What is the best gift that a man can give to his wife in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary? President emeritus of the National Labor Court Steve Adler came up with a very unique idea. He gave back to his wife, Ruth Miriam Ziff Adler, her past.
Ruth Ziff Adler spent a year on Bnei Akiva Hachshara at Kibbutz Yavne beginning in August 1961 during her gap year after high school. During that period she wrote letters to her family about her impressions and her experiences, as seen through the eyes of a naive, idealistic American Jewish teenager.
Her mother, who never threw out anything of sentimental value, brought the letters with her when she joined the Adlers in Israel. Ruth wanted to throw out the letters, but her husband secretly typed them into his computer and consulted with noted American Jewish historian Prof. Jonathan Sarna of Brandeis University, to see if the material warranted a book.
For Sarna, who, 10 years after Adler, had spent his own gap year in Israel, the text evoked nostalgic memories, and he not only recommended that Steve Adler go ahead with his secret project, but also became involved with the editing and supplying of footnotes. The end result was a book called Dear All, which was launched at the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
The book was never intended as a commercial project, and can be read free of charge on Steve Adler’s website. For people who do want to acquire the hard copy, the cost is NIS 50, which Adler will donate to charity. Almost everyone at the well-attended launch was a veteran immigrant from North America, who could definitely remember much of what is in the book, because they had experienced it themselves, and it took them back to a different and more spirited and spiritual chapter of Zionist history.
Sarna was one of the speakers at the launch, as was Daniel Gordis.
Each is a highly acclaimed author in his own right.
Gordis gave an interesting analysis of how Israel’s left- and rightwing parties have changed over the years. The Left, which is now identified with peace movements, originally wanted to build an ideal society, and the Right, which today has a National Religious character, was originally secular.
Sarna spoke of the image of Israel in the eyes of the American Jew who dreamed of Zion but never came to see the reality. In this context he commended his audience, saying: “The Israel of American Jews was a kind of mythical Zion, which revealed more about the American Jewish ideal than about the reality of Israel.... The most important people were not those who simply dreamed of Israel, but who came and built.” He recalled that when he was a high school student learning about Israel, “everyone was on kibbutz and all they did all day was dance.”
Both Gordis and Sarna prefaced their addresses with references to Dear All. Reading the book made him remember things that were different, said Gordis, adding that it was “a profound reminder of how the world has changed.” One of the things he cited was the asimon, the telephone token used in public phones. “You didn’t need to download apps. All you needed was a bagful of asimonim.”
Today, it is difficult to find a book about Israel without reference to the conflict. With the exception of one hint, there is no mention of the conflict in Adler’s book, which Gordis found “wonderful and wistful.”
Today, he said, “we’re part of a group that has had the ideological wind taken out of its sails.”
Sarna’s gap year was not quite the same as Adler’s. Whereas she lived on a kibbutz in the southern Coastal Plain, he was at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem. What they had in common was that both were sending air letters on the thinnest of paper back to the United States. They were also struggling with Hebrew, and each knew the joy of meeting new relatives.
Adler had come to Israel by boat. A decade later, Sarna was able to come by plane, but there were two intermediate stops on the way. Accommodation in Israel was primitive compared to what the American Jew had been used to at home, and the food was “something that was a shock to the system.”
Another commonality was using “sandpaper that passed for toilet paper.”
Steve Adler, who was moderator for the evening, mentioned that his wife had gone to a Frank Sinatra concert in Israel which had been far more affordable than it would have been at home. This prompted him to tell an anecdote about Sinatra, who was a great friend of Israel.
When Teddy Kollek was in New York collecting money to pay for guns and ammunition for the War of Independence, he often visited the Copacabana nightclub, where Sinatra was performing, and the two became friendly. The FBI had wind of what Kollek was doing, and put a tail on him, which made it difficult for him to take money to the captain of the ship who was his contact. This weighed heavily on Kollek, and one night when he looked very despondent, Sinatra asked why he was so sad. Kollek told him. “Is that the only problem you’ve got?” asked Sinatra. Momentarily it was, and Sinatra came up with a solution. He would take the money, amounting to $1 million, to the ship, and the FBI could keep following Kollek, who was walking around with an empty brief case.
And that’s the way it was.
■ TO CELEBRATE the recent success of Hapoel Beersheba, whose main sponsor is Tadiran, Moshe Mimrod, Tadiran’s CEO and principal shareholder, together with his wife, Dalia, hosted a Passover toast to which they invited the team’s owner, Alona Barkat, together with the team’s players and a host of fans from the Beersheba business community. The event was organized by the Mimrod daughters, Moran, who is the company’s deputy CEO for strategic planning, and Nofar, who is the company’s marketing manager. Barkat’s immediate family was also on hand. Her husband is Beersheba businessman Eli Barkat, who came with their children, Tomer, Yoni and Guy.
In an emotional speech, Mimrod said that it was extremely moving to him to see the development of the team that he had followed since childhood in the growing city of his birth, where he had lived till the age of 40. What is happening now with the team “is just pure joy,” he said.
■ “ONE DAY, you’ll tell my story,” Holocaust survivor Jonas Eckstein told his daughter Gerta, who since moving to Israel and getting married became Tova Teitelbaum. She tried, but for a long time, people didn’t want to listen. At Yad Vashem, they were interested in non- Jews who had risked their lives to save Jews, but they didn’t want to know about Jews who were quiet heroes and who had dreamed up creative ways in which to save their fellow Jews from the murderous clutches of the Nazis.
It was only after The Jerusalem Post, in August 2009, interviewed Teitelbaum and published fragments of her father’s story that interest in him and people like him began with a tiny spark that continued to grow. People whose own fathers, uncles, brothers or cousins had worked with Eckstein began to contact her, and she kept amassing more and more information about his wartime activities.
She had been a toddler at the time, and was sent away to a Christian family, for fear that any noise she might make would betray the hiding places of Jews that Eckstein had saved.
Teitelbaum shared all this information with her son Benny, a prizewinning Israel Radio Reshet Bet journalist, editor and anchorman, and together they went searching for more material and more witnesses who could testify to Eckstein’s extraordinary heroism.
It was Benny who eventually wrote the book that will be officially launched on Thursday, April 20, at Beit Sokolov in Tel Aviv, in the presence of Slovakian Ambassador Peter Hulenyi, who is the son and grandson of Holocaust survivors.
■ CHIEF RABBI of Moscow Pinchas Goldschmidt and his wife, Dara Lynn Goldschmidt, are celebrating more than the Passover festival. Their daughter Freydie has just become engaged to Menachem Kosman of Baltimore, who plan to marry in the summer.
Freydie’s great-grandmother, Dr. Belle Rosenbaum, together with her late husband, Cantor Jacob Rosenbaum, donated the magnificent mezuza collection that adorns the Maurice and Vivienne Wohl Entrance Hall of the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem.
■ NEW SOLUTIONS for the public broadcasting conflict keep on emerging, and even when there is an ideal solution, such as the most recent one proposed by the teams working with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, there are people who object, and demonstrations are still being staged outside the homes of Histadrut labor federation chairman Avi Nissenkorn, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, Communictions Ministry director-general Shlomo Filbert and others who are involved.
Up to going to press, the latest proposal was to absorb all the people from the news division of the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation into the news division of the News Corporation that is to be run by the news division of the Israel Broadcasting Authority. This means that no one from the IBC will lose their job – and yet, there’s still dissatisfaction. Go firstname.lastname@example.org
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