Mr. David Rivlin
I am a sixth-generation Jerusalemite: On my father’s side, I’m descended from the famous Lithuanian branch of the Rivlin family that emigrated to the Land of Israel together with a group of disciples of the Vilna Gaon in 1809. On my mother’s side I come from the Chabad branch of the same family; my great-great-grandfather, Rabbi Eliyahu Yosef Rivlin, was a pioneering member of the Chabad settlement in Chevron, which was founded a few years later, in 1821.
In my youth, before the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, I studied in Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, while also being drafted into the Jewish police brigade that operated under the British Mandate. My studies were, however, interrupted by the War of Independence, when I served as an officer in the IDF’s Communications Corps, and afterwards I traveled to England and completed my studies in the University of London.
In 1950, I was one of the founding members of the Galei Tzahal radio station founded on David Ben Gurion’s initiative, and from there I was invited to work for the Foreign Ministry, where I would go on to serve for thirty-four years.
While in the foreign service, I was sent for two postings to New York, the first as vice-consul from 1958-1962, and the second as consul-general from 1971-1975. Because my responsibilities included Soviet Jewish affairs, one of the first people I met in New York was the Rebbe; I knew how close this subject was to his heart.
Already in my first audience with him, the Rebbe surprised me by noting my family’s connection to the Rebbes of Chabad; one of the sons of Rabbi Eliyahu Yosef Rivlin married the daughter of Rabbi Dovber, the second leader of Lubavitch. It seems that he was well acquainted with the history of the Rivlin family, and knew about my mixed lineage of chasidim and their opponents – the mitnagdim.
“Tell me,” the Rebbe once asked, “when you come here today, do you come as a chasid or a mitnaged? (more…)