Grapevine August 3, 2022: A message of great significance

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 TAMI SHELACH is congratulated  by Shlomi Nahumson. (photo credit: IDF Widows and Orphans Organizations)
TAMI SHELACH is congratulated by Shlomi Nahumson.
(photo credit: IDF Widows and Orphans Organizations)

Turkish-born NBA star Enes Kanter Freedom, who came to Jerusalem to conduct a summer camp for young athletes of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds, and who advocates leaving differences in the background and focusing on commonalities, met a group of athletes at the Jerusalem YMCA on Sunday, and also visited Yad Vashem, where he laid a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance.

The latter visit made an obvious impact on him. After carefully inspecting photographs and other exhibits, he came out saying, “I didn’t know very much about the history, just the numbers, six million. Now, having visited Yad Vashem, I know numbers have meaning.”

In the Yad Vashem guest book, he wrote: “What an experience. This was definitely an eye- and brain-opener. We all need to work so hard so this won’t happen again. Not only Jewish people – Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and every other religion and culture and color needs to come together and fight as one.

“We only have one world to live so we need to make our world better together. That’s the key word, ‘together.’

“I believe in our youth, but we need to work very hard so our youth can have a better and brighter future. We need to work so hard so they won’t face the same problems we are facing now. Huge thanks to everyone who put so much effort in this project.

 LIMOR LIVNAT. (credit: RAFI DELOYA) LIMOR LIVNAT. (credit: RAFI DELOYA)

“Never Again.”

WITH REGARD to Yad Vashem, chairman Dani Dayan this week visited the Beit Moses Parents Home in Jerusalem to speak to residents and inform them about what Yad Vashem does, in addition to what it is.

Several of the residents are Holocaust survivors, some of whom have told their stories in Yad Vashem and elsewhere. One of the residents, Ruth Berlinger, who has frequently spoken at Yad Vashem, admitted that prior to Dayan’s visit, she did not know much about Yad Vashem’s background or activities.

In his previous role as consul-general in New York, Dayan realized the importance of creating awareness by going out to talk to different groups.

Although it has been an ongoing feature of Yad Vashem to host schoolchildren and rookie soldiers from all over the country, it would be beneficial, now that the generation of the Holocaust is fading, for Dayan to speak in schools before children visit Yad Vashem, because in a classroom environment he can better assess what they know and don’t know, and can fill in some essential gaps before the youngsters confront some of the horror scenes depicted in enlarged photographs at Yad Vashem. It is also important for them to know in advance that children were not spared during the Holocaust.

An estimated 1.5 million Jewish children were murdered as well as many non-Jewish children, especially those of righteous gentiles who had tried to save Jews and had been betrayed by their neighbors.

■ LAST WEEK Tami Shelach and Shlomi Nahumson, chairwoman and CEO, respectively, of IDF Widows and Orphans, were in Munich to receive the 2022 Janusz Korczak Award for Humanity from the Europaische Janusz Korszak Akademie, presented to the organization by EJKA president Eva Haller, in the presence of Karl Freller, vice president of the Bavarian Parliament, Dr. Joseph Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Munich’s rabbis and other dignitaries and members of Munich’s Jewish community.

The award was given in recognition of IDFWO’s tireless work to support the widows and orphans of Israel’s fallen heroes through numerous educational, sporting, life cycle and social welfare projects.

In June this year, Haller and the Youth Bridge group from Munich were in Jerusalem to join in celebrating the bar bat mitzvahs of more than 40 IDF orphans, sons and daughters of Israel’s fallen soldiers.

It is widely known that Janusz Korczak, who ran a Jewish orphanage in Warsaw, and had influence in high places, had the opportunity to save himself but chose to go with the children in his care to Treblinka, where he was murdered on August 7, 1942. This year marks the 80th anniversary of his death.

Shelach and Nahumson, when receiving the prize in Munich, made the point that just as Korczak refused to abandon the children in his care, they would not abandon the children of IDF men and women who paid the supreme sacrifice.

■ CONSIDERING THAT this is the 75th anniversary year of the arrival of Exodus 1947, the most famous of the illegal immigrant ships carrying Holocaust survivors to the Promised Land, one would expect to see copies of the book Exodus by best-selling author Leon Uris prominently displayed in bookstores, and reruns of the film Exodus, starring Paul Newman.

But nada. As important an event as it was, with the ship surrounded by British destroyers, and the passengers turned back – a factor that may have influenced the vote a few months later on United Nations Resolution 181, which paved the way for the establishment of the State of Israel – its historic relevance seems to have bypassed booksellers and cinema enterprises.

Uris, whose epic books of fiction were based on well researched historical fact, is best known for Exodus, but another of his important books was Mila 18, which told the story of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto led by Mordechai Anielewicz. First published in 1961, it has been released in numerous editions in the interim, including after the death of its author in 2003. Incidentally, the mother of Likud MK Yoav Gallant was a passenger on the ship Exodus.

■ THERE IS a certain relationship between opera and fashion. Costume designers for opera productions are permitted a degree of opulence that one doesn’t see in streetwear, but which is sometimes emulated in evening wear.

The Irani family, which is among the sponsors and patrons of the Israeli Opera, and is also the owner of Factory 54, which specializes in luxury brands such as Balmain, Valentino, Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy and Balenciaga, inspired by the opera La Traviata, which premiered toward the end of last month, put on a nostalgic “Fashion Plays” exhibit that will remain on view till August 11.

It goes without saying that Yfat, Roni and Tomer Irani were among those who attended the premiere and the opening of the exhibition. Also present at both events were Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai; Israeli Opera Director-General Zach Granit; former ambassador to the United Nations and current Israeli Opera chairman Dan Gillerman and his wife, Janice; chairwoman of the Friends of the Israeli Opera Aliza Jaffa and her husband, Ariel; former culture and sport minister Limor Livnat; hotel and real estate tycoon Alfred Akirov and his wife, Hava; Ichilov Hospital CEO Prof. Roni Gamzu and many other well-known personalities. It was definitely an opportunity to rub shoulders with the Who’s Who of Israel.

 DAN AND Janice Gillerman. (credit: RAFI DELOYA) DAN AND Janice Gillerman. (credit: RAFI DELOYA)

■ SOMEWHAT OF a cultural legend in Israel as a stage and screen singer, dancer, actress, comedienne, presenter and anchor, Rivka Michaeli, at age 84 is still going strong. The Jerusalem-born entertainer is scheduled to revisit her childhood in the capital in the documentary movie What’s been happening to me lately? The audience viewing the film at the National Library at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, August 16, will also have an opportunity to listen to Michaeli live in the Q and A session after the screening.

Michaeli suffers from the dilemma experienced by many Israeli-born grandparents and great-grandparents whose children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren live abroad. She is on a frequent commute to the United States to spend time with her children and grandchildren, but it pains her that they have opted to live away from Israel, and it also pains her to see what has happened to the country that she loves. Not known for political correctness, Michaeli will make this a memorable evening for all those who attend.

■ AS A side bar to political reports and analyses at the beginning of this week, a large segment of the Israeli media reported the resignation from KAN 11, the television unit of the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, of veteran journalist and anchorwoman Geula Even-Sa’ar.

Resignations, dismissals and musical chairs are par for the course in Israel’s broadcasting industry. In its previous incarnation as the Israel Broadcasting Authority, what is today the IPBC survived the departures of Mr. Television, Haim Yavin, star political reporter and investigative journalist Ayala Hasson, current affairs anchor Shelly Yacimovich and several other stars. More recently, in its current incarnation, it survived the departure of veteran news and current affairs anchor Yaakov Ahimeir, news reporter, anchor and analyst Yaron Dekel, who took time out to head the Jewish Agency team in Canada, and more recently Eldad Koblenz, its founding director-general. Like Tennyson’s Brook, men may come and men may go, but it goes on forever.

On-screen changes are reported in the media, but rarely to the extent of the huge number of reports about Even-Sa’ar. The reason: she’s married to New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar, and has publicly supported him in the past in interviews that she has given to rival media. At one stage, due to a conflict of interest, she voluntarily took leave without pay. When Sa’ar took a break from politics in 2018, his wife returned to broadcasting, and when Dekel left for Canada last October, she was appointed anchor of the KAN 11 Friday night weekend news and current affairs roundup. Sa’ar returned to politics, and his wife was able withstand negative reports about her husband in the months that followed. But with new elections on the horizon, the IPBC Ethics Committee saw a conflict of interest, and replaced her with Dov Gilhar.

 ALFRED AND Hava Akirov. (credit: AVIV HOFI) ALFRED AND Hava Akirov. (credit: AVIV HOFI)

According to various reports Even-Sa’ar was offered an alternative program until after the elections, but refused to accept it, and chose to resign, putting an end to her 30-year career in public broadcasting. When tweeting the announcement of her resignation, she wrote “A woman is more than the man she is married to.” The implication was that no spouse should have to sacrifice his or her career on the altar of that of their marriage partner.

In the diplomatic community, this has long been the rule. For many years, wives of ambassadors were not allowed to take on outside jobs in the countries to which their husbands were posted, though they could work in the embassy – usually for a pittance or no pay at all. Some women who had spent years building up a career balked at the idea of having to put it in mothballs, and opted to stay home rather than to accompany their husbands abroad. The ministries for foreign affairs of several countries got the message, and now many diplomatic spouses continue to pursue their careers wherever their husbands or wives are posted.

The IPBC issued a statement expressing regret at Even-Sa’ar’s decision and praising her for her talent and her professionalism. The question remains whether she will return after the elections, join another broadcasting outlet, or stay home to care for her children.

■ FOUNDED IN 2014 by Dr. Elazar Sonnenschein, who is its CEO, Pulsenmore has become a world leader in portable ultrasound devices for home use. The company, which was founded to deliver convenience and efficiency in ultrasound beyond traditional in-facility imaging, held a festive opening for its new offices in Ramat Gan. Among those present were chairman of the board Jonathan Adereth, marketing vice president Mira Sofer as well as members of the board and the management team.

Pulsenmore’s solutions have achieved rapid commercial success, benefiting clinicians and patients alike. Of particular significance is the use of its technology to benefit Ukrainian refugees, who are still in Ukraine or in nearby countries that have provided shelter for them.

■ THE WORLD is full of contradictions. On the one hand, newspapers are failing because people don’t have the patience or the inclination to read.

On the other, books have been and are being written by people such as former prime minister Ehud Olmert, former US ambassador David Friedman, former US president Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who played a vital role in the Abraham Accords; former defense minister Yitzhak Mordechai, former president Moshe Katsav and various other people whose names were so not so long ago in the headlines. In 2018, former prime minister Ehud Barak won the National Jewish Book Award with his autobiography My Country, My Life. In September last year, it was reported that Benjamin Netanyahu was working on an all-encompassing memoir, which he may temporarily leave on the shelf if he returns to office, or which he may complete, if he doesn’t.

■ WHEN ONE hears the name Dershowitz, the automatic association is with Alan Dershowitz, the famous lawyer, civil libertarian and outspoken advocate for Israel. But he is not the only Dershowitz who has carved his place in history.

His uncle Rabbi Professor Zecharia Dor-Shav (Dershowitz) recently published a 480-page book on The Dershowitz Family Saga, which traces significant contemporary events for world Jewry from the perspective of one immigrant family: their Galician origins and 19th-century lifestyle; their Americanization; the tribulations they endured in the Goldene Medina; the tragedy of World War II and the Holocaust; the establishment of the State of Israel; the fall of Communism; and the mass immigrations to Israel from Russia and Ethiopia.

The book, with a foreword by Alan Dershowitz, takes the reader from Pilzno in Poland to New York’s Lower East Side, and from Brooklyn to Jerusalem. The aliyah of many family members before, during and after the Six Day War led to their involvement in the absorption of Ethiopian, Soviet, and former Crypto-Jews into the nascent state.

The intellectual and spiritual heritage of the Dershowitz family is an American-Israeli success story, parts of which are common to other American Jewish families that will easily identify with what they read.

The author’s grandfather established the first hassidic congregation in Brooklyn; his father conceived Yeshiva Torah Vodaath; a brother served on the European front, but his gun ended up with the Hagana.

The first member of the family to move to Israel did so more than 70 years ago, and now more than 250 family members can be found in Israel.

The author of the book has lived in Israel for more than half a century. Ordained an Orthodox rabbi in 1950, he served as a congregation rabbi, public school teacher, and Hebrew school principal for a number of years. After completing his PhD at New York University in 1966, he took an appointment as professor of education at Long Island University. He was director of the Eliezer Stern Institute for Research and Advancement in Religious Education for several years, and served as chairman of the School of Education.

A registered psychologist and member of the Israel Psychological Association as well as the Israel Education Association, he resides in Jerusalem.

■ THE SON and grandson of two former chief rabbis of Israel will be among the speakers on Wednesday, August 3, at a symposium on the role of the rabbi in our times. The event is being held in conjunction with the 41st anniversary of the death of Sephardi chief Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim, and the speakers will include his son Moshe Nissim and President Isaac Herzog, the grandson of Ashkenazi chief Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, who was the longest-serving chief rabbi.

Both the Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbis are elected for 10-year terms, but Herzog was also chief rabbi under the British Mandate, and remained so after the establishment of the state, serving from 1936 to 1959. There was an overlap with Nissim, who served from 1955 to 1973, and was the second Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel, succeeding Ben-Zion Uziel, who, like Herzog, had served as chief rabbi under the British Mandate and continued in the role after the establishment of the State of Israel. Nissim was actually the third Sephardi chief rabbi, as Yaakov Meir had been Sephardi chief rabbi during the Mandate, serving from 1921 to 1939. Herzog was the second Ashkenazi chief rabbi, succeeding Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook, who served under the British from 1921 to 1935.

Neither Herzog’s nor Nissim’s sons followed their father into the chief rabbinate. Herzog’s younger son Yaakov was ordained as a rabbi, but career-wise was more into politics and diplomacy. The older son Chaim was a soldier, lawyer, diplomat, politician and eventually president of the state, and his youngest son, Isaac, who is now the president of the state, was previously a lawyer and politician, who in his current role has proved to be an effective diplomat as well.

Moshe Nissim is a lawyer and former politician whose ministerial portfolios include Justice, Finance and Industry and Trade.

Other speakers at the event, to be held at Beit Yad Harav Nissim, 44 Jabotinsky Street, Jerusalem, at 6:45 p.m., are Rabbi Baruch Gigi, cohead of the Har Etzion Yeshiva, and Prof. Moshe Halbertal of the Hebrew University and New York University.

Moderator will be Rabbi Dr. Yitzhak Ben David, who runs the school at Beit Harav Nissim for training municipal rabbis.

■ AFTER SIX years in Israel, Eran Guterman, the highly professional political affairs counselor and press attaché at the French Embassy, is returning home. He was already making his farewells at the Bastille Day reception hosted last month by French Ambassador Eric Danon, and was telling various people that this was his last Bastille Day reception in Israel. He has been succeeded by Mathieu Hedoin.

■ SOME RELIGIOUSLY observant Jews who are first-time invitees to a diplomatic event at the residence of an ambassador in Israel are not aware that, more often than not, the catering is not kosher. Some ambassadors also have a so-called kosher table. The more considerate ambassadors either hire a kosher caterer or have their event in a kosher hotel, thus ensuring that everyone can eat, though in the kosher hotels, it would not hurt if signs were put up alongside platters in which the preparation of the food includes alcoholic ingredients. The increasing numbers of Muslim and Baha’i guests, who for religious reasons do not drink alcohol, should be taken into account, just as the dietary restrictions of religiously observant Jews should be considered.

Unfortunately, though one would expect the official residences of ambassadors of Israel to be kosher, not all of them are. But occasionally a liking and respect for kosher food works in reverse, as is sometimes the case when the ambassador is an observant Jew.

Laurence Weinbaum, the editor of the Israel Journal on Foreign Affairs, draws attention to an article written by retired ambassador Avi Milo, who served as ambassador to Romania from 1996 to 2001. A frequent guest at his Sabbath table was then-prime minister Radu Vasile who came with his wife, Mariuca. After a long, traditional Shabbat lunch, the prime minister and his wife were about to leave, when he turned and said that he would be in Paris the following weekend and would not be able to come for a Shabbat meal. But he asked Milo to do him a favor and set aside some sweet kiddush wine, a piece of gefilte fish, some cholent and challah. The Milos were, of course, happy to oblige, and asked whether they would see him on the Shabbat after that. “I wouldn’t miss it,” he replied.

The Milos had known the prime minister when he was still vice president of the Senate and had hosted him at their residence many times. Before that he had never tasted kiddush wine, challah or any of the other elements of traditional Jewish cuisine, writes Milo. “He became infatuated with the pleasures and its special flavors. He seemed captivated not only by the aromas and tastes of Jewish gastronomy but by the Shabbat spirit, which I, as an Orthodox Jew, had known all my life.”

Milo goes on to explain that Vasile was intrigued by Judaism as a religion and culture and always displayed an interest in Jewish dietary laws and their intricacies. The more the Milos explained to him, the more curious Vasile became, and with the fondness for the kosher food, there also came an appreciation for the State of Israel and an admiration of what Israel stands for. Just another instance of the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.