The Dershowitz dynasty

The Dershowitz dynasty

December 25, 2009 11:01


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SOME 250 members of the Israeli branch of the greater Dershowitz family got together on the seventh night of Hanukka at the Kalati Hall in Ramot Eshkol for a series of celebrations. Absent from the festivities was the clan's most celebrated member, Prof. Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard Law School professor, who has a home in Jerusalem but was unable to attend due to prior commitments. Only one couple from the US, Allen and Chani Dershowitz of Lakewood, came in from abroad for the occasion. Other American members of the tribe sent their children who are studying in Israel to represent them. Joining their Jerusalem parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins were Dershowitz offspring from Tel Aviv, Ra'anana, Bnei Brak, Sderot, Safed, Kiryat Malachi, Telz-Stone, Beit Shemesh, Beit El and elsewhere. The gathering marked a series of milestone anniversaries: 60 years since the first member of the family, Rabbi Yitzhak Dershowitz, made aliya. It was the 40th anniversary of the aliya of Rabbi Prof. Zecharia (Dershowitz) Dor-Shav and family of Jerusalem. And it was the 120th anniversary of the immigration to the United States of the Zacharja and Lena Derschowitz family from Pilzno, Poland (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). The family can trace its history only as far back as the 1840s, when Yechezkiel and Chana Rivka, parents of Zacharja and his seven siblings, were born. Five of Yechezkiel's children immigrated to America some time between the 1880s-1890s. Zacharja and Lena and their seven children took an active part in establishing institutions that became the backbone of the growing Jewish presence in the United States. Among the most prominent institutions were Torah V'daath Yeshiva, Henry Street Settlement House and the Palestine Aid Society. The oldest members of the family present at the Jerusalem reunion were Zacharia Dor-Shav and Shimon Bakon of Jerusalem, who are fourth generation descendants of Yechezkiel and Chana Rivka. Members of the next four generations of the family, including one-month-old Adina Miller of Telz-Stone whose mother is Brachi Steinberg-Fendel-Dershowitz-Miller, also helped to fill the hall. In terms of religious identification, the family runs the gamut from haredi to secular. They engage in a large range of professions, and many of them are also writers. Among the most prolific are Prof. Alan Dershowitz, Rabbi Zecharia (Dershowitz) Fendel, Prof. Nachum Dershowitz, Dr. Shimon Bakon, Lili (Dershowitz) Eylon and Dr. Avi Shmidman. Some of their books and other publications were on display at the event. WHEN TRAGEDY struck 19-year-old bridegroom Hanan Sand on the night before his wedding six years ago, he was so grief stricken that relatives feared he would never recover from the shock. His bride, Naava Applebaum, and her father, Dr. David Applebaum, who had gone out for a father-daughter chat to Cafe Hillel on Emek Refaim, were killed by a suicide bomber. Naava's family subsequently had her wedding gown fashioned into a curtain for the ark at Rachel's Tomb, where many childless women go to pray. It was generally thought that because Sand was so young, time would heal his pain. But there had been such a strong bond between him and Naava that it took several years for him to even contemplate marrying anyone else. However, as an Orthodox young man, he realized that he had to get married and start a family. Last Saturday night he celebrated his engagement to Pnina Assis of Efrat in the presence of hundreds of guests, who included representatives of the Applebaum family. HOT ON the heels of Israel's pride in Nobel Prize laureate Jerusalem-born Prof. Ada Yonath comes pride in another scientist, Dr. Tommy Kaplan, a PhD graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who is one of four young scientists in the world to be awarded the GE & Science Prize for Young Life Scientists. Kaplan won the prize for his essay "From DNA Sequence to Chromatin Dynamics: Computational Analysis of Transcriptional Regulation." The prize was created to recognize and reward outstanding PhD graduate students from around the world in their work in molecular biology. Initiated by GE Healthcare and Science/the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the prize seeks to foster visionary thought and research by supporting scientists at the beginning of their careers. Kaplan won the prize in the regional category of "all other countries." The other winners were from the US, Germany and Japan. Kaplan not only received his degree at the Hebrew University but has also been involved in teaching the combined BSc/MSc program in computer science and life sciences at the Hebrew University. He is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California. Married and the father of two sons, Kaplan plans to return to Israel to open a lab in computational biology, preferably in Jerusalem, where he grew up. IT APPEARS that some philanthropic foundations weathered the economic crisis and are still in a position to give generously. Among these is the Mandel Foundation headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, with a branch office in Jerusalem. The Mandel Foundation has made a $12 million grant to the Israel Museum earmarked for the renewal and enhancement of the wing for Jewish art and culture. The wing will be renamed the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Wing. While every contribution to the museum's $100 million renewal project is significant, this one is particularly so because the Mandel Foundation, which is a long-time contributor to the Hebrew University, does not consider requests for grants or scholarships and supports only those programs that are established at its own initiative. Last month the Israel Museum announced the establishment of the Shpilman International Prize for Excellence in Photography, made possible by a $1 million endowment by the Shpilman Art and Culture Foundation. The biennial prize of $45,000, to be awarded for the first time in the summer of 2010, will be one of the highlights of the reopening of the whole museum. Several wings were closed during reconstruction. The renewal countdown is just over 200 days. The Shpilman Foundation is headed by Tel Aviv-based businessman and philanthropist Shalom Shpilman. AFTER YEARS of frustration in its attempts to obtain permission to construct an elevator in its building, the committee of the Hanassi synagogue in Rehavia finally got approval and found its way out of the bureaucratic morass. Work on the project began last Sunday. The congregation's president Moshe Loshinsky, who is a former city engineer of New York and also worked for the Jerusalem Municipality and knows a thing or two about elevators, was probably more frustrated than other congregants because as a professional, he was aware of the bureaucratic red tape. The elevator is not a luxury but a necessity, as many of the congregants have reached an advanced age and find it difficult to climb the stairs. Rather than allow its attendance to dwindle for this reason, the congregation at its annual general meeting voted in favor of the project, despite the cost which is well in excess of $100,000. The elevator will accommodate eight people at a time and will enable wheelchair access to the men's and women's sections. The AGM voted to use the accumulated synagogue funds to pay for the elevator so that members would not have to dig into their pockets. This will drastically deplete the synagogue's funds. Realizing the seriousness of this, one of the leading members announced that he would donate $25,000 on a matching basis. In other words, every donation by someone else will be matched by him until he completes his $25,000 pledge. ISRAEL'S AMBASSADOR to the United Nations Dr. Gabriela Shalev, whose term concludes in October 2010, will return home to join in the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Hebrew University's Law Faculty on December 29. Shalev, a professor of law, is a graduate of the Hebrew University Law School and a former faculty member. Among the other participants will be former Supreme Court president Prof. Aharon Barak and professor emeritus Ruth Lapidot, who is an expert on international law, the marine law, human rights and the Israeli-Arab conflict. In addition to a global career as an academic, she has also served as a diplomat. She was a member of the Israel delegation to the United Nations, she participated in the peace negotiations with Egypt, and she spent several years as legal advisor to the Foreign Ministry. She has won numerous prizes for her contributions to academic research. It is fortunate for Israel that when considering her career options, she chose law over the piano - she is an accomplished musician.

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