Grapevine: Jews of France and Poland

Former French ambassador to Israel Jacques Huntzinger was back in the country this week for the first world meeting of French-speaking Jews.

FORMER FRENCH ambassador to Israel Jacques Huntzinger was back in the country this week for the first world meeting of French-speaking Jews. The event at the Netanya Academic College was sponsored primarily by the France Israel Foundation of which Huntzinger is the president. The FIF was the outcome of the joint initiative of President Jacques Chirac and prime minister Ariel Sharon when the latter visited France in July 2005. Relations between Israel and France had not been altogether rosy, but improved considerably following the state visit to France in February 2004 by President Moshe Katsav. Sharon was expected to follow within two or three months, but almost a year-and-a-half elapsed before he put his foot on French soil. The FIF was created to promote closer ties between the two countries in the economic, social, scientific, technological, academic and cultural spheres. This is not the first time that Huntzinger has returned since completing his term as ambassador, but this time he was in the company of former prime minister Edith Cresson, and former minister of culture and defense Francois Leotard. Prominent personalities from Canada and Switzerland also participated in the international meeting of Francophones. TO ALL those who were surprised by the revival of Jewish life in Poland in the aftermath of the Holocaust and the virulent anti-Semitism of the Soviet regime, there's yet another surprise coming on March 26, when Polish National Radio will begin broadcasting in Hebrew on a daily basis, except Saturday. The broadcasts which will be presented mainly by Michael Herman, an Israeli living in Poland, are designed to strengthen the relationship between Israel and Poland. The venture has the blessing of the Israel Embassy, Ambassador to Poland David Peleg told Israel Radio, adding that it will be good to hear Hebrew coming out of Poland. Peleg has just returned to Warsaw from a tour of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, where he and Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewska, Poland's ambassador to Israel, spoke to groups of Jews of Polish background and non-Jewish Polish migr s about the solid relationship that now exists between the two countries. The two ambassadors were brought to the US by the American Jewish Committee in preparation for Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations taking place next year. They spoke about political, military, economic and cultural partnerships, student exchanges and cooperative ventures and the planned cultural exchanges between Israel and Poland next year. Magdziak-Miszewska was the perfect person to travel with Peleg. Prior to her current appointment, she was Polish consul-general in New York and before that served as prime minister Jerzy Buzek's adviser on Polish-Jewish affairs. The major turning point in the revival of Jewish life in Poland is attributable to American Jewish community leader and philanthropist Ronald Lauder, whose praiseworthy contribution to the revival of Jewish life in many parts of Eastern Europe began even before the fall of communism. The work of the Lauder Foundation, though dedicated mostly to Jewish education, is widespread and varied. Many East European Jews who never would have come out of the woodwork responded to the Lauder Foundation's offers to teach them something about Jewish heritage. As a result most of the respondents are now proud, firmly committed Jews. FILMMAKER Dan Wolman was in India last week for the screening of his film Tied Hands at the Bombay Film Festival. But before that, Wolman and dancer Ido Tadmor, who is one of the adjudicators of Born to Dance, which is seen on Channel 2, attended a charity screening of the film hosted by the Consulate-General of Israel in Mumbai at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. The event, organized in support of Naya Jivan House, an orphanage run by the Catholic order of the Society of the Helpers of Mary for 40 Indian children living with HIV/AIDS, was largely inspired by Sharon Weill, a member of the expatriate community of Mumbai, among the key supporters of the orphanage. Weill is the daughter-in-law of Jerusalemite Asher Weill, who is active in Israeli publishing circles and who for many years edited the now defunct Foreign Ministry publication Ariel - the Israel Review of Arts and Letters. Guests attending the benefit screening at the Grand Hyatt, were also treated to a dance recital by Tadmor and an Israeli style dinner.