Literally, my teacher. Title conferred upon a religious leader and teacher. According to historian Heinrich Graetz, the title was first used during the time of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., probably introduced by the disciples of Johnanan Ben Zakkai. Today, a rabbi is ordained by the head or faculty of the rabbinical seminary from which he is graduated. The present functions of a rabbi consist of the religious leadership of his or her congregation; making decisions with regard to practical questions of Jewish law; conducting services and preaching on Sabbaths, holy days, and festivals; teaching Judaism, particularly to adult groups; officiating at important events in the life of congregants, such as circumcision, marriage, and burial. In some cases, the rabbi is also the educational head of the congregational school. Many rabbis have excelled as scholars and authors of important works on religion. A number have also distinguished themselves as gifted orators and leaders of the community or of Jewish national and world movements, such as Zionism and Hebrew culture.


See Jewish Theological Seminary of America.


See Yeshiva University.

RABIN, YITZ-HAK (1922-1995).

Israeli soldier and Prime Minister. Born in Jerusalem, he was a member of the Palmach and took part in the Allied invasion of Syria, then under the control of Vichy France. During the War of Independence he commanded Israeli forces as they defended the outskirts of Jerusalem. In 1949, he took part in the Rhodes armistice negotiations. He became deputy chief of staff of the Israeli Army in 1960 and chief of staff in 1964. He was responsible for the strategy employed by the Israeli army during the Six-Day War of 1967. In 1968, he was appointed Israeli ambassador to the U.S. In 1974, he joined the Israeli cabinet as Minister of Labor and succeeded Golda Meir as Prime Minister, serving until 1977. He was reelected Prime Minister in 1992. In 1993, he signed the Oslo Agreement, recognizing Yasser Arafat as the leader of the Palestinian Arabs, and began working with him on establishing a Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip, Jericho, and parts of the West Bank. Soon after, he signed a peace treaty with Jordan. For his peace efforts he received the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1995, during a peace rally, he was assassinated by a right-wing Israeli who opposed the return of land to Arabs.


See Shalom Aleichem.


Jacob‘s second and beloved wife; mother of Joseph and Benjamin. The prophet Jeremiah refers to her as the loving mother of the people of Israel who grieves for their exile and pleads for their return.

RACHEL (1890-1931).

Pen name of Rachel Bluvstein, Hebrew poet. Few modern Hebrew poems have captured the hearts of the readers as Rachel. Her poetry is simple and sincere, yet it captures the spirit of Israel and expresses universal verities.

When Rachel came to Palestine from Russia at age 19, she worked as a farmhand at kibbutz Kinneret in the Galilee. When she arrived, she did not know a word of Hebrew or Yiddish, yet she mastered the Hebrew language. In 1913 she went to Europe to study agriculture and contracted tuberculosis. She returned to Palestine when World War I ended, but her illness disabled her for life. No longer able to till the land, her longing and loneliness poured out in such poems as the well-loved Veulai (Perhaps).


See Maimonides.

RASHI (1040-1105).

Acronym of Rabbi Solomon Yitzhaki, a preeminent Biblical and Talmudic commentator. His commentaries are indispensable to the study of the Bible and the Talmud. He became a beloved figure in Jewish history and the subject of many legends about life, piety, and saintliness. Born in Troyes, France, Rashi spent a brief period of study in Worms, Germany, and on his return founded a Talmudic academy in his native land. The fame of this school grew rapidly, attracting students from far and wide. In teaching the Talmud, Rashi felt there was a lack of good commentaries to facilitate its study and undertook the task of providing one. Rashi’s commentary became a standard guide for every student of the Talmud. Its explanations are clear and explicit, written in a lucid Hebrew style. His commentary on the Pentateuch and on most of the other Biblical books are invaluable for an understanding of the Bible along traditional lines. These commentaries, in which Rashi makes full use of Midrashic sources, have been widely used by both Jewish and Gentile scholars. They have been translated into Latin and other languages.

RATHENAU, WALTER (1867-1922).

German industrialist and statesman; son of the engineer and industrialist Emil Rathenau. During World War I, he organized the supply of raw materials of great importance to the German war effort. In 1922, he became the German Foreign Secretary and concluded the famous agreement with Soviet Russia at Rapallo. He was assassinated by German ultra-nationalists.


See Babylonia.


Chairwoman of the National Council of Women in Britain, and President of the British Section of the World Jewish Congress. Her father-in-law was the first Marquess of Reading, and Lord Melchett was her father.


In Hebrew, K’riat HaTorah. The reading of the Law is a distinct part of the prayer service, observed during the morning and afternoon assemblages on Sabbaths, holidays, and each Monday and Thursday. One portion of the Five Books of Moses is read each week, divided so that the entire Five Books are read each year. Simhat Torah (the Rejoicing of the Law) is the day on which the last portion of one year’s cycle is read and the first portion of the following year is begun.

During the reading of the Law, the Torah scrolls, written on parchment by special scribes, are removed from the Ark of the Law. Originally, the portion was read by various members of the congregation, who were “called up to the Law.” Later, it became customary for a special reader to chant the entire portion to a melody handed down from ancient times. The older practice, however, is preserved in the custom of “calling up” seven readers, each of whom chants a blessing before the reading of each section of the weekly portion. An eighth reader is “called up” for the reading of the Haftorah, the short passage from the Prophets which follows the weekly portion of the Law. Sabbaths and holidays are also the occasion for the reading of other portions of the Bible and other holy books. Pirke Avot (See Ethics of the Fathers), is read every Saturday afternoon during the summer, while one of the five megillot, or scrolls, is read on each of five holidays: the Song of Songs on Passover, Ruth on Shavuot, Ecclesiastes on Sukkot, Esther on Purim, and Lamentations on the Ninth of Ab.

In the synagogue, the reading of the regular portion of Law is often followed by a derashah, or sermon, delivered by the rabbi or some member of the congregation. Based on the portion of the week, it generally deals with some religious or ethical subject.


Broker, jurist, and public servant. Born in London, the son of a poor Jewish storekeeper, Rufus Isaacs, after a dazzling career at the bar and several terms in Parliament, was named chief justice of England, the first Jew to attain that distinction. The following year he was ennobled and, as the First Marquess of Reading, took a seat in the House of Lords. From 1921 to 1926 he served as viceroy of India, again the first Jew to hold the post. Long interested in Zionist affairs, Lord Reading joined U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis in drafting an economic plan for Palestine. This plan was presented to the Zionist Conference in London in 1920. Elected president of the Palestine Electric Corporation in 1926, he visited Palestine and joined in the protests to the British cabinet after the 1929 riots in Palestine.


Wife of Isaac and second matriarch of Israel. Of her twins, Esau and Jacob, she favored Jacob and arranged for Isaac’s blessing of the firstborn to go to the younger Jacob.


Religious movement which attempts to reinterpret Judaism in modern terms without abandoning its cultural values and usages. Reconstructionism began to emerge as a movement in 1934 under the leadership of Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan (1881-1983). Kaplan believed that Judaism is a “religious civilization” emerging from the language, history, customs, laws, religion, art, and folkways of the Jewish people. This civilization and the basic values it embodies can be perpetuated only through social institutions in which these entities continue to be meaningful to the individuals who participate in them. Reconstructionism has therefore striven for the organization of closely integrated Jewish communities in the U.S. Because it also believes that Jewish nationalism is a part of Judaism, it stresses the ties between the State of Israel and Jewish communities in the Diaspora. In religion, it is close to Reform Judaism in its call for a reexamination of religious beliefs and to Conservative Judaism in its desire to preserve as many forms of religious practice as possible. Its work has been conducted through the Reconstructionist Foundation formed in 1940. Its periodical, The Reconstructionist, has served the movement as a forum since 1935.


Ge’ulah in Hebrew. It is one of the key beliefs of Judaism, according to which the Jewish people will be rescued by a divinely-appointed leader and returned to their land. The Zionist movement adopted this concept to mean physical and political recovery of land and nationalism.


See Judaism.


See Russia.


See Music, Jews in.

REINES, ISAAC JACOB (1839-1915).

Scholar, teacher, and founder of the religious Zionist movement Mizrachi. Born in Russia, Reines introduced a new method for the study of the Talmud, one in which reason and logic replaced drastically literal interpretation. To modernize traditional Jewish education, he founded the Yeshiva of Lida. He worked actively for the Zionist cause and, in 1884, participated in the Hoveve Zion conference at Kattowitz, where strategies for settling Jews in Palestine were considered. When Theodor Herzl issued a call for the establishment of a Jewish state, Reines became an ardent supporter. He was a fiery partisan of the rebuilding of the Jewish homeland and fought bitterly against the anti-Zionism of his contemporaries. In 1902, he founded the Mizrachi movement.

REINHARDT, MAX (1873-1943).

Austrian theater producer and director. He began his brilliant career as a minor actor in Berlin. By the mid-1920’s, his Grosses Schauspielhaus (Great Theater) had become the theatrical center of Germany. Under his direction, it excelled in spectacular productions and the effective use of setting, design, and color. Reinhardt’s films were as famous as his stage productions. Forced to flee Germany when the Nazis came to power, Reinhardt settled in the U.S. and was active in its theatrical life. He directed the Hollywood film version of his production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Reinhardt is generally regarded as one of the leading influences on the development of both the European and American theater.


This Dutch painter was the first master to show Jews not as caricatures, but as individuals endowed with human dignity. He was on friendly terms with the intellectual leaders of the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam where he lived for many years. His sitters included the famous physician Dr. Ephraim Bonus and Rabbi Saul Levi Morteira (who was Spinoza‘s first teacher). In addition to the wealthy and educated Sephardic immigrants from Portugal, from whom he received commissions, he painted poor refugees from Poland. Reared in the Protestant faith, this great Dutchman was thoroughly familiar with Jewish life and lore, as indicated by his beautiful and accurate renderings of Old Testament episodes.


See Teshuvah.


Twentieth letter of the Hebrew alphabet; numerically, 200.


See also Exilarch and Babylonia.


Answers to questions on Jewish law. A huge responsa literature by leading rabbis and scholars has developed in Judaism since post-Talmudic times. Many of the answers were collected in such codes of Jewish law as the Shulhan Arukh, but questions keep creeping up, and both Orthodox and non-Orthodox authorities continue to provide answers.


The belief in the physical revival of the dead is not biblical, but rather appears in Judaism after biblical times, as part of the belief in the Messianic era. The belief persists, but is not universally accepted. The Reform movement has replaced it with the belief in the immortality of the soul.


See Reward and Punishment.


Literally, “Behold, a son.” Firstborn of Jacob and Leah. In his blessing, Jacob characterized Reuben as “unstable as water” (Gen. 49:4). The tribe of Reuben were cattle- and sheep-raisers, permitted to settle on the east side of the Jordan on the condition that they help in the conquest of Canaan.

REUBENI, DAVID (ca. 1491-ca. 1535).

False Messiah. He was born in Khaibar, Central Arabia, and died in Spain. Half-mystic, half-adventurer, David Reubeni created a great stir, and despite the warnings of level-headed leaders, many Jews saw him as a forerunner of the Messiah who would bring freedom to them and to the Holy Land. Reubeni arrived in Rome in 1524 and managed to get an audience with Pope Clement VII. He declared himself ambassador from his brother, King Joseph Reubeni, ruler over the descendants of the tribe of Reuben, one of the Ten Lost Tribes dwelling somewhere in Tatary. He promised the Pope to raise an army of Jews of the East to fight against the Turks in the Holy Land. Such were Reubeni’s bearing and personality that the Pope believed him and gave him credentials to the kings of Portugal and Abyssinia. To secure the aid of these monarchs in freeing Palestine, wealthy members of the Roman Jewish community supplied Reubeni with money to travel in state. He came to Portugal in 1525, where King John III received him with high honors. The Marranos thought Reubeni was the Messiah and flocked around him. One of them, Diego Pires, openly returned to Judaism, took the name of Solomon Molkho, and joined Reubeni’s followers. The Portuguese authorities became suspicious, and Reubeni found it necessary to leave Portugal. Continuing his fantastic career, he went to Venice where he offered the Senate an alliance with his king. The Venetian authorities had him investigated, and he was forced to leave empty-handed. In 1532, bearing a banner inscribed with initials of the Hebrew words “Who is like unto You, O Lord, among the mighty?” Reubeni together with Molkho appeared in Ratisbon before Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Reubeni tried to persuade the Emperor to call the Jews to arms against the Turks. Charles V put both Reubeni and Molkho in chains; eventually, Reubeni was sent to Spain where he was placed in the hands of the Inquisition. The circumstances of his death are uncertain. Reubeni’s diary is now in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. (See also Messianism.)

REUCHLIN, JOHANN (1455-1522).

Non-Jewish defender of Jews and Hebrew literature against many malicious attacks. He was an authority on Hebrew grammar and was fascinated by the mystical teachings of the Kabbalah. Perhaps the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 stirred Reuchlin to uphold their cause in his native Germany. He thwarted the attempt by Johann Pfefferkorn, the Jewish convert to Christianity, to burn all the Hebrew books in Cologne and Frankfurt. Because of Reuchlin’s influence with the Emperor Maximilian, which he exerted in favor of the Jews, he bore the brunt of the Catholic Church’s attack, especially the Dominican order. Reuchlin was the first non-Jew to make Hebrew an official course of study at a university (Tubingen).

REVEL, BERNARD (1885-1940).

First president of Yeshiva College (now Yeshiva University). Born in Kovno, Lithuania, he studied at the yeshiva of Telz, where he was ordained a rabbi. Revel came to the U.S. in 1906. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania, New York University, and Dropsie College, obtaining the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in 1911.

In 1915, Revel became president of the Rabbi Isaac Elhanan Theological Seminary. He founded the Talmudical Academy, and, in 1928, a Yeshiva College of Liberal Arts was established through his efforts. He contributed articles in the fields of Semitics and rabbinic literature. A department of the Graduate School at Yeshiva University is named in his memory.


Zionist party organized in 1925 by Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky. It called itself “Revisionist” because it felt the need for revision of the official Zionist policy toward Great Britain as the mandatory government of Palestine. The program of Revisionism included the creation of a Jewish majority on both sides of the Jordan; unrestricted mass immigration of Jews into Palestine; encouragement of middle-class immigration and of private enterprise to increase the absorptive capacity of the country; the outlawing of strikes and the substitution of compulsory arbitration during the period of national building; and the restoration of the Jewish Legion as a distinct part of the British garrison in Palestine. Brith Trumpeldor (Betar), the Revisionist Youth Organization, was part of the Revisionist World Union. The Revisionist party was a part of the World Zionist Organization until the 19th World Zionist Congress held in 1935. At that time, the Revisionist party differed so sharply with the prevailing Zionist policies that it seceded and formed the New Zionist Organization. A small group of Revisionists broke off from the parent body and, calling itself the Jewish State Party, remained as a part of the World Zionist Organization. In 1946, the New Zionist organization merged with the State Party to form the United Zionist Revisionists and again became a constituent part of the World Zionist Organization. In Palestine a resistance group (against British restrictive policies and against Arab terror) grew out of Revisionism. This underground body, the Irgun Z’vai L’umi (National Military Organization), functioned until after the creation of the State of Israel when it merged with the Army of Israel. Many of its veterans joined the Herut party, which is the Israeli counterpart of the Revisionist party.


In the Bible it is made clear that good is rewarded and evil is punished, yet no clear doctrine on this matter is enunciated. The prophet Jeremiah asks God why evil people prosper while good people suffer. In Talmudic times a new belief attributes reward and punishment to the next world (See Heaven and Hell), which helps explain why one is not always rewarded or punished in this life. To this day, however, this basic human question remains open in Judaism, as in other religions and philosophy.


Of the state’s 16,000 Jews, 14,000 live in Providence. Jewish life started in the mid-17th century, when the first Sephardic Jews settled in Newport. That community prospered in the 18th century, and was recognized by George Washington (his letter of welcome still hangs in the synagogue). It later declined, and in the late 19th century Eastern European Jews settled in Providence, the main Jewish community in the state.

RIBICOFF, ABRAHAM A. (1910-1998).

Abraham Ribicoff Political leader and attorney. The son of  Polish Jewish immigrants, he was first elected to the Connecticut legislature in 1938 and to the U.S. Congress in 1948  Ribicoff, a Democrat, ran for the U.S. Senate in 1950 but lost. Two year later, he was elected Governor. He was appointed U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare by President Kennedy in 1961. He resigned after 18 months to successfully run for the Senate. He then served as U.S. Senator from Connecticut until 1980.

RICARDO, DAVID (1772-1823).

Political economist. Born in London to a family of wealthy Sephardic Jews, his marriage to a Quaker led to a breach with his family. Before he was 25, Ricardo had made a fortune in the stock market. Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, published in 1817, won him immediate fame. The following year, in 1818, Ricardo was elected to Parliament. There, despite his early breach with Jewish life, he spoke in favor of political emancipation for Jews.

RICHLER, MORDECAI (1931-2001).

Canadian novelist. He is known for his biting humor in books like The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Joshua Then and Now, both of which were made into movies.

RICKOVER, HYMAN G. (1900-1986).

American nuclear energy expert who helped launch the first atomic submarine, for which he was promoted to the rank of admiral.


See Germany.


Jewish belief according to which some Gentiles achieve the high degree of righteousness to which Jews aspire. Such a person has been of exceptional help to Jews in their hour of need. Yad Vashem established a program for honoring righteous Gentiles who helped or saved Jews during the Holocaust. An “Avenue of the Righteous,” with carob trees dedicated to their memory, leads to the official Israeli museum of the Holocaust.


Literally, First of Zion. A settlement founded in 1882 by members of the Hoveve Zion movement from Russia in the plain south of Jaffa. After a rocky start, the village was taken over by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, with whose aid it became a grape-growing center. In 1887, the Baron built the Rishon wine cellars, among the largest in the Mediterranean area. Later, many of the vineyards were converted into orange groves. Rishon-Le-Zion has developed rapidly and is presently a pleasant, tree-shaded town with about 165,000 inhabitants engaged mainly in the wine industry, citriculture, and various industrial enterprises.


See Blood Accusation.