ovadia Yosef, Chief Rabbis Yisrael Meir Lau and Eliyahu Bakshi- Doron and other dignitaries.
Katsav said the synagogue should be seen as a unifying force for the entire population. Several men in the neighborhood formed a regular minyan, and held services there on weekday mornings.
Katsav often attended these services, and on occasion so did several eminent rabbis from Israel and abroad.
When Shimon Peres became president, the members of the minyan invited him several times to join them, but he always declined.
Nonetheless, he was quite familiar with the contents of this tiny, beautifully appointed boutique synagogue, and occasionally showed it to important guests one of the last of who was Bartholomew I, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople who in May 2014 came to Jerusalem.
When Reuven Rivlin succeeded Peres, the members of the minyan were confident that he would join their ranks on an informal, friendly basis – not every day, but from time to time – and that confidence was not misplaced.
Rivlin likes synagogue services, and is thoroughly familiar with synagogue ritual. When the minyan asked him last year to join in the slihot penitential prayers prior to Yom Kippur, he agreed immediately – and he is doing the same again this year, and will join the service late on Sunday night.
The service will be led by Cantor Yitzhak Meir, who earlier this month and also last year led penitential prayers at the Ohel Nehama Synagogue that is back to back with the President’s Residence.