At age 10, most girls receive Barbie dolls, games or play make-up as a birthday present. I received a lifetime membership to Hadassah from my grandmother, Roslyn Rivlin Strober. "Grandma Booboo" had been a longtime Hadassah supporter, and had raised money for the cause both during the years that she lived in Israel as a young adult, and later in life in New York and Florida.
While she was boasting about the gift, my young self was less than thrilled. I had no concept of Israel and no understanding about what my family had been through over the past 190 years, since first settling in Jerusalem.
Ten years later, I'm in the Israel Defense Force. I teach shooting in all its forms; sharp-shooting is my specialty. A year into my two-year mandatory army service, I have begun to feel that I truly belong in this country. I would love to say that when I made aliyah a year-and-half ago that I based my decision on my family's heritage. But I did not.
I knew that I belonged to the Rivlin tribe. I knew that after decades in the city, my ancestors are believed to have been the first to settle outside the old city walls of Jerusalem. However, this information did not have a profound impact on my life.
I made aliyah because I spent significant time here while in high school on the Reform movement's Eisendrath International Exchange program, and I simply decided that I wanted more.
Every Year in Jerusalem
Today, I am amazed that my unconnected decision to move to the Jewish state has connected me to my family's rich history. I have met Rivlins in the army, at Shabbat dinner, through friends and pretty much all over.
Last week, along with my father and brother, Fred and Zeke Strober, who came from their home in Melrose Park to visit, I joined some 3,000 members of our extended Rivlin family to celebrate the 200th anniversary of our family's move from Vilna to Jerusalem.
It was the Gaon of Vilna who sent my family to Jerusalem; I believe that he would be proud to see what has become of his decision. Before the first big wave of aliyah occurred, my ancestors saw a need to return to our homeland. Not next year in Jerusalem, but every year in Jerusalem.
This gathering was a celebration, and an ode to our family, our accomplishments and our history. However, more than just an opportunity to mark our history, we wanted to celebrate our future. This reunion was a symbolic passing of the torch to the next generation — to my generation.
I certainly feel the weight of this on my shoulders, considering that my cousins and I have some big shoes to fill. My relatives include the current speaker of the Knesset, Reuven Rivlin; a world-famous archaeologist, Hanan Eshel; and Jerusalem's once-renowned cantor, Zalman Rivlin.
With such a big responsibility, I am not sure where to start. The passing of the torch is not just about what has occurred in my family; it represents a movement that is happening to all the people of Israel. Until now, our generation has allowed our parents to do most of the work.
Perhaps the time has come for us to step up to the plate.
And so, since someone always has to start a revolution, I will volunteer myself to be the first up to bat.
As a member of the future of the people of Israel, I will start with what my Grandma Booboo used to ask: Are you a member of Hadassah yet?
Rebecca Strober grew up in Melrose Park and graduated from Cheltenham High School.