Grapevine: The importance of media

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

The Jewish Chronicle (photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
The Jewish Chronicle
(photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
If any proof was needed to illustrate the importance of media it was the rapid turnaround in the fortunes of two British newspapers – The Jewish Chronicle and its rival, The Jewish News. Within days of announcements that both publications were being liquidated, following a previous announcement that they were about to sign a merger agreement, each of them got a reprieve.
Real estate magnate and philanthropist Leo Noe, who has significant investments in Israel and is a major donor to the ALEH special education School in Bnei Brak and to the Shuvu network of schools, which was initially established for children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, is the owner of the Jewish News, and after noting the dismay in the Jewish community following publication that both papers were to close down, immediately changed course and rescued his paper from liquidation.
On Thursday of last week, the Kessler Foundation, which had long owned the Chronicle, sold it to a newly incorporated company, JC Acquisition Limited, a consortium headed by Sir Robbie Gibb, the former head of communications at 10 Downing Street. In announcing that it had rescued the JC, the consortium published a statement in which it said: “We are delighted to announce that our effort to rescue the Jewish Chronicle from liquidation has prevailed. The oldest Jewish newspaper in the world will go to print next week, as it has done for the last 180 years. It is right and proper that its liabilities will be met, its creditors will be paid and its staff made whole.
“Britain’s Jewish community deserves a general interest periodical with the breadth and stature of the Jewish Chronicle. It is a vital pillar of communal life and must have a secure, sustainable and independent future.”
The statement also noted that the consortium is not treating the paper as a commercial venture but as a community asset, and for that reason a UK charitable trust will be established to control the paper, while guaranteeing its editorial independence. Editor Stephen Pollard and his team will remain in place.
■ ON THE local scene, journalists Shelly Yacimovich and Carmela Menashe reminisced on air last week how they had been instrumental 20 years ago, in promoting Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon. At that time, both had worked for Reshet Bet, when it was controlled by the now-defunct Israel Broadcasting Authority. Yacimovich anchored a daily current affairs program called It’s All Talk and Menashe was the military reporter, a position she still holds with the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, better known as KAN 11. Yacimovich, after several years as a legislator, returned to Reshet Bet in its present incarnation, and coanchors an evening broadcast with former MK Yigal Guetta.
Today, it is acceptable to criticize the IDF. In the previous millennium, the IDF was sacrosanct, and though people may have been privately critical, that criticism was not expressed on the air waves.
Following the fatal helicopter disaster in February 1997, in which 73 soldiers on their way to Lebanon were killed when the two aircraft collided, four mothers of soldiers serving in Lebanon, Rachel Ben Dor, Miri Sela, Ronit Nahmias and Zahara Antebi, began organizing protest demonstrations calling for Israel’s withdrawal. Menashe, who frequently visited the North, heard not only from the mothers but from others who believed that Israel had no real purpose in being in Lebanon. Menashe and Yacimovich sat in the cafeteria of the radio station and discussed how they bring the voices of these people to public attention. Each had a fairly free hand in what she was doing, and so these two journalists provided a platform for protest from which there grew a movement.
On May 25, 2000, prime minister Ehud Barak, the most highly decorated soldier in the IDF and a former chief of staff, ordered the unilateral withdrawal of Israeli forces who had been fighting in Lebanon for 18 years.
Without Menashe and Yacimovich, that might not have happened.
■ IT WAS tough enough for people to have Seder night and Mimouna on their own or just with their nuclear families. It was even harder for some to celebrate Independence Day with the same restrictions. In religious Jewish families, people do not travel on Shabbat or on religious festivals, but on Independence Day, people from all over the country get together for Independence Day parties. This year they could not do that.
Among the people who in the past have had a full house on Independence Day were Carl and Phyllis Posy of Jerusalem. He’s a professor of philosophy and she’s a water entrepreneur.
For the past 20 years they have hosted a formal Independence Day dinner for new and veteran immigrants. This year, they couldn’t host them in the flesh, so they had a virtual Zoom dinner “attended” by more than a hundred guests, including Avivah Zornberg, who gave a lesson in Torah, and Prof. Leah and Joel Silber, who led the Zoom community singing, including a spirited rendition of “Zum Gali Gali.” Most of the guests were around the age of the state or older, but had already become accustomed to the Zoom technology. Their abilities on this score may be attributed to the fact that most were academics who have been using Zoom both professionally and personally in recent weeks.
The virtual get-together also provided an opportunity for Toby Klein Greenwald of Efrat to premiere an amended revival of a recording and clip of a song called “The Land is in my Dreams,” which she wrote in 1984 when she and her husband were educational emissaries in Toronto. At the time she had been inspired by Avital Sharansky, who was on a speaking tour of North America to advocate for the release from Soviet incarceration of her husband, Anatoly, now known to the world as Natan Sharansky, former political leader and government minister, and more recently former chairman of the Jewish Agency. The song was initially written in tribute to Natan and all the former prisoners of Zion. The current arrangement and the vocals, by Mitch Clyman, are also in memory of Baruch Menzelefsky, the talented young Toronto composer who passed away several years after he wrote the music. All the photographs in the clip, with the exception of the historical photos, are by Klein Greenwald, and they go back to 1967. She also compiled a list of the more than 500 prisoners of Zion, based on the Remember and Save website, which is linked to the YouTube text.
 ■ LONG BEFORE social media became the prevailing means of communication, art and rare manuscript sales and auctions were conducted online. In fact, one prominent Jerusalem art gallery would ask prospective overseas clients to send a photograph of the area in their home where they wanted to hang the painting. A photograph of the artwork was then inserted into the photograph from abroad to see if this met with the approval of the would-be purchaser.
Kedem Auction House, which is also in Jerusalem, hasn’t gone quite that far, but on request, has been sending photographs and short videos demonstrating the condition of items that will be auctioned this coming Tuesday, May 5, from 5 p.m. in a live auction. Only buyers who have registered in advance can attend and will be seated in compliance with Health Ministry regulations. The auction comprises a collection of pictures, maps and writings on the Land of Israel as well as the Temple, as depicted over the centuries by European artists. These works are from the collection of Prof. Rabbi Daniel Sperber, former dean of the faculty of Jewish Studies at Bar-Ilan University. He is a professor of Talmud and an expert in classical philology. Sperber was teaching Torah online long before COVID-19 made online teaching a norm.
WHAT DO you wish someone who has just celebrated their 100th birthday? When Yaron Deckel interviewed Shimon Eini of Nahlaot in Jerusalem and found that he was talking to someone in full possession of his faculties, he remarked that he could not voice the traditional Jewish birthday wish of “till 120,” because he expected Eini to be around for longer than that.
Who knows, 100 may become the new 60. Then again, those triple digit ages of biblical characters may be true after all, even though we’ve been told for years that they counted differently in those days.
■ MANY RESTAURANTS have been giving free or subsidized meals to lone soldiers and homeless people during the present crisis.
Even though they were making a loss because they could only sell takeaway meals, restaurant proprietors around the country realized that there were people who were in worse-off conditions than they were.
Some restaurateurs whose premises were closed for most of the past two months, prepared food from home. Among them were Orit Yazdi and her sister, who are the proprietors of Piccolino in Jerusalem. Even before the crisis, they gave free meals to lone soldiers on Fridays, and since the restaurant was closed for the duration, they have continued to cook from home and to supply free Sabbath and holiday meals to lone soldiers.