Grapevine: All the world loves a wedding

Poland to mark 20 years of renewed ties, China to celebrate its 61st in Beit She’an and Mumbai gets new Chabad House.

September 14, 2010 21:19
A wedding. (illustrative)

wedding 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

MARRIAGE RULES can be very confusing.

Although there is no civil marriage here, civil marriages performed abroad are recognized, including those in which one or both of the parties are Jewish and Israeli citizens. For those who for some reason cannot have a regular religious ceremony because the head of the local rabbinate refuses to acknowledge the Jewish identity of one or both of the partners, there is still the option of having a religious ceremony without a rabbi. Admittedly, it may not be recognized by the legal authorities unless the officiant is a person authorized to perform weddings, but it will be binding in accordance with Jewish law if the ring, the marriage contract and the witnesses are all kosher.

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If the marriage doesn’t work out, the couple will still need to get a Jewish bill of divorce before the wife can remarry.

Why all this preamble? Because Ambassador to Uzbekistan Hillel Newman can now add the words “marriage officiant” to his CV. Newman came to the rescue of Geleb and Milana Zingerman when they couldn’t find a rabbi to do the honors. Both are halachically Jewish, but there is no rabbi serving in Uzbekistan. The couple turned to Newman for help.

Newman in turn consulted with the Bukharan Jewish Congress in the hope that its members could provide a rabbi for the occasion. It referred him to Pinhas Althaus, the Chabad rabbi in Holon. Althaus brought the matter to the attention of the Chief Rabbinate, which decided that because Newman is the son of a rabbi and religiously observant he was acceptable to perform the marriage.

Although there are countries that allow their ambassadors to officiate at marriages, as far as anyone can remember this was the first time an Israeli ambassador had been given permission to perform a wedding ceremony.

Moreover, he also filled in the wedding contract, consulting in real time with Althaus who was on the other end of the phone. The marriage took place in Tashkent, and the ceremony was conducted under a proper bridal canopy. By the way, Newman did notify the local authorities in the Muslim country of his added role and received their blessings.

■ EVEN THOUGH the Polish Embassy is located in Tel Aviv, as is the Polish Institute which disseminates Polish culture and encourages visits to Poland, the 20th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations will be celebrated not in Tel Aviv but in Jerusalem with the participation of former ambassadors from both countries. The first ambassador to serve after relations were renewed was Polish-born Mordechai Palzur, who lives in Jerusalem and is currently chairman of the Research Institute of the World Jewish Congress.

Among the diplomats who will be reviewing the past two decades of bilateral ties are former Polish ambassador Maciej Kozlowski, now deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Department at the Polish Foreign Ministry; Prof. Szewach Weiss, a former ambassador to Poland, who commutes between the two countries to teach at Warsaw University, where Menachem Begin was a student; and David Peleg, who preceded current Ambassador Zvi Rav-Ner. Among the other speakers will be Prof. Shlomo Avineri, speaking both as an academic and a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry; Adam David Rotfeld, a former Polish Foreign Minister; and Andrzej Towpik, a former Polish ambassador to NATO.

The celebration, which will take the form of an intensive one-and-a-half-day seminar, is jointly sponsored by the Israel Council on Foreign Relations and the Polish Institute of International Affairs. Though most of the participating Israelis speak Polish, the event at the Inbal Hotel will be in English.

■ COINCIDENCE IS a strange phenomenon. Just as Tom Segev’s recently released biography of legendary Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal is receiving worldwide media attention, several people directly or indirectly associated with the capture of Adolph Eichmann case met in a Tel Aviv restaurant to celebrate the 85th birthday of Michael Goldmann-Gilead, who was the police inspector of Bureau 06 that interrogated Eichmann and subsequently special assistant to attorney-general Gideon Hausner, who was the chief prosecutor at the Eichmann trial.

Among the guests who came to join Goldmann- Gilead and his wife Eva were Hausner’s daughter Tami Raveh; retired Supreme Court justice Gabriel Bach, who was one of the prosecutors at the Eichmann trial; retired Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel, who chairs the Yad Vashem committee that determines who is worthy of the title Righteous among the Nations; poet, author and journalist Chaim Guri, who covered the Eichmann trial for the now defunct Lamerhav; and Murray Greenfield, who was among the American sailors who manned the ships that brought Holocaust survivors – then considered illegal immigrants by the British Mandate authorities – to Palestine. Greenfield was serving on the Hatikva, whose passengers included Goldmann- Gilead.

Although there were a lot of stories exchanged about the Eichmann trial, there was also a more laughter-filled aspect thanks to husband and wife entertainers Moti Giladi and Osnat Vishinsky, who congratulated Goldmann-Gilead with wonderful impersonations of Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, Shimon Peres and Yaffa Yarkoni.

■ WHAT DO Beijing and Beit She’an have in common? A little over 18 years ago, foreign minister David Levy flew to Beijing to sign a treaty to pave the way for diplomatic relations with China. Prior to that Israel refused to allow Chinese participation in the Middle East peace talks unless it received recognition, and China refused to recognize Israel unless it withdrew from the disputed territories. Since then ties between the two countries have become increasingly stronger.

Later this month, Ambassador Zhao Jun will celebrate the 61st anniversary of the People’s Republic in Beit She’an, where Levy lives. Last week, he hosted a media conference and Chinese luncheon at his residence in Kfar Shmaryahu to announce that part of the celebration would take place in the Roman amphitheater in Beit She’an, where China’s most famous singer Ha Hui, who previously visited in May, will perform.

It hardly comes as a surprise that Levy was also among the guests at the residence. The Chinese are very good about remembering the people who have done them honor.

A series of Chinese ambassadors have maintained close ties with former ambassadors to China, in particular Ze’ev Sufot, who was the first ambassador, and Ora Namir, who endeared herself greatly to the Chinese.

There is also an ongoing love affair between China and President Shimon Peres, who was the longtime honorary president of the Israel China Friendship Society. Peres will be the guest of honor at the Chinese National Day celebrations.

Ha Hui’s presence is almost a cultural exchange, as singing star Rita, at the initiative of the Foreign Ministry, will give two performances in Shanghai on October 2 and 3 as the finale to a series of Israeli cultural events.

■ THE TINY Jewish community of Mumbai, which was without a rabbi for almost two years following the murder of Chabad envoys Rabbi Gavriel Holzberg and his wife Rivka, who were among the 166 victims of the November 2008 attack by Islamic terrorists, this year celebrated Rosh Hashana with the new director of Chabad House, Rabbi Hanoch Gechtman and his wife Leiky, who recently arrived in India. The new Chabad House is a short walk from the former premises, which were badly damaged in the attack. Members of the community, Jewish tourists or Jews who are in Mumbai for business will be able to join the Gechtmans in the pre-Yom Kippur repast and in breaking the fast.

Gechtman is no stranger to Mumbai. Following the birth of Moshe Holzberg, he spent five months in Mumbai helping the infant’s parents. Moshe, who survived the attack thanks to the heroism of his nanny Sandra Samuels, now lives here with her and his maternal grandparents. Samuels was this week granted honorary citizenship and permanent residency status in a ceremony held at the Interior Ministry, where Minister Eli Yishai presented her with an ID card. Moshe, who is now four years old, was also at the ceremony, festively attired in a suit.

■ FORMER AMBASSADOR to the UN Dan Gillerman and Aliza Olmert, wife of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, were among several of those who participated in a pre-Rosh Hashana demonstration in Tel Aviv on behalf of those children of foreign workers who are in danger of being deported. Gillerman said he was glad that he no longer represents the country at the UN where he spent years trying to show its finer side, especially its humanity. The deportations, if they occur, he said, would be to its detriment and would serve the negative image depicted by its enemies. He described the decision to deport the children as “wrong and cruel” and added that it has elements prohibited in Judaism. “I, as an Israeli, am ashamed,” he said.

■ AMONG THE various prices one pays for being a public figure is having to decide whether to limit an important celebration to a small family affair or to invite everyone. Israel Beiteinu MK Anastasia Michaeli and her husband Yossi Samuelson decided on the latter and invited some 2,000 people to the September 16 bar mitzva of their son David, the eldest of their eight children. It will be a dress rehearsal for their second son Rami, who celebrates his bar mitzva next year.

■ SOME OF the guests attending David Samuelson’s bar mitzva have also been invited to the bat mitzva of Eliana Papoushado, the daughter of international hotelier and real estate developer Eli Papoushado, that will be held on the same date on the lawns of his mansion in Kfar Shmaryahu.

■ THE PAPOUSHADOS and Anastasia Michaeli were among the guests who last week attended the glittering bar mitzvah celebration at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds of Ben Bublil, the son of international businessman Moshe Bublil and his wife Batsheva. Ben had previously had a more modest but spiritually uplifting celebration in Jerusalem, but the Tel Aviv festivities were attended by the who’s who in the business community with Variety as a major beneficiary.

As the son of a wealthy man, Ben didn’t need any gifts, and asked instead that donations be made to Variety.

More than that, his mother subsequently sponsored a Variety organized Children of the Sun event at the same venue where some 1,500 youngsters, who were either physically challenged, suffering from lifethreatening illnesses or members of needy families, had a fun day in which they were entertained by leading performers who were mostly alumni of A Star Is Born and who appeared gratis, as did master of ceremonies Zvika Hadar and singer Shlomi Shabat who sang “Children of the Sun,” a song specially written and composed for the occasion by Shimrit Or and Kobi Oshrat.

As much as the youngsters appreciated the entertainment, they were even more appreciative of the gifts that each received as they left the huge pavilion – a school bag containing sports equipment, along with numerous classroom items. Variety chairman Ori Slonim praised the initiative and warmth of spirit of all those involved in creating such a wonderful event and Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog (who next Wednesday celebrates his 50th birthday) told the youngsters to keep on dreaming their dreams in the hope that some would become reality. He also told them that they should know that there are people who care about them deeply and are concerned about their future.

■ WORSHIPERS AT the Abuhav Synagogue in Safed had the rare privilege on Rosh Hashana of listening to the Torah portion being read from a 14th century scroll written by Rabbi Aboab of Castile. The scroll, which is periodically examined to ensure that it is fit for reading – that none of the letters have become blurred or erased – is used three times a year, on Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Shavuot. Of all the antique Torah scrolls still in use, it is believed to be the oldest.

There is no record of how it arrived in Safed, but legend has it that it was brought by Jews who were expelled from Spain. Although he has never actually touched the scroll himself, the person who has most likely seen it and listened to readings from it more than anyone else is the synagogue’s treasurer Meir Karsenti, 80, who has held the position for 30 years, but who has worshiped there for much longer.

■ ‘YOU CAN have your cake and eat it,” writes avid Australian rules football fan Paul Israel, executive director of the Israel Australia Chamber of Commerce, in an e-mail to fellow Aussie ex-pats. The message relates to live television coverage this coming Friday of the match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Geelong Cats at the Mash Sports Bar on Tel Aviv’s Rehov Dizengoff, near the corner of Yirmiyahu. Because it is just before Yom Kippur, the pub is opening specially for the occasion. The match will be televised between 11.45 a.m. and 2.45 p.m., giving even out of town viewers, ample time to get home for Kol Nidre services.

The treat, in addition to the game, will be a dozen of Australia’s Four ‘n’ Twenty pies, which are the traditional fare at Australian football matches. The pies will be distributed on a first come, first served basis. There’s also a possibility that Foster’s Beer, Australia’s favorite thirst quencher, will be available.

■ SUCCOT IS rife with festivals, charity performances and events designed to enhance public awareness. Two of them will rake place in Ra’anana and Jerusalem. On September 27, at the Ra’anana Amphipark, Avraham Fried will host Boaz Sharabi and David D’Or at a concert honoring Gilad Schalit; and on September 28, Dudu Fisher will appear at the Jerusalem Theater in a benefit concert for Leket (formerly Table to Table), an umbrella organization that supports numerous nonprofits that work on behalf of the needy.

Leket’s prime raison d’etre is to feed the poor. It has thousands of volunteers who go out on a daily basis to retrieve surplus food from army bases, catering halls, corporate cafeterias, restaurants, markets, bakeries, farms and orchards for distribution to the poor and the hungry. Leket, both directly and indirectly, provides more than 32,000 meals a day to financially distressed people, especially children and the elderly.

■ BOOKS, PLAYS and essays have been written about her. A hotel in Tiberias was named in her memory. But stop the average person on the street and ask what if anything they know about Donna Gracia Mendez Nassi, and chances are very high that you will draw a blank. Predating the widespread philanthropy of the Rothschilds and the Zionist movement, Donna Gracia was one of the most powerful and influential women of her time, and the 500th anniversary of her birth will be celebrated at a gala event at Beit Hanassi on October 24. Guests will include prominent members of the Sephardi community.

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