Grapevine: Digitally tracking their family histories

Beit Hatefutsoth officially launched a new Jewish genealogy digital database system at the President's conference.

Brin 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Brin 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Everyone and his mother took a ride this week on Tomorrow, the first international President's Conference that has been designated as an official annual event to bring together some of the greatest minds around the globe and to focus world attention on the positive aspects of Israel rather than on conflict. As everyone knows, failure is an orphan and success has many fathers and mothers. The fact that so many prestigious organizations were involved and so many dignitaries and world leaders were in attendance speaks volumes for the success of the endeavor. Among the Israeli institutions that had a finger in the pie was Beit Hatefutsoth, which is this year celebrating its 30th anniversary. Jewish genealogy has been one of the major activities of Beit Hatefutsoth, and in this context, it officially launched a new digital database system at the conference and invited people such as Google's Sergei Brinn, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and mega philanthropist and casino owner Sheldon Adelson, as well as other famous people to search their roots and track the histories of their families. The system developed by HP with funding by the Nadav Foundation and the Claims Conference is interactive and easy to use and in recent months has been tried out by visitors to Beit Hatefutsoth on the campus of Tel Aviv University. ALTHOUGH HIS controversial bridge is going up at the entrance to Jerusalem, Dr. Santiago Calatrava will receive an honorary doctorate tomorrow evening, Saturday, from Tel Aviv University at a gala ceremony to be held at the Miriam and Adolfo Smolarz Auditorium within the framework of the annual meeting of the university's Board of Governors. Calatrava will receive his honorary doctorate in recognition of his exceptional contribution to the world of architecture, which has been acclaimed by academic, cultural and professional organizations across the globe; his ability to combine aesthetic, environmental and social issues in a single architectural creation, whether bridge, railway station or tower; his standing as artist, sculptor and engineer; and in special recognition of his powerful designs that have left an indelible mark in cities around the world, including Jerusalem and Petah Tikva; and his immense impact on architectural discussion in Israel, where his creations are encouraging social, cultural and national debate in the architectural context. OTHER INTERNATIONALLY-acclaimed personalities who will be at Tel Aviv University over the next few days include environmental activist, Nobel Prize laureate, former US presidential nominee and former US Vice President Al Gore. Also attending will be human rights activist and multi-award-winning playwright and screen writer Sir Tom Stoppard, a Czech-born Jew who was originally known as Tomas Straussler. Gore's wife Tipper, who is a professional photographer, will accompany him to Israel and will mount an exhibition next week at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque to draw attention to the plight of the homeless. BECAUSE THE Tel Aviv Hilton has had a long and enduring relationship with WIZO, the hotel management decided to honor the organization with a gala reception in celebration of WIZO being one of the recipients of the Israel Prize. At the reception, World WIZO President Helena Glaser announced that the prize money of NIS 75,000 would be dedicated to a new program aimed at helping female soldiers in combat units to realize and develop their intellectual and leadership potential. Brigadier-General Yehudit Grisaro, who is advisor on women's issues to the Chief of General Staff, in expressing appreciation for the program said that her own family was closely linked with WIZO in that her children spent their early years in WIZO crèches and kindergartens. "I thank you as a mother, as a citizen and as an IDF officer," she said. ALTHOUGH SHE and her husband will conclude their term in Israel next month, Inara Eihenbauma, the head of the Diplomatic Spouses Club and who is devoted to working for social welfare projects in Israel, is continuing with her commitments to these causes till the very last minute. The DSC held its annual charity bazaar earlier this month at the Kfar Shmaryahu residence of the Nigerian Ambassador. The venue is ideal for such events because of the huge expanse of lawn on a fairly flat terrain. Goods were donated and purchased by members of the diplomatic community, embassies, local companies, organizations and individuals living in the surrounding area. Among the participating organizations were Save a Child's Heart, which displayed a poignant photo exhibition, Beit Izzie Shapiro, Beit Uri, Micha, Schneider Children's Medical Center, Esra, Beit Gemal Ceramics, Lakiya Weaving Project, Pillows for Peace, Shoebox Appeal, Shepherd Society Bethlehem and UNICEF. Proceeds from the bazaar will be distributed to NGO organizations, with a focus on combating violence against women and providing shelters for battered women and their children. INTERNATIONAL BUSINESSMAN Noam Lanir, once rumored as a possible candidate for mayor of Tel Aviv, has given scholarships to the value of NIS 400,000 to students from minority groups in the northern region. Lanir, who came to public attention through his internet gambling enterprise, is not a gambler himself but has nonetheless succeeded in making a great deal of money. He has been involved in the leisure and entertainment industries in Israel and England and is currently a high tech entrepreneur. His social concerns include the plight of Holocaust survivors. Lanir is the son of Air Force pilot Lt.-Col. Avi Lanir, who was shot down, captured and tortured to death in the Yom Kippur War. GENERAL (Res.) David Ivri, a former commander of the Israel Air Force, a former Israel Ambassador to the US and a former director of the National Security Council, was named an Honorary Fellow of Ramat Hasharon at a ceremony at the close of Independence Day celebrations. Others named as Honorary Fellows at the event, which was moderated by Israel Television's Dalia Mazor, were volunteer Rachel Gaon for giving with all her heart, non-stop volunteer Adina Rosental, Gideon Shem-Tov for continuously working for the benefit of the community, Edna Gadoni Somech who has dedicated her life to helping the less fortunate, and Motti Bar Dagan for numerous projects on behalf of the community. Ivri was cited for his contribution to the well-being of the State. Ramat Hasharon Mayor Itzik Rochberger, who together with his wife had earlier in the day hosted an Independence Day reception in the plaza of Yad LaBanim, said at the Honorary Fellow ceremony that he simply did not have the words to express how impressed he was by the spirit of volunteerism and the personal examples set by all the recipients. He also made the point that none were about to rest on their laurels just because their efforts had been recognized. They were simply going to do more. IT IS natural that the residence of the British Ambassador should be made available to the Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association for one or two functions a year. And indeed this has been a long time tradition which will be continued on June 4, when IBCA members will flock to Ramat Gan to listen to Hebrew University's Prof. Shlomo Avineri speak on Herzl, Political Zionism and Israel at 60.