Christian charity in the capital

When Uri Lupolianski became mayor, one of the many problems he faced was the strong opposition of his fellow haredim to accepting funds from evangelical Christians. In other words, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, one of former mayor Ehud Olmert’s legacies, became a sort of burden for Lupolianski, and the fund and its director, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, were politely but firmly requested to spread their charity elsewhere. At first, high-ranking employees in the municipal Welfare and Social Affairs Department were devastated, but they learned to get by without funding from the IFCJ.

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With Nir Barkat’s election as mayor, there were hopes that the ban on the IFCJ would be lifted. That dream is about to come true. On Wednesday, at a special meeting at City Hall, Barkat and Eckstein announced the resumption of cooperation between the IFCJ and the municipality. According to the agreement, the first sum to be donated this year is NIS 13.5 million,  which will be allocated to what has been called a joint fight against poverty by the municipality and the IFCJ. Most of the funds will go to help support the Ethiopian community.

Thought for schools

Jerusalem has the highest number of art schools in the country, but many students are forced to leave the city after they complete their studies due to the lack of opportunities for art graduates. In the framework of the mayor’s efforts to keep students, young couples and young families in Jerusalem, all the city’s art schools will hold a joint open day on March 3, which is a day off for high schools nationwide.

Some 3,500 students attend the nine art high schools in the capital. The event will be promoted by a radio campaign in which celebrity graduates, such as actor Yiftah Klein, singer Ohad Hitman and journalist Sarah Beck, will participate.

A legendary Jerusalemite

Early last Monday morning, one of the leading figures of the local haredi community, Menachem Porush, died at 93. He was an MK for over three decades and a deputy minister, and the father of Meir Porush, the deputy minister of education and former candidate for Jerusalem mayor.

Porush senior was somewhat of a legendary figure in the city and a first-tier leader of the Agudat Israel institutions and political party. It was he who stood behind his son Meir and supported his running for mayor, even though the polls showed that former mayor Uri Lupolianski had a better chance of winning. On election night in November 2008, Menachem Porush arrived at his son’s headquarters at 3 a.m. and burst into tears when it became evident that his dream of seeing his son run the city would not be realized. In profound distress, he spoke to the hundreds of young yeshiva students who volunteered for the Porush campaign in Yiddish, saying, “It’s over. Go home.”

It is said that as a deputy minister in the Rabin government, he burst into tears and begged prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to retain Rachel’s Tomb following the Oslo accords. Fearing that Rabin was not going to change his mind, he hugged him and said in Yiddish: “Momme Rochel, Momme Rochel” until Rabin finally relented. And the rest is history.

All’s fair

The annual Bezalel fair begins next Friday. It will take place on the sidestreets surrounding the original Bezalel building downtown as part of the joint efforts of the Bezalel School of Art and Design and the city’s Culture Department to revive the city center.

The fair will display paintings, handmade woodwork, textile and glass pieces, ceramics, as well as photos and various artwork selected by the school’s artistic forum. Social activist organizations will also have booths  material about their activities and enlist new volunteers.

The fair, which is co-produced by Bezalel, the Culture Department at City Hall and the Lev Ha’ir Community Center, will take place every Friday between 9 a.m.  and 3 p.m. until the end of Succot. As part of the effort to promote the local population, the fair will employ only residents of the city. During the summer, there will also be open night screenings and a singalong on Thursday evenings.

Stubbing out smoking

Good news for non-smokers: Municipal inspectors are now enforcing the ban on smoking in public places more vigilantly. Some of the inspectors operate in plain clothes, which is much more effective. The municipality has also initiated surprise inspections in pubs, malls, restaurants and hospitals.

Altogether, 500 fines were issued in 2009, and 28 since the beginning of 2010. By comparison, only 108 fines were given out in 2008.

Archeological Purim

In honor of Purim, the Israel Antiquities Authority has uploaded an Internet exhibition of masks and noisemakers found at various archeological sites. Among the artifacts displayed are clay masks from 8,500 years ago, which depict human faces and were used mostly for ritual ceremonies. The exhibition can be viewed at www.antiquities.org.il

A manner of speaking

In ancient Greece, it is said that the great orator Demosthenes used to put pebbles in his mouth, and that was the secret of his celebrated skills. The ability to deliver a good speech is something we can encourage and develop among our youth. That is exactly what was happening this week as the final round of the Young Orator contest took place in City Hall on Tuesday. The contest, sponsored by the Rotary Club and under the patronage of the mayor, featured 12 candidates from almost all the high schools in the city, religious and secular, who had to present their skills before a highly qualified jury, headed by veteran Voice of Israel radio announcer Dan Kaner. The laureate will represent Jerusalem at the national young orator contest, which will take place next month in Tel Aviv.
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