THE DOUBLE barrel going around in business and social welfare circles is related to would-be mayor of Jerusalem and Social Justice Party founder Arkadi Gaydamak, who is gradually suspending his legendary generosity. So two questions are being asked: Is he doing this because he's run out of liquid assets, or is he protecting his political interests? When Gaydamak first announced his political ambitions, there were voices of protest from the Knesset claiming that Gaydamak, by donating to various causes across the country and across the social welfare spectrum, was buying votes. Gaydamak countered by saying he was doing the Jewish thing and contributing to projects where needs existed. He even suggested that if the government had fulfilled its responsibilities to the public, people like him would not have to fill in the gaps. But it's not only from philanthropic activities that Gaydamak is taking time out. He's also stepping back from some of his sports, communications and other business investments, which leads to the question about the possibility his liquid assets are waning. And then there's also the sudden resignation last week of Uri Shani. Six months ago, Shani, a former director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, was lured away from his position as CEO of Housing and Construction to serve as the umbrella man for Gaydamak's diverse business interests in Israel and abroad. The job came with a seven-digit bonus, a generous salary and various perks. But it was a very short-lived relationship. If he does indeed run for mayor, Gaydamak will be forced to sell his radio station, which he is reportedly most reluctant to do. Meanwhile he is still under police investigation for alleged money laundering, so it's hard to make any predictions about his future. ALSO RUMORED to be running low on liquid assets is Africa Israel chairman Lev Leviev. Even though he has transferred his residence to London, Leviev is in Israel so often that one would never realize he's left. Looking a lot slimmer than he used to when he lived in Bnei Brak, Leviev was back in Israel last week to host a reception for Izzy Cohen, the new CEO of Africa Israel. Cohen, formerly CEO of Migdal Holdings, succeeds Erez Meltzer, who lasted in the job for 14 months after succeeding the legendary Pini Cohen, who had held the post for eight years. Both Meltzer and Cohen had differences with Leviev over how the company should be managed. But Leviev and Cohen remained friends, and Cohen was invited to Leviev family celebrations and to the reception for Izzy Cohen. FOR THE fourth consecutive year, Israeli women, on the initiative of Naamat and led by Education Minister Yuli Tamir, held a walkathon demonstration calling for equal pay for equal work. A survey conducted by Naamat, whose president, Talia Livni, was one of 2,000 women participating in the walk across Bat Yam's beach, showed that salary gaps between men and women doing the same work were as high as 38 percent. The women were joined by a number of men who also believe that the status quo is both unfair and unhealthy for a progressive society. THE VAN Leer Jerusalem Institute has a new chairman of its Board of Trustees in the person of Tom de Swaan, 62, who succeeds Ivar Samren, 69, who is retiring after 22 years. Samren succeeded the late Oscar Van Leer in 1986 as chairman of the governing council of the Van Leer Group Foundation. He was the first non-family member to hold that position. The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute is a leading intellectual center for the interdisciplinary study and discussion of issues related to philosophy, society, culture and education. The Institute is supported by the Van Leer Group Foundation, and also enjoys the support of philanthropic partners, foundations, Jewish Federations and private individuals. MORE THAN 2,000 invitees attended the opening last week of the Cinemall, formerly Lev Hamifratz, following its total face-lift to make it one of the most modern malls in the country. Guests included judges, lawyers, business leaders and heads of municipalities from the North. Cinemall, which is also an entertainment center, is a joint initiative dreamed up by entrepreneur Uri Dori, Supersol chairman Rafi Bisker, Supersol R&D and assets manager Amir Duanis, Israel Theaters CEO Muki Gradinger and Nitzan Ariel, the mall's general manager. ANY EMPLOYEE who brings honor and glory to his or her place of employment by virtue of winning a prestige prize for something done in the course of their work is more than worthy of the support of an immediate supervisor, not to mention the employer. But few companies would celebrate the success of one of their employees to the extent demonstrated by the publication Makor Rishon, especially when that employee is actually a freelancer. Three years ago, Rabbi Eliahu Birenbaum, who migrated from Uruguay in 1972, came to Yoav Shvark, editor of the Shabbat supplement of Makor Rishon, and proposed that he write a series of articles about Jewish communities around the world, based on his work with Shavei Israel, which brings lost Jewish communities back to the fold, and Ohr Torah Stone, which trains young people as rabbis and teachers. Shvark received him politely and agreed to let him start, never imagining that his columns would become among the most popular in the paper. Birenbaum was named this year's winner in the print section of the annual Bnai Brith Journalism Awards in memory of Wolf and Hilda Matsdorf. Shvark, with the blessing of publisher Shlomo Ben-Zvi, decided to put out a glossy magazine featuring 40 of Birenbaum's stories about Jewish communities in South America, North America, Europe and Asia; they included stories about people who are only discovering their Jewish roots, converts and some who are totally assimilated yet retain the essence of Jewish survival. The magazine is a good marketing tool for Makor Rishon, but is also a fine tribute to Birenbaum's work.