Grapevine: With strings attached

It’s customary for Genesis Prize laureates to re-gift their $1 million prize money to causes closest to their hearts, and an additional $1 million will be raised through the Jewish Funders Network.

Itzhak Perlman (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Itzhak Perlman
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Internationally acclaimed violinist and this year’s Genesis Prize laureate Itzhak Perlman is quite the comedian, as became increasingly evident during the brief press conference that he gave on Wednesday at the Konrad Adenauer Auditorium in Jerusalem.
The recipient of many prizes throughout his career, he said that he valued the Genesis Prize most because it was being awarded to him in Israel, the country of his birth, and because it was such a Jewish prize. “Here, you get the prize and you give it right back.
That’s what makes it so Jewish.
Here it is – there it goes.”
It’s customary for Genesis Prize laureates to re-gift their $1 million prize money to causes closest to their hearts, and the sum is matched by the Jewish Funders’ Network and sometimes by an additional contribution from another source. Perlman, who himself was inspired by Jascha Heifetz, considered to be the greatest violinist of all time, would like to give a boost to talented Israelis who play string instruments. His other key concern is solving the problems of people with limited mobility by giving them access with dignity.
“You’ve got to separate your abilities from your disabilities,” said Perlman, who rode up a ramp to the stage on his scooter. “For most of my life I had to overcome barriers, and I’m well aware of the barriers faced by other people,” he said.
■ PRIMARILY IN Israel to award the Genesis prize, celebrated British actress Dame Helen Mirren, who has quite a collection of prizes of her own, two nights prior to the Genesis award ceremony at the Jerusalem Theater, was meeting Israeli thespians at a reception hosted at his residence in Ramat Gan by British Ambassador David Quarrey and his partner, Aldo Henriquez. The occasion was the launch by the British Council of a new global Shakespeare initiative Mix the Play as a tribute to the Bard on the 400th anniversary of his demise. Mix the Play allows amateur thespians to direct a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and then share it online.
Mirren demonstrated to guests the scene she had mixed, after which guests were invited to do their own Shakespearean mix at special stations around the garden.
The Shakespeare tribute extended to the cocktails, which were given Shakespearean names including Hamlet, Lady Macbeth, Romeo, Juliet and Titania. Given the identities of the theatrical collective in the garden, which included Gila Almagor, Moni Moshonov and his actress wife, Sandra Sade, Ivri Lider, Evgenia Dodina, Dana Ivgi, Keren Mor, Noam Semel, Zach Granit, Ilan Ronen, Neli Tagar and Ohad Knoller, the immortal words of the Bard came almost unbidden to mind: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”
■ IN OCTOBER last year, Rabbi Avraham Feder and his wife, Tzipora, were traveling to Toronto.
As the rabbi reached to place their hand luggage in the overhead cabin above their seats, another passenger came forward, saying “Let me do that for you rabbi.” The solicitous passenger turned out to be Shmuel Bowman, who many years earlier had been a student of the rabbi in Toronto, and had been inspired by him to make aliya.
Now, a successful international businessman who lives with his family in Efrat, Bowman spent much the flight talking to Tzipora Feder, who married the rabbi after he was widowed from his first wife. Bowman plied her with stories about what an inspiring force her husband had been not only for him but for many others, with his passionate promoting of aliya both in his sermons at the Beth Tikvah Synagogue, of which he was the founding rabbi, and at the CHAT (Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto) high school, where he taught impressionable teenagers. He also promoted aliya in the books that he wrote – and, of course, followed his own advice.
Tzipora Feder said that she had heard similar stories from other Torontonians, and on the spot – or, rather, in the air – she and Bowman decided to have a reunion of Feder’s former students and congregants. Once the word got out, emails began flooding in, and more than 70 people have already indicated their attendance. Feder’s daughter Bracha and granddaughter Batya are specially flying in from Canada for the occasion, and there may be other participants doing the same but keeping it as a surprise.
As it is, there have been several requests from Toronto for videos of the event, which is taking place on July 7 at the Jerusalem Gardens hotel. In Jerusalem, where he now lives, Feder was for several years the rabbi at the Moreshet Israel congregation, where he laced his sermons with song.
■ WHILE THERE’S no doubt about the news of the secret dossier that the police allegedly have on all 120 members of Knesset, and presumably on former MKs who are now ministers in the government, it was interesting to hear the frequency with which the item was broadcast on Israel Radio as a result of a Channel 2 report that the dossier contained information on criminal activity on the part of Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan during the time he had been environment minister and communications minister. It was in this latter capacity that Erdan set the wheels in motion for the dismantling of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and replacing it with the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, which will have far fewer employees. This is an opportunity for Israel Radio broadcasters to get back at him by simply quoting Channels 10 and 2. Channel 10 broke the story and Channel 2 carried the ball and named Erdan.
■ FORMER PRESIDENT Shimon Peres and Dr. Mike Evans, founder of the Friends of Zion Museum, met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Monday. During the meeting, Evans presented the pope with a unique piece of art from the Friends of Zion Founders gallery depicting a dreamlike biblical scene of Abraham answering the divine call with the Hebrew word “Hineni,” meaning “Here Am I.” The Friends of Zion Museum opened in Jerusalem last September and has set itself a goal of serving as a bridge, connecting people from around the world and motivating more communities to come out in support of Israel.
■ COINCIDENCE IS a strange thing that all but defies explanation.
Almost in tandem with the appointment of Jordana Cutler as head of policy and communications in the Israel office of Facebook came the judicial ruling that Israelis who want to sue Facebook can now do so in Israel and do not have to resort to the California courts. Cutler, who is a longtime adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is currently chief of staff at the Israel Embassy in Washington, a position that she has held since November 2013.
Before that she worked in the Prime Minister’s Office as adviser on Diaspora affairs. Prior to that she was on the Likud’s campaign strategy and communications team, after having served for two years in Washington as senior officer for public affairs at the Israel Embassy.
Israeli officialdom as well as ordinary Israeli citizens have been upset and even enraged by the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel posts on Facebook as well as the degree of shaming and have frequently asked Facebook to remove all posts that are racist and filled with xenophobic incitement. It will be interesting to see if there is any change with Cutler on the team of Facebook’s Israel office. It’s quite possible that the issues raised then are bearing fruit.