SCHOOL REUNIONS are filled not only with nostalgia, but with a sense of
continuity in that the school continues to exist and develop, and very often the
children and grandchildren of alumni are pupils at schools attended by their
parents and grandparents. This was not the case with the 70th anniversary
reunion of students who attended the Zsiglic School in Transylvania.
school operated from 1940-1944 in Cluj, which became the name of the
Transylvanian capital of Kolozsvar in 1940 after Hungary annexed the western
part of Transylvania from Romania. Once this happened, Jewish teachers and
students were expelled from state-run schools and universities.
Mark, a former director-general of the Education Ministry, working together with
the Jewish leadership of Cluj, obtained permission to open a Jewish high school,
which of course had the best teachers, because the staff consisted of those who
had been thrown out of the best schools and universities. This was the Zsiglic
From 1940 to 1944, when so many Hungarian Jews were deported
mainly to Auschwitz- Birkenau, some 1,200 pupils went through the school. The
first graduation class was in 1941, the last in 1943.
Holocaust, those who survived began to look for each other. Approximately 75
percent had been murdered. The rest began new lives in 20 countries on five
continents, with the majority of the survivors choosing to live in Israel. Not
all those who initially came here stayed, as for instance George Bishop, a
survivor of Bergen Belsen.
Bishop, whose surname was originally Bischitz,
came here at the beginning of 1949, enlisted in the first course for
paratroopers at Tel Nof, where he was known as Ze’ev Bischitz. He chalked up 60
jumps and became an instructor.
After the Holocaust he had gone to
Switzerland, where he had studied business administration and hotel management
and had been approved for immigration to the US. But when Israel was
established, he changed his mind. Following his discharge from the IDF, he
became assistant manager at the now defunct Ramat Aviv Hotel.
went to the US for two years to further his studies, but on his return found no
openings in hotel management, so he went back to the US and joined Hilton
International in New York. After a while, he tired of the hotel business and
went into rubber, setting up factories around the world. In every country he
visited, he looked for people who had been at Zsiglic, and embraced them as
After many years, when some had already died of natural
causes, those who were left decided to have a reunion in Cluj, where they had
last all been together. Cluj had already been returned to Romania, and although
Romania was the only Soviet bloc country that did not sever relations with
Israel in 1967, Israelis could not go there.
A second reunion was held at
Kibbutz Shefayim in 1990. It was understandably a very emotional experience as
elderly people, some walking with the aid of canes, tried to see in each other’s
faces the children they had once been. They opened their first session with a
classroom reenactment and a roll call. One of their teachers was still living
and stood at the head of the class. The youngest of the former pupils stood up
and reported “300 present, 900 absent.” The tears flowed freely.
them believed then that there would be a 70th anniversary reunion – but indeed
there was last week. The oldest participant was Erno Meiszter, 90, who lives in
Toronto and who was a fencing master in Hungary. This most recent reunion was
almost cancelled when one of the organizers Ya’acov Karl, whose wife Sigalit had
attended Zsiglic, died. His daughter Hana Zimmerman- Karl notified people from
nine countries who had signed up that the event was cancelled. Bishop took up
the gauntlet together with Juci Mureszan, a professor of chemistry who still
lives in Cluj and who had survived a death march.
They prevailed on
Zimmerman-Karl to continue her father’s work and the reunion went ahead as
scheduled. Despite the geographic distance, there is an extraordinary closeness
between these school chums. Bishop and his wife Ditta live in Los Angeles. One
of their dearest friends is Stefan Bergner, a leather goods manufacturer who
lives in Buenos Aires. Bergner and Bishop have known each other since they were
two years old.
Bergner was not a full time student at Zsiglic. He somehow
managed to attend a regular school by passing himself off as a non- Jew, but
absented himself from classes in religious instruction and on those occasions
went to Zsiglic instead. What he remembers most is that as a toddler, Bishop had
a toy leather crocodile that Bergner loved and wanted for himself. After all
these years, he still cannot forget how much he envied him that
Bishop was one of the people whose lives were saved by Rudolf
Kastner, who was assassinated in Israel by Ze’ev Eckstein, who believed him to
have been a Nazi collaborator based on accusations by Malchiel
Initially found guilty by a court which reversed its decision
only after his death, Kastner remains a historically controversial figure who in
some circles is still regarded as a traitor to his people.
dedicated to clearing Kastner’s reputation and has appeared in different parts
of the world with Kastner’s granddaughter, radio and TV personality Merav
■ IT’S BECOME a tradition for Science Minister Daniel
Herschkowitz to represent the government at events marking the anniversary of
the Hungarian revolution. The reason, explained Ambassador Zoltan Szentgyorgi at
a reception at his residence to mark its 54th anniversary, is because
Herschkowitz speaks Hungarian better than he does.
Hungarian, Herschkowitz modestly denied this, but more or less proved that his
Hungarian is fluent, with just the right lilt to indicate that he didn’t learn
it as a foreign language even though he’s a sabra. Herschkowitz was born to
Holocaust survivors who came to Palestine in 1945, met and married here and
spoke Hungarian at home. It was in a sense his first language. It took a long
time, he said, before his parents could bring themselves to visit Hungary, but
he was sure that his mother, who passed away two years ago, would be very proud
of the fact that he was standing in the residence of the Hungarian ambassador as
the representative of the government of Israel.
having visited the Latrun memorial with his son and, when looking at the tanks
on display, was reminded of the Soviet tanks that had invaded Budapest in 1956.
The sight gave him a better understanding of his compatriots who, in their
desperation to win independence, stood against those tanks with Molotov
cocktails, he said, as he listed deprivations resulting from lack of freedom. As
for Hungary’s relations with Israel, Szentgyorgi declared they were “excellent”
and said that his country hoped to be able to host Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu in the near future.
■ USUALLY IT’S parents who take pride in
the achievements of their children. And indeed anyone watching the face of
singer Kochava Levy, at the celebrations at Beit Hanassi of the 500th birthday
of Dona Gracia, could see the pride she felt in her daughter Yasmin Levy, who
initially sang the ever-popular Ladino song “Adio Querida,” with the audience
joining in the refrain and later sang another Ladino song about Jerusalem. But
even more than the pride of a mother for her daughter was that of a son for his
mother. Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Tzahi Hanegbi,
sitting in the front row, positively glowed at all the compliments heaped on his
mother, former MK Geula Cohen, whose tenacity has helped to bring Dona Gracia to
public attention and to her rightful place in Jewish history. One speaker after
another sang Cohen’s praises, and President Shimon Peres kissed her on both
cheeks on at least four different occasions.
■ SOME 50 top donors from
around the world and their Israeli counterparts got together at the Israel
Museum on Monday night for one of the opening events of the Susan G. Komen for
the Cure breast cancer awareness week that will culminate tomorrow with a
run/walk to raise funds for breast cancer awareness, research and health
Although this will be the first time that the Komen for the
Cure race will take place here, the global organization that has mushroomed from
a promise that Nancy Brinker made to her dying sister Susan Komen 30 years ago
has over the past 16 years contributed more than $2 million to local breast
cancer research and outreach projects.
Participants in the race will
receive white Komen T-shirts. Winners – men and women who have triumphed over
breast cancer – will be given pink T-shirts, an awareness symbol that cancer
does not have to be fatal.
It was amazing to see how many winners there
were among those who attended the function at which the dome of the Shrine of
the Book was suffused in pink. Earlier in the evening, Jerusalem Mayor Nir
Barkat and Sara Netanyahu participated in a ceremony at the capital’s David
Citadel Hotel which faces the walls of the Old City, and watched as they took on
a pink hue.
At the event at the Israel Museum, hostess Kenna Shoval, who
waged a successful battle with breast cancer, was wearing a delicate pink hamsa
around her neck. Shoval and her husband, former ambassador to the US Zalman
Shoval, were the most natural choice to host the event, given that Zalman Shoval
is a board member of Hadassah, which is strongly partnered with Komen for the
Cure. Also actively involved with the week’s events and present at the Israel
Museum were US Ambassador James Cunningham and his wife Leslie.
those who came specially for the week are Hadassah Lieberman, despite the
congressional elections in the US, and Hadassah National President Nancy
Falchuk. Fashion designer Dorin Frankfurt, the honorary Israel chair of Komen
for the Cure, was gratified by the number of people wearing her creations. The
choice was not deliberate, said public relations executive Linda Rifkind and
Audrey Shimron, executive director of the Israel office of Hadassah. The
garments just happened to be among the favorite things in their
■ IN 1942, Aliza Wirtz, a member of Hapoel Jerusalem, swam
across the Sea of Galilee from Tiberias to Ein Gev, paving the way for a
swimming contest in 1944, in which she and her mother Dr. Bella Wirtz both
Organized by the central committee of the Hapoel Sports
Association, the competition attracted 25 men and women of whom 23 completed the
crossing, according to a report in The Palestine Post. Aliza Wirtz came in sixth
in a time of three hours, 31 minutes, 19 seconds, and was the first woman to
complete the nine km. race. Dr. Bella Wirtz, 53, who was a doctor of sport
medicine, was the oldest contestant and swam the course in a little over six
When Aliza Wirtz turned 90, her daughter Dr. Naama Constantini,
director of the Sport Medicine Center in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at
Hadassah University Medical Center, decided that the four generations of her
family, including her mother, would reconstruct the race and swim the distance
again. Constantini and her husband Prof.
Shlomo Constantini, head of
pediatric neurosurgery at the Dana Hospital in the Sourasky Medical Center in
Tel Aviv, raised all their seven offspring to be athletes, so there was no fear
of any dropouts.
Aliza didn’t swim the whole distance but she did swim
the last few hundred meters, and has a certificate to prove it. Not bad for a
■ ALTHOUGH HE has been ill and inactive for some years, not
everyone has forgotten former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, who last Friday
turned 95. Shamir received birthday greetings in a letter sent to him by
Christian Wulff, president of the Federal Republic of Germany. In the letter
Wulff wrote: “You played a key role in building the State of Israel and in
determining your country’s image in the rest of the world. The aim of your
policies has always been the well-being of Israel and the guaranteeing of its
security. Today German- Israel relations are closer and more multifaceted than
“Due to its history, Germany bears a special responsibility for
Israel. Safeguarding Israel’s right to exist and combating anti-Semitism form
part of Germany’s raison d’etat. I am particularly pleased that the young
generations in our two countries are willing to further expand the German
In this way we can preserve the memory of the past
and at the same time build a bridge to the future.”
comedian Tal Fridman, the man of many faces, will tonight make his debut as a
conductor when he conducts the Israel Camerata Jerusalem at the capital’s YMCA
auditorium. It’s not a one-off endeavor in which Fridman will call on
professional musicians to hit a high note on his behalf. It’s actually part of a
series that will continue tomorrow at the Performing Arts Center in Cabri, then
at the Ashkelon Convention Center on Sunday and will conclude on Monday at the
Tel Aviv Museum of Art. It’s possible that Fridman will do a little lampooning,
but the program consists of serious stuff, with works by Vivaldi, Smetana,
Mozart, Rossini, Beethoven, Tchaikowsky, Strauss, Strauss Jr.
■ AFTER SEVEN years as chief of protocol at the Foreign
Ministry, Yitzhak Eldan will retire at the end of this month. His replacement
will be Talya Lador-Fresher, deputy head of mission at the Embassy in London.
Lador-Fresher was one of six candidates who competed for the position, which
many people within the ministry thought would go to Nitza Raz-Silbiger, director
of the Protocol Department, who has spent most of her working life in various
positions within the department.
■ THE SEA Turtle Rescue Center in
Michmoret has a received a gift of $10,000 from the Taiwan Ministry of
Agriculture’s Forestry Bureau.
The donation, presented by Taiwan
Representative Liang-jen Chang, will help the center to advance in its research.
The money will be used to purchase an Animal Borne Video and Environmental Data
According to rescue center director Yaniv Levy, the
system is a fantastic tool to promote further insight into the lifestyles and
behavior of sea turtles.
■ FEARS EXPRESSED by Dalia Rabin that the public
was beginning to lose interest in memorial events related to slain prime
minister Yitzhak Rabin proved well-founded in some places. One Jerusalem event
was cancelled because all the speakers showed up, but the public didn’t. The
speakers waited for an hour, and then closed shop.
Another event in
Jerusalem, a debate about security at Beit Avi Chai, failed to fill the
auditorium. At Beit Avi Chai, people are often turned away for lack of space –
and this event, unlike most others, was free of charge. Moderator Moshe
Shlonsky, who was a military reporter at Channel 1 when Rabin was defense
minister and head of Army Radio when he was prime minister, related two
anecdotes about him. One was about the signing of the Oslo Accords with Yasser
Arafat on the White House lawn in 1993. After Rabin shook hands with him, he
turned to Shimon Peres and whispered something in his ear. All the journalists
covering the event were naturally eager to know what Rabin had said – but he
refused to tell them. Later, when they were back in Israel, Shlonsky, at a
meeting with Rabin, pressed the point again, and said: “Come on, you’ve got to
tell me.” Rabin again refused, but eventually relented. The whispered words:
“Now, it’s your turn.”
On another occasion when Army Radio opened a new
studio and had a festive broadcast for the launch, Shlonsky asked Rabin to
repeat the station’s slogan: “I listen to Army Radio.” Rabin agreed, but when
given the microphone said: “I listen to Army Radio – and Israel Radio.” He was,
after all, a man of integrity.