Grapevine: One who saved a single life and saved a world

A joyous ‘family’ reunion, carefully chosen names for the British ambassador’s sabra daughter, and Rothschild clan members gather for the ICET’s 40th.

311_UK ambassador Gould (photo credit: Courtesy of British Embassy )
311_UK ambassador Gould
(photo credit: Courtesy of British Embassy )
THEY WERE both born in Poland. Doris Levine, at five, arrived in the US with her parents and sister in 1938. Rena Quint, three years younger, remained in Poland and was caught up in the war. She was eventually liberated from Bergen-Belsen – bereft of parents and her two brothers. From there she was sent to Sweden. In a displaced persons camp she met Anna Philipstahl, whose brother had gone to America before the war and had arranged immigration papers for her and her son Sigmund.
Throughout the war years, Quint had been cared for by a series of surrogate mothers. Now she had another one. Philipstahl invited her to come to America with her as her daughter. Unfortunately she died six months after they reached the US, and her brother did not want to be responsible for the little orphan girl.
As fate would have it, he knew a childless couple who were willing to take her in for a weekend to see if they could get along. The weekend evolved into a lifetime. They became her parents in every sense. Rena saw Sigmund, who by that time had changed his name to Stanley, when he was at university. She was in high school and she had gone to visit him. She had stayed with his girl friend Marcia, whom he later married.
That was more than half a century ago, and there had been no contact between them since. Like many Holocaust survivors, Quint was haunted by unanswered questions.
Since moving here in 1984, some of those questions had been answered because she had access to archives such as Yad Vashem and the Joint Distribution Committee. Sarah Kadosh, former director of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives in Jerusalem, had helped her to acquire information and asked if there were anything else she wanted to know. Quint, who had always regarded Sigmund or Stanley as her brother, wanted to know what had happened to him.
Kadosh discovered on the Internet last January that he had died the previous year. She also found out about his wife and daughter. Quint wasted no time and called Marcia Philips at her home in Florida. Both women were overwhelmed with emotion.
Philips took down Quint’s details, but because she was so excited, she wasn’t sure that she had them correctly.
Her daughter Nanci Shwartz, going through Facebook, found the name of an old schoolmate who now lives in Jerusalem. She got in touch, and asked her to confirm Quint’s details.
The friend contacted Quint, and soon e-mails kept jumping back and forth. Quint invited her “sister-inlaw” and “niece” to come here, telling them they would have no expenses beyond the fare.
She put them up in her home, took them out on tours and invited them to attend the Amit gala luncheon this week at which she and Levine, who has been living in Jerusalem since 1997, were honored.
When Quint had to make her response speech she told her story, including her search for Sigmund/Stanley. At the close of her address she presented plaques to her Florida “family” in memory of Anna Philipstahl with the inscription, “Who though she did not give birth to me gave me life.”
Quint surmised that without Philipstahl’s generosity of spirit, she might have been a child in an Amit home.
Instead she had grown up in the warm and loving home of Jacob and Leah Globe, had married Rabbi Emanuel Quint and had become the mother of four children who have given her 22 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
■ LEADING MEMBERS of the Druse community can be as outspoken as prominent Israeli Jews. Likud MK Ayoub Kara tells his Israeli friends on the West Bank that he’s a bigger Zionist than they are, and Kadima MK Majallie Whbee asserts that accusations charging Israel with being an apartheid state are “false.”
Addressing a luncheon gathering of the Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association at the Leonardo Hotel in Ramat Gan this week, Whbee – a colonel in the IDF reserve who described himself as “a proud Israeli” – came out strongly in defense of our democracy.
He noted the Druse community’s unique standing, and the high-level positions its members have attained in the military, police, political and public life – out of all proportion to their 130,000 souls. But he acknowledged the Druse community is not benefitting from the rights to which all citizens are entitled. Budgets granted to Druse towns and villages are far lower than to Jewish ones.
On the more positive side, universities, the legal system and the government embrace Jews, Arabs and Druse alike. Whbee cited hospitals as the biggest melting pot, where treatment is given to everyone, be they sporting keffiyehs, kippot, jalabiyas or jeans. He expressed pride in the legal system which includes Arab judges – even on the Supreme Court. “Here, no one is above the law,” he said.
Asked about the Druse of the Golan Heights, Lebanon and Syria, Whbee said they were loyal citizens of the countries where they reside.
“As for us, we are ready to die for Israel,” he declared.
■ BRITISH AMBASSADOR Matthew Gould, who insists that there is no contradiction between his being a proud Englishman and a proud Jew, often goes to enormous lengths to explain the compatibility, and he and his wife Celia have done so again in naming their new sabra daughter Rachel Elizabeth. Of the four Jewish matriarchs, no one more than Rachel symbolizes the return of the Jewish people to its spiritual homeland, and Elizabeth is the name of two British monarchs. Better still, the Hebrew name from which Elizabeth was adapted is Elisheva, who according to the Bible was the wife of Aaron, the brother of Moses.
Rachel Elizabeth, who was due to arrive on Tuesday, instead made her entry into the world in the wee small hours of April 1. Gould, usually seen in a business suit, wore jeans and a white T-shirt when he accompanied his wife to the hospital and posed for photographs with her and their daughter. Presumably over the next few weeks, diplomatic matters will take a back seat to paternal pride, and eloquence will give way to the strange speech adults adopt when talking to babies.
■ ON A somewhat different British note, three generations of British Rothschilds, headed by Lord Rothschild, came here for the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Israel Center for Educational Technology.
They were joined by other members of the Rothschild clan who flew in from Geneva. They were welcomed at a reception held in their honor by ICET CEO Gil Ben-Har on what it means to move into the digital age and how this will affect many areas of endeavor. She was proud of the fact that ICET is the country’s leading producer of digital books. The reception and festive dinner had been preceded by a conference on new media, digital communication and related subjects.
For Lord Rothschild, who has contributed to the development of ICET since its beginning, this was an exciting occasion. Among those attending the reception and dinner were MK Meir Sheetrit, who has had a close connection with ICET since he was mayor of Yavne; Yuli Tamir, president of Shenkar College; Shimshon Shoshani, director-general of the Education Ministry; Dr.
Micha Angel, chairman of the board at ICET; and Avi Ze’evi, a founding partner of Carmel Ventures.
■ AUSTRALIAN EXPATS brought together last week by Australian Jewish businessman Ashley Korngold and Ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem were thrilled to have the opportunity to sit around a dinner table with former Australian prime minister John Howard, who was delightfully casual, expressed an interest in each one of them, posed good naturedly for endless photographs and laughed uproariously when Aviva Banczewski, who works for Israel Chemicals, told him that her mother in Melbourne kept his photograph on her bedside table.
Now Banczewski’s mother can replace that photograph with one of Howard shaking hands with her daughter.
Howard, known to be a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people, had just come from Johannesburg, where he had attended the annual gala conference of the Zionist Federation of South Africa and had been given a tumultuous ovation by 2,500 attendees after making his pro-Israel speech.
Among those attending the dinner in Tel Aviv were international karate champion Danny Hakim, founder of Budo for Peace, who is now running a self-defense program in martial arts for Jewish university students from America; David Schlessinger, CEO of the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce New South Wales division; Dr. Harvey Belik, whose son played Australian Rules football with the Peres Peace Center team which visited Australia; Guy Spiegelman, vice president of business development at Apos; Garry Stock, chairman of James Richardson; Capt. Benji Rutland, of the IDF Spokesman’s Office; Don Stanley, director of Israel Trust; Joel Zamel, director of Wikistrat; and Paul Israel, executive director of the Israel Australia Chamber of Commerce.
■ DIPLOMATS HAVE to rub shoulders or press palms with every strata of society if they want to have a really good understanding of the countries to which they are assigned. Last week Tom Goldberger, deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy, and his wife Eden, spent a day in Jerusalem as guests of Rabbi Matityahu Cheshin, known as the haredi consul. Cheshin, a ninth generation Jerusalemite, took them to meet Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, head of the Mir Yeshiva, and visit the Mir Bakery, where they baked hallot.
He then took them to a matza factory where they baked their own matza.
From Mir they went to Belz to tour the Belz Great Synagogue. Their guide was Melbourne-born Yehezkel Friedman, who not only explained the structure with its main sanctuary that can seat 6,000 people, but also told them something of the history of the Belz dynasty, which was almost destroyed by the Nazis, but rebuilt by Rabbi Aharon Rokeach, the uncle of current Belzer Rebbei Yissachar Dov Rokeach.
The acoustics in the main sanctuary are such that someone standing at one end and talking in a normal voice can be easily heard by someone at the other end. The sound bounces off the crystal chandeliers.
Because even whispered prayers can be easily heard, whenever there is a need for uniformity, a large leather cushion is taken from beneath the lectern and given a whack with a big stick to create instant silence. Friedman invited Goldberger to use the stick.
■ IT’S ALMOST a sin to be affluent here. The local media regularly attack the oligarchy, conveniently forgetting the number of social welfare, educational, cultural, medical and other institutions and projects they support.
Last week nearly 1,000 people convened at the David InterContinental Hotel-Tel Aviv for the DC Finance Annual Family Office and Wealth Management Conference, which was opened by Nava Michael Tzabari, who spoke about her Strauss family roots and of how the second generation is managing their wealth.
Among the attendees at the conference moderated by TV personality Gadi Sukenik were Mickey Dorsman, founder of Shilov; Dalia and Moran Shuster, Ya’acov Burak of Evergreen, Orni Petrushka, Yisrael Eliahu of Eliahu Insurance Co., Dr. Eli Fisher of Fisher Pharmaceuticals and Dr. Esther Luzzatto, managing partner of Luzzatto & Luzzatto patent attorneys. DC Finance CEO Denny Chared has instituted a variety of conferences that help the rich to decide how to invest their money in the nation’s future.
■ ALTHOUGH THEY are on opposite sides of the political fence, one of those who has come to the defense of the media maligned Sara Netanyahu is Israel Prize laureate Gila Almagor. At a belated International Women’s Day brunch at the prime minister’s residence last Thursday, the actress urged her to be strong, and said that while it was legitimate to criticize and even attack the prime minister, his wife and children should be left alone.
Also coming out strongly was Batsheva Hayat, widow of firefighter Danny Hayat, who died of injuries sustained when fighting the Carmel fires. Hayat said that when she was a student, her teacher had been Sara Netanyahu’s father Shmuel Ben- Artzi, who had taught her the values that she cherishes and lives by.
Among the other women present were Sivan Rahav Meir, whose interview with her later in the day on Channel 2 made front page news in most of Friday’s papers; Elizabeth Berkowitz, Limor Livnat, Gila Gamliel, Esther Wachsman, Carmella Menashe, Orit Noked, Merav Michaeli, Miriam Ben-Porat, Nadia Cohen, widow of executed spy Eli Cohen; Gila Gamliel and Tzipi Hotovely. The husband of the hostess was also there.
■ LEGAL PROBLEMS notwithstanding, former prime minister Ehud Olmert was the man of the hour last Wednesday at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, where members of Kadima celebrated the launch of a new book about party founder Ariel Sharon. Current leader Tzipi Livni, who had a previous engagement, did not attend. If she had, perhaps Dalia Itzik, Shaul Mofaz and Haim Ramon might have been more circumspect in their remarks, an outpouring of affection for Olmert.
There were several people who dubbed him one of the country’s best prime ministers.
■ UNLIKE ISRAEL, whose citizens living abroad (other than those who are in service to the state) cannot vote in the Knesset elections, the French do allow expatriates who have retained citizenship to vote in national elections. French media analyst Philippe Karsenty, who exposed the Muhammad al-Dura hoax, is running for parliament and is campaigning to represent a recently created district that comprises French citizens living abroad – mostly here and in Italy, Greece and Turkey, but also the US.
According to Karsenty, the largest percentage of his potential electorate lives here. That explains his presence this week. He was campaigning in Ashdod on Monday, Jerusalem on Tuesday and today he’ll be in Netanya. He’ll be in North America from May 5-15. Israel needs to have a friend in the French parliament, he says.
■ IT’S AMAZING how many people stay up in the predawn hours to listen to their favorite radio programs.
Israel Radio’s Raya Admoni and Claude Buchbinder, who had worked closely with the late Netiva Ben-Yehuda, decided to have a memorial tribute to her in which they played snatches of old programs that featured her voice, but also took calls from loyal listeners.
Among them was Reuma Weizman, widow of the seventh president, who called in at around 2:30 a.m. and expressed profound gratitude for being given the opportunity to say a few words in Ben-Yehuda’s memory.
■ REGARDLESS OF the outcome of the game, Austrian Ambassador Michael Rendi and Israel Rugby Union president Menahem Ben- Menahem will raise a glass of Red Bull at a reception at the ambassador’s residence on Saturday to toast the two countries’ rugby teams, which will compete earlier in the day in a European Nations Cup match.
■ ETHICS ARE very important, but sometimes the people who make the rules about ethical behavior can go overboard. Such was the case with the legal department of the Israel Broadcasting Authority with regard to singer/song writer Kobi Oz, who just over three weeks ago was approved by the cabinet to serve on the 31-member IBA plenum. Along with the honor came a stern limitation on the frequency with which his recordings could be played on Israel Radio, the need to secure permission from the IBA’s legal department to appear on the IBA’s radio or television programs and the imperative to refrain from giving interviews. Oz had been unaware of these restrictions until the legal department circulated a letter outlining all the things he’s not allowed to do.
To remain on the plenum was tantamount to professional suicide – so Oz resigned.
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