Grapevine: Scotland the brave

Of all the immigrant groups in Israel, one doesn’t hear too much about the Scots, although there are quite a few of them in the country.

BELEV ECHAD founder Rabbi Uriel Vigler (left) and Belev Echad Gala Dinner chairman Gabriel Plotkin. (photo credit: FAY GOLDSTEIN)
BELEV ECHAD founder Rabbi Uriel Vigler (left) and Belev Echad Gala Dinner chairman Gabriel Plotkin.
(photo credit: FAY GOLDSTEIN)
Of all the immigrant groups in Israel, one doesn’t hear too much about the Scots, although there are quite a few of them in the country, who generally make their presence felt only when they open their mouths to speak.
Prominent in Israel’s Scots community is Dr. Kenneth Collins, who for more than 30 years was a general medical practitioner in Glasgow, and served twice as chairman of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities and as president of the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council. He chairs the Scottish Jewish Archives Center and was a member of the British Chief Rabbinate Trust for 10 years.
He has written extensively on Jewish medical history and medical ethics and published several books on Jewish medical history in Scotland as well as papers on aspects of Maimonidean medicine. He is editor of Vesalius, the journal of the International Society for the History of Medicine.
He has been living in Israel since 2009 and is currently a visiting professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. From time to time he returns to Glasgow. Three years ago he published a book abut Jewish Glasgow, and now he’s brought out a more comprehensive volume, The Jewish Experience in Scotland: From Immigration to Integration. Based on new demographic and genealogical studies, the book tells the story of Scotland’s Jews and describes the influence that Scotland had on its Jews and the influence the Jews had on Scotland’s arts, culture, professions and business.
The book will be launched at Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv on Sunday evening, December 18. Collins will also make an illustrated presentation.
The event will chaired by former Ambassador to the UN (Geneva) and the Vatican, Glasgow-born Dr. Neville Lamdan. On view will be a new exhibition on Scotland’s Jews that complements the book.
■ SOME 400 New Yorkers gathered last Sunday at Capitale for the Belev Echad Gala Dinner to honor 11 IDF soldiers and veterans who were wounded in Operation Protective Edge and terrorist attacks.
The gala was part of a 10-day tour of New York City for the Israeli combatants organized and paid for by Belev Echad, which was founded by Rabbi Uriel Vigler and a host of supporters from the New York area. Belev Echad exists to show the Jewish people’s gratitude to IDF soldiers and veterans for putting their lives on the line to protect and defend the Jewish state.
During their visit to New York, the Israelis saw New York landmarks including Times Square and the Statue of Liberty, visited the 9/11 Memorial, and got an aerial view of the city from the seats of a private Cessna aircraft.
“These brave IDF soldiers have risked – and nearly lost – their lives to protect the people and the sacred Land of Israel,” said Vigler. “The New York community is immensely grateful for the commitment and sacrifices they have made. It has been my pleasure to introduce these heroes to our supporters, and to help them realize just how much we appreciate their service.”
The gala, chaired by Gabriel Plotkin and Yaara Bank-Plotkin, also honored Jonathan and Jennifer Harris and Eli and Yael Weiss for their leadership in supporting Israel and its brave soldiers.
“Belev Echad is an incredible project because it deepens the bonds between the American Jewish community and Israelis – living in Israel and here in the US – through their support for wounded IDF soldiers,” said Shimon Shkury, a Belev Echad supporter and founder and president of Ariel Property Advisors. “As an Israeli American, I feel that it is our responsibility to strengthen our ties with Israel and to support the Jewish homeland in any way we can. There is no better way to support Israel than by investing in the well-being of its soldiers and veterans.”
■ IN APRIL of this year, Sam Grundwerg, after six years as the director-general of the Israeli branch of the World Jewish Congress, was appointed as Israel’s consul-general in Los Angeles. Not long afterward Grundwerg was off to America’s West Coast, and Laurence Weinbaum, director of the WJC’s Israel Council on Foreign Relations and chief editor of the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, was appointed as interim director- general of the WJC’s Israeli branch, while the organization’s headhunters looked for a suitable candidate to take the position on a permanent basis. When the powers that be at the WJC saw that the extra workload had not caused Weinbaum to have a nervous breakdown, they decided to stop looking for a replacement for Grundberg and removed the word “interim” from Weinbaum’s title.
Weinbaum is a graduate of the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University in Washington, DC (where he was an assistant of the late Prof. Jan Karski). He earned his PhD in history from Warsaw University and during his doctoral studies was the recipient of Fulbright, IREX and Kosciuszko Foundation scholarships.
■ THE EMET Award is Israel’s version of the Nobel Prize, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week when attending the awards ceremony in Jerusalem. Laureates included author A.B. Yehoshua, who is celebrating his 80th birthday, and who, with Ronit Matalon, received the award in the culture and art: Hebrew literature and poetry category; professors David Kazhdan and Joseph Bernstein in exact sciences; Holocaust historian and philosopher Prof. Yehuda Bauer in humanities and Holocaust research; Prof. Haim Sompolinsky in brain research; and professors Zahava Solomon and Rami Benbenishty in social sciences and social work.
Netanyahu said that as a result of what Israel does in technology and in fighting terrorism, world leaders with whom he meets tell him that Israel has incredible capabilities and that they want to have a share in that. Among Israel’s admirers who want to share in her know-how are the leaders of Russia, China, Japan and India, as well as African states, Latin America and countries from both Eastern and Western Europe . Above all, said Netanyahu, Israel enjoys the support of the America public, support that increases all the time. This is all due to Israeli genius and world understanding that Israel is a country dedicated to progress, he said.
■ ONE OF the most colorful and influential rabbis in Jewish outreach circles was Rabbi Mordechai Goldstein, the founder and dean of the Diaspora Yeshiva on Mount Zion. Goldstein, who for some years suffered from a debilitating illness and was confined to a wheelchair, died at the beginning of this month at the age of 82.
A friend and colleague of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, widely known as the singing rabbi, Goldstein, too, used music as a means of attracting unaffiliated Jews and somehow giving them a sense of commitment.
Following the Six Day War, he moved the yeshiva, which he founded in 1965, from west Jerusalem to Mount Zion, where it is to this day. Like Carlebach, he attracted hippies and people who could be described as being off the wall, and didn’t try to persuade them to give up these traits but simply to add Jewish learning to their lifestyles. Some of his followers, 50 years down the line, still look like hippies, but are observant Jews who know how to study a page of Talmud or how to quote biblical verses off the tops of their heads.
Others changed their appearance and look like disciples of a hassidic rabbi. But even in their black hassidic gear, they can still play Woodstock melodies, rock, bluegrass, Carlebach or classics.
In fact, the Diaspora Yeshiva Band has quite a reputation. Many of the yeshiva students were trained professional musicians. One of the early musicians of the Diaspora Yeshiva who continues to play Carlebach at every opportunity is Ben Zion Solomon.
■ CONSIDERING THAT the author is an Orthodox rabbi and the chief rabbi emeritus of the Great Synagogue in Sydney, Australia, the title of the book New Testament People: A Rabbi’s Notes all but defies credibility.
The rabbi in question is Rabbi Raymond Apple, who for the past decade, since his retirement from the pulpit, has lived in Jerusalem.
Born in Melbourne, where he received bachelor of arts and bachelor of law degrees, Apple continued his studies in England, where he received a rabbinical diploma from Jews’ College and was spiritual leader to congregations in Bayswater and Hampstead from 1960-72, after which he returned to Australia to take up his position at the Great Synagogue, where he served for more than three decades, during which time he was also a judge in the rabbinical court, and for 15 years a senior rabbi to the Australian Defense Force.
With a lifelong interest in interfaith dialogue, he has been the president and chairman of the Australian Council of Christians and Jews, and has also been in the forefront of dialogue with Islam.
He is presently back on his old turf, to launch the book this week in both Sydney and Melbourne, with both launches organized as interfaith events.