Newcomer Highlight

By Eitan Snyder, Newcomer Engagement Associate 

Nashville newcomers Gail and Ron Rivlin and their three children 

In my work as the Federation's Newcomer Engagement Associate, I meet so many Jews who are moving or want to be moving to Nashville. They come from all sorts of places for all sorts of reasons, and we bring them into Nashville’s Jewish community through our monthly Newcomer Shabbat Dinners, our quarterly Newcomer Welcome Receptions, and by connecting them with community members and organizations who can help them find what they are looking for. One of my favorite parts of this job is getting to hear these newcomers’ dynamic, engaging stories, so we are starting this new monthly feature in the Observer so you can get to know some of them and their stories too. We hope you enjoy reading these and hope you will give every newcomer you meet a smile and a warm Nashville welcome! 

This month, we are featuring Gail and Ron Rivlin, and their sons, Steven and Eric. When you see them around town, go up and say “Hi,” and tell them you read about them in The Observer! 

Gail and Ron: 

Tell us your story. Where are you from? How did you end up in Nashville? 

We are both from New Jersey. Ron is in the radio business and has been coming to Nashville on a regular basis for over 30 years. He started his own business five years ago. No longer commuting into New York City, we were able to move wherever we wanted. We chose Nashville because its location is good for his business, and we enjoy seeing live music.  

Our sons, Steven and Eric, graduated college in May 2018 and we encouraged them to start their careers in a less hectic environment than NYC. Thankfully, they agreed to give Nashville a shot and we moved that August. Our daughter had already established her career in NJ. We wish she would move here too!  

What has your Jewish story been like up to this point? How did you get involved with Nashville’s Jewish Community? 

Gail: I was born to two Jewish parents, but religion was not part of my upbringing. After we were married, we made it a point to create a Jewish home. Becoming a mother made me determined to provide my children with a Jewish education and to have them see by example how important it is to be part of a Jewish community. 

Ron: Growing up we belonged to a Conservative synagogue. I became a Bar Mitzvah and was married there. We decided to join a Reform temple when our kids were young. I thought having a female Rabbi was a great role model for my young daughter. I also enjoyed the music during services. 

How did you get involved with Nashville’s Jewish Community? 

Gail and Ron:   

We owe so much to Jennie Zagnoev and her family. Jennie was our realtor and helped us immensely in so many ways. We closed on our home the morning of erev Yom Kippur. She invited us to sit with her at The Temple for services, and her family included us to break the fast at her grandmother’s house. It was such a kind and welcoming start to our Jewish life here. The Temple felt very similar to our NJ temple, and we quickly became members.  

How has your experience been in Nashville so far? 

Gail: The first year we were here, I had friends and family visiting almost every weekend.  We became very good tour guides! Our sons moved out on their own and we became empty-nesters. Then the pandemic happened, and I realized I didn’t make enough of an effort to meet friends and get involved here in Nashville. I promised myself as soon as it was possible, I would get involved. I started volunteering and have made wonderful friends. I feel very lucky to live in Nashville! 

Ron: I was fortunate that I knew a lot of people here through my work. But those that I considered colleagues or co-workers have turned into dear friends. I also met a lot of people through the Nashville Jewish Entertainment Professionals. The group was pretty active pre-Covid. It’s been dormant for a while. Time to bring it back! Overall, my experience has been very positive. My work-life balance has improved immensely. I love it here! 

Any notable memories or experiences? 

Gail: On my first trip here to look at houses, we got backstage passes for the Grand Ole Opry. We got to see all the dressing rooms and watch the artists get ready for the show. We ended up sitting on the stage during the show.  

Ron: Being on Broadway for the 2019 NFL Draft was a real highlight for me. It was jammed with 600,000 people but it was so much fun! 

What do you love about being Jewish? 

Gail: I love that Judaism allows you to question. I love that there are many ways to worship, to feel engaged, to carry on traditions, all through the Jewish lens that feels right for you. I love the connection I feel around other Jews, even if we practice our Judaism differently.  

Ron: I love that we are one of the oldest nations in the world. I love that we are part of an eternal chain that includes great people like Abraham, Moses, Esther, Anne Frank, Elie Wiesel, Albert Einstein, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Mel Brooks, and so many others. Men and women who have made so many contributions to the betterment of our world.  

What do you love about being Jewish in Nashville? 

Gail: The Jewish community in Nashville is very close-knit.  Volunteering at the JCC each week with TGIT has been a highlight of my time here. I have met so many special people. The Jewish Federation and The Temple have so many opportunities to connect with the community.  

Ron: I was told that although the Jewish community is much smaller than where I came from, it’s an active and vibrant community. And it’s absolutely true! I make it a point to take advantage of as many of the wonderful Federation and temple events as I can.  

What does the next year look like for you? 

Gail: I plan to continue volunteering at the JCC, and with the Jewish Newcomers. My dog, Danny, has recently passed his therapy dog test and we have started to visit nearby assisted living and memory care facilities through the organization, Love on a Leash. I hope to do that even more, as our visits bring so much happiness to the residents, Danny, and myself.  

Ron: Work-wise, I expect my business to continue to grow. Now that things have opened up, we want to explore more of Tennessee. We haven’t been to Chattanooga, Knoxville, or Gatlinburg yet. It’s a big state and we want to experience more of it. 

Is there anything that you are still looking to do or experience in Nashville? 

Gail: I’m always interested in discovering new bands and fun venues to see live music. I hope to get more familiar with all the different neighborhoods in Nashville. One thing I’m not looking to do is pump my own gas! NJ is the only state that has gas attendants and I have never done it!  

Ron: I’d like to go to a Preds game or Nashville Soccer Club game. And there are so many great restaurants to try. We’re keeping a list.  

Eric Rivlin: 

How has your experience been in Nashville so far? Any notable memories or experiences? 

One of the most uniquely “Nashville” experiences I had was last year, just when the pandemic was dying down. My parents, who are massive Bruce Springsteen fans, took me to a Bruce cover band concert. I have to admit, I was getting a bit tired by the time the concert was winding down. But then, who should arrive on stage, surprise guest star and Nashville sweetheart, Charles Esten. I just about lost my mind. Stuff like that can only happen here.  

What do you love about being Jewish in Nashville? 

In my experience, Jewish people tend to be very nice and open. I know it’s a bit of a stereotype that people from the south are extremely friendly, but so far that seems to be true! So as you can imagine, being a Jew in the south means I’m often surrounded by a bunch of incredibly warm and kind people.  

What do you love about being Jewish?  

I feel like being Jewish, particularly Reform, has given me a lot of freedom. My rabbi has always encouraged us to question things and to allow us to interpret our faith in our own way. 

Steve Rivlin: 

What has your Jewish story been like up to this point? How did you get involved with Nashville’s Jewish Community? 

Growing up in New Jersey 90% of my friends were Jewish. I made it a point to meet Jewish friends in Nashville. I quickly got in touch with Jacob Kupin and got involved in NowGen and have been going to events to meet other Jewish professionals my age. 

 What do you love about being Jewish? 

I love the tradition, the culture, and the history. We are resilient people that have gone through unspeakable prejudice and disdain towards us. Besides all that, we always seem to rise above and become stronger. I also love Israel, the fact that we have a homeland has great meaning. I hope to go back one day. 

 What do you love about being Jewish in Nashville? 

I feel as though I am in a position to educate. Among my friends, I am the only Jewish person they have ever known, so I take pride in teaching them about our culture. It is also important to break down stereotypes and highlight the lies and biases that surround our culture and antisemites around the world.   


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