Grapevine: At the top of her game

The decision to name Karnit Flug governor of the Bank of Israel is a personal triumph not only for Flug but also for the Hebrew University.

Karnit Flug 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Karnit Flug 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
THE DECISION by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid to name Karnit Flug governor of the Bank of Israel is a personal triumph not only for Flug but also for the Hebrew University from which she graduated and where her husband, Saul Lach, is a professor of economics. And for Jerusalem, the city in which she lives – on the same street as Nir Barkat. In fact, she’s his next-door neighbor in Beit Hakerem.
It is also a triumph for Holocaust survivors, who calculate their victory over the Nazis not only by the growth of their families but also by the successes of second- and third-generation survivors. The daughter of Polish Holocaust survivors, Flug, at age three, was brought to Israel in 1958 by her parents, who initially lived in impoverished circumstances in Kiryat Hayovel. Her father, Noah, who died two years ago, achieved international renown both as an economist and an indefatigable fighter for the rights of Holocaust survivors. He worked for more than 30 years as an economist and diplomat, serving in senior positions in the Finance Ministry, then as financial adviser to the Knesset Finance Committee and to the Israel Embassy in Bonn. He was also Israel consul in Zurich.
He would have been enormously proud of the daughter, who followed him professionally but on a somewhat different track. In 1987, Noah Flug, a survivor of Auschwitz, was one of the founders of Israel’s Central Organization of Holocaust Survivors, an umbrella organization now headed by Colette Avital, that encompasses some 70 bodies. He was also president of the International Auschwitz Committee, vice president of the Claims Conference and a member of the executive board of Yad Vashem.
Karnit Flug was a good student who, over the years, made impressive strides first in her studies and then in her career, gaining valuable experience to prepare her for her role as Bank of Israel governor. She earned her doctorate in economics at Columbia University in New York, worked as an economist at the International Monetary Fund as an economist and subsequently as a senior research economist at the Inter-American Development Bank. She began working in the research department of the Bank of Israel in 1987, rising to head that department in 2001. Since then, she has occupied a number of senior positions at the central bank and was No. 2 to former Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer, who had recommended her to succeed him and was among the first to congratulate her.
President Shimon Peres, who is a former finance minister and an outspoken advocate for equal opportunities for women, also congratulated Flug, telling her that she comes to the role with a huge credit card and that she is the most suitable person to confront the challenges of Israel’s economy. Flug responded that she would do her utmost to warrant the confidence that has been placed in her.
HUNDREDS OF people flocked to the Har Hamenuhot cemetery last Sunday to mark the 19th anniversary of the passing of the famous singing rabbi, Shlomo Carlebach. They remained there for several hours, repeating his teachings and singing his songs. Several hundred more – coming from as far away as Safed in the North and Yeroham in the South – gathered at various synagogues throughout Jerusalem to sing Carlebach melodies and to dance. At Ohel Rivka in Rehavia, as in most other places, there were many young people who had been either babes in arms or not yet born when Carlebach died.
Many people at Ohel Rivka came bearing musical instruments – mostly guitars, but also drums, a keyboard, an accordion and a violin.
While the younger generation with undeniable musical talent and enthusiasm sang the songs, they didn’t have quite the same sense of the singing rabbi as the veterans who had personally experienced his aura. They simply could not compare with singer-guitarists such as Yitzhak Muller, Shmuel Zivan and Binyamin Steinberg, whose voices and mannerisms are remarkably similar to those of Carlebach.
The celebration of Carlebach’s life became so frenzied at one stage, that an irate resident of Harlap Street, where the synagogue is located, complained about the noise. The complaint went unheeded.
Carlebach would have reacted differently. He would have reached out to the angry complainant, winning him over with his warm, charismatic personality.