Grapevine, October 07, 2022: Those who laugh, last

US Ambassador Tom Nides has the ability to laugh at himself and is not afraid to do so.

 US AMBASSADOR Thomas Nides presents his diplomatic credentials to President Isaac Herzog, in Jerusalem last year. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
US AMBASSADOR Thomas Nides presents his diplomatic credentials to President Isaac Herzog, in Jerusalem last year.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

US Ambassador Tom Nides has an enviable ability to laugh at himself and is not afraid to do so. He posted a video of himself at a training session for security personnel at the US Embassy and joined the team. Although he managed the squats, push-ups, running and other exercises, and did his best to hold his own, there was no mistaking the difference in style and speed. He applauded them and they applauded him, and judging by the approving grins on their faces, they gave him an A for effort.

■ LONG BEFORE the advent of the Internet, The Jerusalem Post published an International Edition, which was sent to readers in many countries. It is still published because there are readers who still prefer to hold a newspaper and turn its pages rather than scroll through a computer screen. Through its social media platforms, the Post reaches millions of people around the globe, and through its in-person conferences makes many new connections for itself and for participants, many of whom know of each other, but never came face to face until they attended a Jerusalem Post conference, whether in Jerusalem, New York, London or Dubai. Soon they will also be able to meet up in Marrakesh, Morocco, where on November 16-17, The Jerusalem Post Group together with the UAE’s Khaleej Times and Morocco’s GMH Media Group will host a Global Investment Forum.

There used to be a saying: Join the navy and see the world, but for Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief Yaakov Katz, who participates in all the conferences, the wording could be changed to: “Become editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post and see the world.”

Many news outlets hold conferences

■ MOST DAILY newspapers these days hold several conferences a year. Haaretz, Yediot Aharonot and Israel Hayom each have conferences coming up in which the key theme is a democracy, with Israel Hayom also focusing on issues that voters should consider when they go to the ballot box. Israel Hayom has not yet published the list of participants other than to say that it will include heads of political parties. It will be interesting to see if Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who used to be the poster boy of Israel Hayom, will be included. He does not appear on the Haaretz list. Not all party leaders or ministers in the government of change are participating. Conspicuously absent are Gideon Sa’ar, Avigdor Liberman, Yoaz Hendel, Ayelet Shaked, Pnina Tamano-Shata, Chili Tropper, Nachman Shai, Orna Barbivai, Yifat Shasha-Biton, Tamar Zandberg, Nitzan Horowitz, Elazar Stern, Meir Cohen, Karin Elharrar, Omer Bar Lev, Esawi Frej, Matan Kahana, Orit Farkash-Hacohen, Meirav Cohen and Yoel Razvozov. The only right-wing politicians listed are Abir Kara and Simcha Rothman. In an almost revolutionary move, there is more than just a token Arab on the list. Most of the leaders of Arab parties are included as well as influential Arab figures in various white-collar professions.

 US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York, September 12, 2022 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York, September 12, 2022 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Chefs in Israel

■ WHEN THERE is talk of the Chef’s Table, a lot of people automatically think of Hila Solomon, the vivacious and personable Australian chef who made a name for herself in Jerusalem with her Spoons catering enterprise, then moved to Jaffa, returned to Sydney for a while and then came back to Jaffa, where she continued her custom of providing dinners in her home for diplomats, business gatherings, family celebrations and more. Her clients like the intimacy of dining in a private home, while having a professional chef provide unique mouth-watering delicacies. Not all the dinners that she caters to are part of her income-earning profession. On Rosh Hashanah, for instance, guests at her table included Ukrainian artists who will exhibit their work on October 20 at Jaffa Artists Residency located on Mazal Teomim Street in Old Jaffa. The artists are part of an art residency program initiated by the Jaffa Development Company to provide immigrant artists from Ukraine and Russia with accommodation, space in which to work and an area in which to exhibit.

Hopefully, the artists will return Solomon’s hospitality by presenting her with a birthday cake. Her birthday is on October 22.

Is Sweden antisemitic?

■ DEMOCRACY APPEARS to be on the agenda of many organizations and institutions around the world. It may be because of Russia’s infringement and attack on Ukraine, or the increase in right-wing government administrations in various parts of the globe, or upcoming elections in Israel and elsewhere. Or it may simply be in response to the rise in ultra-nationalism, racism and antisemitism.

Malmo in Sweden probably falls into the latter category and has been a hotbed of antisemitic rhetoric and activity. It has also been the scene of anti-racist gatherings and conferences. Swedish Ambassador Erik Ullenhag has previously hosted dialogues related to the situation in Malmo and will do so again on October 18 with the participation of World Jewish Congress representatives, and Freedom Task Force coordinator Petra Kahn-Nord, who made aliyah in 1994 but moved back to Sweden in 1998. She has previously served as head of information for the Jewish community of Stockholm and as secretary general of the Jewish Youth Association in Sweden.

The focus of the dialogue will be Jewish life in Sweden after Sweden’s pledges at the Malmo International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism that was held in October 2021.

Celebrating Rabbi David Geffen's birthday

■ NOVEMBER 1 will be an exciting day for eligible voters in Israel, but more so for Rabbi David Geffen, who will be celebrating his 84th birthday on that date. Geffen, who frequently writes feature stories for the Post and The Jerusalem Report, was mentioned by President Joe Biden at the Rosh Hashanah reception that he held at the White House.

Biden mentioned Geffen in the context of noting the presence of Rabbi Michael Beals of the Beth Shalom Congregation in Wilmington, Delaware, which is Biden’s hometown. Before settling in Israel, Geffen was a pulpit rabbi and preceded Beals at Beth Shalom.

“That’s where I received my education. I probably went to shul more than many of you did,” Biden told his guests, saying that though he is a practicing Catholic, he went to church on Sunday and to shul on Saturday.

The mention and his upcoming birthday are not the only exciting things in Geffen’s life.

He frequently writes about his grandfather Rabbi Tobias Geffen of Atlanta, Georgia, who was the rabbi who gave Coca-Cola its kashrut approval. But in order to do so, he had to know all the ingredients as well as the production process. He was arguably the only person outside the Coca-Cola establishment who knew the secret of the pause that refreshes.

The Geffen family archives are additional components in American Jewish history in general and the history of Southern Jewry in particular.

Geffen will be among the speakers on Wednesday, October 19, at a special event at The Stuart A. Rose Manuscript Archives and Rare Books Library at Emory University, which is celebrating the Southern Jewish collection with the opening of three collections. Two of the collections are the Geffen and Lewyn family collections. The two families are related, and Geffen’s cousin Marc Lewyn will also be among the speakers. Both the Geffen and Lewyn families have made substantial financial contributions to the Rose Archives, which support research on a variety of Jewish-related topics. Lewyn’s father, Bert, was a Holocaust survivor hiding in various places in Berlin, where he was eventually caught and imprisoned. He managed to escape, and as soon as it was possible, moved to Atlanta where he had Geffen relatives who took him in.

Geffen’s family came to America in 1904 and settled in Atlanta in 1910. Multiple generations of Geffens graduated from Emory University. Currently, 11 members of the Geffen and Lewyn families hold 15 graduate and undergraduate degrees from Emory University.

Among the guests at the White House reception was former Democratic congressman Ted Deutch, who last week officially took up his new position as CEO of the American Jewish Committee. Addressing him directly, Biden said: “Ted, you’re a dear friend. You’re retiring after 12 years. Don’t go. Change your mind. Do something. We’re really going to miss you, pal. No, we already are. We’re going to miss you in Congress. We’ve worked together closely for a long time, and I look forward to your leadership on the American Jewish Committee.”

40th anniversary of Avraham Fried's first album

■ ON JEWISH pilgrim festivals, all roads inevitably lead to Hebron, where according to the Book of Genesis, Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish people, made a land purchase for the purpose of burying his wife Sarah. The acquisition is recognized by Jews as the first piece of territory of the Land of Israel.

It stands to reason that American Hassidic singer Avraham Fried, a frequent visitor to Israel, would choose to celebrate the 40th anniversary year of the release of his first album "No Jew will be left Behind" in Hebron, this coming Wednesday, October 12.

Live interview given by Adam Neumann

■ AMONG THE recent Emmy Award winners was a live interview given by ex-kibbutznik Adam Neumann, the founder of WeWork, at last November’s New York Times DealBook Summit. The Emmy was awarded in the category of “Outstanding Live Interview,” which had been watched nearly a year ago by close to a million viewers, and later by more than a million on YouTube.

 ADAM NEUMANN, CEO of WeWork, speaks during a signing ceremony in Shanghai in 2018.  (credit: Jackal Pan via Reuter) ADAM NEUMANN, CEO of WeWork, speaks during a signing ceremony in Shanghai in 2018. (credit: Jackal Pan via Reuter)

Due to the interest of Israeli viewers in the success story of one of their own who rose to great financial heights, plummeted and rose again, Hebrew subtitles have been added.

In the interview, Neumann advises other entrepreneurs to learn from his mistakes and says his initial success went to his head.

Other well-known figures interviewed in the NYT’s DealBook summit series include Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla.