Grapevine: Doing good

Israel’s wealthiest and most powerful businesswoman and philanthropist, Shari Arison, came up with a more universal meaning to tikkun olam in the title of her book, Activate Your Goodness.

SHARI ARISON (photo credit: Reuters)
(photo credit: Reuters)
Tikkun olam – fixing the world – is a deeply Jewish concept on which particularly great emphasis is placed during Elul, leading up to the High Holy Days. Israel’s wealthiest and most powerful businesswoman and philanthropist, Shari Arison, came up with a more universal meaning to tikkun olam in the title of her book, Activate Your Goodness.
The book has received rave reviews in print media and online publications, as well as on US television. It has also been endorsed by former US president Bill Clinton, who wrote: “Shari, your work has impacted the world in a profoundly positive way, touching lives everywhere in your everlasting pursuit to make the world a better place.”
A Hebrew edition of the book, published by Kinneret Zmora-Bitan, was launched this week in Israel ad can be found in bookstores throughout the country, as well as online. The original English edition was launched this past March to coincide with Good Deeds Day, an Arison global initiative that she initially introduced in Israel in 2007.
Although Arison’s wealth has enabled her to do more good deeds and on a much grander scale than most people, her philosophy is that you don’t necessarily need money to do good for others and to make a difference in the world.
Through a number of real-life personal stories, Arison demonstrates the power of the good deed, which transcends religious, ideological, national, cultural and ethnic differences, as well as social status.
Within days of its release in the US, Activate Your Goodness became a bestseller on The New York Times list. Interviewed widely on leading American television outlets, Arison shared her belief that everyone is capable of doing a good deed – large or small – that benefits others, and brings about positive change on a personal level and in the general environment. It’s another version of the famous John F. Kennedy quote: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” In simple terms, it means that people should ask themselves what they can do to put a little more light into the lives of others – and then go out and do it.
Just as Good Deeds Day has evolved into a global enterprise, “activate your goodness” is also a concept that Arison hopes to spread throughout the world.
The wheels are already in motion for the book to be published in many languages in some 20 countries. An Arabic version is also available.
Arison is convinced that doing good has a ripple effect that continues to spread, as more people give in to their positive rather than their negative instincts – and the most positive instinct is to reach out and help others. This has been evidenced by the growing numbers of municipalities, businesses and individuals in Israel participating in Good Deeds Day, which Arison says should not be confined to one day of the year, but should be intrinsic to personal and national values every single day – so that the world can become a better place, and people will be happier, healthier and more prosperous.
Through the Ted Arison Family Foundation – established by her late father and Bank Hapoalim, of which she is the chief shareholder – Arison has invested more than $260 million in support of social causes in Israel in the spheres of health, education, children and youth, culture, art, sports, populations in distress, and disabilities. Both the Arison Foundation and Bank Hapoalim work closely with numerous nonprofit organizations, 45 of which are uniting under the Bank Hapoalim umbrella – with a pre-Rosh Hashana arts and crafts sale at Kibbutz Shefayim en route to Netanya. The sale will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, August 30, and from 7:30 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, August 31.
Shefayim, which is among the wealthiest of Israel’s kibbutzim, has engaged in philanthropy of its own. When Israel was in a deep recession in the 1980s, Shefayim, unlike many other kibbutzim, was able to hold its own financially and donated NIS 4 million to kibbutzim that were in danger of collapse. In those days, that sum was worth considerably more than it is now, and that good deed enabled several kibbutzim to keep going.
PUBLIC FIGURES are often warned not to allow children or dogs to participate in their special events, because both tend to upstage the host or the guest of honor.
Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma and his wife, Rachel, have no qualms about allowing their three daughters, Diana, six; Estella, four; and Daphne, four months, mingle with their guests.
In fact, the three little girls are wonderful icebreakers. Everyone coos over the baby and because Dana and Estella, known as Esti, are not the least bit shy and love to change their clothes every half-hour or so, guests of the Sharmas have a great time talking to them and waiting to see what they will wear next.
The Sharmas, who have been in Israel since June, have already hosted several events at the Australian Residence in Herzliya Pituah.
This week, they hosted a piano recital by two young and extremely promising Australian pianists, Andrew Ramsey and Joshua Creek, who spent a little over three weeks in Israel as participants in the Tel Hai piano master classes at Sde Boker.
Guests included representatives of various conservatoriums and music schools, but the only diplomats, other than those from the Australian Embassy, were Japanese Ambassador Hideo Sato and his wife, since most other ambassadors were abroad on vacation. The Satos left for Spain two days later.
For the Sharmas, just being in Israel is a vacation, as they haven’t been in the country long enough to explore it properly.
But they will be going to a friend’s wedding in Germany in the first week of September – not exactly a vacation, but a brief respite from the humidity of Herzliya Pituah. Guests who had congregated on the patio certainly felt the difference when they went inside to the air-conditioned comfort of the living room, where chairs had been set up for some 30 people.
The Australian Residence is one of the oldest such dwellings that is actually owned by a foreign state. Most ambassadorial residences are long-term rentals. Because it was purchased such a long time ago, the residence is somewhat smaller than most other ambassadorial residences, though additional floors and a swimming pool were added over the years.
However, the living room is relatively small, which created a wonderful sense of intimacy during the recital. Everyone in the audience was able to not only listen to the superb playing of the two piano exponents, but could also witness their body language and facial expressions in much the same way as anyone watching a concert on television. Except this time it wasn’t the camera offering a close-up – it was personal proximity. Wonder of wonders there was no coughing, clearing of throats or ringing of mobile phones throughout, and the applause was loud and enthusiastic. The two were swamped with compliments afterwards.
Aside from the classics, the solo and duo offerings included works by Australian composers such as Carl Vine, Ross Edwards, Sally Greenaway and Michael Dooley. Rumsey, who played all four Australian compositions, said that when Dooley heard that he was going to Israel, he asked what he would be playing, and on hearing that the repertoire would include Australian compositions, asked whether Rumsey would play something that Dooley had composed.
When Rumsey, who knows Dooley as a jazz musician, asked whether he had anything, the answer was, “No, but I’ll write something.” Sure enough, two weeks before the departure date, Dooley delivered a Nocturne Waltz, and Rumsey played it in Israel.
The composition by Edwards had been entered into a competition and like many other composers, Edwards was influenced and inspired by the compositions of Franz Liszt. When he realized that his own composition was too recognizably like one of Liszt’s, he introduced a Japanese scale that gave it a different sound, and in a tongue-in-cheek word play called his composition “Frangipani” – although it really has nothing to do with the flower of that name.
This was Rumsey’s second experience with the Tel Hai master classes; he was also in Israel last year. But for Creek it was a first, and he’s determined to come again. Both have been playing since they were young children.
When he was 18, Creek went to England to audition for London’s elite music institutions and was offered positions at the Royal College of Music, the Royal Academy of Music, Trinity College and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
It all seemed a little daunting, so he returned to Australia to study law in addition to music, and has bachelor’s degrees in both from the Australian National University.
Earlier this year, he released his debut album for solo piano.
Rumsey, who has represented Australia in international competitions, is a vice president of the recently formed Australian Capital Territory Keyboard Association.
Its founding president, interestingly enough, is Israeli expatriate Aman Wiesel, who has performed in the US, Asia, New Zealand, Europe and Israel, and until last year was a lecturer and head of keyboard at ANU.
WELL-KNOWN throughout the Jewish world for his oratory powers, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, was initiated as a brother of Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), in a ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel within the framework of the fraternity’s centennial celebrations.
In the same week, he addressed a capacity audience of more than 1,400 alumni and students participating in the centenary festivities marking the 100th anniversary of the fraternity’s founding at New York University. Hoenlein is a very passionate speaker, and his stirring remarks about Jewish identity and support for Israel were repeatedly interrupted by applause.
Earlier in the week, he addressed 200 students who were participating in two separate AEPi programs: Hineni, a two-day seminar on Jewish identity, and Israel Amplified, a two-day Israel advocacy training course for campus leaders. Hoenlein said he was extremely impressed by the quality and commitment of these young people, and that he was leaving the convention reassured about the Jewish future on campus and convinced that several of them “are likely to lead our community well into the 21st century.”
Other community leaders who were honored by initiation into the AEPi brotherhood were Ambassador Ido Aharoni, consul-general of Israel in New York; international relations expert Prof. Jonathan Adelman, of the University of Denver; author Joel Mowbray; and IDF veteran Izzy Ezagui, the first combat amputee in IDF history to return to combat duty.
IS IT genetic or synthetic? Has anyone noticed that former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, notwithstanding his age, ill health, grief over the death of his grandson and the humiliations to which he was subjected, plus two years in prison, doesn’t have a gray hair on his head? It’s hard to believe that all that black on the top of his head is natural, which would suggest that if you are an ex-president, there are some perks in an Egyptian prison.
AND ON the subject of prison, while many cannot fault the noble reasons that led American soldier Bradley Manningto release hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, it was nonetheless a breach of security at best and an act of treason at worst. Unlike convicted Israeli agentJonathan Pollard, Manning will be eligible for parole after serving a third of his sentence, and chances are high he will not spend more than 10 years in prison. This means he will still be a relatively young man when he gets out, and will be able to make a life for himself and build a family. Pollard has not only been stripped of his youth and ability to build a family, but was denied the right to see his dying father and subsequently attend the funeral.
ANYONE who writes for a newspaper, magazine or online website, writes in a vacuum – never knowing who is reading what they wrote, when they read it and what the reactions will be. Feedback usually comes with regard to controversial subject matter – but not always, and not necessarily within the time frame in which an item was originally published.
A case in point was a recent email from Stanislav Guzar, the art director of the Samuel J. Zacks Gallery at Stong College, York University in Toronto, Canada. He wrote that in an article I had written two years ago about the passing of art collector Ayala Zacks-Abramov, in which Stong College had been mentioned, it was wrongly spelled as “Strong College,” and he wanted a correction issued. To be honest, I didn’t remember writing the article and thought that he must be mistaken, but apparently he was not – and when Guzar replied, he still wanted a correction.
Just for the record, Zacks-Abramov was a descendant on her mother’s side of the founders of Jerusalem’s veteran Berman’s Bakery, which still flourishes. She was not just an art collector but an art philanthropist, who generously supported the Israel Museum in the city of her birth, the Tel Aviv Museum and museums in Canada.
Samuel Zacks was her second husband, and together they acquired an impressive collection. The second anniversary of the death of Zacks-Abramov, who died at age 99, is on August 30.
Another email came in the same week from David Wilk of Ma’aleh Adumim, who pointed out that I had been in error when I wrote that Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the first chief rabbi of the IDF, who had served in the position for 20 years and later had been Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, had been the longest serving chief rabbi in Israel. According to the email, Rabbi Gad Navon, the third chief rabbi of the IDF, had that distinction, serving from 1977 to 2000.
It’s always important for readers to correct mistakes and in true Jewish fashion, Wilk and yours truly are both right and both wrong – depending on whether each position as chief rabbi is counted separately or collectively. If separately, then Navon held the record. If collectively, the title goes to neither, but belongs to Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who has served two eight-year stints as chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, a 10-year stint as chief rabbi of Netanya, and a 10-year stint as Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel. This all adds up to 36 – a most significant and symbolic number in Jewish tradition.
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