A Jewish family whose impressive history can be traced back more than 450 years celebrated the birth of its 50,000th member in Jerusalem on Monday at a special family event.
The Rivlin family consists of 22 documented generations and has researched its roots back to Vienna in 1550. It boasts among its ranks the Vilna Gaon (Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna), Yosef Yoel Rivlin, the author of the first Hebrew-edition Koran, the first female mayor of Israel, several actresses, political figures and TV presenters, and former Knesset speakers Avraham Burg and Reuven Rivlin.
The newest family addition, Michael Ben-Shimhon, who was born in Jerusalem on February 16, joins some 35,000 of his ancestors residing (currently or previously) in Israel. The baby will be formally initiated into the Rivlin clan by Reuven Rivlin this afternoon at Airport City's Kenes International. Michael and his parents will be presented with a scroll documenting his historic birth. The family will also officially activate its application to the Guinness World Records, hoping to set the record for the world's largest tribe.
The family gathering is a precursor to the main Rivlin family event, set to take place in October. Some 5,000 Rivlin relatives will gather in Jerusalem to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the family's immigration to Israel in 1809, encouraged by the Vilna Gaon.
The family's departure to Israel predates the First Aliya by 73 years, and it is for this reason that Reuven Rivlin said his family was part of "the real aliya." His was among the last names to be added to the family's first genealogical project - created and maintained by his father's cousin, Eliezer Rivlin, who died two years after Reuven's birth in 1942.
Proud of his prestigious family heritage, Reuven Rivlin commented: "Family history is very important to me, and I was brought up knowing the origins of my family. They were the real Zionists at the beginning of the 19th century. I am a Rivlin from my mother and father's side, as they are seventh-generation cousins. My father is a descendent of the Gaon and the mitnagdim , and my mother is a descendent of the cousin of the Gaon, who was considered to have betrayed the Gaon."
The first known family ancestor, Rabbi Yosef of Ovan, lived in Vienna around 1550 and was exiled to Prague.
The Rivlin family intends to continue its commitment to its genealogical heritage, as their Web site (www.rivlinfamily.com) states: "It is said that a people who are not acquainted with their past will not have a future. Our family's past history is an impressive one, and it is hoped that its future will be just as great and will not constitute a disappointment to its past."