Grapevine: Piazza with all the trimmings

Centuries of history have passed between Jerusalem and Rome.

  • CENTURIES OF history have passed between Jerusalem and Rome, so much so that Gianni Alemanno, the mayor of Rome, the Italian capital's first right-wing mayor since World War II, was in Israel last week. Primarily he was here to attend the Dan David Prize award ceremony at Tel Aviv University, to visit Sderot, where a Kassam rocket landed while he was there, and to attend the launch of Piazza Roma, a small square near the Italian Synagogue on Hillel Street. Also present were Chief Rabbi of Rome Riccardo de Segni and the head of the Jewish community of Rome, Riccardo Pacifici. The piazza is a project of the Jerusalem Foundation, which will return the compliment when Jerusalem Foundation president Ruth Cheshin and Mayor Nir Barkat fly to Rome to inaugurate Jerusalem Square in Rome's old Jewish Ghetto.
  • ANYONE ENTERING the Jerusalem Great Synagogue after 9:15 a.m. last Saturday was amazed at the paucity of available seats. The occasion was the Jerusalem Day service. Mayor Nir Barkat was in attendance, and although there were several prominent rabbis present, including Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Haifa Chief Rabbi She'ar Yashuv Cohen, the person most sought out by congregants was Barkat. In addition to Jerusalem Day, the congregation's new cantor, Chaim Adler, was officially installed as were the new president Dr. Felix Glaubach and members of the board. Glaubach and his wife, Miriam, recently donated an Emergency Pediatric Clinic to Shaare Zedek Medical Center. In addition, there was the bar mitzva of Jonathan Kleiman from Costa Rica, whose family members include Shlomo Cohen, the recently expelled Israel ambassador to Venezuela who was present to hear the reading of the Torah portion. Adler, with his powerful but lyric voice and his clear enunciation, was in splendid form and the service was truly outstanding. The letdown was at the kiddush that followed. As at every kiddush, a horde of senior yeshiva students crowded the doorway leading to the ballroom. They stampeded in and devoured most of the heaping platters before the congregants could even reach the tables. As usual Great Synagogue director Rabbi George Finkelstein pleaded with them not to touch the food until they heard the blessing over the wine, reminding them that halachically it was forbidden to partake until they'd heard the blessing - but they'd made hurried blessings of their own.
  • IN RESPONSE to laments about the lack of leadership today compared to the early years of the state, Efrat Toussia Cohen, director of the Jerusalem Friends of the Hebrew University, organized a one-day seminar on leadership, bringing in speakers from different parts of the country including Yariv Ben-Eliezer, the grandson of David-Ben Gurion; Yael Dayan, the daughter of Moshe Dayan; and Yossi Ahimeir, the son of Aba Ahimeir. Each has achieved prominence in their own right, as well as former leaders such as Shulamit Aloni and Moshe Arens. The sessions dealt with political, religious and gender leadership. The intended piece de resistance was the concluding session entitled "The Second Generation of Israeli Leaders: Who Is Remembered and Who Is Forgotten." The panel included Yael Dayan, Prof. Robert Wistrich and playwright Joshua Sobol. Wistrich came up with some interesting comments about Max Nordau and Nathan Birenbaum, who were very much in the forefront of the nascent Zionist movement. In fact, it was Birenbaum who coined the word "Zionism." Sobol, given his profession, came up with a different scenario for the Israel-Arab conflict and suggested that the peace process be reversed so that if Israel achieves peace with Syria, Lebanon and other Arab states, the Palestinians will have little choice other than to join the trend. It could have been an interesting and provocative session but for moderator Prof. Shlomo Aronson, who not only hijacked the topic but also the time allotted to speakers. SEVERAL JERUSALEMITES and more than a handful of non-Jerusalemites are facing a dilemma about which June 1 invitation they should accept. Some feel duty-bound to go to Yad Vashem for the performance of Leonard Bernstein's Kaddish, which is being sponsored by Lily Safra, whose international philanthropy including a generous gift to Yad Vashem is well known. Others affiliated with the International Council of the Israel Museum feel they should go to the Israel Museum's Honorary Fellowship ceremony followed by a gala dinner at the Rockefeller Museum. Still others who are friendly with prize-winning film producer Arthur Cohn or who are supporters of the Ma'aleh Film School in Jerusalem will want to attend the Israeli premiere at the Jerusalem Cinematheque of Cohn's film The Children of the Silk Road.