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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
NEW YEAR'S Eve brought a whole new meaning of cultural exchange to guests at the Jerusalem Gate Hotel. Marketing and Sales Director Ella Gaffen, who was raised in a Yiddish theater household in Canada and has promoted Yiddish Theater in Israel, arranged to have a Yiddish cabaret at the hotel on the last night of the Gregorian calendar year, which coincided with the seventh night of Hanukka.
Meanwhile, the hotel received a large tour group of Macedonian Christians who wanted to know if the hotel was having any New Year's Eve entertainment. Gaffen told them about the Yiddish cabaret, featuring entertainers who regularly perform at Yung Yiddish, an organization dedicated to the preservation of Yiddish literature and culture. Rather than seek entertainment elsewhere, the group decided to stay in the hotel, clapping along with the music and occasionally getting up to dance.
Prior to the Hanukka candle-lighting ceremony, Yung Yiddish founder and moving spirit Mendy Cahan explained the background of the holiday, and to make it perfectly clear what it symbolized, he added new terminology and called it the Edison festival.
Among the entertainers was an authentic haredi klezmer group whose religious sensitivities precluded them from watching when the Macedonians took to the floor for mixed ballroom dancing. The compromise solution was for the musicians to go backstage. The sound was slightly muted, but it enabled the musicians to continue playing and the Macedonians to continue dancing. When the Yiddish program concluded just after midnight, the Macedonians took over with their own music and folk dancing which is so similar to a hora that most of the Israelis enthusiastically joined in. Gaffen is planning another Yiddish cabaret for Purim, but can't promise that Macedonians will be there the second time around. Most of Macedonia's Jewish community was murdered by the Nazis. Today some 200 Jews remain in Macedonia.
ONE OF the Hanukka miracles for Rabbi Emanuel Quint and his wife Rena was the fact that all four of their children and their spouses, plus their 21 grandchildren and the spouses of the two eldest (who got married during the past year) were in Israel at the same time. This is a rare occurrence, since their son David, his wife Rachel and their three children live in New York.
What occasioned the family get-together? The bar mitzvas of two of the Quint grandchildren over Hanukka. Roni, the son of Jodi and Daniel Patt, and Yosi, the son of David and Rachel Quint celebrated their respective transitions from boyhood to manhood within four days of each other. Such things are not unusual in big families, but for Rena Quint, who was a child Holocaust survivor and the sole survivor of her family, the sight of all her progeny around her was a particularly moving experience. The Quints are expecting another miracle around Purim when Odelia Adler, their oldest grandchild, is due to give birth to their first great grandchild. The new addition to the family will be both a Purim gift and a 47th wedding anniversary gift to the senior Quints.
ALTHOUGH A wedding is primarily the bride and groom's affair, the impact of the ceremony depends largely on the personality and style of the rabbi. In the case of Eilat Ofer and Oren Soriano, who chose the beautiful surrounds of Gan Hashikmim to pledge their commitment to each other, the officiating rabbi was the colorful television and print media personality Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, who engagingly persuaded all of the mostly secular guests to join him in creating a spiritual yet joyful atmosphere.
But even before Gafni took his place beneath the bridal canopy, the groom stepped out of it to meet the bride and lead her to it (the usual procedure is for the bride's parents to bring her to the groom, who is waiting under the canopy with his own parents). Among the romantic declarations which the bride and groom made to each other was: "I am not prepared to be inscribed in the Book of Life without you," which Gafni pointed out is the opposite of the prayer recited on Yom Kippur, when prayers are not only for forgiveness but for the continuation of life.
The bride is the daughter of Eli Ofer, the chief scientist at the Ministry of Industry, and his wife Levit. The groom is the son of Dr. Remy Soriano, once a well-known figure at the Pentagon, and his wife Nurit Bat Yaar, who for many years was the chief fashion writer at Yediot Aharonot and who is still sought out by television channels.
Ofer invited his boss Ehud Olmert, who arrived late and stayed for about 15 minutes, but at least did his chief scientist proud. Bat Yaar invited several of her former colleagues, not only from Yediot but from other publications, in addition to PR executives she had dealt with over the years and people from the world of fashion. Among the guests were Dov Yudkovsky, who had been her boss at Yediot, Ariela Goldman, the head of Gopher Public Relations, Nissim Mizrahi, the founder of the now defunct but once highly successful Rosh Indiani fashion house, Ora Sapir, the former fashion columnist for LaIsha and celebrity hair stylist Shuki Zikri, whom Bat Yaar discovered and propelled to fame.
LIVING IN a country that has little respect for dress codes and scant indulgence in pomp and ceremony, Nobel Prize laureate Robert Aumann was understandably impressed by the fact that all males attending the Nobel Prize awards' presentation must wear tuxedos replete with cummerbunds. Sharing some of his impressions of Stockholm with a huge overflow audience at Jerusalem's Great Synagogue, Aumann noted that even his five and seven-year-old grandsons were required to don formal attire. This appealed to his sense of aesthetics, and Aumann was quite taken with the grandeur of the d cor of the royal palace, where he and other Nobel laureates and their families were feted at what was termed an "intimate" dinner. Aumann left little doubt that he would like to see some of the Swedish ambience emulated in Israel, where so many men attend weddings, the opera and meetings with the President of the State sans suit and tie.
CONSIDERING THAT the Hanukka party at the Givat Ram campus of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance was intended as a fund-raiser for scholarships, very few of the Academy's supporters were invited to see the talented young dancers and listen to the brilliant young musicians who are being trained at the Academy, and who, in some cases, cannot afford their tuition fees.
Stressing the importance of scholarships, Academy head Prof. Ilan Schul told of a 15-year-old girl from Bat Yam, the seventh child in a large family, who had become entranced with music after a school visit to the opera, and had later impressed the maestro who encouraged her to study music. She received no support from her family towards achieving her career aspirations, but was able to get a scholarship and today conducts important orchestras in New York.
"We help young people to realize their dreams," said Schul. "We must not allow talent to go to waste." Funds contributed by those present, including Israel's fifth president Yitzhak Navon, who has long been associated with the Academy, sufficed for some 25 scholarships. Of these, four were donated by Younes Nazarian, the President of the Academy's Board of Governors, who was unable to attend but who sent a representative to make the gift in his name.
WHEN TZELL Travel Group founder and president Barry Liben, who heads a philanthropic foundation in New Jersey with his wife Sindy, was approached to give a donation to the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, the former Betar leader figured that $10,000 would be a reasonable gift. But the center keeps developing, and the Libens found themselves giving more and more - and actually enjoying it. Last week they brought a group of relatives and friends for the dedication of an elevator (which also gave them an opportunity to personally congratulate former foreign and defense minister Moshe Arens on his 80th birthday).
What's special about this elevator is that it is circular, much larger than most elevators and contains three video monitors of vistas of Jerusalem as seen from the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, which are screened in synchronization with a recording of Begin talking about the significance of Jerusalem. The elevator opens onto a glassed-in circular corridor that offers a spectacular view of the walls of the old city. Recalling the many friends he made in Betar, Liben said the elevator was dedicated to American Betar, especially the American Betarim who had come to Israel and lost their lives in Israel's wars.
GATECRASHERS OR happenstance guests at a party can be excused for not recognizing the host or hostess, but in the case of well known Jerusalem caterer Hila Solomon - who puts on quite a spread in other people's homes as well as her own - it seemed a little strange that even though all the guests were invitees, many of them long-time friends, few initially recognized her. The reason: Solomon had paid a visit to the beauty parlor, where she had her usual gollywog frizz straightened, color rinsed and fashionably styled. To set off the sophisticated effect, she wore an exquisite, form-fitting antique lace dress. The combined result made her look as if she had just stepped out of Vogue. Once guests recovered from their surprise, they showered Solomon with compliments.
THE LATE Alec Sacks, who apart from being a well-known Australian art collector was among the more colorful of Melbourne's lawyers, would have been extremely proud of his grandson, Jerusalem-based lawyer Jonathan Miller. Miller successfully won a case against the Meuhedet Health Fund which had refused to provide his father, veteran Jerusalem dentist and former president of the Jerusalem Rotary Club Amram Miller with a drug that inhibits the spread of colon cancer.
Diagnosed in January 2002, the senior Miller had been spending NIS 20,000 a month on the life-prolonging medication, which is not in the health basket. One of Miller's own patients was diagnosed with the same type of cancer and died because unlike him, she could not afford to pay for the precious Erbitox. For that matter, Miller could not come up with the money indefinitely. Unless Meuhedet and the Health Ministry appeal the verdict that was handed down by Judge Sarah Shdeour, Jonathan Miller will have succeeded not only in prolonging the life of his father but also untold numbers of other cancer victims, who would otherwise not stand a chance.
JEWELRY AND clothing designer Michal Negrin, who has inspired copycats around the world but nevertheless continues to stand out with her signature style, is favored by celebrities at home and abroad. Britney Spears, whose 16-month marriage to Kevin Federline is reportedly far from rosy, consoled herself last month with a $30,000 purchase from Negrin's Manhattan store. Other headline names appearing on Negrin's frequent client list include Demi Moore, Nicole Kidman and Jane Seymour.
Among the local aficionados for the romantic, eye-catching designs of the ex-kibbutznik who is also a grand-niece of Israel's founding premier, David Ben-Gurion, is Ruthie Blum, Jerusalem Post columnist and features editor. Blum feels undressed if she's not wearing one of her many pairs of Michal Negrin dangling earrings - and more often than not, she also wears a Michal Negrin necklace.
IN HIS weekly television show on Channel Two, journalist Yair Lapid often asks his interviewees what they would like to have inscribed on their tombstones. The question was recently put to both Shimon Peres and Pnina Rosenblum. Peres's reply: "He died before his time." Rosenblum was more blatant. Her reply: "Pnina Rosenblum, Prime Minister of Israel 2016-2026."