Grapevine: Peace through humor

Mahaneh Yehuda shuk (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Mahaneh Yehuda shuk
■ SOMETIMES THE little that you can’t have becomes more important than the collective of all the things you have had. Maureen Kushner – an innovative and creative teacher from New York who for several years now has lived in a wonderful penthouse apartment in Mahaneh Yehuda – had taken her project The Art and Soul of Peace Through Humor to more than 180 cities in the US and Canada and to well over a dozen countries in Europe, as well as to the Knesset. The project was developed as a result of an invitation by the Education Ministry, and many of its showings were sponsored by the Foreign Ministry’s cultural division.
It all started when Kushner was teaching a graduate course on peace education at Bank Street College of Education in New York City. She mentioned to her students that in order to have peace, you need a sense of humor. Quoting John Dewey, the great American educator, she told them, “To be serious and funny at the same time is the ideal mental condition.” They asked her to elaborate on that concept, and the rest is history.
Kushner firmly believes that laughter is the shortest distance between two people, and wherever she goes, whether speaking to adults or children, she uses humor as an opening to break down barriers and build trust.
From the autumn of 1994 until the summer of 2006, Kushner traveled throughout Israel, from the Galilee to the Negev, working with Jewish, Arab, Beduin and Druse children, as well as Ethiopian and Russian immigrants, to create murals and paintings on the theme of war and peace. The creativity of these children was channeled into a traveling exhibition, which has been seen by more than 20 million people around the world.
Yet for all that, Kushner was frustrated. She wanted to take the exhibition to Poland, and the Foreign Ministry kept telling her that it had run out of budget. Then, when she was almost on the verge of giving up, she was informed that a budget had been found and that she would be exhibiting at the Jewish Cultural Center in Wroclaw.
The exhibition was to be co-sponsored by the Israeli Embassy in Poland and the Bente Kahane Foundation.
Before going to Poland, Kushner, the eternal traveler, went to India, came home for a few days and was off again. The exhibition was very well received in Wroclaw, and she decided that while she was in Poland, she may as well go to Krakow and Warsaw. At the Jewish Community Center in Krakow, she was asked if the exhibition could be shown there in September this year; and in Warsaw, where she thought she didn’t have a chance at the relatively new and impressive Polin Museum of the History of Jews in Poland, she was asked if she would be willing to give art workshops at the museum and consider placing Peace Through Humor in one of the temporary exhibition areas. Yet another example of good things coming to those who wait.
■ SEEING IS believing. While local publications in Jerusalem and elsewhere frequently report on youth at risk, Deputy Mayor Dov Kalmanovich thought it was not enough to know about these things in theory, so he organized a tour of the area for members of the Jewish Home Forum, to see for themselves that youth at risk include youngsters from their own communities.
Some of the more negative elements among these young people are sometimes referred to as riffraff, but Kalmanovich views them as unpolished diamonds and says that if people engaged in youth work approach them in the right way, they can save them from themselves and turn them into good, productive citizens.
Kalmanovich took the members of the forum who comprised council members from other municipalities on a tour of Zion Square, Nahalat Shiva and the surrounding area. Participants in the tour included Michael Harlap, deputy mayor of Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut; Haim Goldman, deputy mayor of Ra’anana; Itzik Da’i, deputy mayor of Petah Tikva; Amir Kohlmann, Kfar Saba councilman; Dovi Shefler, Efrat Council member; Ilana Dror, Givat Ze’ev Council member; Uri Bank, Gush Etzion Council member; and Michal Waldiger, Givat Shmuel Council member.
■ CLOSE TO 17 years ago, her grandson Yonasan was a patient at the neonatal unit of Hadassah-University Medical Center on Mount Scopus. Now it’s payback time for Dorraine Gilbert-Weiss, who will be one of the models at a fashion show that is being held at the Inbal Hotel on the afternoon of April 5 and will be jointly sponsored by the Tamar and Nechama English-speaking chapters of Hadassah Israel. In fact, all the models who will be modeling fashions supplied by the OSFA Boutique are members of Hadassah, and most were members of Hadassah in the old country.
While using volunteer models who are members of the organization is a cost-cutting measure, it is also good sales strategy, because it enables people to see what the garment will look like on a regular woman, who may not be as tall or as slim as a professional model, and may in fact have a couple of excess bumps here and there, but still looks great in what she’s wearing.
Proceeds will go to the department of neonatology of Hadassah University Medical Center on Mount Scopus. The entrance fee to the show, including refreshments, is NIS 180.