Grapevine October 11, 2020: Already besotted with Israel

“Dear Israel, I’ve only been here ten or so days, but I will never get tired of this. Magic every day. Stay safe everyone.”

AUSTRALIA’S NEW ambassador to Israel, Paul Griffiths (right), presents his credentials to the Foreign Ministry’s Chief of Protocol Meron Reuben, October, 2020. (photo credit: PROTOCOL DEPT. MFA))
AUSTRALIA’S NEW ambassador to Israel, Paul Griffiths (right), presents his credentials to the Foreign Ministry’s Chief of Protocol Meron Reuben, October, 2020.
(photo credit: PROTOCOL DEPT. MFA))
 Ten days after his arrival in Israel, Australia’s new ambassador, Paul Griffiths tweeted a photograph of what looks like sunrise, but could just as easily be sunset, accompanied by the text, “Dear Israel, I’ve only been here ten or so days, but I will never get tired of this. Magic every day. Stay safe everyone.”
Griffiths is a senior career officer with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). His most recent overseas posting was as minister-counselor in Washington and he has previously served overseas in Jakarta, Manila and Seoul.
In the private sector, Griffiths has worked for Palantir Technologies in London. He holds a master of international trade and finance from Deakin University and a bachelor of arts/bachelor of law from the University of Tasmania.
When circumstances permit, he is looking forward to meeting Australian expats who are living in Israel.
■ IGNORANCE IS not always bliss. ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, raised the ire of Colin Rubenstein, the executive director of the Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council, when in reporting on anti-Netanyahu demonstrations in Israel, it referred to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital. Rubenstein promptly dashed off a letter to ABC informing it that even though most embassies are located in Tel Aviv, all recognize Jerusalem as the capital. ABC acknowledged its mistake and corrected the error on record. Rubenstein was pleased, saying, “There is enough misrepresentation in the media of the issues involved and so we thank the ABC for its appropriate and prompt response,”
■ THE FASHION and textile capitals of the world today are Milan, Paris, London and New York. Although these cities have long dominated the fashion scene, before the Second World War, Lodz, Poland, was THE textile city of Europe and hailed as the second Manchester, while Berlin was famous for its fashion.
Jews were prominent in textiles and fashions in both cities. Lodz was known as the Manchester of Poland and was famous all over Europe for its textile managing plants from the early 19th century until the Nazi invasion of 1939. 
In 1931, a third of the total population of Lodz was Jewish, numbering 202,497 souls, and of the textile factories, Jews had made their mark in Lodz much earlier. In 1914, 175 of the city’s textile factories were owned by Jews, which represented a third of all the textile factories, and close to 19,000 small textile workshops were also owned by Jews
Jews were also prominent in the clothing and textile industries of Berlin.
Uwe Westphal, a German author and journalist who divides his time between Berlin and London, and has also lived and worked in New York, has written a book about the Jewish contribution to fashion in Berlin in the pre-Nazi era.
The Israel launch of the book took place last year at Yad Vashem.
This Tuesday, October 13, at 6 p.m. New York time, Westphal will be in a conversation with Fashion Institute of Technology historian Keren Ben-Horin, moderated by journalist Jennifer Altmann. They will discuss Berlin as the former fashion metropolis of Europe in the 1920s, when there were hundreds of thriving clothing manufacturers, most of them Jewish, before the city’s fashion industry was snuffed out by the Nazis. Altmann’s grandfather ran one of Berlin’s fashion houses. 
The event which is a pre-recorded YouTube premiere, has been organized in partnership with The Museum at Eldridge Street, which is one of the hidden treasures of the Big Apple, and is both a museum and a synagogue dating back to 1887. The program can be seen free of charge. Registration details are available on the website of The Museum at Eldridge Street, eldridgestreet.org.
Even if one does not have German roots, the discussion is important because the forebears of so many Jewish families around the world were engaged in the rag trade, whether as proprietors or sweatshop workers, and the industry proved to be a springboard into more lucrative business ventures for some, and academic excellence for others. In some cases, it was a combination of both.
■ JEWISH HOLIDAY periods used to signal an influx of mail from charitable organizations asking for support for an ever-expanding number of social welfare, educational and cultural causes. These days, such requests come via e-mail, and not just on a seasonal basis. They come every week. The economic downturn during the pandemic has had a dire effect not only on individual business enterprises, many of which have filed for bankruptcy, but also on charitable organizations and institutions, which are hurting badly for lack of funding.
But as with everything, there are exceptions to the rule, and the good news is that Jerusalem Foundation US has launched an initial $1 million Innovation Fund to Promote Communal and Cultural Vitality in Israel’s capital. The goal of the new fund is to ensure Jerusalem’s future vitality by encouraging institutions and organizations across the city to create innovative models for navigating current difficult and unprecedented situations, so that they will be able to flourish after COVID-19 becomes history. 
This new initiative affirms and extends the founding mandate of the Jerusalem Foundation, which is to unify Jerusalemites across the breadth of the city’s social, cultural, religious and economic landscapes. The first call for proposals will open on November 8, with submissions due by December 6. Grant awards will be announced early in 2021 for initiatives to be implemented throughout the year.
Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, the Jerusalem Foundation has served Jerusalem’s most vulnerable populations, from young children with special needs to elderly people living in isolation. Raising more than $2 million from sources worldwide, including nearly $1.3m. from the United States, the foundation has been able to support pressing social and humanitarian needs, ranging from food packages for the homebound to the provision of laptops for remote learning and counseling. 
Working in close collaboration with Mayor Moshe Lion, the foundation’s recent efforts have so far touched the lives of more than 100,000 Jerusalemites. Through both its new Innovation Fund and its earlier COVID-19 relief efforts, the Jerusalem Foundation has been able to catalyze matching support from municipal, philanthropic, and corporate sources, thereby creating an immediate multiplier effect and demonstrating another model for the power of public/private partnerships on all fronts. 
Examples like these take on that much more meaning today, given the mounting demands on philanthropy worldwide during a time of crisis, says US chairman of the board Alan Hassenfeld. “At a time when philanthropy everywhere must focus on urgent needs close to home, it is truly gratifying to see how individuals and foundations across the US have risen to the occasion to support Jerusalem by preserving and strengthening its social fabric and cultural vitality.”
Expanding on Hassenfeld’s statement, James Snyder, the former executive director of the Israel Museum and current executive chairman of Jerusalem Foundation US, says, “If initiatives like these succeed in Jerusalem, they can also serve as models throughout the country, and indeed the world, especially at a time when nourishing broad communal engagement is essential. New models must emerge to bolster the city’s social and cultural agendas and its economy, all with the goal of preserving Jerusalem’s unique character and uplifting the spirits of those most affected by the health crisis. 
“We have been very gratified that, first and foremost, our board in the US has been so supportive of an effort to encourage organizations to look beyond the challenges of these times and to be innovative about creating models for even greater strength once these times are behind us. We are getting good traction in the philanthropic community for this approach, even in a time when demands on philanthropy everywhere are huge, and especially in everyone’s own backyard, let alone thousands of miles away. It is also great that, in Jerusalem, a lot of organizations are coming forward with enthusiasm – and appreciation – for this opportunity to look forward in this way.”
On the local scene, Jerusalem Foundation president Shai Doron says, “During these times, we are preserving our focus on supporting the city’s most vulnerable populations, while also ensuring the city’s social and cultural recovery in the face of the ongoing pandemic. Doing so has always been central to the mission and mandate of the foundation as a convening and coordinating partner for city-wide initiatives that foster communal strength and develop future leadership.”
When he established the Jerusalem Foundation in 1966, then-mayor Teddy Kollek envisaged that it would help the capital to become a global destination for the arts, culture, science, technology and industry while supporting the daily needs and aspirations of its residents. Since its establishment, the foundation has invested in more than 4,000 projects throughout the city, ranging from developing parks and cultural centers, neighborhood community and sports facilities, health centers and synagogues, to enabling educational, cultural, artistic, sports and religious programs for people of all faiths.
■ IN LAST Wednesday’s Grapevine, there was an item about a sukkah having been erected in the Indian Embassy. Due to a misunderstanding in communication, an erroneous reason for this gesture was published. The sukkah was put up solely as a mark of respect.