Grapevine September 4, 2022: Remembering Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Movers and shakers of Israeli society.

 THE FORMER Chief Rabbi of England, Lord Jonathan Sacks.  (photo credit: TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS)
THE FORMER Chief Rabbi of England, Lord Jonathan Sacks.

It’s hard to believe that almost two years have passed since the untimely death of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, whose teachings live on not only in his books and essays but also through the efforts of his wife Lady Elaine Sacks and the trustees of The Rabbi Sacks Legacy Trust. They will be in Israel next week for the second Sacks Conversation, a memorial lecture honoring the memory of Sacks, who passed away on November 7, 2020, at the age of 72, following a short but valiant battle with cancer.

Considered to be one of the great universal thinkers of our times, the memory of what Rabbi Sacks stood for inspired the creation of a legacy trust with the mission of promoting his timeless and universal wisdom, and his moral voice. The Trust works to inspire people of all faiths and across society to connect with greater depth to their faith, and to make a meaningful and positive impact on the world.

The inaugural Sacks Conversation was held last year at Spencer House, London, with former British prime minister Tony Blair. On that occasion, the Trust also launched the book The Power of Ideas, a special collection of speeches and transcripts of broadcasts by Sacks.

This year’s conversation between President Isaac Herzog and Dr. Erica Brown, director of the Sacks-Herenstein Center at Yeshiva University, will take place at the President’s Residence on Tuesday, September 13, and will be live streamed to a global audience.

The broadcasts will begin at the following times: Israel: 4 p.m.; UK: 2 p.m.; Melbourne/Sydney 11 p.m.; EST 9 a.m.; and PST 6 a.m. The Trust deliberately chose to hold the conversation during the Hebrew calendar month of Elul, a period of reflection and introspection.

 MIKE EVANS with child Holocaust survivor Sheila Kanevskaya, whom he brought from Kharkiv, Ukraine, to Israel.  (credit: FRIENDS OF ZION MUSEUM) MIKE EVANS with child Holocaust survivor Sheila Kanevskaya, whom he brought from Kharkiv, Ukraine, to Israel. (credit: FRIENDS OF ZION MUSEUM)

Friends of Zion Musuem

■ FOUNDER OF the Jerusalem-based Friends of Zion Museum (FOZ), Dr. Mike Evans and his son Michael, who is president of the FOZ Museum, have been working in Ukraine for more than a decade, helping Jews and Holocaust survivors of all faiths. Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, they have brought in more than 120 tons of food, equipment, medicine and other essential supplies, which have been distributed to thousands of people.

In recent months, this father and son have also conducted rescue operations. In April, Evans announced his decision to support dozens of children who had been housed in a home for children in Zhytomyr, and who, with the aid of some concerned adults, managed to leave Ukraine and come to Israel.

In Jerusalem, Evans built a community center for Holocaust survivors, including those from Ukraine, as well as apartments for those who need them. The community center and the apartments are located at the FOZ Museum campus, within easy walking distance of Independence Park on one side and city shops, eateries and the light rail on the other.

As for the children from Zhytomyr, Evans organized summer activities for them, and invited Israeli children to come to the museum to play with them and to bring their dolls, toys and games. These will be donated to those children who are still in the children’s home in war-torn Ukraine. The Israeli children were also encouraged to draw pictures and write greeting cards that were attached to the items they had brought and will be delivered to the children in Ukraine by a FOZ Museum representative.

Last week, a group of Holocaust survivors from Ukraine was hosted at the Museum. The members of the group were among those who had been rescued by Evans and his son. The group was greeted and hosted at the museum by FOZ Museum CEO Daniel Voiczek.

One of the survivors, Sheila Kanyevskaya, told Voiczek that her rescue from Kharkiv, in April of this year, had been by Evans himself. He had come to her house and when she had told him about what she had experienced as a child during the Holocaust, he returned and took her and her family to Israel. “When I saw him,” she said, “I thought he was an angel.”

The FOZ Museum is among the platforms fighting the BDS movement and antisemitism.

Scientific collaboration

■ A NEW study by Israel Prize laureate and Bar Ilan University (BIU) physicist Prof. Shlomo Havllin shows that researchers who work with collaborators across multiple research fields increase the chances of a paper being more highly cited and; therefore, making a greater impact. This conclusion also holds true at BIU, where the spirit of interdisciplinary research is paramount, BIU President Prof. Arie Zaban told a delegation of Canadian university presidents visiting BIU, last week. The group of more than two dozen, including representatives from Canadian Jewish Federations, participated in a mission to Israel led by the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

“At the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, it is architecturally designed to foster the interaction and exchange of ideas between researchers of different disciplines, we measured our output by checking how many papers are being published by researchers from more than one discipline and the numbers just went up and up,” said Zaban. “We are also constantly asking ourselves if we are collaborating enough with the world outside of academia, because the big things happening now are happening because of the mixture of people, cultures and disciplines. This is where we are investing our efforts and where we believe we can make an impact,” he added.

Dylan Hanley, chief operations officer at U15, an organization that advocates for university research to the federal government in Canada, said that the delegation was visiting Israel to learn from the country’s innovation ecosystem and to build, enrich and deepen research partnerships between Israeli and Canadian research universities.

With this goal in mind, the delegation was briefed by senior BIU officials on a variety of impact-driven research projects and initiatives within and beyond BIU’s walls. Zaban noted that BIU was chosen to lead Israel’s national genome bank Mosaic project, a database of genomic, clinical and community information that will identify genetics of new diseases and accelerate advancement in personalized medicine.

Additional initiatives include Project 949, a joint platform run by BIU’s entrepreneurship center, UnBox Ventures, with Sheba Medical Center and the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design to establish personalized medicine initiatives. As well, the Russell Berrie Galilee Diabetes SPHERE initiative, created by BIU’s Azrieli Faculty of Medicine and The Russell Berrie Foundation, to tackle diabetes and reduce healthcare disparities in the Galilee region of Israel and beyond. The Center for Energy and Sustainability is a network of more than 50 BIU research groups, across multiple disciplines, including industry, government and start-up companies, collaborating on comprehensive solutions in the fields of energy, ecology, smart cities, smart mobility, security, the environment and more, was also highlighted.

During the gathering, Zaban and Prof. Graham Carr, president and vice-chancellor of Concordia University in Montreal, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that lays the groundwork for the development of numerous initiatives over the next two years in collaborative research, faculty and student exchange, joint publications, and more.

Concordia’s Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies and BIU’s Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology are already exploring avenues of collaboration. The Bar-Ilan University International School and Concordia International will coordinate implementation.

“This gathering and signing of the agreement is part of leading cooperation of research and development between Israel and Canada. We continue to strengthen relations with Canada on many levels. Academic cooperation is at the forefront of our efforts, since Israel is a powerhouse of innovation for good and there is huge potential for cooperation in many fields from nanotech to aggrotech to renewable energy and many others,” said Israel’s Ambassador to Canada Dr. Ronen Hoffman.

At the networking session following the presentations, presidents of other Canadian universities expressed their interest in the fact that so much of BIU’s outlook and focus on research aligned with their own, and they look forward to exploring possible collaborations.

Former chiefs of staff in the Negev

■ CONSPICUOUSLY ABSENT from a group of former chiefs of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, who came together at Ben Gurion University of the Negev near the end of August, was former defense minister and chief of staff Shaul Mofaz. The former chiefs who did attend were Ehud Barak, Gabi Ashkenazi, Moshe Ya’alon, Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot.

It’s not every day that five former IDF chiefs of staff get together, and when they do, it’s usually at some important military event or at the funeral of a former comrade in arms. But on this occasion, they were at BGU for the inauguration of what has been termed a presidential library, when in point of fact, it’s a prime ministerial library that will help future researchers to find out anything and everything they want to know about Israel’s founding prime minister David Ben Gurion, who had also served as defense minister in nine Israeli governments.

Gantz is currently defense minister, Barak and Ya’alon are former defense ministers. Barak is also a former prime minister. So considering that no-one from Ben Gurion’s peer generation is still around to discuss his legacy, the above-mentioned quintet was probably the best choice. Ben Gurion died in December 1973, at the age of 87. BGU was established already, in 1969. The question is, why has it taken almost half a century to create a library in memory of the founder of the state for whom the university is named?

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