Grapevine March 8, 2020: Women in focus

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

MARIUSZ AND Patricycja Etryk stand in front of their building bearing the memorial plaque with the names of Jews who lived there. (photo credit: ALON GOLDMAN)
MARIUSZ AND Patricycja Etryk stand in front of their building bearing the memorial plaque with the names of Jews who lived there.
(photo credit: ALON GOLDMAN)
Sunday, March 8, is International Women’s Day, and numerous events are scheduled in Israel throughout this week and next. Some IWD events already took place last week. It is not certain that everything will go ahead as planned. There are bound to be some cancellations in line with Health Ministry guidelines regarding coronavirus.
Prior to the elections there was a commercial by Na’amat chairwoman Hagit Pe’er, urging people to go out and vote so that more women would get into the Knesset. In terms of the ratio of elected women MKs, the best showing was by the Labor-Gesher-Meretz merger and by the Arab Joint List.
Although Egypt had a female parliamentarian in the person of Rawya Ateya as far back as 1957, most Middle East countries did not allow women to vote, let alone be elected until much later. It is only in the past five years that women in Arab countries have come into their own and are now engaged in many social, cultural and political activities that were previously barred to them.
In Israel, since the very first Knesset, women have been allowed to vote and be elected, but have never reached the ratio that women have in the population.
The first Arab woman to win a Knesset seat was Hussniya Jabara in 1999. A Meretz MK, she faced a lot of criticism in the Arab community because she had run on a Zionist ticket. Iman Khatib Yassin, who is a member of the Joint List, will be the first Arab woman to wear a hijab in the Knesset. Aida Touma-Sliman, who is already a veteran Joint List MK, was the first Arab woman to head a Knesset committee.
Yassin believes that women in Arab society have been marginalized for too long, and she wants them to raise their voices. In an interview with KAN 11’s Eran Zinger, Yassin, a social worker and the mother of four, said she hoped that people would not just see the hijab, but the person inside the hijab. She regretted that Jews in Israel are still “far from seeing Arabs as human beings, as belonging to this land and as partners.”
■ AMID THE plethora of IWD events, the majority are in one way or another devoted to women’s rights and gender equality. In Australia, women have generally been tough cookies, able to stand up for themselves, often doing jobs considered to be men’s work. That may account for the choice of subject matter of a film chosen by Australian Ambassador Chris Cannan. An invitation-only screening will feature a film about Australian extreme sportswomen who engage in sports such as mountaineering, bungee jumping, surfing over dangerously high waves, skiing along treacherous slopes, kayaking in desolate areas and more. The idea is to show Australia’s gutsy girls, proving that women have courage and stamina and can hold their own when competing against men.
■ THE AMBASSADORS’ Club of Israel, which annually hosts a Woman of Valor ceremony for International Women’s Day honoring two women – one who is a representative of the foreign diplomatic community, and another who is an Israeli. The two women being honored this week are Aline Bizimana, the president of the International Women’s Club and the wife of the ambassador of Rwanda, and Nitza Raz Silbiger, the director of the Protocol Department at Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
Raz Silbiger, a veteran civil servant who is due to retire within a few weeks, will receive a lifetime achievement award. Over the years, she has dealt with literally hundreds of foreign diplomats, and continues to be a Facebook friend to many of them.
■ MANY PHILANTHROPISTS and heads of philanthropic organizations provide numerous scholarships each year to enable bright young people from economically distressed backgrounds to reach their potential. Among such donors is Bank Hapoalim, which provides scholarships through its Working for Success Fund. More often than not, recipients of scholarships do not meet with their benefactors. At best, they catch a glimpse of them at scholarship award ceremonies, and may even pose in a group photo with them, but they don’t actually get to talk to them.
Not so in the case of Bank Hapoalim, whose chairman, Oded Eran, makes a point of inviting recipients to a meeting so he can personally get to know them and to take a continued interest in them. He also thinks it’s important that they should know how banks operate, and he takes them on a guided tour of the different departments.
The scholarship fund is administered by Hinuch LePsagot, a not-for-profit organization that aims to give all Israelis the best possible education. The 70 students who benefit from these scholarships all come from peripheral areas. They are given both financial and personal support by the bank, which supplements their studies with information about finances so that when they finally do go out into the world on their own, they will have the qualifications and the tools with which to cope and progress professionally.
When Eran took the latest batch of students on a tour of the bank, he also introduced them to various board members. These included Cisco Israel CEO Oren Sagui, director of education administration in the Tel Aviv area Shirli Rimon Bracha, Hinuch LePsagot chair Shula Recanati, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev lecturer in education Prof. Elian Elkranawi and several others.
■ IN SOME European countries, local municipalities have fixed small plaques into the pavement outside houses once occupied by Jews who were deported and met their deaths in ghettos or in Nazi extermination camps.
In Czestochowa, Poland, a modern tenement house that was once home to several well-educated Jews has been the object of a unique project to memorialize its former residents. Instead of small plaques embedded in the pavement and not always noticed by passersby, the owner of the now renovated building, Mariusz Etryk, aware that many of the pre-war residents had been Jewish, decided to trace who had been there at the outbreak of the war, and to commemorate them. It was not too difficult a task, as his aunt, Czesława Sędzielewska, from whom he inherited the building, had told him many stories about the Jewish tenants and had left a list of names in hand-written documents he found in her estate.
Following completion of the renovations, an unveiling ceremony of two large plaques on the front of the building at 14 Tadeusz Kosciuszko Street was held last month. Among those present were Alon Goldman, chairman of the Association of Czestochowa Jews in Israel and vice president of the World Society of Czestochowa Jews and their Descendants; the owner of the building, Mariusz Etryk; Czestochowa Deputy Mayor Dr. Ryszard Stefaniak; City Council Deputy Speaker Ms. Jolanta Urbanska; and Mr. Łukasz Kot. Also present were friends, guests from Czestochowa, and 30 Israeli tour guides who came to Czestochowa for a seminar that was organized by the the World Society of Czestochowa Jews and their Descendants in collaboration with the Association of Czestochowa Jews in Israel and the mayor of Czestochowa.
The texts on the plaque are in Polish, Hebrew and English, listing the names of the architect and builder as well as those of the Jewish tenants. Their names are repeated here for the benefit of relatives who may be interested in learning of their fate. A bar code on the plaque provides access to an Internet site which contains some information about engineer Henryk (Chaim Mojzesz) and Fajaga (Franka) Feiner and their son Ryszard; Dr. Adam (Hersz Abraham) and Dr Gitla (nee Ajdelman) Konarski; engineer Ludwik Tencer; Dr. Marek (Mordka) and Natalia (Nee Rotlevi) Librowicz; Dr. Maksymilian Berlin; Dr. Adam Borkowski; Jerzy (Abram Izrael) and Mala (née Brandlowicz) Orenstein; Tadeusz Koss; Dora Rotmil; Prof. Zyskind Brandlewicz; engineer Solomon Markowicz; Jakub and Ita Ruchla Lewit; Dr. Moshe (Henryk) Halleman and Dr. Miriam Halleman.
All were deported to the Czestochowa Ghetto. Some survived, but none returned.
■ THE WIDESPREAD resurgence of antisemitism and racism in general 75 years after the end of the Second World War and subsequent pledges of “Never Again” is causing concern not only to Jewish communities around the globe, but also to non-Jews, among them many journalists who can help to defuse such hatred through their writing and reporting.
Providing that restrictions are lifted for travelers from Europe, the three-day European Media Summit will take place at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv from March 29-31, inclusive. The European Media Summit gave rise to the Tel Aviv Media Summit that was founded by journalist Susanne Glass, who heads the ARD bureau in Tel Aviv, and Jenny Havemann, an entrepreneur, blogger and political analyst in partnership with the Jerusalem Press Club and other agencies and organizations.
Politicians, diplomats, bloggers, journalists and other influential figures from Israel and abroad are expected to participate.
Among the speakers will be Swiss Ambassador Jean Daniel Ruch, German Ambassador Dr. Susanne Wasum-Rainer and Austrian Ambassador Hannah Liko.
Because journalists are in the forefront of the organization, it is called Startup Media Tel Aviv.
The joint multi-national initiative has come together with the aim of finding new ways in which to cover Israel, antisemitism, the Holocaust and its repercussions.
A different topic will be discussed on each of the three days of the conference.
The first day will be devoted to media, the Holocaust and Generation Z. On the second day, participants will discuss all forms of antisemitism, hate speech and fake news.
The third and final day will deal with media and innovation.
The overall concept is not Israeli but came from Austria and Switzerland.