SEVENTY YEARS ago in Berlin, Yekutiel X. Federmann who, with his brother Shmuel (Sammo) founded the Dan Hotel chain, was the head of Youth Aliya at 10 Meinikstrasse. In that capacity he was responsible for obtaining certificates that would enable German Jewish youth to get out of Germany and make their way to Eretz Israel before they were swept up in the Nazi carnage.
Chana Blumenthal, then a 15-year-old, was one of the youngsters to whom he gave a certificate. Recently, Yekutiel's son Michael Federmann, the deputy chairman of the Hebrew University's board of governors, presented Chana's daughter, doctoral student Tehilla Blumenthal, with a scholarship and thus closed a circle from Berlin to Jerusalem. Tehilla was one of 26 recipients of Federmann scholarships, which are granted annually. Her doctoral thesis is on Orthodox single women who choose to become mothers, a phenomenon that has become more prevalent over the past decade.
Yekutiel was a staunch supporter of the Hebrew University, and his son is even more so, in addition to being a member of the executive committee and the board of governors of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot. Two years ago Michael, on behalf of his family, presented a substantial donation to the Hebrew University's School of Public Policy and Government, which now bears the Federmann family name. The family also established the Hospitality, Food Resources and Tourism Management program in the University's Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment and established the Yekutiel X. Federmann Chair in Hotel Management.
In appreciation of these and other Federmann family contributions, the Hebrew University will organize a special tribute at the annual Federmann Family Awards ceremony on December 23 at the University's Truman Institute.
JUST OVER a year ago, when he revived the Missing Persons program (Hamador Lehipus Krovim) on Israel Radio's Reshet Bet, in which he interviews listeners searching for relatives and friends, Yaron Enosh (better known as a Grecophile) realized that there were still people looking for Holocaust survivors, but he never imagined that there would be so many or that there would be cases of instant success. Toward the end of November, he interviewed Yehiel Desatnik of Tel Aviv, who was looking for a relative by the name of Baruch Katzenelenbogen, who may have changed his surname to Kashti. Desatnik, who had been on his quest for years, supplied Enosh with various family details but didn't hold out much hope. But less than 20 minutes later, Desatnik received a phone call from a man who told him that Baruch had indeed changed his name to Kashti but had died some years earlier and was buried in the Holon cemetery. However, Kashti had two daughters, Nurit and Nehama.
The caller, who declined to give his name, supplied Desatnik with Nurit's address and phone number and those of her daughter Limor. Desatnik wasted no time in making contact and learned that what had troubled Kashti for 40 years was the thought that he had no relatives other than his immediate family. What Desatnik subsequently discovered was that Haim Drory, a mutual cousin of his and Kashti's, lived only three minutes' walk away from what had been Kashti's home. Coincidentally, Desatnik lives only three minutes' walk away from Nurit. He and his wife Aliza met with Nurit and Nehama and their husbands, and a few days ago Desatnik called Enosh to thank him on the air for giving him two new beautiful and intelligent cousins. For Enosh, few things could be more rewarding.
MANY PEOPLE in the Orthodox community run their lives according to the Hebrew calendar. But even so, when it comes to January 1, they join the mainstream community in making New Year resolutions. January 1 will hold a lot of resolutions for Hanna Sharansky and Nahum Waller, who will be celebrating their marriage at Ramat Rahel in Jerusalem. It's certainly a great way to start the new year. The bride is the younger daughter of Natan and Avital Sharansky, and the groom the younger son of Anthony and Michal Waller.
A LIFE Achievement Award is often like a golden handshake; but Micha Shagrir, who received an LAA this week at the Jewish Film Festival in Jerusalem, made it very clear that he's not taking the hint and intends to go on making films for a long time to come.
IT COULD be that I may have gone past France Square, around the corner from the Prime Minister's residence, too early in the day on recent Fridays to see them - or they may have stopped demonstrating after it became clear that a Kadima-led government was negotiating with the Palestinians. Whichever the case, the Women in Black, aided by a couple of like-minded men, were out demonstrating again last Friday - somewhat depleted in numbers, and mostly gray or white-haired, but just as committed as they had been when they mounted their first silent vigil a little over 20 years ago. It started with a nucleus of 15 women, which grew to many more and then shrank again and grew again - but the core group, by and large, remained constant. They were women well known in the peace movement.
The majority were Israelis born in the United States or the products of American parents who had come to Israel with an American anti-racist philosophy. To them, Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza was a form of racism. Carrying placards calling for an end to occupation, their vigil often provoked crude and violent reactions from extreme right-wing elements who regarded them as whores and traitors and said so in loud, unmistakable terms. Last Friday, in addition to the old placards, demonstrators also bore new ones calling for an end to the siege of Gaza.
THE HALEVI family has long been connected with Herzog Hospital. The late Shlomo Halevi, a well-known economist and businessman who was a member of the Jerusalem city council, was also a second-generation longtime member of the hospital's board of directors, which he chaired from 1997-2000. Prior to that, he chaired the hospital's board of management from 1993-1997. When the hospital was in dire financial straits in the 1990s, it was Halevi's tenacious dedication and wisdom that not only saved it from going under but also enabled it to develop, maintain stability and become the third-largest hospital in the capital.
In a desire to link his name in perpetuity with Herzog Hospital, his family established an annual award by way of recognition and appreciation of the unique contributions of hospital personnel in the smooth running of the hospital. The winner of the Shlomo Halevi Prize for 2008 was Haim Damti, the head of the hospital's security division, who not only maintains the safety of the facility but also has worked out a comprehensive plan for emergency situations.
A testament to the profound impact of Halevi was evidenced in the fact that the hospital's auditorium was packed last Friday with Halevi's relatives and friends, including a friend of his youth. His son Ido presided over the ceremony, and his wife Lina presented Damti with the prize. Prof. Yitzhak Brik, of the department of gerontology at the University of Haifa, is a long-time friend of Halevi's and shared reminiscences of an interesting, multidisciplined man with whom he always enjoyed conversation.
AMONG THE many Israelis who send regular weekly newsletters to their friends throughout Israel and around the world is Jerusalemite Sheila Raviv, the wife of Zvi Raviv, the former director of the New Jerusalem Foundation. Sheila's newsletter is usually sent on Friday afternoon, arriving locally just before Shabbat.
However this week, because she and her husband are going abroad, she sent out a letter on Sunday, part of which reads: "Early this morning I went to a plant nursery, where I was served by a young Palestinian man who was washing his car outside the nursery (I knew he was Palestinian from the number plates). He was incredibly helpful, explained the plants in excellent Hebrew, and carried my purchases out to my car with great good grace, without being asked. On my way home, I saw a group of highly excited haredi children, laughing excitedly and helping an Arab shepherd boy keep his errant animals off the main road. A little further down the road, a family of haredi Jews, the women covered from head to foot, stood near three Muslim women, also covered from head to foot, and nearby a couple of young girls in jeans and T-shirts playfully teasing the young man trying to walk nonchalantly past them. The aforementioned groups were all waiting to cross the road at a junction, blissfully unaware of the fact that they were part of a form of freedom and democracy rarely seen in our corner of the world.
"As I sat at the traffic lights watching them, I realized that that is what I wish for 2009, acceptance and tolerance of the other, to the extent that they become unaware. We are so busy proving we are right, that oft-times we try to bully those who think differently into thinking like us. Savlanut means 'patience' in Hebrew, and sovlanut means 'tolerance' - words so close, from the same root, that teach us that we should be more patient with others, which will naturally lead to tolerance."
EVERY YEAR, the Menachem Begin Heritage Center awards the Begin Prize for an outstanding contribution by a group or an individual to the State of Israel and the Jewish People. In addition, the Begin Center awards prizes and scholarships through The Aliza and Menachem Begin Nobel Peace Prize Fund, which was established in 1978 with the money that was given to Menachem Begin by the Nobel Peace Prize committee. At the time, Begin decided that inter alia, the money would be used to grant scholarships, loans and assistance to needy students and to give aid and care to underprivileged children to assure their future and standing in society.
The Begin Prize recipients this year are Prof. Reuven Or of the Hebrew University Medical Center Hadassah Ein Kerem for his extensive medical and research work in establishing the bone marrow registry and the national public umbilical cord blood bank; former foreign affairs and defense minister Moshe Arens for his contribution to the State of Israel and his illuminating research on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising; and Harold "Smoky" Simon for his many years of volunteer activity in Israel for the state and its society. Scholarship recipients will be from Ariel University in Samaria and the tutors in the Perach Project, who with warmth, love and goodwill have enabled countless children to discover and rise to their potential.