Grapevine: Happy 80th birthday, Cantor Chaim Adler

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin with US ambassador to the UN Daniel Patrick Moynihan in NYC in 1976. (photo credit: YAACOV SAAR/GPO)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin with US ambassador to the UN Daniel Patrick Moynihan in NYC in 1976.
(photo credit: YAACOV SAAR/GPO)
Depleted congregations are to be expected in most synagogues after the holidays – certainly after Simhat Torah, which attracts many more people than regular Sabbath services. One of the exceptions will be Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue, which is dedicating the first Bible reading from the Book of Genesis to Chief Cantor Chaim Adler and his wife, Shoshana. Adler who is celebrating his 80th birthday and who is retiring from professional life, will remain Chief Cantor Emeritus. He may occasionally lead services in the future, but certainly not on a regular basis. He is not the only member of his family with a wonderful singing voice, and rumor has it that one or two others may raise their voices during Sabbath services at the Great Synagogue this weekend.
■ ALTHOUGH THE Philippines was the only Asian nation that was among the 33 nations that voted in favor of UN Resolution 181 that paved the way for the establishment of the State of Israel, and before that was one of the few countries in the world that opened its gates to Jews fleeing from Nazi Germany, neither the country nor its people have received the appreciation they deserve. Filipino ambassadors to Israel struggled for years to have Yad Vashem recognize the noble gesture of President Manuel Quezon, who not only provided a haven for 1,300 European Jewish refugees, but also gave them land. He was willing to take in more refugees, but for various reasons, they did not come. Today, Filipinos, more than any other foreign workers, care for Israel’s sick and aged population as well as for children born with physical and/or mental disabilities, yet Israel deports children born in this country to Filipino mothers. Rather than urge all Filipino workers in Israel to go on strike, Philippine Ambassador Neal Imperial is hosting a series of events to show Israelis the meaning of true humanity and friendship. Next week, he will inaugurate Balai Quezon (Quezon House) at the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv with the participation of Ernesto C. Abella, Philippine undersecretary for strategic communications and research at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Balai Quezon will serve to promote greater awareness of the saga, history, and meaning of President Manuel L. Quezon’s open door policy. It will also serve as a repository of research, memorabilia, documents, books, films, and art related to the Philippine-Jewish sanctuary narrative. Prior to the opening of Balai Quezon, there will be a film premiere of Matthew Rosen’s film, Quezon’s Game, which highlights the story of Quezon’s humanitarian efforts. Abella will also be among the speakers prior to the screening.
■ OF ALL the former US ambassadors to the United Nations, none have been so dearly loved and admired by the Jewish people and the State of Israel as Patrick Moynihan and Nikki Haley. Moynihan has been duly commemorated in Israel and the US, and Haley is about to be honored by World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, who, on November 6, at a ceremony in New York will confer on Haley the WJC’s annual Theodor Herzl Award, which recognizes outstanding individuals who work to promote Herzl’s ideals for a safer and more tolerant world for the Jewish people. Four years ago, the WJC established the Teddy Kollek Award for the Advancement of Jewish Culture in memory of Jerusalem’s legendary mayor Teddy Kollek, whose great achievements include the Israel Museum, which is widely recognized as one of the finest museums in the world.
In relation to Haley, Lauder said: “In my years of service in the diplomatic world and as president of the World Jewish Congress, I have met many heads of state, dignitaries, and ambassadors who have worked diligently in support of Israel and defended it across the international stage. Throughout her tenure, US Ambassador to the UN, H.E. Nikki Haley, proved to be a giant in this realm, exemplifying this country’s unwavering friendship for Israel and commitment to world Jewry, relentlessly calling out the biases and double standards that pervade in the United Nations and its bodies and demanding action. As Ambassador Haley proclaimed in her first days in the position, a new day has dawned indeed at the UN. Thanks to Ambassador Haley, and her allies, the international community is waking up.”
Lauder also said that he was delighted to present the fourth Teddy Kollek Award to Joel Grey, “one of the greatest Jewish entertainers of our time, who has embraced our collective heritage and culture in his work, propelling Yiddish theater and Jewish issues to the forefront of popular discussion. It is a privilege and an honor to welcome Mr. Grey to the family of distinguished laureates of this award.”
■ HUNGARIAN AMBASSADOR Levente Benko and his wife, Andrea Weiszer, hosted a reception marking the 63rd anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, which was a nationwide uprising by the Hungarian people against the government of the Hungarian People’s Republic and policies imposed by the Soviet Union. The event came at the tail end of the Hungarian year of culture in Israel and was held at Federation Hall at Tel Aviv Port, where there was a marvelous multi-disciplined Hungarian design exhibition, plus a display of black and white photographs taken in Israel by celebrated Hungarian photographer Robert Capa during the period 1948-1950. The photos showing immigrants from the East and the West depict Jewish hope, Jewish suffering, Jewish faith and Jewish labor, with a particular focus on Kibbutz Negba, which suffered an Egyptian assault. Benko said that cooperation between Hungary and Israel had reached unprecedented heights.
Education Minister Rafi Peretz, who acquitted himself very well in English, stumbling momentarily over only one word, in referring to the trade office that Hungary opened in Jerusalem earlier this year, said that he hoped it was a first step toward moving the embassy to Israel’s capital. He also expressed Israel’s appreciation for the many times that Hungary has come to Israel’s support at international forums.
■ IN HIS Knesset profile, Tourism Minister and Immigration and Absorption Minister Yariv Levin lists Arabic and English as the foreign languages in which he is proficient. Actually, his proficiency extends to Spanish, in which he is quite fluent – so much so that at the Spanish National Day ceremony at the Rabin Center, hosted by Ambassador Manuel Gomez-Acebo and his wife, Maria J. Ortin, Levin, who was representing the government of Israel, delivered his speech in Spanish. This is not the first time he has done so. He also proved his proficiency in Spanish when addressing guests at a reception marking the combined independence days of countries in Central America, but he also remembered that the most common language among the guests was English. This apparently slipped his mind this week. His address was easily twice as long as that of the ambassador, and annoyed many of those among the hundreds present, who do not understand Spanish.
However, those who are familiar with Spanish appreciated his remarks about how much Israel is inspired by Spanish culture and Spanish soccer.
In the cultural context, Levin mentioned the great Jewish scholars and philosophers who lived in Spain, such as Maimonides, Solomon ibn Gabirol and Abraham ibn Ezra.
Levin also voiced praise for Spain’s democracy, and said there was cooperation between Spain and Israel on many levels, but especially in the fight against terrorism.
Gomez-Acebo noted that since the passing of legislation in October, 2015 that afforded Spanish citizenship to proven descendants of Jews expelled during the period of the Spanish Inquisition, there had been more than 132,000 applications.
The law was for a limited period, which has now concluded. Close to half of the applications were received last month and still have to be processed. The oldest applicant, was an Israeli by the name of Dr. Mordechai Ben Ami, whose age was not stated, but his appearance indicated that he was of a very advanced age. The ambassador said that he had great pleasure in giving Ben Ami his Spanish passport. It was an historic moment, but Ben Ami took it in his stride, mounted the stage, accepted his restored citizenship, descended the stage and popped the passport into his breast pocket without even a cursory glance at it before he put it away.
It is difficult for any European ambassador to Israel to refrain from mentioning antisemitism when hosting a public event, and this was no exception.
Gomez-Acebo said that Spain has taken a very firm stance against antisemitism and adopted a criminal code for the prosecution of hate crimes. Holocaust studies are part of the curriculum in Spanish schools and 500 Spanish teachers have taken courses at Yad Vashem.
He also said that Spanish representatives of the highest level would be attending the International Holocaust Remembrance forum that will convene at Yad Vashem in January 2020 to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and to discuss current problems of racism and antisemitism that are plaguing the world.
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