THOSE WHO doubt that haredim and secular people can co-exist should take a trip
any Saturday night to the Jerusalem branch of Yung Yidish, where the Kool
Klezmer band is comprised largely of haredim, plus a couple of musicians who are
religiously Orthodox, though not necessarily haredim, at least not as far as the
dress code goes. The haredi musicians arrive still dressed in their Sabbath
finery. The audience is a mix of haredim and atheists and anything between. The
weekly get together is more in the nature of a Melave Malka than a concert, with
the audience joining the musicians in singing the songs appropriate to the
farewell of the Sabbath.
Abraham Leib Burstein, who leads this Klezmer
group, whose haredi members come from various hassidic movements, is related to
the great Yiddish entertainers Pesach and Mike Burstyn, though unlike them, he
is haredi. But he’s very much a live and let live person. When people in the
haredi community ask him whether he performs in front of mixed audiences, his
reply is “Heaven forbid! Every seat is occupied by either a man or a woman.”
Burstein and his band have been working for some years now with Mendy Cahan, the
founder of Yung Yidish, which preserves and promotes Yiddish, through the
collection of Yiddish books from deceased estates, the teaching of Yiddish and
providing of Yiddish entertainment. Cahan is a lapsed hassid who maintains a
great love and respect for Jewish tradition, and has apparently not abandoned
what he learned in his yeshiva days. This includes making havdala for the
audience, and turning the ceremony into something more memorable than what one
experiences in private homes. Last Saturday’s Melva Maklke was more memorable
than usual because it included guest artist Zalmen Mlotek, the artistic director
of the New York based National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene, whose mission is to
promote and develop Yiddish theater for current and future generations.
APROPOS YIDDISH, one of the best decisions of Shmuel Atzmon, the founder and
honorary president of Yiddishpiel was to appoint actor, singer and dancer Sassi
Keshet as the theater company’s CEO and artistic director.
In the few
months that Keshet has been at the helm, the Yiddishpiel website has undergone a
decided improvement. The company continues to tour the country, but most
frequently appears at ZOA in Tel Aviv. Although Yiddishspiel provides
simultaneous translation in Hebrew and Russian for those members of the audience
who do not understand Yiddish, or whose Yiddish is not sufficiently fluent to
follow the dialogue, it cannot be denied that the company’s greatest fans and
supporters are senior citizens for whom Yiddish was the language they spoke at
home in the old country.
Senior citizens receive a 50 percent discount on
the cost of tickets, but because not all senior citizens are physically capable
of attending the theater, Yiddishpiel actors make a point of taking productions
to homes and hospitals for them. The current repertoire includes: God Man and
Devil, which premiered earlier this month, Carlebach is Alive, The Heart Longs
for a Song; a Tribute to Mordechai Gebirtig, The Women’s Box of Secrets, Lansky
the Jewish Mafiosi, Sholem Aleichem Sholem and a one-time performance of The
Megillah in time for Purim. Seen in the audience at the openingnight performance
of God Man and Devil were Jacob Perry, Yossi Alfi, Natan Datner, Jana Kalman,
Kobi Oshrat and of course the actress Yona Elian, who is Keshet’s wife.
THE EARLY morning news and current affairs program on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet
often contains an entertainment segment presented by Netiv Robinson. On Monday
this week, the segment focused primarily on Hollywood’s Oscar
However Robinson also snuck in an additional segment that
pleasantly embarrassed the program’s anchor Yaakov Ahimeir who had been notified
the previous day that he was this year’s Israel Prize Laureate in the field of
communications. A gleeful Robinson introduced a congratulatory message from
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu whose father and Ahimeir’s father, both
dedicated Revisionists, were political colleagues.
Ahimeir’s journalistic integrity and said that if anyone was deserving of the
Israel Prize it was him.
■ EVEN THOUGH film maker Joseph Cedar missed out
on the Oscar for his sensitive film Footnotes, it’s possible that his father,
Prof. Chaim Cedar, who in 1991 was awarded the Israel Prize in Biology,
and in 2008, together with Prof. Aharon Razin, was awarded the Wolf Prize for
their discovery of the role of methylation in the control of gene expression in
higher organisms, may be the family-prize winner this year.
Prof. Shy Arkin, the Hebrew University’s vice president for Research and
Development, the awards won by Chaim Cedar pave the way for a Nobel
■ WHEN HE appeared at the Kehillat Avraham Masorti synagogue in
Jerusalem’s East Talpiot this week for a talk co-sponsored by The Jerusalem
Post, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy attributed his presence there to one of
the congregation’s founders and stalwarts Jac Friedgut, who he said
“relentlessly bore me down – till I surrendered.” In the audience was Foreign
Ministry official Bruce Kashdan, who is no less a man in the shadows than was
Halevy during his 35 years in the Mossad.
Kashdan, who describes himself
as the original wandering Jew, has spent the greater part of his life in
neighboring countries, making fleeting visits here and there. Other than his
immediate superiors, no one knows exactly what he does. And no one is likely to
The powers that be at the Foreign Ministry have told the
ever-youthful Kashdan that when he eventually does retire from the Foreign
Ministry, he’s not allowed to write his memoirs. Retirement is something that he
doesn’t envisions any time soon. “No one else wants my job,” he
■ FOR THE Begin family, 2012 is a double milestone year. Not
only does mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Prime Minister Menachem
Begin that was commemorated this week in accordance with the Hebrew calendar
date, but is also marking the 30th anniversary year of the death of his wife
Aliza, whom he held in such high esteem.
It was after her demise that
Begin became despondent and entered into a deep depression that was also fueled
by the daily demonstrations outside his residence in which protesters focused on
the growing death toll in the First Lebanon War.
If Begin was a man of
the people, his wife was even more so.
Without any ceremony, fanfare or
accompanying security guard, she used to shop in the local grocery store in
Lincoln Street and wait her turn at the hairdressing salon in Ben Maimon Street.
Dan Landau, the late husband of the writer of this column was a press
photographer who frequently photographed the Begins. On one occasion, when he
was in Tel Aviv at a function attended by Aliza Begin, he asked if he could get
a ride home with her as he had come without his car. She replied that she hadn’t
come in an official car but had been given a lift by her close friends Nathan
and Lily Silver, who were ardent Likud supporters. She offered to ask them if
they had room for him in the car. They did, and were happy to take him along,
especially as he lived only three doors from the Prime Minister’s
On the way home, Aliza Begin suddenly remembered that she had
a function in the residence the following day and had forgotten to order a
photographer. She asked Landau if he was available. He was, and turned up the
following day carrying a camera bag plus one camera with black and white film
and another with colored film.
While he was working, Aliza Begin asked if
he had partaken of the refreshments. With all the equipment he was carrying, and
while snapping photographs, he explained his hands were not free to take any
food. “Open your mouth,” she said, and like any good Jewish mother, proceeded to
feed him savories and cakes.
■ SEEN AT the impressive memorial event held
for Menachem Begin on Monday night at the Begin Heritage Center was Yair Stern,
who only two weeks earlier had commemorated the 70th anniversary of the death of
the father he never knew, Lechi leader Avraham Stern, code-named Yair, who was
murdered by the British on February 12, 1942. The Begin Center had also been the
venue for the Stern memorial at which a very moving documentary film was shown
of Yair Stern’s search in Israel, Warsaw and Florence for any documents relating
to his father or any place where his father had studied, written poetry or been
politically active. The film was subsequently shown on Channel One, where Stern,
who is a veteran broadcaster, had worked in many capacities.
■ THE BOARD
of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel, which usually convenes in the
Inbal Hotel or in the Jewish Agency complex, this week got together at the Bible
Lands Museum; yet another coup for the Museum’s Director Amanda Weiss, who was
happy to welcome Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, plus some 250
representatives of Jewish communities around the world. The growing chasm
between Israel’s haredi and secular communities is causing concern throughout
the Jewish world, and for this reason was one of the subjects on the Board of
■ THERE WAS a full house at the Cameri Theater in Tel
Aviv last Friday at a benefit concert in tribute to the memory of Yaffa
Cameri Theater Director Noam Semel together with Yaakov Mendel,
the director of the Union of Israeli Artists decided that all proceeds from the
concert would go towards needy members of the entertainment industry, especially
those who in the twilight of their lives are unable to make ends
Moreover, Mendel proposed that legislation be enacted to ensure
that every entertainer who was an Israel Prize laureate be given a lifetime
pension that would ensure that he or she live out the rest of their lives in
dignity. Numerous entertainers participated in the tribute, singing the songs
that Yarkoni made famous. Video clips from early in her career until just before
the period in which she could no longer perform, were screened as a backdrop to
the live performances.
Several of the singers who took part had sung with
Yarkoni in her lifetime.
Another tribute to Yarkoni will take place this
Wednesday in Jerusalem at the National Library which is located on the Safra
Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University. Among the participants will be
playwright, song-writer and historian Dan Almagor whose autobiographical new
book Hachupchik al Hakumkum has just been published.
■ IN ANOTHER realm
of music singer, composer and musician Zvika Pick, better known as “The
Maestro,” has been appointed ambassador for Variety International, the
children’s charity that is dedicated to promoting and protecting the health and
wellbeing of children around the world through its network of 43 Chapters in 13
countries, including Israel. Israel’s Ory Slonim is a past president of
Variety’s International Board of Directors. Variety was founded in Pittsburgh by
members of the entertainment industry on Christmas Eve, 1928, when a monthold
baby was left at the Sheridan Theater by a poverty- stricken mother who had
eight other children at home. The note pinned to the infant’s clothing gave her
name and a few words of hope that the good-hearted showbiz people would take
care of her. Ever since, although people not in the entertainment industry have
become identified with Variety, it has remained primarily a not-for-profit
showbiz enterprise, with everincreasing programs and projects dedicated to the
well-being of children, in particular those with special needs.
ISRAEL Council on Foreign Relations will honor the memory of its founding
president David Kimche, who died two years ago, with a symposium at the Truman
Institute where Kimche was a member of the Board of Governors. The symposium is
scheduled for March 6.
■ HAVING SLUMBERED for six years, former prime
minister Ariel Sharon missed out on celebrating his 84th birthday on Sunday this
week. Slightly younger politicians who celebrated their birthdays this month
were Binyamin Ben Eliezer, who turned 76, and Ehud Barak who turned 70, both on
February 12. Former and would-be politician Aryeh Deri turned 53 on February 17.
Ben Eliezer, in an address last week to the Trade and Industry Club, forecast
that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would have no problem winning the next
elections. There’s no one who can compete with Netanyahu inside our outside his
party, said Ben Eliezer, adding that Netanyahu knows that he has at least
another six years in which to head the government.
■ AS COMMENDABLE as it
was for British Ambassador Matthew Gould to launch the first of several social
clubs for Holocaust survivors, his action in raising funds in Britain to do so
pointed once more to the sinful inadequacy of a series of Israel governments
where Holocaust survivors are concerned.
Israel arguably has the worst
record in the world when it comes to the treatment of Holocaust
Prior to Gould’s praiseworthy effort, the Jerusalem
headquartered International Christian Embassy provided much-needed accommodation
and other assistance for needy Holocaust survivors in the Haifa area; and Rabbi
Yechiel Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and
Jews, also supplies some of the needs of Holocaust survivors, as well as those
of other senior citizens living below the poverty line. There are several
volunteer agencies in Israel that have taken Holocaust survivors under their
respective wings, but there are still too many survivors living in abject
poverty, and the government is not doing enough to improve the quality of their
lives in their twilight years. It’s always promises, promises and no delivery
while salaries of government ministers, members of Knesset and the judiciary are
automatically raised. Shame is a word fast disappearing from the national
■ YEDIOT AHARONOT journalist and Auschwitz-survivor Noah
Klieger, who has been the recipient of many awards and prizes is about to
receive another. On March 1, he will be conferred with the medal of the French
Legion of Honor at a reception to be held at the residence of French Ambassador
Christophe Bigot. The multilingual Klieger has written and lectured extensively
about the Holocaust and has accompanied many groups to Auschwitz where he has
spoken to them of what it was like to live in hell. Just a week earlier, Bigot
conferred similar honors on Nava Ravid, CEO of L’Oreal Israel, and Dan Catarivas
director of Foreign Trade at the Israel Manufacturers Association. Ravid was
made a knight of the Order of Merit, and Catarivas, who was already a knight,
was made an officer.
■ TYCOONS AND artists rubbed shoulders last Friday
at the annual Bank Hapoalim art exhibition and sale to benefit the fight against
The exhibition was held in memory of Lea Rabin. In the course of
the day more than 3,500 visitors traipsed through the corridors of the bank’s
headquarters in Tel Aviv to view the 640 works of art. Sales from the event were
in excess of NIS 1.5 million.
Prominently absent was the bank’s Chief
Shareholder Shari Arison, who opted to travel abroad instead, but the family was
represented by her son and daughter-in-law Jason and Elital Arison. Zion Kenan,
the bank’s president and CEO together with Chairman Yair Saroussi were on hand
to greet some of the many visitors.