Grapevine: Heroic haredim

Movers and shakers in Israeli society

The protagonists of ‘Kippat Barzel,’ playing infantrymen in the Netzah Yehuda Battalion, pose at their base. (photo credit: ODED KARNI)
The protagonists of ‘Kippat Barzel,’ playing infantrymen in the Netzah Yehuda Battalion, pose at their base.
(photo credit: ODED KARNI)

In addition to its showing at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival, there will be a special screening on December 21, the fourth night of Hanukkah, of the documentary film Upheaval, telling the story of how Menachem Begin transformed the face of Israeli politics in June 1977.

The film, which had been shown at the Jerusalem Cinematheque and the Begin Heritage Center, will be screened at the Kirk Douglas Theater in the Aish Hatorah World Center in the Old City, following a reception and candle-lighting ceremony. After the screening, there will be a Q&A session with the film’s producers Rob Schwartz and Bruce Gould. 

Not everyone is aware of the relationship that renowned Jewish actor Kirk Douglas had with Aish or of his other Israel connection, Beersheba Mayor Rubik Danilovich, to whom he was related. Douglas was born as Issur Danielovich on December 9, 1916, and died on February 5, 2020, at the age of 103.

Israelis standing outside of the cinemateque in Jerusalem, March 1, 2021  (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)Israelis standing outside of the cinemateque in Jerusalem, March 1, 2021 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Israel's unknown haredi heroes who serve in the IDF

■ THERE’S A tendency in Israel to emphasize the negative. The media consistently report on haredi young men who try to evade military service, but they seldom report about the number of those who do serve – many of them in Hetz, the haredi unit in the Paratroopers Brigade. Many of those who are Israelis are disowned by their families and, together with those from abroad, become lone soldiers.

In 2020, Shai Adler and David Salooki, both former lone soldiers, recognized the difficulties and founded the nonprofit Chetz Association to help lone soldiers through their period of service by providing mentoring and accommodation where necessary. Once the men are back in civilian society, the organization helps them to learn a trade, to go to university or to find work, depending on each individual case.

Last week, 70 young men, some still on active duty and others who are now civilians, gathered in Jerusalem to learn about their options and plan their next steps. They were informed about various educational institutions and available scholarships, along with financial management tips.

There was a session with professional networker Daniel Dayan, and all the participants later partook of a catered dinner, after which there was a panel discussion with Hetz unit veterans, who shared their experiences and what they had learned from them. A large number of those present signed up for courses in higher education; among them were lone soldiers from abroad who have opted to become olim. The organization’s website can be accessed at www.amutatchetz.org/.

Jerusalem's Friendship Circle holds fundraising campaign

■ THE JERUSALEM-HEADQUARTERED Friendship Circle, a nonprofit organization that provides support and guidance to individuals and families with special needs, as well as those struggling with isolation, addiction and other life crises, in recent weeks held a fundraising campaign with a goal of NIS 324,000 (about $100,000, depending on the rate of exchange on any given day).

As fundraisers for projects go, it’s a relatively small amount; but given the tough economic times in Israel right now, there was a degree of uncertainty about whether the target would be reached within the limited time frame. It was. Toward the end of the campaign, enough donations came in to prove that despite the flaws in society, the Jewish tradition of aiding the less fortunate remains strong.

It helps that the Friendship Circle is regularly supported by sponsors such as the Suzie Frankel Family Foundation; the Bernard and Miriam Hochstein Foundation; the Conrad Morris Family Foundation; the Hayman family; Arthur and Bernice Fogel; Ilan and Daphne Bloch; Ephraim and Rita Greenfield; Peter and Naomi Neistadter; and Miriam Gold.

Jerusalem soup kitchen in danger of closing

■ CARMEI HA’IR, an Agrippas Street soup kitchen that prides itself on not only serving food but serving with dignity, is in danger of closure.

Conducted like a proper restaurant, with tablecloths on the table, and waiters and waitresses, who treat each person with kindness, consideration and respect, the restaurant, which has been operating for 18 years, serves an average of 300 hot meals a day to the city’s economically disadvantaged. It also prepares 400 meals a day to be delivered to people for whom the trek to the Mahaneh Yehuda market is too strenuous. In addition, during the winter months, it distributes warm blankets to the needy.

Rabbi Yehuda Azrad, the chairman of Carmei Ha’Ir, has for years relied on donations, mainly from the United States, to help defray the costs of running the project. But donations have been gradually falling off, and Carmei Ha’Ir is now heavily in debt, owing NIS 250,000 in unpaid rent plus unpaid catering expenses. Unless a few angels come to the rescue, senior citizens, Holocaust survivors and needy families who depend on Carmei Ha’Ir for hot, nourishing meals may be reduced to starvation because the restaurant will have to be vacated.

As it is, many veteran commercial establishments in Jerusalem have gone out of business. It’s bad enough when people go to a store that they have frequented for years, only to see that it is empty and there is a “For Rent” or “For Sale” sign in the window. Fortunately, there are other purchasing possibilities. But for Jerusalem’s poor, whenever a soup kitchen has to close, it’s a catastrophe.

The adult Bible Quiz returns

■ EDUCATION MINISTER Yifat Shasha-Biton and the ministry’s director-general, Dalia Stauber, are scheduled to attend the annual Bible Quiz for adults, which will be held in the Mexico Building of the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus on December 20, which is just ahead of the deadline that President Isaac Herzog has given to Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government. It’s possible that with all the coalition problems that he has been experiencing, Netanyahu will at the last minute pull a rabbit out of the hat. If he does, will the new minister and director-general attend the quiz, or will it still be Shasha-Biton and Stauber?

A busy Hanukkah in Jerusalem: And donuts!

■ IN ALL probability, the busiest person in Jerusalem next week will be Mayor Moshe Lion, who will be rushing from one Hanukkah event to the next, sometimes going to three or four in one day. And let’s not forget that Hanukkah is an eight-day festival with a plethora of events in which calorific doughnuts are an inherent feature. When he first took office, just over four years ago, Lion was somewhat heftier than he is now. In the interim, he has trimmed down to a svelte figure and refuses to reveal the secret of his weight loss. The question is: Will he be able to resist the doughnuts?

It may astound some people to learn that the standard jelly doughnut, or sufganiya as it is called in Hebrew, is not a Jewish delicacy but is actually Polish street food. The original was fried in lard but was adapted for the kosher palate by using oil instead. The word “sufganiya” derives from the Hebrew word sofeg (“absorb”), meaning that the dough absorbs the oil, which is why the exterior of the doughnut is somewhat greasy. In Poland, these standard jelly doughnuts are called paczki – “little pockets”; and in Yiddish, they are known as ponchkes.

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