Stepping up and stepping out

The motto of the Havana Club is ‘Grey Hair – we don’t care.’

FROM LEFT: Almog Kapah, Idele Ross and Vered Sasportas. (photo credit: STEVE LINDE)
FROM LEFT: Almog Kapah, Idele Ross and Vered Sasportas.
(photo credit: STEVE LINDE)
Friends of Jerusalem-based journalist Idele Ross, who accepted her Facebook invitation and joined her to celebrate her 70th birthday at the Havana Club in Tel Aviv, were transported back to their youth. They gave the impression of being hippies undeterred by the passage of time.
Entertainment was provided by the Motown Band whose leader, drummer and singer Israel Hadad – who was Master of Ceremonies – kept referring to Ross (a staunch Motown fan), as “our dear Idele.” The band’s singers, the amazing Vered Sasportas and Almog Kapah, the closest talents that Israel has to Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson, put on an energetic two-and-a-half-hour performance without a break – and the crowd just loved them. Well into the first song, people rose from the long tables to dance in an area alongside the stage, many of them waving tambourines distributed by the band. It didn’t take long before Ross was called to join the singers on stage and was followed by several of the dancers, whose total enjoyment was registered not only in their body movements but also on their faces.
The motto of the Havana Club is ‘Grey Hair – we don’t care.’ Indeed many of the people present who were not invitees to Ross’s birthday party, were well into and past middle age, but danced with the verve of teenagers. It could well be that places like the Havana Club are the secret of longevity, because everyone has such a good time that no one feels their age.
■ IN THE midst of her negotiations with legal and tax authorities in an effort to avoid being charged with multi-million-dollar tax evasion and money laundering, super model Bar Refaeli gave birth to her third child – a boy, following two daughters. Her mother, Tzipi Refaeli, herself a former model and Bar’s business manager, offered to trade places with her daughter and to assume any charges which might be levelled against Bar at the conclusion of the negotiations. As things stand, Bar Refaeli has been treated with much greater leniency than other people suspected of similar white collar crimes.
■ KUDOS TO Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief Yaakov Katz whose book Shadow Strike is among the finalists in the history section of the New York-based Jewish Book Council’s National Jewish Book Awards. The Holocaust and antisemitism feature quite prominently in the many different sections of the awards, possibly because this marks the 75th year of the liberation of Auschwitz – whose survivors are becoming fewer from year to year – and also due to the rise in antisemitism in so many parts of the world.
It is encouraging to see that people are still writing books and that prizes donated by philanthropic and literature-conscious individuals and foundations are increasing despite living in a digital age. The number of categories in which prizes are awarded is quite mind-boggling, given that all the books considered must have some kind of Jewish content or relationship. Established by the Jewish Book Council in 1950 in order to recognize outstanding works of Jewish literature, the National Jewish Book Awards continue to expand and this year celebrate their 70th anniversary.
The winners of the 2019 National Jewish Book Awards will be honored on March 17, 2020 at an awards dinner and ceremony to be held at the Bohemian National Hall in Manhattan.
Among the fiction authors to be honored will be Israel’s Edgar Keret, the son of Polish-born Holocaust survivors, for his book Fly Already: Stories. This will be his first Jewish National Book award, although he has previously received prizes for his writing and films. Among his awards are the Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature, the Ministry of Culture’s Cinema Prize, the Acre Festival Prize, the Israel Film Academy Award, the Munich International festival of Film Schools, the Charles Bronfman Prize and the Sapir Prize for Literature.
While many of Keret’s works have been translated into English, now he has also been translated into Yiddish. He will make his Yiddish debut on Thursday, January 23, at Leyvik House in Tel Aviv where he will be joined by translators Daniel Galai and Shlomo Lehrman. Also speaking will be poet Karen Alkalay Gut whose own works have been translated into many languages, including Yiddish.
■ ON MARCH 2, Israelis will again go to the polls, and on March 3, many will be watching the results of the pre-Eurovision contest. It would be interesting to take a survey to discover whether Israelis are keener on the election outcome or knowing the results of the pre-Eurovision contest, which determines who will sing what as they vie to represent Israel at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in the Netherlands.
In bygone years, the pre-Eurovision contests were conducted by the now defunct Israel Broadcasting Authority. More recently, they were taken over by Keshet in its Rising Star competition. The ball is now in the court of KAN 11, which replaced the IBA. After the success of last year’s Eurovision, KAN 11 turned to two of the Eurovision hosts – Lucy Ayoub and Erez Tal – and asked them to host the pre-Eurovision contest. However, Tal is under contract to Keshet, which is less than thrilled that KAN has taken control of Israel’s share in Eurovision for itself, and has forbidden Tal from accepting KAN 11’s offer, especially since Rising Star is among Keshet’s top-rated shows.
■ ISRAEL PRIDES itself on its achievements, but so many of these successes might never have eventuated without the input of local philanthropists such as Morris Kahn, Shari Arison, Michael Federmann and Leonid Nevzlin to name but a few, and those from abroad such as such as Roman Abramovich who came on aliyah a year and a half ago, Len Blavatnik, who last week gave a one-million-dollar grant to Space IL to help renew its space exploration activities, Lyn Shusterman, Ronald Lauder, Charles Bronfman, Jeanne Pratt, various branches of the Rothschild family, the Nazarian and Pritzker families, Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Michael Bloomberg, the Safra family, and many, many more.
Israelis must never lose sight of the fact that most of the brilliant achievements in many fields are the result of partnership between Israel and the Jewish diaspora, and should, perhaps, pay a little more attention to what representatives of diaspora communities have to say.
Without the fiscal input of the many who give to medical and scientific research, construction of hospitals, schools, community centers, and museums, education and culture, social welfare, the greening of Israel, sports and more, Israel would, in all probability, be a third world nation. Because Jews from outside of Israel care enough to share their wealth, the list of donors from many parts of the world would, if measured, extend far beyond the distance from Eilat to Mount Hermon. Yet, while Israel is happy to take their money, a succession of Israeli governments have not been interested in their opinions, or, in the fact that most are not orthodox and would prefer for Israel to be more pluralistic in its attitude to Jews, in general.
Yes, it’s great that Israel has come up with so many inventions and discoveries that would shock the BDS Movement, given what such boycotters would have to discard from their personal possessions. But, if diaspora Jews are the angels behind Israel’s progress in many fields, the angels should most definitely be given their due.
■ THE PUSSYCAT Club at Kikarim Atarim on the Tel Aviv beachfront was – for more than twenty years – a notorious albeit classy strip joint frequented by the rich and the famous till it was eventually closed down.
The premises were converted into an umbrella housing several organizations working toward social change including training former prostitutes in honorable and dignified professions.
The building is about to undergo a total face lift in line with its new identity and American architect Raquel Swartz, will head the design team.
Swartz, originally from Los Angeles, is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. After becoming acquainted with the new activities in the former Pussycat compound, she decided to take up the challenge of redesigning the facility, and is doing so on a voluntary basis.
This design project “is not only a professional challenge but also an ethical one,” she said. “The new line of design will preserve the history of this place by looking forward and using the various elements like the dance poles, the velvet couches, and the heavy drapes, that in the past represented the abuse of women, but will now be used for new activities in the compound.”
A kitchen for training women at risk has already been inaugurated, and an audio presentation will soon be launched that will explain the changes taking place. In addition, modular office space to be used for conferences, classrooms and a library will be established.
Meanwhile, a large international company operating in Israel, has pledged to donate NIS 50,000 worth of furniture to the complex, but wishes to remain anonymous.