Grapevine: Digital diary

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, together with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, is holding a conference at the Waldorf Astoria in advance of the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

ZAKA SUPPORTERS Stephan and Sydney Cohen of Miami. (photo credit: Courtesy)
ZAKA SUPPORTERS Stephan and Sydney Cohen of Miami.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
One would have thought that in a digital age in which it is fairly easy to maintain an events diary on the Internet, such a service would have long ago been implemented so as to avoid having dates that are crowded with events and others that are almost empty. For whatever reason, this has not happened, or if it has, it’s a well kept secret. This might account for the fact that two Jerusalem-headquartered organizations that cater to and attract more or less the same audience have major conferences scheduled for the same day – Tuesday, February 28.
The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, together with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, is holding a conference at the Waldorf Astoria in advance of the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, with speakers to include Prof. Andrew Roberts (Department of War Studies, King’s College, London), a founding member of the Friends of Israel Initiative; Col. Richard Kemp (former commander of British forces in Afghanistan who over the past few years has become an unofficial ambassador for Israel and the Jewish people); Prof. Julius H. Schoeps (director of the Moses Mendelsohn Centre of European Jewish Studies at Potsdam University); Prof. Ruth Lapidoth (Hebrew University expert in international law and Israel Prize recipient); Prof. Nicholas Rostow (Colgate University); Dr. Jacques Gauthier (international lawyer and scholar, and former legal counsel to the governments of France, Spain, Mexico and Canada); German Ambassador to Israel Clemens von Goetze; Daniel Taub (director of strategy and planning at the Yad Hanadiv Foundation in Jerusalem and former Israeli ambassador to Britain); retired IDF brigadier-general Yossi Kuperwasser (JCPA ); and Moshe Arens (former Israeli defense minister and foreign minister). It’s an impressive line-up.
On the same day at the Mount Zion Hotel, less than a 15-minute walk away, there will be an equally impressive line-up for the Jewish People Policy Institute’s two-day conference under the title “A Compass for a Prosperous Jewish Future.” Here, there is also an international component, and the list of speakers includes President Reuven Rivlin; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Supreme Court President Miriam Naor; Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky; JPPI president Avinoam Bar Yosef; JPPI co-chairman Ambassador Dennis Ross; JPPI board member and Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Elliott Abrams; Uzi Arad, head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) and chair of the Herzliya Conference, IDC; retired IDF major-general Amos Gilad, former director of policy for political and military affairs at the Defense Ministry; military strategist and historian Edward Luttwak; JPPI co-chairman Stuart Eizenstat; Prof. Shlomo Avineri, former director-general of the Foreign Ministry; JPPI senior fellow and former Canadian ambassador to Israel Vivian Bercovici; Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Dominique Moisi, co-founder and senior adviser of the Institut Francais des Relations Internationales; JPPI associate chairman Leonid Nevzlin; former US senator from Minnesota Norm Coleman; Shmuel Trigano, professor of religious and political sociology at Nanterre University in France); Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid; opposition leader and Zionist Union MK Isaac Herzog; Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai; Meretz MK Michal Rozin; and Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich.
For conference buffs, especially those who relish conferences devoted to any aspect of Jewish history, law or tradition, having to make choices on Tuesday could be very frustrating. On the other hand, there is a consolation (or perhaps more accurately, a compromise): Those who are really itching to go to both can go to the JCPA conference on Tuesday and to the JPPI conference on Wednesday. Sure, they’ll miss out on something, but better half than none. The latter conference will explore the social, political, economic and ideological shifts taking place in the western world that could shape the future of the Jewish people, and seeks to identify key trends and gauge their possible ramifications
■ AMERICAN JEWISH actress Marlee Matlin, who 30 years ago won an Oscar for best actress in a leading role for her stunning performance in the Children of a Lesser God, is as far as is known the only deaf film star to win the prestigious award. Now she’s won another award and will be coming to Jerusalem in June in order to receive it.
Matlin has been named recipient of the Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion, donated each year by the Ruderman Family Foundation. Aside from getting recognition for her work on behalf of people with disabilities and receiving a $100,000 check, Matlin will have the added excitement of making her first trip to Israel. The Rudermans have a home in Israel as well as in Boston, and have initiated several projects aimed at mainstreaming people with disabilities by coming up with new initiatives that enable them to integrate successfully into society.
The irony is that according to a study released by the Ruderman Foundation, 95% of the film roles in which the character has some form of disability are played by able-bodied actors. This anomaly was so shocking to the Rudermans that in order to combat it, their foundation recently launched the Ruderman TV Challenge, designed to reach television executives and content creators by calling on them to cast more actors with disabilities, an initiative to which Matlin has contributed a call-to-action video. After tracking and studying pilots picked up for production, the results will be released prior to the Emmys in September.
“Marlee Matlin is the embodiment of a force that has broken down barriers and changed perceptions of people with disabilities worldwide. Her long and celebrated career in Hollywood serves as a shining example of the value of including people with disabilities in our society,” said Jay Ruderman, president of the foundation. “I am very proud that she is the recipient of the Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion. We know that Marlee will continue to be a leading activist who will change reality and help build a more just and inclusive world.”
■ THERE SEEMS to be some kind of competition between supporters of ZAKA, the rapid rescue motorcycle unit, and United Hatzalah, the emergency first responders. Every few weeks, one or the other dedicates a new motorcycle (or “ambucycle,” as it’s known at United Hatzalah), sometimes several in one fell swoop. This week, it was ZAKA’s turn. Now operating for 16 years and responding to ever-growing needs, ZAKA also has a growing number of volunteers. Last week, it inaugurated the Sall Family Unit in a dedication ceremony at ZAKA headquarters in Jerusalem, with the addition of six new, fully equipped threewheel motorcycles.
The Sall Family Unit is named in memory of Dave Jerry Sall, who donated five new motorcycles to the volunteer search and rescue organization through the services of his attorney, Stephan Cohen, who was present at the dedication, coming from Miami for the occasion. Cohen was accompanied by his wife, Sydney, and the two could not resist trying out the new equipment. The Cohens brought with them their friends Malka and Jorge Mordutovich. The sixth motorcycle was donated by Melodie and Martin Scharf of Lawrence, New York.
Veteran ZAKA volunteer and paramedic Shmuli Grossman, who gratefully received the keys of the motorcycle presented by Sruli Jacobson on behalf of the Scharf family, noted that the ease and speed of negotiating city traffic on the bike saves lives. “Last Shabbat, I managed to reach someone within minutes of him losing consciousness,” Grossman said. “As a result, I was able to save his life.”
The donors’ representatives noted that it was they who should have been thanking the volunteer paramedic riders for being on call 24/7 to help save lives on the streets of Jerusalem and beyond.
The new three-wheel motorcycles offer greater safety features and carry all the necessary emergency medical equipment, including a defibrillator, allowing paramedics to arrive and offer assistance before the arrival of other emergency services.
■ SORRY, WE goofed. In last Sunday’s Grapevine, we gave the wrong venue in an announcement of the Sharon Players’ production of Sitting Pretty. Because there are so many Yad Lebanim facilities across the country, we unfortunately mentioned the wrong one for the first two performances, on March 22 and 23. They will be at Yad Lebanim in Tel Aviv, and not as previously stated. The Sharon Players have a large following in Tel Aviv, and after the previous announcement, they found themselves apologizing to anxious fans and assuring them that there was no need to worry, that there would indeed be performances in Tel Aviv. There’s also a switch in the credits: Frances Thaler is no longer part of the production and has been replaced by Vera Freudmann.
■ AS ONE of the most prominent figures in Israel’s Egyptian-Jewish community, Levana Zamir is well known to all those who fled or were expelled from Arab nations who nonetheless want to preserve the Jewish traditions and overall culture of those countries. As part of that preservation effort, Zamir wrote The Golden Era of the Jews of Egypt and the Mediterranean. The book was published by the University of Haifa in 2008, but this month was announced as the winner of the Prime Minister’s Prize, which this year is being awarded for academic research on Jews in Arab lands and Iran. When Zamir, the product of an affluent family that lost much of its wealth, wrote the book, it was not with the intention of winning a prize, but simply to preserve the memory of what used to be.