Grapevine: No age limit on love

‘Post’ columnist Judy Montagu ties the knot, Shyne campaign wins a PR award, and experts discuss Jewish property restitution.

By
June 8, 2011 22:21
Groom Sheldon Fossaner kisses the bride, the ‘Post

Montagu 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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IT WAS practically a Jerusalem Post wedding at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel this week. The bride was Judy Montagu, a senior columnist for the Post. The officiator was Matthew Wagner, the paper’s editorial writer, who also happens to be an ordained rabbi; the photographer was the paper’s staff photographer, Marc Israel Sellem; and several past and present members of the editorial staff were among the guests.

For the bride, it was the second time around, but for the groom, Sheldon Fossaner, a retired high school teacher from Winnipeg, Canada, who confessed to being 67 years old, it was the first time Cupid’s arrow had hit its target to the extent that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with someone.

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Montagu was born in Scotland and raised in England; the two met in Israel. One of the bride’s oldest friends, Wendy Elliman, who has known the new Mrs. Fossaner for 40 years, said she had never seen her looking happier.

The bride was escorted to the canopy by her brother Leonard Lowy, a London-based lawyer who flew in with his wife and two of their children for the occasion, and her 25-year-old daughter Avital Montagu, whom veterans of the Post remember from when her mother brought her to work as a tiny baby.

Although the groom had several close friends in attendance – in particular the Alon, Jona and Kimche families, each of whom he has known for 30 years – he had only one relative, Ari Eisenberg, who acted as master of ceremonies and also did a masterful job of singing the last of the blessings under the bridal canopy.

Aside from Post people, relatives and personal friends, there was a sizable representation from the Jerusalem Scrabble Club, where the bride spends her Tuesday evenings.

Wagner said how honored he was to have been asked to officiate, and lauded the bride for her elegant prose and her insight into the human condition. He also explained each facet of the wedding ceremony, not only for the sake of the bride and groom, but also for their guests, who basked in the general aura of happiness that radiated in all directions. Wagner also took the trouble, when reading the marriage contract in Aramaic, to translate the most relevant sections into English. Most women, particularly those past middle age, who get married a second time choose not to wear a wedding gown, but Montagu, mindful of the fact that this was Fossaner’s first wedding, wore an ankle-length, highnecked, long-sleeved gown of cream-colored lace, as well as a bridal veil. If only half the good wishes that the constantly smiling couple received come true, they’ll be sitting on cloud nine for quite some time.

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■ ANYONE WHO visited the newly expanded and refurbished World Center of North African Jews in Jerusalem last week would not have believed it would be ready in time for the gala grand opening on Sunday. But it was, and it exceeded expectations. Andalusian music wafted in the background. Waiters and waitresses walked around with trays of North African delicacies, and Chaim Cohen, the chairman of the center, who had spent countless days and nights overseeing the work and the installations, received compliments and joyous embraces from all sides.

The hundreds of guests, largely of Moroccan background, came from Israel and abroad, and although most people were wearing formal or semi-formal attire, the effortless élan of the non-Israelis put a new definition on elegance. However, the person who drew the most attention was visiting Moroccan intellectual Minial Abdelillah, who came in traditional Moroccan garb and had people coming up to him all the time to chat in French. Among the few non-North Africans present was President Shimon Peres, who was pleased to see one of his predecessors in office, friend and former political ally Yitzhak Navon – the country’s fifth president, and the honorary president of the center. Though born in Jerusalem, Navon is of Moroccan descent.

Also present were Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar; Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Attias; former minister Aryeh Deri, who is contemplating a political comeback; Daniel Amar, one of the contributors to the project and the son of David Amar, for whom the center is now named; chairman of the Union of Local Authorities Shlomo Buhbut; Ikke Kedem, a former prominent figure in the Jerusalem Municipality; Miriam Bonfil, the former head of Naamat in Jerusalem; Shula Zaken, who was former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s bureau chief for decades in the various positions he held; MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem; and many other well-known figures.

The ceremony was held in the garden patio; registration was in the lobby of the next-door premises of the King David apartments, which have been under construction for some five or six years. This was the first time the building that overlooks the garden courtyard of the center was open to the public.

Interestingly its publicity brochures were in only one language – French.

■ WHILE PERES was in Rome last week celebrating Republic Day and the 150th anniversary of the reunification of Italy, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who was acting president, joined in the local celebrations at the Ramat Gan residence of Italian Ambassador Luigi Mattiolo. Also among the hundreds of people on the lawn were government ministers Bennie Begin, Gilad Erdan, Orit Noked and Silvan Shalom, who is a neighbor.

However the minister representing the government on this historic occasion was Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar. Mattiolo underscored that Italy was celebrating both its 66th National Day and 150th year of reunification.

Citing various areas of cooperation between Italy and Israel, Mattiolo thanked Sa’ar for making it possible for hundreds of Italian students studying in Israel to do their bagrut (matriculation) exams in Italian. He also noted that Italy was Israel’s best scientific partner in Europe.

Both Mattiolo and Sa’ar mentioned the upcoming government- to-government summit in Rome next week, to be headed by prime ministers Silvio Berlusconi and Binyamin Netanyahu. Mattiolo and Sa’ar also referred to the influence of the Italian resurgence on the birth of the Zionist movement. Sa’ar began his address in halting Italian, struggling valiantly with the pronunciation, but not quite getting there. When he switched to English, it was easier for him, but toward the end, he decided to complete his address in Italian – to the approval of the crowd and cries of “Bravo! Bravo!” ■ TEL AVIV is generally acknowledged as Israel’s communications capital. Channel 10 is in Givatayim, and Educational Television is in Tel Aviv. There are also several radio stations, including Army Radio in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, and the overwhelming majority of advertising and public relations agencies are located in the city.

Yet at the annual Roaring Lion awards, given by the Israel Public Relations Association (ISPRA) for the best PR campaigns, two campaigns launched in Jerusalem won for the best international campaign and the best overall campaign. What made the victory even sweeter for Lone Star Communications, headed by Charley Levine, and for Avital Baer, director of media and public relations at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, was that the awards at Bar-Ilan University’s Wohl Center were announced on the night of Jerusalem Day.

Lone Star collected its award for its campaign on Shyne, the Belize-born rapper who decided to take on the faith of his Jewish grandmother and became a Belz Hassid, and the Israel Academy of Sciences for its campaign on the Dead Sea Deep Drilling Project.

Shyne accompanied Levine on stage for the presentation, and when former Foreign Ministry chief of protocol Itzhak Eldan made the error of referring to Shyne as the son of his estranged father Dean Barrow, the prime minister of Belize, Shyne asserted: “No, I’m the son of Charley Levine. I couldn’t exist without Charley Levine.”

Baer refused to accept the sole credit for the Dead Sea campaign, and named a whole slew of people, including members of the Academy of Sciences, without whom the campaign would have been impossible. She also tried to persuade Itzhak Rabihiya, who owns his own PR agency in Jerusalem but often works with her, and who was involved in the Dead Sea campaign, to join her on stage.

But Rabihiya, believing that Baer deserved her moment of glory unencumbered, remained in his seat.

■ THE OCCASION was also a swan song for ISPRA’s longserving and popular chairwoman Silvia Beit-Halachmy, who is spokeswoman of Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd.

Many of her ISPRA colleagues came to the stage to thank her, to speak highly of her and to try to dissuade her from stepping down.

The first was Ran Rahav, who was in a hurry because he had to run off to the Tshuva wedding in the Ben Shemen Forest. He got there in time to hear Paul Anka, Yitzhak Tshuva’s favorite singer, who had hitched a ride to Israel on the private plane of media mogul Haim Saban.

■ RESTITUTION OF Jewish property in Central Europe has been a contentious issue for almost 60 years, and still remains unresolved. While there have been communities and individuals in different parts of Europe who have been able to either reclaim properties or receive compensation for properties confiscated by the Nazi and later communist regimes, the overwhelming majority have not.

Interest remains high among those still fighting for restitution, as well as among representatives of countries in which claims are being made. Evidence of this interest could be seen last week at Beit Avi Chai in Jerusalem, where The Israel Council on Foreign Relations hosted a panel discussion on the ongoing challenge.

The fact that so many people not only came on time, but came early, spoke volumes. Also sitting in the packed conference hall were representatives of the embassies of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Russia and Serbia.

ICFR Director Laurence Weinbaum acknowledged the presence of the chairman of the (Research) Institute of the World Jewish Congress, retired diplomat Mordechai Palzur, who was the first Israeli diplomat to serve behind the Iron Curtain following the long break in relations after the Six Day War. Palzur was appointed to Warsaw in 1986, and paved the way for the resumption of diplomatic relations not only with Poland, but the whole of Central Europe.

Returning to the looting and confiscating of Jewish-owned property, Weinbaum said it had to be recognized that the Holocaust did not take place in a vacuum. The Germans encouraged looting by locals, he noted, and thus a large number of people benefitted from seizing the homes and personal belongings of Jews.

While R&R to most people stands for rest and recreation, to Prof. Raphael Vago, senior lecturer in Modern East European history at Tel Aviv University, it means Robbery and Restitution. Countless people inhabit Jewish properties, and nobody asks what was there before, he said, adding that there had been a conspiracy of silence during the communist regime, which confirmed that no property was sacred and all property was theft. There were great expectations of a change of attitude with the fall of communism 20 years ago, he recalled, but those anticipations drowned in the well of disappointment.

David Peleg, a former Israeli ambassador to Poland who is now executive director of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, said he saw the matter of restitution as a mission. During the five years he spent as ambassador in Poland, he said, he saw himself not only as the representative of the State of Israel, but of the 3.5 million Polish Jews murdered on Polish soil. Peleg took a lot of flak during the somewhat stormy question-and-answer period, with angry members of the audience accusing the WJRO of accomplishing very little, and blaming the government for failing to take up the issue in a more effective manner.

■ PENN ALUMNI in Israel who want to see some of their old friends or are keen to make new ones among Penn alumni living here, ought make it their business to participate the third Penn Israel Regatta-Ivy League Yacht Race on June 23. This year, eight boats are competing, including a Penn and Wharton boat. All boats will have champagne on board, and sailing will continue until sunset, which will be the latest for this year. No prior yachting experience is required, as each yacht will have a professional skipper.

For those who want a more leisurely sunset cruise, there is limited space on an observer boat with hammock- style deck in the front, living room seating in the cabin and back deck. Spouses and significant others are also invited. Following the regatta there will be a gala kosher dinner at the Sa Gal Yachting Club at the south end of the Herzliya Marina. Reservations should be made with Carmel Gerber (carmelg@gmail.com) or Yarom Arad (aromarad@gmail.com). Further information is available from Alexandra Levite (AlexLevite@gmail.com) or on the Penn site, www.pennclubofisrael.ning.com.

■ TRAVELERS WHO make a point of visiting sites of Jewish interest when they vacation abroad can now add the Jewish Museum of Moscow to places they should see. The museum, which opened only three weeks ago, is a private venture and was founded by Sergei Ustinov, the vice president of the Russian Jewish Congress.

Exhibits in the museum cover a 200-year period of history, from the late 18th century onward. Entry is free of charge because Ustinov wants as many people as possible to see this documentation of Russian Jewish life. Among the Israelis who have already seen it is Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who was in Moscow at the time of the opening.

Escorted by Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar, Yishai visited several religious institutions to see for himself the miracle of resurgent Jewish life in Moscow. The credit goes largely to the efforts of Chabad, which, despite the dangers involved, continued to operate under the communist yoke and to conduct clandestine classes for those Jews hungry for knowledge. Much of Chabad’s work in Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union is supported by Israeli business tycoon Lev Leviev.

■ BANK HAPOALIM chairman Yair Seroussi is currently in mourning for his father, Rephael Seroussi, who passed away this week. Last week, before the tragedy befell his family, Seroussi, at a hi-tech conference at Jerusalem’s International Conference Center, hosted Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon and his Indian counterpart Schri Sachin Pilot who also carries the Information Technology portfolio.

Seroussi introduced his Indian guest to the new technologies employed by Bank Hapoalim.

■ THE LATE Sammy Ofer was not the only billionaire to adopt a unit of the Israel Navy and to help young navy personnel in their studies and their careers. Stef Wertheimer, one of the pioneers of the country’s industrial zones, has also got a soft spot for the navy: He is the chief sponsor of its new Tzur Yam School of Technology in Haifa, which, following a successful three-year pilot project, has been recognized as an official educational institution.

The school currently has 100 students, eight of them women. Next year’s intake will be in excess of 120 students.

Speaking at the inauguration of the school’s new building, Wertheimer emphasized the growing need for top-grade professionals in all spheres of industry. When there’s a deficit in human resources, he said, it forces industrial enterprises to outsource their production abroad, and this can severely harm Israel’s economy and make it reliant on the manpower of other countries. In the long run, this could also result in the transfer of Israeli industrial concerns to countries where they can best be serviced. To prevent both these things from happening, he said, he had dreamed up a naval school of technology.

V.-Adm. Ran Ben-Yehuda, deputy commander of the navy, thanked Wertheimer for his initiative and his cooperation.

Last week, Wertheimer received the University of Haifa’s Outstanding Leadership Award at the 39th meeting of the university’s board of governors in recognition of his longstanding contribution to the economy, society and security of the State of Israel.

greerfc@gmail.com

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