Grapevine: Will Lau be chief rabbi again?

This is not the first time that Lau’s name has been proposed for the presidency, so even if the door to the Chief Rabbinate’s Office remains closed, the window to the presidency is still open.

Operation bbq 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Operation bbq 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Much of the Israeli media is favorably disposed to former Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel and current Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who enjoys much more extensive all-around media coverage than any of his colleagues. If the law regarding the age of candidates for the Chief Rabbinate is changed, Lau has a very good chance of once again holding the position of chief rabbi, partly because he will receive greater media exposure than any of the other candidates. Even if the law is not changed, Lau has supporters who would like to see him as Israel’s next president – a position that has no age limits.
This is not the first time that Lau’s name has been proposed for the presidency, so even if the door to the Chief Rabbinate’s Office remains closed, the window to the presidency is still open.
■ ONLY A week after the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in which the president, prime minister, MKs and other dignitaries read out the names of relatives who were murdered, memories were evoked of another phenomenon that has employed genocide. Acts of terrorism throughout the world have claimed tens of thousands of lives. In some cases, Jews, particularly Israeli Jews have been deliberately targeted.
In other cases, such as Syria, the regime in its efforts to quell its opposition, brutally slaughters men, women and children.
This too is a form of terrorism. This too is genocide. The world is not quite as silent as it was 70 years ago over the genocide of Jews, gypsies and homosexuals, but it is doing very little to stop the bloodshed. Just as every Jewish victim of the Holocaust had a name, so does every Syrian victim of the Bashar Assad regime.
Likewise, everyone whose life was lost in a terrorist attack has a name. The names of Jews who lost their lives in terrorist attacks outside of Israel appeared in white print on a marine blue stand at the Remembrance Day ceremony held in the plaza of the Jewish Agency and National Institutions compound in Jerusalem on Monday. No longer just statistics in reports of acts of anti-Semitism in the Diaspora, the names reminded the hundreds who attended that these were people, each of them important to their families and friends. Just as anyone who saves a single life, saves a whole world, so anyone who destroys a single life destroys a whole world.
The people whose names were listed on the board had been killed in the UK, US, France, Belgium, Turkey, Algeria, Ukraine, Argentine, India and Yemen. All are countries with Jewish communities large and small. Strangely, Bulgaria was omitted from the list.
The name of one victim stood out on its own, without the listing of the country in which the victim had met his death.
Daniel Pearl, the American Jewish journalist who in 2002, less than five months after the 9/11 terrorist attack, had been kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan – a country in which he did not reside and one that that is not part of the Diaspora – left a legacy which Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky said had inspired countless young Jews toward introspection about their identities and their connection to Israel.
The last recorded words of Daniel Pearl were: “My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish, I am Jewish. Back in the town of Bnei Brak, there is a street named after my great-grandfather, Chaim Pearl, who was one of the founders of the town.”
“When our enemies seek to attack Israel but don’t succeed, they attack Jewish communities around the world,” said Sharansky.
Members of Pearl’s family attended the ceremony. Pearl’s father, Prof. Judea Pearl, said he had been waiting for 11 years to utter his son’s last words in Jerusalem, where Daniel had celebrated his bar mitzva. Judea Pearl said that he represented three generations of victims: His grandparents had been murdered in Auschwitz; he himself was miraculously saved from genocide in 1948; and Daniel was a victim in a more recent xenophobic phenomenon. His son’s murder had triggered a social revolution in the struggle against barbaric cruelty, said Pearl. The concept of absolute good and bad had almost been erased, but was reborn with Daniel’s murder.
World Zionist Organization chairman Avraham Duvdevani said that Jews had never experienced a generation in which they were not persecuted and their blood was not spilled.
And yet only five years after the uprising and destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, which was a symbol of the worst catastrophe that had befallen the Jewish people, “we witnessed the greatest miracle of all, the glorious miracle of the establishment of the State of Israel.” Even so, he noted, Israel is still waiting for peace and tranquility, and still has to muster all of its strength in the battle to maintain its freedom.
Remembrance Day included Jews from all over the world who were victims of terrorism, he said. “They were targeted because they were part of our people.” Keren Hayesod world chairman Eliezer “Moodi” Sandberg, in a reference to the names on the board, said: “Every name is a story of a life, of plans, deeds and dreams.”
Because Daniel Pearl was a gifted violinist in addition to being a talented journalist, the ceremony began with a violin solo performed by Yeshayahu Ginsburg, a student at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, whose family came to Israel from Tashkent. Ginsburg played “Shirat Ha’asavim” (“Song of the Grasses”), the hauntingly beautiful melody composed by Naomi Shemer to a poem by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. The song’s opening line is “Know you that every shepherd has his own tune,” a fitting musical tribute to someone who basically looked for the good in humanity and treated people of all races and religions with respect.
Later in the week, following Independence Day, the Pearl family was in Herzliya for the launch of the Daniel Pearl International Journalism Institute at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, and the opening of the Daniel Pearl Newsroom at IDC’s Sammy Ofer School of Communications. The partnership between IDC Herzliya and the Daniel Pearl Foundation aims to set new standards for journalistic excellence in the Middle East. Judea Pearl, who is president of the Foundation, expressed pride in the establishment of the institute, “which represents a combination of values which embodied Daniel’s spirit.”
The institute’s most important mission in helping to create peace, he said, was to learn how to listen and to hear the other side’s story. “The Palestinians perceive Israel as a state which will stop at nothing to achieve its goals, which is why any form of Israeli humanity is absent from Palestinian media.”
■ EVERYONE AND his brother showed up at the annual Independence Day party hosted by Rochele and Kushi Barashi at their palatial home in Upper Motza, where guests danced the night away to both live music and records spun by a DJ.
In addition to popular music, those interested in dancing demonstrated their prowess to the sound of both Greek and Kurdish tunes.
The house is surrounded by indoor and outdoor patios, with ample seating to accommodate those guests who preferred to sit rather than tap their feet. The upshot was that for the large part of the evening, there were mostly women on the dance floor, while the men schmoozed elsewhere. A notable exception was well-known restaurateur Eli Levy, who happens to be a very accomplished dancer and who danced almost non-stop throughout the night and into the wee hours. Guests were still arriving at 2 a.m.
Investment broker Mati Davidovich, who many years ago made his living as a singer at gala dinners, weddings and bar mitzva, and who continues to sing at family events and those hosted by close friends, decided to honor his hosts by singing one of their favorite songs, “New York, New York.” He threw his heart and soul into the performance, to the delight and applause of all those present.
His wife, society columnist and photographer Sara Davidovich, managed to take photographs and dance at the same time. One of the most popular figures in Jerusalem, Sara is a natural networker with a permanently positive outlook on life, and she was also busy introducing people to each other. Many guests specially crossed the room to greet her with hugs and kisses.
There were well-laden and diverse buffets all over the house, and two huge cauldrons on the electric stove in the open kitchen. National flags fluttered from the outdoor flagpoles and smaller versions were strung across the fence.
Inside there were strings of blue and white balloons. Among the guests was former Israel Bonds president Joshua Matza, a 13th-generation Jerusalemite of Greek ancestry, who served in the Knesset for 18 years and was a cabinet minister in the first Netanyahu-led government. Before that he was a longtime member of the capital’s city council, serving for 10 years as deputy mayor.
■ IT HAS become a tradition on the part of Standing Together, the International Young Israel Movement-Israel Region and the National Council of Young Israel to ensure that soldiers remaining on active duty during Independence Day do not entirely miss out on the festivities. The three organizations put together “Operation BBQ,” which involved 750 volunteers who visited 18 army bases throughout the country to deliver some 6,000 hot dogs, 3,000 burgers, salads, pitas, drinks and other refreshments to the soldiers.
“I now know what military logistics are all about,” said Standing Together director of development Miriam Gottlieb after she coordinated the operation, while Standing Together director David Landau served as the project’s point man with the army.
On a Golani base in the Golan Heights, the man on the scene was Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz of the Young Israel of Karmiel. He was joined by volunteers from Ra’anana in bringing cheer, inspiration, solidarity – and most importantly, lots of meat – to more than 200 soldiers. Grills were set up, and watermelons, pitas and homemade cookies were piled up on the tables. More than food was involved in the visit. The youth among the volunteers challenged the soldiers to American football, hockey and frisbee. Schwartz explained to the soldiers that many of their visitors were immigrants who never had the privilege of serving in the IDF, and that the barbecue was one of the ways in which they could express appreciation to the soldiers for what they are doing for national security.
Gottlieb brought her extended family and other community members from Ramat Beit Shemesh to a southern base near Tel Arad. Here, too, there were more than 200 soldiers who couldn’t believe their eyes as car after car rolled into the military compound. Elsewhere in the South, a group of 30 students studying in Israel on a one-year yeshiva program hired a bus to take them to a base on the Gaza-Egyptian border.
At one of the bases in the Center of the country, International Young Israel Movement president Ceec Harrishburg was joined by another 40 volunteers.
Despite the cold and the wind, the grills remained alight, and the volunteers kept barbecuing in order to have everything ready for the surprised, very hungry and very appreciative soldiers who, on all the bases, were very happy with the attention they received. The outpouring of food and affection was possibly most meaningful to Avi, a native of New York currently serving in the IDF. “It’s awesome to hear and see my fellow English-speaking immigrants show how important Yom Ha’atzmaut is to them by spending it with us. My family is in the States, but this group of volunteers reminded me that we are all family over here.”
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