Grapevine October 20, 2022: Honor diplomat who saved Jews during Holocaust

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

Japanese diplomat Sugihara Chiune, known as "Japanese Oskar Schindler." (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Japanese diplomat Sugihara Chiune, known as "Japanese Oskar Schindler."
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Thanks to Holocaust survivors and their families who owe their lives to the diplomats Raoul Wallenberg and Chiune Sugihara, the names of these diplomats have become immortalized in Jewish history and in various projects in Israel.

They were, of course, not the only diplomats who risked their lives and careers in order to help Jews flee certain death at the hands of the Nazis.

Last year, a square and a park were inaugurated in Jerusalem in memory of Sugihara. This year, the memory of another diplomat will be honored with the inauguration of another square in Jerusalem, to perpetuate the memory of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, a Portuguese diplomat, stationed in Bordeaux, France, who in June 1940, in defiance of his government, issued thousands of transit visas to persons fleeing the approaching German army.

Mendes saw many Jewish refugees sleeping in the street, among them Rabbi Chaim Kruger who had fled from Poland to Brussels and from there to Bordeaux. Kruger received the first transit visa and continued to work with Sousa Mendes in this vital humanitarian mission.

Mendes was subsequently demoted and humiliated by his government but like Wallenberg and Sugihara, is treated as a hero of humanity today. The governments of all three countries take great pride in quoting their deeds and in promoting literature about them – even more so in the face of rising antisemitism.

The official naming of Kikar Sousa Mendes in the presence of Gerald Mendes, the grandson of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, will take place on Tuesday, November 8, at the intersection of Torah V’Avoda and Israel Zangwill Streets. The grandson will be joined by members of the Sousa Mendes Foundation in the United States, as well as those of the Israeli branch. The group will also include family members of people saved by Sousa Mendes.

Prior to the dedication ceremony, the group will visit Yad Vashem, where Gerald Mendes will be invited to kindle the Eternal Flame.

Among those who have indicated their attendance at the Kikar Sousa Mendes dedication ceremony are Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, Portuguese Ambassador Jorge Cabral, former Israel ambassador to Portugal Colette Avital and Rabbi Yaakov Kruger, son of Rabbi Chaim Kruger, president of the Sousa Mendes Foundation in the US Dr. Olivia Mattis, whose relatives were also recipients of the Sousa Mendes visa and Board member Dr. Mordecai Paldiel.

On the following day, Wednesday, November 9, the Sousa Mendes Foundation will conduct a symposium on the Sousa Mendes story, which is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m., at the Vert Hotel, near Binyanei HaUma.

Fighting Ageism

■ IN ANCIENT times, the elders of a tribe were respected for their wisdom and experience, and treated with great respect. In some communities, where it was customary for three-generation or four-generation families to live together under one roof, elders continued to be honored. But in other times, the elders were considered a burden. But as the world has progressed, people have begun living longer and remaining mentally and physically active, even when well-advanced in age. Academic studies have been increasingly undertaken in subjects such as healthy aging. The upshot of all this is a recognition of the importance of this subject by the United Nations, which has listed Prof. Liat Ayalon of Bar Ilan University’s Weisfeld School of Social Work as one of 50 Healthy Aging leaders who are transforming the world into a better place in which to grow older.

Ayalon is a leading scientist in the field of Behavioral and social gerontology, who has worked to influence academics, society leaders and policymakers around the world through her research on agism.

Beyond her personal research is her contribution to the establishment of an extensive European network of more than 200 researchers and policy stakeholders in the field of agism, whose research and knowledge have been translated into concrete policy. The 50 individuals selected from among 500 nominees were reviewed by an expert panel comprising representatives of leading international organizations.

Senior citizens participate in laughter yoga in a park in India. (credit: AMIT DAVE)Senior citizens participate in laughter yoga in a park in India. (credit: AMIT DAVE)

In the congratulatory letter that Ayalon received from the Secretariat of the UN Decade of Healthy Aging (2021-2030) was mention of her extraordinary achievements.

Dr. Tedros Adanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the World Health Organization notes: “The UN Decade of Healthy Aging offers an unprecedented opportunity to put in place the right policies and services so that more people experience later life in good health and can continue to do the things they value.”

Fashion brands downsizing 

■ DOWNSIZING HAS become commonplace with many business enterprises in an era in which technology is increasingly replacing human labor and the cost of raw materials keeps rising. In the fashion industry, when local production became too expensive, most clothing manufacturers turned to countries with cheap labor. This applies not only to Israel but globally. Some of the top American, French and Italian fashion brands are actually produced in places like China, Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Jordan, Turkey and Hungary.

Sometimes when we come across a very well-made quality garment with no brand name, but a label that states that it was made in one of the above-mentioned countries, it is probably a copy or leftover from a job lot of a famous global brand. What we are paying for if we happen to be brand-name conscious, is the brand name, not the item which costs less than half the price when the brand name is absent.

One veteran Israeli brand that survived all the economic vicissitudes is Dorin Frankfurt, who after forty years in business is closing down her south Tel Aviv production plant and her chain of stores, other than her flagship store in Tel Aviv’s trendy Dizengoff Street.

Unlike many of her contemporaries who had their collections produced in Jordan or another country with cheap labor, Frankfurt was determined that her output would remain made in Israel. Aside from any patriotic feelings in this regard, she was also aware that many fine craftspeople in all sectors of fashion production had lost their jobs and their income because their former employers had opted for cheap labor.

Frankfurt did not follow the field in other respects. Believing that good fashion should have a timeless quality, most of her creations are classic, uncluttered and not identified with a specific trend or era. The secret is often in the silhouette and the soft drape of the fabric. Designs that she created twenty and more years ago are still up-to-date today.

The closure of her factory and most of her stores does not mean that she is disappearing from the fashion scene. Together with a partner, she is moving to a small studio, where she will design limited edition or capsule collections for which production will be outsourced.

Her brand will be newly labeled accordingly as Dorin Frankfurt Studio.

 Israel-Australia crisis

■ COMMENTING ON the current Israel-Australia crisis can be seen on many social media platforms, and in most cases, Australia is being criticized for rescinding its recognition of western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with some of the tweets posted stating that the writer will no longer recognize Canberra as Australia’s capital. Historically, there’s a big difference between Jerusalem and Canberra but it was on the cards that Australia would one day turn its attention from Jewish rights to Palestinian rights. An Australian character trait is to stand up for the underdog, which is what Dr. Herbert Evatt, the head of the Australian delegation, did at the UN in November 1947. Two years after the Holocaust, the Jewish people were still the underdog.

Many years later, under the administration of then-prime minister Kevin Rudd, Australia, on federal and state levels began apologizing to its indigenous population for the injustices perpetrated against them. Even before that, under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act of 1976, Aboriginal tribes began to reclaim some of the territories taken from them. Indeed, a lot from all over the country was won back.

One of the leading activists for the restoration and implementation of aboriginal rights is Mark Leibler, one of Australia’s most prominent lawyers, who is also the National Chairman of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC). During a visit to Israel in July of this year, Leibler met with President Isaac Herzog whom he has long known. Herzog told him how delighted he was to receive a very warm letter from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who had written that under his government, “Australia remains a committed friend of Israel.”

Paragraphs from the letter state: “Ours is a friendship based on a shared commitment to democracy, the rule of law and the prosperity of our people.

“Australia is firmly committed to Israel’s right to exist in peace and security within internationally recognized borders.”

The letter goes on to remind Herzog that Australia has long supported a two state solution and we would welcome any initiative that can assist the resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to agree to a durable and resilient peace settlement.

Albanese also promised that Australia will not shy away from calling out anti-Israel bias, including in multilateral fora.

Yet, in a sense, by rescinding its recognition of western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Australia has been guilty of anti-Israel bias.

Herzog told Leibler that he was looking forward to a state visit to Australia sooner rather than later but given this new development, it would seem to be later, rather than sooner.

Dave Sharma, a former highly pro-Israel Australian ambassador to Israel, who tweeted that Labor’s reversal of Jerusalem policy is a capital fiasco, met with considerable opposition, some of it antisemitic in nature.

Present ambassador Paul Griffiths has no choice but to defend the new policy, whether he likes it or not.

Meanwhile what a lot of people seem to have overlooked is the growing size and influence of the Palestinian population in Australia. In Melbourne, for instance, some Jews whose loved ones were buried in Fawkner cemetery had their remains transferred to other cemeteries because close to Fawkner cemetery are unavoidable suburbs that are completely Arab in population, attire, shops and lifestyle, and Jews feel threatened when driving through these neighborhoods.

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