Grapevine: A packed house

When Malcolm Hoenlein speaks at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue he attracts a full house.

Synagogue NYC (370) (photo credit: BEN G. Frank)
Synagogue NYC (370)
(photo credit: BEN G. Frank)
AS A rule, when Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, speaks at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue he attracts a full house and then some. Last Saturday night, there was a large audience, but there were also a lot of empty seats, because there was some interesting competition down the road at the Hanassi Synagogue, where Rabbi Berel Wein was interviewing Rabbi Benji Levene, who is known to be a great raconteur – even when he’s not talking his grandfather, the legendary Rabbi Aryeh Levine.
One of the stories he told which was not about his grandfather was that during the Six Day War – when there was a call for volunteers to go to Israel, because so many Israeli men had been called up to serve in the army – Levene, who was a student at Yeshiva University, decided to answer the call. The problem was that his passport had expired.
Someone told him that there was a place in Rockefeller Center where a passport could be renewed within a day.
However, at that time the American authorities were advising people not to travel to the Middle East. It was therefore suggested to Levene that instead of wearing a kippa he should wear a baseball cap, and when asked where he wanted to go to give a destination somewhere in Europe. He duly showed up at Rockefeller Center wearing his baseball cap and was asked by the person in charge where he wanted to go. To London, he replied, adding that his uncle was very sick.
“Where do you really want to go?” asked the clerk. Levene repeated his answer, adding that his mother was British and that his uncle had remained in London.
The clerk persisted, and eventually Levene gave up and said he was going to Israel. The clerk told him to step out of line and wait for him.
Levene did as he was told and when everyone else in the line had been processed, the clerk came to attend to him. Levene was sure that his request would be denied.
But no. “We can’t stop you from going to Israel,” said the clerk, “but if you’re already going, maybe you can take a package to my cousin in Tel Aviv.”
HANASSI SYNAGOGUE will also host a somewhat different event for International Women’s Day, and will instead call it International Aguna Day, in recognition of women chained to a marriage from which they want to be liberated. There will be two lecturers. Simcha Krauss, rabbi emeritus of Young Israel of Hillcrest will talk about “Jewish Divorce: Halacha in Action,” and Dr. Rachel Levmore, a rabbinical court advocate and a member of the Israel Commission for the Appointment of Judges to the Rabbinical Court, will address the issue of “Halachic Solutions to the Aguna Problem.” The event, cosponsored by Hanassi Synagogue and the International Young Israel Movement in Israel will take place on Saturday, March 8 at 8 p.m.
THE JERUSALEM College of Technology has announced its intention to significantly expand the cadre of advanced students currently working on designing and upgrading the IDF’s Merkava tank. In addition, JCT will encourage more of its students to get involved in research and development projects surrounding the Merkava program.
The announcement follows a tour last week of the IDF’s Merkava tank project by JCT president Prof. Haim Sukenik and director Shai Gilboa. The JCT officials were accompanied by Lt.-Col. Ilan and Lt.- Col. Michael, both JCT graduates.
“The faculty, students and graduates of JCT have always been happy to give of their skills and knowledge for the defense of the state and its citizens. We hope that we will be able to continue this tradition with the Merkava project,” said Sukenik during the tour.
TWO WOMEN will be honored by the Jerusalem branch of WIZO at an International Women’s Day event to be held at the Jerusalem Cinematheque this coming Monday, March 3. One is former Jerusalem municipal councilwoman Anat Hoffman, who heads Women of the Wall; and the other is Ilana Eliya, a vocalist, composer, storyteller and researcher who has given a whole new meaning to songs for women.
The event will be attended by Prof. Rivka Lazovski, chair of World WIZO; Gila Oshrat, chair of WIZO Israel; and Ariela Persky, chair of WIZO Jerusalem; and will include a screening of the film Life in Reverse.