Grapevine: A week of simhas at the ‘Post’

It’s rare at The Jerusalem Post for so many significant events to take place within a single week.

March 1, 2012 21:37
Lahav Harkov (center) moderating between MKs

Lahav Harkov (center) moderating between MKs 390. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

ALTHOUGH EVERY workplace has its fair share of celebrations for birthdays, weddings, et al, it’s rare at The Jerusalem Post for so many significant events to take place within a single week.

It started with the birth of a new grandson to Post columnist Barbara Sofer, followed by the wedding of Op-Ed Editor Seth Frantzman, then the 80th birthday of photo archivist Chaim Collins, and culminated with the wedding on the same date – February 29 – of Knesset reporter Lahav Harkov.

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■ WHILE IT is not uncommon for grandmothers to be present at the birth of their grandchildren, it’s not every day that grandma cuts the umbilical cord. But that’s what happened when Sofer’s daughter Hanni Zamir gave birth to her second son, Menachem Mendel. The infant’s induction into the faith was a merry occasion, not only because it was a Chabad affair, but because the baby’s father, Daniel Zamir, is an internationally acclaimed saxophonist who has a lot of friends in the music business.

Thus, some of the entertainment came from the likes of Evyatar Banai and Yonatan Raziel. At one stage, Zamir, who also sings, harmonized with Banai. Aside from the music, what differed slightly from the usual circumcision ceremony was that the baby, prior to entering into the Covenant of Abraham, was passed around among Zamir’s friends and mentors as if to absorb all their best traits.

In a moving speech, Zamir, who is a Chabad Hassid, said that in recent weeks he had come to understand why in his prayers he thanked the Almighty for not having made him a woman. In the final stages of her pregnancy, Hanni had been unwell.

So had he, and so had their first-born son, Shlomo, who is still a tiny tot.

Yet for all that, Hanni had kept up with all her household chores and been the perfect wife and mother.

Zamir said he was full of admiration for her devotion and her ability to continue. Sofer and her husband Gerald Schroeder, an internationally renowned broad-based physicist and biblical scholar, who also has a background in nuclear disarmament, left that night for Texas, where Schroeder received the Trotter Prize at the A&M University. Together with Canadian scholar Dr. Hugh N. Ross, founder of the science and faith think tank Reason to Believe, Schroeder, who works as an Aish Hatorah lecturer, will deliver a joint public lecture on Tuesday that will explore the crossroads of faith and science.

Schroeder is best known for his book Genesis and the Big Bang, in which he examines both the biblical and scientific views of creation. He has given many lectures on the subject, and this will be the main theme of what he says in Texas. Sofer and Schroeder will return home in time to celebrate Purim in Jerusalem.

■ CROSS-CULTURAL marriages open a wonderful array of new horizons to both parties. When Kasaey Damoza, currently employed at the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, came to Israel in 1985 on Operation Moses after leaving her native Ethiopia and crossing the Sudan, it probably did not occur to her that she would one day marry an American.

Likewise, it probably never occurred to Seth J. Frantzman while he was growing up in Maine that he would marry an Ethiopian.

But Cupid’s arrows move in many directions, and when he decided to aim his bow at the Hebrew University where both Damoza and Frantzman were students, what counted was the chemistry.

The couple met in 2004, and they got to know each other well during the eight-year interim before their wedding at Beit Halordim near Tel Mond. Among the guests were Father Athanasius Macora, secretary for the Status Quo Commission of the Custody of the Holy Land, Walter Bingham, who hosts an Arutz Sheva radio program and won a military medal at Normandy in 1944, Geoffrey Spencer, a US diplomat in Beijing, and actress Titina Kebede Assefa.

Damoza took off the week prior to the wedding to attend a traditional henna party with her family in Kiryat Yam. Frantzman, notwithstanding his PhD, managed to get into a small accident in his rental car on the way to pick up his bride-to-be. On the Saturday after the event, the bride and groom both went to Kiryat Haim for a post-nuptial event hosted by the Ethiopian community and Damoza’s family, where the couple dressed in traditional Ethiopian gold-embroidered robes and danced into the night.

Frantzman has not yet disclosed whether his new wife has learned to bake traditional American apple pie or whether they ate turkey on Thanksgiving, but bets are on that he’s eaten injera, the slightly sour traditional Ethiopian bread.

JERUSALEM POST Editor-in-Chief Steve Linde regards Chaim Collins and his wife Yehudit as a second set of parents. He lived across the road from them for several years, and they treated him as if he were a member of their family. At an 80th birthday party for Collins – who is the father of Liat Collins, the editor of the Post’s International Edition, as well as a weekly columnist in the daily paper – Linde said he wasn’t sure whether Chaim was celebrating his 80th or his 20th birthday, because he was one of some 2,700 Israelis who were born on February 29.

Yehudit told a delightful anecdote about the long arm of coincidence.

In England, from where the Collins family made aliya, a teacher in their son’s class, when he was around nine years old, asked all the children to write the names and birth dates of their fathers. In the old country, Chaim, like the late president Chaim Herzog, was known as Vivian. His son duly wrote down Vivian Collins, born February 29, 1932. The boy next to him also wrote “Vivian Collins, born February 29, 1932.”

This made the teacher angry, because she was sure that one of the two boys was cheating. In fact, neither was. The odds that both boys would have fathers born on February 29 with the same unusual name were astronomical, yet proof that there’s always an exception to the rule.

It was the name Vivian that led to Chaim and Yehudit getting married.

They had known each other for most of their lives and were close friends. One day, when he was looking a little down in the mouth, she asked what was wrong, and he told her that his social life had taken a downturn. She had a steady boyfriend at the time, and the romance was quite serious, but she felt sorry for her friend, so the next time she and her boyfriend were going somewhere special, she asked if she could bring her friend Vivian along. The boyfriend agreed and even brought a friend of his to make it a double date.

The problem was that the boyfriend had not realized Vivian was not Vivienne, and he was very cross that his girlfriend had been so concerned for Vivian’s well being. “If you care that much about him, you can marry him instead of me,” he told her angrily. That was the beginning of the end of their relationship, and a few months later, she did indeed marry Vivian.

Among the Post staffers who attended the Collins birthday party was Alexander Zvielli, the Post archivist who will soon be celebrating his 91st birthday but betrays no sign of his biological age. His back is straight, his wrinkles are few and his mind is as clear as a bell, with both his long-term and short-term memories completely on track. Zvielli, who writes a daily column based on the newspaper’s archives, has worked at the Post for more than 65 years.

■ NOTWITHSTANDING THE treacherous weather, guests attending the wedding of Lahav Harkov and Natan Levine drove to Modi’in from many parts of the country. The groom will never have an excuse for forgetting a wedding anniversary, even though it will come around only once every four years. After all, how could one forget a February 29 wedding? The ceremony was performed by Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth of the Ohel Ari congregation in Ra’anana. The bride, who was escorted to the bridal canopy by her parents, Chen and Anderson Harkov, looked radiant in her mother’s original classic white wedding gown, trimmed with beads and lace. She carried a pink bouquet in the same shade as the floor-length gowns worn by her bridesmaids. The groom is the son of South African immigrants Jennifer and Anthony Levine.

The bride’s grandfather Eliezer Kornreich, a renowned cantor who served at the SAJ in Manhattan for nearly three decades, then at Temple Bet Torah in Ocean New Jersey, and who currently serves at Temple Beth El in Hackensack, New Jersey, sang the seven blessings.

The bride, a conscientious journalist, was working almost to the last minute making sure that what she could not do in the midst of her wedding preparations was being done by one of her colleagues.

The invitation specified formal attire, and most of the guests complied, weather notwithstanding.

Contrary to the usual situation in which the musical background is so loud that people cannot converse because they can’t hear themselves think, the clarinetist who provided the dinner music was loud enough to be heard, but soft enough to allow for social chitchat.

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