Grapevine January 16, 2022: A step too far?

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 SHLOMI SHABAT – infected by COVID a second time.  (photo credit: FLASH90)
SHLOMI SHABAT – infected by COVID a second time.
(photo credit: FLASH90)

Among the new norms are revised definitions of sexual harassment in words and deeds. What was once acceptable as a compliment is today taboo. Certainly, no one should be sexually abused or harassed, but lines must be clearly drawn so that alleged victims do not become extortionists, nor can they ruin the careers and reputations of alleged perpetrators. Last week David Blumberg, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Library of Israel, which he has faithfully and lovingly served in a voluntary capacity for some twenty years, tendered his resignation. The reason: a report a few days earlier by Ayala Hasson on Channel 13 News that Blumberg had sexually harassed his personal assistant and had paid her hush money to the tune of NIS 240,000.

Blumberg has denied the allegation which he attributes to a cruel and vicious act of personal, political vengeance. He has not specifically stated on whose part, but people who are connected with the National Library have speculated that it may be a prominent figure who had been among the candidates for rector of the new National Library, but who was disqualified because he did not meet the required criteria. Blumberg had been at the heart of the investigation into whether this candidate was or was not suitable.

The new National Library is scheduled to be officially opened this year, and Blumberg, in a bid to avoid any harm being done to the library through media references to the allegation against him, decided to resign.

Aware from media reports about harassment or sexual assault allegations against well-known personalities, that such people, whether innocent or not, lose their careers, their prestige and their social status, and that the burden of all this weighs heavily on their families and organizations and institutions in which they are involved, Blumberg, wanting spare everyone undeserved anguish, resigned. His advanced age and the state of his health did not permit him to wage a war to defend his integrity and his good name, he informed the Board of Directors.

If he is innocent, the allegations are grossly unfair and irresponsible.

 LIAT ASHKENAZI. (credit: LIOR Y. BENJAMIN) LIAT ASHKENAZI. (credit: LIOR Y. BENJAMIN)

If he’s guilty and the so-called victim accepted NIS 240,000 in payment for not telling anyone – why did she break the agreement? Did she want more money, or did she simply want a high-powered man such as Blumberg to squirm?

How did Hasson receive the information – and why?

In all probability, we may never know, unless someone other than Blumberg himself decides to mount an intensive probe, and even then, in a Me Too era, it would be extremely difficult to arrive at the truth.

■ MEMBERS OF the entertainment industry are no less susceptible to the coronavirus than anyone else, and several are currently in isolation. Singer and actor Shlomi Shabat is among the less fortunate in that he has been tested positive for the second time. The first time was in September 2020 when he was hospitalized in a critical condition at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv where he spent almost two months and continued to receive therapy after his discharge. This month, he once again tested positive, but thankfully, it’s not nearly as serious as it was the first time.

■ WHILE MANY restaurants have gone out of business or changed their mode of operations and cater solely to a takeaway clientele, Café 99 at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv, is broadening its horizons and is allowing the general public to come and have breakfast from the generous buffet at the cost of NIS120, with choices far in excess of the regular Israeli hotel buffet, which generally offers much more variety than what is served in hotels abroad. Breakfast will be served from 8 to 11 a.m. and the restaurant will also be opened for lunch and dinner, with the emphasis on fresh products which Executive Chef Oved Alfia prefers at all times. Alfia constantly challenges himself by preparing new menus.

■ SOONER OR later conversations about breaking the glass ceiling will have to stop, because nearly every profession these days is open to women, and some like law and journalism, are often dominated by women. Women are making their mark in hi-tech and other spheres of industry as founders and CEOs.

Case in point is Liat Ashkenazi who was recently appointed Senior Vice President of Engineering at OwnBackup, the leading SaaS data protection platform, where she’s responsible for leading OwnBackup engineering. Ashkenazi is a seasoned research and development leader with more than 20 years of experience in building enterprise software and managing high-scale global R&D organizations.

Prior to OwnBackup, Ashkenazi led data security at Imperva, a cybersecurity company. Previously, she served as an R&D director at Harman, an automotive and audio company, where she led the development group of a new IoT platform. Ashkenazi was also the R&D director at CWT, a business and travel company. She is a graduate of Tel Aviv University with a BA in Computer Science and Economics, MSc in Computer Science, and an MBA.

OwnBackup specializes in protecting data stored in the cloud and managing huge amounts of business information in Salesforce, AWS and Azure environments. The solution protects against data loss caused by human error, malicious damage, integration errors or faulty applications. Last year, the company became a unicorn valued at $3.35b. after five significant rounds of funding totaling over half a billion dollars.

Established in 2015, OwnBackup is led by CEO Sam Gutmann, Cofounder and Chief Product Security Officer Ariel Berkman and CRO Ori Yankelev. The company currently serves more than 4,000 customers worldwide and employs in excess of 600 people, of whom 130 work in the development center in Israel, and the rest in the United States, London, France, India and Australia.

■ NATIONAL AND international celebrations and commemorations are necessary to boost patriotism and goodwill and to create greater awareness of the evils of discrimination, racism, radicalism, hatred and incitement. Where Jews, gypsies and other minorities are concerned, International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday, January 27, is a grim reminder not only of relatives who were lost in the cruelest possible manner but of the fact that each year, there are fewer people who lived through and survived that horrendous period in human history, who are still around to testify what they witnessed and what they personally experienced. In many families, questions were not asked when it was still possible to have them answered, and now there is something by way of a frenzy to collect information and to discover previously unknown relatives and make connections with family branches in other countries. Modern technology has enabled family reunions that were barely dreamed of a century ago. DNA testing is one example, and speedy access to interlocking family trees is another. This is now being made even easier with the announcement by Yad Vashem of a new partnership with The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust and its affiliate JewishGen, whereby researchers will be able to access Yad Vashem’s Pages of Testimony data as part of genealogical research on the JewishGen website which is the largest online genealogy resource of its kind and now includes a Holocaust collection of nearly 3.8 million records.

“In making Yad Vashem’s precious records available via JewishGen, the broader Jewish community can more easily research names of family and friends who were murdered during the Holocaust,” says Museum of Jewish Heritage President and CEO Jack Kliger.

“Yad Vashem’s Central Data Base of Shoah Victims’ Names brings the millions of faceless victims into the light and returns their identities to them, so the world can remember,” states Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan. “This is part of Yad Vashem’s mission to gather all forms of documentation from the Holocaust, including the collection of names of our brethren who were murdered during the Shoah. We owe it to them to know that they lived, what they looked like, what they dreamed about and at the very least – what their names were.”

For well over half a century, Yad Vashem has collected “Pages of Testimony in which members of the public memorialize family members and friends who were murdered during the Holocaust. In many cases, these Pages – that comprise the names, biographical details and if possible, photographs – might be the only record of what happened to their loved ones.

Dr. Alexander Avram, Director of Yad Vashem’s Hall of Names, notes that “More than one million Holocaust victims have yet to be memorialized at Yad Vashem. It is our expectation that by widening the exposure of our endeavor through JewishGen, the genealogical community will be able to play an important role in helping us add a large number of Pages of Testimony in the years to come.”

JewishGen Executive Director Avraham Groll makes the point that “This common access to data from both institutions will directly benefit researchers by increasing the likelihood that they will find useful information. Without this new agreement, many Jewish genealogists may otherwise not have been aware of this vital resource.”

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