Grapevine: Faith before soccer

Yom Kippur priorities at West Ham, the new British envoy meets with the Schalits, 20 years of renewed ties with Poland marked and Beit Hanassi readies for its Succot open house.

Avram Grant 311 (photo credit: AP)
Avram Grant 311
(photo credit: AP)
Many jews who don’t necessarily observe the Sabbath, in one way or another observe Yom Kippur. In most cases, this is a private matter between the individual and his or her creator.
But when it comes to people like Avram Grant, the former coach of the national soccer team and the current manager of Britain’s West Ham United, it enters the public domain and becomes headline news on the sports pages of major British dailies.
Although this is not the first time that Yom Kippur has fallen on Saturday, it is the first time that it fell on a day that clashed with Grant’s obligations as a team manager. Grant has certain lines that he will not cross for any football team or any football game. One, as the son of a Holocaust survivor, is his annual participation in the March of the Living, and the other is choosing the synagogue over the soccer field on Yom Kippur.
He wasn’t the only Israeli sporting personality who made that choice. West Ham’s talented and greatly admired defender Tal Ben-Haim, who is currently on loan to the team, also put faith ahead of soccer and did not play in last Saturday’s game against Stoke City, which ended in a 1:1 draw.
■ BRITISH AMBASSADOR-designate Matthew Gould, whose status is not yet entirely official, has made the trip to Jerusalem to present his credentials to the Foreign Ministry, but will be able to drop the designate from his title only on October 5, when he presents his letters of credence to President Shimon Peres. Gould and his wife Celia attended Yom Kippur services at Beit Daniel in Tel Aviv, but on the morning before Kol Nidre made a point of visiting with Aviva and Noam Schalit at their tent around the corner from the official residence of the prime minister.
Prior to that, Gould had a busy week meeting embassy staff and section members for whose families he and his wife hosted a barbecue at their Ramat Gan residence. Their first official reception was a dinner celebrating scientific and academic cooperation between the UK and Israel and the second year of BIRAX, the British Israel Research and Academic Exchange. As if this were not enough in the first week of his arrival, Gould visited with political, business and media personalities and participated in a Q&A on the embassy’s Facebook. Not only is he the first British Jew to serve as ambassador here, but before completing his first year, he and his wife will become parents to a sabra baby. They are expecting their first child in April.
■ RELATIONS WITH Poland are constantly improving. Yet another example is the opening at the beginning of October of a Polish Consulate in Haifa in tandem with the appointment of Oded Feller as honorary consul. The event will take place under the auspices of Polish Ambassador Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewska and Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav.
■ POLISH AND Israeli diplomats, former diplomats and academics agreed this week that the relationship between their two countries is unlike that of any other bilateral relationship either country enjoys.
Speaking at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel at the opening of the conference marking 20 years of the resumption of bilateral relations, Prof. Shlomo Avineri, addressing participants in his capacity as a former directorgeneral of the Foreign Ministry, said that it was very difficult to write the history of Poland without recognizing the Jewish component on every level. So much Jewish history since the Middle Ages has focused on the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth and so much of Israel’s political structure is based on traditions coming from Poland, he said. On a personal level, he added, relations between the two countries were important to him because he was born in Poland.
Ambassador to Poland Zvi Rav-Ner, who was among the conference participants, will be back next month, not in a diplomatic capacity but as father of the groom to attend the wedding of his son.
The final conference event was dedicated to the local launch, at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, of a book Rafal Lemkin: A Hero of Humankind published by the Polish Institute. Rafal Lemkin, a Polish-born Jew, was a brilliant lawyer who managed to escape to Sweden and then to the US during the early years of World War II. With the exception of his brother, his entire family was annihilated.
It was Lemkin who coined the word “genocide.” He also drafted the UN resolution for a convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide. Unfortunately he died before the treaty was ratified.
Dr. Agnieszka Bienczyk- Missala who co-edited the book said Lemkin was her hero, but confessed that as a high school student she had never heard of him until assigned to do an in depth project on genocide. When she learned of his work in initiating human rights laws, she was amazed that he had all but disappeared from the annals of history. That lacuna was amended, at least as far as Poland was concerned, by Adam Daniel Rotfeld, a former Polish minister for foreign affairs. The two, along with political scientist Yehonatan Alsheh, discussed Lemkin’s aims and achievements.
Veteran journalist Lily Eylon, who had actually met Lemkin when she was a young correspondent working at the UN, was critical of the fact that only his work was being honored instead of the man himself.
Despite the fact that he held important legal positions in America, Lemkin was completely impoverished, but dedicated to having his convention accepted. Eylon remembered him buttonholing various diplomats in the corridors of the UN and attempting to persuade them to vote in favor of it. She was upset that no street here has been named after so great a man.
■ OUTGOING GOVERNMENT Press Office director Daniel Seaman, who completes his decade-long tenure at the end of this month, is currently mulling over offers from various government offices and is in no great hurry to make a decision. Meanwhile, he’ll unofficially bid farewell to foreign journalists with whom he has been in close contact at a memorial for Conny Mus, the late chairman of the Foreign Press Association, to be held on October 4 at Jerusalem Capital Studios.
■ AMONG THOSE who came to the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem to honor the memory of the late Delysia Jayson were people who had worked with her in the 35s in London at the height of the struggle for Soviet Jewry, and many more who had worked with her here after she founded Keren Klita, a welcoming outreach project that gave new immigrants from the former Soviet Union a sense of belonging. Several of the beneficiaries of Keren Klita were also present.
Jayson sacrificed her legal career to become and to persuade others to become the extended families of these immigrants who often arrived with little more than could be packed into a single suitcase.
Jayson raised money and also persuaded people to donate furniture, clothing and household items. She also organized Jewish identity programs, assistance for youth at risk, navigation of the bureaucracy, tutoring, job retraining and even employment.
The extent of her influence and inspiration was reflected in the large number of people in the audience including Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich, who in 1972 had been captured as a member of a group that planned to hijack a plane in Leningrad and fly to Israel.
Mendelevich who had known Jayson well sat and listened to the many tributes that were paid to her, absorbing stories of her kindness, her tenacity, her determination not to abandon Soviet Jews, her three journeys to the Soviet Union, her participation in demonstrations outside the Soviet embassy in London, her familiarity with the personal stories of Russian immigrants, some of whom she had never met, and said: “I was aware, but now I am overwhelmed by the capacity of Keren Klita’s activities.”
■ IN THE days when he played professional basketball, Tal Brody often did a remarkable juggling act on the court, but last week he did even better, juggling commitments and responsibilities. Brody is chairman of the Spirit of Israel, a nonprofit subsidiary of the Jewish Agency that creates awareness of the social agenda and raises funds from the public to finance social needs. It was in that capacity that he came to the elegant Herzliya Pituah home of Doreen Gainsford to toast the new year with the Lions of Judah, which in the US represents women who contribute $5,000 a year or more to the United Jewish Communities and which here is affiliated with Keren Hayesod. Israeli women are asked to contribute at least NIS 6,000 a year of their own money.
It doesn’t have to be in one fell swoop, says Dale Ophir, who chairs Lions of Judah Israel. Anyone earning a decent salary can afford NIS 500 a month, she says, and there are many women who give much more. The funds go to help women and girls in distress, giving them the tools to improve their lives. Lions of Judah has been involved in numerous projects with the Spirit of Israel, which is why Brody tore himself away from the IDC’s annual international conference on counterterrorism which was between sessions.
Brody explained that the reason he was attending the conference was because last July the government appointed him as a goodwill ambassador and that he would soon be going on his first mission to North America to address students and faculty staff at Harvard University, the University of Massachusetts and other academic institutions. Brody complimented the women on their strong sense of volunteerism and said that few things gave him more pleasure than going to Jewish Agency youth villages and seeing the transformation in youngsters at risk.
Hebrew speakers were treated to a lecture by Dr. Shelly Goldberg, who spoke about renewal and punctuated her remarks with intriguing, untranslatable word plays based on the juxtaposition of letters in words related to year, beginning, creation, new and anything else that could be associated with renewal and a new year.
Violin virtuoso Sanya Kroytor, who looks like a gypsy, and plays with the joy and intensity associated with gypsies, held the women in thrall as he played some of his own compositions as well his own arrangements of compositions by others.
■ CARTOONS HAVE more anti- Semitic content than many people realize. Internationally syndicated cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen, who began his career at The Jerusalem Post in January 1973, now teaches a seminar at Yale. While researching material for it and looking through more than a century of cartoons, he realized that regardless of where or when the cartoons were drawn, they contained a series of codes that stereotype, dehumanize and demonize specific groups of people. In the case of Jews, they are also zoomorphic. In all, there are 33 codes which Kirschen has compiled. Other cartoonists were not aware of the codes until he shared the information with them – and then they went into shock at the realization, Kirschen told an audience at the OU Center in Jerusalem this week.
Just as cartoons are often used to spread anti-Semitism, Kirschen now uses them to fight anti-Semitism, partially by making people more conscious of the powerful secret codes they contain, simply because an image remains in the brain much longer than the spoken word.
■ HE’S NOT the oldest new immigrant, but Phil Gilbert, who came with Nefesh B’Nefesh in July 2008, is probably the most active new immigrant of his age. He adjusted rapidly and became a volunteer with the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel. He shares the Jerusalem home of his daughter and son-in-law Dorraine and Barry Weiss, who on Sunday celebrated his 90th birthday with a surprise party attended by close to 70 people. Gilbert could not believe that so many people had come to join him on this special day. He also received two special presents. One was a new great grandson, Israel Noah Neckamayer, presented to him by his grandson Aaron Neckamayer and his wife Abigail who live in Betar Illit. The other was the arrival from the US of Aaron’s brother Lee.
The main birthday present that he received from his daughter was a return flight to the US so that he can also celebrate his birthday with other members of his family. The new baby, known as Noah, was named for the late Rabbi Noah Weinberg, the founder of the Aish Hatorah network of yeshivot and outreach programs.
Aaron Neckamayer discovered his Jewish identity at Aish Hatorah and is now among the rabbis on the teaching staff.
■ MOST WOMEN who take maternity leave divorce themselves from their places of work for the duration. Not so Ayelet Frish, the spokeswoman for President Shimon Peres, who is in daily contact with Beit Hanassi and keeps her finger on the pulse of developments.
Frish showed up at Beit Hanassi last week for the visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to moderate the press conference.
She brought her infant daughter, then not quite a month old, and had no trouble finding a temporary baby-sitter.
Every member of the senior staff wanted to give the infant a cuddle.
■ THE ANNUAL open house at the Beit Hanassi succa will take place on Monday between 9 a.m. and 12 noon.
While previous presidents used to welcome guests in the afternoon as well as in the morning, Peres’s staff does not want to place any additional stress on him. He is currently in the US meeting with world leaders, Jewish community leaders and the media, and will require a little rest when he returns home and gets ready for his big meeting with the public and the many tourists who flock to Beit Hanassi every year during the festival of Succot. This year’s Open House event will be held in cooperation with the ministries of Industry, Trade and Labor, Agriculture, and Science and Technology under whose auspices there will be various exhibits and activities.
Families and individuals will have fun with interactive robots and multimedia presentations.
There will also be photo exhibits and a display of recently developed agricultural produce and products, alternative energy and more.
Dancers and singers will perform throughout the morning with actress Galit Giat as emcee.There will also be a special area in which families can be photographed, with the photos being immediately uploaded to Facebook.
■ FOR THREE days during the intermediate days of Succot (September 26, 27 and 28) the Begin Center will offer special tours in Hebrew in honor of the 150th anniversary year of the founding of Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the first Jewish neighborhood outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, now part of a larger neighborhood known as Yemin Moshe. Tours will begin at the center and along the way, participants will “meet” Sir Moses Montefiore, the founder of Mishkenot Sha’ananim, and Avraham Kirshenbaum, a member of the Jewish underground, who single-handedly defended the Yemin Moshe neighborhood and was killed by a British sniper.The tour will conclude with a conversation about life in Yemin Moshe with Avraham’s sister Pnina Kirshenbaum, a life-long resident of the neighborhood.
JERUSALEM attractions will not come to an end after Succot and the summer are over.
Following the summer success of free events such as Thursday night concerts in the Mamilla Mall, Monday night concerts in the Mahaneh Yehuda market and many other concert series in other places, comes a new form of free entertainment to usher in the autumn.
Under the word play heading of Jerusalem Knights, this magical experience in the Old City will take spectators back in time to the Middle Ages. Anyone who ventures inside the walls and traverses the alleyways will encounter brave knights, ornately gowned princesses, the legendary magician Merlin, jesters from the royal court and many other fabled creatures.
The journey back in time will also introduce the wider public to music from another long forgotten era, dazzling fire shows, spectacular dance performances, juggling acts, acrobatics and theater. The project initiated by the Jerusalem Development Authority in cooperation with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Tourism Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality has been produced by the Ariel Municipal Company.
Reuven Pinsky, who heads the Old City department of the Jerusalem Development Authority, says that Jerusalem Knights is part of a strategic effort to enrich the city’s night life through the investment in cultural events that will not only entertain, but will enhance the public’s appreciation of the performing arts.