A plea on behalf of Israeli-born Filipino children

The Impossible Takes Longer, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein will speak on “From Siberia to the Speaker."

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August 30, 2019 08:30
YULI EDELSTEIN (left) is embraced by absorption minister Ya’acov Tzur after arriving at Ben-Gurion A

YULI EDELSTEIN (left) is embraced by absorption minister Ya’acov Tzur after arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport in 1987. (photo credit: NATI HARNIK/GPO)

A group of prominent Israeli figures from the realms of business, philanthropy, academia, politics, law, hi-tech, tourism, social welfare and international relations has petitioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to desist from deporting children born to foreign workers.

“Their mothers have taken care of our parents and grandparents for many years, and now they are being deported because they brought a child into the world,” states the petition, which adds that these children are Israeli in every sense of the word and do not pose a threat to the character of the State of Israel. These children dream of being part of Israeli society, the petition notes, adding that 10 years ago, some 600 children of migrant workers were given legal status in Israel. Since then, most of them have grown up and served with distinction in the IDF alongside the offspring of Israeli citizens. The petition calls on the prime minister to continue to act in the same humane and Jewish spirit and to bring the deportation of children to a stop.

Among the signatories are Udi Angel, Jason Arison, Dan Gillerman (a former ambassador to the United Nations), Oded Gera, Ronny Douek, Harel Weisel, Yossi Vardi, Zohar Zisapel, Yehudit Yuva Recanati, Uriel Lynn, Benny Landa, Leonid Nevzlin, Sara and Michael Sela, David Fattal, Ami Federmann, Morris Kahn, Ran Rahav and Gilead Sher.

One point that hasn’t been brought up is that these children often live in the homes of the employers of their mothers and bring a lot of joy to elderly Israelis who may see little of their biological grandchildren, and are delighted with the constant presence of an infant. Also, in several cases, the father of the child is an Israeli Jew, so technically such children should be allowed stay in accordance with the Law of Return.

■ JUST AHEAD of the elections, media outlets are individually doing their best to give the public a chance to meet political candidates face-to-face by holding various conferences and panel discussions. In addition, various organizations are hosting lectures by individual candidates from different parties.

In what appears to be an echo of the title of a book by Vera Weizmann, the wife of Israel’s first president, The Impossible Takes Longer, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein will speak on “From Siberia to the Speaker.” While languishing in a Soviet prison, Edelstein would probably have laughed off as preposterous any suggestion that he might one day hold the highest office in Israel’s legislature. His lecture at the Ohel Moshe Synagogue in Herzliya Pituah, where he is a regular congregant, will be delivered on Tuesday, September 3, at 8 p.m. For security reasons, latecomers will not be admitted.

■ MORE CONFERENCES are arguably being held during the last weeks prior to the September 17 elections than at any other time of the year. Of course, there are politicians at every one of these conferences. Sometimes there’s a mix of politicians and hi-tech people, or politicians with heads of banks, finance and insurance companies; or politicians with educators or medical experts, but it’s doubtful whether any organization or institution hosting such a conference will be able to boast as much diversity as the Keshet 12-Israel Television News Company conference on Influential People, that, like television itself, is being held day and night with lectures, interviews, panel discussions and entertainment. The venue is Pavilion 2 at Expo Tel Aviv.

The interviews are in the nature of conversations, and chief news reader Yonit Levi will be featured in conversation with President Reuven Rivlin. Interviewing presidents and former presidents and prime ministers is par for the course for Levi, who has previously interviewed or conversed with Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Dmitry Medvedev and most recently Tony Blair. The truth is that she’s actually much better in English than in Hebrew, but no doubt she will succeed in getting a few wisecracks out of Rivlin, who is known for shooting from the hip.

Aside from all the Keshet news anchors, reporters and commentators, there is a massive lineup of politicians, entertainers, athletes, celebrity chefs, comedians, security chiefs, bereaved parents who have turned their grief into something positive, and people from other walks of life.

Yulia Shamolov Berkovich, who chairs the Second Television and Radio Authority, is unhappy about the fact that conference is going to be broadcast live on Channel 12, and that its journalists are participating in what is clearly a commercial venture. These two factors in her perception constitute a violation of the channel’s mandate.

Also on September 5, the B’Sheva Group of newspapers will host a Settlement Conference at Kedem Banquet Halls. There will be a much larger representation of past and present politicians here than at Keshet, and they will all be from right-wing parties, beginning with Edelstein, Ayelet Shaked, Naftali Bennett, Ze’ev Elkin, Yifat Shasha-Biton, Gideon Sa’ar, Rafi Peretz, Yoav Gallant, Eli Cohen, Nir Barkat, Gila Gamliel, Arye Deri, Miri Regev, Amir Ohana, Tzachi Hanegbi, Yariv Levin, Bezalel Smotrich and Tzipi Hotovely. The conference will be live-streamed.

Somewhat closer to the elections, on September 11, the Maariv branch of The Jerusalem Post Group, will hold a more politically balanced conference that will include leading figures of most political parties, with the exception of the ultra-Orthodox. Former Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick, who ran an unsuccessful race in the last elections, will also be speaking. As with the above-mentioned media outlets, the discussions will be in Hebrew. Entry is free of charge, with advance registration at jpost.com. The venue is the Daniel Hotel, Herzliya.

■ THE EMBASSY of the Russian Federation has released a joint statement by the heads of the Commonwealth of Independent States commemorating those who fell in World War II while fighting against Nazi Germany and its allies and supporters. The statement also commemorates partisans, resistance fighters, victims of the Holocaust and of the plan for the genocide of Eastern Europe and the USSR.

The statement acknowledges that World War II was the greatest tragedy of the 20th century, and notes with regret that attempts are being made to rewrite and distort history and to whitewash Nazism. In its conclusion it advocates the revival of genuine interaction and understanding between countries and nations, with every effort being made to unite the world on the basis of equality, mutual respect and universal democratic values.

Two words missing from the statement are “Jews” and “Jewish.” Even though the president and prime minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky and Volodymyr Groysman, respectively, are both Jewish, neither apparently carries a Jewish chip on his shoulder. If they objected to the omission of any direct reference to the Jews, they obviously failed to speak up. Had they done so, the media would have had a field day.

■ THE GENDER equality debate is getting out of hand. It’s interesting that there’s not a peep out of the Israel Women’s Network with regard to events in local or state government funded venues that are advertised as being for women only, but when it’s a men-only or a separate-seating event, they go to court in an attempt to stop it. Not only do they spoil things for all the potential participants, but they are also interfering with the career of hassidic singer Motty Steinmetz, who has been caught in the eye of the storm.

While some women in ultra-Orthodox circles have broken through the glass ceiling on previous restrictions related to secular education, they are not prepared to change their lifestyle, and some have publicly said that gender segregation is a good thing because it protects women from harassment by males.

As far as Steinmetz, a Vizhnitz Hassid who grew up in Bnei Brak, is concerned, the original hullabaloo about the concert he gave in Afula Park helped him to become known to a wider public. But in Haifa, his concert for men only was canceled.

Members of United Torah Judaism who in their official capacities attend various non-Orthodox functions at which there are scantily clad female singers never walk out or refuse to attend on this basis. They simply look elsewhere and recite Psalms to themselves during the performance. In other words, they leave well enough alone. Surely the Israel Women’s Network can do the same.

The gender equality battle is being waged elsewhere in the world as well. In Germany a nine-year-old girl who wanted to join the famed State and Cathedral Choir, which has been a boys-only choir since its inception in 1465, was rejected. Her irate mother took the matter to court, claiming gender discrimination.

This allegation was denied by the defense, which claimed that if the girl’s voice had fitted the particular sound of the choir, she would have been accepted, but it did not, which was why her application was rejected.

The court ruled in favor of the defense, with the presiding judge declaring that the acoustic pattern of the choir is part of its artistic freedom. The case sparked furious debate in Germany.

In Israel there is no hard and fast rule about gender equality in choirs or bands. While Reform and Conservative synagogue choirs are of mixed gender, Orthodox synagogue choirs are exclusively male. Aside from religiously oriented choirs, there are all-male and all-female choirs, and also mixed choirs such as the famous Givatron.

The Red Army choir includes female dancers but not female singers. Likewise, the Vienna Boys Choir has no female singers.

Kan 11’s Goel Pinto, who is a culture program anchor, was very upset about the German court ruling, which he said placed artistic freedom of expression above the issue of gender equality. Yet there are plenty of all-women bands and choirs around the world whose sound is based on the fact that there are no males in the ensemble. Is anyone screaming about gender equality in these cases? Perhaps if and when the day comes that men can get pregnant, carry the embryo for nine months and give birth to healthy babies, there will be good reason to demand across-the-board gender equality. But till then goody-two-shoes organizations should carefully distinguish between religious and artistic freedoms and traditions and unfair discrimination.

■ MANY MEMBERS of the Rabbinical Council of America have, on retirement, or in some cases well before, moved to Israel. Not all members of the RCA are pulpit rabbis. Although all have received rabbinic ordination, some serve as teachers, and others go into a variety of professions but are also active in religious study circles and in various religious organizations such as the Orthodox Union. Both the RCA and the OU have branches in Israel, through which they cooperate with the Chief Rabbinate and also continue with the activities of the American-headquartered RCA and OU. The members of the RCA and the OU are products of dozens of yeshivot across America, and many serve as rabbis and teachers in 18 countries around the world.

Curiously, the president of the Israel branch of the RCA is not an American, nor did he serve as a pulpit rabbi in America. He is Australian-born Rabbi Raymond Apple, whose rabbinic career began in London, where between 1960 and 1972 he served at the Bayswater and Hampstead synagogues, before returning to Australia to take the position of senior rabbi at the Great Synagogue in Sydney. His wife, Marian Apple, who is originally from England, is probably the only RCA wife whose husband was not part of the RCA in the US or Canada.

Sometimes the wives of RCA members are invited to accompany them to certain RCA events, but in Israel there is no sister group of RCA, and once the spouse of an RCA member becomes a widow, she is no longer invited to any RCA event, unless she happens to be friendly with other RCA wives who take her under their wing.

This apparently bothered Rabbi Reuven Tradburks, RCA Israel director, who is formerly from Canada. He mentioned it to Rabbi Jay Karzen, formerly from Chicago, who mentioned it to his wife, Ruby Ray Karzen, who got together with Sara Gorelik, Pearl Borrow, Leah Bloch, Joyce Tradburks and Rena Quint to organize a luncheon event. Quint, who is well known for her hospitality, and who happens to have the largest apartment, agreed to host a meeting of RCA members’ wives and widows. Her own late husband, Rabbi Emanuel Quint, who was a highly successful lawyer in New York, was known there as Mr. Quint, but in Israel, due to all the teaching that he undertook, he was known as Rabbi Quint. Women who attended had come to Israel as far back as 50 years ago and as recently as seven years ago.

Gaila Greenspan, who had lived in several places with her husband, Rabbi Alan Greenspan, during his service as an army chaplain, had always thought of herself as a Zionist until her husband said: “Let’s go.” She was somewhat nervous, but with hindsight said that the decision that they made in 1989 was the best decision they ever made.

Chana Homnick and her husband, Rabbi Yaakov Homnick, established the first Orthodox synagogue in Oak Park, Michigan, in 1954, and were the only family with a sukkah. Today, Oak Park is bustling with Jewish life, she said. The Homnicks made aliyah 47 years ago, and settled in an apartment in the capital’s Ramat Eshkol neighborhood, where they still reside. Now, all their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren live in Israel. Chana Homnick is the daughter of the late Clara Hammer, the Chicken Lady of Jerusalem, who provided chickens for more than 900 children and their families each week. Chana carries on her mother’s work and is helped by her great-granddaughters Elisheva and Shira.

Borrow, who is a well-known teacher and lecturer, delivered a lesson about Rosh Hashanah, admitting that when it is drawing close she thinks about two things, what she’s going to cook for the Rosh Hashanah meals and what she’s going to wear. New clothes are par for the course on Rosh Hashanah, and Borrow spoke about them literally and metaphorically, drawing in the true spirit of Rosh Hashanah.

Not all the women had previously known each other, but all said they were happy to come together for the luncheon. As far as Karzen was concerned, it was a onetime affair, but Quint noted that each of the women had talents and experiences they could share, and suggested that those who were interested come together again, to see what they could do for the general welfare of others. A musical interlude was provided by Reuven Tradburks and Dr. Richard Lopchinsky.

■ AFTER BARELY 18 months in Israel, Choi Yong-hwan, the ambassador of the Republic of Korea, last week sent an email to friends and acquaintances informing them that this was his last day in Israel before assuming his newly appointed position in Seoul. He did not state what that position is, but took the opportunity to express his deep appreciation for the kind and friendly cooperation extended to him during his term of office in Israel, and his hope that his successor would be as fortunate. Korean ambassadors to this country are all short-term envoys who seldom stay for more than two years, and usually leave after less.

By contrast Ukrainian Ambassador Hennadii Nadolenko, who is dean of the diplomatic corps and the first representative of his country to hold that position in Israel, has been here for more than nine years, during which time he scored several diplomatic coups. It’s not every ambassador who can boast that his president and his prime minister have visited Israel. His former president came three times during Nadolenko’s term here. Nadolenko returned home temporarily, in order to pave the way for the recent visit of Netanyahu. More than that, although he held several important positions with Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel was his first ambassadorial posting. It’s not very common for a first-time ambassador to become dean of the diplomatic corps.

■ BRITISH AMBASSADOR Neil Wigan, whose wife, Yael, is an ex-kibbutznik and whose children are dual nationals, has not ruled out the possibility that his son will serve in the IDF. In a candid interview with Yediot Aharonot’s Sari Makover-belikov, Wigan spoke of how his children can choose whether to attend church or synagogue and whether or not to serve in the IDF. As there are very warm feelings between his family and that of his wife, his children are not confused by being exposed to the cultures of both, but are in fact benefiting.

■ WHILE THE general tendency next week will be to focus on the Nazi invasion of Poland, it should not be overlooked or forgotten that other countries in Europe as well as some in the Middle East suffered German atrocities.

Poland is not the only country in which towns and villages once brimming with Jewish life are now bereft of Jews. The former Czechoslovakia also experienced Jewish demographic amputations, as did other countries in Europe.

In some cases, non-Jewish residents of such places have taken it upon themselves to revive and preserve the memory of Jewish life as it was before the Second World War. One such person is Dr. Jaroslava Patlokova, who together with her family has preserved the memory of the distinguished Jewish community of Boskovice in the Czech Republic. The Jewish community which had flourished there for centuries was sent to its death on March 14, 1942.

Patlokova, who was born after the war and grew up under a totalitarian Communist regime, had no idea that Jews had ever lived in Boskovice. She came upon the information by chance. After the Velvet Revolution she began researching the history of Boskovice Jewry and learned of Chava Morris, née Reich, who is the daughter of the last rabbi of Boskovice. Rabbi Izidor Reich had the good sense to flee to London with his wife and their two daughters immediately after the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia. Morris grew up in England and moved to Israel in the 1950s. She was tracked down by Patlokova, and they have been close friends ever since.

Though sensitive to the pain that Morris would experience if she returned to her prewar childhood home, Patlokova nonetheless invited her to stay with her, and the experience changed Morris’s life.
This year, on the anniversary of the extermination if the Boskovice Jewish community, a memorial evening in honor of the Jews who once lived there was held for the first time in Boskovice.

Now, together with Morris, several descendants of Boskovice families will honor Patlokova at Czech House in the Jerusalem Cinematheque complex on Monday, September 2, at 5 p.m. The event will be attended by representatives of the Jerusalem Municipality as well as other dignitaries, some of whom will engage Patlokova in onstage conversation.

■ LONG BEFORE his syndicated column began appearing in the Post, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach came to wide international attention in 1999 with the publication of his book Kosher Sex. Now his daughter Chana has a store by the same name in Tel Aviv. It’s not your usual sex store, though it is designed to revive intimacy and sex in kosher relationships.

Chana Boteach will be in the audience at the Carlton Hotel’s Esperanto Bar overlooking the Tel Aviv beachfront from 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 28, when TLV Internationals hosts a series of speakers with Shmuley Boteach as the cherry on the cake. The event is free of charge and open only to people aged 18 to 36. ID is required for entry.

■ USUALLY, WHEN an Israeli athlete returns home from an international sporting event with only one medal – and a bronze at that – he or she receives widespread media attention. But for some reason the media overlooked swimmer Ruth Weiner, who came home from the European Masters Games in Turin, Italy, with four gold medals and two others.

The EMG Games are held every four years but, unlike the Olympic Games, are open only to veterans – namely, contestants over the age of 30. Also, unlike the Olympic Games, they are held on odd-number years, meaning that the next EMG Games will be held in 2023.

Weiner is not a full-time athlete. In fact, she’s an emergency room nurse at the Galilee Medical Center, so it’s a miracle that she found time to train for her sporting triumphs.

But even if the media didn’t kvell over her, Dr. Masad Barhoum, the general director of the Galilee Medical Center, certainly did, and said that she is a model nurse in more ways than one, and an example of excellence and perseverance. He wished her success in future competitions.

greerfc@gmail.com


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