Grapevine: Replenishing ‘good deeds’

The Bialik Prize for Jewish Scholarship for 2014 has been awarded by the Tel Aviv Municipality for significant accomplishments in Jewish studies and Hebrew literature.

Max Steinberg (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Max Steinberg
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
■ IN A special Hanukka drive, a group of AMIT’s “new leadership” volunteers arrived at the AMIT Netzach Yisrael school in Kiryat Malachi bearing a heavy load of gifts, toys and necessities. Dozens of bags loaded with donations had been collected from representatives in Modi’in, Beit Shemesh, Yad Binyamin, Ra’anana, Gush Etzion, Hashmonaim and Jerusalem.
The gifts were not distributed to students, but were used to replenish supplies in the school’s special “good deeds” store. There, students use “good deed money” they earn from teachers for things like good behavior and good attendance to purchase items that are not only wanted, but often needed. There were so many new toys, games, hats, gloves, scarves and cosmetic items such as shampoo that there was insufficient room for them to be displayed, and some were put in storage for future use.
Hanukka drive organizer Mia Weiss said it was heartwarming to see so many communities coming together to help children in need, especially during Hanukka.
Principal Ravit Degangen explained that the good deed store is not only a reward system to encourage good behavior, but also allows children who cannot afford basic items such as soap, umbrellas and school supplies to purchase them in a way that maintains their dignity and ensures those who are needy do not feel embarrassed by their socioeconomic situation. “We believe that in every child there is good, and this program enables teachers to seek out what is good about each and every child,” she said.
■ THE BIALIK Prize for Jewish Scholarship for 2014 has been awarded to Prof. Aaron Demsky, of Bar-Ilan University’s Israel and Golda Koschitzky Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry. Awarded biannually by the Tel Aviv Municipality for significant accomplishments in Jewish studies and Hebrew literature, the Bialik Prize is named in memory of the poet Hayim Nahman Bialik.
The prize was conferred on Demsky by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, together with previous recipients of the honor.
In selecting Demsky for the Bialik Prize, the judges wrote, “Prof. Demsky is one of the senior researchers of ancient Israelite culture. His book Literacy in Ancient Israel, for which he won the prize, focuses on the fundamental issues of literacy and early writing and their influence in shaping the culture of ancient Israel..”
Demsky has authored important articles on education in Israel and the significance of writers in ancient times, while contributing to the understanding of the history of the alphabet and its letters. With his knowledge of paleography and Semitic philology, he developed an integrative approach to deciphering ancient inscriptions; he has frequently been called upon to decode inscriptions on findings uncovered at various archeological excavations. His publication in 2012 of Literacy in Ancient Israel was the culmination of many years of research in this area.
The 76-year-old Demsky immigrated to Israel from the US in 1965, after acquiring a well-rounded education from the finest American scholars in the fields of Bible, literature of the sages and Jewish history. He later specialized in other disciplines such as Semitic languages, ancient Near Eastern history and historic geography of the Land of Israel – all of which have found expression in his research over the years.
He joined the BIU faculty in 1968, and taught biblical history until his retirement in 2007. He is still active in guiding graduate students and organizing international conferences on Jewish names.
■ WHEN SHE came to Israel from her home in Los Angeles last July, it was for the funeral of her brother, lone soldier Max Steinberg, who had been killed in action during Operation Protective Edge. Moved by the thousands of Israelis who attended Max’s funeral, and the dignitaries from the president downward who came to pay condolence calls to the family while they were sitting shiva in Jerusalem, Paige Steinberg, 20, decided that her place was also in Israel – and is currently a student at Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
Her first visit to Israel was in 2011, when she and her two brothers came on a Taglit-Birthright trip. Max had been so impressed that he immediately decided he wanted to return to join the army. Their parents, Evie and Stuart Steinberg, gave him their full support, not realizing at the time that when they would pay their own first visit to Israel, it would be to attend his funeral.
Max, a sharpshooter in the Golani Brigade, was riding in an armored vehicle with six of his comrades when it was hit by Hamas rockets. After Paige got back to California with her family, she announced she wanted to go back to Israel to be closer to Max. Her parents did not stand in her way, just as they had not stood in Max’s way.
It took her very little time to make new friends, in addition to which Tzvika Levy, who heads the Kibbutz Movement’s Lone Soldier Program, keeps an eye on her and is in regular contact. He also calls her parents every week.