Grapevine: Support for survivors

The Ramatayim Jerusalem Men’s Choir is getting ready to celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, and its final two concerts this year will take place on December 29 and 30.

President Reuven Rivlin. (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin.
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
CAFÉ EUROPA is not quite as exotic as the name suggests, but it is part of a network of clubs in Jewish communities around the globe in which there are relatively large numbers of Holocaust survivors. The clubs give them essential emotional and social support. Some of these clubs have been operating for many years, others for less than a decade.
The club at Ginot Ha’ir on Emek Refaim celebrated its sixth anniversary last week, bringing together regulars from other clubs and forums, so that close to 200 people filled the hall.
A pianist performed a repertoire of folk music and classics; and Yiddish vaudeville artist Ya’acov Shapiro, performing in traditional Polish- Yiddish cabaret tradition, kept changing costumes and appearance as he told jokes in Yiddish and sang Yiddish songs. It was obvious that the bulk of the audience were appreciative because they clapped in time to the music and had smiles on their faces. But some protested that the entertainment was too low-brow and that they were being treated like kindergarten children. It’s very difficult to find a happy medium for people with vastly different backgrounds whose two key common denominators are surviving the Holocaust and living in Israel.
Rena Quint, who belongs to the English-speaking forum of Holocaust survivors, says that it’s important to have support groups of this kind because not all survivors are aware of their rights, and only when they get together and one member knows something about rights and grants of which the others are unaware can important information be shared with those who will benefit from it the most.
OLD CITY residents Pamela and Aba Claman, whose hospitality and ardent support of the Israel Defense Forces are remarkable, were aware that among the close to 40 people sitting around their table last Friday night, there was a regular who was celebrating a birthday.
What they didn’t know in advance was that five of their guests had been Hanukka babies. Fortunately, the “Happy Birthday” message on the cake was detachable, and there were other cakes in the freezer that could easily double as birthday cakes, especially when the “Happy Birthday” message was added to the frosting, so there was quite a lot of singing of the birthday greeting in both Hebrew and English.
When guests around the table introduced themselves, it transpired that they were born in even more countries than the number born during the Hanukka week. The hosts were born in the US and Canada, respectively, and in fact most of the guests were born in various parts of the US. But others were born in Scotland, England, South Africa, Zambia, Australia, Israel, Egypt and Iran.
THE RAMATAYIM Jerusalem Men’s Choir is getting ready to celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, and its final two concerts this year will take place on December 29 and 30. At the first concert, the choir will be singing with Shai Abramson, the chief cantor of the IDF, at the annual world conference of rabbis and community leaders, which will convene at the Ramada Hotel under the auspices of the Religious Affairs Ministry and the World Zionist Organization.
This year’s conference, themed Mothers and Motherhood Enduring the Test of Faith, will be particularly sensitive in that it will feature Iris Yifrach, Rachel Fraenkel and Bat-Galim Shaer, the mothers of the three yeshiva boys who were kidnapped and murdered earlier this year. The mothers will be interviewed in Hebrew by Channel 2’s Sivan Rahav Meir.
On the following night, marking the remembrance day of 10 Tevet, the 48-member choir, conducted by Richard Shavei Zion, will join the Zimriyata Choir and the Jerusalem Cantor’s Choir, along with cantors Avraham Kirshenbaum, Ya’acov Yitzhak Rosenfeld and Gideon Tzelermyer at a memorial service for the victims of the recent Har Nof massacre. Organized by the Jerusalem Municipality, the memorial service will take place at the Yeshurun Synagogue at 7:30 p.m.
CONGREGANTS AT Talbiyeh’s Hazvi Yisrael congregation were once again pleasantly surprised when President Reuven Rivlin showed up unannounced last Friday night for the Shabbat service, arriving in time to light the Hanukka candles. Rivlin has made a practice of attending services without preamble. A female congregant presumably unaware of Rivlin’s background said, “Welcome to the neighborhood,” in response to which Rivlin told her that he was a seventh-generation Jerusalemite who was born in the neighborhood and spent his early years traversing Rehavia-Talbiyeh.