Grapevine: New at Nefesh B'Nefesh

Movers and shakers in Israeli society

 President Herzog and Co-founders of Nefesh B'Nefesh, Tony Gelbart and Rabbi Yehoshua Fass cut ribbon at dedication ceremony. (photo credit: NEFESH B'NEFESH)
President Herzog and Co-founders of Nefesh B'Nefesh, Tony Gelbart and Rabbi Yehoshua Fass cut ribbon at dedication ceremony.
(photo credit: NEFESH B'NEFESH)

THERE’S A new jewel in Jerusalem’s crown. It’s the spacious, impressive, beautifully designed permanent Nefesh B’Nefesh campus that was inaugurated this week by President Isaac Herzog, Nefesh B’Nefesh co-founders Tony Gelbart and Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau.

Lau’s father, former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, affixed the mezuza, and other well-known personalities included World Zionist Organization chairman Yaakov Hagoel, Deputy Mayors of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum and Hagit Moshe, former US ambassador David Friedman and current Canadian Ambassador Lisa Stadelbauer. There were also videotaped messages from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and from Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion who with the approval of his council, had made the land for the campus available in a prized location, which in a sense is an extension of Cinema City.

Invitees actually walked through the Cinema City mall to a doorway leading to the new NBN campus. Beyond the large lobby is a huge reception hall suitable for educational purposes, conferences, weddings and other large-scale events. The upstairs hall is also large, and both halls have balconies which offer a wide panoramic view of the city, which is particularly impressive at night, with lights winking from all directions.

In a moving address in which he found it difficult to hide his emotions, Fass paid credit to NBN’s partners: the Jewish Agency, Jewish National Fund USA, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, the Prime Minister’s Office, Friends of the IDF, the Aliyah and Integration Ministry, the Marcus Foundation, the Development of the Periphery, Negev and Galilee Ministry, the Moskowitz Foundation and various individual donors. In the twenty years of its operations, NBN, with the cooperation of its partners, has brought more than 70,000 people on aliyah, and according to Herzog, who is the immediate past chairman of the Jewish Agency, it can bring many more. “The growth of this organization is vital to aliyah,” he said.

 Former and Current Chief Rabbis Israel and David Lau and Co-Founders of Nefesh B'Nefesh Tony Gelbart and Rabbi Yehoshua Fass at dedication ceremony. (credit: NEFESH B'NEFESH) Former and Current Chief Rabbis Israel and David Lau and Co-Founders of Nefesh B'Nefesh Tony Gelbart and Rabbi Yehoshua Fass at dedication ceremony. (credit: NEFESH B'NEFESH)

■ LAST WEEK Herzog invited leaders of different faiths to an ecumenical meeting with him, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and coronavirus commissioner Prof. Salman Zarka.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss their common responsibilities in supporting nation-wide efforts to fight corona.

“There is no replacement for religious leadership, which has an immense influence on the public,” Herzog told them, as he asked them to give their full support to the Health Ministry and all healthcare workers. “I ask everyone here, people of faith and leaders, to forcefully condemn anyone who attacks medical teams or healthcare workers,” he urged, adding: “Interfaith cooperation is hugely powerful. I think that the fact that this fantastic call is coming out of the Holy Land truly sets an example and serves as a model.”

It was also symbolic that the religious leaders were gathered in Jerusalem, the cradle of the three great monotheistic faiths.

 Topics raised in their discussion with Herzog, Horowitz and Zarka included the importance of vaccinations, following public health guidelines and mutual responsibility.

Participating clergy included: Rishon Lezion, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef; Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi and President of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, Rabbi David Lau; Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III; Latin Patriarch, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa; President of the Shari’a Court of Appeals, Sheikh Abed Elhakim Samara; Druze Community Leader, Sheikh Mouafaq Tarrif; Head of the Greek Catholic Church, Haifa and the Galilee, Archbishop Dr. Yosef Mata; Head of Muslim Department, Ministry of Interior, Sheikh Ziad Abu Moch; Inspector of Imams, Ministry of Interior, Sheikh Jamal Al Obra; and Secretary-General of the Baha’i Movement in Israel, Dr. David Rutstein.

Whether their common appeal will change attitudes remains to be seen.

■ IT’S FAIRLY common knowledge in student circles in Israel and abroad that if you want an invitation to a Shabbat meal, you can get in touch with Jeff Seidel of the Student Information Service, who does much more than direct you to your Sabbath host. Seidel doesn’t wait for people to contact him. On Friday evenings for instance, he can be seen at the Western Wall, approaching young people – often Yeshiva students from the Americas – to ask them if they have a place to eat on Friday night and Saturday. Those who haven’t are promptly sent to various homes in the Jewish Quarter of the old city. If he is in touch with them on a weekday, he arranges for invitations outside the old city. Among the other things that Seidel does is distribute menorah packages to students at Reichman University in Herzliya, Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Lone Soldiers and students on gap year programs.

Seidel is worried about students who may have missed out, and invites any student in need of the menorah package to contact him via WhatsApp at 052-286-7795 or at [email protected]

In addition, Seidel is excited by the possibility that he will be going to Poland during Hanukkah to light a Hanukkah menorah there. If he manages to get to Poland and runs into trouble, he should contact Chabad whose representatives in Poland have in the past lit the menorah in the Sejm, the Polish Parliament.

■ THERE ARE many people of Lithuanian background among the notables of both the Land of Israel and the State of Israel – not the least of them is internationally renowned artist Boris Schatz, the founder of Bezalel who is widely regarded as the father of Israeli art. Raised in a religiously observant home and educated in a yeshiva in Vilnius it was perfectly natural for Schatz to call his school of art after Bezalel Ben Uri Ben Hur, the Biblical artisan who fashioned the Tabernacle. Schatz lived and worked in several countries before settling in Jerusalem, and did so after meeting Theodor Herzl in 1903. Inspired by Herzl, Schatz became a fervent Zionist, and two years after their meeting, and a year after Herzl’s death, opened the Bezalel School in Jerusalem. His daughter Angelica, the product of his first marriage, was an artist and his son and daughter from his second marriage, Bezalel and Zahara, were both artists. In 1955, Zahara was awarded the Israel Prize on behalf of the whole Schatz family.

Lithuanian Ambassador Lina Antanaviciene together with Jimmy Lewensohn of Schatz House will next week host a tribute event dedicated to Schatz and will present attendees with a booklet “Getting to Know Schatz” written by Dr. Jolanta Širkaite.

The event is designed to commemorate Schatz’s invaluable legacy to Israeli culture as well as pay respects to his Litvak roots to which the research in the booklet pays overdue attention.

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