Grapevine July 7, 2023: Women of faith

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 FROM LEFT, Itamar Eichner, Yaacov Hagoel, and B’nai B’rith World Center Chairman Haim Katz (photo credit: BRUNO CHARBIT)
FROM LEFT, Itamar Eichner, Yaacov Hagoel, and B’nai B’rith World Center Chairman Haim Katz
(photo credit: BRUNO CHARBIT)


■ GIVEN THE strong and enduring relationship of his family with Emunah, one of the world’s largest organizations of religious women social activists whose focus is on education and social welfare, one might have thought that President Isaac Herzog would host the Emunah Scholarship presentation ceremony at the President’s Residence this week. But the president was absent and the task was left to his wife Michal.

The main theme of the event was the importance of Bible study and the place of women in the Bible. Guest of honor was Emuna Cohen, the very personable teenager from Neve Netzarim in the Northern Negev, who this year won the International Bible Quiz. Cohen was embraced by Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi, attorney, broadcaster, author and pleader in the Rabbinical Court, who engaged her in a lively conversation.

Michal Herzog, who favors pants suits over dresses, this time wore a dress as a mark of respect for Emunah’s religious identity. She also wore a dress later in the evening when attending the US Independence Day reception.

In her address to her guests, Herzog recalled that her husband’s grandmother, Rabbanit Sarah Herzog had been the founder and long-time president of World Emunah; and that her mother-in-law Aura Herzog, had in 1958 initiated the Bible Quiz. Michal Herzog also spoke of inspirational Biblical females.

It was hardly surprising, therefore, that at the conclusion of the ceremony, she was presented with the Five Books of Moses.

 FROM LEFT, Avivit Levit-Naim, Itamar Shevach, and Hagai Shalom. (credit: ASSAF LEV)
FROM LEFT, Avivit Levit-Naim, Itamar Shevach, and Hagai Shalom. (credit: ASSAF LEV)

Twenty-six scholarships were awarded to students studying at The Emunah Appleman College of Arts and Technology, Jerusalem; The Alma Torah and Arts High School Jerusalem; the Elisheva High School Pardess Hana; and Beit Weinstein, Bnei Brak.

Memorial scholarships for excellence in studies were presented to two students from Appleman College and two from Alma. These scholarships were in memory of Rabbanit Sarah Herzog, Arthur and Helen Rathner of the US, Hana Melamed who had chaired the scholarship fund and Aliza Bracha Buchman.

Among the scores of women attending were Yifat Sela, the president of Emunah Israel and Tema Klausner, the president of World Emunah, each of whom is newly elected.

B'nai Brith

■ ANYONE WHO has ever been part of a traveling journalists’ delegation that includes Itamar Eichner – the diplomatic correspondent for Ynet and Yediot Aharonot – knows that almost each of his waking moments is devoted to his profession. Wherever he happens to be in the world, he barely stops texting on his mobile phone, which is one of the reasons that he has a reputation as a super scooper. Eichner was the recipient this week of the prestigious B’nai B’rith World Center (BBWC) award for excellence in Diaspora reportage.

In addition to subjects that he writes about on a regular basis, Eichner, from time to time writes in-depth features on Jewish communities in the Diaspora. It all started, he said, when he was a young reporter working for the now-defunct ITIM news agency. He was sent to Moscow to cover Israel’s humanitarian gesture of sending a cargo of milk to feed Jewish babies. While still at ITIM, he also went to Poland to interview Jews who were waiting to migrate to Israel. He has since covered many Diaspora issues in various countries. In emphasizing the importance of Diaspora reportage, Eichner spoke of having interviewed a Ukrainian boy who had lost his mother and didn’t have money for a tombstone. At that time, Avraham Burg was chairman of the Jewish Agency, and after reading the story, made sure that the boy would receive what he needed to honor the memory of his mother.

Prior to the actual conferring of the award at Jerusalem’s Konrad Adenauer Center, there was a congratulatory video from Herzog who has known Eichner for many years, and who heaped praise on him as well as on other recipients of Certificates of Merit, Life Achievement and the fostering of Israel-Diaspora Relations through the Arts. In his previous capacities, the president was well acquainted with all of them.

Josh Aronson, Diaspora Affairs correspondent for Maariv and Judah Gross, whose articles on Diaspora communities appeared in The Times of Israel, received Certificates of Merit. Gross is currently the news editor at

As a child, Aronson was diagnosed as being on the spectrum of autism. One specialist told his parents that nothing that could be done about it. Another said that if he was treated normally, he would be normal. The second specialist proved to be correct, and it was partly to him that Aronson attributed his success as a journalist. But there is still much work to do in removing stigmas, he said.

Izhak Hildesheimer, 87, the recipient of a Life Achievement award, has spent most of his life writing or broadcasting about the Jewish Diaspora, and here and there has also served as an emissary to diaspora communities. Hildesheimer is bothered by the fact that when Israeli media reports on a tragedy affecting any Jewish community abroad, a distinction is made between Jews and Israelis. Emissaries sent from Israel to Jewish communities are Jewish, and in Hildesheimer’s view should be counted as such. He abhors reports that state x number of Jews injured. All Israelis are safe.

A citation for Fostering Israel-Diaspora Relations through the Arts in Memory of Naomi Shemer was presented to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra whose Secretary-General Yair Mashiach, recalled that the orchestra was founded not only to bring joy to music lovers but to save lives. Its initial members were Jews who in the 1930s had been kicked out of European orchestras, simply because they were Jews. Many of their successors were musicians from the former Soviet Union who had been integrated into mainstream Israel through the IPO.

Among the various dignitaries in the audience were World Zionist Organization chairman Yaakov Hagoel, the ambassador of Guatemala Ava Atzum Arévalo de Moscoso; and The Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief Avi Mayer who engaged with BBWC Director Alan Schneider in a discussion on Israel and the Jewish World in an Era of Polarization.

Something that defies understanding is the absence of former BBWC journalism laureates from the awards ceremonies of laureates who are honored in the years that follow. When a new president makes the pledge of allegiance in the Knesset, former and present legislators are in attendance together with members of the diplomatic corps and other prominent figures who have worked with the president in any of his previous careers. Admittedly, they receive personal invitations, but even if invitations were not issued and a simple announcement made to the effect that all are welcome, most would turn up.

Increasing inflation

■ FEW PEOPLE are happy about the rise in prices of consumer products – but if it’s any consolation, some of the money that we spend in supermarkets is transferred to a good cause. A case in point is the gift of NIS 110,735 which the management of the Tiv Ta’am supermarket chain donated to Shalva which provides an ever-expanding range of therapies for children with diverse disabilities.

The presentation ceremony took place in the company’s flagship store in Netanya, where proprietor and CEO Hagai Shalom, marketing and sales manager Avivit Levi-Naim made Shalva’s deputy CEO Itamar Shevach and other people responsible for securing funding for Shalva very happy when they handed over a check for the somewhat strange amount.

Hagai Shalom said that Tiv Ta’am takes the concept of mutual responsibility very seriously and is always happy to contribute to the strengthening of the weaker sectors of society.

This was not the first time that Tiv Ta’am had contributed to Shalva and Shevach presented Shalom with a citation expressing the organization’s appreciation and recognition of his dedication.

Russian Ambassador

■ WHILE MANY foreign ambassadors to Israel have served terms of two or three years, Russian ambassadors on average serve for five years. Current ambassador Anatoly Viktorov, whose five-year term has expired, has not notified Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs whether he is staying or leaving. He is presently on vacation and out of the country, so it’s anyone’s guess. It has not been an easy time for him since Russia launched its offensive against Ukraine. Some of the people with whom he had close relations have stepped back, and Viktorov has seldom been seen at receptions hosted by ambassadors of other countries. Before the war, he was a very popular figure, frequently surrounded by Russian-speaking colleagues and prominent members of Israel’s Russian community. He now has a somewhat smaller social circle which is sad, as he is not responsible for decisions taken by President Vladimir Putin, but as a career diplomat, he has to defend them.

Alcoholism in Israel

■ SINGER AND songwriter Efrat Gosh is a reformed alcoholic, and she has no problem talking about it. In fact, she believes that she can help other alcoholics by being honest about her past and being living proof that it can be overcome. During a performance that she gave recently at Jerusalem’s Brown Hotel adjacent to Mahaneh Yehuda Market in Jerusalem, Gosh disclosed what a tough time she had in overcoming her habit. She had been an alcoholic for years, she said, but was happy to report that she’s been clean for two years and one month. Her life had dramatically changed for the better since coming out of the alcoholic haze, she said. She hoped that by talking about what she had personally experienced, she might be able to help other alcoholics. Quoting a rather disturbing statistic, she said that one in seven Israelis is addicted to alcohol.