Grapevine: Cutting-edge celebrations

THE FRANTZMANS: Seth, Kasaey and Daniel Leo. (photo credit: Courtesy)
THE FRANTZMANS: Seth, Kasaey and Daniel Leo.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The stork has been busy at The Jerusalem Post, visiting both editorial and administrative staff. Some of the deliveries have already been made and others are well on the way. Among the most recent of new fathers is op-ed editor and feature writer Seth J. Frantzman, whose wife, Kasaey, presented him with a son last week.
When Frantzman arrived at the editorial meeting on Sunday to receive the good wishes of those who had not yet congratulated him on the day the baby was born, he displayed a previously unknown streak of superstition. Frantzman takes his laptop with him wherever he goes, and when asked to download photos of the baby, he refused to do so until after the brit. Many Jewish parents of newborn babies refuse to reveal their names until they have officially named them in synagogue, but it’s rare to refuse to show their photographs until after they are named.
Frantzman was confronted with another problem when he told colleagues that the circumcision ceremony would take place on Wednesday, which is an important deadline day at the paper. Several people said that unless it was first thing in the morning, they wouldn’t be able to attend. Frantzman had initially thought of making it a lunchtime affair, and then moved it to later in the day, then back to earlier in the day. In the final analysis it took place at the Frantzmans’ home in Jerusalem – and the baby’s name is Daniel Leo Frantzman. Two other Jerusalem Post staffers this week gave birth to boys who have not yet been named – director of the editor-in-chief’s office, Sapir Peretz, and chief designer Hana Ben-Ano. “We scored a hat-trick,” said Editor-in-Chief Steve Linde. “Mazal tov, mazal tov, mazal tov!” ■ ALSO CELEBRATING the birth of a son this week was Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, whose son Erel was inducted into the faith by Steve Jackson at a festive synagogue ceremony in Ra’anana.
Erel is the fourth of the minister’s children and a baby brother to Ohad, Adi and Amit. Prior to the ceremony, which took place immediately after morning services, Erdan was called to the Torah.
Erdan, who is usually a cool customer and for whom the birth of a son is not exactly a new experience, was nonetheless very emotional and shared his feelings on his Facebook page. All thoughts of appointing a new police inspector-general were temporarily placed on the back burner. Even a police commissioner plays second fiddle to a baby.
■ ON THE Twitter account of political and communications adviser and legendary Shas spokesman Itzik Sudri, there is a large photograph of members of the government, and – contrary to what was done in the haredi media, where the women were completely photoshopped out of the picture – the women’s faces have been left intact and all the men’s faces have been blacked out, although their bodies are still visible. There’s also a photograph taken on a street corner in Bnei Brak where a cardboard box with a bottle of cold water and plastic mugs has been placed on the fence with a handwritten sign saying “cold water.”
But the most interesting photo from a “guess who” standpoint is one taken in 1980 at the inauguration of the late Rabbi Yosef Bar-Shalom as the chief rabbi of Bat Yam talking to the late Sephardi chief rabbi, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who for a change was not wearing his flowing robes, but chose a business suit. Between them was a beardless 21-year-old Arye Deri, who bears absolutely no physical resemblance to the present Shas leader.
■ THE DECISION by Spain and Portugal to restore citizenship to people who can prove that they are direct descendants of Jews exiled from Spain and Portugal more than 500 years ago has led to greatly renewed interest in the lines of descent of people from the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities. In fact, interest is so great that the Knesset will on October 13 have a special inaugural session of the Knesset Caucus for Reconnection with Descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Communities. The caucus is chaired by MK Robert Ilatov and the director is Ashley Perry.
Following the launch, participants will move to a yet-to-be-announced venue in Jerusalem for a conference co-hosted by the World Jewish Congress, the Institute for Sefardi and Anousim Studies of the Netanya Academic College and Reconectar.
■ FORMER JERUSALEM POST military correspondent Yaakov Katz, who has just celebrated a birthday, is about to have a celebration of a different kind with the launch of a book that he wrote with his longtime colleague Amir Bohbot.
The Chicago-born Katz left the Post to go to Harvard for a year as a Nieman Fellow, and after he returned to Israel he linked up with Naftali Bennett when the latter was economy minister. Katz became his political adviser and liaison to Diaspora communities. At the time Bennett also held the Diaspora Affairs portfolio in the government. After the last Knesset elections, when Bennett became education minister, Katz followed him to the Education Ministry.
The new book, The Weapons Wizards: Israel, the New High-Tech Arms Race and its Terrifying Consequences, published by Palgrave Macmillan, is due to be released in the fall of 2016. Katz describes it as a fast-paced and gripping narrative, which tells the story behind Israel’s development of some of the most technologically sophisticated weapons in the world – from satellites to drones to missile defense systems – which are reshaping the modern battlefield not only in the Middle East but around the world.
Katz previously co-authored Israel vs.
Iran – The Shadow War, which was published in the US in 2012. While still in the US, Katz moderated the second annual Jerusalem Post New York conference in 2013 and received excellent reaction.
■ DOCUDRAMAS OF history in our times have become the in thing. The Prime Ministers, based on the best-selling book by Yehuda Avner, was initially screened late last year and is still being screened at Jewish community events around the world. Channel 1 has been screening an excellent series, The Sixties; and on Thursday, August 27, there will be a special screening at Beit Hatfutsot of Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace, in which Leon Charney was a featured interviewee.
Charney, who is a New York real estate tycoon, was in 1979 an unofficial adviser to US president Jimmy Carter during the negotiations that resulted in the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. The film screening is particularly timely, given the announcement by Carter last week that he has liver cancer – not good news at any time, but particularly in a 90-yearold man with a sad family history of liver cancer.
Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was assassinated in October 1981. Another player in that historic move toward peace was Moshe Dayan, who died only a few days after Sadat’s assassination. Ezer Weizman, another important person at the talks, died in April 2005, and prime minister Menachem Begin died in March 1992.
Charney, who was close to Weizman, will be in Israel for the screening and may stay on for the wedding next month of supermodel Bar Refaeli. Charney’s wife, Tzili Doron, is an Israeli who happens to be a first cousin to Refaeli, who is due to change her status next month and enter into the state of matrimony. One of the happiest of merrymakers at the wedding will be Refaeli’s grandmother, who is known to be a talented ballroom dancer and who still has plenty of spring in her step.
■ DURING THE Hebrew calendar month of Elul, which is a month of introspection and penitence in advance of the High Holy Days, when the fate of individuals for the year ahead is determined by the Creator, the program lineups for radio and television stations are filled with religious content.
More often than not the focus is on penitential prayers. Occasionally it moves to discussion and debate, and this year it will also include a documentary series based on unique synagogues – or rather the people associated with them.
Regardless of whether the architectural design and the structure of a synagogue is grandiose or humble, in the final analysis the character of the synagogue is determined by its regular congregants and their leadership.
A Little Sanctity, a six-part series commencing on Channel 1 on Wednesday, August 26, at 9 p.m., illustrates this point. Viewers will be introduced to Mori Saalem, an elderly Yemenite who, regardless of the weather, goes out into the street each morning in Tel Aviv’s Yemenite Quarter to try to assemble a 10-man quorum for prayer. Eliezer (Laizy) Shapiro, the creator of the series, has tried to introduce as much variety as possible, and in Hadera he found a young Ethiopian kes by the name of Ro’i who is about to go into the army and who is fearful that all the work he has done to keep his community together, especially the youth, will fall by the wayside while he is serving his country rather than his community.
And then there are three young men, Albert, Yossi and Yehoshua, who are struggling to reconstruct the congregation of a Georgian synagogue in south Tel Aviv that was closed for several years and was taken over by refugees from Eritrea, who turned it into a bar. The camera moves to Safed where Meir Hai Karasanti, who has been the administrator of the Abuhav Synagogue for decades, is eager to retire but can’t find someone to take his place.
Considering that this is the 10th anniversary of the disengagement from Gaza, the series also includes a group of evacuated families from Gush Katif who are still awaiting permanent housing but are even more eager for the completion of a synagogue building that they hope will once more give them a sense of community.
Last is a group of women from the Neveh Daniel settlement in Gush Etzion which has a regular Orthodox women’s minyan, which represents a huge breakthrough, considering the environment in which they live. But it is hardly surprising, given that women now have more access to Jewish learning than at any previous time in history, and many have as much knowledge and wisdom as any esteemed rabbinical scholar.
■ MANY DIPLOMATS who come to Israel fall in love with the country, but few to the extent of former Lithuanian ambassador Darius Degutis and his wife, Nida Degutiene, who declined to live near most of their colleagues in Herzliya Pituah or Kfar Shmaryahu and chose instead to live in the heart of Tel Aviv. They became experts on the city’s cultural life, its restaurants and its fitness facilities. In fact, they sounded more like tour guides than foreign diplomats.
A journalist and author, Degutiene wrote for various Lithuanian publications about Israel, and she became so enamored with Israeli cuisine, much of which reminded her of what she ate as a child, that she wrote A Taste of Israel, which was published in Lithuanian and proved to be so popular that it was translated into English and published by Penguin Random House in South Africa, where Degutis was also his country’s ambassador at the same time that he was ambassador to Israel.
Since leaving last year, he has maintained regular contact with both Israel and South Africa. Before writing her current book, Degutiene wrote another book under the title A Passion for Israel. What’s special about the second book is that it’s rare for non- Jews to write about Jewish cuisine and to include the dietary laws and other aspects of Jewish tradition. The book is currently being launched in South Africa. Aside from being a prolific writer, the author is a very accomplished international businesswoman and entrepreneur.
■ OCTOBER WILL be a month of get-togethers and reunions for Australians living in Israel. In addition to the annual get-together in Beersheba’s Park of the Australian Soldier for the commemoration of the 1917 Battle of Beersheba, which was a major contributing factor by the Australian and New Zealand Light Horse to the defeat of the Ottoman regime, there will also be an Australian Habonim reunion on October 22 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Habonim in Australia.
Mindful that not everyone has a car, organizers looked for a venue that is easily accessible by public transport and decided on the premises of the Council for a Beautiful Israel in Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv. The cost for participation is NIS 120 to cover the cost of hiring the premises, a light meal, refreshments, and other aspects of the event. Advance registration and payment are required by September 15 and checks should be made out to Habonim Dror and sent to Yoni Glickman, Manof 72, Misgav 20184.
■ EVEN BEFORE these two events, there will presumably be quite a number of Australians gathered at the residence of Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma early next month when he hosts a by-invitation-only evening in honor of Keren Malki, named for Melbourne-born Malki Roth, who in 2001 was the teenage victim of a terrorist attack. Malki had been very attached to a severely disabled younger sister, and to honor Malki and her devotion to her sibling, her parents created the Malki Foundation as a fitting legacy to her memory.
Keren Malki is dedicated to helping families who keep their disabled children at home in a happy and loving environment.
Malki’s father, Arnold Roth, will be the guest speaker.
Ever since their arrival in Israel, Sharma and his wife, Rachel Lord, have embraced humane causes. In some cases they have become personally involved in working for these causes, and in others as well as the ones they work for, they have opened their home to enable the message to get out to a wider public.
■ IT’S HARD to tell whether Eldad Koblenz, who has been given the responsibility of setting up the new public broadcasting service that is supposed to go into operation on April 1, 2016, will last the distance.
The journalists and production union at Channel 1 has issued instructions to all of its members not to cooperate with Koblenz, who is apparently trying to decide which Israel Broadcasting Authority staff members will be transferred to the new entity.
Of course there’s plenty of talent outside the IBA, but to ensure a fairly smooth and almost seamless transition from a public broadcasting service in liquidation to one that is barely nascent, it’s important to have some of the more experienced IBA people at the helm.
The union leaders will not cooperate on anything related to the new venture until they know for certain how many people are to be dismissed from the IBA and what they will receive in severance pay. They want to ensure that 95 percent of the employees in the new public broadcasting service will be ex-IBA personnel. Under existing legislation, Koblenz has to take on only 25 percent, but in all likelihood he or his successor will have no alternative but to take on more.
Meanwhile, the Histadrut labor federation, disgusted with the way that IBA employees have been treated by the Finance Ministry, has called a labor dispute which could erupt into a nationwide strike, and the special Knesset committee that is discussing amendments to the public broadcasting law is scheduled to meet on August 30, when the Knesset will still be in recess.