■ VETERAN RESHET Bet broadcaster Aryeh Golan and his wife, Aliza, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last week. They had long ago planned to go to Paris for the occasion, but lockdown and closure of airports put a pin in their balloon, and even though they were stuck in Israel, they were hampered in another way by the pandemic in that they couldn’t host their three daughters and seven grandchildren.
According to one of their daughters, journalist Shirley Golan, her parents are still like lovebirds, holding hands as they sit on the couch to watch television, with her father crooning to her mother one of his favorite songs, “Yafa Sheli” (My Beautiful One). Aryeh Golan himself says that the closest that they managed to get to Paris this time was that their apartment is in the French Hill neighborhood.
■ THE LATE American philanthropist, investor and real estate developer Moshe Green, the guiding force in 1973 behind the construction of what is now known as the Leonardo Plaza, and of the 15-story residential tower in Talbiyeh that quickly became known as the Pinsker building, did not envisage that the latter would one day become an unofficial home for senior citizens. The majority of the residents today are seniors who choose to live an independent lifestyle rather than move into a facility specifically geared to people of the third age.
Green and his wife, Charlotte, on their frequent visits to Israel, occupied the building’s spacious penthouse which some 40 years ago offered a spectacular view of Jerusalem before other high-rise buildings began to dominate the horizon. The Greens were also known for their hospitality, so quite a lot of people got to enjoy that view.
Moshe Green was also strongly affiliated with Bar-Ilan University, and as an Orthodox Jew felt that the residents of the Pinsker building were entitled to their own synagogue, which is also open to the general public. Some of the regular congregants in this small but attractive gem of a house of worship do not live in the building, the official name of which is Migdal Hashoshanim (the Rose Tower).
For several months now, the congregants have been conducting services in the large parking lot adjacent to the building, with the attendees all wearing masks and maintaining plenty of distance from one another. The seating arrangement belies the fact that Pinsker is a remarkably close-knit community where octogenarians enthusiastically interact and form close bonds with members of the community including preschoolers, who live close by.
The spiritual leader of the congregation, Rabbi Barry Eisenberg, is a volunteer, and many say it is he who sets the tone for this caring community, which chose to honor him as hatan Torah at this year’s Simhat Torah celebrations.
Honors were also accorded to one of Pinsker’s oldest residents, Shimon Deutsch, who was named hatan Bereshit, and to one of its younger members, Tzachi Turen, who was called to the Torah along with his young son, Jack, as the hatan kol hane’arim.
Jack’s great-grandmother Els Bendheim is also a member of what is popularly known as the Pinsker shul. Among the regular congregants is Rachamim Friedman, a man with special needs who recently celebrated his 40th birthday and faithfully attends services three times a day, every day of the week. Rachamim and his parents, Bernice and Avraham Friedman, live in the Pinsker building, and the affection in which he is held by all their neighbors was obvious in the decision to give him maftir on Simhat Torah. Until recently, Rachamim, who is known for his cheerful personality, volunteered in the food services department of Tovei Ha’ir.
■ REALIZING THAT congregants of Hazvi Yisrael Synagogue, widely referred to as Hovevei, would not be able to visit one another during Sukkot, the congregation’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Yosef Ote, and his wife, Atira, asked members to send photographs of their sukkah to them. From what they received, they created a YouTube video, with the name of the family of each individual sukkah featured in dancing Hebrew letters.
It was very interesting to see how much variety there was in concept, and also how important the sukkah was to some people, despite the fact that it was not always exactly in line with halachic regulations, given that it was built on a balcony that had no open sky above. What was sad was to see that some of the photographs had only one person in the sukkah, when in normal times a sukkah is overcrowded with visitors.
The final photo featured US Ambassador David Friedman and his wife, Tammy, who had a special holiday greeting for the congregants. The Friedmans have often participated in services at Hovevei, and did so long before he became ambassador.
Aside from people not being able to visit each other in the sukkah, there were few public sukkah facilities in the streets of Jerusalem, given that all the restaurants were closed.
At the Jaffa Road entrance to Mahaneh Yehuda market, there was a tiny, nondescript sukkah put up by Chabad and manned by a cute little boy who was maybe seven or eight years old. He stood outside asking passers-by whether they wanted to come in, and those who did were presented with a wilted lulav and a very sad-looking etrog. The little boy insisted on telling his guests how to shake the lulav and how to hold the etrog. When offered money afterward, he emphatically shook his head and said: “It’s not for me, it’s for the synagogue.” He pointed to a sturdy money box with a narrow slit in the top, which indicated that this was a poor man’s sukkah, and no greater charity than a few coins was expected.