AMONG THE oldest Ashkenazi families in Israel are the Rivlins, who arrived in the Holy Land on the eve of Rosh Hashana 200 years ago. Descendants of the Rivlins have distinguished themselves in many fields including diplomacy, politics, law and academia. They have fallen in battle in the wars of Israel, and they have been victims of terrorism. Currently, the best-known members of the family are Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Rivlin.
To mark the important milestone anniversary of the arrival of their forebears in the land of their ancestors, members of the Rivlin clan from all over Israel and around the world will gather in Jerusalem in mid-October for a week of festivities that, inter alia, will include a festival of Rivlin films and an exhibition of works of art by Rivlin family members at the Jerusalem Cinematheque; the dedication of a Rivlin Wing at Herzog Hospital; an academic symposium about the aliya of students of the Gaon of Vilna, the initial nucleus of which included the Rivlins; gatherings at Rivlin family homes in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv; a tour of the Supreme Court hosted by Judge Eliezer Rivlin; and a grand gathering and reception at Binyenei Ha'uma, where participants will be greeted and addressed by President Shimon Peres, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.
For those members of the family who have not previously met face to face, there will be a certain amount of confusion, as there are more than a dozen names of forebears that are passed down from generation to generation, with several Rivlins bearing identical names even though they may be third, fourth and even fifth cousins.
DURING THE days of the struggle for Soviet Jewry, Jewish families in the free world used to set a place at their Seder tables for the absent Soviet Jew as a symbol that he would one day find his way to freedom. Eventually Soviet Jews were freed from the yoke of Communism. In many synagogues during the High Holy Days, special prayers were said for kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit in the hope that he, too, would soon be free. At the Hebron Yeshiva, they followed the practice that had applied to Soviet Jews and left an empty chair in the synagogue with Schalit's name on it.
CONSUMERS OF only the most stringently kosher products now have some additional choices thanks to a trilateral seal of approval for Tnuva products from Badatz Machzikei Hadat, Hatam Sofer and Va'adat Mehadrin Tnuva, headed by Rabbi Mordechai Gross. Those Tnuva products that bear the trilateral seal have received the blessing of Rabbi Shalom Yosef Eliashiv, the nation's most authoritative arbiter of Halacha. Tnuva CEO Eyal Malis met with a group of rabbis primarily from Jerusalem and Bnei Brak at the home of Gross, who emphasized that in a technological age in which there are new ways of processing food, kashrut supervisors and inspectors must be more knowledgeable and alert to halachic food issues than ever before. Most of the refreshments at his table comprised a variety of Tnuva dairy products.
THE TOP brass of Bank Hapoalim, along with leading Jerusalem businesspeople, attended the launch of the bank's first business branch in Jerusalem, located in the Har Hotzvim Technological Park. Although a bank can hardly be considered a holy place, the rabbi chosen to affix the mezuza was Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites. Rabinowitz said that Israeli banks had suffered from the global economic crisis less than other banks around the world because they had demonstrated their faith in the Almighty by having mezuzot on their doorposts. He lauded Bank Hapoalim for demonstrating its faith not only in the Torah but also in the holy city and its business community. Yair Seroussi, the recently installed chairman of the board of directors of Bank Hapoalim, said that the bank is in the process of restructuring itself and has great ambitions.
IT PAYS to be a pulpit rabbi during the High Holy Day period because one can ask forgiveness en masse from anyone one might have wronged. That's what Rabbi Avigdor Burstein of the Hazvi Yisrael Congregation did when delivering his Shabbat Shuva sermon. He asked the pardon of anyone he might have offended by anything he might have said or anything he might not have said.
ASHKENAZI CHIEF Rabbi Yona Metzger delivered the Shabbat Shuva address following Minha services at Yeshurun Synagogue and drew a parallel between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the United Nations and the cantor who serves as the emissary of the public in leading the High Holy Day prayers. When Netanyahu spoke out against Holocaust denier Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and asked the UN whether it was not ashamed of giving him a platform, he was speaking not only on behalf of Israel but on behalf of the Jewish people as a whole, said Metzger. The chief rabbi also castigated those Natorei Karta Jews, who although they were descendants of Holocaust survivors, publicly embraced Ahmadinejad two years ago. Metzger said that although Natorei Karta rabbis are not in the habit of corresponding with the Zionist chief rabbis of Israel, he had received a letter from a Natorei Karta rabbi who declared that his movement totally dissociated itself from those Jews who had disgraced themselves by consorting with Ahmadinejad, and stated that such people should be ostracized in all Jewish circles.
EARLIER IN the day, after morning services, English-speaking congregants from neighboring congregations flocked to Yeshurun to hear Rabbi Ari Berman speak. And in the evening, even more English speakers - some of them from outside the city - showed up to listen to Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, who also spoke at Yeshurun. Riskin advised those people who put off repentance until late in life not to fool themselves. The evil inclination doesn't wane with advancing age, he told them.