Grapevine October 8, 2021: Good deed indeed

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

THE YAD VASHEM monument to Righteous Among the Nations.  (photo credit: UKRAINIANJEWISHENCOUNTER.ORG/WIKIPEDIA)
THE YAD VASHEM monument to Righteous Among the Nations.

Seen on a No. 7 bus this week: a young man without a mask boards. The driver tells him he must put one on. He doesn’t have one, and with a dejected look on his face, turns to get off. An elderly man sitting in the front seat calls him back and hands him a mask. The young man looks as if he’s just won the lottery. How easy it is for anyone of any age to do a good deed.

■ IT’S RARE to hear applause during a synagogue service. It’s even more unusual when the person being applauded is a woman – especially in an Orthodox congregation. But that’s what happened last Saturday when Marsha Wachsman was invited to express appreciation to the Hatanei Torah who had been honored on Simhat Torah a few days earlier. Wachsman is one of the only women chairing an Orthodox synagogue committee. Speaking from the women’s gallery, in a loud, clear voice, and in perfect Hebrew, for which she was later commended by many congregants, Wachsman had personal words of praise for each of the four men, but most especially for Menachem Levinsky, the key organizer and fixer of everything that needs to be done in the synagogue. Levinsky, who for years has shunned personal honors, needed a lot of persuading to accept the Simhat Torah honor. When his wife Chani was approached to help in getting him to agree, she doubted that he could be influenced, but in the final analysis, he relented. In speaking about Levinsky, Wachsman did not overlook his wife, who she said does more behind the scenes for the congregation than most people realize. Wachsman was applauded before and after she spoke.

■ ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION Minister Tamar Zandberg, who lives in Tel Aviv, will not always have to travel alone when coming to Jerusalem on ministerial or Knesset business. The former Meretz leader will be accompanied on some occasions by her partner and father of her baby, Uri Zaki, who has been appointed to head the Herzl Center which is located on Mount Herzl.

■ ALTHOUGH THE revelations about tax shelters that were published in the Pandora Papers are more in the nature of ethical misdemeanors rather than crimes, the negative publicity may prove costly for former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat who hopes to be the next leader of Likud and after that, prime minister. Some of the other contenders have their feet planted more securely in the Likud terrain, and are far better known to Likud voters. Even when he was still mayor, Barkat let it be known that he intended running for the Likud leadership as soon as former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu stepped down from office. Netanyahu did not exactly step down, he was maneuvered out of office by a mismatched coalition – but he has no intention of leaving the political arena, so Barkat may have a long wait, and even then, there’s no guarantee of victory.

■ IN THE first such ceremony to take place on the Mount of Remembrance since October 2018, Yad Vashem, last week posthumously honored Yelena Grinchik from Ukraine as Righteous among the Nations.

The ceremony held just ahead of the 80th-anniversary commemoration of the Babi Yar massacre and the inauguration of a Babi Yar museum was held with the participation of Ukrainian Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk; Chairman of Yad Vashem Dani Dayan; Galina Grinchik, granddaughter of Yelena Grinchik and members of the Warmflash family, some of whom might never have been born without the goodwill of Yelena Grinchik. 

“It is a great honor for me to receive this award in the name of my grandmother Yelena,” Galina Grinchik stated during the ceremony. “I never dreamed that I would come to Israel and take part in such an event. My grandmother was a kind person who did not see people according to categories of religion, nationality or skin color, she was good to everyone, despite her hard life.”

Galina Grinchik was presented with a medal and a certificate in her grandmother’s name, and at the conclusion of the ceremony she watched the unveiling of the Wall of Honor into which her grandmother’s name has been etched so that her selfless acts of kindness to the Warmflash family will be remembered.

“As I see the entire Warmflash family tree here today with all the various branches, I am reminded of the phrase from the Talmud, ‘Whoever saves one life is as though he has saved an entire world,’” said Dayan. “This idiom, which is emblazoned on the Medal and Certificate of Honor of the Righteous Among the Nations, has new meaning for me today. While the stories of Holocaust survivors rescued by Righteous Among the Nations are few in number among the countless atrocities of the Holocaust, they nevertheless shine a ray of light on this darkest chapter in human history and are a testament to the ability of human beings to stand up in the face of evil and make the right choice.”

Numerous members of the Warmflash family attended the moving ceremony. Bruria Lev Warmflash, daughter of the late Holocaust survivor Yokhanan Warmflash, one of the Jews sheltered by Grinchik, spoke of her family’s experience during the Holocaust:

 People place flowers during a ceremony at a monument commemorating the victims of Babyn Yar in Kiev (credit: REUTERS/GLEB GARANICH) People place flowers during a ceremony at a monument commemorating the victims of Babyn Yar in Kiev (credit: REUTERS/GLEB GARANICH)

“My grandmother and her three sons were deported from their comfortable home in Bukovina and thrown like abandoned dogs into Transnistria. From the horrors of the camp, the family searched and searched for salvation. Uncle Shmuel knocked on the doors of some of the local Ukrainians in the hopes of finding shelter for the family. Despite finding a place to stay, the host family quickly decided it was too risky and threw them again out into the cold, snowy winter. A last ray of light shone on them in their darkest moment of despair, when they found refuge in the home of Yelena Grinchik, one of the poorest peasants in the town. Despite the dangers and hardships. Yelena took them in. When their hopes and health were restored and their smiles returned to their faces, my grandmother said, ‘Shmil (Shmuel) – these people you brought us to are not human beings, they are angels.’”

In 1947, Reiza Warmflash, with her two surviving sons Shmuel and Yokhanan immigrated to the Land of Israel. Almost 70 years later, descendants of the Warmflash survivors traveled to the village of Tsibulovka and met with Yelena’s family, including her granddaughter, Galina.

Yad Vashem has so far recognized almost 28,000 individuals from more than 50 countries as Righteous Among the Nations.

■ LOVERS OF cantorial music who want to spend a weekend in the company of the Jerusalem Cantors’ Choir can enjoy a pleasant Shabbat on October 22-23 at the Jerusalem Gardens hotel for the all-inclusive charge of NIS 1,590 per couple. The hotel observes Health Ministry regulations and its mehadrin kashrut standards are in line with Badatz.

In addition to the choral singing, there will be solos by Daniel Kol Tuv and lectures by Dr. Hagai Ben-Artzi, a senior lecturer at Lifshitz College, and the estranged brother of Sara Netanyahu.

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