Grapevine March 7, 2021: A taste of Thai

Movers and shakers in Israeli society

DAN KLEIMAN (left), Adi Strauss and Eran Weintrob. (photo credit: COURTESY OF IDF DISABLED VETERANS ASSOCIATION)
DAN KLEIMAN (left), Adi Strauss and Eran Weintrob.
Members of the International Women’s Club will one morning this week congregate at the residence of Thai Ambassador Pannabha Chandraramya to watch a cooking demonstration by the ambassador’s chef and to try their own hands at Thai cuisine. Anyone who has sampled traditional Thai dishes at Thai food festivals or at some of the Thai restaurants in the country, and has been itching to try making some of those culinary delights at home, will now have the opportunity if they belong to the IWC.
They will also learn about authentic Thai ingredients, most of which are available in Asian food shops in different parts of Israel, but primarily in Tel Aviv. The IWC supports various charities, and proceeds from this event will go to No2Violence, a help organization available to women who suffer from domestic violence.
■ WHILE STILL on the subject of food, Adi Strauss, chairman of the Friends of the IDF Disabled Veterans; Edan Kleiman, chairman of the IDF Disabled Veterans Association, and Eran Weintrob, CEO of Latet – a humanitarian aid organization – have joined forces to package and distribute food parcels to needy disabled veterans and their families in time for Passover.
The escalation of unemployment and unpaid leave from work during the worst of the coronavirus period has led to a substantial increase in the number of needy families and individuals, including among disabled army veterans.
“Only when we see the huge stack of boxes of food items do we begin to understand the magnitude of what we’re doing,” said Kleiman.
If someone is in need, regardless of his social status or religious or ethnic background, he must be helped, and if he’s an army veteran, even more so, said Strauss.
One of the important core values of Latet, said Weintrob, is to give help universally and equally to all sectors of Israeli society. Latet has witnessed an increase in domestic tensions and a change of status resulting from the economic crisis. People who used to donate to worthy causes, are now on the receiving end of charity, and some find it humiliating to have to ask for help for the first time in their lives. Army veterans are among the first time applicants for food parcels and other assistance, he said.
■ WHEN LIFE deals you a lemon, make lemonade, goes the sage piece of advice. It didn’t quite work out that way for pastry chef Vered Lifshitz, who worked for many years as a coordinator of community resources. According to a story that appeared last week in Yediot Aharonot, Lifshitz left her job as a pastry chef just before the outbreak of the pandemic and then discovered that even if she wanted to work there were very few jobs, if any, in her field. With time on her hands, and her skills as a pastry chef intact, she decided to keep baking, but not from a commercial standpoint. Her aim was to give a treat to the homeless who would rarely if ever, spend what little money they had on the luxury of a cake, or even a Danish pastry.
Initially, she started working with an organization that has a van that is driven around the streets of south Tel Aviv. Whoever accompanied the driver distributed sandwiches to homeless and hungry people on the streets. Lifshitz thought it was sad that their diet consisted solely of sandwiches, and set about supplementing it with cake to sweeten their lives.
More than that, she created mouthwatering desserts of the kind served in restaurants and brought them to the homeless, for whom this was a real luxury. Lifshitz took it a step further by giving the homeless choices from a range of desserts with which she tours south Tel Aviv every week. Aside from anything else, the sweet desserts reduce the need for drug addicts to indulge their habit. The street people have learned to appreciate the quality of her desserts, and eagerly await her arrival. Now Lifshitz is ready to take the next step. She has taken the initiative to work on a food track project whereby people at risk will learn how to operate a commercial kitchen. The work will contribute to their rehabilitation and their ability to find a job in a restaurant a hotel, a hospital kitchen or a factory with a cafeteria.
Good deeds day, which is part of a global effort, and this year takes place on April 11, was launched in Israel in 2007 with 7,000 participants. Now, there are in excess of two million participants, just looking for an opportunity to do something by way of a good deed for someone. For Lifshitz, good deed day is every day.
■ ONE OF the most heart-warming stories about South Africa’s Jewish community, goes back more than 100 years to the 1918-1919 civil war raging across Poland, Galica, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine – areas in which most South African Jews or their parents had been born. Many had come to South Africa, leaving their parents and other family members behind. Communication in that period was not what it is today and the Jews of South Africa worried about may have become of their close relatives, and hungered for news. Thousands of Jews had died or been killed on the battlefields, and even more had been displaced.
Of the survivors, many died in the famine of 1919 and others of the severe influenza epidemic that continued well into 1920. Bits and pieces of news filtered through to South Africa, but not enough to quell the anxieties of those who had no word from their families.
Equally disturbing was the news that literally tens of thousands of Jewish children had been orphaned. The estimate of the American Joint Distribution Committee was that the numbers ranged between 30,000 and 40,000.
South African Jews acted spontaneously. Isaac Ochberg, who was among the leaders of the Capetown Jewish community, got in touch with the Federation of Ukrainian Jews in London to ask how South Africa could help. He also contacted Jan Smuts, who was then prime minister of South Africa, and asked whether some of these children could be brought to South Africa and hopefully adopted. Smuts was amenable on condition that none of the children suffered from physical or mental disabilities, were no older than 16, and had lost both parents. The number permitted was 200 and an orphan fund was set up to pay for the costs involved. It was such a humane enterprise that even non-Jews contributed to the fund.
Moreover, the South African government provided matching funds to the amount raised. The other condition stipulated by Smuts was that these children would be solely the responsibility of the South African Jewish community.
In March 1921, Ochberg who was originally from Ukraine, traveled via London to Eastern Europe, visiting synagogues where large groups of orphan children had gathered. Selecting children to take to South Africa was a heartbreaking task because there were so many whom he could not take and whose future remained uncertain. In the final analysis, he took 187 children to South Africa.
The journey, by truck and ship, with stops on the way, was not without hazard, and took several weeks, but eventually Ochberg and his orphans arrived to a tumultuous welcome. The children had grown to love Ochberg and called him Daddy. Initially they were placed in the Jewish orphanage, but before long each had a new family and a new home, and grew up to become productive citizens.
In 2011, members of Ochberg’s family, along with descendants of his orphans, plus a large representation of the South African community in Israel, came together in Megiddo for the grand opening of the Ochberg Memorial Park and Promenade. The coronavirus pandemic has prevented another such gathering for the centenary celebration commemorating the warmth with which South African Jewry took in Ochberg’s orphans. But they will at least come together for a live webinar reunion on March 14, at 7 p.m. Israel and South African time. The event will also be broadcast to the US, the UK and Australia where there are large pockets of South African Jewish communities. Isaac Ochberg Heritage Committees for the event were established in Israel and South Africa. Members of the Israel committee include Peter Bailey, Joel Klotnick, Rob Hyde, Ian Rogow, Benny Penzik, Hertzel Katz and Leon Segal. Registration for the webinar is at and further information is available by contacting [email protected]
■ THE CURTAIN went up again on Jerusalem’s Khan Theater on February 23, and President Reuven Rivlin – a former board member of the theater’s directorate – was all set to attend after not having seen a play for more than a year. But then at the last minute, he learned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was going to make an appearance, and fearing that Netanyahu might make a political statement, Rivlin canceled. But he is compensating himself on the eve of International Women’s Day by turning the President’s Residence into a theater for one night only on March 7. In a joint Habimah Theater and Haifa Theater production, “Women Create Israeli Theater.” Rivlin will have a closer than usual front row seat for a musical event of songs written by women and sung by women. Performers will include Sandra Sade, Ruby Porat-Shoval, Miki Kam and Roni Dalumi, who collectively represent the diversity in Israel’s demographic mosaic. Sade was born in Romania, Porat-Shoval in Morocco, Kam on Kibbutz Manara near the Lebanese
border and Dalumi in Omer, near Beersheba. Although the public will not be included in the live audience at the President’s Residence, anyone who wants to see the show can do so. It will be broadcast on the president’s social media platforms at 5:30 p.m.
■ WHILE INTERNATIONAL Women’s Day is primarily a celebration of women attaining rights that to a large extent were not available to them as recently as a century ago, there is also a downside. Women have broken through the glass ceiling in many areas of endeavor, but there are still various professions in which women continue to strive for equality. Although women in general enjoy a far greater degree of independence than did their great grandmothers, they are still subjected to sexual harassment and violence, a theme that will come up at many International Women’s Day events in Israel this week. The urgent need to deal with domestic violence has been prompted by the fact that more than 25 women have been murdered by a spouse, partner or family member over the past 18 months, coupled with the high incidence of rape and pedophilia. In the latter case, both boys and girls are victims – but girls more so. The woman who has worked tirelessly to promote awareness in these areas, and who has advocated for education
and therapy with a view to protecting women and children from such dangers, is Lili Ben Ami, who has received an award for her efforts from the Israel Marketing Association. Ben Ami is the sister of Michal Sela who was stabbed to death by her husband, Eliran Malul, in October 2019. Ben Ami founded the Michal Sela Forum in her sister’s memory.
The purpose of the forum is to recognize domestic abuse and violence, and to provide necessary help in order to save lives. The forum works closely with women’s organizations and with staff in women’s shelters. Ben Ami is frequently interviewed on radio and television, and has also appeared at Knesset committee meetings.
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