Grapevine: Australian Maggids

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

Fireworks explode near the Sydney Opera House as part of new year celebrations on Sydney Harbour, Australia, December 31, 2017 (photo credit: REUTERS/DAVID GRAY/FILE PHOTO)
Fireworks explode near the Sydney Opera House as part of new year celebrations on Sydney Harbour, Australia, December 31, 2017

Over the years, readers of The Jerusalem Post Magazine have become familiar with Rabbi Levi Cooper, aka The Maggid of Melbourne. He teaches Hassidism and various Torah topics at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, is a community rabbi in Tzur Hadassah, qualified lawyer, and IDF reservist. There has long been a certain rivalry between the Australian cities of Melbourne and Sydney, and now there is a Maggid of Sydney – Tom Rev, whose many stories now appear in book under the title of The Maggid of Sydney.

The book, authored by Rabbi Nachman Seltzer, tells the story of the Rev family saga and the family’s Torah scroll, and inter alia the remarkable relationship between Tom Rev, a regular Sydney Jew, and the Kamarna rabbinic dynasty.

The book will be launched on Tuesday, June 13, at the Katamon apartment that Rev shares with his wife, Susan. Rabbi Seltzer will be among the speakers, as will Rabbi David Kahn of Feldheim Publishers.

Aliyah from Australia

■ ANOTHER ASPECT of aliyah from Down Under is a strong desire to do something meaningful in the sense of community. One such immigrant, Joe Krycer, together with a friend, has been organizing tours around Israel, primarily for new immigrants, who are introduced to places they might otherwise not see.

So far, they’ve run six tours, averaging 45 people on each one. It’s a not-for-profit enterprise to get people interested in places beyond where they have chosen to live; to make new friends and acquaintances on the tour; and to socialize with people who might live near them.

 The Australian flag (Illustrative). (credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Australian flag (Illustrative). (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The charge covers the cost of transportation, tour guides, and admission to certain sites. The aim of the enterprise is to simply break even; but if there are any profits, they are donated to charity. The next tour is scheduled for June 25.

A Shavuot engagement anniversary

■ IN BASEL 48 years ago, Suzanne Scharf and Marcel Hess got engaged on the Sunday after Shavuot. When Scharf arrived at the main synagogue in the Swiss city, the sumptuous floral decorations that adorn many synagogues on Shavuot were still in place, and she marveled at their beauty.

Hess told her that they had been ordered specially in her honor, but then confessed that he was only kidding and that the flowers were actually an annual Shavuot feature at the synagogue and have been for more than a century.

The couple, who have been living in Jerusalem for several years and used to run a very popular restaurant downtown, are now members of the charming Ohel Yitzhak Synagogue in the large, luxury residential complex on Washington Street, which is close to their home.

In honor of the anniversary of their engagement and Shavuot, their grandson Maor Wolf and his friend Benny Spierer,who are “teenage social entrepreneurs,” decorated the ark of the synagogue with flowers.

A history of Jerusalem movie theaters

■ THERE IS nothing new under the sun, we are told in the Book of Ecclesiastes. We see this most obviously in fashion revivals but also in the return of leisure pursuits that have all but disappeared. A case in point is movie theaters.

Between 30 and 50 years ago, downtown Jerusalem had a great choice of movie theaters – all within fairly easy walking distance of each other. That was before the era of cinema complexes such as Cinema City, where patrons have a wide choice of movies, screened in different auditoriums under one roof.

Before the advent of Cinema City, the Cinematheque provided several options under one roof but not as many at any given time as Cinema City. Before moving to its permanent home, the Cinematheque was located on Hillel Street in Beit Agron and was subjected on Friday nights to demonstrations by ultra-Orthodox protesters, who objected to Sabbath screenings.

With the exception of the Lev Smadar cinema in the German Colony, movie houses began to disappear, though for a while there were some cinemas in shopping malls, such as the Malha Mall, but they too closed down. Zion, Rex, Orna, Orion, Orgil, Eden, Chen, and Kfir are just some of the movie houses that have been consigned to memory.

The transfer of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School to its new Bezalel St. campus brings cinema back to town. It is one of four performing arts schools to have found a modern new home nearby – the other three are the Nissan Nativ Acting Studio; the School of Visual Theater; and the Center for Middle Eastern Classical Music. Not far away, the Ma’ale Film School specializes in productions geared to Orthodox audiences.

The Sam Spiegel Film and Television School is currently headed by Dana Blankstein Cohen, who in 2019 succeeded founding director Renen Schorr, who stepped down after 30 years at the helm. In 2020, the school began offering short courses to the public, and now the public is invited to watch productions in the school’s auditoriums.

A return to the original concept of a restaurant

■ ANOTHER EXAMPLE of a return to what was is the opening of The Grill Room, a classic New York-style steak restaurant at the King David Hotel. This marks a return of the original concept of the restaurant when it opened in 1929. The meats are all local, from the Holstein breed, and are aged for at least 30 days. Among the menu items are Prime, Rib Eye, Tomahawk and English cut. And that’s just a short list. There’s also an extensive wine menu. The hotel’s executive chef, Roi Antebe, is in charge of the kitchen and its nostalgic flavor.

Luxurious retirement homes

■ SOCIALLY, THE winds of change are blowing in favor of people with long personal histories. They have been referred to as golden age, retirees, pensioners, old, aged, seniors, people of the third age, and people of the new age. They have been accommodated in old age homes, retirement homes, senior citizen facilities, nursing homes, homes for people of the third age, and now senior living communities.

But current semantics fall short of the villages that are more like country clubs and are constructed like a series of residential complexes surrounding public spaces or a luxury hotel-style environment.

Not so long ago, when people of retirement age were less healthy and less wealthy, they were placed in a single room in an old age home, and more or less left to vegetate. Now they sculpt and paint, go swimming in the pool in the morning, attend lectures or play tennis in the afternoon, and attend concerts in the evening. They go on tours around the country and abroad, and really live the good life.

One of the latest and most modern projects of this kind is Bereshit in the Jerusalem Hills, which on June 21 is hosting a musical show at Cinema City. Singers Tom Cohen, Hadar Atari and Anna Spitz will present songs from Eurovision, San Remo and Israel Song festivals. They will be accompanied by the Ra’anana Symphonette, conducted by David Zeba. The best news is that anyone over 65 can attend free of charge. The musical merry-go-round starts at 10 a.m.