‘Orthodox Jew on Channel 2’ brings Torah to journalism in Israel
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Famous since childhood for her writing and reporting, Israeli media personality Sivan Rahav-Meir these days is applying her expertise as a journalist to analyzing the weekly Torah reading — on a secular TV channel.
“I try to read the parsha as a journalist,” Mrs. Rahav-Meir told a group of 24 in the small Beit Midrash Feb. 2, describing her current initiative.
On her weekly show, called Al HaTorah V’al HaMadura, or “Torah and the Daily News,” she reads the parsha and tries to relate it to Jews living in the secular world. In one livestream, she received 300,000 views worldwide, she said in her talk at Shalhevet.
Twenty-four students and four staff members came to hear Mrs. Rahav-Meir speak during their lunch period that Thursday, but 14 freshmen, sophomores and their teachers had to leave after 25 minutes to attend their next class. Because of this year’s MAP schedule, freshman and sophomores only have half an hour for lunch, while upperclassmen have 70 minutes.
Admissions Director Natalie Weiss introduced Mrs. Rahav-Meir.
“She’s extremely well known in Israel – everyone knows who she is and she appeals to a broad audience of secular and religious people,” said Ms. Weiss.
Channel 2 is a secular news channel and one of the most popular news outlets in Israel. Mrs. Rahav-Meir said she is often asked about “being an observant Jew on Channel 2.”
“You have to know your firm boundaries,” said Mrs. Rahav-Meir, and “know what your message is.”
Born to a non-observant family in Hertzliya, Mrs. Rahav-Meir was told by her parents at a young age that she could never be Orthodox. But as her life moved on, Mrs. Rahav-Meir became observant on her own anyway.
Throughout her presentation to Shalhevet students, she showed examples of her work and told stories of her different experiences. She touched upon certain morals she has for herself as a journalist. Including hearing both sides of a narrative and taking care that nothing seen or presented as black and white.
Mrs. Rahav-Meir said her first story was about a friend’s new pet, when she was just seven years old. It won prizes and she kept writing, becoming somewhat of a phenomenon.
She said the beginning of her professional career, she was persuaded by her many bosses to push a certain agenda or cover certain stories. However, now that she is more well-known and a respected journalist, “they don’t send me on all kinds of missions that aren’t my style.”
In addition to her TV show, Mrs. Rahav-Meir also broadcasts a weekly shiur, shown live on Facebook, attended by over 900 people in person and tuned in to by 300,000 Facebook viewers weekly, she said. That, she said, is a far better outlet for her journalistic abilities than covering Israeli political theater.
After covering a wide range of topics, she is glad to be focusing now on the Torah. These days, she finds reporting on politics trivial.
“It doesn’t touch on the real problems of life,” she said.
Students who attended her talk were glad they came.
“It was really interesting what she was talking about, but it was really bad that we had to leave early for class,” said freshman Ari Schlact, who had to leave the talk early.
Mrs. Rahav-Meir was also scholar-in-residence at Beth Jacob while she was in Los Angeles. Toward the end of her trip she posted this on Facebook:
“Beverly Hills – not what I thought,” Mrs. Rahav-Meir posted Feb. 7. “After speaking at Shalhevet High School, Congregation Beth Jacob and Mitchabrim Center I have yet to encounter any rich snobs like those on tv…Meanwhile, I’ve encountered only young people and adults who are caring and enthusiastic about Judaism and Israel. Thank you!”