Grapevine: A milestone year for remembering

This week, the Jeckes gathered yet again to congratulate one other on the success of the book “Sabre Deutsch – Das Lexicon der Jeckes.”

Gideon and Hani Hamburger (photo credit: Aviv Hofi)
Gideon and Hani Hamburger
(photo credit: Aviv Hofi)
Although half a year or so has passed since the publication of the Ben Yehuda Strasse Dictionary, subtitled “Sabre Deutsch – Das Lexicon der Jeckes,” its many contributors are still celebrating the German expressions that have crept into the Hebrew language and the German customs that are part and parcel of Israeli life. This week, the Jeckes gathered yet again to congratulate one other on the success of the book and the wide interest it has attracted.
Of course, it helps that some very prominent Jeckes or offspring of Jeckes hold leading positions in various spheres of Israeli life. For instance, one of the reasons that this latest get-together was held at Beit Hatfutsot–The Museum of the Jewish People, on the campus of Tel Aviv University, was that Israeli Friends of Beit Hatfutsot chairman Gideon Hamburger was one of the chief sponsors of the book. The event was organized by the organization in collaboration with the Association of Israelis of Central European Origin and the Tefen Heritage Museum of German Speaking Jewry. Sponsors were Harel, Dan Hotels, Weihenstephan Brewery and Yediot Aharonot Publishing House.
Mickey Federmann who heads the board of directors of the Dan chain, also happens to be the president of the Israel-Germany Chamber of Industry and Commerce and has strong Jecke roots. Hamburger came with his wife, Hani, and Federmann with his wife, Liora. Among the other merry-makers who packed the auditorium were Israeli Friends of Beit Hatfutsot director Irit Admoni Perlman; Yair and Ilana Hamburger; Master Chef TV program winner Tom Franz; Stef Wertheimer and his wife, Lin; Ilan and Tal Birenfeld; former director-general of the Foreign Ministry and current chair of the Association of Israelis of Central European Origin Reuven Merhav; and Heritage Museum of German Speaking Jewry director Ruti Ofek.
On stage were pianist and composer Moshe Zormann, Ruti Ofek and writer and translator Michael Dack, with Benny Hendel as master of ceremonies. Hendel is seen with greater frequency at Yad Vashem, where he has MCed ceremonies for years. His presence was a most appropriate choice, given the date, which was one day shy of the 80th anniversary of the elections in which the National Socialist Party became the ruling power of Germany and introduced an era of fear, terror and atrocity. Unfortunately, not all German Jews understood the dangers of the new political regime, and too few had the good sense to leave Germany in time.
TWO HISTORIC incidents occurred during the visit to Berlin by El Al CEO Eliezer Shkedi, who was in the German capital last week for ITB, the world’s leading travel and tourism trade show and convention.
Shkedi, who is a former chief of the Israel Air Force, stopped at the Iranian stand where he was given a detailed explanation of Iran’s tourist attractions by an attractive young Iranian attendant who had no idea whom she was addressing; it was simply a polite conversation between two professionals.
Shkedi, who, during his travels, has been actively engaged in getting prominent personalities to add a letter to the almost completed El Al Torah scroll, is also the son of Hungarian Holocaust survivors. Under any circumstances, the writing of any portion of the scroll in the Wannsee villa, in which the Nazis determined the final solution for the Jewish people, would have been a historic revenge, but more so because of Shkedi’s family background.
The adding of letters to the scroll took place in the presence of Dr. Norbert Kampe, who is the director of the Wannsee Conference Memorial and Educational Site; Rabbi Yehuda Ehrenberg, a seventh generation Jerusalem-born Israeli who is the chief rabbi of Berlin; Dr.
Gideon Joffe, the chairman of the board of representatives of the Berlin Jewish community; other Jewish community leaders; Israel Consul in Berlin Meir Cohen; and other representatives of the Israel Embassy, El Al representatives in Germany, Holocaust survivors and other invited guests.
The El Al scroll, written at Shkedy’s initiative, is intended as a demonstration of Jewish unity in that he has approached dignitaries throughout the Jewish world to join in writing it as well as prominent religious, political and military figures in Israel.
THE EXECUTIVE Committee of the World Jewish Congress, headed by Ronald S. Lauder, will convene in Thessaloniki in Greece this coming Sunday, March 17, to conclude of a series of events marking the 70th anniversary of the first deportation of Thessaloniki Jews to Auschwitz.
The gathering is a part of WJC efforts to demonstrate support to small and vulnerable Jewish communities.
Aside from being caught up in Greece’s economic crisis, Greek Jews are also adversely affected by the rise of the extremist Golden Dawn movement, whose leaders openly deny the Holocaust.
In a series of events organized by the Thessaloniki Jewish community, Jewish leaders from around the world will converge on Thessaloniki in a show of solidarity. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will also attend, and Lauder, who in his personal capacity as a philanthropist has been a major contributor to the revival of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, will deliver one of the keynote addresses. The WJC Executive will meet with Greek and other European Jewish leaders to discuss measures to combat rising anti-Semitism and extremism throughout Europe.
On the following day, the WJC Executive will arrive in Jerusalem to hold talks with President Shimon Peres and leaders of political parties.
THIS IS a significant anniversary year not only for the Jews of Greece but for other Jewish communities as well. 2013 marks the 80th anniversaries of: the appointment of Adolf Hitler as chancellor of Germany; the opening of the Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Ravensbruck concentration camps; the issuing by the Nazi regime of the Aryan decree; the stripping of German citizenship from Polish Jewish immigrants; and the exclusion of Jews from the arts, land ownership and editing of newspapers and the 70th anniversary the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising; the ordering of Greek Jews into ghettos; the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto; Bulgarian opposition to the deportation of its Jews; the building of crematoria in Auschwitz; the temporary cessation of extermination of the Chelmno Ghetto; the ordering by Heinrich Himmler of the liquidation of all Jewish ghettos in Poland; the Treblinka Revolt; the liquidation of the Bialystok, Vilna and Minsk Ghettos; the German occupation of Rome and the round-up of Jews sent to Auschwitz; the start of Jewish family transports from Thereisenstadt to Auschwitz; the rescue of Danish Jews who were transported by the Danish Underground to Sweden; the liquidation of the Riga Ghetto; and the first transport of Jews from Vienna to Auschwitz.
AFTER SEVERAL premature announcements regarding the opening of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews on the site of the Warsaw Ghetto on land made available by late Polish president Lech Kaczynski when he was still mayor of Warsaw, the museum will finally open during the 70th anniversary commemorations of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
The official opening, according to the Polish Press Agency, is scheduled for this coming October. But in April, during the commemorative events related to the uprising, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, in cooperation with the Warsaw Rising Museum, which also has a Jewish section, is preparing a socio-educational campaign, “Daffodils,” dedicated to the memory of the heroes of the uprising.
Every year, Marek Edelman, one of the leaders of the Jewish Combat Organization, laid yellow flowers, often daffodils, at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes. There was a certain symbolism in this in that daffodils have six petals, and when the petals are laid flat they resemble the yellow star that Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust years.
Edelman died in October 2009, but in his memory and the memories of the other courageous fighters, the two museums will distribute paper daffodils on the streets of Warsaw.
There are very few survivors of the uprising still living. One of them, Simcha Rotem – code-named Kazik – who acted as a courier between the ghetto fighters and those on the Aryan side, resides in Jerusalem.
ARGUABLY ONE of the most famous of Holocaust survivors is Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, a former chief rabbi of Israel and current chief rabbi of Tel Aviv and chairman of the Yad Vashem Council. A child Holocaust survivor, Lau closed a circle last month after receiving a letter from Miriam Lieber, a blind 92- year-old Holocaust survivor who lives in Elisha Towers, a retirement home in Haifa. Lieber wrote that people had been reading to her from Lau’s autobiography, in which he writes about the many people who did so much to help save the life of a little Jewish boy in the Buchenwald concentration camp. Only now, nearly 70 years later, did she realize that she was one of those people.
It was toward the end of the war and Lieber, a partisan and a native of Warsaw, was moving from one place to another. American soldiers who had just liberated Buchenwald advised Lieber’s family to go there because there was an American army detail looking after the Jewish survivors there, and they could supply the Liebers with papers. When they arrived at Buchenwald, they saw that the Americans had turned the residence of one of the Gestapo officers into a health clinic. Lieber began to help out in the clinic, tending first to Lau’s brother, Naftali Lavi, and then to Lau, who was about eight years old at the time. He lay on his bed and kept crying “Chleba, chleba,” the Polish word for bread. He was very hungry, and she immediately gave him some bread.
Throughout the years she never knew what happened to the child until Lau’s book was read to her and she realized that the child and the author of the book were one and the same person. Lau had completely forgotten the incident until he received Lieber’s letter, and in a flash he recalled the scene and wasted little time in going to see the woman whose heart had instantly responded to the hunger of a little boy.
AGE, OR more accurately youth, is no barrier for initiative. Eran Amatzia, the CEO of G Mall Kfar Saba, and Michal Even Chen, the CEO of the Keren Shemesh Fund, hosted scores of young entrepreneurs on Good Deeds Day last week. This was the first time that G Mall made its facilities available for an exhibition by young innovators at the start of their journey into the world of business. The exhibition was designed to create awareness among the general public of how easy it is to do something good for someone else, and to show a broad range of technological solutions to a variety of needs.
There were exciting initiatives in tourism, home decoration, photographic equipment, fashion and textile items and more.
Amatzia and Even Chen toured, the exhibition which was spread out throughout the mall, and examined everything carefully. Amatzia even made a few purchases and declared that this was the beginning of what looked like an ongoing relationship.
The Keren Shemesh Fund is a joint initiative of the Rashi Foundation and the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation. Its primary aim is to assist young entrepreneurs, including those from Israel’s minority communities, who are between the ages of 20 and 33 and do not have access to conventional financial and other business resources.
INTREPID JOURNALIST Melanie Lidman, who has been covering the Jerusalem beat for The Jerusalem Post for almost four years, has decided that she wants to see a little more of the world and is this week writing her last story in her present capacity.
Lidman, who at her own initiative covered the beginnings of the Arab Spring in Cairo despite having minimal professional experience at the time, demonstrated extraordinary resourcefulness and courage. She’s also a fine athlete and has run Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat through his paces in more ways than one.
When not running, she was frequently seen riding her bike around the capital.
Before going to the US to spend Passover with her family and to undertake a series of speaking engagements, she has had a series of farewell parties, including one in the office of the Post, where she proved that she’s also a whimsical poet. Her poem was dedicated to her successor, who she assured could do almost anything he or she wants. After she completes her commitments in the US, Lidman is off to India, Nepal, and who knows where else in Asia.
One thing is certain: She’s going to make sure she has a great time.
WHILE FUNERALS of important figures and celebrities are well attended, as the years pass there is an acutely visible drop-off in attendance at memorial ceremonies for the deceased. This is not yet the case with Dave Kimche, who died three years ago. If anything, attendance has increased.
This may have something to do with accessibility. This year’s tribute was held at Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, which literally packed with Kimche’s former colleagues and admirers from the Mossad and the Foreign Ministry as well as a few academics and foreign diplomats and some hangerson who somehow got their names on the invitation list of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, which Kimche founded and of which he was president until his death.
No one who knew him ever says an unkind word about the dapper British gentleman who fought and was wounded in the War of Independence, studied at the Hebrew University and the Sorbonne and worked as a journalist for The Jerusalem Post before joining the Mossad and becoming the quintessential master spy and, later, the consummate diplomat. He has often been regarded as a prototype for John Le Carre novels. When he left the Mossad in 1980, he had risen to the rank of deputy chief and was renowned among his colleagues for his charm, his wit, his sense of humor and his ability to win over adversaries almost to the extent of making them members of the Zionist movement.
Current ICFR president Avi Primor, who worked closely with Kimche, wondered aloud whether he would have succeeded in charming Turkish Prime Minister Reccep Tayyip Erdogan and doubted whether even someone with Kimche’s abilities could succeed. The keynote memorial address was given by Reuven Merhav, who worked with Kimche in both the Mossad and the Foreign Ministry and succeeded him as director- general of the Foreign Ministry. It was Kimche who sent Merhav to Hong Kong long before the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and China.
Reminiscing on how he and Kimche had each come up through the ranks, Merhav said, “You cannot serve your country well if you have not served in all positions from the most humble ranks.” He also noted that no one can be a diplomat or a Mossad operator without being open-minded. In addition to being a highly educated man of the world, Kimche was a dedicated Zionist who grew up in a Zionist family and represented Jewish nobility. He was descended from the great 13th-century scholar Rabbi David Kimchi, after whom Radak Street in Jerusalem was named.
Kimche personified the most sublime values of the Jewish people, said Merhav, who credited Kimche with being one of the first Israeli pioneers in Africa, with an ability to break down adversity because he genuinely identified with the wish and will of the African people to be free of colonialism and to be free of apartheid. “He was the kind of Israeli who never tired of building bridges to the rest of the world,” said Merhav.
NO ONE SHOULD hold their breath over the announcement on Monday that Barbra Streisand is coming to Israel for the 90th birthday celebrations of President Shimon Peres, which he is bringing forward by two months to coincide with the Facing Tomorrow Conference that brings world leaders in politics, hi-tech, business and academia to Jerusalem.
When Peres initiated the conference in 2008, less than a year after he took office, it coincided with Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations and Peres announced that among the dignitaries and celebrities who would be attending would be US President George W. Bush, Quartet envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair, past president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev and Barbra Streisand. Bush, Blair and Gorbachev showed up; Streisand did not.
Though a strong supporter of Israel causes, Streisand has not visited the country since 1984 when she came for the Israeli premiere of the film Yentl and in order to dedicate the Emanuel Streisand Building for Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University in memory of her father. One year ago, she met with Peres when he was in Hollywood. If she does come to Israel, it will be a brief, two-day visit in mid June and, if she really wants to please Peres, she will sing “Avinu Malkeinu” (Our Father Our King), which is sung at the conclusion of Yom Kippur. Peres regards Streisand’s rendition as “unbelievably beautiful.”
A VIDEO promotion of Jerusalem that was released toward the end of last month on YouTube stars former deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon, who is featured walking through the capital and talking about its history, its diversity and its harmony. Wide-ranging yet concise, it is a joint production of the Foreign Ministry, StandWithUs and philanthropists Jay and Shira Ruderman, who head the Boston-based Ruderman Family Foundation, best known for its programs of integrating the disabled into mainstream society.
Anyone who sees the video cannot help but wonder whether Ayalon may be a surprise contender in the city’s upcoming mayoral elections.
There is also speculation that Arye Deri may decide to leave the leadership of Shas to Eli Yishai and opt instead to run for mayor of Jerusalem. Ariel Atias, the third member of the Shas triumvirate, has already announced that he will be leaving politics in favor of business.
NO ONE in Israel is more qualified to speak about the US-Israel relationship than US Ambassador Dan Shapiro. Thus, when philanthropists Jay and Shira Ruderman invited him to their home in Rehovot to share some of his insights with 35 of Israel’s leading philanthropists and business leaders ahead US President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel, none of the people on their guest list found a reason not to attend. They were all interested in hearing what Shapiro had to say.
Among the guests were Dana Azrieli and her husband, martial arts expert Danny Hakim, and Weizmann Institute president Daniel Zajfman. The event was a continuation of the Ruderman Family Foundation’s ambitious program designed to strengthen mutual understanding and respect between Israeli and American Jewish community leaders and activists. Over the last two years, the foundation has brought Knesset members to the US to meet prominent Jewish personalities and to gain a deeper, first-hand awareness of the vibrancy of American Jewish life. In addition, the foundation established an American Jewish community Knesset lobby that was headed by former MK Ronit Tirosh. It is still early to decide on her successor.