Despite the continuing myth that all people are born equal, it’s a fact of life
that some are more equal than others.
Prior to the gala opening of the
General Assembly on Sunday, one of the GA sponsors, the Ruderman Foundation,
which primarily promotes the integration of individuals with disabilities into
mainstream society, co-hosted a networking reception with the Jewish Federations
of North America, to which executive representatives of various organizations
and institutions as well as Israeli dignitaries and members of the media were
A very prominent personality from among the organizers of the GA
twice sent this columnist away, despite her being invited not only by someone
acting on Jay Ruderman’s behalf, but also by Ruderman himself. When she
eventually said so, the prominent personality reluctantly let her
The event itself was something in the nature of a Jewish UN in the
most positive sense of the word, with Yitzhak Eldan, a former Foreign Ministry
chief of protocol and now a live wire with the Israeli Jewish Congress,
introducing people from different countries to each other. Seen in the crowd
were martial arts champion Danny Hakim, representing Budo for Peace; MK Nachman
Shai, who served as both a vice president of United Jewish Communities and
director-general of UJC Israel, and currently heads the Knesset caucus for the
Jewish Agency; Bar-Ilan University president Rabbi Prof. Daniel Herschkowitz;
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky; AACI director David London; Malta’s
Chief Rabbi Reuben Ohayon; Goodwill ambassador and former basketball champion
Tal Brody; and Dore Gold, formerly Israel’s ambassador to the UN and currently
president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, who was keynote speaker
for the evening.
The topic was naturally Iran, and the reason that
national security is still at the center of the American-Israeli
■ IT WAS difficult to tell whether Dan Shapiro was the
ambassador for the US, or for the Jewish Federations of North America. Making
more than one public appearance as a speaker at the GA, Shapiro, a former
beneficiary of the Jewish Federations, could easily get a job as a fund-raiser
if he decides to quit his political and diplomatic careers.
the Jewish Federations, he went to Jewish summer camp, where he met his wife,
Julie, to whom he has been married for 21 years. It was also through the Jewish
Federations that he studied at the Hebrew University.
It is customary for
the US ambassador to address major American Jewish organizations when they visit
Israel, but never before could any American Jewish organization boast of the US
ambassador as one of their own. True, Martin Indyk and Dan Kurtzer are both
Jewish, and Kurtzer, as a religiously observant Jew, certainly mingled in the
Jewish community in America. But during his period of tenure, the closest he
came to actively identifying with the American Jewish community was through his
wife, Sheila, who attended the reunion in Jerusalem of her old school, New
York’s Yeshiva of Flatbush. Moreover, on more than one occasion, she hosted
meetings of the Lion of Judah, the international Jewish women’s philanthropic
organization that has the largest portion of its membership in the
Shapiro and his wife, on the other hand, are both offspring of
Hadassah activists, and before coming to Israel were themselves active
supporters of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
“When you hold
the GA in Israel, it’s an investment in the US-Israel relationship,” Shapiro
told a packed auditorium at the Jerusalem International Convention
Then, by way of reassurance over America’s commitment to stop
Iran from going ahead with its nuclear project, Shapiro declared: “There is no
greater priority for the US and for Israel than preventing Iran from acquiring
■ THE GUESTS at the 75th birthday party of retired
rabbi and historian David Geffen were mostly relatives, plus a little more than
a handful of friends – most notably one of the true characters of Jerusalem and
an eminent collector, Philadelphia-born Ezra Gorodesky.
Gorodesky has the
distinction of being one of the very few immigrants from the US who voluntarily
gave up American citizenship, but not because he had to – as did people such as
Americanborn ambassadors to the UN and the US Gold, Michael Oren and Ron Dermer;
MKs Dov Lipman and the late Meir Kahane; as well as Economy and Trade Minister
Naftali Bennett, who though born in Israel, was also entitled to citizenship as
the son of American citizens.
A lifelong Zionist, Gorodesky was
disenchanted by some of America’s policies and wanted only Israeli
He came in 1960 for a month-long visit, which evolved into a
permanent arrangement. He made his home in Jerusalem, moving from time to time
from one part of the city to another, always the dapper gentleman, always with
an eye for collectibles. He and Geffen have been friends for 35 years, and
Geffen credited Gorodesky with introducing him to the collector’s
There were two birthday cakes gracing a small table, in addition
to the welll laid buffet in a hall at the capital’s Yedidya Synagogue. The reason:
It was also Gorodesky’s birthday, marked by two numerical candles which when
placed together, indicated it was his 85th year on earth. Gorodesky didn’t blow
them out, but kept waving his hand over them until the flames
Geffen, whose name will be familiar to readers of The Jerusalem
Post as a writer who brings interesting historical vignettes into play with
current events, credited the paper’s Editor-in-Chief, Steve Linde, with
restoring his writing abilities. After a stint at the Post more than 20 years
ago, there had been a long hiatus until five or six years ago, when Geffen met
up with Linde, who was then the paper’s managing editor. Linde suggested he
write something and said if it was acceptable, he should keep going.
rest is history.
Geffen is the grandson of the late Rabbi Tobias Geffen,
who after being permitted to inspect the secret recipe for Coca-Cola, famously
declared it to be kosher – but not on Passover. Tobias Geffen was the rabbi of
Atlanta’s Shearith Israel congregation for half a century, during which time he
officiated at 3,000 weddings. He and his wife, Henne, had eight children, which
accounts for the fact that David Geffen has so many relatives.
those who came to his birthday were cousins Heschel and Adinah Raskas. Heschel’s
great-grandparents settled in St. Louis in the 1880s, and his children and
grandchildren were also born there; Heschel is a former treasurer of the Jewish
Federations of North America. He and Adinah brought Geffen a St. Louis Cardinals
baseball cap, causing Geffen to reminisce that the first time he heard a
baseball game on the radio was in 1946 – when the Cardinals, playing against the
Boston Red Sox, won the World Series. Incidentally, one of Geffen’s baseball
heroes is fellow Atlantan Larry Frank, the father of Rabbi Adam Frank of
Jerusalem’s Masorti Congregation, who refused to play on Rosh
Geffen and his wife, Rita, who have been married for 50 years
and who he still calls “the love of my life,” came on aliya 36 years ago with
their children, Avi, Alisia and Jeremy-Tuvia. Involved in many aspects of
Israeli life, they trained for nine months to visit refuseniks in the Soviet
Union, where they went 25 years ago in September 1988 – only a few days after
one of their offspring was married. When they returned, the late Charles
Hoffman, then the Jewish world editor and reporter at the Post, asked Rita to
write about their experiences.
The couple had taken with them to Russia a
Dry Bones Rosh Hashana card specially designed by Yaakov Kirschen.
was on view, alongside other items of Geffen’s memorabilia.
Rita have eight Sabra grandchildren, aged 25 years to 21 months.
WITH the 100th anniversary of the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Agency
Assembly, the GA and Limmud, it’s definitely World Jewry Week in Israel. At the
opening of the Jewish Agency Assembly, the ever-vivacious Marlene Post – a
former national chair of Hadassah, along with several other titles of Zionist
organizations she bears or has borne – interviewed President Shimon Peres in her
capacity as chair of the assembly.
Observing that in six years’ time, the
Jewish Agency will celebrate its 90th anniversary, Post asked Peres how the
agency could stay as young in spirit and personality as the 90-year-old
“Everyone can do it,” replied Peres.
self-pity, have self-discipline,” he counseled, listing habits to avoid such as
smoking, eating (the wrong foods or too much of anything), exaggerating, losing
faith and losing hope.
“Take yourself in hand and don’t underrate your
capabilities. Don’t go on vacations. There’s more fun in working than in doing
nothing. Be engaged and interested. If you do all that, you will reach 120, and
someone will tell you, ‘Till 140.’” ■ MEDIA REPORTS in recent days have
suggested that behind closed doors, Peres is already planning for the day after
his term as president is up. They say he aims to form a new political party with
other ex-officio, such as former chiefs of both the Mossad, Meir Dagan, and the
Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency),Yuval Diskin; as well as former chief of
general staff Gabi Ashkenazi.
Peres has stated publicly he does not want
the law to be changed to enable him to remain in office, and yet there are
political pundits who believe that if the law is changed, Peres will not refuse
to continue to serve his country. He has also declared his intention to continue
to serve the nation with or without a title, and has said that as a politician,
he was unpopular – in that whenever he asked for anything, the answer was
usually no. Yet as president, whenever he asks for something, the answer is
Regardless of whether one likes Peres or not, it is an undeniable
fact that no previous president of Israel has been as active or as involved
domestically and internationally. Peres is an Israeli icon who often succeeds
where current politicians fail. He is a hard act to follow, and none of the
possible candidates whose names have been bandied about come anywhere close to
his energy and influence. So it’s anyone’s guess what he will do next, but after
reaching the peak of popularity in his career, it is unlikely he would risk
damaging his image.
Then again, his very good friend, the immensely
popular fifth president Yitzhak Navon, did return to politics after serving as
president. While the Education portfolio he held is important, it doesn’t have
quite the same prestige as Foreign Affairs – which if Peres does return to
politics, is arguably the portfolio he would wish for himself, if he could not
be prime minister.
■ WHILE MANY of the president’s activities are
reported in the media – on his Facebook page, on the Foreign Ministry website
and by the Government Press Office – even more are conducted outside of the
public domain: meetings with Israeli political leaders, top-ranking security
personnel, various delegations and individuals from abroad, and all kinds of
people who want to present him with books, works of art or some archaeological
discovery, etc., etc. The president seldom has a moment to himself.
the people who he met over the last week or so were Akamai Technologies
co-founder and CEO Dr. Tom Leighton. He presented him with a book on the life of
the late Daniel Lewis, a co-founder of Akamai, a leading provider of cloud
services for optimizing and securing online content and business
Leighton was in Israel for the company’s 15th anniversary
and the inauguration of its new Israel headquarters in Herzliya. He also
announced a recruitment campaign to increase Akamai’s employee base in Israel,
which is a pleasant change after the reports of other companies downsizing or
going out of business.
Peres also met with Belgian Foreign Minister
Didier Reynders, and with the outgoing and incoming secretaries-general of the
Baha’i International Community, Drs. Albert and Joshua Lincoln.
happen to be father and son, but according to Sarah Vader, a member of the BIC
leadership, the senior Lincoln was completely uninvolved in his son’s
appointment, and it came as a complete surprise to him.
community has a special relationship with Peres, who as vice premier and foreign
minister in April 1987, on behalf of Israel’s government, signed an agreement of
recognition of Baha’i’s full religious status, with all the privileges and
benefits befitting the spiritual and administrative center of a world
■ FOLLOWING THEIR meeting with Peres, the Lincolns and other
Baha’i personalities proceeded to the nearby Inbal Hotel for a farewell and
welcome reception, which was attended inter alia by MK Amram Mitzna, a former
longterm mayor of Haifa who has a close relationship with Baha’i
representatives; Supreme Court Justices Salim Joubran and Elyakim Rubinstein;
representatives of various churches; Rabbis David Rosen and Michael Melchior;
and Hebrew University president Prof.
Menahem Ben-Sasson, who noted that
while there are many Baha’i academics teaching at universities around the world,
the Hebrew University is the only institution of higher education that has a
chair in Baha’i studies.
Albert Lincoln, who came to Israel with his wife
20 years ago and served as BIC secretary-general for 19 years, will return to
his native Boston, where he will engage in mediation. Before moving to the
Baha’i World Center, Lincoln practiced law in France and Africa for 23 years.
During this period, he served pro bono as the special representative of the
Baha’i International Community in Africa, dealing with threats to religious
freedom in Mali, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and the Republic of the Congo, while
researching, writing and presenting papers on the proposed UN Convention on the
Elimination of Religious Intolerance. Two of the highlights of his period in
Israel were the opening of the Baha’i Gardens and the inclusion of the Baha’i
World Center on Mount Carmel on the World Heritage List.
achievements to his credit, Lincoln was typically modest and said that although
it had been a special time for him in Israel, it was just the preparation of
another chapter in Baha’i history for others yet to come. He had never
previously worked with his son, he said, and it had been a pleasure and a
precious opportunity to introduce him to his new duties.
This is not a
permanent departure for Lincoln and his wife, who will be back as often as
possible to see their grandchildren.
“We have strong feelings about this
country and about world peace,” he said.
Joshua Lincoln greeted guests in
Hebrew, then went back to English.
Coming to Israel is actually a return
for him, he said, recalling that he had first come before his parents, when in
1988 he arrived to serve as a volunteer at the Baha’i Gardens. He could not have
imagined at that time that five years later, his parents would take up
Soon after his parents arrived, he came to visit them, met his
wife, Monette, and the two were married in Haifa 18 years ago.
appointment as secretarygeneral, Joshua Lincoln had a career with the UN,
serving in senior positions in New York and Geneva and taking on assignments in
Africa. He has a background in academic research and holds a PhD in
international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts
Joshua Lincoln has two children who he expects to soon be
fluent in Hebrew and Arabic.
■ HOT ON the heels of the recent Polish
Culinary Festival is the Japanese Food Festival, which opened on November 10 at
leading Japanese restaurants such as Yakimono, Kyoto, Minato, Yamatoya,
Frangelico, Kampai, Neo-Sushi, Moon, Soho and other well-known Japanese
eateries. Tonight, there will be a gala Japanese dinner at the Tel Aviv Hilton
with the participation of Japanese Ambassador Hideo Sato and other Japanese
notables, who will sample washoku, or Japanese cuisine, prepared by master chef
Takatoshi Toshi as the guest of the Hilton’s executive chef, Avigdor
Toshi, a native of Japan who has been living in the US since 1989,
was flown in from San Francisco, and on Sunday held a cooking class together
with Israeli master chef Israel Aharoni.