Grapevine: Haman, son of Haman

What Ahmadinejad and the ancient Haman have in common is the desire to exterminate the entire nation of Israel.

Hamans sons 311 (photo credit: Malchut Waxberger Gallery)
Hamans sons 311
(photo credit: Malchut Waxberger Gallery)
ALTHOUGH THEIR primary aim is to nourish the soul, Chabad emissaries around the world long ago realized that the way to a Jewish heart is via the stomach. The free kiddushes and free meals that Chabad provides in many parts of the world attract multitudes of people who might otherwise not come to services.
This was evidenced yet again on the night after Yom Kippur, when Chabad of Rehavia celebrated the dedication of a new Torah scroll by Shaul and Blossom Rabinowitz of Toronto. Shaul Rabinowitz is a native Jerusalemite who was born in Batei Warsaw in the Mea She’arim neighborhood but migrated to Canada, where he made his fortune.
His ties to his faith and to his place of birth remained strong and are made ever stronger through his support of religious institutions in Israel.
The dedication ceremony at the Rehavia windmill, where Chabad of Rehavia is headquartered, and the dinner that followed in the grounds of the nearby Horev Synagogue, whose rabbi and board happily cooperated in the event, were widely advertised via email and notices throughout Rehavia and its immediate surrounds. The vultures showed up early and began devouring refreshments before the commencement of the event, ignoring pleas of organizers to desist until the Torah scroll arrived on the premises – which it did with great fanfare. It was driven in a trailer under a multi-colored canopy of flashing neon lights. The large van transporting the trailer was decorated with huge multi-colored neon crowns and joyful music blared from a loudspeaker mounted on the van.
After much merriment, dancing, and reciting of appropriate verses, the crowd moved on to Horev, where men sat on one side of a screened-off area and women – many who had brought four or five children – on the other. There was not enough seating for the adults because so many children were seated.
The caterers had a really tough time serving such a large number of guests and, given the difficult circumstances under which they were working, did an admirable job in both service and presentation – despite being nagged by several of the women to bring this and that.
The keynote speaker was Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, who, in reference to comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the effect that Israel has no roots in history, called the Iranian leader “Haman, the son of Haman.” What Ahmadinejad and the ancient Haman have in common is the desire to exterminate the entire nation of Israel, and what happened to the first one is well recorded in the Scroll of Esther.
Turning to the celebration at hand, Metzger commended Chabad of Rehavia’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Israel Goldberg, on his remarkable success in just over a year. Goldberg has not only built up a congregation but he has also forged a good working relationship with other synagogues in the area and has managed to get various business enterprises to join in the sponsorship of Chabad activities. He has also introduced a fund-raising strategy in which he is asking for donations ranging from NIS 18 to $6,000, depending on whether donors want to sponsor a Torah portion, a festival or the monthly rent of the synagogue premises.
Metzger praised not only Goldberg but also the work of Chabad around the globe in bringing estranged and assimilated Jews closer to Judaism. He underscored that Chabad’s outreach is all-embracing, regardless of the appearance or lifestyle of those it brings within its orbit. Noting the proximity of Simhat Torah to the date of the dedication ceremony, he said that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, had once been asked why it is customary on Simhat Torah to dance with a closed Torah Scroll. After all, it was not the casing of the Torah that was important, but the content. The Rebbe had replied that the closed Torah symbolized those Jews for whom the Torah is still closed. The Torah doesn’t belong only to those Jews who know what’s in it, said the Rebbe, but also to those who don’t and for whom it is still closed.
■ TO PARAPHRASE Charles Dickens, Succot might be described as the best of times and the worst of times. It’s the best of times because it offers such a huge variety of entertainment all over the country. Every town and city is abuzz with things to see, hear and do. It’s the worst of times because there are just too many choices and too many appealing events that it is difficult to decide where and when to go. Then again, there are people who have their favorites, and who like to return to the same festival, museum, bike ride or nature trek year after year.
One event that has a permanent nucleus even though there are newcomers every year is the Moshav Country Fair at Moshav Mevo Modi’im, which was established in 1976 by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and some of his devotees from the House of Love and Prayer.
Several of the original settlers are still living there, some of them with second- and third generation extensions of their families. Many of them are musical and entertain both inside and outside the moshav, perpetuating Carlebach’s music but also playing and singing their own compositions or those of other soul singers.
The fair attracts Carlebach followers and fans who live in other parts of the country and look on the fair as an annual reunion, though many of them often meet throughout the year at concerts and family celebrations. This year’s fair beginning at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, October 3, has a huge line-up of musicians, including the constants Benzion Solomon and his sons, who are part and parcel of the Moshav and the Carlebach music scene. Among the others in the line-up are Benyamin; Yerachmiel Ziegler & Friends; Benjamin Steinberg; Josh Laufer and Ben Zion Lehrer; Ketoret; Shlomo Katz; Hamakor; Shtar; Shivi Keller; Jah Levy; and Aryeh Naftali and the Elevators.
There is also a women’s tent with entertainment, interactive drama, lectures, discussions and healing of the body, the mind and the soul. Children’s activities include arts and crafts, a puppet theater, a concert, a quiz and lots of other distractions that will keep them occupied and leave their parents free to wander around and network with old friends.
■ WHEN THE residents of Netzarim in Gush Katif were evicted in accordance with prime minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan, approximately one-third of them relocated to Ariel, where they decided to become an integral part of the community. They thought that the best way they could contribute to the community and to their own well-being would be to set up a series of voluntary outreach programs based on education, social welfare and cultural needs.
The Gush Katif evacuees who went to Ariel call their community Netzer Ariel. They have rebuilt their lives by contributing to a better tomorrow for the people in their environment rather than dwelling on what they have lost.
Their next project is the construction of a synagogue that will come to fruition with the help of World Mizrahi.
The laying of the cornerstone for the synagogue will take place on Thursday, October 4 in the course of a World Mizrahi tour of Samaria that will include a visit to the Psagot Winery, a farm in Shilo, stops in Har Bracha and Har Grizim and a meeting with soldiers at an army base overlooking Ariel and culminating with the historic laying of the cornerstone in Netzer Ariel. On the day prior to the ceremony, the Netzer Ariel community will showcase its projects and initiatives at the annual World Mizrahi Succot luncheon, which this year is being sponsored by Sam and Gladys Halpern in memory of their brother and brother-in-law, Arieh Halpern. World Mizrahi president Kurt Rothschild and World Mizrahi director-general Solly Sacks have announced that the Netzer Ariel synagogue will be the organization’s next major project.
■ LOVERS OF Yiddish songs, particularly people of Lithuanian background, will pay tribute to Nechama Lifschitz at Shalom Aleichem House in Tel Aviv on Tuesday evening, October 9, in celebration of her 85th birthday.
Once known as the Jewish nightingale of the Soviet Union, Lifschitz, who was born in Kovno, Lithuania, was known throughout the length and breadth of the Soviet Union for her courage in performing in Yiddish in the various Soviet republics. Through her singing, Lifschitz became a symbol of the struggle against oppression and her passion for the preservation of dos pintele Yid (the tiny spark of Jewishness) was somehow contagious.
She was fortunate in being permitted to leave before the great wave of migration to Israel from the Soviet Union, and in Israel she sang for various Yiddish organizations and institutions and also taught Yiddish songs to a new generation of singers, some of whom did not have an Ashkenazi background but who believed that all forms of Jewish musical heritage were important. She was a founder of the Artistic Yiddish Singing Workshop at the Felicia Blumental Center, which is a co-sponsor of the tribute together with the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel and the Association of Residents of Vilna and Environs in Israel.
The evening will be moderated by Shmuel Ben-Zvi, the head of Israel Radio’s Radio Reka, the foreign-language radio station that broadcasts in 14 languages including Yiddish and Russian.
Although the Lithuanians have a language of their own, Russian was the universal language of all the republics in the Soviet Union as well as in most Soviet satellite countries.
■ PRIZE-WINNING author Simon Sebag Montefiore, who is a great-grandnephew of Sir Moses Montefiore, has provoked a storm of anger in Ramsgate, where Sir Moses and his wife are buried. In an interview with the London Jewish Chronicle, Sebag Montefiore suggested that the couple’s remains be exhumed and reinterred in Jerusalem, which Sir Moses visited seven times. Ramsgate Mayor David Green is opposed to the idea and issued a statement claiming that the Ramsgate Montefiore Heritage protests strongly to the removal of Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore from their resting place in Ramsgate, and would resist all such attempts. If Sir Moses had not wanted to be buried in Ramsgate, the statement continues, he would have said so. While he paid frequent visits to what was then Palestine, he never expressed the desire to live there or to be buried there, argued Green. Rabbi Cliff Cohen of the Thanet & District Reform Synagogue has sided with Green. It was obvious, he said, that Sir Moses had a mausoleum built in Ramsgate because he wanted to remain there.
Sebag Montefiore, who claims that Sir Moses was a Zionist before the term was ever coined, believes that Jerusalem, somewhere in the vicinity of the famous Montefiore Windmill, is the most appropriate final resting place for Sir Moses and his wife. It will be an interesting battle, proving that even dead Jews can create controversy.
■ RETIREMENT HOMES are not what they used to be. Once upon a time they were dreary places in which senior citizens sat around and vegetated in the twilight of their lives. Not anymore. Now they are designed to give their residents a whole new lease on life. Some are located within shopping mall complexes so that residents can join mainstream shoppers.
Many function as country clubs with swimming pools, gymnasiums, classes in painting and ceramics, guest lecturers, in-house film evenings, concerts, ballroom dancing and trips around the country.
Beit Tovei Ha’Ir, a Jerusalem facility for seniors which has the added value of a religious lifestyle, is among those retirement homes that offer varied programs to their residents.
Concerts in Beit Tovei Ha’Ir are not limited to the residents alone, but serve as a means of bringing in the outside world. Earlier this month the soul-stirring and joyous sounds of the holiday season reverberated throughout the soaring five-story glass atrium. The concert by the Yedidim choir and band was welladvertised and attracted a capacity crowd of some 300 people who tapped their toes, clapped their hands and swayed to the tunes.
One of the women in the crowd remarked that she had no idea that so many songs she recognized from synagogue services came from Modzitz. Some of the residents took the microphone to sing solos and several members of the audience were so moved by the music that they spontaneously got up to dance with choir members.
The moderator of the evening was Rabbi Yisrael Gellis, who is frequently heard on Israel Radio’s Jewish heritage programs and who has an unending fund of anecdotes. He noted that the Modzitz dynasty has produced more than 5,000 tunes and that 15 new tunes were composed each year for the High Holy Days. He also discussed the background to each tune that was played throughout the evening. Also present was Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites, who commented that this musical gathering of people of all ages in Beit Tovei Ha’Ir seemed like the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zecharia, who had forecast that that the elderly would once again populate the streets of Jerusalem, accompanied by the playing of young children.
Other speakers included Emanuel Glouberman, managing partner of The PAI Group, which purchased Beit Tovei Ha’Ir two years ago, and marketing and sales director Evelyne Paluch, whose connection with the complex spans its entire 20- year history. Beit Tovei Ha’Ir was established by the family of her late father-inlaw, who dreamed of creating an elegant and nurturing home for religious seniors.
Over the past two years, a series of modernizations, upgrades and expansions have been made to the premises, which are located in the heart of the Geula neighborhood.
■ A NEW Year’s toast at the Israel Diamond Exchange culminated with of Nilha chairwoman Hannah Gertler being conferred with honorary membership in the Diamond Exchange. Nilha is a Hebrew acronym for “wives of diamond merchants on behalf of the community.” Gertler was accorded the honor by Diamond Exchange president Yair Sahar.
Among the many guests at the ceremony were Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, Ramat Gan Mayor Zvi Bar, singer Moshe Datz, radio host Judy Shalom Nir Mozes and many other well-known personalities
■ IT APPEARS to be the season for a return to roots. Just a little over a month after the conference on Justice for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries comes an international conference on the struggle for identity of the Secret Jews of the Balearic Islands of Spain, with participants from Israel, Spain, Italy and the US. The conference, under the joint sponsorship of the Sephardi Center Israel; the Spanish Embassy; the Cervantes Institute and Casa Shalom, will be held on Monday, October 15 at the Netanya Academic College.
Spanish Ambassador Fernando Carderera will be among the opening speakers, as will Israel’s fifth president, Yitzhak Navon, who heads the National Authority for Ladino Culture.
NAC, which hosts the International Institute for Secret Jews Studies, is a natural venue for a conference of this nature. Casa Shalom executive director, Gloria Mound, who has been a driving force behind efforts to recognize the Secret Jews, or anusim as they are generally called, will discuss how the crypto-Jews of Majorca, Minorca and Ibiza preserved their identities and how this relates to their descendants who are eager to either rejoin the fold or at least establish their lineage.
■ THE BROKER and one of the witnesses for the deal between IDB CEO Nochi Dankner and Argentine billionaire Eduardo Elsztein, who is reputed to be the wealthiest man in Argentina, was Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, who is among the rabbis in whom many of Israel’s leading business executives put their trust. The other, who is even more famous, is Rabbi Yaakov Ifergan. Dankner’s name is usually associated with Ifergan, but when he needed a South American investor he turned to Pinto, who has better connections in Latin America. There have been conflicting reports about how much money Elsztein will be injecting into Ganden, which is the parent company of Dankner’s financially ailing IDB, but whatever the sum, it’s in double-digit millions.
Elsztein, who is a real estate tycoon, is the honorary president of Chabad Institutions in Argentina.
He was among the Jewish community leaders who hosted President Shimon Peres when the latter visited Argentina and Brazil in November 2009.
Last June, along with Israeli magnate Lev Leviev, who is also affiliated with Chabad, plus several other big-time philanthropists and hundreds of Chabad emissaries from around the world, Elsztein was among some 2,000 guests who attended the wedding in Moscow of Bluma Lazar, the daughter of Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, to Rabbi Aizik Rosenfeld. The groom’s father, Rabbi Yehoshua Rosenfeld, originally from Brooklyn, New York, is the chief Chabad emissary in Bogota, Columbia, while Lazar, who was born in Milan, Italy, is the chief Chabad emissary in Russia.
In addition to serving as chief rabbi of Russia, he also serves as chairman of the Federation of Jews of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Lazar has close connections with President Vladimir Putin.
Elsztein likes to tell the story about how advice from the Lubavitcher Rebbe enabled him to increase his wealth at a time of economic uncertainty. In 1991, a year before the rebbe was paralyzed by a stroke, Elsztein, who had investments to the tune of $45 million in the New York Stock Exchange, was somewhat concerned about putting so many eggs in one basket and asked the rebbe what he should do. The rebbe’s advice was never to do anything that harms his peace of mind or deprives him of sleep. Elsztein took the advice to heart, sold the shares and used the proceeds to buy property in Argentina. A few weeks later, the stock market crashed and the value of the shares that he had sold went down by 65 percent. But in the course of a year, the properties he’d bought went up in value by 50%.
One of the activities for which Pinto is well-known is leading groups of (mainly Sephardi) Jews to Bulgaria to pray at the grave of Rabbi Eliezer Papo, the great Sarejevo- born scholar who served as spiritual mentor to the community of Selestria in Bulgaria.
Papo authored several books on Jewish law and its interpretations, but is best known for Pele Yoetz, his book on Jewish ethics, and is often referred to by that appellation.
One of his direct descendants is Jeremy Issacharoff, a deputy director general at the Foreign Ministry.
■ IFERGAN, WHO has for the best part of two decades has been at odds with Rabbi Baruch Abuchatzeira, better known as the Baba Baruch, over control of the religious turf of Netivot, decided on the eve of Yom Kippur to bury the hatchet and visited the Baba Baruch in his home to ask his forgiveness so that they can put the past behind them and work together for the common good, especially in the field of education but also with regard to municipal affairs.
The acrimony that existed between the two religious leaders led to acts of violence among their followers and attempts on both sides to discredit the reputation of the other. The Baba Baruch allegedly sent call girls to Ifergan in a failed attempt to blacken his name.
In religious Jewish circles, when someone apologizes, particularly during the 10 days of penitence between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the person to whom the apology is made must accept it. This was the reason given by the Baba Baruch for the new era of cooperation between him and Ifergan. The main beneficiary of their joint forces in the foreseeable future will be Netivot mayoral candidate Moshe Peretz, who is favored by both rabbis.
■ RUTH EGLASH, the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, was given an emotional send-off by her colleagues on Tuesday.
Eglash began working at the Post as a graphic designer in 1997 and served in a variety of positions, including arts and entertainment editor, social affairs correspondent and social media editor.
She was awarded the United Nations and International Center for Journalists’ X-Culture Award for a story about Israeli-Jordanian relations she wrote together with a Jordanian journalist.
Editor-in-Chief Steve Linde recited a poem to Eglash, saying: “Your colleagues and I hold you in great esteem; It really was an honor to have you on our team,” Managing Editor David Brinn said that Eglash’s legacy had been the taming of Israel’s often brash PR representatives and spokespeople.
“Her idealism and enthusiasm are marvels that we should all aspire to,” he said.
Eglash said she was excited about her next adventure, which she hinted would be in the realm of digital media.
“I hope to apply the skills and experience from my work at the Post to something new and exciting,” she said.