Grapevine: Happy belated bar mitzva

Children, grandchildren of 16 Holocaust survivors living in Ramat Hasharon participate in the city’s joint bar mitzva.

Jews in synagogue 521 (photo credit: Dana Evan Kaplan)
Jews in synagogue 521
(photo credit: Dana Evan Kaplan)
■ EARLY THIS week, the children and grandchildren of 16 Holocaust survivors who live in Ramat Hasharon participated in the municipality’s better-late-than-never celebration of a joint bar mitzva. The bar mitzva “boys,” now in their 80s, were not in a position to celebrate their bar mitzvas during World War II. Some were in hiding, some had joined the partisans, and others were in labor camps or in concentration camps, where they had managed to avoid selection for the gas chambers.
But all were thrilled to be able to make up for lost opportunities and to do so in the presence of their children and grandchildren, who were madly photographing the scene and seemed to be even more excited than the honorees.
The event was organized by the Ramat Hasharon Senior Citizens Administration in conjunction with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. Administration head Lea Oren and members of her staff received the blessing of Mayor Itzik Rochberger who, together with other municipal officials, went to Jerusalem to join in the festivities, which he found to be a very emotional experience.
Ramat Hasharon has a large survivor population, and Oren and Rochberger are determined to trace as many survivors as they can so that those who missed out on a bar mitzva can still catch up and have a party. The Ramat Hasharon Municipality brought a Torah scroll, tefillin and prayer shawls to Jerusalem, as well as a festive meal in which all the honorees and their families participated.
■ MOST OF the time it’s her husband who is in the limelight, but Aliza Olmert, a personality in her own right as an artist and social-welfare activist on behalf of minors, cannot escape attention when seen at any social or cultural gathering.
Thus, when she joined other friends of lawyer-cum-photographer Elisheva Shaked, who heads a veteran Jerusalem law firm, she captured the attention of most of the other invitees, not to mention the paparazzi.
Others attending the opening of Shaked’s photo exhibition at the Jaffa Port included former director of the Israel Museum Martin Weyl; Eri Steimatzky, who is the artist’s brother; Prof. Shimon Slavin; stage, screen and radio personality Alex Ansky and his wife, Hamutal; Uzi Wexler, head of the Sherover Foundation, and his wife, Daniella, a painter who also combined law with art; former MK Eti Livni and her husband, Yitzhak, a veteran broadcasting personality; lawyers Dan and Daniella Sheinman; former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar and his life partner, Michal Rubinstein; author Ram Oren; and several architects, judges and lawyers, including the artist’s husband, Michael Shaked, a well-known Jerusalem lawyer.
Elisheva Shaked has been a photographer for the past decade. At first, she took pictures of architectural and construction sites in Jerusalem relating to her career in law. But as time progressed, she began photographing major buildings across the country that did not necessarily suit their environment and scenery but became the scenery themselves. Hothouses became a recurrent sight and appear in her photographs as her main artistic object. Shaked, who was showcased in two group exhibitions in the past, is now presenting her first solo exhibition. The photographs, mostly taken with an analog camera in black and white film between 2008 and 2012 in the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea, Lachish and Gaza areas, were developed and printed by the artist herself.
■ THE PLIGHT of Jews from predominantly Muslim lands has been given impetus not only by Israel’s Foreign Ministry but also by an exhibition, “Light and Shadow,” which originated at Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People on the campus of Tel Aviv University, and is currently on display at The Fowler Museum at the University of California Los Angeles and runs through to March 10.
The comprehensive exhibition comprises an in-depth portrait of Iranian Jewry and introduces visitors to the fascinating world of an ancient community and its cultural, social, economic and political life. The community’s story unfolds over more than 2,700 years, beginning with the first Jews exiled from Jerusalem by the Babylonians and continuing to the present day, with members of the community scattered throughout the world.
According to Prof. David Yeroushalmi, a member of the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University and the exhibition’s historical advisor, some 20,000 Jews still live in Iran today. They are concentrated in Tehran and the two ancient communities of Isfahan and Shiraz and maintain a strong connection with Judaism and their distinct cultural legacy. The exhibition includes archeological artifacts, many on public display in the US for the first time, that reveal details of generations of life in the Iranian Jewish community, including ancient manuscripts, talismans, carpets and secular and religious music. Contemporary artworks by Iranian Jewish artists now residing in Israel, Europe and the US reflect the community today. Orit Engelberg-Baram and Hagai Segev curated the exhibition.
The original exhibition was sponsored by the Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation, with additional generous support from the David Berg Foundation, the Diamond Charity Foundation, the Iranian American Jewish Federation of New York, the Global Mashadi Jewish Federation, the Maccabi Foundation and individual philanthropists from the Iranian Jewish community, as well as other Jewish communities.