Grapevine: Let them eat cake

The national conundrum these days is: Are we going to war in Gaza?

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN with David Saranga, the ambassador-designate to Romania (photo credit: PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON OFFICE)
PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN with David Saranga, the ambassador-designate to Romania
Generally speaking, especially in Israel, a wedding cake is a useless ornament. The bride and groom don’t always get around to cutting it – and sometimes they don’t even bother to take it home and store it in the freezer.
Among many non-Jews, it’s customary to store the wedding cake in the freezer and remove it to celebrate the first anniversary of the marriage. It’s hard to tell what newlyweds Korin Gideon and Hilli Surozkin will do with their six tiered wedding cake, which was created by celebrity pastry chef Dudu Otmazgin, who claims to have spent NIS 25,000 on the preparations.
Actually, he might not be exaggerating because the ingredients included 60 kilograms of orange flavored almonds. As is traditionally the case with wedding cakes, the cake is iced with white frosting. To give it some pizzazz, Otmazgin decorated it with a trellis of live flowers including ink blue roses.
AMONG THE great joys for many diplomats is to be re-assigned as ambassador to a country in which they served in a more junior diplomatic role early in their careers, or to be sent again as ambassador to a country in which they did good work.
Uruguay Ambassador Bernardo Greiver is on his second stint as ambassador to Israel. French Ambassador Helene Le Gal, served in Israel several years ago in a more junior capacity as did Germany’s ambassador-designate, Dr. Susanne Wassum-Rainer, who is due to present her credentials this week, but who already met with President Reuven Rivlin when he hosted a lunch for German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this month.
Going in the opposite direction, Rivlin last week signed the letter of credence of Israel’s ambassador-designate to Romania, David Saranga, who over the last four years has been the president’s foreign policy adviser. Saranga, who has also been an important factor in all of Rivlin’s trips abroad, will conclude his current term and take up his posting as ambassador in the beginning of 2019.
Rivlin thanked Saranga for his dedicated and professional service over the years, saying: “Saranga is an asset to the foreign service of the State of Israel and to the complex diplomacy that we deal with every day.”
The personable, multi-lingual Saranga, who incidentally speaks fluent Romanian and who is a mine of knowledge on many subjects, has often come to the president’s assistance during meetings with foreign dignitaries, when Rivlin has momentarily searched for a word in English or for the name of a central figure in a historic, diplomatic or political incident. Saranga is like a human computer, instantly coming up with the correct answer.
The one area in which the president has never needed help is football. Rivlin can reel off names, players and scores of local and international teams without even thinking.
THE NATIONAL conundrum these days is: Are we going to war in Gaza? Various political and military experts are saying yes or no. There are others who are saying that an escalation in retaliation is not necessarily war.
This is like the old story of the rabbi who gave everyone who came to him with a problem with someone else the answer that would satisfy them, saying to each “You are right.” When his wife pointed out the discrepancy, his response was: “You are also right.”
The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security will hold a conference on Sunday, October 21, at the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem on “Iran and Israel: the Confrontation.”  Dr. Eran Lerman, vice president of the institute is scheduled to speak there, and on the following day at 2 p.m. he will address the nearby Jerusalem Press Club on “Gaza: Understanding the underlying dynamics.”
A third-generation Sabra and an expert on Israel’s foreign relation and on the Middle East, Lerman was deputy director for foreign policy and international affairs at the National Security Council in the Prime Minister’s Office. He held senior posts in IDF Military Intelligence for more than 20 years and also served for eight years as director of the Israel and Middle East Office of the American Jewish Committee. He teaches in the Middle East Studies program at Shalem College in Jerusalem, and in post-graduate programs at Tel Aviv University and the National Defense College.
THERE WILL be considerable focus this week on the discussions at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, taking place in Tel Aviv rather than Jerusalem from October 22-24. The essential theme of the conference is dialogue with the aim of reducing the differences that exist between Israeli and American Jews on a variety of issues, but most significantly regarding the issues of conversion and religious pluralism.
Although there are Conservative and Reform congregations in Israel, they are not recognized by the Orthodox establishment, and certain conversions performed in the United States by qualified Orthodox rabbis are not recognized in Israel. This means the converts of such rabbis, even if they live a fully observant Jewish life style, are unable to migrate to Israel, because the Chief Rabbinate refuses to acknowledge their Jewish status.
The assembly is headlined “Israel and the Diaspora – We need to talk.”
To kick-start the discussion, some of the federation leaders, including Eric Goldstein, Erika Rudin-Luria and Shira Ruderman, will meet with Rivlin on the day prior to the event to air American Jewish grievances and to seek a viable solution. The conversation will be moderated by Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai.
On October 23, the Jerusalem-based Hartman Institute will lead a roundtable and havruta-style discussion on the topic “Home is where the Heart is.” The session will be moderated by Rabbi Dr. Shraga Bar-On, director of the David Hartman Center for Intellectual Excellence. In addition, more than two dozen Hartman-trained rabbis from the Beit Midrash for Israeli Rabbis as well as other Hartman teachers and scholars will facilitate small havruta-style gatherings for more intimate discussions.
ISRAEL’S AMBASSADOR to Portugal Raphael Gamzou and his wife, Michal Gamzou, hosted a cocktail reception at their residence to honor the Israel Friends of Beit Hatfutsot, who traveled to Lisbon and Porto to trace the footsteps of Portugal’s pre-Inquisition Jewish community.
Among the group were: Mati and Macabi Carasso, Ruti and Menachem Oren, Eti and Gad Propper, and Lolo and Ruti Assaf accompanied by their daughter Sari. Meir Ran, the CEO of Caspit, and Hanna Pri-Zan and Benny Pri-Zan. The group was led by Adi Akunis, CEO of the Israel Friends of Beit Hatfutsot and the museum’s director of external relations, along with Enia Zeevi Kupfer, who heads the Israel-Europe desk. Also present were art collectors, government officials and Catarina Marques De Almeida Vaz Pinto, who is a lawyer and the wife of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
ON ANOTHER aspect of relations between Israel and Portugal, the two countries have embarked on a wine twinning project under the auspices of the Portuguese Embassy and the Israel-Portugal Chamber of Commerce, which will host a by-invitation-only wine-tasting event on October 24.
The project was conceived by a group of six Israeli wine producers who have a common interest in boosting trade between Israel and Portugal.
Discussions on how to bring wine makers, lovers and tourists together were advanced at brain storming sessions during the visit to Israel of Wild Douro, a Portuguese Tourism Enterprise. Brain stormers included the president of the Israel-Portugal Chamber of Commerce and the economic section of the Embassy of Portugal in Tel Aviv.
In its wider comprehensive context, the project will involve the actual twinning of vineyards, rural tourism, and gastronomic collaboration. In the near future the project will also focus on the development and cooperation of research and study programs of vines and wines, conducted under the auspices of the Israeli and Portuguese ministries of tourism, agriculture and academic institutions. 
A GROWING trend amongst Jewish women around the world, as well as in Israel, is participation in a communal challah bake.
You don’t have to be religious to bake challah, and many non-religious women come away from the experience with a sense of spirituality they never felt before. It doesn’t make them suddenly decide to become religiously observant, but it does contribute to redefining one’s Jewish identity coupled with a feeling of belonging. It’s something that’s inexplicable, but it radiates positive vibes.
Women who have never baked challah, along with those who have been to at least one joint challah baking can join seasoned bakers, including Shoshi Goldberg, the wife of Rabbi Yisroel Goldberg, the director of Chabad Rehavia, in a mega challah bake on Wednesday, October 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Netzach Yisrael Synagogue, 22 Ibn Ezra Street, Jerusalem.
Participants should register in advance with Shoshi at 052 483 8770 or Nechama Fleischmann at 052 437 6544, or email [email protected]
DESPITE THE new abridged language used on social media, people are still reading books. Any bus or train passenger can vouch for the fact that several fellow passengers are reading books in any number of languages, many holding actual volumes in their hands, and others reading on a Kindle.
Every year for the past 10 years, Jerusalem orthodentist Debra Katz has held a charity book sale in her clinic with proceeds going to Melabev, which provides loving care for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The books are sold at NIS 10 each.
The sale was initiated by the young daughter of Katz’s friend Debby Mishaly, who wanted to participate in the Melabev fund-raising hike, but wanted to give sponsors something in return for their donations. Mother and daughter originally thought of a bake sale, but Katz suggested a book sale, and that’s what it’s been ever since.
It was at Mishaly’s home in the first year, but then moved to Katz’s home. In the interim books were collected in both homes, but the sale grew too big, and both husbands hated how the books had taken over every available space. So Katz moved the whole enterprise to her dental clinic at 19 Washington Street – which she closes for a full week, but treats emergency patients if necessary either in a back room or in a colleague’s clinic next door.
This year’s sale is on October 23, 24 and 25 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The clinic is accessible from Keren Hayesod Street and King David Street. The books for children and adults are in Hebrew and English and include fiction and non-fiction.
AT A modest ceremony overlooking the United Nations headquarters in New York, attorney, consultant, investor and developer in New York City, Edward A. Mermelstein was appointed president of ZAKA Search and Rescue USA.
The organization supports the work of the UN-recognized ZAKA International Rescue Unit, which not only offers a swift search, rescue and recovery response to mass casualty incidents around the globe, but also trains volunteers on a local basis to increase their community’s capabilities for crisis management before the arrival of international emergency forces.
Among those present at the ceremony were ZAKA chairman and founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, Israel Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon and ZAKA International Rescue Unit Chief Officer Mati Goldstein. A letter, signed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, commemorating the occasion and applauding the work of ZAKA in Israel and around the world was presented to Mermelstein.
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