Grapevine July 3, 2020: Positive/negative

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

HUNGARIAN LASZLO SOMOGYI conducts the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at a concert in Tel Aviv in 1957. (photo credit: GPO)
HUNGARIAN LASZLO SOMOGYI conducts the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at a concert in Tel Aviv in 1957.
(photo credit: GPO)
Around the same time that American multi-millionaire and philanthropist Spencer Partrich met Benjamin Netanyahu some 20 years ago, he also met David Rubinger, one of Israel’s leading photojournalists. Rubinger was occasionally asked by his editors at Time and Life magazines and by other sources to find historic photographs that had been taken by other photojournalists.
In 1999, Rubinger was asked by Time-Life to locate the original photograph taken at Sharon Beach in Herzliya in September 1957, of David Ben-Gurion standing on his head. The photographer was Budapest-born Paul Goldman, who together with his wife, Dina, had fled from Hungary in 1940 and somehow managed to gain entry into what was then Palestine. He worked as a freelance photographer, documenting the many aspects of the country’s evolution into a Jewish state, and afterwards the development of that state from almost every possible perspective.
He wrote meticulous notes about where and when he had taken each photograph.
The Goldmans lived in a small apartment in Kfar Saba, where all the tens of thousands of negatives were stored in boxes. When Goldman died at age 86 in November 1956, it was on a date most fitting to his professional history: November 29, the anniversary of the United Nations vote on the partition of Palestine.
Following Goldman’s death, his only daughter, Medina Goldman-Ortsman, took the crates of negatives and stored them in kitchen cabinets in her own apartment where they remained untouched until Rubinger found his way to her in his quest for the original negative of Ben Gurion doing a headstand.
In searching through the boxes, Rubinger realized that he had discovered an historical treasure trove. By that time, he had already met Partrich who is an avid collector of art and historically significant photographs. Partrich needed very little convincing. In 2001, he purchased the whole of Goldman’s photographic legacy from Goldman’s daughter, sight unseen.
He trusted Rubinger sufficiently to believe in the importance of this collection. The negatives were subsequently sent to a Jerusalem laboratory for restoration. Rubinger remained involved in the project and arranged for a posthumous Paul Goldman exhibition at the Eretz Israel Museum. Partrich came to Israel for the opening. The exhibition was considered so historically valuable that it became a traveling exhibition that was shown in various American states and in Europe. Partrich is also a keen supporter of the Friends of the IDF and of the Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Partrich was honored by the Friends of the IDF at a gala dinner in Michigan in November 2015, that was attended by more than 1,000 people.
In a video message to the participants, Netanya commended the FIDF “For honoring a very special individual, my close friend and a committed, dedicated Jew, Spencer M. Partrich.”
■ EVEN BEFORE the US ambassador’s residence in Herzliya Pituah went on the market, presidential hopeful Joe Biden let it be known that he would not move the US Embassy back to Tel Aviv in the event that he becomes the next occupant of the White House. When Globes, the Israeli financial publication broke the story of the sale on Tuesday, it surmised, “Because of the state of the house’s interior, any buyer would be likely to demolish the home and rebuild.”
That is almost a given in Herzliya Pituah, even when a property is less than five years old. It’s more than just a matter of location.
Whether or not this particular property will be destroyed or renovated depends on the buyer. If it’s a person who values history and is aware of the identities of some of the ambassadors who lived there, renovation will take priority over destruction. If it’s someone who is just interested in the size of the property, then unfortunately, it is likely to be demolished and some grandiose palace built in its stead.
The extent of the lawns at the back of the building certainly allows for expanded construction. Of more than a dozen US ambassadors who have lived in the luxurious home, four have been Jewish. The first, in 1995, was Martin Indyk, who was born in England, raised in Australia, migrated to the US in 1982 and became a US citizen in 1993. Indyk, who is the only foreign-born US ambassador to serve in Israel, returned for a short second stint in 2000.
Indyk was followed by Dan Kurtzer in 2001, Dan Shapiro in 2011, and the present incumbent David Friedman in 2017. One of the most popular of US ambassadors who lived in the residence in Herzliya was the late Sam Lewis, who was the first US ambassador to serve in Israel during a Likud administration. He had the second longest tenure of any US ambassador to Israel after Walworth Barbour, and was involved in brokering the negotiations of the Israel-Egypt Camp David Accords.
Lewis, whose first ambassadorial posting was in Israel (as were those of Indyk, Shapiro and Friedman), had a remarkably close relationship with Menachem Begin. Lewis and his wife, Sallie, made many friends in Israel, and over the years returned for conferences or just to visit and catch up.
Apropos the residence, it was in the cards that once the embassy move became a reality, Friedman would take up residence in Jerusalem in the former consular building opposite Independence Park. Even before the official unveiling of the new embassy building in the capital, an Israel Foreign Ministry official remarked that Friedman’s next goal was to take over the consular building. The ambassador is obviously a man who gets what he wants.
Getting back to Indyk, birthday greetings are in order. He turned 69 on July 1. Dan Shapiro will celebrate his 51st birthday on August 1.
■ ANOTHER JULY 1 birthday is that of Polish born art collector and philanthropist Sigmunt Rolat, who arguably has received more awards and decorations from Poland than any other member of the Jewish faith.
Though raised in Czestochowa, the most Catholic city in the world outside of Rome, in one of the most Catholic countries in the world, Rolat, a Holocaust survivor who turned 90 this week, had a happy childhood in a Jewish environment. After making his fortune in the United States, Rolat was determined to revive and preserve the memory of Jewish life in Poland in general and in Czestochowa in particular by becoming personally involved and contributing financially to Jewish culture projects in Poland.
Rolat has also made it a practice to attend reunions in Czestochowa of the group Czestochowa Jews and their Descendants to tell them about his wartime experiences and about what Czestochowa was like before the war.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions and precautions, the sixth reunion of Czestochowa Jews and their Descendants, which was scheduled for October this year, has been postponed to October 2021, to be held, as always, in conjunction with annual Huberman Festival.
Bronislaw Huberman, the violin virtuoso who founded the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, was born in Czestochowa, and each year the Czestochowa Philharmonic Orchestra holds a Huberman Festival in the Huberman Philharmonic Hall that was erected on the site of the New Synagogue that was destroyed by the Nazis.
At the third reunion in 2009, Rolat brought renowned violinist Joshua Bell to Czestochowa to perform a Brahms violin concerto on the Stradivarius violin on which Huberman had performed it as a boy wonder in 1896 in the presence of the composer. In 1936, when Huberman performed at Carnegie Hall to raise money for the Palestine Symphony Orchestra, which was the forerunner of the IPO, someone stole the violin from his dressing room. The violin was not recovered during his lifetime, but it was played on for 50 years by Julian Allman, who on his deathbed confessed to his wife that this was Huberman’s violin.
She returned it to Lloyds of London, which had insured it, and it was then transferred for restoration to J&A Beare Ltd. It was later sold to violinist Norman Brainin. After his death, it was again sent to J&A Beare. In 2001, it was in the process of being sold to a wealthy German industrialist when Bell fortuitously entered the Beare store to purchase some violin strings, and saw the Stradivarius on which he had been permitted to play a few notes. He was determined to become its next owner and purchased it immediately.
He has been playing Huberman’s violin at all his concerts ever since.