Grapevine: Farewell to a designer of crowning glory

Hairdressers are psychologists minus a university degree, who listen attentively and occasionally dispense advice. Some are even more than that.

US President Barack Obama delivers his final State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington January 12, 2016.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
US President Barack Obama delivers his final State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington January 12, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It’s a well-known fact that hairdressers are psychologists minus a university degree, who listen attentively, occasionally dispense advice and ensure that their clients get a boost by looking better when they walk out of the salon than when they came in. It happens in any beauty salon with a permanent clientele, but few hairdressers achieve as much fame as some their celebrity clients.
An exception was the legendary Jacqueline Lichtenstein, who, with her husband, Avigdor, opened a salon in Tel Aviv 30 years ago and became the hairstylist to the fashion industry, beauty queens, politicians, the entertainment industry and the social elite from across the country. When she unexpectedly died this week at the age of 67, all these groups and more were represented at her funeral at the Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel Aviv.
Lichtenstein was more than a hairstylist or psychologist. She was a surrogate mother and sister to countless people. She had groups of lone soldiers at her Seder table.
She visited prisons and senior citizens homes to cut and style the hair of inmates and residents. She collected clothing for the poor and treated clients from Bnei Brak or Kiryat Shmona with the same courtesy, consideration and warmth that she gave to dignitaries and celebrities. She was also known for taking groups of single or childless women to Meron to pray at the graves of the pious for a soul mate or a child.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, whose family had been friendly with her for more than two decades, called her a one-woman ministry of social welfare.
The Lichtenstein clients became her close friends and confidantes, and included Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu; Judy Shalom Nir Mozes, who first came while still an 18-year-old soldier in the army; Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan; television journalist Ayala Hasson; cosmetics queen Pnina Rosenblum; socialite Sigal Gross-Papouchado; actress Hanna Laszlo; supermodel Galit Gutman; and scores of other well-known figures.
The Lichtensteins were the hairstylists for the young women participating each year in the Miss Israel beauty contest, and regularly were responsible for the hairstyles of the models in gala fashion shows.
Yet for all that, the passing of Jacqueline Lichtenstein might not have warranted a double-page spread in Yediot Aharonot on two consecutive days but for the fact that Yaron Lichtenstein, one of the sons of Jacqueline and Avigdor Lichtenstein, is married to Hadass, the daughter of Yediot Aharonot publisher Noni Mozes, and the two families are very close. In fact, Hadass Lichtenstein was among those who delivered eulogies at the funeral. One can only surmise the extraordinary relationship that Jacqueline Lichtenstein had with all her clients, including singer composer Aviv Gefen, who at the funeral paid tribute to her by singing “A Sad Song,” which he had composed in memory of his grandmother, in which the lyrics state: “I wanted to tell you that you’re with me in every place. In my heart I have never failed to greet you....”
■ ADIO QUERIDA, the third Ladino Festival, opened on Thursday of this week at Habimah Theater in Tel Aviv with the musical Bustan Sepharadi (Sephardi Orchard), in tribute to its writer, Israel’s fifth president Yitzhak Navon, who died last November.
According to the festival’s artistic director, Eli Grunfeld, the survival of Ladino owes a great deal to Navon, who was the head of the National Authority for Ladino, and who regularly attended Ladino events. Navon did a great deal for the preservation and resurgence of Ladino culture and folklore.
Among the artists appearing at the festival are Yasmin Levy and Aaron Pereira, who have known each other since they were children in Jerusalem. Both their fathers were exponents of Ladino music and song and were close friends. Levy was the guest artist last week on Pereira’s late night radio show aired in the wee small hours between Thursday night and Friday morning, and in introducing her, he referred to her as “my sister.” Other artists in the festival include Galit Gilat, Guy and Roy Zuaretz, Nitza Shaul, Hani Nahmias, Lolik Levy, Shmuel Vilozni, Yaniv D’Or, Matti Sari, Yael Badash and Shimon Parnas.
■ BEST-SELLING AUTHOR David Grossman was the guest of honor this week at the monthly speaker series of the Diplomatic Spouses Club in Israel, the first of which for 2016 was held at the residence of the Indian ambassador, and hosted by Minako Sarkar, the ambassador’s wife. It was also by way of a farewell for Minako Sarkar, who last year was a board member of DSCI, as she and her husband are leaving Israel for Bhutan at the end of the month.
More than 70 male and female spouses of diplomats accredited to Israel came for the dual purpose of wishing the hostess well and to hear the prize-winning author speak about the writing process, how he develops his characters, and how his books evolve. He also spoke about love and loss, war and peace, and the human condition in all its intricate complexities.
The members of his diplomatic audience were captivated by Grossman’s articulate descriptions of how he writes his books and how the characters speak to him. He waxed especially eloquent about his internationally acclaimed book To the End of the Land, a meditation on war, friendship and family.
Grossman’s publisher provided the group with several of his books translated into their native languages, including Portuguese, Norwegian, Italian and Korean, much to the delight of the guests, who speak those languages and asked Grossman to autograph their copies.
■ IN LESS than two weeks’ time, International Holocaust Remembrance Day will be marked at the United Nations and in many cities around the world. Tragically, many Holocaust survivors who endured deprivation, torture and loss are still being victimized in the twilight of their years – not necessarily by anti-Semites but by immoral and unscrupulous lawyers and intermediaries who, on the pretext of helping them to get relatively new grants and pensions for which they recently became eligible, are getting them to sign documents that they do not understand, but which in effect give the lawyers power of attorney over their finances. In many cases, they never even met the lawyer, but are persuaded by the intermediary. Both the lawyer and the intermediary then charge exorbitant fees for filling out the required documents, and if the Holocaust survivor is not in a position to pay these fees, a bailiff is sent to confiscate his assets. The bailiff, with an execution order from the court, will sometimes arrive as late as midnight, which is terrifying to almost anyone, but more so an elderly Holocaust survivor. If the money is still not forthcoming, a lien is placed on the survivor’s bank account, meaning that the victim has no way of paying for food or medication or in some cases rent.
The scandal was given enormous disclosure this week by Israel Radio’s Dikla Aharon Shafran and Keren Neubach on Neubach’s Seder Hayom (Agenda) program, which specializes in revealing injustices perpetrated against hapless Israeli citizens.
Neubach, who last month was among the recipients of the prestigious Sokolov Prize for journalism, is unrelenting in her pursuit of justice and the unmasking of irregularities and bureaucratic mishandling of cases.
She was particularly determined when it came to the mistreatment of Holocaust survivors, who arguably are treated worse in Israel than in other countries where they get local Jewish community support. In Israel they are still waiting for money due to them but long delayed by government bureaucracy and disputes as to which state-sponsored organization should be responsible for payments. More than anything else, Neubach has proved time and again how necessary it is to maintain a public broadcasting service.
In the course of the program, she interviewed Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen and Gilad Semama of the Justice Ministry, who each told her that hundreds of such cases had come to their attention, and that survivors who had been cheated in this manner could come to either ministry, where they would receive pro bono legal services in order to obtain a rebate on the excess fees that they had paid or had been siphoned from their bank accounts.
During the program a representative of Yad Sarah called to say that the organization would also provide free legal service in such cases and, at Neubach’s suggestion, the Israel Bar Association said that it would deal harshly with lawyers who had indulged in this kind of extortion. Many victims telephoned the radio station during the broadcast. What was particularly galling was that the application forms that have to be filled out are particularly simple and take a maximum of 10 minutes to complete, and any lawyer dealing with such cases should be charging the minimum instead of the maximum.
Both Cohen and Semama said that there is now a law that determines the highest fee that can be charged in these circumstances, and no one should pay more than that.
Any Holocaust survivor who has been financially cheated by a lawyer or an intermediary for a lawyer can receive legal assistance gratis by calling the legal departments dealing with such issues – in the Justice Ministry, 1-700-706-044; the Finance Ministry, (02) 531-7727 or Yad Sarah, (02) 444-4569.
■ IN RELATION to the Holocaust itself, Alon Goldman, the chairman of the Association of Czestochowa Jews in Israel, which encompasses people born in Czestochowa, Poland, and their offspring who may have been born elsewhere, sent out an email on Tuesday of this week asking whether anyone could identify photographs taken during the war at a railway station in Poland.
The explanatory note stated that he had visited Yad Vashem earlier in the week and on the wall in the library saw a poster with photographs taken from a collection donated by photographer Leib Kushner, who had documented events in the Czestochowa ghetto in 1942, had survived, brought his collection to Israel and had donated it to Yad Vashem. There were two photographs in the collection that historians and curators at Yad Vashem had been unable to identify.
Goldman posted them via email and asked if any of the recipients could recognize them. He didn’t hold out much hope, because the request was made to first-generation survivors, of whom there are very few. However the following day, Goldman sent out another email stating that Piotr Palgan, a young Jewish man who lives in Czestochowa, had identified the train station as Zawiercie, which is approximately 50 km. southeast of Czestochowa. Goldman had already transferred the information to Yad Vashem prior to sending the email. Considering how much time and painstaking work Yad Vashem invests in research, to solve a riddle so quickly must have been almost like winning the lottery.
■ IN OCTOBER last year, Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam, in an interview with Army Radio, charged Joint List MKs with destroying chances of coexistence by encouraging and participating in violent demonstrations that lead to an escalation of hostilities between Arabs and Jews. This attitude was appreciated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who met with the mayor on Wednesday and told him that he sees the integration of minorities as a national goal. Speaking specifically about Israeli Arabs, Netanyahu underscored the importance of their integration into Israeli society in business, education, leadership, technology and in every other field.
Salam, who is a strong believer in coexistence, shared some of his development plans for Nazareth with the prime minister and invited him to visit his city. Netanyahu’s response was positive. He lauded Salam’s leadership, saying it was an example that others should follow.
■ VANILLA AND champagne uttered in the same breath may bring a cocktail reception to mind, but in fact they are part of the color palette of Israeli haute couture designer of wedding and evening gowns Inbal Dror, who is known for her sense of drama and her fusing of period-style elegance with sexy plunging necklines. She also changes the image of a high-necked, long-sleeved, formfitting gown by making it backless or giving it a backless appearance with a flesh colored inset of the finest of fabrics. The high drama is in the long train of her wedding gowns, which almost invariably are made from exquisite laces.
Her new collection, which she showed this week, is very much New York-inspired and in some respects reminiscent of Sex and the City. Many of the gowns that were either split to the thigh or extremely bosom-revealing left very little to the imagination.
A Shenkar graduate who subsequently spent three years working in the Milan studio of famed Italian designer Roberto Cavalli, Dror, 39, returned to Israel in 2003 and began designing gowns for the bridal salon operated by her parents in Ashdod where she was born. Together with two business partners, she established her own haute couture salon in Tel Aviv in 2005, and subsequently began designing from Israel for fashion houses in the United States and Europe. Today her creations are available in more than 75 bridal salons and boutiques around the world, with 48 others waiting for franchises for her gowns. A remarkable success story in an ever-competitive world, Dror employs some 70 people in Israel and 35 abroad.
■ AS HE was winding up his final State of the Union Address this week, US President Barack Obama spoke of the importance of democracy, and while he was addressing the American people, he might just as well have been addressing Israelis.
Democracy requires basic bonds of trust between its citizens, he said.
“It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice; it doesn’t work if we think that our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America.
“Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise or when even basic facts are contested or when we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get all the attention. And most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some special interest.
“Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency – that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold office.”
Substitute Israel for every time America is mentioned, and the situation is much the same. The only time when there is any semblance of unity in Israel is when there is a war and the existential threat overwhelms political and religious differences. Most of the time, Israelis of different political ideologies are so busy maligning each other that it’s no wonder that the peace process has ground to a halt. If we can’t make peace among ourselves, what hope do we have of making peace with our enemies?
■ UNTIL RECENTLY, Batsheva Kantor, a veteran employee at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, who also has a stunning garden on the balcony of her home, had never been to a reinstatement party. The one she went to was her own. Financially strapped like so many other organizations and institutions, the management of the Botanical Gardens was forced to cut down on staff, and Kantor was one of the people they reluctantly decided to let go. But then they had second thoughts and at the farewell party in her honor, Kantor was informed that she had been reinstated. Several years ago, Kantor, who was then Batsheva Mink, wrote a regular gardening column for The Jerusalem Post.