Grapevine: Forever giving

There’s some kind of competition going on between the Adelson family, the Bronfman family, the Steinhardt family and Ronald Lauder.

By
November 26, 2013 21:38
Ronald Lauder speaks at the World Jewish Congress conference in Budapest, May 5, 2013.

Ronald Lauder speaks at WJC conference 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

If there’s some kind of competition going on between the Adelson family, the Bronfman family, the Steinhardt family and Ronald Lauder as to who can give more to Israel, it can only be to the benefit of the state and its citizens.

In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars they have given through the Adelson Family Foundation to Yad Vashem, Taglit-Birthright and educational and health projects, mainly drug rehabilitation in Israel, Miriam and Sheldon Adelson have now added to their education portfolio.

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They will be in Israel in late December to inaugurate the Adelson School for Entrepreneurship at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, at a ceremony due to take place on December 22.

The couple is donating $20 million to the school in order to nurture a young generation of entrepreneurs and innovators, in line with Sheldon Adelson’s own lifelong motto: “Always challenge the business status quo.”

In addition to encouraging Israeli students to opt for entrepreneurship and innovation, the school will offer degree courses in entrepreneurship to foreign students – particularly students from China, where Sheldon Adelson has extensive business interests. According to IDC president Prof. Uriel Reichman and Prof. Yair Tauman, founding dean of the new Adelson School, students will be offered a totally novel approach to university studies.

The course explores the entrepreneurial venture ecosystem from the grassroots of start-ups and their strategy concerns, through product development, marketing and growth, to raising capital and the investment sweet spot.

Most of the major donors to the IDC are from the US, but a casual review of some of the big money being donated to other institutions reveals that Russian Jewish oligarchs – whether living in Israel or elsewhere – are quite happy to play a significant role in any number of Israeli projects aimed at enhancing the beauty of the country and its education, health, sport and social welfare outlets. Now, if someone could organize a contest between the affluent American Jews and the affluent Russian Jews to see which group could do more for Israel, it would be a real win-win situation – and if donations to-date reflect what may happen in the future, the Adelsons will be way in front.



■ EVER SINCE his landslide victory at the end of last week, there has been speculation by political pundits as to whether Labor’s new chairman Isaac Herzog, popularly known by his nickname “Bougie” (which is frequently misspelled, but is the way he writes it), will join the Binyamin Netanyahu-led government.

If he does, it could well lead to a certain amount of confusion between him and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, at least on the part of English-speaking novices to Israel’s political scene. Though pronounced differently than Herzog’s nickname, Ya’alon’s “Bogie” is sufficiently similar in its written form to lead to errors in pronunciation.

It’s the “u” that makes the difference.

Herzog, by the way, is a second-generation Labor man. His father, Chaim Herzog, was a Labor Alignment MK at the time he was elected to serve as Israel’s sixth president.

A lot has been said and written about Isaac Herzog coming from a family that has served the public in many spheres. Such comments usually refer to his father and grandfather, who was Israel’s first chief rabbi.

But there’s a lot more to the story. His paternal grandmother, Rabbanit Sarah Herzog, was active in social welfare and served as the president of Ezrat Nashim, which is now known as Herzog Memorial Hospital. She was also the founder of World Emunah. His mother is the founder of the Council for a Beautiful Israel. His late aunt, Suzy Eban, served for 30 years as head of the Israel Cancer Association.

Other relatives in Israel and the Diaspora held important community service positions, so it’s part of his DNA.

His wife, Michal, is no slouch either when it comes to community service. A lawyer, mediator and consultant to philanthropic organizations, she also sits on the boards of several charities and for a long time, held an executive position with the Marc Rich Foundation.

■ THE TRIUMPH of humanity over adversity was demonstrated in the persona of industrialist and promoter of education Dov Lautman, who died last Saturday after a prolonged battle with ALS.

Almost exactly seven years ago – some time before he was confined to a wheelchair, when he still able to walk without difficulty but unable to use his arms – Lautman was awarded the Order of the British Empire, in recognition of his contributions to Anglo-Israel trade relations and to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. The award ceremony was held on a Friday morning at the residence of the British ambassador, who at the time was Sir Tom Phillips. When they posed for the photograph of the presentation of the citation, Lautman stood with his arms rigid at his sides, while Phillips held the document in the customary position. Not everyone present was aware of Lautman’s condition, and when people lined up to congratulate him and shake his hand, it was his wife, Rachel, who had to explain and shake hands on his behalf.

Rachel Lautman died suddenly a year and a half later. By that time, Lautman’s condition had deteriorated and he was confined to a wheelchair, which in later years was often pushed by one of his friends – most notably and often by world-famous stage and screen actor Chaim Topol.

The measure of a man is often determined by the number of people who attend his funeral, the obituary notices in the newspapers and the frequency with which his passing is reported in the electronic media. If these criteria are indeed the benchmark, then industrialist, philanthropist and national activist Lautman was a giant among men.

Aside from the paid death and condolence notices that took up a great deal of space in the Israeli press, Lautman’s passing was front-page news, with extensive coverage in every major and some minor daily papers. It was also frequently reported in radio and television news bulletins.

Lautman’s funeral at Tel Aviv’s Kiryat Shaul Cemetery on Sunday afternoon was attended by hundreds of people from all over Israel, including President Shimon Peres, former prime minister Ehud Olmert, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, Labor Party chairman Herzog, Education Minister Shai Piron, Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Perry, former Knesset speaker MK Reuven Rivlin, former finance minister Avraham Shochat, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, Dalia Rabin and her daughter, Noa Rothman, business tycoons Yitzhak Tshuva and Nochi Dankner, and so many hundreds of others who knew him or whose lives he touched.

In his eulogy, Peres referred to Lautman’s contribution to the peace process by opening manufacturing plants in Egypt and Jordan, where he provided many jobs and created friends for Israel. The truth of that statement was reflected in one of the many obituary notices published in the Israeli press. A relatively large notice, lodged by the Salah Family of Amman, read: “We are mourning the passing away of a man who built bridges of peace. All heart. A true friend.”

■ THIS COMING Friday, November 29, marks the anniversary of one of the most important days in contemporary Jewish history: when the UN officially approved the establishment of a sovereign Jewish state in what was formerly known as Palestine.

To mark the 66th anniversary of the UN Partition Resolution, the Association of Bessarabian Jews, together with the Moshe Sharett Heritage Society, will on Friday at 10 a.m. hold a symposium on “Moshe Sharett: An alternative or an episode?” at Bessarabia House in Tel Aviv.

Sharett (born Moshe Shertok), whose name graces Israeli streets and neighborhoods, was head of the Jewish Agency’s political department from 1933 to 1948, and was a central figure in the effort to get the UN to pass the resolution on the partition of Palestine. He was a signatory to Israel’s Declaration of Independence, and served as Israel’s first foreign minister and second prime minister. He later returned to the Jewish Agency and became its chairman, as well as chairman of the World Zionist Organization. His activities on the road to statehood, including his relations with the leaders of Arab communities and British Mandate authorities, is quite amazing.

His face is even featured on Israel’s NIS 20 bill.

Although Sharett played an extremely important role in bringing Israel to statehood and in the affairs of the Yishuv, he is largely forgotten. Stop random passers-by in the street and ask about him, and few will know who he was. Many will not even realize that his likeness has been preserved on national currency.

At Friday’s symposium, Prof. Ze’ev Shahor will speak about Sharett and David Ben-Gurion, and the decision to create a state. Prof. Gabi Sheffer will continue the theme and discuss the differences between the Sharett and Ben-Gurion camps. Former minister Yossi Sarid, who has previously written and spoken about Sharett, will focus on “The most dead leader, the most live leader,” Prof. Aviva Halamish will examine the strength of Sharett’s policies of restraint, and Sharett’s son, Yaakov, will talk about his father as an extraordinary leader.

■ ON NOVEMBER 29, President Peres will be in Mexico, one of the 10 countries that abstained from voting for that fateful Resolution 181 on partition. Yet despite its initial reservations, it did not take long for Mexico to recognize the State of Israel. Last year, the two countries celebrated 60 years of diplomatic ties.

■ WHILE ISRAEL’s president may be the world’s oldest and still functioning head of state, the current longest-reigning monarch, who by virtue of title is head of state, is Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose 86th birthday will be celebrated next week by Thai communities around the world. Thai Ambassador Jukr Boon- Long and his wife will host a reception in Tel Aviv to mark the occasion.

Although the king has so far reigned for almost 67-and-a-half years, he ranks only 24th in the list of long-reigning monarchs whose periods of reign can be verified. The longest-reigning monarch was King Sobhuza II of Swaziland, who reigned for 82 years and 254 days. In his case it was not such a big deal, because he was four months old when his father died, and inherited the title soon after.

Bernard VII of Lippe, who ranks second in longevity of reign, was also an infant when he came to the throne in 1439, a little before his first birthday. He also died at age 82, after having reigned for 81 years and 234 days. Another 15th-century monarch, William IV of Henneberg-Schleusingen, in third place, was likewise a child king who came to the throne in 1480. He reigned for 78 years and 243 days, and died at the age of 84. He was one of 15 monarchs who reigned for periods between 70 and 80 years.

Of the 20th to 21st-century monarchs still living, Thailand’s king is in first place, followed by Obi Agbogidi Olo-Ome Alfred Okolie of Edbudu-Akah in Aniocha- South of the Delta State in Nigeria, who ascended his throne exactly four months after Bhumibol ascended his, with third place going to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, who has been on the throne for just under 62 years – but has not yet reigned as long as her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, who reigned for 63 years and 216 days.

US-Israeli defense cooperation also has its social side. Guest of honor at the 238th anniversary celebration of the US Marine Corps was IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz, who together with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, lauded the bravery and contributions of the USMC.

In addition to the large US Embassy community at the annual Marine Corps Birthday Ball, distinguished guests included Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino and USMC Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Ron Christmas.

Addressing the Marines, Gantz said: “The US and Israel’s relations are close. In this region we might face storms, but our values and interests lie together. That is the case today, and will be in the future as well. Thank you for what you are doing around the world.” As an example of the shared values and close cooperation between the USMC and the IDF, Gantz cited the joint disaster relief work the two countries are doing in the Philippines.

In congratulating the USMC, Shapiro said: “Each year we gather to celebrate the Marine Corps for the strong character, profound courage and unshakable professionalism that we associate with members of the corps. The outstanding warriors of the USMC are the embodiment of America’s military strength, and for that we salute you.”

Shapiro, who also spoke of the cooperation between the USMC and the IDF, invoked the port visit to Eilat last May by the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, as “just one reminder of the steadfast support of the US for Israel, and the deep relationship between the American and Israeli people – one example among many that demonstrates America’s unshakable commitment to the security of Israel. It’s a visible sign that our armed forces stand together as brothers, as sisters against the security threats that the US and Israel face in the Middle East.”

■ THIS WEEK, Chabad Hassidim around the world rejoiced on Yud-Tet Kislev, the 19th day of Kislev, in celebration of the anniversary of the day on which Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad Movement, was released from czarist prison. He had been falsely accused of conspiring with the Turks to overthrow the czar.

The misunderstanding occurred because Schneur Zalman was sending money to his disciples in the Holy Land, which was then under Ottoman rule, and the czarist authorities thought his frequent communications with people in that part of the world were for a different purpose altogether.

In Chabad circles, the release date has become an annual festival, and is regarded as the new year marking the birth of Hassidism. It is a time to make merry, and also a time for reflection and outreach.

Many Chabadniks from all over Israel flocked to the Jerusalem International Convention Center to join in the mega-celebrations, but Rabbi Yisroel Goldberg, who heads the Chabad of Rehavia, decided he would miss out on some of the larger celebrations and hold what Chabad calls a farbrengen – a gathering – at the capital’s Yeshurun Synagogue. The event included several musical interludes with Yehuda Glantz and his band, plus a symposium with Rabbi Yitzhak Meir Segal of the Sha’arei Hessed Chabad community, Rabbi Sholom Ber Marzel, rosh yeshiva of Tiferet Menachem, Prof. Shlomo Kalish, CEO of the Jerusalem Global Investment company, and Glantz. Goldberg was the moderator, and the questions answers revolved around outreach and Chabad’s ability to reach people’s minds and hearts.

All of Chabad emissaries are multifunctional, acting not only as teachers and leaders of prayer services, but often as ritual slaughterers, chefs, printers, arbiters and in a multitude of other roles. Goldberg, who launched Chabad of Rehavia only two years ago, has gone beyond the usual host of activities that go hand-inhand with being a Chabad emissary. The premises he found for his Chabad center soon became too small to accommodate those attending services, so he made a deal with the nearby Great Synagogue for use of part of their premises on Friday nights and Saturdays. He hosts a kiddush with a guest speaker at the Chabad center every Saturday without fail, and persuaded the board at Yeshurun to let him use their premises for Yud-Tet Kislev.

On that occasion, Goldberg also proved that not only is he a good organizer and eloquent orator, but he’s also a talented singer and dancer. Small wonder he’s managed to attract so many people in so short a space of time.

■ IN PANIC situations, people often forget to thank the strangers who helped them.

That’s what happened in the case of singer Einat Sarouf and her partner, Tamir Harpaz, who two weeks ago did not take much note of the two young men who helped extricate them from their car, after it crashed on the way home from the Dead Sea area, Yediot Aharonot reported.

The situation had been so nerve-racking that the two did not bother to take the names of their rescuers, let alone thank them. Afterwards, it really bothered them that they had been so remiss.

■ WHILE THERE is general consensus in Israel that the Geneva agreement on Iran’s nuclear program is a bad deal, and that no deal would have been preferable, at least one Israeli has embarked on a form of reconciliation with Iran. Kibbutz- born singer Liel Kolet, 24, who a little over 10 years ago made international headlines when she sang Imagine with former US president Bill Clinton, at the 80th birthday bash for Peres at what was then the Mann Auditorium, is now singing a duet with famous Iranian singer Ebrahim Hamedi, popularly known as Ebi.

Their duet, sung in English, was recorded in the US, and is adapted from a song that was originally written by Yoav Ginai and Tomer Hadadi for Boaz Sharabi. The original Hebrew version was called Hag Sameach, Ahavat Hayai (Happy Holiday, Love of My Life). The English title, given the timing and the place, is I Can Hear Christmas – which is somewhat ironic, considering that Ebi is Muslim and Kolet is Jewish.

Kolet has also sung a song whose lyrics were penned by none other than Peres.

The song is called Ray of Hope, and she sang it in 2008 at the 10th-anniversary celebration of the Peres Center for Peace.

greerfc@gmail.com


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