February 25, 2016

Rabbi Kavon’s Contribution to the Knesset

Sam Lurie ‘19

Rabbi Kavon is a common sight around the halls of Golda Och Academy, but many do not know that he taught a man who was almost prime minister of Israel.
This memorable teaching experience started 38 years ago when Kavon received a call from Dr. Gerson Cohen, the Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, to meet him in his office.
“I had no idea what it was about,” Rabbi Kavon said.
Cohen had received word that Isaac Herzog, the son of Chaim Herzog, the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, was looking for an Arabic tutor. At the time, Herzog was a high school student at Ramaz in New York City, but wanted to take the Bagrut exams – an exam similar to the SAT – in Israel and needed to learn Arabic.
Cohen had known from previous meetings that Kavon knew Arabic and asked him if he would consider tutoring Herzog. Kavon accepted the offer and told Cohen that “It would be a challenge and an honor.”
After accepting, the teaching began. For security, the study session would have to meet in a different, secret location every time. These included Kavon’s house, Herzog’s classroom and the Herzog household.
Rabbi Kavon even had the opportunity to meet Chaim Herzog and his wife in their home which he called, “a special privilege.” As a thank you, Kavon was given autographed records of Chaim Herzog’s speeches at the UN.
“This wasn’t just any kid,” Kavon recalled about the younger Herzog and explained that he performed very well in the subject and was always very social, bright and full of energy.
After one year, the Herzogs moved back to Israel. Rabbi Kavon, however, never received word whether Herzog passed the exam.
Many years later, a friend remembered that Kavon taught Herzog and asked whether he passed. Determined to learn the answer, Kavon obtained Herzog’s e­mail and asked the question himself. A short time later, he received a response: Herzog had passed.
Now, Herzog is the chairman of the Labor Party and Opposition leader in the Knesset. Earlier this year, he was in a close race for prime minister with Benjamin Netanyahu.
Rabbi Kavon pointed out that knowing Arabic is essential for leaders of Israel as it is a vehicle to help resolve the current conflict.
“It’s my little contribution to the Israeli government and its success.”

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