Grapevine: A woman’s place

Special recognition from Aish HaTorah, Camp Judaea celebrates its 50th, the GPO moves to Malha, and Tel Aviv’s Chamber of Commerce turns 90.

Atarim CEO 311 (photo credit: Photo Lev)
Atarim CEO 311
(photo credit: Photo Lev)
IT WAS not exactly coincidental that Aish HaTorah, at its annual Boneh Yerushalayim Dinner, chose to honor four women in the week prior to the Torah reading of Shemot, which tells the story of the roles played by women in the preservation and continuity of the Children of Israel. All four women are actively engaged in various forms of outreach and the perpetuation of Jewish heritage.
All four are extremely gracious, and each, in the speech she made on receipt of her award, said how privileged she felt to be included in the same group as the other three.
Each was also the subject of a short video presentation, and of a brief biography read out by Jane Medved, whose husband Jonathan was the chairman of the dinner.
Medved noted that as far as he was aware, Aish HaTorah was the first major religious Jewish institution that was not a women’s organization, to honor women. Aside from that, the dinner had other significant connotations.
It was the 36th anniversary dinner of Aish HaTorah, the 10th Boneh Yerushalyim dinner and the first to be held in the Aish HaTorah World Headquarters directly opposite the Western Wall.
Most of the 450 people who attended knew all four honorees: Eva Levi, founder of SOS Shabbat; Sarah Lipman, CTO of Power2B and founder of Kishor Women’s Professional Network; Lori-Laya Lurie, cofounder of Magen-Avraham, KLE and Behirat Halev, who is also a mega philanthropist and family therapist; and Sherri Mandel, director of the Koby Mandell Foundation and Women’s Healing Retreat for Bereaved Mothers and Widows.
Medved remarked that we all think we know people, but there is always so much more to learn about them.
And indeed there was a lot to learn about the motivation and activities of this remarkable quartet. While women seldom receive the recognition due to them in male dominated religious circles, Aish HaTorah Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Hillel Weinberg, the son of the late Aish founder Rabbi Noach Weinberg, spoke movingly of the sacrifices and heroism of Jewish women throughout the ages, and noted that his father would never have been able to achieve what he did without the input of his mother, who he referred to as “the engine behind my father.”
Guest speaker Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky, in declaring that the event was honoring special women, said that for him it was special too – because he has eight daughters.
■ FROM THE warm reception that ever-smiling Turkish Charge d’Affaires Tolga Uncu gave his guests at the holiday season reception he hosted at the Saraya building in Jaffa, one would never have guessed that there is anything amiss between the two countries. The atmosphere was pleasant, the food and drink were plentiful, the entertainment was delightful and in his social chit-chat, Uncu frequently referred to the common history of Turkey and Israel and Turkey and the Jewish people.
It should not be forgotten that Turkey provided a haven for Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition era. In fact, Uncu brought in Rinat Emanuel to sing in Ladino, which is still the common language of the Jews of Turkey.
The Saraya building, which belongs to the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, is now the Turkish Cultural Center. It had served under Ottoman rule as the headquarters of the Turkish governor during the 19th and early 20th centuries, was badly damaged in bomb attacks, and stood for years as a tenement adjacent to the famous Jaffa clock tower. The Turkish Embassy took out a 24-year lease on the building and, at the cost of some $2 million, had it restored to its former glory. It should have been officially opened about two years ago by a visiting senior Turkish official, but the visit never eventuated, and the restored building was never officially inaugurated. In fact, Uncu was surprised to learn that Namik Tan, who two years ago concluded his term as Turkish ambassador, had hosted a dinner on the premises for noted historian Bernard Lewis. Fortunately, Prof. Itamar Rabinovich, one of the guests at that dinner, was also among Uncu’s invitees, and was able to confirm the fact.
■ WHILE BETHLEHEM celebrated its best Christmas in a decade with the largest turnout of pilgrims and tourists, Jewish visitors to Jerusalem, especially the religiously observant, were happy not to be inundated with reminders of Christmas, though some religious extremists did call for a boycott of the Mamilla Mall, because the fairy lights and other decorations were reminiscent of the Christmas season. In Tel Aviv, especially the southern part, including the Central Bus Station, there were Christmas decorations all over the place. Several of the ethnic restaurants catering primarily to the communities of foreign workers also featured Christmas pudding and other yuletide delicacies. Although the occasional Christmas carol was played on radio, DJs focused on singer, composer and instrumentalist Yehuda Poliker, who was born on December 25.
Poliker is just a little under a month younger than Danny Sanderson, who celebrated his 60th birthday on November 30. Among other well known entertainers who turned 60 this year were Yigal Bashan on September 11 and Gidi Gov on August 4. They moved into their next decade without much fanfare, unlike Shlomo Artzi who turned 60 on November 26, 2009 and celebrated with mega concerts and huge media focus. Yardena Arazi will celebrate her 60th birthday on September 25, and is reportedly already preparing for the occasion. Zvika Pick will also celebrate his 60th on October 3.
Age is apparently not a deterrent in our entertainment industry. Statistics released by ACUM, the Association of Composers and Musicians that protects the royalty rights of entertainers, indicate that Arik Einstein, who turns 72 on January 3, was the most featured singer on radio throughout 2010, followed by Artzi, Eyal Golan, Poliker and Shlomi Shabat. Chava Alberstein, who turned 63 on December 8, was in eighth place and Yehudit Ravitz, who celebrates her 54th birthday today, came in 10th.
■ GETTING BACK to Christmas Day, it proved to be a grand reunion date for alumni of Camp Judaea, which is part of Young Judaea, the youth movement sponsored by Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. There are approximately 1,000 Camp Judaea and Young Judaea alumni living here, and many of the young people attending the movement’s camps or courses are second and even third generation participants.
Among them is Tali Burger, who is on the current Young Judaea Year Course. She is part of a family of Young Judaeans. Her parents, Michele and Andy, met at Camp Judaea in 1978 and subsequently went on Young Judaea year courses.
They married in 1990 and have three children – Tali, 18, Jonathan, 16, and David, nine. Jonathan plans to attend the year course in 2012-13.
The family lives in Miami. They will be among the thousands of people who will attend the Camp Judaea 50th anniversary celebrations in North Carolina during the Labor Day weekend.
Meanwhile, when former Floridian, Susan Dubowsky Nehab heard about the 50th anniversary, she and her husband Micky volunteered to host a local event at their home on Moshav Beit Yitzhak. The Burgers, who were visiting, offered to help with the arrangements, and some 100 people representing each decade of Camp Judaea showed up, some of them with old camp photographs dating back to the 1960s.
They sang camp songs and reminisced about old times and old friends. Camp Judaea founder Roz Soltz, who lives in Jerusalem, was unable to attend due to ill health, but made a five-minute video that was shown at the event. Soltz’s daughter Alyssa was among those who attended.
■ RECENTLY APPOINTED director of the Government Press Office Oren Helman will make his major debut at the upcoming conference of the Israel Public Relations Association at the Dead Sea when he participates in a panel discussion on “Government, Politics and Communication.”
Other panelists will include MK Gila Gamliel, MK Nachman Shai and communications consultant Moti Sharf. Helman has been very busy these days. Aside from integrating into his new role, he is also moving shop. The GPO, which for decades has been located in Beit Agron, is moving to Malha, as Helman’s predecessor Daniel Seaman had long urged it should. Once the hub of Jerusalem’s media world, Beit Agron has gradually become something of a ghost town as the restaurant closed, followed by Jerusalem news bureaus that were gradually closed down by those publications that went out of business or that downsized their international operations.
■ WHILE ON the subject of journalists, religious journalists this month gathered for an inaugural meeting of the steering committee of the Religious Journalists Association. It’s not the first time that they’ve tried to band together, but in the past they never had the numbers they have today. Curiously, they assembled in neither Jerusalem nor Tel Aviv, but in Petah Tikva. Among those in attendance were Dudu Saada (Sheva), Yinon Peklach (Kav Itonut), Avi Mimran (Radio Kol Berama), Avraham Lurie (Hamevaser), Uzi Baruch (Channel 7) and Sari Gal Rotenberg (Bakehila).
Recognizing the need to train religious journalists in universal journalistic values and ethics, the Lamda College in Jerusalem launched a communications course for journalists and spokespeople, which has graduated its first class. There’s just one hitch. The course caters only to men.
However another religious educational facility will soon be introducing a journalists’ course for women.
■ TWO OF the people greeting participants from 10 countries, at the opening reception of the first international Yiddish in Israel course at Beit Ben-Yehuda in Jerusalem, commented on the irony of having a Yiddish course at the home of the patriarch of the modern Hebrew language.
Although it is called the Eliezer Ben- Yehuda home, it was not really occupied by him, but by his widow Hemda. On his 60th birthday, Ben- Yehuda was presented with a gift of money to build a home for himself, but died before it was completed.
The house in Talpiot is not a museum or even a national historic site.
Hemda lived in the house for almost 30 years. Approximately 10 years after her death, her son Ehud transferred the title to the Jerusalem Municipality for the purpose of creating a museum, a memorial and a research center for the study of the Hebrew language.
It didn’t happen. The house remained unoccupied for years and fell into a state of neglect. Its contents were stolen, squandered or ruined. Eventually it was leased to a German Church umbrella group that comprises the Krupp Foundation and a series of Evangelical churches which established a center for German youth who, “to atone for the sins of their fathers,” come here as volunteers to work with needy Jews, especially Holocaust survivors. The roof organization, Action Reconciliation Service for Peace, has been organizing exchange programs for more than 40 years. Beit Ben-Yehuda also offers programs that deal with a variety of subjects.
■ ALTHOUGH YIDDISH was trampled on for many years, and even outlawed by David Ben-Gurion, Prof. Yechiel Szeintuch of the Hebrew University told the course opening with some degree of pride that the National Library at the Hebrew University has the world’s largest collection of Yiddish books, newspapers and periodicals.
Researchers no longer have to go to the library to access the latter. They are now available online along with many Israeli and Jewish newspapers in several other languages at Publications include early issues of The Palestine Post (this newspaper’s original name) as well as several other local publications, some of which are now defunct.
■ THE SCENE at the Agamim Banquet Halls in Ashkelon was reminiscent of a Kadima caucus meeting.
Party chairwoman Tzipi Livni was there and so was much of the Kadima top brass. The municipalities of Tel Aviv and Ashkelon were also well represented. They were all there at the invitation of Atarim CEO Itamar Shimoni, who was inducting his newborn son into the faith. Atarim is the company that is responsible for the development of the Tel Aviv Port.
Livni shared a table with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, who was the infant’s godfather (sandak).
Other guests included Dalia Itzik, Ronnie Bar-On, Tzachi Hanegbi, Nachman Shai, Gideon Ezra and Ruhama Avraham-Balila.
■ MEETINGS OF chambers of commerce are usually attended by business people without their spouses.
The 49th general meeting of the Tel Aviv Chamber of Commerce, which coincided with its 90th anniversary, was an exception. The gala luncheon was attended by many spouses, including Yehudit Lynn, whose husband Uriel is president of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce. The event drew close to a thousand people and 36 of them ran for the new 11 member executive. All of them, according to Lynn, were worthy, and those who were voted in were described by Lynn as a dream team.
■ RELATIONSHIPS FORGED in youth often bear fruit in later life. With this in mind Taiwan and Israel have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Youth Affairs. Simona Halperin, representative of the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei, who had signed the MOU earlier in the month in Taiwan, came for another signing ceremony with Liang-jen Chang, representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Tel Aviv.
The ceremony was witnessed by Ariella Gill, project director, Israel Youth Exchange Council; Naftali Dery, secretary-general, Council of Youth Movements; and Dr. Kobi Naveh, director-general of the Kfar Hayarok Educational Village. The MOU calls for reciprocal visits by youth and young adult delegations so they can get to know each other and each other’s cultures, and for mutual participation in youth events.
Both countries will also provide scholarships for exchange students.
■ BRITISH AMBASSADOR Matthew Gould found himself in a position not unlike that of being in the dentist’s chair, except the focus was on his brain, when he visited Bar-Ilan University and met with scientists in several of its branches. Since his arrival, Gould has placed a priority on strengthening scientific and technological cooperation. Earlier in the day, when addressing BIU political science students, Gould expressed keen interest in expanding links with Israeli hi-tech and developing wider academic and scientific collaboration.
“If we can build scientific links between our two countries, it sends a very strong message to those who attempt to delegitimize Israel,” he said. Before leaving the university, he met with senior research associates at its Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
■ IT USED to be that the definition of a good Zionist was one person collecting from another person to have the funds to send a third person to Israel. But in the case of Canadian Zionist leaders John and Mildred Devor, they chose to set an example and came on aliya just over 40 years ago. They were in Jerusalem on sabbatical during 1966-67 and hadn’t really considered aliya until the outbreak of the Six Day War. That did it for John Devor. He was determined that they were coming back to stay – and that it would be sooner rather than later. The Devors returned with their three children in 1969.
Unfortunately, John Devor a member of the executive of the Zionist Organization of Canada and a tireless volunteer and fundraiser, did not live long to enjoy his new home. He died at 56. Toronto-born Mildred Devor passed away earlier this month at 94. She was a past president of WIZO-Hadassah Canada and Ezrat Nashim and a fundraiser for Chug Yovel that works for Herzog Hospital.
Over many years she entertained busloads of Hadassah women in her living room, offering them cakes, cookies and other delicacies that she had made herself. She had an enviable reputation as a cook and baker.
She is survived by her son Marshall Devor, a professor and brain researcher at the Hebrew University, and her daughter Susan Cogan of the singing duo Susan & Fran. Her eldest son David died two years ago at 64. He founded Project Mind.