Daniel Rivin had never been to Kansas City before he moved here in late August. Rivin, who is from Holon, Israel, had visited New York City and Washington, D.C., on his bar mitzvah trip years ago, but didn’t know what to expect from his new Midwestern home. Thanks to the warm welcome he’s received, the adjustment to life here has been an easy one.
“I already feel like a part of the community,” he said. “Everyone has been so kind and helpful in getting me settled.”
Rivin, 24, is here as the Israel Emissary for Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City. Every one to two years, a young adult from Israel rotates into the position, which is staffed at Jewish Federation to operate an outreach program dedicated to promoting and strengthening the community’s connection to Israel.
The emissary (or shaliach) develops and implements Israel-related activities and events for all age groups, working with synagogues, preschools, religious schools, youth groups and other organizations.
“Having someone who is dedicated to bringing Israel to Kansas City is so important, because it enhances the vibrancy and diversity of our Jewish community and fosters a better understanding of Israel,” said Dr. Helene Lotman, Jewish Federation President and CEO. “We are very happy to have Daniel here to share his love for Israel and his experiences with us.”
Rivin’s experiences are varied, and impressive. After graduating high school, he spent a year traveling around Israel. He worked as a teen counselor in Kibbutz Kramim in the Negev and volunteered with Holocaust survivors. He also participated in a social and Zionist leadership program, where he got a broader view of Israeli society and culture, politics, Judaism and Zionism, and more.
“This was important to me, because if I am going to make a difference in society, I need to know how it works and the challenges facing it,” said Rivin.
In 2013, he joined the Israel Defense Forces as part of the combat intelligence force. He was also trained as a medic and was part of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014. After his three years of service, he worked as a counselor in a program for young people with disabilities and taught Hebrew to kids whose families made Aliyah from Russia.
Like his background, Rivin’s goals for his time as emissary are wide-ranging. He wants to raise awareness about the rights of people with disabilities and organize more activities for Holocaust survivors. And as an Israeli with parents from the former Soviet Union (his parents made Aliyah in 1991; Rivin was the first of his family born in Israel), he also hopes to bring together the different ethnic communities within Kansas City’s Jewish community.
“I want to start a dialogue between them,” he said, “so we can all learn from each other, have a better understanding of one another, and see the commons bonds that we share.”
His first step towards achieving that last goal is organizing a Novy God celebration on December 22. Novy God is the New Year celebration in the former Soviet Union. And with roughly one million former Soviet Union emigrants in Israel, it has become a major holiday for Israelis as well. Since the celebration is nonreligious, it is celebrated by many Israeli Jews who are first- or second-generation immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
Planning for Novy God is just getting started, but Rivin wants to incorporate many components, including food, music and art, from Israel, Russian and Ukraine.
“It’s a true blending of cultures,” he said. “There will be something for everyone.”
In his spare time, Rivin enjoys reading, going to the theater, listening to podcasts and hiking. He’s looking forward to meeting others in the community who share his interests.
If you’d like to reach out to Rivin, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 913.327.8124.