Grapevine March 13, 2020: The other C-word

As of Thursday of this week, the Cameri, Beit Lessin and Habimah theaters suspended performances until further notice, and earlier in the week, several schools closed down temporarily.

CALMING INFLUENCE – former MK Nahman Shai. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
CALMING INFLUENCE – former MK Nahman Shai.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
There is just so much that people are prepared to do in terms of sacrificing their comforts and pleasures for the sake of health. While Israelis in general can be commended for adhering to the guidelines of the prime minister and the Health Ministry, there are those who believe the Health Ministry went overboard with its precautions against the spread of the coronavirus.
One such person is former Health Ministry director-general Prof. Yoram Lass, who has been widely interviewed with regard to his opposition to Health Ministry measures.
Lass underscores that in Israel, less than 100 people in a population of approximately nine million have actually been diagnosed with coronavirus. Whereas in the past, he noted, many more people were diagnosed with severe influenza, which is similar to coronavirus, but no one made the fuss that is being made of coronavirus, or imposed such severe restrictions such as virtually closing down the country, deflating the economy, putting tens of thousands of people out of work and making it impossible for them to meet essential expenses such as mortgage payments and electricity bills, not to mention food.
Aside from all the above, people have had to cancel, or significantly reduce major events. In New York, for the first time in 258 years, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been canceled. In Israel, following instructions to limit attendance at Bar mitzvahs and weddings to 100 people, singer Eyal Golan and his bride, Daniel Greenberg, who had planned a mega-wedding at the David Continental Hotel in Tel Aviv on Thursday, on the day before the nuptials, published a notice to the effect that out of respect for the prime minister’s request to reduce the number of participants at such events, they would have a ceremony in accordance with the laws of Moses and of Israel with only 100 people present. They added that they accepted the prime minister’s decision with love, and wished good health to the whole of Israel.
Similarly, Jerusalem Post photographer Marc Israel Sellem and his fiancée, Techiya Rachel Wilk, had to disinvite most of the people who they wanted to join them in celebrating their upcoming wedding, and to relocate the event to smaller premises.
As of Thursday of this week, the Cameri, Beit Lessin and Habimah theaters suspended performances until further notice, and earlier in the week, several schools closed down temporarily.
Former Miss Israel Titi Aynaw was all set to fly to the US this week for a speaking tour, when informed at the eleventh hour that all the engagements had been canceled due to cautions about coronavirus.
Former Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau was scheduled to be a Shabbat guest of honor this weekend at the Park East Synagogue in New York, but due to the 14-day period of isolation he would have to undertake on his return to Israel, he decided not to go.
Nonetheless, this coming Saturday, there will be a prominent Israeli among the Park East congregants. Israel’s Consul General in New York Dani Dayan will deliver congratulatory messages from President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who have sent good wishes to Rabbi Arthur Schneier on the occasion of his 90th birthday. Renowned Israeli Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot will lead the service. A somewhat larger celebration of Schneier’s birthday, which was scheduled for Sunday, has been postponed out of consideration for the health and well-being of the invitees, given the spread of coronavirus in New York.
Schneier, who is a human rights activist, has led the Park East congregation for 50 years.
■ LONG BEFORE the US Embassy moved to Jerusalem where Ambassador David Friedman last year hosted the Fourth of July celebrations, the Haifa-headquartered Baha’i International Community held its Naw-Ruz New Year festival in Jerusalem. Naw-Ruz always falls in March, and this year’s celebration was scheduled for March 24. It was also special in that it gave those people who have not yet met him an opportunity to meet the relatively new BIC Secretary-General David Rutstein. But on Wednesday of this week, a BIC notice went out informing invitees that in light of the current public health advice from the Israel authorities, the reception had been canceled.
■ THANKFULLY, MOST people went ahead with Purim feasts, where guests were largely limited to the number of people who could fit around the dining room table, which was a lot less than a hundred. Novelist and Jerusalem Post columnist Barbara Sofer and her husband, internationally renowned physicist, author and lecturer Gerald (Yaakov) Schroeder, have a Purim feast every year with mostly the same 20-30 people, plus one or two couples and an individual or two, who have not been before. They also put up an extra table for children and unexpected guests who might wander in. Careful not to shake hands with their guests, they greeted them by knocking elbows. One of their guests, Dorraine Gilbert Weiss, who doesn’t like the knocking of elbows, prefers a boogie-woogie greeting whereby she swings her hip in the direction of the other person’s hip. It could be a lot of fun if it was reciprocal.
Several of those present wore fancy costumes. Some have chosen the same outfits year after year. A notable exception was Diane Schneider, formerly of Washington, then of Jerusalem and now of Nahariya. For years, Schneider wore an Israel Army uniform on Purim, even though she had never served in the IDF. But this year, her first Purim since moving to Nahariya, she felt it inappropriate to wear an IDF uniform on the train from Nahariya to Jerusalem, and she searched Amazon to find something near enough to but not the same. Fortunately, Amazon was offering Rosie the Riveter costumes.
For readers who may be unaware, Rosie the Riveter became an iconic figure in America during the Second World War, when men were called to serve in the armed forces and women replaced them in the work force. Muscle-flexing Rosie the Riveter, dressed in work overalls, was the woman featured in a national advertising campaign aimed at recruiting more women to do the jobs of absent men.
For many years, no one knew the identity of the woman who had inspired the artist who painted the campaign poster.
Over the years, a series of women were credited with being the face behind the creation of Rosie the Riveter, based on a song of the same name released in 1943. Among them were a factory worker named Rosie Bonavitas; another named Veronica Foster; then Rosalind P. Walter, who was not from a working-class family, but decided to set an example for affluent society women.
Others included Rose Will Monroe, and former California waitress Naomi Parker Fraley, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 96. Her family insisted that she was the real Rosie the Riveter, and showed photographs of her in her wartime job to prove it. But when prominent philanthropist Rosalind P. Walter died in New York this month, aged 95, the media obituaries hailed her as the real Rosie the Riveter.
The wartime poster was adopted as a parity symbol by the feminist movement in America.
For Diane Schneider, who counts herself as a feminist, there was special meaning in the fact that Walter died during the Purim month, and thus dressing as Rosie the Riveter was a natural choice.
Among the first-time guests at the Purim Feast was Canadian-born David Roskies, whose family migrated to Montreal from Vilna, the Jerusalem of the North. His grandmother Fradl Matz was one of several Eastern European women engaged in Hebrew and Yiddish publishing. His mother, Masha Roskies, who was born in Vilna, opened her home in Montreal to Yiddish writers and actors, and David Roskies and his sister Ruth Wisse, a professor of Yiddish at Harvard University, grew up not only speaking Yiddish, but promoting Yiddish as an important language of the Jewish people. Roskies has actually recorded the Scroll of Esther (Di Megilla) in Yiddish. He is a prolific author and editor of works in and about Yiddish.
At the Purim feast, he explained the differences between various Yiddish dialects.
■ FORMER LABOR MK Nahman Shai, who is currently in the US teaching courses in public diplomacy and Israel’s nation-building, at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, is a former broadcaster and a retired brigadier general. His past roles include press secretary for the Israel delegation to the United Nations, press consultant to the Israel Embassy in Washington, IDF spokesman, commander in chief of Army Radio, chairman of both the Israel Television News Company and the Israel Broadcasting Authority, plus a few other positions.
From time to time, he is interviewed on Israeli radio stations for his long-distance take on Israeli current affairs. In the immediate aftermath of the Knesset elections, his views on a possible future government were sought. This week, however, there was greater interest in his advice on how to calm public fears regarding coronavirus. It may be remembered that during the Gulf War in 1991, as Iraqi Scud missiles were directed against Israel, Shai, who was then army spokesman, was considered to be the nation’s tranquilizer, as his calm voice on radio and television instructed the public on what to do and when to take shelter in sealed rooms.
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