Grapevine: Robed Again

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

June 6, 2019 21:06
RABBI KALMAN Samuels with the Shalva Band.

RABBI KALMAN Samuels with the Shalva Band. . (photo credit: NOAM ARDOV)

For the second time in less than a week, US Ambassador David Friedman donned an academic robe. Last week, it was to receive an honorary doctorate from Yeshiva University. This week it was at Bar-Ilan University in honor of Miriam Adelson – philanthropist, medical expert in the treatment of drug abuse and publisher of Israel Hayom. It was Friedman’s task to hood Adelson as she received her honor. Other recipients of honorary doctorates included industrialist brothers and philanthropists Sami and Itzhak Sagol; journalist, author and founding chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria Israel Harel; Shalva founder Rabbi Kalman Samuels, who inspired hope into parents of children with special needs; Dr. Zipora Schorr, a haredi great-grandmother who is director of education at the Beit Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore, where children from every stream of Judaism, regardless of their level of religious observance, study Torah together in mutual respect and harmony; and singers Yisrael Gottesdiener and Benny Rosenbaum, who as the Duo Reim have for more than half a century delighted audiences around the world with Hebrew and hassidic songs. Former chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot will receive his honorary doctorate in a private ceremony later this month, due to him being abroad. In November, Adelson received America’s highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom. Seen among the crowd at the cocktail reception prior to the conferment ceremony was Natan Sharansky, who next week will be honored by BIU with the prestigious Guardian of Zion award.

The doctorates ceremony began on a somber note as moderator Linoy Bar Geffen voiced condolences to President Reuven Rivlin on the death of his wife, Nechama, but the mood changed as the ceremony got into full swing. Particularly loud cheers were heard from the crowd as Kalman Samuels entered the amphitheater, and again as the Duo Reim entered. Two of the highlights of the evening were performances by the Shalva Band and by the Duo Reim, still garbed in their academic robes.
Shalva’s two dynamic blind vocalists, Dina Samteh and Anael Khalifa, wowed the crowd with their brilliant renditions of “Here Comes the Sun” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” but even more so when Samteh paid special tribute to Samuels saying that they wanted to thank him for what he did for them, noting that they would not be where they are today,were it not for him. Samuels, whose Shalva enterprise was launched by the absence of a facility for his own special needs son, Yossi, said in a video clip that Shalva now provides services for a thousand youngsters each day, and what Shalva does is simply another step in the impact of inclusion.

■ MAY-JUNE is the season for the conferring of honorary degrees, and on June 17, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will be conferring honorary doctorates on former Supreme Court president Miriam Naor; author Meir Shalev; Canadian author and journalist Linda Frum, who is a Conservative member of the Canadian Senate; Dr. Dan Maydan, a former world president of Applied Materials; and Friede Springer, the widow of the legendary Axel Springer, who is the main shareholder in the Axel Springer SE media conglomerate. The highly influential Axel Springer was a friend of legendary Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek and the late Jerusalem Post editor Ari Rath.

■ IN THE course of the Jewish Theological Seminary’s commencement ceremony in New York toward the end of last month, honorary degrees were conferred on Bruce A. Beutler, MD, UT Southwestern professor and director of the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense; Sara J. Bloomfield, director of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum; David Golinkin, president of The Schechter Institutes, Inc. and president emeritus of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies; and Martha C. Nussbaum, Ernst Freund distinguished service professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago.
Golinkin is of particular interest in Israel as a local champion of Conservative Judaism, and for his invaluable contribution to the understanding and development of Jewish law.

Golinkin, who was born in 1955 in Arlington, Virginia, and made aliyah at age 17, later graduated and received his PhD in Talmud and rabbinic ordination from the JTS in New York. His work, writing and research in Halacha is considered to be groundbreaking in several fields, especially in the status of women in the Halachic system.

He is the founder and director of the Institute of Applied Halakhah and director of the Center for Women in Jewish Law, both at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. 

■ THE CELEBRITIES and dignitaries who generally speak at Shavuot all-night sessions are rabbis and scholars whose areas of expertise lie in Jewish studies. But at Beit Avi Chai in Jerusalem, it has long been a custom to introduce something a little different, because for whatever reason, Beit Avi Chai has become a magnet for people of all ages and varying beliefs. Some of the celebrities – both scholars and others – who will be telling their stories include: linguistic expert Rubik Rosenthal; television personality Roni Kuban; Rami Reiner from the department of Jewish Thought at Ben-Gurion University; singer Etti Ankri; literary critic Bilha Ben-Eliyahu; philosopher Meir Buzaglo, professor of Jewish studies at Tel Aviv University Vered Noam; plus several other well-known personalities. They will tell personal stories of what influenced them to take their chosen paths in life. This is appropriate for Shavuot when we read the Book of Ruth, the Moabite widow who was so influenced by her mother-in-law, Naomi, that she famously said: “Wherever you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge. Your People will be my People and your God will be my God.” She subsequently became the great grandmother of King David, and according to Jewish tradition, the Messiah will be of Davidic descent.

■ SHAVUOT IN Tel Aviv will also be interesting with lots of snacks floating back and forth at Tzavta, which is the hub of Tel Aviv’s cultural mosaic. Billed as “The other Laila Lavan (white night)” it will include talks in Hebrew and English by an impressive array of speakers, with several women listed, but still not enough for parity. Among the Tel Aviv speakers are Hillel Neuer - UN Watch; Asaf Zamir - MK and former Tel Aviv deputy mayor; Rabbi Shlomo Chayen - Am Yisrael Foundation; Zvi Hauser, MK and former cabinet secretary; Rabbi Jonathan Feldman, Tel Aviv Center for Jewish Life; Dr. Ruth Calderon, author and former MK; Rabbi Boaz Genut - Tzohar; Yoram Taharlev - Israeli poet; Prof. Moshe Idel - Hebrew University; Anat Atzmon - Israeli actress who frequently appears on the Yiddish stage; Aliza Lavie, author and former MK; Rabbi Yaakov Medan - Yeshivat Har Etzion; MK Itzik Shmuli and several other well-known figures.

■ CALLIGRAPHY IS one of the special arts of some of the countries of Asia, where it is part of a centuries-old tradition. On Friday morning, June 21, Japanese artist Tomoko Kawao will demonstrate traditional and modern Japanese calligraphy techniques at a unique event at the Japanese Embassy, Museum Tower, 4 Berkowitz St., Tel Aviv. Advance registration is required by June 13 to

■ IN CONJUNCTION with Hebrew Book Week, the National Library will host a number of interesting events for Hebrew speakers at the library and in cafes throughout Jerusalem from Tuesday-Thursday, June 11-13.

Starting from the end, Meir Shalev will on Thursday, June 13, at 8 p.m. discuss how to write a novel. This event will be at the National Library.

Also at the National Library at 4 p.m. on the same date, Dana Olmert will speak on Thoughts on Women in Israeli Literature and Publishing. On June 12, there is an evening at the National Library devoted to the formative years of Yehuda Amichai. All the events at the National Library are free of charge. 

For a change of venue, there will be a discussion at the Tmol Shilshom restaurant on June 11, at 6 p.m., on why the biblical poems of Rachel the poetess have been forgotten. Entry is also free of charge.

Advance registration is required for all the events. Check the National Library website for further information.

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