IF HANUKKA is already upon us, it stands to reason that Christmas is not far behind. Several ecumenical and interfaith groups are celebrating both festivals, as well as the Muslim festival of Id al-Adha, with multicultural gatherings at which traditional foods are being served.
The International Christian Embassy, now the only embassy left in Jerusalem, albeit without diplomatic status, is hosting its "Festive Season" reception without specifying any particular festival(s) on the invitation. Moreover, unlike some Jewish organizers and organizations, ICEJ executive director Malcolm Hedding always brings in a kosher caterer for events to which Jewish guests have been invited to ensure that everyone present can partake of the refreshments. A little consideration goes a long way.
ON THE date of the ICEJ reception, Swedish Ambassador Robert Rydberg and his wife Hai will host a reception in Herzliya Pituah in honor of a visiting delegation from Paideia, the European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden. The EIJSS is a nondenominational, interdisciplinary, academic enterprise established in 2000 with a foundation grant from the Swedish government for the purpose of encouraging fluency in Jewish sources, renewing interpretations of Jewish texts and reviving the European Jewish voice that had long been silenced by communism and post-Holocaust trauma. One of the successful projects of the ICEJ has been the sharing of hevruta methods of study with Catholic students. Many of the ICEJ lecturers and teachers are culled from Israeli universities. Among them are Prof. Avigdor Shenan and Prof. Israel Knol of the Hebrew University, Dr. Yonatan Ben-Dov of the University of Haifa, Dr. Haim Shapira of Bar-Ilan University, Prof. Elhanan Reiner of Tel Aviv University and academics from other Israeli institutes of higher education and Jewish scholars from European universities.
IN HER home country, Moldovan Ambassador Larisa Miculet always celebrated Christmas according to the Eastern calendar because that was her mother's custom. Young people in Moldova, she says, are inclined to celebrate on December 25 because they want to mainstream with most of Europe and the US. This year Miculet will celebrate both Christmases, since she's invited to Christmas parties and church services that begin in December and finish in January.
Two things that she's absolutely delighted about are the fact that she didn't have to go looking for a Christmas tree and that her son, who is studying in the US, will come to Israel for three weeks. The Jewish National Fund traditionally supplies foreign diplomats and members of the foreign press with Christmas trees, and this year was no exception. While looking forward to Christmas, Miculet is less excited about the aftermath, when she has to go house hunting. Her landlord informed her that he wants to sell the premises in which she resides - and although this may take some time, she has no intention of having potential buyers come by not just to inspect the house but to see how an ambassador lives.
CHILD HOLOCAUST survivor Rena Quint, who frequently guides groups through Yad Vashem, in particular the Children's Memorial, was guiding a group last week when someone asked her how many grandchildren she had. Quint had just said 21 when her cellphone rang. Ordinarily, she turns it off or ignores it when she is guiding, but this time she answered, only to learn that her eldest daughter, Menuha Chwat, had just given birth to her 12th child - a boy - after having been made a grandmother twice over in the past year.
Quint put down the phone and corrected herself. "Oops, 22," she said.
Chwat, a remarkable working woman in many ways, is deep into hi-tech, and within minutes of the arrival of the latest addition to the family, who made his appearance within less than quarter of an hour of her hospitalization, she had photographed him with the camera in her cellphone and dispatched the image to relatives in Israel and the US. Chwat's two eldest daughters gave birth within a few weeks of each other some eight months ago, making Quint, who lost her parents and siblings in the Holocaust, a great grandmother.
COMBINING BUSINESS with pleasure, Yishai Klein, since 2001 the Singapore-based director of Asia Giza Venture Capital, headquartered in Tel Aviv, timed a home office business visit with a birthday surprise for his father Shmuel, who lives in Jerusalem. When the senior Klein opened the door, he was momentarily confused and thought the person standing in the doorway was his younger son Gideon, who lives in Haifa.
Yishai Klein, who is actively involved in the growing Singapore Jewish community, was happy to reveal that the Jacob Ballas Jewish Community Center adjacent to Waterloo Road synagogue is about to open, and will include a kosher restaurant, spa-style mikve, auditorium, library and other facilities. In addition, a Jewish day school that is an outgrowth of the Jewish kindergarten will inaugurate first grade in 2007, with plans for at least one additional class each year. Quality teachers have been imported from Australia and elsewhere.
Jewish visitors to Singapore might care to know that The Coffee Bean, which also has branches in Israel, is now kosher.