Grapevine: A Scandinavian salute

Danish Crown Prince Frederik, who was in Israel this week for the 70th anniversary commemoration of the rescue of Danish Jews during the Holocaust, may have paved the way for other Scandinavian royals to also pay a visit to the Holy Land.

By
October 31, 2013 20:04
Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark with President  Shimon Peres 370

denmark price peres 370. (photo credit: Courtesy, Office of the President)

 
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Danish Crown Prince Frederik, who was in Israel this week for the 70th anniversary commemoration of the rescue of Danish Jews during the Holocaust, may have paved the way for other Scandinavian royals to also pay a visit to the Holy Land.

When meeting with President Shimon Peres, the prince – who is not only the first Danish royal, but the first Scandinavian royal to come to Israel – brought greetings from his mother, Queen Margrethe II, and his father, Prince Henrik.

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Commenting that nowadays parents are inclined to follow their children, Peres said he hoped Her Majesty would follow the prince’s example and also come to Israel.

Earlier in the day, Crown Prince Frederik attended a memorial ceremony at Yad Vashem and toured the Holocaust History Museum. He said it was “fantastic to be in Israel,” and to witness the positive story of World War II and the rescue of Danish Jews on small boats that took them to Sweden’s shores, which was something he would remember his entire life. “It was a courageous act of Danish citizens from all walks of life, who did not hesitate to act when it was necessary,” he said.

In addition to the president’s staff, the prince was warmly greeted in Danish by fellow countryman and former minister Rabbi Michael Melchior, who is descended from seven generations of Danish rabbis and whose son is in Denmark working as a rabbi. Though living in Jerusalem, Melchior himself continues to serve as chief rabbi of Norway.

Peres started to tell the prince about the Melchior family’s history, and the prince, though he had never met Melchior before, was familiar with his father, Rabbi Bent Melchior, the former chief rabbi of Denmark, who was one of the keynote speakers at the 70th anniversary commemorations in Copenhagen.

The prince later attended a special 70th anniversary commemorative concert at the Jerusalem Theater.



■ DUPLICATION OF effort is often the result of need or even geography, or simply because the cause speaks to people’s hearts. That may explain why there are so many organizations in Israel dedicated to bringing joy to the lives of children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

One such organization is Lehoshit Yad (literally to stretch out a hand), which this week brought a small group of children to meet with Peres at the President’s Residence. The six children, all cancer patients, were Simi, five; Omer, eight; Gal, 11; Liran and Shaul, both 13; and Tal, 18.

All six had expressed a strong desire to meet the president, and Peres, who has a particularly soft spot for and a wonderful rapport with children and young people in general, readily agreed to receive them.

With hugs, kisses and words of encouragement, Peres chatted with the youngsters about their respective conditions and dreams, saying that each of them was the best physician for his or herself.

“Tell yourselves that you are going to recover, don’t give in and don’t become dispirited, even when things are really tough.”

There wasn’t a dry eye in the room when Simi, a leukemia patient, told Peres she was nearing the end of her treatment and was looking forward to not having any more therapy. She wished the president good health and long life. Peres’s eight-yearold namesake, Shimon, also wished him well, telling him he hoped that whatever age Peres may reach, he will never need to be hospitalized.

Like similar organizations throughout the country, Lehoshit Yad cares for hundreds of sick children and their families, working primarily in cooperation with the oncology department at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, providing moral support, celebrating birthdays and searching for suitable bone marrow donors.

■ THE COMMEMORATIVE series of concerts and special synagogue services celebrating the life of Shlomo Carlebach, who was known as the Singing Rabbi, are not yet over – even though the anniversary of his passing was nearly two weeks ago.

This coming Saturday evening, November 2, the most recent and arguably most comprehensive book on Carlebach’s life, mission and legacy will be officially launched at the Israel Center in Jerusalem. Written by Natan Ophirwith a foreword by Neshama Carlebach, the singing rabbi’s daughter who has followed in his footsteps, the 503- page book delves into Carlebach’s life and career though the prism of the historical and cultural developments of his era.

It includes the Holocaust, the Six Day War, the hippie phenomenon, the neo-hassidic renaissance and the need of many Jews to have a non-judgmental spiritual mentor who would embrace them, but demand nothing in return by way of commitment.

Indeed, Carlebach’s indefinable charisma won hearts and souls not only throughout the Jewish world, but way beyond. He treated all human beings as creations of the Supreme Creator – and therefore equals.

Ophir, a native of Philadelphia, first met Carlebach in 1969 when his family moved to Manhattan, two blocks away from the Carlebach Synagogue. After graduating from Yeshiva University, Ophir moved to Israel and began studying at Mercaz Harav Kook, where he received rabbinical ordination.

He subsequently completed his MA and PhD in Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he served as campus rabbi from 1982–1998.

Currently, he directs the Jewish Meditation Institute Jerusalem, and teaches at the Jerusalem College of Technology and Ono Academic College.

Review copies of the book that were sent to academics in the United States received critical acclaim.

■ ALBEIT ONE of several Polishborn prime ministers of Israel, Menachem Begin is revered in Poland more than any of the others – so much so that visitors to the Polish capital are often shown the Warsaw University residence hall that was built in 1925 to house Jewish students; it was there Begin lived during the period he studied law. (Yet when perusing the university’s list on its website of alumni who were awarded Nobel Prizes, it appears Begin was not the only Jewish graduate to become a laureate.) In keeping with this trend, this week, the city of Brest where Begin was born released a centennial stamp in his memory.

When late president Lech Kaczynski visited Israel, he gave an inspiring lecture at Jerusalem’s Begin Heritage Center about Jews who fought in the Polish army. In 2010, when he was killed in an airplane crash, the Polish Embassy, including thenambassador Agnieszka Magdziak- Miszewska, relocated temporarily to the Begin Center to receive condolence notices. The center was also chosen by Magdziak-Miszewska for her farewell on completion of her tenure in Israel.

Next week, current Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, during his visit to Israel, will also spend time at the center, at an exhibition that includes photographs of Anders’ Army and of the Polish Jewish orphans who passed through Tehran on their way to the Land of Israel in 1943.

Begin was a soldier in Anders’ Army, which was the Polish army in exile during the Holocaust.

Another well-known figure who was in Anders’ Army was Canadian mega-architect, real estate developer and philanthropist David Azrieli.

One of the great non-Jewish Poles whose memory will be honored during Komorowski’s visit will be Jan Karski, whose heroic deeds on behalf of Jews caught in the web of Nazi atrocities earned him not only the title of Righteous Among the Nations, but also honorary Israeli citizenship.

Komorowski will attend the opening of the exhibition “Jan Karski – Humanity’s Hero,” at the Rabin Center in Tel Aviv next week.

■ ON THE same date as the opening of the exhibition, an international multidisciplinary conference on “Jan Karski – Witness, Emissary, Man” will open at the Synagogue Center in Zamosc, Poland, under the joint auspices of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, the Polish-Jewish Literature Studies Center at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, and the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland.

Karski, an emissary of the Polish Secret State, was the first to inform the Western world of the tragedy of European Jews, after having personally entered the Warsaw Ghetto and witnessed the deportation of Jews to the death camps. The conference, which is under Komorowski’s patronage, will be transmitted live online with English/Polish translations.

■ ON A somewhat lighter note, Polish Culinary Week, which starts this Saturday and will actually continue for more than a week, is designed to bring Israel’s culinary heritage back to the Jewish state in general and Tel Aviv in particular.

It should not be forgotten that in the immediate aftermath of World War II, Polish Jews were the dominant demographic factor in Tel Aviv, bringing with them not only the numbers on their arms, but also their prewar culture – including the cuisine that was traditional to Eastern Europe, and had to be adapted to the austerity conditions of the period.

Over the years, East European cuisine has begun to take a backseat in the melting pot of the Israeli kitchen – which exasperates Polish Ambassador Jacek Chodorowicz. He cannot understand why Polish cuisine, especially its deli, flourishes in Brooklyn and Manhattan, yet has all but disappeared in Israel, where Mediterranean and Asian cuisine have taken over. As far as Chodorowicz is concerned, it’s comeback time – allowing Israelis of Polish background to reclaim their culinary legacy, and those of other backgrounds to discover what Polish cuisine is all about.

■ WHILE ON the subject of Poland, the English-speaking Nechama group of Hadassah will on Wednesday, November 13, host a fund-raiser for the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem. They will screen an inspiring film, Orchestra of Exile, which tells the story of the founding of the Israel Philharmonic by internationally acclaimed Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman, who rescued some of the world’s great musicians from Nazi tyranny and brought them to Tel Aviv – a four-year odyssey.

Huberman was born in Czestochowa, Poland, arguably the most Catholic city in the world after Rome. Just over a year ago, the Czestochowa Municipality decided to honor the city’s native son in perpetuity, by renaming its philharmonic the Bronislaw Huberman Philharmonic Orchestra, and also gracing the philharmonic hall with his name. The latter could not be more appropriate, given that the hall, at the outbreak of World War II, was the grandest synagogue in Czestochowa.

The film, which features Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Zubin Mehta and Pinchas Zuckerman, will be introduced by Prof.

Veronika Cohen, former chairwoman of the Department of Music Education and dean of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, who will also lead a discussion after the screening. The venue is Kehilat Moreshet Avraham, 22 Adam Street, Jerusalem.

■ IT’S FAIRLY common knowledge that many of the negative perceptions of Israel are based either on ignorance or misinformation.

Israelis talking to relatives, friends and business associates from abroad are often appalled at how little they know about this part of the world, considering the frequency with which Israel appears in international news reports.

It’s another version of that old story of leading a horse to water, but not being able to make it drink. There’s no guarantee that people are reading, watching or listening to media reports.

But when organizations and institutions these people belong to have meetings with Israeli experts in different fields, they may attend such meetings, perhaps not so much out of a sense of curiosity as a herd mentality.

But whatever the reason, the Israelis have a platform – and not just among Jewish audiences.

Such platforms have been made available in Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago, for a multidisciplinary delegation of Israelis led by Prof. Eytan Gilboa, who heads Bar-Ilan University’s School of Communication. Members of the group include MK Aliza Lavie, who chairs the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women; Prof.

Sam Lehman-Wilzig, deputy director of the School of Communication and an expert on political communication and new media; Hillel Schuster, principal head of corporate finance at KPMG in Israel and an adjunct lecturer in business administration at Bar-Ilan University; and Sharon Evans, director for international project development at the School of Communication.

Speaking under the rubric of Israel Up-Close 2014, they will be talking to lawyers, businesspeople, church groups, high school students and other audiences about different Middle East issues, with the aim of presenting a more comprehensive and objective picture of the region, and its challenges and achievements, then generally presented in the mass media.

■ ASHKENAZI CHIEF Rabbi David Lau, who is also president of the Rabbinical Council of the Chief Rabbinate, is in an unenviable position. One of the 14 council members is his father, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, and another is his father-in-law, Rabbi Yitzhak Ralbag.

If the chief rabbi finds himself in disagreement with either his father or his father-in-law, he will be hard-pressed to voice his opinion during a council meeting, because it will immediately be blown out of proportion in juicy media items about pending family feuds. Aside from that, in haredi society, sons usually demonstrate the greatest deference towards their fathers.

■ ALTHOUGH SHE is being given the red carpet treatment by the Tourism Ministry, singer, dancer, choreographer, actress and television personality Paula Abdul has no qualms about spending her own money. Wandering through Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall, Abdul, who is on her first visit to Israel, fell in love with an expensive gold-plated hanukkia she saw in one of the jewelry and Judaica stores. There was no bargaining on her part.

She paid the price that was asked without haggling, and now has her own little piece of Jerusalem of Gold to take back to America.

greerfc@gmail.com

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