Raised in a secular home in Israel, Sivan Rahav-Meir, a primetime anchor on Channel 2 News, is one of the country’s most recognized television journalists. But she has made a new reputation for herself in the last two years as the author of brief Torah commentaries on the weekly parshah she distributes via social media.
Rahav-Meir, 36, who adopted a religious lifestyle as a teenager, says her commentaries of 100-200 words “reach one million people every week” via text messages, Twitter, etc., “any possible way to reach the audience.”
Her collected writings were just published as “#PARASHA: Weekly Insights from a Leading Israeli Journalist” (Menorah Books).
The Jewish Week spoke recently by phone with Rahav-Meir.
Bookshelves and Amazon.com contain dozens of Torah commentaries. What new perspectives or insights is your book adding to the conversation?
First, these are very short messages. Our generation is looking for short and direct and clear messages. Second, it’s a very personal point of view — as a woman, as a mother, as a career woman, as an Israeli.
How did you get started writing and distributing the weekly commentaries?
After many years of covering the Knesset, the Supreme Court, the government, demonstrations, I decided [in addition] to try something else — something more important. I didn’t want to quote politicians the whole day. I wanted to bring Torah into this new [online] world. People are hungry and thirst for this. The majority in Israel love Judaism. All kinds of people tell me this is much more interesting [than political news]. “Enough with Sara Netanyahu,” wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they say. “We want to hear about Sarah Imenu [the Matriarch Sarah]”.
Your book is probably the first one of its type to include a hashtag. Why did you choose “#PARASHA” for the title?
It speaks to the generation that is unfortunately addicted to all these media, but wants the Torah to be part of their lives.
You cite several commentators in your pages. Two of the rabbis you highlight in the introduction, Abraham Azoulay and Mordechai Yosef Leiner, are not particularly famous. Why did you stress them?
The easiest thing to do is to quote famous rabbis. I wanted to find pearls, hidden writers, books that [readers] never heard of.
Who are your readers — secular, religious, traditional, charedi, etc.?
Students or soldiers are the main group. They don’t have time during their daily life to learn [intensively about Jewish subjects]. They love Judaism [but] they know that they don’t know enough about it. Our educational system doesn’t teach us [enough] about our heritage.
You did not grow up in a religious household. Does that give you an advantage in reaching Israel’s secular population?
I think so. I discovered [traditional] Judaism when I was a teenager. I bring out my roots in secular life.
You seem to take the prohibition against lashon hara, forbidden speech, very seriously. Is that easy to do while conducting TV interviews?
That’s not the problem. Most of the material [in my reports] is public. It is not lashon hara.
Do you feel pressure from the country’s Orthodox community to present a “religious” slant to the news since you are one of the most-visible Orthodox television journalists in Israel?
It’s not only from the frum people. It’s also from the Masorti people [traditional, roughly equivalent to Conservative Jews].