(photo credit: ILAN BESOR)
■ MOST PEOPLE prefer to celebrate their birthdays later rather sooner. Few want to be older than they are. The special tribute concert for Jerusalem-born singer and former deputy mayor Yehoram Gaon was advertised as being in celebration of his 80th birthday, although Gaon won’t turn 80 until December 28. But at that time of the year, it would be impossible to have an outdoor concert in Safra Square.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who attended with his wife Sara, recalled that he first met Gaon while serving in the elite commando unit of the IDF some 50 years ago. The soldiers sat on mattresses in a big hangar and Gaon came to entertain them. Another memorable encounter was when Netanyahu turned 60. His wife had asked him to come home early so that they could celebrate in a restaurant. When they entered, his old army buddies, with Gaon, were waiting to greet him with the hymn of their unit. Netanyahu said that it was one of the most moving occasions in his life. He would love to reciprocate, he added, but he can’t sing like Gaon. He did not wish him the customary 120 years of life, presumably bearing in mind that we live in an era of increasing longevity, and instead wished him the possibility of celebrating his 200th birth while continuing to renew his talent. Netanyahu will turn 70 on October 21, and it will not come as a surprise if Gaon serenades him at his birthday party – especially if Likud does even better in the September 17 elections than it did in April.
■ WIDELY PUBLISHED prizewinning journalist Sam Sokol, who is also a research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, spent five years researching his book Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews: Antisemitism, Propaganda and the Displacement of Ukrainian Jewry. It began during the period that he was Jewish World reporter for The Jerusalem Post, and continued after he left the paper and began freelancing for other publications in Israel and abroad. In the course of collecting material for the book, Sokol made 11 trips to the Ukraine, and spent long, arduous hours transcribing the numerous interviews he conducted during each of those visits. The book will be launched on Monday evening, June 24 at the Jerusalem Press Club in Yemin Moshe where introductory remarks will be made by Dr. Charles Asher Small, director of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, after which Sokol will speak about what prompted him to write the book and why he spent so much time on it.
■ BOTH THE civil and rabbinic courts in Israel have been accused of judicial activism. There are many who see the rabbinical courts as a divisive rather than a uniting factor in Jewish life. Among the more recent examples is the proposal to use DNA testing to help in some cases to determine the Jewishness of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. This idea has met with strong opposition from Israel Beytenu leader MK Avigdor Liberman. The waning popularity of the rabbinical courts is perhaps most evidenced by the increasing number of couples who opt to be married abroad – usually in Cyprus.
Sometimes it is because one of the partners in the union cannot furnish sufficient evidence to convince the rabbis of his or her Jewish identity, even after one or more siblings have been recognized as Jewish, and have had their marriages sanctioned. Sometimes it’s because of displeasure with the Israeli rabbinical authorities. All this and more have led to a conference on “The Rabbinical Courts: Where are they going? Judicial challenges in the State of Israel.” The conference, in memory of Rabbi Shaul Israeli on the 24th anniversary of his passing will be held on June 23 at 2 p.m. at the Eretz Hemda Institute. The opening address on civil courts vs rabbinic courts will be delivered by Rabbi Shlomo Dichovsky, former director of the Rabbinical High Court of Jerusalem.
■ IN THE evening of the same date, lovers of synagogue choral music can hear an interesting lecture by Jonny Greenstein, a member of the Great Synagogue choir, who is a published authority on synagogue music in the English choral tradition. His illustrated lecture on the subject will be delivered to the Israel branch of the Jewish Historical Society of England at its final session for the season at Beit Avi Chai.
■ CONGRATULATIONS ARE in order to Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the Brooklyn-born founding Chief Rabbi of Efrat who this week received a well-deserved and long overdue honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University Jerusalem.
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