Grapevine: Yet another investment in the future

A round-up of news from around Israel.

 Canadian philanthropist, and passionate cyclist Sylvan Adams. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Canadian philanthropist, and passionate cyclist Sylvan Adams.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Canadian-Israeli philanthropist Sylvan Adams just can’t stop contributing to what he considers to be worthwhile causes.
After bringing Giro d’Italia to Jerusalem in May, it was announced last week that he had contributed $5 million to the Israeli space project, SpaceIL, and this week, on November 27, together with retired NBA hoopster Dikembe Mutombo, he will inaugurate the Sylvan Adams Sports Center at the Jerusalem YMCA, along with the Israeli Junior NBA, which will be headquartered at the YMCA, where even at times of heightened conflict, from the British Mandate period onward, was neutral ground for Jews, Christians and Muslims to fraternize and to engage in sporting and social events.
The new sports complex, which is designed to continue in that vein, will cater to both adults and children from all over Jerusalem and will also be a training ground for the Junior NBA League. Throughout the year ahead, there will be several junior NBA tournaments, and promising youngsters who may not be quite good enough to be snapped up by NBA teams in America will certainly help to improve the game when playing for Israeli teams.
■ NOT AS common an expression as Between Jerusalem and Rome, was that of Jerusalem and Bonn when David Ben-Gurion and Konrad Adenauer met at the Waldorf Astoria in New York in 1960. Now, of course, it’s Jerusalem and Berlin – and not only in political but also gastronomic terms.
Itzik Barak Mizrachi, the executive chef of the Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria, was at the Berlin Waldorf Astoria last week to prepare a twocourse luncheon and a six-course dinner under the title of “The Best of Jerusalem.” Accompanying the meals were top-quality Israeli wines. From November 19 to 25, guests at the Berlin Waldorf had the opportunity to experience sensual culinary flavors that differ somewhat from traditional German fare.
Guests at one of the dinners included Richard Grenell, the US Ambassador to Germany, and Israel Ambassador Jeremy Issacharoff, who donned aprons and joined the chef in the kitchen.
■ JEWISH TRADITION, which was for so long very low-key in, or absent from, the Soviet Union and Soviet Bloc countries, is undergoing a pleasing revival in places where Jewish life as such had become all but extinct. For instance, there is an annual awards ceremony honoring persons who contribute to the advancement of the language and culture of Caucasian Jewry. The most recent such ceremony took place earlier this month in Moscow. Caucasian Jews, more commonly referred to as Mountain Jews, are natives of Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Dagestan, and the surrounding region.
German Zakharyaev, a prominent Russian businessman and originally a Caucasian Jew from Azerbaijan, who is president of the STMEGI Foundation of Mountain Jews and a vice president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, declared that “in recent times, Mountain Jews have grown not only into a prominent community on a national scale but, due to their unity and staunch faith to their heritage, into the leading Jewish community in Russia.”
The awards ceremony was attended by Chief Rabbi of Moscow Pinchas Goldschmidt, who in praising the group quoted Ethics of the Fathers, saying: “Who is honorable? One who honors the creations.” This, he said, characterizes the supreme value that Mountain Jews place upon mutual respect and honoring every human being.
Prizes were awarded by Isai Zakharyaev, vice president of the STMEGI Foundation and vice president of the Russian Jewish Congress, to Russian TV channel Kultura stage manager Irena Candelaris; who has authored a contemporary textbook on the language of Mountain Jews; Gennadi Bogdanov, expert in biomechanics; and to the president of Cherkizovo Food Industries, Igor Babaev. The ceremony was also attended by Mikhail Chlenov, vice president of the World Jewish Congress and chairman of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress Planning Committee.
The Mountain or Caucasian Jews have piqued the interest of several historians throughout the years, and their elusive history has many versions and traditions. According to one version, Mountain Jews are direct descendants of the ten tribes who were exiled by King Sennacherib of Assyria in 722 BCE, while another version places them as descendants of Jewish exiles from Persia who were expelled over a half-millennium later in the 5th or 6th century. According to some, the legendary conversion of the kingdom of Khazar followed the vanquishing of lands where Mountain Jews resided for many years.
In any event, despite centuries of isolation from their Jewish brethren around the world, Mountain Jews remained strictly faithful to Judaism and Jewish tradition and meticulously observed all laws pertaining to marriage, ritual slaughter, dietary regulations, circumcision, as well as the Sabbath and holy days. Their Jewish vernacular, called Juhuri or Judeo-Tat, is a mix of Persian, Hebrew, Kurdish and Turkish.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a large number of Caucasian Jews integrated successfully into the business world and have since become among the most influential and affluent businessmen in Russia. Most notable among them are the Zakharyaev brothers, God Nisanov, Gavril Yushvaev and Zarakh Iliev. German Zakharyaev relocated to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union and is presently the owner of Sadovod, the largest market in Moscow, along with a long line of businesses and factories. He is a generous supporter of Jewish religious and cultural institutions both in Russia and Israel.
■ MOST ISRAELI institutes of higher learning can vouch for the benefits of bonding industry with academia. The Susan and Henry Samueli Engineering Building at Tel Aviv University is yet another example of this, in addition to being a new model for academy-industry ties.
One of TAU’s most ambitious collaborations to date is being realized through the vision of Prof. Henry Samueli, co-founder and CTO of semiconductor giant Broadcom Inc., and his wife, Dr. Susan Samueli. The new R&D center for Broadcom being built on the TAU campus will be dedicated in their name. The building is unique in that it will house Broadcom engineers and TAU professors and students – all under one roof.
The state-of-the-art building, which is under construction, will comprise a total of 160,000 square feet (nearly 15,000 sq.m.), of which 50,000 square feet will be allocated for Faculty of Engineering labs, classrooms and offices. The building will serve 3,900 students – 1,300 of them on MSc and PhD levels.
TAU president Joseph Klafter said at the cornerstone-laying ceremony, “This project goes beyond a beautiful, large and impressive facility – to reshape the very structure of the university-industry partnership. It represents a new model for TAU, for Israel and most probably for the world.” Klafter was excited by the thought that TAU students will be able to work on projects with Broadcom engineers, while showcasing the university’s best young talent to Broadcom and thereby ensuring future employment.
The ceremony took place in the presence of the donors; Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai; Broadcom vice president Dr. Shlomo Markel; TAU director-general Gadi Frank; TAU vice president for R&D Yoav Henis; Dean of Engineering Yossi Rosenwaks; Broadcom site managers, and friends of TAU, Broadcom and of the Samueli family. The ceremony was emceed by TAU vice president for resource development Amos Elad.
Klafter said that the ceremony marked “the continuation of a beautiful friendship” that began some 10 years ago when he met with Prof. Samueli in California. This includes longtime support by the Broadcom Foundation for scholarships, TAU’s Youth University and joint workshops in computer science and engineering with UC Irvine.
Klafter acknowledged the enthusiastically active role taken by Markel, who is also chairman of the TAU technology venture arm, Ramot, in facilitating the project. “Through this friendship a great many collaborations were born between TAU and Broadcom,” said Klafter. “Shlomo has been the matchmaker, the rabbi and the midwife – all rolled into one.”
Klafter also stressed that a large proportion of the donation was earmarked for the Susan and Henry Samueli Engineering and Health Research Fund, which he described as “a tremendous gift that will infuse our research and teaching in these fields with fresh resources in perpetuity.” Support will be channeled to a wide spectrum of fields, such as communications, national security, medical diagnostics and treatments, integrative health, and drug development.
Markel said, “It’s important to be a scholar and understand technology, but the most important thing is to be a good person. Henry and Susan Samueli are wonderful people, whose generous philanthropy has focused on higher education, on integrative health and medicine, on children and youth, on Jewish heritage and culture, and on many other areas. This is in addition to their personal achievements in, and contributions to, academia and industry.”
Henry Samueli noted that the Samueli Foundation supports only two other universities: his alma mater, UCLA, and “residence university” UC Irvine. “Tel Aviv University is the first university we are supporting outside of those two. It takes many years to build up a personal relationship and trust with a university, including with its president and deans, and that is what we have achieved here,” he said. Samueli also said that giving to Tel Aviv University symbolized the couple’s love of Israel and of Jewish values and religion.
At the site of the cornerstone ceremony, the Samueli family donned hard hats and safety vests as they prepared to lay the cornerstone and unveil a sign.
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