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Waves in the Fishbowl

Riki Goldstein

Those in the public eye always have to deal with prying glances and intrusive comments. When personal hardship strikes, the challenge of balancing the roles of public figure and private individual becomes that much more complex.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It’s a glittering scene. The tables are packed at a gala fundraiser for Laniado Hospital in Netanya, elegant decor highlighted by lavish floral arrangements and accented by beautiful music. London’s philanthropists are enjoying the sparkling wit of the keynote speaker — Rabbi Y.Y. Rubinstein. He’s working the crowd with his trademark smile and upbeat anecdotes delivered in broad Scots brogue, encouraging them to open their hearts and wallets to the sick children of Eretz Yisrael. But behind the good cheer, his heart is breaking. Rabbi Y.Y.’s first wife, desperately ill, would pass away one short week later. She had endured three wrenching episodes of cancer over the last five years of her life. For her husband of 26 years, fulfilling his responsibilities as public speaker, rabbi, and chaplain while his wife was so weakened was profoundly difficult. “She pushed me to go to that dinner, even though we knew the prognosis was terrible. Part of me knew I shouldn’t leave her — yet she sent me, she literally gave me away to speak for the sick children in Eretz Yisrael. I had to look the part, stand up and talk, even as my heart was breaking in two. To appear normal and speak inspirationally in times of crisis is completely abnormal. It’s about the most surreal thing you’ll ever do. It takes a lot of siyata d’Shmaya.”

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