Some of the people attending this year’s World WIZO Conference were also there last year when WIZO honorary life president Raya Jaglom, who had been associated with the organization since 1941, addressed them for the last time. Jaglom died in August, at age 98, leaving a legacy of community, national and international service that few, if any, could emulate.
On Wednesday of this week, many of the WIZO women from Israel and around the world who knew her came together at WIZO House to pay tribute to her memory. An impressive video prepared by Yossi Gavrieli showed Jaglom in action during the quarter- century-plus in which she served as president of World WIZO, traveling around the world and inspiring women in WIZO federations to work for Israel and WIZO’s many projects, which include kindergartens, schools, youth villages, family centers, homes for senior citizens, a shelter for battered women, an orchestra comprising musicians from the former Soviet Union, and a senior citizens choir, most of whose members are from the FSU.
Jaglom’s longtime assistant, Eva Gilad, was present, together with her famous Auschwitz- survivor husband, Michael Goldman- Gilad, who during the Eichmann trial served as a personal assistant to attorney-general and chief prosecutor Gideon Hausner. Eva Gilad could tell a lot of stories about how Jaglom was mistreated after she stepped down from office, but chose instead in the video presentation to talk about how she managed to arrange a surprise party for Jaglom’s birthday, year after year, and how much joy Jaglom derived from being surrounded by members of her family and WIZO workers.
Also present were two of Jaglom’s grandchildren, Jonathan and Ro’i, and her good friends and neighbors from Tel Aviv’s Sharett Street, former chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and former ambassador to the US Zalman Shoval. World WIZO president Esther Mor was there for the start of the event.
The many speakers referred to Jaglom’s involvement in the Hagana, Jewish Agency, World Zionist Organization, World Jewish Congress, the struggle for Soviet Jewry, the Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, Israel Museum, Tel Aviv Museum, Eretz Israel Museum, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and more. They recalled her generosity, her passion and compassion, her energy, her social skills, the many languages she spoke and her sense of justice. Several speakers said that she was a woman who could move mountains, and actually persuaded Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek to flatten a hill.
When Carmelite nuns established a convent in Auschwitz and put up a huge cross with no reference to Jews who had been murdered there, Jaglom led a World WIZO protest demonstration to Auschwitz, with the demonstrators carrying large Israeli flags.
When the Soviet authorities refused to allow Ida Nudel to migrate to Israel, Jaglom established a movement called I WIN – Israeli Women for Ida Nudel. Various women said that her initiatives, her determination and her actions were inspiring.
Lau said that Jaglom was the epitome of the woman of valor, and quoting from the verses in Proverbs recited in Jewish households on Friday nights, he said: “Many daughters have done valiantly, but you have exceeded them all.” Lau also referred to other verses that were illustrative of Jaglom’s character. Even though Jaglom died, he said, her achievements remain constant.
Both Lau and Shoval referred to the fact that WIZO was one of 21 parties that ran for the first Knesset. Thirteen of the parties passed the threshold, and WIZO was one of them, winning one seat, which was given to Rachel Cohen-Kagan.
Shoval, who was twice Israel’s ambassador in the US, said that the first time he was ambassador, Jaglom showed up to create a WIZO Federation in the US. “They didn’t know WIZO in America, they knew Hadassah. But after Raya’s visit, WIZO was on the map.” She was sometimes controversial, he conceded, but she was a very proactive person. “I was ambassador to the United States,” said Shoval. “She was ambassador to the world. I saw firsthand how effective she was. She didn’t shrink from quarrels. She was a fighter, and I think she liked to be a fighter. She was a great Israeli patriot, and at the same time she was cosmopolitan.”
Shoval, who is also a former MK, regretted that Jaglom was not an MK, because she would have contributed greatly to the Knesset, he said. On the other hand, he realized that she had done more for Israel by not being an MK.
World WIZO chairwoman Prof. Rivka Lazovsky said that she first met Jaglom when she was six years old. Jaglom had come to Uruguay, and Lazovsky was chosen to present her with a bouquet of flowers. In later years, when Lazovsky wanted to migrate to Israel, her family wanted her to stay in Uruguay. She spoke to Jaglom about this. Jaglom promised to speak to Lazovsky’s mother, and 18 months later Lazovsky was living in Israel, where Jaglom became her second mother.
Ro’i Jaglom, as the youngest grandchild, spent the most time with his grandmother because he had her all to himself when she was no longer in office. They would discuss politics and history, and she regaled him with stories of personalities who were in his history books, and made them come alive, because she knew them personally. There was no doubt that she knew them, because there were many photographs of his grandmother with world leaders in her living room. Indeed, this could also be seen to some extent in the footage that was shown in the video, where Jaglom was seen with presidents, prime ministers, and other people of note.
■ SO MANY former Prisoners of Zion whose names were household words throughout the Jewish world in the 1970s and 1980s have faded into obscurity. Among those who are still in the public eye are Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and outgoing Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, who on January 20 celebrates his 70th birthday, and on February 11 will celebrate the 32nd anniversary of his arrival in Israel after nine years in a Soviet prison.
Since then, Sharansky was elected president of the Zionist Forum, an umbrella organization of former activists in the Soviet Union, was an associate editor of The Jerusalem Report, founded a political party, was a government minister and deputy prime minister, was chairman of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center, wrote several best-selling and widely translated books, has been in high demand as a speaker in Hebrew, English and Russian, has become a father and grandfather, and has traveled widely in the world. He has also received numerous awards, including in the United States the Congressional Gold Medal in 1986 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006. He continues to be an advocate for human rights. If anyone had predicted all this for him in 1980, when he was still in prison, it is doubtful that he or anyone else would have believed that it was possible.
In August last year, Sharansky met for the first time with US Ambassador David Friedman. The meeting happened to coincide with the first day on the job for Friedman’s controversial senior adviser, Aryeh Lightstone. The three were photographed together, and Friedman subsequently posted the photo on his Twitter account with the comment: “First day of work for my Senior Advisor Aryeh Lightstone. First Meeting, the legendary .@NatanSharansky – What a Start!”
■ JEWISH OUTREACH in some parts of the United States, especially California, includes the Hispanic community. Last week at the iconic landmark Tomayo Restaurant and Art Gallery in Los Angeles, leaders from both the Hispanic and Jewish communities gathered for the Consulate-General of Israel’s fifth annual Fiesta Shalom celebration, hosted by Consul-General Sam Grundwerg together with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the president and CEO of TELACU Industries Dr. Michael Lizarraga, who honored US Rep. Juan Vargas and Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Melissa Manchester for their visionary leadership and their roles as inspirational figures in their own fields. Jackeline Cacho, Emmy Award-winning journalist and television host, emceed the event, in which several members of Congress were among the speakers. They included Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Grace Napolitano and Vargas. Together, they discussed the multitude of similarities, shared values and shared interests of both communities and the numerous areas of cooperation.
Grundwerg, who was formerly the head of the Israel office of the World Jewish Congress, was also among the speakers, as was Lizarraga. “The family values, beliefs and rich cultures that the Latino community upholds align with the values that the Israeli people hold dear,” said Grundwerg. “In the last century, we witnessed great and abiding friendship between the Jewish people and Spanish- speaking peoples.”
Being in California, it wasn’t all speeches. The event concluded with a salsa band and lots of networking, where more than 200 guests from both communities danced and celebrated their strong bonds, coupled with the constant desire to maintain their distinctive and diverse cultural identities while working in solidarity and support of one another.