Grapevine: Singing their praises

The banquet hall in Jerusalem's Great Synagogue was chock-a-block with merrymakers for the Independence Day gala dinner.

AS HAPPENS every year, the banquet hall in Jerusalem's Great Synagogue was chock-a-block with merrymakers for the Independence Day gala dinner at which the guests of honor were immigrant soldiers who are in the process of converting to Judaism. Whatever difficulties may be raised for them in other religious circles, at the Great Synagogue they are made to feel welcome because they chose to come to Israel, to identify as Jews and to prove their commitment by joining the IDF. Dinner committee chairpersons Connie and Sheldon Abramson personally greeted each and every guest with the same warmth they display when they meet and greet congregants who attend services. Singer Israel Parnas paused in his lengthy performance only to accommodate speechmakers Rabbi David Fuld who, together with his wife Anita, is the annual patron of the dinner; and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference, who though undeniably a brilliant orator, was not exactly the right person to speak about the miracles of Israel's achievements. There are plenty of excellent Israeli orators, and it would have been more appropriate to select someone who actually lives here. After all the unpleasant hullabaloo concerning chief cantor Naftali Herstik, who as a highly publicized victim of entrapment nearly found himself without a job, it was good to see and hear him at the Independence Day service and again at the dinner, where he was publicly acknowledged. EVERYONE SHOULD look so good when they turn 80. This was the consensus among several guests who attended the 80th birthday party of Bernice Beare Rosenberg. The former public relations director of Herzog Memorial Hospital demonstrated her continued support of health and education initiatives by listing several on her birthday party invitations asking that in lieu of gifts, donations be channeled toward one or more of them. The party on Saturday began at the Moreshet Yisrael Synagogue, where the guest of honor was one of those called to the Torah during an uplifting service punctuated by the most wonderful singing by the hazzanim and a superb, emotional sermon by Rabbi Abraham Feder, a former spiritual leader of the congregation. Straight-backed, exquisitely dressed and perfectly coiffed as always, Beare Rosenberg recited the blessings in a firm voice. The synagogue was even more crowded than during the High Holy Days. Later, many of the congregants and other guests joined her at lunch at the Inbal Hotel, where relatives and close friends reminisced about their relationship with her. Among them was Beare Rosenberg's brother Prof. Joseph Gale, a leading plant physiologist. He described his sister as "resilient," saying that despite all the vicissitudes which she had encountered in her life, she always came out on top. Her daughter Charlotte Shalom attributed this to the brand of car her mother had brought with her when she came to Israel - a Triumph, which she said symbolized the woman who drove it. Bernice Wix, as she was known when she first arrived in Israel, married South African philanthropist Aaron Beare, with whom she spent several happy years in South Africa before he died. She subsequently married Rabbi Yaakov Rosenberg with whom she spent a short time before he took ill and passed away. Beare Rosenberg has remained devoted to Herzog Memorial Hospital ever since her post there but is also associated in her own right through the eponymous Beare Foundation and numerous other organizations and institutions. HISTORY WAS made at the Moreshet Yisrael Congregation this week when three generations of rabbis appeared on the same platform. The occasion was the launch of the latest book Torah through a Zionist Vision by the extremely erudite Rabbi Abraham Feder, who is one of the rabbis emeritus of the congregation. Feder occupied the synagogue's pulpit for 10 years, taking over from Rabbi Yosef Green, who had been a pulpit rabbi for 40 years, 19 of them at Moreshet Yisrael. Current spiritual leader Rabbi Adam Frank paid tribute to his two predecessors but said he didn't fancy the idea of becoming emeritus. Considering his age, he would have a long wait to append the word to his name. Other Conservative rabbis who paid tribute to Feder were Rabbi Barry Schlesinger of the Moreshet Avraham congregation and Rabbi Eddie Romm, director of education at the Fuchsberg Center. IT'S PAR for the course of general managers of five-star hotels to greet VIP guests, though in theory every guest is a VIP. This week it happened to be absolutely true insofar as the Inbal Hotel was concerned because all its guests were dignitaries of one kind or another. Over the years, general manager Rodney Sanders has had more than one dignitary at a time at the hotel, but he's never done as much hand-shaking as he did this past week as VIPs attending the Tomorrow Conference, hosted by President Shimon Peres, arrived one after another throughout Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Among them was former president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev. He was accompanied by Russian Ambassador Piotr Stegny, who is scheduled to speak this Monday morning at the Hebrew University's Truman Institute on Russian foreign policy. In the evening, in a lecture at Moreshet Yisrael, former dissident and refusenik Yosef Begun, who spent many years in prison and in exile in Siberia and has lived for 20 years in Israel, will take a backward glance at what Russia used to be. AMONG THE speakers at the 75th anniversary celebrations of the Jerusalem International YMCA on Sunday will be Rizek Abushar, who for 46 years was associated with the YMCA and was the first Palestinian to become its director-general, a position he held from 1998-2001. His wife Alice was asked why her family had remained (until 2006) in the home near the German Colony that had been theirs since 1926, whereas other Arabs who had lived in the area were exiled in 1948. She replied simply: "We didn't run away."