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ALTHOUGH HE'S an Orthodox Jew, Nobel Prize laureate Robert Aumann is somewhat unorthodox in his behavior. At a Beit Hanassi reception hosted by President Moshe Katsav in his honor, Aumann stood clutching a tiny pink and white bundle that turned out to be his great granddaughter. Aumann kept hold of the baby even after Katsav and his wife Gila had entered and were making their way to their seats alongside his.
The Katsavs are well-known for their love of children, and Aumann's adorable great granddaughter was just too irresistible. The Katsavs instantly reached out to caress her. When Aumann mounted the podium to speak, he said almost nothing about Game Theory, which was what got him the prize in the first place. Instead, he chose to speak about the Torah portion of the week.
ONE OF the joys of longevity is that it often gives rise to multi-generational families. Case in point: former Canadians Anne and Jack Wolff of Netanya. Anne Korolnek met Jack Wolff when she was 16. It was love at first sight for both of them, but they were too young to wed, so they dated. They continued to date for four years, indulging in countless walks and talks, memorable boat trips and oodles of calorie-filled banana splits. Eventually their love led to the bridal canopy. They were married on the last Friday of January 1936.
Soon after their wedding, the newlyweds moved from Toronto to Chicago, where they began to build their family and their lives. Their three children internalized the religious-Zionist education that they received at home and left the windy city to live in Israel.
In 1976, with children and grandchildren spread out all over the Holy Land, Anne and Jack decided that it was time to make another major move. They settled in Netanya, where they became active and admired members of the community.
Today, despite the tragic loss of their eldest child, Rhoda, and Jack's impaired health, the matriarch and patriarch of the Wolff family continue to be the glue that holds everyone else together. Their home is a magnet that attracts children, grandchildren and a few dozen great grandchildren. All being well, Anne and Jack Wolff will welcome their first great, great grandchild this summer.
Meanwhile, last week, on the last Friday of January 2006, the bride and groom of 1936 invited three generations of descendants and close friends to brunch at the Seasons Hotel. Netanya Mayor Miriam Fierberg sent flowers, Katsav sent greetings, Anne thanked all her guests for coming, and Jack recited the shehechianu prayer to express their gratitude for 70 years of married life and 74 years of ever-growing love and devotion.
NOT YET married are Aliyah Slepkov and Pini Dror, who met in Jerusalem but now live in Los Angeles. The couple came home to celebrate their engagement but is returning to the US for a wedding in Arizona at the residence of relatives of the groom.
The marriage proposal was an offer that Slepkov could hardly refuse. The two were at a football game where spectators could observe close-ups of the action on a big screen. Before the game started, the video camera panned the audience and seemed to deliberately focus on Slepkov, who was embarrassed and unsuccessfully tried to move out of view.
The camera moved in for a super close-up with a caption across the base of the screen reading: "Aliyah, Pini has something he wants to ask you." Dror then removed a box from his pocket, flashed it open and produced an engagement ring. Who said there was nothing romantic about sports?
Both the groom and the bride's parents hail from North America. The prospective groom is the son of Liz and Netanel Dror and the bride-to-be is the daughter of Israel Radio broadcaster Idele Ross and calligrapher Norman Slepkov, who will design the ketuba for the wedding. Some of the guests at the bilingual karaoke engagement party last Saturday night had been at the Ross-Slepkov wedding about 30 years ago.
"Even if years go by without us seeing you or talking to you," said Ross, "you're always in our hearts." Given the fact that some traveled a very long distance to attend, the feeling was mutual.
EXECUTIVE OFFICERS of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) rejected an attempt by a member of the organization to move a motion at AACI's annual general meeting last week calling for the release of Jonathan Pollard, the former naval intelligence analyst who has been incarcerated for the past 20 years for passing classified information to Israel.
Pollard's sentence appears to be much harsher than those of American citizens who have committed treason by conveying classified information to countries not friendly with the US. All efforts to discover the reason for this discrimination or to have him released have failed.
This is not the first time that pro-Pollard activists have tried to raise the issue at AACI, but the apolitical organization consistently refuses to get involved, even though some of its members think that it should.
Like all immigrant organizations, AACI has suffered from acute lack of funding, especially since the Jewish Agency has cut back on its AACI allocations due to its own declining income.
Whereas in the past, donors made funds available to the Jewish Agency for global needs, today they are designating their contributions and are often by-passing the Jewish Agency to supply funds directly to the causes they espouse.
As a result, AACI has to find new ways to raise funds. One of the measures employed was to put AACI's stately building, on Jerusalem's upscale Rehov Pinsker, on the market.
AACI President Evelyn Grossberg reported that "serious negotiations" for the sale of the premises are in process, and if consummated, will generate sufficient profit for the organization to pay off its debts and create a substantial endowment fund, the interest of which will finance AACI operations.
One of the immediate aims, said Grossberg, is to revitalize AACI groups throughout the country and expand AACI activities.
Towards this end, said AACI Executive Director David London, AACI must overhaul, modernize and do everything possible to escape its recurrent financial problems.
The AGM was to have been addressed by Jewish Agency Chairman Zeev Bielski, who was scheduled to speak about the contribution of North American aliya.
But Bielski, who had double booked, preferred to go the sexier Herzliya Conference taking place simultaneously to the AACI's AGM, and gave last minute notification to the organization that he was not coming. Also appearing at the Herzliya Conference was billionaire philanthropist Arkady Gaydamak, who had only a few days earlier given the Jewish Agency $50 million. So to some extent it was also a case of noblesse oblige or money talks...
What annoyed AACI was that Bielski could have told them a week earlier that he couldn't make it, and they would have found another speaker. As it happened, Bielski sent along Jewish Agency Education Department chairman Amos Hermon, who came unprepared and mouthed a few inane platitudes at a level of English that left much to be desired.
But the evening was not a complete wash-out. Stand-up comic David Kalimnick, whose "Aliya Insider" act in which almost all immigrants to Israel can find echoes of their own experiences, prompted smiles, giggles and belly laughs. Kalimnick has the gift of giving a humorous twist to a dire situation, or simply finding something funny in a serious problem.
ATTENDING THE farewell at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem for Konrad Adenauer Foundation representative in Israel Johannes Gerster was Rina Bartal, the President of the Israel Women's Network. After heaping much praise on Gerster's abilities to inspire dialogue and after having heard other speakers hail Gerster's people skills, Bartal turned to his successor Lars Hansel and told him he should not be afraid of stepping into Gerster's shoes.
Bartal had inherited the leadership of the IWN from its founder, Dr. Alice Shalvi, a giant among women, and she had been afraid she would never be able to fill Shalvi's shoes, she said. "So I sewed my own, just as you will sew your own."
Among the speakers prior to Bartal was Asher ben Natan, Israel's first ambassador to Germany, who read a message to Gerster from Shimon Peres, who was otherwise engaged. For Bartal, hearing the message from Peres was like the closing of a circle. The IWN was established in 1984 by a group of English-speaking women who demonstrated outside the King David Hotel on the day that Peres formed a coalition with Yitzhak Shamir because there was not a single woman in the government.
Things have improved slightly since then, observed Bartal. There is a woman Foreign Minister, and three women served as ministers during the last Knesset.
Thanks in large measure to KAF encouragement, said Bartal, over the past nine years, more women have taken their places in government, in the Knesset and in senior positions in government offices. Implying that not all men share Gerster's liberal attitude towards women, Bartal said that behind every successful man is a woman who either tells him what to do or supports him. "Behind every successful woman stands her mother."