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HE DIDN'T come with a promise of funding, but Science, Culture and Sports Minister Ophir Pines-Paz nonetheless gladdened the heart of Leonid Nevzlin, newly elected chairman of the international board of governors of Beth Hatefutsoth. At the gala event marking the launch of the multi-million dollar renewal project of the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora (which has been incorporated in The World Center for Jewish Peoplehood), Pines-Paz announced that completion of the project would be celebrated within the framework of events marking Israel's 60th anniversary.
Nevzlin, who made an emotional speech about his Jewish roots, had another reason to rejoice. He was about to return to his seat when Shlomo Lahat, chairman of the board of directors of Beth Hatefutsoth, summoned him back to the stage to receive a gift from the hands of Tel Aviv Rabbi Avi Zarki, who specializes in making prayer shawls. In presenting the shawl (tallit) to Nevzlin, Zarki said he had thought carefully about what to give him and wanted to give something that had been a symbol of the Jewish people since the days of Abraham.
Zarki raised his hat, removed a kippa from his head and placed it on Nevzlin's so that together they could recite the Sheheheyanu blessing of thanksgiving for living to experience something new. Nevzlin made no effort to remove the kippa afterwards, but Jewish Agency chairman Zev Bielski, who obviously preferred him with a bare head, removed it for him and returned it to Zarki.
NEVZLIN SAID how pleased he had been to have the opportunity to meet the late, dynamic Andrea Bronfman, with whom he was able to share so many ideas before her tragic accident. Passionately involved with the Diaspora Museum during her lifetime, Bronfman was posthumously named a Fellow of Beth Hatefutsoth, and a citation attesting to this was presented to her husband, philanthropist Charles Bronfman, who was so choked up that beyond the obligatory sentence of acceptance, he was unable to talk, and even then had difficulty in getting the words out. He was so overcome that he left the stage and the building immediately after the ceremony.
IT'S NO secret that Likud Knesset member and former government minister Natan Sharansky is an avid chess player. In fact, he frequently plays exhibition games in various parts of the country, and did so again this week in Jerusalem. In various interviews over the years, Sharansky has attributed his ability to remain sane during his long years of incarceration in Siberia to the chess games he played in his head. Even now, no matter how busy he might be, Sharansky always finds time to sit down at the chess board - even when he's traveling. When he's in Washington he makes a point of playing chess with Charles Krauthammer, whose syndicated column appears in The Jerusalem Post.
HIS BUSINESS and philanthropic achievements are so many, so varied and so widespread that it's hard to believe that diamond, real estate, shopping mall and tourism tycoon Lev Leviev, father of nine and a grandfather several times over, is not yet 50. But he will be marking his half century at the end of July and is planning a huge celebration in August. The event will bring together members of Israel's business community, prominent representatives of the Bukharan and Russian communities - and of course, a large contingent of Chabad, whose projects Leviev supports in many parts of the world, especially the former Soviet Union.
ON A nostalgic journey to Poland to his home town of Bilgoraj (once also home to Nobel Prize laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer) and to Cracow to perform the works of Mordechai Gebirtig in the city in which the prolific Yiddish poet and songwriter lived, wrote and was murdered by the Nazis on July 4, 1942, Yiddishpiel founder Shmuel Atzmon was amazed at the enthusiasm of Polish youth for Yiddish theater.
Atzmon lamented the absence of similar excitement among Israeli youth. While participating in the Cracow Jewish Festival, in which most of the performers and audiences are not Jewish, Atzmon asked a young man from Lublin who had been performing a Jewish work what it was that attracted him to Jewish theater. The young actor, according to Atzmon, was insulted by the question. "How could I not be attracted after centuries of symbiosis between Poles and Jews?" he replied. "This isn't just your culture. It's also my culture."
JEWISH EDUCATION - it was widely agreed at the Zionist Congress, the Jewish Agency Assembly and at meetings between various Jewish community leaders and the Israeli leadership - is the panacea for Jewish illiteracy and assimilation.
Strangely enough, the best Jewish Day School in the world, according to President Moshe Katsav, is in Bulgaria, which has a relatively small Jewish population. Katsav cited the high standards of day school in Sofia at the opening of the Jewish Agency Assembly. He then waxed even more enthusiastic to a delegation of religious and lay leaders of the Jewish communities of Eastern and Central Europe headed by Moshe Kantor, president of the Russian Jewish Congress.
Arie Zuckerman, director general of the European Jewish Fund (EJF), which is also headed by Kantor, told The Jerusalem Post that because film clubs are so popular in Europe, the EJF is setting up Jewish clubs that will encourage young Jewish filmmakers to make movies on Jewish themes and present films of Jewish content to cinema aficionados.
NO ONE AT Emunah's Jerusalem-based Family Center had told World Emunah President Naomi Leibler that she would be among the recipients of special citations at an important event the center is hosting in mid-July. Organizers merely mentioned the event and presented her with an invitation; her name jumped out at her when she read the text. The Emunah Family Center aims to prevent domestic violence by offering counseling in marital and family conflicts, anger management, parenting challenges, communication problems, anxiety and depression and trauma recovery.