■ AMONG THE founding board members of the Movement for Quality Government was publisher Dror Greenfield, who was passionate about exposing corruption in government. Greenfield, together with his brother, Ilan, ran Jerusalem-based Gefen Publishing House, which had been founded by their parents Hana and Murray Greenfield.
The Greenfield siblings had been raised in a home of social activism, and it was only natural for them to find their own niche in areas of social consciousness. Dror was unfortunately stricken with cancer, to which he succumbed in 2003. Had he lived, he would have celebrated his 60th birthday on August 16.
To honor his memory, his family, friends and colleagues came together at MQG headquarters in Jerusalem on that day to unveil a memorial plaque. Founding MQG chairman attorney Eliad Shraga spoke of Dror’s dedication to the movement from its very inception in 1990, and how during an initial hunger strike which Shraga had mounted, had joined him in the effort to make a dent in fighting political corruption in Israel. Fellow attorney Michael Partem, who is the MQG treasurer, noted how appropriate it was that the dedication ceremony was taking place during the Olympic Games in Rio.
Dror had been a gymnast who represented Israel in two world competitions, one in Moscow and the other in the US. It was symbolic that the final gymnastics competition in Rio took place on August 16.
Some 30 members of MQG attended the memorial ceremony in which two other deceased founding members were mentioned.
Eyal Lilior and Zeev Lifshitz, who together with Dror had been a trio of soul mates, strongly believed in MQG’s principles of democracy, transparency, good governance, civic participation and volunteerism in Israeli society. Their idealism was scoffed at, recalled Shraga, with few people believing that the movement would endure for more than a brief period of time. But it has proven to be an efficient tool in reducing political corruption, and in creating greater awareness that such corruption exists.
Many of the same people will come together again on September 11 to celebrate the 90th birthday of Dror’s still hyper-active father, Murray.
■ THE SIXTH annual Jerusalem Season of Culture, aka the Mekudeshet Festival, takes its inspiration – like its predecessors – from the sanctity of the Holy City, but with a somewhat different approach. The variety and creativity of different art forms of seasons past will still be there, but in addition, there will be a sense of shared meaning in the opening of Amen, a temporary House of Prayer for all believers regardless of whether they are Christians, Jews or Muslims or adherents of any other faith. In Hebrew, the word Amen is composed of three letters, which due to a lack of under-vowels, lend themselves to different pronunciations, one of which, oman, means artist.
Spirituality and creativity go hand in hand, even if the artist happens to be secular.
Amen will play a significant role in the 2016 Mekudeshet Festival from September 4-23, harnessing the city’s ancient energies to inspire artists, musicians and cultural figures from around the world to redefine their art and traditions and connect amid troubling times.
Located at the Jerusalem Music Center in Mishkenot Sha’ananim, Amen will be open from morning till night, with meetings and preparations for prayer taking place at 10 a.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. daily throughout the week, in Arabic, Hebrew and Coptic. Amen will seek to bring together Christians, Jews and Muslims who share a belief in one God and a boundless love for Jerusalem, to dialogue, study, sing and pray together in one house of worship. Amen will create both a physical and metaphysical space that will seek to encourage commonality rather than to sanctify age-old divisions, say Mekudeshet organizers.
“We will study, argue – yes, this is also allowed – and pray, together and alone,” says Mekudeshet Artistic Director Itay Mautner.
“We will see if it is possible, despite all the corporeal difficulties and earthly obstacles, to create a new reality. It is nothing short of a miracle that between four walls, we will inaugurate a temporary home for the three religions that share Jerusalem, and for all those who wish to dwell under the wings of the Almighty.”
Mekudeshet will feature scores of artists, actors, musicians, and media figures from around the world, and thousands of participants.
Where politicians fail, artists and believers may succeed.
■ STAUNCH ZIONIST and veteran South African businesswoman Reeva Forman received the Bertie Lubner Leadership Award this week from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies Gauteng Council, for her “outstanding services to the Jewish community, the people of South Africa and the State of Israel.”
Forman, who in her younger years was South Africa’s top model, subsequently turned her attention to health and beauty products which she has been producing and marketing under the Reeva brand name for 36 years.
A social activist who works both inside and outside the Jewish community, Forman is the liaison between Africa Stands with Israel, a coalition of pro-Israel Christian groups, and the Jewish Agency. She sits on the South African Zionist Federation as the representative of the South African Friends of Israel.
The leadership citation that she received this week notes that her communal career spans more than three decades, during which she has represented South African Jewry on many platforms. The citation makes particular mention of her long serving chairmanship of Temple Israel, thereby ensuring the continuity of the Mother Congregation of Progressive Judaism in South Africa, while simultaneously fostering goodwill between all streams of Judaism, and striving to build bridges of friendship and understanding between the Jewish community and South African society.
The citation also emphasizes Forman’s unwavering advocacy for Israel.
■ PRIZE-WINNING journalist, Auschwitz survivor, and former Mossad agent engaged in facilitating the illegal immigration to British Mandate Palestine of Jewish Holocaust survivors Noah Klieger recently celebrated his 90th birthday.
Klieger is still a working journalist with Yediot Aharonot who writes on many subjects, but primarily on the Holocaust and on sports.
Klieger has been in the entourage of almost every Israeli president and prime minister who has visited Poland, and has been a gold mine of information to fellow journalists.
He has lectured extensively on the Holocaust and the dangers of anti-Semitism in many parts of the world, and has led more than 150 delegations to Auschwitz. He is in some ways an unofficial traveling ambassador for Israel.
In honor of the 90th birthday of the Strasbourg-born Klieger – who fought with the Jewish Underground and the French Resistance before he was captured by the Nazis in 1942 and sent to Auschwitz – the Ambassadors Club, together with the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, the Adopt a Safta Organization, the Israeli-Jewish Congress (IJC), the International March of the Living (MOTL) and the Israel Forever Foundation, is hosting a gala by-invitation-only event at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on September 6. Participants include President Reuven Rivlin, Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau – who is himself a Holocaust survivor and chairman of the Yad Vashem Council – as well as many other dignitaries and Holocaust survivors.
The evening of tribute will include the screening of the documentary Boxing for Life, which presents Klieger’s inspirational story. The film was directed by Uri Borreda and produced with Shemi Shoenfeld and Amitan Menelzon. The film takes its title from the fact that Klieger survived Auschwitz due to his ability as a boxer – the camp commandant liked to stage boxing matches among the prisoners for his amusement.
Klieger was a decades-long close friend of Elie Wiesel, whom he met by chance at the Café Flore in Paris. Wiesel was then in his late teens and caught Klieger’s attention by the frequency with which he wrote something in the small notebook on the table. Klieger began talking to him, and then noticed the telltale number on his arm, the tattoo that Klieger calls “the Auschwitz trademark.” After that they talked of little else, and it transpired that for a time they had actually been in the same barracks. The two young men were both interested in philosophy, and met some of the greatest philosophers of the time such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Martin Buber. They maintained their friendship, meeting several times a year in Paris, New York, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as well as elsewhere in the world.
An Elie Wiesel photographic exhibition is due to open in Moscow on August 24. The exhibition has been curated by Yoel Rappel, the founder and director of the Elie Wiesel archives at Boston University.
The exhibition will showcase milestones in Wiesel’s life from the period before the Holocaust to just before his death at the beginning of last month. A prominent figure in the struggle for Soviet Jewry, Wiesel made a monumental contribution to international awareness of their plight with his highly influential book The Jews of Silence.