Grapevine: Jerusalem can bank on it

It was both a privilege and a responsibility to run a bank that has the word “Jerusalem” in its title, says Zalman Shoval.

THE WORDING of the invitation from the Bank of Jerusalem was misleading. Invitees were asked to come to the housewarming of the bank’s new home on Rehov Ahad Ha’am, Tel Aviv. But at the sophisticated gala garden party reception, Zalman Shoval, the bank’s chairman of the board and twice Israel ambassador to the United States, clarified the situation by assuring guests that the bank’s headquarters are and will remain in Jerusalem.
It was both a privilege and a responsibility to run a bank that has the word “Jerusalem” in its title, he said. The heart of the bank will always be in Jerusalem, he insisted, adding that it was the only bank in the world that was headquartered in Jerusalem, and the only bank in Israel that had not changed hands.
The bank was founded almost 60 years ago by Shoval’s father-in-law, Moshe Mayer, who also built the Shalom Mayer Tower, which was a pioneer high-rise on the Tel Aviv skyline. Recalling that the family had been asked by the governor of the Bank of Israel to establish a bank in Jerusalem to help the capital’s ailing economy, Shoval said that the time had come to branch out. Tel Aviv, which is Israel’s business capital, was considered an ideal location. Shoval also implied that the bank would spread even further.
Meanwhile the new branch, the interior of which was designed by Shoval’s daughter Yael, is housed in a beautifully restored four-story building dating back to 1925.
Among the guests was Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who is Shoval’s neighbor in their home environment. Shoval admitted that he had been under the impression that the bank controlled by his family was the first and only Bank of Jerusalem. However, one of the bank’s employees, with a penchant for delving into history, discovered that in the 1800s there was another Bank of Jerusalem that was operated by the grandfather of MK Meir Porush.
  • JERUSALEM’S RAMATAYIM Men’s Choir, directed by Richard Shavei Tzion, caps its 15th and most prolific season to date with a six-stop concert tour of Britain at the beginning of June with performances in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and London and collaborating along the way with British cantors, as well as Birmingham’s Icknield Male Voice Choir and others. The lord mayor will be in the audience at Liverpool, where they will surprise the crowd with a rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” the Liverpool Football Club’s anthem. The choir has sung this year with noted cantors Chaim Adler, Ya’acov Motzen and Yitzhak Meir Helfgot among others.
    From a modest beginning when, in 1995, four Anglo enthusiasts gathered in the Ramot suburb of Jerusalem to sing choral pieces they recalled from synagogue services in their youth, the choir now compromises more than 30 choristers. The choir includes Sabras and immigrants from four continents who share a love of the great tradition of Jewish liturgical music and enjoy singing together with a repertoire that also incorporates other styles of music
  • MASHINA, THE legendary and influential rock group formed by Yuval Banai, the son of celebrated entertainer Yossi Banai, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. On Jerusalem Day, it met with one of its biggest fans, Mayor Nir Barkat, and will in all likelihood catch up with him again on May 31 when the group performs at the Sultan’s Pool.
  • ABU TOR resident Simcha Rotem, 86, who is one of the very few survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, has been the recipient of many honors over the years, including honors bestowed by the Polish government in recognition of his heroism and that of his comrades. Rotem was back in Poland in mid-May for the unveiling of yet another monument honoring the Warsaw Ghetto fighters. This latest bronze structure honors the last group of resistance fighters, who escaped from the burning ghetto in May 1943. It stands on Prosta Street, which is the street on which they emerged after crawling through the sewer. Rotem, known by his code name Kazik, was one of the members of that group.
    It is rare for a monument to represent a sewage canal, but that was the escape route for those Jews who succeeded in finding their way from the confines of the ghetto to the Aryan side and to freedom. The monument shows the canal rising vertically from the ground with disembodied hands clawing their way to freedom.
    Poland’s Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski described Rotem as “a great Pole and a great Jew,” noting that a year after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Rotem and several of his companions participated in the Warsaw Uprising, which is commemorated in a Warsaw museum that was dear to the heart of the late president Lech Kaczynski. After the war, Rotem was involved in helping Jewish refugees immigrate to the Land of Israel, and he was one of a group of former resistance fighters known as the Avengers, who tracked down and executed known Nazis.
    ONE OF the capital’s best-kept secrets is the annual bar/bat mitzva celebration for the hearing impaired, which is conducted by The Council for Young Israel in Israel, the Association for the Deaf, and the Jewish Agency. Impairments and special needs know no ethnic, economic or religious boundaries, thus the 50 youngsters who came with parents, teachers and social workers from all over the country to the Beit Ya’acov Synagogue in Ramat Eshkol represented much of Israel’s multicultural mosaic.
    According to Rabbi Michael Strick, this year’s celebration was the largest in the project’s 15-year history. Most of the service was conducted by Rabbi Chanoch Yeres, with someone repeating his words in sign language. On the other hand, Doron Levy, the chairman of the National Association for the Deaf, gave his address in sign language, and it was repeated audibly for those people present who were not conversant with sign language.
    The boys were all presented with kippot and tefilin. With large prayer shawls draped around their shoulders and their kippot in place and the tefilin wrapped around their heads and arms, they stood under a canopy while Strick read their Torah portion aloud. Some of them mouthed it with him, but all of them mouthed the prayers that were recited before and after the reading.
    The girls received Shabbat candlesticks and joined in the recital of the Sh’ma by mouthing the prayer recited by Yares. The candy throwing was bidirectional and a lot more fun than it is on a Shabbat. Some of the youngsters were restless and talked to during the service, but they didn’t really disturb anyone because they were signing to each other.
  • JERUSALEM DEPUTY Mayor Naomi Tsur will deliver the 19th annual lecture of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel in the courtyard of the Swedish Theological Institute on Rehov Hanevi’im on June 10 at 5 p.m. Her topic will be “Heavenly Jerusalem and Earthly Jerusalem.”
    WHILE SECULAR forces that are not really au fait with what goes on inthe haredi world contend that haredi education authorities are derelictin their duty because they don’t provide the tools of knowledge thatwill enable the haredi community to seize opportunities on the jobmarket, the haredim are quietly honing their academic qualifications.The Haredi College in Jerusalem (Hamichlala Haharedit) is introducing abachelor’s degree course in communications. It won’t be quite the sameas communications courses offered in other colleges or by universitiesin that its training program will be geared to defending haredi values.Students will learn about politics, public relations, how to becomeeffective spokespeople, how to impact on public opinion, and then some.
    Present at the ceremony at which the haredi college unveiled the newacademic program was Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who is one of the nation’sbest communicators between the haredi and secular sectors of thepopulation. Lau said the new program was very important in preparingyoung haredi men for a career in some branch of communications.