(photo credit: DANNY MECHLIS/BGU)
■ THE HAZVI Yisrael congregation in Talbiyehhas many immigrants from English-speaking countries, primarily North America and Britain. But last Saturday, Australians were in the majority. The reason: the bar mitzvah of Jacob Epstein, who was celebrating his entry into manhood at a time when many Australian Jews come to Israel to escape the grueling summer heat of the southernmost continent.
Jacob, who read both the Torah portion and the haftarah with perfect enunciation, proved to be a credit to the Australian Jewish education system. Many complimented him on his prowess, including the congregation’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Yosef Ote.
Jacob is the son of Julie and Mark Epstein, and the grandson of Ruth and Robert Epstein and Carol and Michael Casper.
At the kiddush afterward, Jacob’s parents were busy walking around with glasses and bottles of top-quality whisky, to make sure that everyone had an opportunity to toast the occasion – as well as the new Hebrew calendar month of Shvat.
■ EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE, though recognized in their lifetimes, are for some odd reason even more appreciated and revered after they die. Such was the case with author and peace activist Amos Oz, who was perhaps even more widely admired abroad than in Israel. For more than a week after his death, both the electronic and print media dwelled on aspects of his life and philosophy. At his funeral, a condolence letter from Mahmoud Abbas was read by Oded Kotler.
Many of Oz’s colleagues spoke of their relationship. Perhaps the most heartfelt and sensitive gesture was by Rabbi Benny Lau, who took a small sack of Jerusalem earth with him to Oz’s final resting place at Kibbutz Hulda, believing that to lie in Jerusalem earth would have pleased Oz, even though he was buried so far from the city of his birth, which figured so prominently in his writings.
■ ANOTHER RECENT loss felt keenly was that of world-renowned botanist and horticulturalist Dr. Michael Avishai, who was among the founders of the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, into which he put his heart and soul for more than 50 years.
A Holocaust survivor born in Berlin in 1935, Avishai came to Israel in 1948. After working as a gardener, enrolled at the Hebrew University, where he earned a PhD in plant breeding.
In 1962, he was appointed scientific director of the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, an extension of the Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus. Among his successes were the import and absorption of plants not native to Israeli terrain. Adapting them to Jerusalem soil and climate, he created a botanical united nations.
■ IT’S THE theater season in Jerusalem, with plays, musicals and play readings in English for the benefit of the capital’s English-speaking population. Coming up on Tuesday, January 15, at 1 p.m. Na’amat’s Sophie Udin Club, at Beit Hahavera, 10 Shalom Aleichem Street, is a reading of William Gibson’s play American Primitive, adapted from the voluminous correspondence and diaries of John Adams and his wife, Abigail Smith Adams.
In Philadelphia in 1775, Abigail admonished her husband, thereby helping to create the first of America’s great documents, the Declaration of Independence, with the following words:
“I long to hear that you have declared an independency – and in the new code of laws I desire you would remember the ladies. Be more generous than your ancestors. Do not put such power into the hands of husbands. That your sex is naturally tyrannical admits of no dispute, but if attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no representation.”
The reading will be enacted by Malka Abrahams, Arthur Fischer and Bakol Gellar. The presentation has been arranged by Leah Stoller, former director of Jerusalem English-Speaking Theater.
■ FOR SEVERAL years now, energy and security expert, media maven, author, public speaker and winemaker Aryeh Green has celebrated his birthday by sitting for several hours in a screened-off section of the Tmol Shilshom café with friends dropping in to join him. Last Thursday there were around 10 people at any given time, enabling Green and his wife, Miriam, to converse with each of them and pose for photos, which were later sent to scores of guests via social media.
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