Grapevine: A very generous gift

Many came to show solidarity with kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit at the tent of Aviva and Noam Schalit for the reading of Megilat Esther.

Noam Schalit 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Noam Schalit 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
■ THE MANDEL Foundation, which for more than half a century has made a significant impact on numerous projects and institutions in the United States and Israel, has provided the Hebrew University with the largest ever gift for the promotion of advanced studies in the humanities. Given the effects of the economic crisis in the US, American contributions to many Israeli institutions have decreased considerably and, in some cases, dried up entirely. But not those by the Mandel Foundation, which was initiated by Cleveland-born brothers Jack, Joe and Mort Mandel, who support numerous causes in the US and Israel. For example, the renewed campus of the Israel Museum, which opened last year, includes the impressive Mandel Wing for Jewish Art and Life. The Mandel Foundation has long been associated with the Hebrew University and has contributed generously to various faculties and projects. Now it has given $18 million for a new school of humanities, plus a pledge of $2.5m. a year towards the school’s operational costs. According to Hebrew University president Menahem Ben-Sasson, this is not only the largest gift towards the study of humanities in Israel but one of the largest in the world.
■ ONLY A few men were able to squeeze into the tent of Aviva and Noam Schalit around the corner from the Prime Minister’s official residence for the reading on Sunday night of Megilat Esther. Everyone else who came had to sit or stand opposite the entrance to the tent or at the two sides. The reading by Dan Kochav (Ashkenazi) and Avi Tzalkiach (Sephardi) was broadcast on Reshet Moreshet. Several of those who came to show solidarity with kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit and his family brought Purim cookies, which were laid out on two trestle tables, along with liquid refreshments. What a lot of people didn’t expect was rain, and only two people who had obviously listened to the weather forecast brought umbrellas. Interestingly, hardly anyone left after the rain started.
■ “HAHASSIDA BIKRA etzel hahassidim” was the witty headline in Yediot Aharonot, which translates as “The stork visited the hassidim.” One suspects that the story may have initially appeared on one or two haredi Internet sites, as the wording is so similar – but then it could have gone either way. At the moment it’s all over the haredi Internet – no wonder. Twins born after 33 years of marriage and an untold number of fertility treatments is certainly a cause for celebration, especially if the father is an admor. The father is Rabbi Yoel Hacohen Kahan of Mea She’arim, otherwise known as the Admor of Mevakshei Emunah (Seekers of Faith). The rabbanit’s name has not been published, but her age, 52, has. While the rebbe would have preferred to have sons who would one day wear his mantle, twin girls are certainly preferable to no children at all – and given their pedigrees, they’re almost certain to marry great rabbis. The infants were born last Friday at Hadassah Medical Center.
Both parents come from what might be considered haredi nobility.
Rabbi Yosef Yoel is the son of the late Rabbi Yitzhok Kohn, who was the Toldos Aharon Rebbe and who allegedly, just prior to his death in 1996, told Rabbi Yosef Yoel that he would not die childless. Rabbi Yosef Yoel had faith that was rewarded. He still has faith that his wife will bear a son. Two of Rabbi Yosef Yoel’s brother are also admorim. Duvid is the present Toldos Aharon rebbe, and Shmuel is the Toldos Avraham Yitzhok rebbe. There was great rejoicing in Mea She’arim last Saturday, and a well-attended kiddush was held at the Toldos Avrahom Yitzhok congregation. Another will be held this Saturday at the Toldos Aharon congregation.
■ LIFE IS full of ironies. Hebrew University law professor Ruth Gavison, who celebrates her 66th birthday on March 28, got a lovely birthday present – notification that she will be one of the recipients of the Israel Prize on Independence Day. Gavison, who is a member of the International Commission of Jurists and was a founding member and longtime chairperson of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, was nominated in 2005 to serve as a justice on Israel’s Supreme Court.
Her views were considered too controversial by the majority of the appointments panel, so although she didn’t make it to the Supreme Court, and now because of her age is unlikely to join the judiciary, she is nonetheless considered to be a sufficiently brilliant representative in her field to merit an Israel Prize.