THE SLOGAN for Interflora is “Say it with flowers,” but local choirs have
discovered that you can influence people and win even more friends with music.
After the success in England of Ramatayim choir, and that in Poland of the
Jerusalem Great Synagogue Choir, comes the success in Romania of the Jerusalem
Cantors Choir, under the musical direction of Cantor Binyamin Glickman, and
managed by Yair Plesser. Singing their way through the Jewish communities of
Bucharest, Brashov and Oradea, they performed to full houses in the great
synagogues of Bucharest and Brashov, and in the Philharmonia Hall of Oradea.
There were also television appearances in each city, including interviews and
filming of the concerts.
The Bucharest concert, in the presence of Chief
Rabbi Sorin Shlomo Rosen, was hosted by the new community president Erwin
In Brashov, the second largest city in Romania, the choir was
hosted by influential Jewish community president Tibi Roth, who is Romania’s
representative to the World Jewish Congress.
Among the highlights of the
tour was the Shabbat service and a concert on the following day in Oradea, where
Rabbi Asher Ehrenfeld of Debrecen, Hungary, came to celebrate the jubilee of his
bar mitzva in the same synagogue where he had read his Torah portion 50 years
earlier. It was an emotional occasion for everyone present. Ehrenfeld had hosted
the choir in Debrecen in 2008.
On the return flight, a group of Israeli
senior citizens of Romanian origin, who had been at the concert in Oradea,
excitedly surrounded Glickman, and told him how meaningful it had been for them
to hear Israeli songs and to join in singing “Hatikva” in the very place from
which Jews were sent to the death camps some 65 years previously.
Jerusalem Cantors Choir has been in existence for almost 40 years, and has
recorded 14 CDs and DVDs of concerts with many of the most famous cantors in the
world. Among its 30 members from Jerusalem and the surrounding area is renowned
physicist Prof. Joseph Bodenheimer, president emeritus of the Jerusalem College
of Technology. After completing his 16 years of tenure last year, Bodenheimer
discovered that there is life after academia and returned to the choir where he
had last sung 20 years earlier. The choir’s piano accompanist is Rita Feldman, a
Russian immigrant who arrived 20 years ago, not knowing a word of Hebrew.
Glickman gave Feldman her first job here.
■ THERE WERE certain changes at
this year’s Bastille Day festivities hosted in his Jaffa residence by French
Ambassador Christophe Bigot and his wife Valerie. Perhaps because of economic
constraints, the menu was mainly fruit and cheeses. There were rumbles of
dissatisfaction among guests who’ve been regulars at French receptions and were
disappointed by the absence of meat platters, but what really took the cake was
the ransacking of the kosher section.
Presumably to ensure, admirably,
that there would be no infringements on Jewish dietary law, the kosher section
was set up in advance of the other buffet bars. So early comers, even though
they had been given a diagram of the layout where the word Cacher appeared in
large letters in the center, nonetheless swooped on the goodwill gesture to the
Jewish religiously observant, as a result of which many of the people for whom
these refreshments were specifically intended, missed out.
was that instead of speaking from the center of the garden patio as was always
the case in the past, Bigot and President Shimon Peres spoke from a stage
erected at the far end of the garden, and had to push their way through hordes
of people to get there. There was also live music with a live singer, which was
a pleasant change; what remained constant was the humidity.
applause of the crowd, Bigot launched into his address in Hebrew, which of
course caused Peres to begin his in French.
However it didn’t take too
long for Bigot to switch to French.
Invoking the Bastille Day slogan of
liberty, equality and fraternity, Bigot said that the French Revolution was a
key factor in contributing to the emancipation of the Jews in Europe. There was
mention of the peace process and the sanctions against Iran and, as always, the
declaration of France’s solidarity with Gilad Schalit, who is also a French
Bigot said that President Nicolas Sarkozy is in constant contact
with Noam Schalit, the father of the abducted soldier.
Peres, who is a
known Francophile, thanked the French for supporting Israel in the most
difficult of times and helping it to conquer its enemies. He also lauded Sarkozy
for his clearly stated position on Iran and praised the work that France is
doing in its efforts to contribute to comprehensive Middle East peace. Peres
cited the hospital the French are constructing in Gaza, and a hitech center in
Jericho as examples of the French contribution. “So long as things getter better
for the Palestinians, they’ll get better for everyone else,” he
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did not attend, but telephoned
Bigot to offer his congratulations.
■ MEMBERS OF the Piotrokov
Landsmanschaft gathered at the elegant Mishan retirement village in Afeka (where
one of them is employed) to celebrate the 83rd birthday of twin brothers
Yeshayahu (Shaya) and Yoel Brandwein, who survived Auschwitz and Mathausen and
now live in Tel Aviv. The amiable twins, along with many of those present,
including second- and third-generation Holocaust survivors, were in Piotrokov in
June for a Shabbaton, a series of remembrance ceremonies, a tour of the town and
an attempt to find additional documentary evidence of family roots. For most of
the time, the twins and Dina Shultz-Horowitz, their friend from school days,
kept telling jokes or exchanging childhood reminiscences and laughing
uproariously. Thus when Netanel Yechieli, who had led the tour to Poland, was
considering an appropriate birthday gift, he gave each brother a copy of the
book If Not for Humor, We Would Have Committed Suicide by Dr. Chaya Ostower. The
book is based on her PhD thesis “Humor as a defense mechanism in the Holocaust.”
The twins said it was a perfect choice.
Recalling the recent trip to
Poland, they related that at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, they
were approached by a young woman who asked if they were from Piotrokov. When
they nodded assent, she asked if they remembered a certain girl. They did. The
young woman didn’t waste time. The person she had mentioned was her
She immediately called her on her cellphone.
was an emotional conversation between the woman and the twins.
what hotel they were staying at.
They told her, and 20 minutes later
there was an even more emotional reunion.
Together with Shultz-Horowitz,
they talked late into the night.
Uri Schwartz of Jerusalem coincidentally
met a non-Jew who asked if he knew Jews from Piotrokov. When Schwartz replied in
the affirmative, the man talked about a boy who had been in his class at
The boy turned out to be Schwartz’s father, who lives in
■ FOR YEARS Netanel Yechieli’s father Yeshayahu Yechieli of Alon
Shvut had no idea where the great grandfather for him he is named was buried.
Then a few years back, he discovered that he is buried in the Jewish cemetery in
Warsaw. Yechieli, who has led youth groups to Poland, visited the cemetery on
several occasions but couldn’t find the grave. This time luck was with him, and
even though the area was heavily overgrown with weeds, he finally succeeded in
his quest. It was the first time since 1938, that a member of the family had
visited the grave and recited psalms.
Yechieli, who has strong roots in
Piotrokov, was also proud of the fact that this was where the study of the Daf
Yomi was introduced in 1934 by Rabbi Meir Shapiro. What was floated as a trial
balloon to bring Jews together for a common purpose now has tens of thousands of
adherents around the world, he said, recalling that at the airport in Warsaw
while waiting to board the plane back to Israel, he had studied a Daf Yomi with
the Brandwein twins.
■ THOUGH IT defies the imagination, not all those
responsible for saving or hiding Jews during the Holocaust years have been
recognized. There are probably thousands of people who deserve the title of
Righteous among the Nations who will never be recognized. Many are recognized
posthumously, when it is already too late to say thank you. And although their
next of kin may be pleased to receive a medal, and in some cases a trip to
Israel, it’s not the same. A series of diplomats from the Philippines had a long
and difficult task in getting Israel to recognize the fact that the Philippines
by presidential edict opened its gates to refugee Jews and was even prepared to
give them land.
Now it’s the long overdue turn of El Salvador, whose
consul-general in Geneva, Jose Arturo Castellanos, and his Hungarian Jewish
secretary, George Mandel-Mantello, who had been given Salvadorian citizenship,
saved tens of thousands of European Jews by providing them with documents
attesting to the fact that they were Salvadorian citizens. The wheels for
recognizing Castellanos as a Righteous among the Nations were put into motion as
far back as March 1989 by then El Salvador ambassador Enrique Guttfreund after
hearing the story from Mantello himself and historian David Kranzler. It took
until this month, with considerable urging on the part of Holocaust survivors
who received Salvadorian citizenship, for Castellanos to be officially
recognized by Yad Vashem.
In advance of the official ceremony in El
Salvador, Ambassador Suzana Gun de Hasenson hosted a reception, where guests
included three recipients of Salvadorian citizenship who had come to pay tribute
to Castellanos. They were Budapest-born Prof. Itzhak Meir and brothers Jules and
Shmuel Goldschmidt, who in the confusion of Jewish geography had been French
citizens born in Leipzig.
Shmuel Goldschmidt came with a copy of his El
Salvador passport issued on August 24, 1943. Neither Meir nor the Goldschmidts
put their passports to use, but Meir said that having one gave him a tremendous
feeling of security during the most difficult and dangerous of
Mantello’s son, Enrico, 80, who these days divides his time
between Geneva and Rome, flew in for the occasion and recalled his first meeting
with Castellanos, when as boy of 13 he had accompanied his father to the
Salvadorian consulate. Castellanos had opened his arms wide in greeting and had
embraced father and son. “I’m the only surviving witness,” said Enrico Mantello
as he told the story of how his father and voluntary Swiss clerks worked day and
night to complete the lifesaving certificates of citizenship. Mantello sent out
notarized copies and kept the originals. Five years ago a suitcase containing
more than a thousand such certificates was found in a basement in Geneva and
handed over to Enrico Mantello, who in turn donated them to the United States
Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Larry Pfeffer, who had been in Budapest in
1943, lamented the fact that Jews have not seen fit to properly recognize George
Mantello and others like him.
It was very important to give recognition
to Jews who saved Jews, he said. Dr.
Menashe Rosenfeld, the honorary
consul for El Salvador, put in a telephone call to Castellanos’s daughter Freda
Garcia in El Salvador, and had Meir, the Goldschmidt brothers, Gun de Hasenson
and Mantello talk to her. Garcia said she was grateful for the honors being
bestowed on her late father, but added that he never expected any reward. He
believed that anyone in his position would have done the same, she said, and he
never really talked about it.
She was 20 the first time she ever heard
■ LONG BEFORE fashion photographer Adi Barkan launched his
crusade against coercing models to starve themselves into anorexia, fashion
company ml recognized that being too skinny was a dangerous thing and that the
human clothes horse with the fuller figure was just as attractive, perhaps even
more so, than the model with matchstick proportions. Thus when Israelis finally
began to realize that overzealous dieting is a sign of an eating disorder, and
set up a nonprofit organization called Beitcha to help people with eating
disorders, ml immediately signed up as a supporter.
Beitcha operates a
facility inside a Tel Aviv apartment on Rehov Yehuda Hamaccabee.
create greater awareness of the problem, ml together with Beitcha held a pizza
and wine party at the Sublet Roof Lounge overlooking the Tel Aviv-Jaffa
shoreline. Avi Malcha, the founder and CEO of ml, which specializes in larger
sizes, said that as a company involved with the community, ml decided to become
engaged with Beitcha because there are some 150,000 people in the country with
severe eating disorders. “We decided to introduce a new norm in all our
advertising by featuring models who were not thin.”
In this context,
Malcha said he was very pleased to have Hollywood actress Noa Tishbi as the
company’s presenter. Tishbi, who came home from Hollywood for the occasion, said
that during her teenage years when she first started out as a model, prospective
employers would often say to her: “You’re so beautiful, what a shame that you’re
a little too heavy. Can’t you make an effort to lose some weight?” It was a
terrible thing to hear that all the time as a teenager, she said. But she never
heard comments like that at ml.
Television and radio personality Merav
Michaeli, who is also well rounded and who chairs Beitcha, underscored that
people are too busy with their external appearance.
It’s not just a
weight thing. It’s also trying to look tall, with too many women ruining
feet by wearing impossibly high heels. The inner person is much more
than the outer, she said.
Avigail Pearl, who appeared in the
series Survivor, spoke of the agonies of wanting to be thin and of
accept oneself as one is. Pearl had an acute eating disorder, underwent
treatment and is now eating properly and looking good. Among the
attending the event were models Becky Griffin and Maayan Keret,
singer/songwriter Zvika Pik and actor and filmmaker Assi Dayan.
THE intermittent efforts of certain defense ministers and chiefs of
Staff to close down Army Radio, the station is getting ready to
60th anniversary with a huge reunion to include anyone and everyone who
worked there in any capacity. Many top broadcasters got their start at
Radio, and others who had the potential for being great broadcasters
another profession. A prime example is Inon Shenkar, an excellent
decided to follow his father into medicine, but whereas his father’s
gynecology, the focus of the younger Dr.
Shenkar is AIDS. Last
Antebi, another fine reporter, wound up his term with Army Radio, got
discharge and is about follow Shenkar’s example and to study medicine.
comes from a dynasty of medical practitioners.
■ AFTER MORE than a
in the political wilderness, former Shas leader Aryeh Deri was all set
comeback during the Jerusalem municipal elections, but the law was
There are still people who are trying to find legal constraints to
return to the political arena, but Deri is going ahead and making public
appearances at political forums and organizing meetings with important
diplomats, such as Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Reda and French Ambassador
Christophe Bigot with whom he met this week.
■ ADMIRERS OF
will get together at the IZL museum on the seam of Tel Aviv-Jaffa this
Thursday night to celebrate the 97th anniversary of his birth. Begin
celebrated his birthday on Shabbat Nahamu, the first Sabbath after Tisha
When he was prime minister, the chefs of the Jerusalem Plaza Hotel,
their sparkling white uniforms replete with chefs’ hats, would march
street to the prime minister’s official residence, bearing a mammoth
cake which they transported on a long board on their shoulders.Greerfc@gmail.com