Grapevine: A legacy worth noting

The late Wohls were frequent visitors to Israel, where they left their mark on religious, educational, cultural, medical, social welfare institutions.

Gould, Latchman, photo of Maurice and Vivienne Wohl 370 (photo credit: Olivier Fitussi)
Gould, Latchman, photo of Maurice and Vivienne Wohl 370
(photo credit: Olivier Fitussi)
THE NUMBER and variety of projects supported in Israel, England, Russia and elsewhere by the late Maurice and Vivienne Wohl is positively astounding.
The Wohls, who were low-key and lived fairly modestly in London, despite socializing with royalty and owning an art collection worth millions, were frequent visitors to Israel, where they left their mark on religious, educational, cultural, medical and social welfare institutions. Their generosity was boundless and not limited to big-time projects including the Wohl Rose Garden in Jerusalem, the Wohl Institute of Advanced Imaging at Sourasky Medical Center, the Wohl Pediatric Ophthalmology and Blindness Prevention center in Petah Tikva, the Wohl Amphitheater in Ganei Yehoshua, the Wohl Center at Bar-Ilan University, four yeshivot and several synagogues. They also gave to individuals in need and preferred to give their gifts anonymously, although the movers and shakers behind the larger projects insisted on giving them credit.
Now there’s another Wohl structure to honor the couple’s memory in one of their favorite places. The Wohl Legacy Room at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue was inaugurated this week by British Ambassador Matthew Gould, who disclosed that the clubs for Holocaust survivors that he recently initiated went from dream to reality through the support of the Wohl Charitable Foundation.
Although Vivienne Wohl died of cancer in 2005 and Maurice died in 2007, the funds in their joint and separate charitable trusts continue to provide for the spiritual, intellectual and physical welfare of others. The cleverly designed Wohl Legacy Room contains much of their memorabilia. Though reluctant to hold any kind of executive position on organizations that benefitted from his largesse, Maurice Wohl, perhaps urged by Maurice Jaffe, the founder of the Great Synagogue, agreed to be its president.
For many years, Vivienne Wohl was the organizer of the Great Synagogue’s Israel Independence Day dinner. It was this close association with the Great Synagogue that prompted Gould to say that it was absolutely the right place for the Legacy Room. He regretted that he’d never met the Wohls, but said that he had read up on them and found them to be extraordinary and remarkable people.The difference that the Wohls made to people’s lives was huge, said Gould, who indirectly included himself.
One of his favorite places in Jerusalem is the Wohl rose garden opposite the Knesset, where he often stops during visits to the capital, he said.
Prof. David Latchman, an eminent British geneticist who is Maurice Wohl’s nephew and chairman of the Wohl Charitable Foundation, noted that not only was the venue appropriate but so was the date, which coincided with the anniversary of the death of his grandfather, who was Maurice Wohl’s father. Latchman is also a trustee and officer of the Great Synagogue. Quoting from Ecclesiastes, which was read during the Simhat Torah celebrations on Monday, Latchman said that a good name is better than fine oil, and this was the Wohls’ watchword in that they believed implicitly in transparency and integrity.
The legacy of the Wohls – in addition to their foundations, which continue to support numerous projects – was their credo: “Never forget to give to an individual in private.” They could have left their impressive art collection to a museum, Latchman noted, but in their wills they stipulated that it be auctioned off and the proceeds donated to charity. Great Synagogue chairman Asher Schapiro said that he hoped the Wohl Legacy Room would serve as an inspiration to other philanthropists.
Maurice Wohl’s sister, Ella Latchman, cut the ribbon to signify the opening of the Wohl Legacy Room.
■ SINCE THE announcement on Thursday that the elections will be held on January 22, we were left with the question of who’s going to have a happy birthday 10 days later, on Febuary 12. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer were both born on February 12. Barak’s popularity ratings have been dipping drastically and the chances of his party earning more than two or three seats in the next Knesset are very slim. His chances of being a minister are even slimmer unless he is coopted by the next prime minister or his party joins the next coalition. Although he has enjoyed a close relationship with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, there is no guarantee that this will continue if the Likud triumphs in the next elections, especially if rumors of recent rifts are correct.
Ben-Eliezer, who will be 77, is currently the oldest member of the Knesset and one of the longest-serving of the current crop, though not of the Knesset per se. That honor goes to Josef Burg, Tawfik Toubi and Shimon Peres. Also celebrating a birthday in February five days later is Arye Deri, whose return to the political arena is still anyone’s guess. Another MK’s birthday that is closer at hand is that of Kadima MK and former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik, who will celebrate her 60th birthday on October 20.
■ BEFORE ANNOUNCING his intention to hold new elections, Netanyahu decided to continue with his red line policy in the US while simultaneously mending fences with the American administration. For this mission, he selected Zalman Shoval, 82, a former MK and foreign policy advisor to prime ministers of Israel who participated in the Camp David Peace Talks in 1978, the Madrid Peace Talks in 1991 and in the Wye Plantation Conference in 1998, twice served as Israel’s ambassador to the US and also served as president of the Israel America Chamber of Commerce. A prominent businessman, Shoval is on a frequent commute between Israel and the US, where he has maintained many close ties in political and academic circles.
Netanyahu dispatched him to Washington during the intermediate days of Succot.
Journalist Josh Rogin, who covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily web column “The Cable,” which appears biweekly in the print edition of The Washington Post, wrote in an interview with Shoval: “Israel is confident it can achieve success in a solo strike on Iran’s nuclear program. Israel believes it has the capability to succeed in degrading Iran’s nuclear capabilities, former Israeli ambassador and special envoy Zalman Shoval said in an interview Friday. He rejected a reported deal in which Iran would gradually suspend the production of uranium but only after a full suspension of sanctions. He also said that the Obama administration’s red line – that Iran would not be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon – was insufficient as far as Israel’s security was concerned.
“The red line for Israel is when the Iranians have produced enough fissionable material from which they can produce at least a dirty bomb within a short time,” he said. “Israel doesn’t pretend that it can totally eliminate Iran’s nuclear program, but the general view in Israel is that we could stop the Iranian effort for three to five years.”
■ THE JERUSALEM Journalists Association is hosting a concert on Saturday night, October 13 to mark the 10th anniversary year of the death of American-Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl, who was murdered on assignment in Pakistan while working as South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. Pearl, who was of Israeli parentage, was murdered in February 2002, but was born on October 10, 1963, so the concert is both a commemoration of his birth and his death. The concert, which will be given by the Charlotte Chorale and conducted by Eli Gefen, will take place at JJA headquarters at Beit Agron, 37 Hillel Street, Jerusalem. The concert will be followed by a panel discussion led by Ilene Prusher, who was a staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor from 2000 to 2010, serving as the Boston-based newspaper’s bureau chief in Tokyo, Istanbul, and Jerusalem and covering the major conflicts of the past decade: Iraq and Afghanistan.
■ ALTHOUGH ISRAEL did not score well at the London Olympics, the Israeli team usually comes home with a few medals from the culinary Olympics held in Germany every four years. The Israeli team, headed by Charlie Fadida, executive chef at the Olive Leaf Restaurant at the Sheraton Hotel in Tel Aviv, left Israel toward the end of last week. The contest, with more than 1,000 chefs from 38 countries, is being held from October 6 to 17 in Erfurt, the 1,260-yearold Ssate capital of Thuringia, famous for its medieval center and its regional cuisine.
Among the challenges that the Israeli team will have to face is the preparation of a three-course meal for 120 diners within a total period of four hours. All the preparations will be watched and judged by a panel of 10 internationally acclaimed chefs.
The Israeli culinary team hopes to do at least as well in Germany as Israel’s paralympic team did in London. Fadida, who has participated in many cooking contests around the world, already has a few medals to his credit, as does his father, Eli Fadida, who has won numerous gold and silver medals at international culinary competitions. Cooking is in the Fadida genes. Charlie Fadida’s great uncle was a chef in the US army.
■ WHEN POLITICAL pundit and former Israel consul-general in New York Alon Pinkus, who is also a former Jerusalem Post journalist, agreed to open the season for the English Speaking Friends of Tel Aviv University, his talk was going to be on “Iran, Israel and the Iran Triangle.” That’s still the title, but one suspects that some of the content will be changed in light of ongoing political developments.
The event will take place at 5 p.m. in the Cohen Porter Building of TAU on Wednesday, October 17.
■ DAIRY FARMERS are angry at the thought of competition from abroad in response to rising prices of local dairy products. But the competition has been here for a while with dairy imports from several European countries, including – believe it or not – Poland.
According to Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Shudrich, Poland has for some time been exporting dairy products to Israel, including those with strict “Halav Israel” certification.