Esther Raviv, a Great Neck resident who was a longtime Hebrew teacher on the North Shore, died on May 24. She was 90.
An advocate for the Hebrew language, Raviv taught for several decades in some capacity. Friends and family said she taught at least a thousand people and recalled a kind but strong woman with a passion for language, learning and helping others.
“They remember her as one of the toughest but one of the most effective and connecting teachers they ever had,” said Dan Raviv, 62, her youngest son.
Both her sons also said their mother, with her curiosity and constant attempts to connect with others, helped inspire their own career paths. Odey Raviv, 67, is a Long Island education consultant, while Dan is Washington correspondent for i24 News and a foreign affairs columnist for Newsday.
“The curiosity and putting it together to tell a story is something I got from my mother,” Dan said. “Her desire to teach is what went to my brother Odey.”
Esther Raviv was born on August 9, 1926, in Romania. With anti-Semitism rising in Europe, her family moved to Tel Aviv, which was founded in 1909, in 1933. She grew up there and earned a teaching degree.
In 1948, Raviv met her future husband, Benjamin, a soldier who fought for Israeli independence. He was usually away fighting, Dan Raviv said, and it was a period of “intense wartime” when they got married that year.
“She was quite a character, because she was a living witness to Israel’s birth,” Dan said. “She was very popular at synagogue events. People loved to hear from her.”
The couple moved to Troy, New York, from Israel in 1950 with their 1-year-old son, Odey. While Benjamin earned an engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Raviv took on various Hebrew teaching jobs.
Odey Raviv described his mother as someone who strongly believed in doing what was best for her family. He said that she convinced Benjamin to come to the United States for a professional career.
“She was willing to sacrifice her life in Israel with her parents and make a leap,” Odey said. “She was relentless, fearless, she was never afraid to plunge ahead.”
They moved a few times, living in Riverdale in the Bronx and Kew Gardens, Queens, before settling down in Great Neck.
“The really big move that made them feel proud that they’d made it as an immigrant family was buying a house in Great Neck in 1960,” Dan said.
Raviv worked at various temples like Temple Israel, Temple Beth-El, Temple Sinai in Roslyn Heights and Temple Isaiah, where she once served as principal. She formally taught Hebrew until retiring in 2004, but continued tutoring well into her 80s, family said.
Temple Beth-El Rabbi Meir Feldman fondly remembered the conversations he had with Esther Raviv. He recalled the many times they would sit at her dining room table, speaking Hebrew over tea or coffee, and the kind way she would correct him to help him improve.
“Her corrections weren’t critical or harsh. They were just to help,” Feldman said. “Many people had this experience with her.”
In addition to her two sons, Esther Raviv is survived by four grandchildren. Benjamin Raviv died in 2008.
Over 200 people attended her funeral at Temple Beth-El on Friday.