Grapevine: Prince of a rabbi

Different faiths have different customs regarding worship, and Jerusalem, the cradle of the three great monotheistic faiths, is the ideal place for an exhibition of “Faces in Prayer.”

November 16, 2017 13:31
3 minute read.
Mswati III, the king of Swaziland

Mswati III, the king of Swaziland. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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 WHAT IS the protocol for addressing African royalty that in addition to having the title of Prince also has the title of Rabbi? To those who think the combination is far-fetched, save the date, Tuesday, November 21, at 7.45 p.m. to meet Rabbi Natan Gamedze, the grandson of the last King of Swaziland – who is not only an ordained haredi rabbi, but also a gifted polyglot fluent in 14 languages.

An Oxford honors graduate, who earned his master’s degree at the University of Witwatersrand, he decided while studying there to include Hebrew in his course of foreign languages. This led to an interest in Jewish texts, which led to an introduction to Prof. Moshe Sharon of the Hebrew University, who invited him to come to Jerusalem to study for a doctorate in the Hebrew language. While in Israel, he also studied at Ohr Sameach Yeshiva, which specializes in teaching would-be converts and secular students who choose to become religiously observant. He converted to Judaism in 1991, stayed at Ohr Sameach for another four years, then moved on to Brisk Yeshiva where he studied Talmud and was subsequently ordained.
While still at Brisk, he met his wife, Shayne Golda Gordon, a native of New York who had studied at Neve Yerushalayim. For the first two years of their marriage, they lived in Beitar Illit, and later moved to Jerusalem where they lived for some time with their two children. The family now lives in Safed where Gamedze teaches.

He will tell his story at the invitation of the Jerusalem Committee of Telfed, the South African Zionist Federation, World Mizrachi and the WITS Israel Alumni.

The venue is the World Mizrachi Center, (adjacent to the Jerusalem Great Synagogue), 54 King George Avenue.

DIFFERENT FAITHS have different customs regarding worship, and Jerusalem, the cradle of the three great monotheistic faiths, is the ideal place for an exhibition of “Faces in Prayer” by Austrian artist Katharina Heigl. The exhibition under the title of “Faces in Prayer,” is on view at the Austrian Hospice in the Old City, and will remain on display until January 31, 2018. Curated by Andrea Krogmann, it captures the faces of people of different religions in prayer.

SOMEONE’S ARITHMETIC has gone slightly awry. In February 2008, Rabbi Avigdor Burstein, the director of the Beit Shemesh Education center and spiritual leader of the Hazvi Yisrael Congregation in Talbiyeh, was feted at a gala dinner at the Leonardo Plaza on the occasion of his 60th birthday, and scholarships were established in his name. Now he is being feted in December 2017 on the occasion of his 70th birthday, and the question that begs for an answer is: was the 60th birthday celebration too late or is the 70th birthday celebration too early? 

The long-time rabbi at Hazvi Yisrael, Burstein is retiring and will soon be succeeded by American-born Rabbi Yosef Ote, who was raised and educated in Israel. A pupil of the late Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, he studied at Yeshivat Har Etzion (1995-2003) and received his rabbinical ordination from Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. He has a BA in Judaic studies and a master’s degree in science, Jewish law and education from BarIlan University, and served as a combat unit commander in the Givati Brigade of the IDF. He holds a number of educational positions.

He and his wife, Atira, and their five children live in Pisgat Ze’ev.

The original invitation sent out last month for the 70th birthday dinner, which will again be held at the Leonardo Plaza, listed a cover charge of NIS 1,500 per couple. This apparently didn’t go over too well and a revised invitation sent out a few days later listed the charge as NIS 1,000 per couple.

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