Grapevine: O Jerusalem, O Teddy

Teddy Park, located on what was once no-man’s land, serves as a bridge between east and west Jerusalem, Arabs and Jews, religious and secular.

The Kollek family 370 (photo credit: The Jerusalem Foundation)
The Kollek family 370
(photo credit: The Jerusalem Foundation)
The combined wealth of the friends of Teddy Kollek and the supporters of the Jerusalem Foundation, who assembled in Jerusalem’s Teddy Park for its inauguration and for the presentation of the 2013 Teddy Kollek Awards, could have solved Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s budgetary problems many times over. What was perhaps most heartwarming was to see a four-generation gathering of Jews and non-Jews, including a group from BMW, as tangible evidence of the passing on of the torch of philanthropy and concern for the future of the world’s most contentious capital – which this week celebrates the 46th anniversary of its reunification.
In fact, Teddy Park, located on what was once no-man’s land, serves as a bridge between east and west Jerusalem, Arabs and Jews, the religious and the secular, and people of all faiths. This was part of Kollek’s vision when he established the Jerusalem Foundation and began developing the city on both sides of the park, which now will form a bridge of coexistence, tranquility and mutual respect.
There were 19 elements of the park dedicated during the inauguration ceremony, with the most popular being the Jerusalem Foundation’s Wall of Honor, on which the names of close to 200 individuals, organizations and foundations that have contributed to the development of the capital are engraved. Many of the donors posed for photos alongside their names. One of the first was Della Worms, who said she felt a certain a m b i v a l e n c e because she was listed as a benefactor from the UK – when in fact she has been living in Israel for several years. All of the park’s benefactors were from abroad, with the exception of Michael Federmann, who heads the Dan Hotels chain and whose parents, Yekutiel and Bella Federmann, first became acquainted with Kollek in the 1930s and remained lifelong friends. Dan Hotels and the Federmann family donated a wishing well, into which Michael Federmann threw the first coin.
Shira Zacks, Kollek’s eldest grandchild who is the daughter of well-known artist Osnat Kollek, filled in the story of the Kollek-Federmann relationship. In the late 1930s in Germany, a well to-do young Jewish couple learned on their way to work that the Gestapo was looking for them. They instantly fled the country, leaving behind their home and baby. Somehow they got word to people in the yishuv that they would give a substantial donation to the Zionist cause if their child could be found and returned to them.
Despite the dangers involved, Kollek went to Germany and located brothers Yekutiel and Samuel Federmann, who were Zionist activists. They went to the house and discovered that the Gestapo had preceded them.
However, someone had spirited the baby away before the Gestapo arrived. Kollek and the Federmann brothers managed to track down the whereabouts of the infant and to reunite the baby with its parents, who made good on their promise.
Another Kollek grandchild, Avigail, the daughter of filmmaker Amos Kollek, said how pleased she was that the park bore her grandfather’s name, because this ensured he would always be remembered.
Meanwhile, the superbly conceived Teddy Kollek visitor’s center, donated by Kenneth and Ann Bialkin, presents a wonderful retrospective of who the mayor knew and what he did. The park was clearly a most appropriate venue for the presentation of the awards, which this year went to Alan Hassenfeld of the US; Julia and Henry Koschitzky of Canada; and Sonja Dinner, president of the Swiss DEAR Foundation. All have contributed to and left their imprints on so much of Jerusalem’s beauty and culture. Dinner, for her part, said she has been guided in everything she has done by the inspiring motto of her foundation’s founders – a childless couple in which the wife was Christian and the husband an observant Jew – who said that “in the eyes of the other, you are always the other.”
A lifetime achievement award was also given to Ruth Cheshin, the longtime former president of the Jerusalem Foundation, who has been ardently involved since its very beginning. Cheshin said that she did not like being on the receiving end of awards – she prefers to prefers to present them – but said she was happy to follow in the footsteps of her great-grandfather, Yoel Moshe Salomon, who established one of the first neighborhoods in what is now considered downtown Jerusalem.
Also following an example set by his parents was Leonard Wilf, who dedicated a garden plaza in memory of his mother, Holocaust survivor and lover of Jerusalem Judith Wilf. On the previous day, Wilf had participated in the dedication ceremony of the new Yad Vashem Square at the entrance to the Mount of Remembrance; he recently took up the post of chairman of the American Society for Yad Vashem together with his cousin Zygmunt, who is the society’s trustee and secretary- general of its board. Their families contributed substantially to the construction of the square, which is not only an aesthetic addition to the complex but also functions as a directional guide for the thousands of daily visitors.
Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev announced that the square would also serve as the main entrance to Yad Vashem, and as a transition point from the daily reality of Jerusalem to an emotionally meaningful experience. Mayor Nir Barkat noted that Jerusalem attaches great cultural, social and historic importance to Jewish heritage and in preserving the memory of the Holocaust.
Members of the Wilf Family have been longtime, active supporters of Yad Vashem, and were among the original founders of the American Society for Yad Vashem. In addition to the square, they have also contributed to the establishment of the Valley of the Communities, and endowed the new Holocaust History Museum as well as the entrance plaza in front of the visitors center. The Wilfs also underwrote Yad Vashem’s ongoing project to record the testimonies of Holocaust survivors.
Beyond Yad Vashem, one of their most outstanding projects in Jerusalem was the renewal of Independence Park.
■ INDIVIDUAL HOLOCAUST survivors and organizations of survivors have acute financial problems. The conference of Partisans, Underground and Ghetto Fighters, which took place in Jerusalem this week, would not have been possible without the financial backing of software tycoon Noam Lanir.
Supportive of various Holocaust survivor organizations, Lanir became involved with the partisans after reading a book by one of them.
Lanir has quite a history of heroism in his own family. His grandparents were active Irgun members, and his father, Avi Lanir, was a combat pilot who fought in the Six Day War, the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War. The highest-ranking combat pilot to be taken captive, he was tortured to death by the Syrians. His body was returned to Israel in June 1974, and two years later he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Valor. Avi Lanir’s uncle, Eliyahu Lankin, was the commander of the Altelena, while Lankin’s wife, Doris, was for many years a law reporter and analyst at The Jerusalem Post.
■ ONE OF the traditions of Poland’s Constitution Day celebrations in Israel is to award medals to people who fought in Jewish and Polish resistance movements against the Nazis. Five such heroes were recognized this week at a reception hosted by Polish Ambassador Jacek Chodorowicz and his wife Monika, at their palatial residence in Udim near Netanya. Because this is the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, all five honorees were people who had fought in either the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising or the Polish Uprising of 1944, or in both.
They were: Stanislaw Aronson; Peretz Hochman, who died a month ago and whose medal was accepted by his wife Sima and son Ran; Simcha Rotem; Kazimierz Rutenberg; and Samuel Willenberg, one of the last survivors of the Treblinka death camp.
The medals were awarded by Robert Kupiecki, Poland’s deputy minister of defense, who came to Israel with his senior adviser, Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewska, an immediate past ambassador of Poland who was greeted with great enthusiasm by many friends. Both she and Kupiecki came to Israel to participate in a strategic military dialogue.
Chodorowicz announced that later this year, Israel can expect a visit from Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski. He will be the country’s fourth president to visit Israel since Poland was liberated from the yoke of Communism.
■ Tourism Minister Uzi Landau, who brought the greetings of the government and people of Israel, had trouble pronouncing the names of both the ambassador and his predecessor.
He apologized, saying that although his father had come from Krakow, he himself had never mastered Polish. Recalling that in February 2011, Jerusalem had hosted the first joint meeting between the Israeli and Polish governments, Landau noted that the second summit of this kind will take place this year in Warsaw.
The military cooperation between Israel and Poland has been illustrated by the participation of Polish pilots in training exercises in Israel, the tourism minister said, adding: “It is not every day that we see fighter planes from other countries flying over Israel. This is a reflection of the warm ties between Israel and Poland.” He also spoke of intensive cultural cooperation and welcomed the establishment of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which he regarded as a positive illustration of modern, democratic Poland. Israel is committed to strengthening the ties between the people of both countries, said Landau, citing as an example the youth exchange program in which 15,000 Israelis have met with their Polish counterparts. Israel is determined to expand the program, he said.
Taking advantage of Landau’s position in the government, Chodorowicz said he would like to see more tourism in both directions, and not just educational tours by Israelis to Poland and pilgrim tours by Poles to Israel.
He also commented on the fact that of all the people gathered in the sprawling grounds of the residence, the ones who felt most at home were members of the Willenberg family, who actually own the property which he is renting.
The story is that in the early 1960s, Samuel Willenberg – who now lives in Tel Aviv – decided that he wanted to own a farm. In those days, land in Udim was cheap and the area was totally underdeveloped. Willenberg’s daughter Orit eventually became an internationally acclaimed architect, and designed the palatial modular house in which the ambassador and his family now live. There was more than enough land for her to build a house for her own family next door.
Both Willenberg, 91, and his wife, Ada, 84 and a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, are active, vivacious and frequent fliers. The two were in Poland last month for the 70th anniversary commemoration of the uprising, and Willenberg still had the yellow flower with the six petals symbolizing the yellow Star of David, which Jews were forced to wear on their clothing during the Holocaust, pinned to his blazer.
The Willenbergs are frequent visitors to Poland. Last October, they were in Czestochowa where Willenberg was born, for a gathering of survivors and their progeny. In August, they will be back in Poland for the 70th anniversary of the Treblinka Revolt, of which Willenberg was one of the leaders.
Age has never been a deterrent. The will to tell the story of Jews who fought back is so strong, nothing gets in the way.
■ GUESTS AT diplomatic affairs held in the residences of heads of mission are often surprised to discover that the catering is not kosher, especially when several of the guests are wearing kippot and are known to be religiously observant. To the delight of many of the guests who were invited by genial new South African Ambassador Sisa Ngombane and his wife Thathanyana to their Freedom Day reception, the cuisine – while consisting of South African delicacies – was all kosher.
Though some of the wines were not, guests were advised of this before they visited the bar.
But the kosher fare was not the only surprise of the evening. Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz, who is not known for his proficiency in English, had apparently devoted time to improving his linguistic skills. He was interrupted several times by warm bursts of applause, and after his remarks, was engulfed by well-wishers.
Peretz noted that South Africa is the only country on the African continent in which Israel has commercial attaches and as such, is committed to strengthening economic ties between the two countries. He also spoke of the need to enhance relations in general, and said Israel is interested in seeing the renewal of the reciprocal ministerial visits as an effective means of advancing the bilateral relationship.
As environment minister and a person who fought his whole life for social justice, Peretz continued, he saw a direct connection between social justice and environmental justice, because the environment knows no boundaries in reality. He was certain that cooperation between Israel and South Africa would lead to a cleaner, moral, more peaceful and just world.
It is rare for government ministers to say much about themselves at such events, but Peretz thought that the ambassador should at least know something about him as a representative of the government, and how he rose from being a poor Moroccan immigrant living in a peripheral southern city that is now constantly under threat, to being a minister.
His political career had its beginning in Sderot, where he still resides with his family.
After serving as mayor, he later held a variety of public service positions, most notably Histadrut chairman, deputy prime minister and defense minister.
A strong believer in the bond between peace and social justice, Peretz expressed regret that the violent atmosphere in the region continues to undermine efforts to revive the peace process. As an example of such violence, he cited the missiles launched from the Gaza strip that target cities in South, including Sderot. While these attacks cannot be ignored, said Peretz, he remains a great advocate for peace and welcomes American efforts to renew the peace process. He suggested that South Africa, which has good relations with both Israel and the Palestinians, could make a considerable contribution towards encouraging a better atmosphere, which would pave the way for renewal of the peace process.
Just a few days prior to Freedom Day, Telfed-the South African Zionist Federation had hosted a reception in Ra’anana to welcome the ambassador and his wife. Aside from a large representation of the diplomatic community, guests at the reception included ambassador-designate to South Africa Arthur Lenk; the new South African Ambassador to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, Prof.
M.W. Makalima; the Telfed leadership, represented by chairman Dave Bloom, director Sidney Shapiro and deputy director Dorron Kline; and numerous South African expatriates, among them Michael Jankelowitz, whose late father was Colin Jankelowitz, an eminent South African lawyer who defended late ANC leader Govan Mbeki in a trial in Port Elizabeth the early 1960s. Mbeki’s son later became president of South Africa.
■ IT’S A girl, yet again. British Ambassador Matthew Gould and his wife Celia last week became parents of their second Sabra daughter, born like her sister Rachel at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital. The new baby is called Emily Rebecca Leaberry Gould. The Goulds are not the first ambassadorial couple to produce a Sabra, but they may well be the only heads of a foreign mission with two. They probably won’t be in Israel long enough to produce a third, though a sibling to Rachel and Emily could still be conceived in Israel.
■ THE FACT that someone has a disability does not necessarily prevent them from enjoying what any fully functional person enjoys – particularly music, which does something for the soul, regardless of anyone’s physical or mental condition. Hillard Fahn, an American Jew who became a quadriplegic at age 18, had a deep love for all types of music, and was also very conscious of the need to advance the independence of young people with disabilities. Following his death in 2010, his sister, Roberta Fahn Schoffman, who lives in Jerusalem, thought that the best way to honor his memory would be to have an annual concert in connection with Alyn Orthopedic Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, which helps so many physically challenged children and adolescents.
The Second Annual Hillard Fahn Concert took place last month in Alyn’s gardens, with the participation of the Afro-Pop Ensemble from the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music. Patients and some of their parents, doctors and nurses, administrative staff and volunteers – all were obviously infected by the beat of the music. The audience reflected the demographic mosaic of the city, and included Jew and Arab, haredi and secular, light- and dark-skinned, with everyone caught up in the music. Schnoffman was thrilled with the reaction, explaining that the event brought together her brother’s love for Israel, his enthusiasm for music and his commitment to improving the quality of life for the disabled.
■ THE COMMON expression is that the world belongs to the young, but senior citizens from all over the country gathered at a three-day conference in Jerusalem this week to prove that it still belongs to people of the third age. Participants included people still active in their professions, volunteers in a huge variety of social welfare projects, athletes engaging in many different sports, dancers, and students delighting in academic pursuits. The underlying message was that age does not necessarily disqualify people from contributing to their nation, community or quality of life.
Four well-known senior citizens received special recognition from Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach and Barkat. They included, in order of seniority: Ruth Dayan, 97, founder of the now-defunct Maskit arts and crafts store and a tireless worker for Beduin rights, women’s causes and Jewish- Arab coexistence and cooperation; Yona Uzpiz, 92, who continues to play an active role as CEO of the veteran Holon company Yona Uzpiz Electric Motors Ltd.; and Noah Kliger, 86, an Auschwitz survivor and veteran journalist who has worked for Yediot Aharonot since 1958, writing about Holocaust- related issues and sport. Kliger, who is fluent in several languages, also lectures extensively on.the Holocaust, and frequently accompanies groups to Poland in official and unofficial capacities. The “baby” among the honorees was stage, screen and radio personality Rivka Michaeli, 74, who continues to appear in plays and television series, to act as mistress of ceremonies at countless events, and to anchor radio and television programs.
■ THE JEWISH communities of Hebron and Kiryat Arba are basking in the recognition that will be bestowed upon Rabbi Moshe Levinger, 77, in Jerusalem tomorrow (Thursday).
He is among the recipients of the Lion of Zion Moskowitz Prize for Zionism, for his pioneering role in the 1968 renewal of the Jewish community in Hebron. Leading a group of like-minded people, Levinger and his wife Miriam arrived there for Passover in the aftermath of the Six Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem – and they stayed.
Others subsequently followed and built up the Jewish communities of Hebron and Kiryat Arba, through the Gush Emunim settlement movement initiated by Levinger. There were many trials and tribulations along the way, but the Levingers refused to be swayed by bureaucracy, existential threats or ill health – and 45 years later, they are still there.
The two other recipients of this year’s award are Yigal Cohen-Orgad, the chancellor of Ariel University, and Dr. Zvi Zameret, a veteran educator.
■ AT AN age when many of his peers are being made redundant, Root and Branch founder, author, public speaker and interviewer Lowell Gallin, who recently celebrated his 57th birthday, has added yet another string to his bow. A couple of years back he was approached by a young Dutch university student, who asked him to appear in a film that he was making for his thesis. Gallin was slightly taken aback, but then decided that it would be fun. His name now appears on the list of credits for The Dinner Table, which has been accepted for screening at the upcoming 66th Cannes Film Festival.
■ AS A youngster in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda neighborhood, it is doubtful that Rami Levi, who went on to become Israel’s supermarket discount king and is now making inroads in the communications industry, ever imagined he would counsel graduates of a special program that helps 11th- and 12thgrade students from low socioeconomic backgrounds with their future careers. Maagalim, a nationwide organization that counsels the students about utilizing their potential and continues to work with them after they graduate from high school, brings leading figures from many fields to talk to them – especially those with rags-to-riches success stories. When Levi recently met with Maagalim graduates who had just completed military service, at a unique employment and education convention, his advice was that having dreams and taking initiative are the first step toward achievement.
■ US AMBASSADOR Dan Shapiro was a guest of TowerJazz and its CEO, Russell Ellwanger, in Migdal Ha’emek’s “Silicon Valley,” and together they visited the company’s innovative, state-of-the-art Fab 2 sterile production facility. During the visit, Shapiro stated that TowerJazz was a template of how an Israeli-headquartered company can take the best parts of Israeli, American, and even Japanese business cultures and merge them to become an international technology leader. Most impressive was TowerJazz’s employee-driven sustainable community service, with activities spanning both Jewish and Arab