The journalist who put Torah on WhatsApp

Sivan Rahav-Meir's multi-lingual thought for the day has found a ready audience in Israel and beyond


Sivan Rahav-Meir has been a journalist for 30 years. Which is especially impressive as she is only 37.

She began interviewing politicians and singers when she was just seven. The radio and TV presenter is now one of Israel’s top media people but her popularity stems from more than a consummate knowledge of current affairs.  Over the past few years she has been making a name also as a Jewish educator, using social media to communicate the wisdom of Torah.

Every day (except Shabbat and Yomtov) she produces a short thought for the day on her Daily What’sApp, which is followed by tens of thousands of people: it is published in eleven languages including English, Russian, Amharic and Arabic.
She was one of 28 educators brought over to England from Israel  by Mizrachi UK last month for its “weekend of inspiration” in London, Manchester and Leeds. “Meeting world Jewry is very important,” she says, “.We can’t do it alone, we need you with us.”

She grew up in a secular family in Herzliya and for her batmitzvah treat, her parents took her to Liverpool because she was such a great Beatles fan. She was 15 when she became religious. “I first met modern Orthodox people, I fell in love with Shabbes.”

But while sometimes people abandon their old lives in their spiritual quest, she went on to build a career in mainstream media. On Youtube you can catch some of her short videos on the weekly Torah portion she made for the world Mizrachi movement, speaking against a newsroom backdrop.

The turning point came three years ago shortly after the birth of her fifth and youngest child, Yehudit. “I realised something was changing in the media globally, she says. “People are not looking for more information. They have all the information they need. They need the context, the meaning, the depth.”

Still on maternity leave, she posted a short reflection on the Exodus on social media, citing Rashi — “something about the national redemption beginning with a personal redemption within us. The external battle only reflects the inner battle we are facing all the time.”

People were “shocked” at this coming from someone they thought of as an “objective journalist. They were used to hearing from me what did Netanyahu say, what about the coalition. And they were shocked in a positive way. They told me, ‘That’s the first time you are touching our hearts.’ So I said, ok let’s continue.”

While she maintains a role as a news anchor, she “wanted to stop running and chasing after politicians”.  A team now helps on her Torah project. With more than a 100,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter, her celebrity gives her an extensive reach.

“People think What’sApp is a shallow tool,” she says. “We try to prove you can use these tools to promote your values and something more meaningful.”

The image of the yeshivah student poring over a weighty tome may be the classic image of Jewish study. But Jewish education has always used popular forms to engage the masses. The Chasidic rebbes mastered the art of parable. The synagogue sermon in the vernacular, which now might seem a staple of the Shabbat morning service, is a relatively modern innovation.

The Facebook homily, the new media micro-shiur follow in a creative tradition. Her presentations on the Torah portion were collected in a book, published in English in 2017 as #Parasha — Weekly Insights from a Leading Israeli Journalist.

To connect Jews with the sources of their civilisation, “we must bring them closer to the people,” she says. “Rashi has no Facebook page and the Rambam is not on Instagram. If you want the young generation to get to know them, we must take them out from the bookshelves.”

Sometimes condensing an idea into a fewer than a couple of hundreds can be challenging. “Maybe because it is Torah, you have to work harder. Sometimes it is easier to write longer.”

And not “everything can be shortened”— the title of one recent daily post , on the yahrzeit of  Rabbi Yeshayahu Hadari, the founder of the Hesder  Yeshivah. “I wasn’t successful at trying to cut- and edit-out one small idea, she wrote. “And then I suddenly thought that perhaps this is the biggest message: not everything can be made easily accessible. Rabbi Hadari educated thousands of pupils for decades to be deep, uncompromising learners, not to suffice with short texts the length of a social media post.”

In what has become in an interactive enterprise, she is aided by the public. “Every week I get 200 letters, emails, text messages with material  people want me to quote,” she says. “The most interesting posts are not mine. In a sense, I am just a journalist. I collect all these items and share them with the public.”

And though the media may often talk of Israel’s religious-secular divide, she believes there is an open ear for Judaism. “The majority of people in Israel love Judaism and their identity,” she says.  

More than that, she believes Israel has “a story to share with the world. Israel is a spiritual start-up. Every nation can learn from our experience how you can rebuild yourself after 2,000 years in exile.”

The Daily What’sApp can be read at

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