Grapevine: A gentlemanly judge

Why Stephen Adler is handing over early, a special tribute for the FPA’s Connie Mus, Australia honors Wallenberg.

Raoul Wallenberg 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Raoul Wallenberg 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
STRICTLY SPEAKING, Judge Stephen Adler, the American-born president of the National Labor Court, does not have to retire until February 17, when he turns 70, the retirement age for judges, as compared to 67, the compulsory retirement age for other state employees. However, Adler is stepping down in November to enable his successor, Judge Nili Arad, to reach the pinnacle of her career.
According to the rules, the deputy president of the court can rise to the rank of president only if he or she has at least three years left in which to serve before having to go out on pension. Arad will celebrate her 67th birthday in December, which would make her ineligible if Adler chose to complete his full term. Rather than deprive her of the crown of her profession, Adler, who has revolutionized the National Labor Court and is known for his fairness and peacemaking efforts between the different sides in a dispute and his tendency to be sympathetic to employees, decided to step down three months ahead of time, thereby giving Arad a unique birthday present. Adler notified Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch of his decision some three months ago.
An alumnus of Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations and Columbia University Law School, Adler worked as an attorney with the National Labor Relations Board in Washington and Los Angeles before making aliya in 1968. He held several clerking and teaching positions before being admitted to the Israeli Bar, after which he worked as a private attorney from 1970-76. In 1976 he was appointed a judge of the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court, then chief judge of the Tel Aviv Regional Labor Court, then in 1985 a judge in the National Labor Court, rising to deputy president in 1990 and president in 1997.
Settling disputes may have been easier for Adler than for some other judges in that his work at home was sometimes not much different from his work at the office. He is the father of five sons. A modest man who doesn’t stand on ceremony, Adler could often be seen walking from his home or his office in Jerusalem to one of his appointments. A prolific writer in English and Hebrew on a variety of labor law issues, Adler is regarded as an international authority and his works have been published in several countries.
■ JOURNALISTS OFTEN write in a vacuum, not knowing who will read the finished product or what impact if will make. Thus it was somewhat gratifying to be told by Korean Ambassador Young Sam Ma, who was featured in this column last week with his wife Park Eun- Kyung in advance of Korean National Day, Korean Armed Forces Day and the launch of the Korean Food Festival at the Sheraton Hotel in Tel Aviv, that he had subsequently received many telephone calls from people who asked to be invited. Although many people are away on vacation, there was a huge crowd, and because the banquet facilities at the Sheraton are one floor below ground level, there was an optical illusion of even more people, as the ambassador, his wife and embassy staff in national costume stood at the bottom of the stairs to receive the guests.
The lobby and the reception area were decorated with Korean antiques, red and blue Korean lanterns and the flags of Korea and Israel trailing across the ceiling. It is not uncommon to have children participating in national day ceremonies, but this time there was something extra special in that 20 Korean children – some of them very young – came dressed in national costume, sang the anthems of both countries, plus one song in Hebrew and another in Korean, and performed a graceful, traditional Korean fan dance.
Speaking of the similarities between Korea and Israel, the ambassador noted that both countries had fought for independence under great difficulties and had succeeded in establishing successful economies and vibrant democracies. President Shimon Peres and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer recently visited Korea, said Ma, and he noted that since the launch of direct flights, there had been a significant improvement in trade between the two countries. He also announced that the Korean government has purchased three dunams in Herzliya Pituah for a new embassy. Construction is to start soon, as plans have already been approved by the Herzliya Municipality.
A formidable table tennis exponent, Ma was one of the judges at the last Maccabiah Games and later introduced a diplomatic tournament in which he narrowly beat Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein. Edelstein has since beaten him, he said, “so now we’re even.” But there’s still one match to go next year before Ma completes his tenure, “and Yuli is practicing very hard.”
Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog, who represented the government, said that Israel cherishes the relationship with Korea and the enhancement of relations on all levels. He also said that he had a more personal reason for attending. His late uncle, Abba Eban, while serving as vice president of the UN General Assembly, brokered a deal for a cease-fire resolution that brought an end to the Korean War. A copy of that resolution still hangs on the wall of the house that Eban shared with his wife Suzy who is Herzog’s mother’s sister.
■ FRIENDS AND acquaintances of Foreign Press Association chairman Conny Mus who are unable to attend his funeral in Amsterdam on Thursday, will be able to honor his memory at a special tribute that is being arranged in Jerusalem some time in September. Mus died suddenly in Amsterdam toward the end of last week. The FPA is currently collecting anecdotes about Mus to post on a memorial page on its Web site:
ALTHOUGH HE was not allowed out of prison to attend the circumcision of his grandson, former Shas MK Shlomo Benizri was given a 24-hour furlough to celebrate the engagement of his son Nati to Efrat Dahan. When Benizri returned to his home in Sanhedria, the phone kept ringing, as countless wellwishers congratulated him not only on Nati’s engagement but also for being free, albeit for a very brief period. The highlight of the event for Benizri was the presence at the engagement party in his home of Shas spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who not only said flattering things about him, but also gave him several playful slaps on the face, which in Shas parlance is one of the highest expressions of affection and approval. Also present were Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger, along with several other rabbis and other dignitaries such as Shas leader Eli Yishai.
■ FOR THAT matter, society has shunned neither former prime minister Ehud Olmert nor his long-time aide Shula Zaken who are facing various charges of corruption. In fact Zaken was among the guests at President Peres’s 87th birthday party last week. Both Olmert and Zaken are dyed in the wool supporters of Betar Jerusalem. Olmert is more than just a keen fan. In previous years, when Betar was in dire financial straits, Olmert managed to find people who came to the rescue. Now, he’s part of a Friends of Betar organization.
■ THERE MUST be something special about people born in the first half of the 1920s, especially those born in 1923. Peres is not the only Israeli of that vintage who’s still amazingly active. Others include Uri Avnery, Hannah Meron and Haim Gouri. Others born in more or less the same time frame include David Azrieli, born in May 1922, and Orna Porat, born in June 1924. For that matter, former president Yitzhak Navon, born in April 1921, is still active and is seen at many social and cultural events, and former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar, born in August 1925, has just celebrated his 85th birthday and is still going strong. Former state comptroller Miriam Ben-Porat, born in January 1918, recently published a book and attended its launch, and Ruth Dayan, born in March 1917, is still running around the country helping Beduin women to achieve economic independence and lecturing to various organizations in English or Hebrew.
Orna Porat, by the way, has recently accepted a role in the new television series The Children of the Prime Minister which is being produced by HOT. She plays the prime minister’s interfering mother. The series has been scripted by Shahar Magen and Noa Rotman, better known as Noa Ben-Artzi, the granddaughter of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
■ AS FOR Peres, he’s trying to find time in an extremely busy schedule to visit his spokeswoman Ayelet Frish, who toward the end of last week gave birth to a baby girl, Roni.
■ STAMP COLLECTORS, especially those whose personal histories are somehow connected with the Holocaust and in particular with the efforts of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg to save Jewish lives in Budapest, will be eager to get hold of the limited Raoul Wallenberg Stamp Sheet that was released by Australian Post, working in conjunction with Max Stern, one of the most celebrated stamp dealers there. The sheet was released to coincide with the 25th anniversary celebration of the Raoul Wallenberg unit of B’nai B’rith Melbourne.
Judi Schiff, chairwoman of the Wallenberg anniversary committee, worked on the project for several months with Australian Post and with Stern, who two years ago had a major stamp exhibition here and has a worldwide reputation for his philatelic expertise and for the rare stamps that he has acquired.
The launch of the Wallenberg Stamp Sheet was given additional impetus by the presence of Jan Anger, the son of Per Anger, a Swedish diplomat who worked with Wallenberg in saving Jewish lives in Hungary during 1944-45. After the war, Per Anger became head of Sweden’s international aid program and subsequently served as ambassador to Australia, Canada and the Bahamas. At the launch, Jan Anger spoke in detail of the humanitarian work in which his father had been engaged during the war.
The stamp sheet, released in only 1,000 copies, features 10 60 cent stamps with photo tabs of Wallenberg from early childhood to the period in which he served as a soldier. A brief history of his life appears on the right side of the stamps. The back of the envelope depicts a Schutz-Pass (protective passport) similar to those issued to thousands of Jews during the war. The stamp sheets have attracted considerable interest in Australia, where there are already several monuments honoring Wallenberg. They are available for $A20 plus $A12 handling and postage.
■ THE PLETHORA of cultural offerings in Jerusalem is both amazing and frustrating. Choices are difficult and there are too many interesting and/or inspiring things happening on any given date, including free performances. Among the most popular gratis events are the Thursday night community sing-alongs in the mini amphitheater of the Akirov Mamilla Mall. The one featuring Moshe Lahav on August 26 is bound to attract the biggest audience yet, due to the extraordinary rapport that Lahav has with the public.
By contrast Reshet Moreshet, which also has free concerts on Fridays in the courtyard of the Israel Radio studios on Rehov Helene Hamalka, doesn’t seem to hold quite the same attraction – possibly because the concerts are broadcast live. Last Friday’s concert featured Yitzhak Meir, who is the younger brother of print and broadcast journalist Yedidya Meir, who is married to Channel 2’s Sivan Rahav. Yedidya is frequently referred to as Sivan’s husband, but now, since Yitzhak has put out a CD, he joked in his role as master of ceremonies, he has the added title of Yitzhak’s brother. Among the quartet accompanying him was the multitalented Adam Madar, who plays both string and wind instruments, sings and whistles and exudes a tremendous sense of contagious enthusiasm.
Yitzhak Meir’s hassidic performance was followed by Yitzhak Elhayoun singing hymns in the Libyan Jewish tradition and Shimoni Ilut singing in the Moroccan tradition. The latter two were an appetizer for the upcoming Piyut Festival to be held next month at Beit Avi Chai in Jerusalem. The festival will feature the liturgical traditions of some of the components of the Israeli social mosaic.
■ THERE’S APPARENTLY no age limit for getting married. Controversial business tycoon Meshulam Riklis, 86, is getting married for the third time. Riklis who is often mistakenly described as an Israeli expatriate, was born to Russian parents in Istanbul, grew up in Tel Aviv, graduated from the Gymnasia Herzliya and left for the US in 1947, before the creation of the state. His first wife was his high school sweetheart Judith Stern. His second wife was singer and actress Pia Zadora, who was more than 30 years his junior. Now, after a series of romantic liaisons that did not reach the stage of matrimony, he’s about to get married to Tali Sinai, a former wife of singer Arik Sinai, who is around 40 years his junior.
I interviewed Riklis, who has been through many fortunes, 21 years ago. At that time he was rumored to be a billionaire several times over. When asked just how much he was really worth, Riklis replied: “What difference does it make? I can wear only one pair of shoes at a time.”
■ AUSTRIAN REACTION to Hapoel Tel Aviv’s Itai Shechter, who emotionally donned a red kippa after he scored his third goal which enabled Hapoel to beat Red Bull Salzburg last week, may not have been quite as anti-Semitic as was interpreted by the Israeli media. It may have just been a sense of outrage at what may have been perceived as making fun of the church. In general, Jews in Austria do not wear colored kippot. The most popular kippa is a black one. However Catholic cardinals do wear red kippot. While Shechter may have chosen a red kippa to match the Hapoel uniform, he may have inadvertently conveyed a different message to Austrian spectators. There are a lot of Roman Catholics in Austria, and they were probably well represented among the thousands of Salzburg fans who turned out to watch the game.
The colors of the different skullcaps worn by Catholic clergy denote their rank. The skullcap is known as a zucchetto. The pope wears a white one, a cardinal a red one, bishops and abbots wear purple and deacons black.
■ RADIO AND television broadcaster Haim Hecht is appalled by an ongoing situation in which high school students whose parents can’t afford the expense of a trip to Poland, remain here while their more affluent classmates go. “If even one can’t go, none should go,” says Hecht, but also provides a solution for the problem. He suggests that the law on the rebates of deposits paid for bottles returned to stores should be amended to contain a clause whereby the collection of bottles be limited to high school students, and that they, and only they, be the final arbiters of how money received for these bottles should be used.
The benefits, he explains, would be multiple. Firstly, this would prevent criminal organizations from taking control of the bottle business, which is also used for money laundering. Secondly, it would give high school students an appreciation for the value of work, the value of money and the ability to spend that money for a good cause. Thirdly, in addition to paying for or supplementing the cost of a trip to Poland for those students who would otherwise not go, money earned from bottle collections could be used for other worthwhile projects which are not funded by the Education Ministry or other government bodies.