Grapevine: Welfare pioneer

Chabad of Talbiyeh and the management of the Alrov Mall in Mamilla will co-host a "light up Mamilla" week on Hanukka.

Mamila 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Mamila 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
■ THE NATIONAL Insurance Institute this week honored the memory of Dr. Israel Katz, one of the pioneers of the country’s expanded social welfare services. He had been a director-general of the NII before being appointed labor and welfare minister in 1977. Other positions he held included executive director of the Home for Emotionally Disturbed Children in Kiryat Ye’arim; educational supervisor for Youth Aliya; director of the Paul Baerwald School of Social Work at the Hebrew University; and director of the Brookdale Institute of Gerontology and Adult Human Development Katz, who lived in Jerusalem and who died two years ago, would have celebrated his 85th birthday this week. He had been a firm supporter of The Jerusalem Post Funds, founded by Helen Rossi, and he awarded her a prize for her efforts on behalf of children, former wards of the state and senior citizens.
Shoshana Dolgin Be’er, who was his English-language secretary for 23 years, reported that people from all over the country – especially those who had benefited from welfare services he had initiated – came to the NII offices in Jerusalem for the dedication of a plaque in his name. There were also many good friends in attendance, such as government minister Bennie Begin.
The Vienna-born Katz came to Israel as a child to escape the Nazi boot, but the British would not allow his parents to enter the country and sent them to some island community other than Cyprus.
They were not even allowed to come to his bar mitzva. Meanwhile, he grew up in a youth village and was an outstanding student, receiving several scholarships that enabled him to study in Israel and the United States.
In June 1967, Dolgin Be’er, her husband and three of their four daughters were all set to come to Israel when the Six Day War erupted. Their fourth daughter was already in the country, where she had been studying at the Horev School. The family had already sold their home in Los Angeles and were staying with relatives while waiting for confirmation of their flight. But the flight was delayed because of the war. In the interim, Dolgin Be’er offered her services to the Jewish Agency office in Los Angeles and helped to process volunteers who wanted to go to Israel and help wherever help was needed. In addition to her secretarial skills, she is a historian who has written extensively about organizations and institutions of which she has been a member. When she worked for Katz, he was often too involved in work during the day to dictate letters and write papers in English, and would often send a car for her in the evening. Her children would look out the window and say, “Mommy, here’s Mr. Katz’s chauffeur.”
■ LABOR MK Avishay Braverman must feel a little like Daniel in the lions’ den: He will be the only representative of the Left among speakers at the annual Jerusalem Conference, which will take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on January 7-8.
Braverman will be a member of the speakers’ panel at the conference’s final session, in which there will be discussion on whether the country’s Arab community suffers discrimination or enjoys favoritism.
The Labor MK was invited to join the panel in his capacity of former minority affairs minister. His political views on Arabs differ vastly from those of other participants in the conference.
■ THE SEA of black at the Jerusalem International Convention Center on Sunday and Monday this week was not a Shas gathering, as one might suppose in today’s political climate, but a gathering of Chabad Hassidim, for whom 19 Kislev – a week before Hanukka – is almost as important as the eight-day festival itself.
The date marks the anniversary of Chabad founder Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Lyady’s release from a Czarist prison. For part of this and next year, Chabad Hassidim around the world will commemorate the 200th anniversary of his passing.
Chabad communities worldwide held mega-events for 19 Kislev, especially in New York and in Israel’s Kfar Chabad. There are numerous Chabad institutions in Jerusalem, most of which held their own ceremonies in addition to the ICC events, which on Monday night included a lesson in Tanya – the Chabad founder’s teachings– by Rabbi Shalom Arush, followed by an address from Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsberg and a joyous concert led by Hillel Frank and Naor Carmi.
Chabad will come out again in its multitudes throughout Hanukka with the traditional public candle-lighting ceremonies on a triangular hanukkia – one of the hassidic sect’s symbols – as well as celebrations of song and music all over the city. In some places, there will also be distribution of jelly doughnuts.
Meanwhile, Chabad of Talbiyeh, headed by Rabbi Eli Canterman and his wife Chana, has joined forces with the management of the Alrov Mall in Mamilla, and providing it doesn’t rain, they will co-host a “light up Mamilla” week with well-known personalities such as Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Rami Levi, a leading light in discount supermarkets, among the candle-lighters. There will also be entertainment every night throughout Hanukka, except Friday, and one of the entertainers will be internationally acclaimed saxophonist Daniel Zamir, himself a Chabad Hassid.
He also happens to be a son-in-law of popular Jerusalem Post columnist Barbara Sofer.
■ THE FINANCIALLY ailing Beitar Jerusalem football club is still waiting to see if Eli Tabib, the former owner of Hapoel Tel Aviv, will buy the club from Arkadi Gaydamak. It seems that Tabib, who is frequently seen in the Beitar locker room after the game, is in no hurry to sign on the dotted line, and Gaydamak, after previous unhappy experiences with potential buyers, is in no hurry to sell. Aside from financial considerations, one of the reasons for holding up the sale is the uncouth performance of some Beitar fans, who tend to shout curses and throw objects at opponent players and coaches. Unfortunately the culprits are not always caught, and it is often the team that is punished instead of the perpetrators of these unsportsmanlike acts.
■ WHEN VENTURE capitalist and social entrepreneur Erel Margalit failed in his first bid for a slot on the Labor Party’s Knesset list, he did not give up. Instead, he continued to be involved in the party and made his Media Quarter, which he established in 2006, available for Labor Party functions.
At last week’s Labor primaries, Margalit, the founder of Jerusalem Venture Partners, romped into a comfortable 11th slot – which, if the forecasts are correct, guarantees that next month he will become a Knesset member, where he hopes to be even more effective in pushing for social change than he has been in his social entrepreneurship.