Grapevine: A three-letter word

The official Holocaust Remembrance Day on the 27th day of the Hebrew calendar month of Nisan

A memorial candle (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A memorial candle
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
In addition to International Holocaust Remembrance Day that was held last week, Israel has two other days on its calendar in which the victims of the Holocaust are remembered.
These days were observed long before the United Nations designated January 27.
One is the official Holocaust Remembrance Day on the 27th day of the Hebrew calendar month of Nisan; and the other is on the 10th day of the Hebrew calendar month of Tevet, when prayers are recited for people whose date of death and graves are unknown or who have no graves.
What is paramount to remember is that each of the victims of the Holocaust was a human being and important to parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. On Israel’s own Holocaust Remembrance Day, it is customary for well-known personalities to read out the names of those of their relatives who were murdered or who perished in the Holocaust, because in Jewish tradition every person has a name.
Phil Chernofsky, the Jerusalem-based educational director of the Orthodox Union, took this tradition one step further and conceived the book And Every Single One Was Someone.
The 1,250 page volume, other than title and credits, contains one three-letter word reprinted six million times. The word is “Jew.” The title page of the book has a section for dedications, which can be to the memory of loved ones or to honor the living.
It is no coincidence that the book was published by Gefen Publishing. Hana Greenfield, the mother of Gefen CEO Ilan Greenfield, was a Czech Holocaust survivor who wrote and spoke extensively about her traumatic Holocaust experiences and also established educational programs for Holocaust survivors and for youth, both at Yad Vashem and in the Czech Republic.
Ironically, when she died in 2014 at age 87, the date was January 27. During the Second World War, she was originally sent to Terezin and then to Auschwitz.
When United States President Barack Obama paid his historic visit to the Israel Embassy to attend the ceremony in which Righteous Gentiles who saved Jews were honored, Ambassador Ron Dermer decided to present him with a copy of the book, in which he wrote: Dear President Obama In appreciation of your historic visit to the Israeli Embassy in Washington on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I present you with this book, in which the word “Jew” is written 6,000,000 times.
I dedicated your copy to the memory of Maryla and Walery Zbijewski, Lois Gunden and Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, the four Righteous Among the Nations who we are honoring tonight. For them, a Jew was not a monotonous word that could be erased, but a precious soul that needed to be saved.
Thank you for making this night a worthy tribute to their heroism.
With Respect, Ambassador Ron Dermer ■ FOR THE Polish Embassy in Israel, anything that is Holocaust-related brings to mind the efforts of Jan Karski, the heroic emissary of the Polish government-in-exile who delivered a report to the Allies about the conditions to which Jews were subjected during the Nazi occupation of Poland. A Karski exhibition will go on view on Thursday, February 4, at the Western Galilee Academic College.
The opening of the exhibition will be followed by a lecture on Karski by Dr. Laurence Weinbaum, the director of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, which operates under the auspices of the World Jewish Congress.
Weinbaum was a student of Karski at Georgetown University in Washington.
The event is co-sponsored by The Polish Institute, the International Janusz Korczak Association and The Korczak Educational Institute in Israel. Korczak, whose real name was Henryk Goldszmit, was a Polish-Jewish educator, journalist, author and pediatrician who for several years was the director of a Jewish orphanage in Warsaw. Although he could have been saved, he opted to remain with the children in his care when they were deported to the Treblinka death camp.
IT SEEMS like yesterday that we were celebrating New Year’s Eve, and suddenly both International Women’s Day and Purim (which is essentially a women’s festival) are almost upon us. The theme of International Women’s Day this year is “Pledge for Parity,” meaning equal pay for equal work, and equal opportunity to rise to the top of the pyramid in the workplace.
In solidarity with these aims, the Ambassadors Club of Israel, headed by Yitzhak Eldan, a former chief of protocol of the Foreign Ministry, will host a special reception for female heads of foreign diplomatic missions on Tuesday, March 8, with a magician as one of the key attractions to symbolize how much magic is still needed to ensure universal parity.
The countries that have women as ambassadors, deputy chiefs of mission or charges d’affaires include Romania, Thailand, Cyprus, Malta, Moldova, Canada, Slovenia, Ireland,Finland, Estonia, Panama, Bosnia Herzegovina and Nigeria.
■ MOLDOVA’S AMBASSADOR Gabriela Moraru was among five ambassadors who this week presented their credentials to President Reuven Rivlin. The others were Gilles Beschoor Plug of the Netherlands, who has a wealth of Middle East experience, but with whom Rivlin also discussed soccer; Martin Weiss of Austria; Esteban Penrod Padilla of Costa Rica; and Cao Tran Quoc Hai of Vietnam.
Afterward, as is customary on such occasions, the new envoys gathered at the historic King David Hotel in Jerusalem for the traditional vin d’honneur at which the diplomatic community as well as some leading industrialists, academics and lawmakers welcome the newcomers and give them an opportunity to network with people who have some relationship to the countries that they represent.
Among the people who specifically came for Moraru were Romanian Ambassador Andreea Pastarnac, former minister for immigrant absorption Sofa Landver, recently appointed Honorary Consul for Moldova Maron Mano and of course former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, who was born in Moldova, and who engaged in a long tête-à-tête with Moraru.
Liberman also chatted with Meron Reuben, who a few months ago took up his duties as chief of protocol at the Foreign Ministry, and asked him how he had settled into the position.
It was obvious that Liberman still takes an interest in what goes on at the ministry. In fact, domestic politics aside, many Foreign Ministry employees thought that Liberman was a good, approachable boss, and some of them actually miss him.
■ WHILE POLITICAL leaders in Israel and the Palestinian Authority have no trust in each other, and extremists on both sides are fanning the flames of hatred and incitement, interfaith and other peace-seeking organizations are forging paths of mutual understanding, respect and friendship.
One such organization is TRUST WIN, an interfaith women’s group (headed by Jerusalemite Elana Rozenman, who is Jewish), which focuses on bringing women of different faiths together to help overcome their differences and to heal hostilities.
Together with Ibtisam Mahamid and Siham Halabi, Rozenman has organized a Women’s interfaith event within the framework of World Harmony Week. On Thursday, February 4, Christian, Druse, Jewish and Muslim women will travel to Tiberias to visit Nabi Shuaib, shrine of Prophet Jethro, father-in-law of Moses – revered as a prophet in the Druse religion and Islam. A Druse sheikh will explain the significance and tradition of the holy site.
Blessings and prayers from all the religions will be offered for peace and harmony, and participants will share a meal.
They will also visit the nearby ancient therapeutic hot springs to relax and bond together in an effort to overcome the fears generated by the current wave of religious violence that has gripped the country. Long-term members of TRUST WIN believe that such get-togethers lead to healing and the strengthening and expansion of their interfaith sisterhood.
■ IN THE dim and increasingly distant past when The Jerusalem Post was headquartered in Romema in what had previously been the Tnuva chicken warehouse, three particular journalists and editors shared a room. Saul Singer, the co-author of the international best-seller Start-up Nation was the op-ed editor.
Elliot Jager was his deputy, and also spent some time as the features editor. Judy Montagu was the letters editor, but also wrote a column. All three left the employ of the paper, although Montagu continues to write an enormously popular fortnightly column, and Jager makes an occasional contribution to the paper.
But the three of them will come together again this coming Monday, February 8, at the Kehillat Moreshet Avraham synagogue in Jerusalem’s East Talpiot neighborhood for the Jerusalem launch of Jager’s book The Pater: My Father, My Judaism, My Childlessness. Jager and Singer will engage in dialogue after being introduced to the public by Montagu. Prior to the dialogue, there will be jazz and book signing from 6:30 p.m. onward. The dialogue is supposed to start promptly at 7:20 p.m.
Jager is convinced that punctuality will be the order of the evening, but if he’s that optimistic, he seems to be overlooking the fact that he’s Jewish and in Jerusalem. Other than for candlelighting before Shabbat, Jews are not particularly noted for punctuality, and punctuality in Jerusalem is a joke. But there’s always the exception to the rule.
As is the case with almost every book launch, the book has already been very favorably reviewed, including by people of American, British and South African backgrounds.
Yet despite their differences they were unanimous in commending Jager’s intellectual and emotional honesty, his humor, his acceptance, his sense of humor and his writing talent.
A London launch of the book is scheduled for later this month, and anyone who happens to be in London on February 21 can catch Jager in conversation with Guardian writer Simon Hattenstone at Jewish Book Week.
There will also be a Ra’anana launch in March.
■ PRIZE-WINNING actress Ayelet Zurer, who is appearing in the eye-opening television series Shtisel, which presents an interesting perspective of haredi life in Jerusalem, is also a model, who for the past five seasons has been the presenter for Golbary, commuting from California where she lives, for photo shoots and gala fashion shows.
At age 46, Zurer is not a spring chicken, but then again, many top-ranking fashion companies around the world are using more mature models because they realize that middle-aged women are maintaining their looks and their figures and, perhaps equally if not more important, they’re the ones with money to spend on clothes.
Zurer was supposed to do a photo shoot and appear in Golbary’s gala show this month to promote the company’s spring/summer collection. A film commitment for Ben Hur, plus the need to undergo surgery, made it impossible for her to be in Israel on the date that Golbary planned the show, and she asked for it to be deferred to March, which was actually too late for any fashion company that wanted to be in the forefront of the new season’s collections. The company was unwilling to delay and asked Zurer to supply a list of models who she thought might replace her.
She did so, but once the surgery was successful and she was able to juggle her commitments, she was willing to come to Israel.
But Moshe Golbary, the company’s CEO, had other ideas. He told Zurer’s agent that she didn’t look so good any more and that the company was not interested in continuing with her services. The implication was that she was too old, and that her age was showing.
The callous attitude was like a knife in Zurer’s heart. She was also worried about repercussions in her career as an actress, and had her agent distribute a candid photograph that had not been touched up by a photo shop to prove that she still looks great.
However, Golbary is now changing direction.
From a company that created mainly classic styles to suit women of any age, it is now interested in courting a younger clientele and as its new presenter picked Esti Ginzburg, who is just over 20 years younger than Zurer.
Modeling is a cutthroat as distinct from cut cloth business in which Cinderellas can overnight become the queen of the ball, and can just as rapidly fall from grace. Some people just move on to something else, but Zurer is not taking her dismissal lightly and, because there were a couple of ironclad clauses in her contract with Golbary, is taking the matter to court.
For someone in her income bracket, the sum of money involved is negligible, but she may discover to her cost that pride does indeed go before a fall, and in trying to salvage her pride, she may instead wind up with a double barrage of humiliation.
■ WHEN IT was the Wailing Wall before it became the Western Wall, there was no fence separating male and female worshipers. Old photographs taken during the period of Ottoman rule and later during the British Mandate show men and women together at the Wall, and in those photos in which there is separate- gender congregation, they were nonetheless together in the sense that there were no barriers between them.
It should be remembered that when Jerusalem was reunited during the Six Day War, it was a secular Paratroop Brigade commander by the name of Mordechai (Motta) Gur who declared triumphantly, “The Temple Mount is in our hands.” Since then, the haredim have done their utmost to take it out of Zionist hands, this despite the fact that soldiers who have not evaded army duty are inducted in IDF ceremonies at the Western Wall. Similarly, on Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars, conducted annually on the evening before Independence Day, the ceremony, with the participation of families of soldiers who gave their lives when fighting for Israel, is conducted at the Western Wall. No one questions whether the soldiers were Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, agnostic or atheist. Or for that matter, no one asks whether the parents are Jewish. Whatever their backgrounds, they are united in common loss and in pride of the loved one whose image remains engraved on their hearts.
■ FOR THE second time in just under a month, Rivlin will preside over the appointments ceremony of new judges. In mid-January, there were 22 new appointees, and on Thursday of this week, he will again be joined by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Supreme Court president Miriam Naor as well as National Labor Court president Yigal Plitman at a ceremony for another 22 judges and senior registrars, including three District Court judges, three Labor Court judges, nine Magistrate’s Court judges, four Traffic Court judges, and three senior magistrates.
It’s not certain whether the date for tomorrow’s ceremony was chosen as a matter of convenience or because it falls between the weekly Torah readings of Yitro and Mishpatim and therefore assumes a more symbolic character.
Earlier in the week, Rivlin attended the attorney- general changing of the guard at the Jerusalem Bar Association, which is back-to-back with the President’s Residence. Several of the predecessors of outgoing Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein became Supreme Court judges – among them Haim Cohn, Meir Shamgar, Aharon Barak, Yitzhak Zamir, Elyakim Rubinstein and Menachem Mazuz.
At 71, almost 72, Weinstein is too old to become a Supreme Court judge, as mandatory retirement age for judges is 70. He may decide to retire altogether, or he may resume his law practice. Prior to becoming attorney- general, Weinstein was a very successful criminal defense lawyer, whose clients included Ezer Weizman, Aryeh Deri, Ehud Olmert, Yossi Beilin and Benjamin Netanyahu. The prime minister may require his services again.
■ NEXT WEEK, on February 11, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky will celebrate the 30th anniversary of his arrival in Israel. Many refuseniks and Prisoners of Zion who were prominent figures in the Soviet Union and household names in Jewish communities around the globe in the common struggle to permit Jewish emigration from the USSR faded into relative or almost total obscurity once they were in the free world. But Sharansky, who was released from prison in Siberia on February 11, 1986, and arrived in Israel on the same date and was greeted at the airport by Shimon Peres who was then prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, who was then foreign minister, along with other members of the government and various dignitaries, demonstrated instant leadership when he grabbed Peres with one hand and Shamir with the other and literally steered them across the tarmac instead of them steering him. This past January 20, he celebrated his 68th birthday.
■ TO MARK the 100th anniversary year of Shamir’s birth, the Begin Heritage Center, which is custodian of the Shamir archives, has a comprehensive exhibition of the signposts in the life of Shamir. The archive was presented to the Begin Center by Shamir’s family following his death at age 96 in June 2012. According to Herzl Makov, the executive director of the Begin Center, Shamir, who was Israel’s seventh prime minister, was an extremely modest man who always put his country’s interests above his own, and was ready to do whatever was required for the good of the country. Not enough is generally known about Shamir, but his devotion to duty is in Makov’s perception inspirational, and in today’s political climate the exhibition delivers an important message.
■ DESPITE GIVING the nation and his admirers worldwide a scare during two instances of hospitalization in January, Peres has returned to business as usual, having stricken the word “retirement” from his lexicon. The 92-year-old Peres will on February 3 host a ceremony at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa in celebration of Chinese New Year. Joining Peres to welcome the Year of the Monkey will be Chinese Ambassador Zhan Yongxin.
Peres, who is a poet whose works have been set to music, wrote a poem called “Chinese Melody.” This poem has also been set to music by Kobi Oshrat, who has turned several of Peres’s poems into songs and has been videotaped with the song being sung by a Chinese girl and a 12-year-old Israeli girl. The video will be streamed to China by way of Peres’s New Year greeting to the Chinese people.
Both Peres and the Chinese ambassador will speak at the ceremony, and there will also be a violin recital by two Chinese violinists.
Peres has a long history of good relations with China, where he has visited several times in different capacities – twice as Israel’s ninth president. He was there for the opening of the Olympic Games in 2008, and he was there again in 2014, during which time he opened an account with Weibo, which is China’s answer to Facebook, and almost immediately got 50 million likes. During the latter visit, he held extensive talks with President Xi Jinping.
Peres has been a keen advocate for the enhancement of relations with China, and prior to taking up his position as president of the state was for just over a decade the honorary president of the Council for the Promotion of Israel-China Relations.
■ PERES IS not the only young nonagenarian.
Another is Moshe Arens, an MIT alumnus with a degree in engineering plus a degree in aeronautical engineering from the California Institute of Technology, where he studied under the famous Chinese rocket scientist Qian Xuesen. A winner of the Israel Defense Prize, a former vice president of Israel Aircraft Industries, an emeritus professor of the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology, a former Knesset member, a former foreign minister, a former defense minister, a former Israel ambassador to the United States, an author, a newspaper columnist and chairman of the International Board of Ariel University and of course a much-in-demand public speaker, Arens frequently commutes from his home in Savyon to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ariel, Herzliya and elsewhere.
On Wednesday he will be speaking at a luncheon meeting of the Jerusalem Rotary Club, and his subject will be not China – even though as defense minister he visited China in 1991 – but the future of the Lavi jet fighter which he helped to design.
■ FORMER LITHUANIAN ambassador to Israel Darius Degutis maintains many of the contacts he made here, and he is also the best promoter for the writings of his wife, Nida, whose book A Taste of Israel is a winner in South Africa in the Best Jewish Cuisine Book category of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. “We’re holding thumbs that the book will be shortlisted in the next stage of the competition!” wrote Degutis in an email sent to Israel.
Degutis, who was concurrently his country’s ambassador to South Africa, also expressed appreciation “to all friends in South Africa who helped to promote this wonderful book! Without your help and assistance this remarkable achievement would not have ever been possible.”
Nida Degutis was notified of the win by Madrid-based Edouard Cointreau, the president of Gourmand Awards, who informed her that the winner in each country competes against winners in the same category from other countries for “The Best in the World.” The results will be announced on May 28 at the awards gala to be held during the Grapes of the Sea Festival in Yantai in China.