Grapevine: Jerusalem leaders

Chief Sephardi Rabbi does rounds to supporters; looking toward October's City Council elections; caring for the city's youth in distress.

Jerusalem Western Wall, Dome of the Rock 521 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Jerusalem Western Wall, Dome of the Rock 521
(photo credit: REUTERS)
EVEN BEFORE his inauguration this past Wednesday as Sephardi Chief Rabbi, with the title of Rishon Lezion, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef began doing the rounds to thank those rabbis who had supported him during his campaign. Among the people he visited was halachic authority Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, who like his late father Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, was born and raised in the Sha’arei Hessed neighborhood of Jerusalem – where he still lives. The two discussed numerous religious issues, including the structure and responsibilities of the Chief Rabbinate, and what was originally intended as a courtesy call evolved into a very long visit.
THERE MAY be several new faces on the Jerusalem City Council following the October elections. Aside from juggling of loyalties, a possible gaining of strength by Hitorerut and the entry of new political players in the race to City Hall, there are also current council members who are disinclined to run for another term. One is businessman Rami Levy, who may agree to be persuaded to return. Deputy Mayor David Hadari, who holds the finance portfolio, has decided not to run for office on a Bayit Yehudi ticket, so as to give Zevulun Orlev, whose hiatus from politics was rather short-lived, a better chance at winning.
Hanan Rubin, who is No. 2 on the Hitorerut list, has been very busy putting up party placards and banners around the city, especially on the fences of Terra Sancta College, which is opposite his home. Rubin is the son of former city comptroller Shlomit Rubin.
GOVERNMENT MINISTRIES, organizations combating alcohol and drug abuse among youth, and agencies dealing with at-risk youth have made a concerted effort this year to prevent adolescents from falling prey to the most negative elements and influences of Israeli society. Broadcaster Oded Shahar, who does not recall alcoholism and drug addiction being common among his peer group when he was a high school student, this week interviewed Dana Blum of ELEM, an organization that not only takes care of youth in distress, but goes looking for them.
Blum said that ELEM has volunteers from all walks of life, who make contact with at-risk youth in all parts of the country. The volunteers have often been surprised to find how readily the youngsters respond to a responsible but nonjudgmental adult.
This is the secret of gaining their confidence and breaking down suspicion and aggression, she said. The kids have to feel that they have a friend who cares about them, she insisted. Too often, parents are holding down more than one job to make ends meet and have neither the time nor the energy to give their children the attention they need.
There are also parents who are hesitant about intruding on their children’s lives, Blum explained. It isn’t that they don’t care, but they are afraid of being rebuffed. Their children react by adopting aggressive attitudes, abusing substances and lying in order to evade being detected.
Some of these youngsters, she said, are extremely grateful when an adult from ELEM runs interference in the most gentle and diplomatic manner, by asking questions such as “Do you know where you’re going to wake up in the morning?” The young people are even appreciative of questions such as: “Don’t you think you ought to get out of here before someone hits you over the head with a bottle?” Shahar, who lives in one of Jerusalem’s better neighborhoods, said that during the long summer vacation period, it bothers him terribly to see children as young as 12, whose homes might be on the same street as his, sitting aimlessly on a fence, park bench or on the grass, drinking alcohol and smoking joints.
“Where are their parents?”