GRAPEVINE: Seinfeld gets serious

The serious side of comedian Jerry Seinfeld came to the fore this week when he took his family to Yad Vashem.

JERRY SEINFELD and members of his family at Yad Vashem (photo credit: ISAAC HARARI / YAD VASHEM)
JERRY SEINFELD and members of his family at Yad Vashem
(photo credit: ISAAC HARARI / YAD VASHEM)
There’s a saying that every clown is crying inside. By the same token, every comedian has a serious side to his personality. It’s not all laughs, and thinking up all those wisecracks is a serious business.
The serious side of comedian Jerry Seinfeld came to the fore this week when he took his family to Yad Vashem.
Although Seinfeld himself has been to Israel on previous occasions, this is the first time that he brought his family, and while most of the visit has been a fun thing, there have been somber moments, such as the tour of Yad Vashem’s Holocaust History Museum.
■ THE PEOPLE who suffer most when a close or even distant relative commits a crime or behaves immorally are the members of the immediate family of the perpetrator. Following the Harvey Weinstein scandal and its domino effect due to the impact of the Me Too campaign, there were various people who also dragged up the sexual improprieties of celebrities long dead, such as Charlie Chaplin and Shlomo Carlebach.
Due to the growing influence of Carlebach’s music, which is heard in Orthodox, Conservative and Reform congregations and, like the man himself, is probably one of the most unifying factors among Jews, there are people who think his music should be banned.
There are others who say that the music has nothing to do with his alleged sexual harassment and assault, just as conductors such as Zubin Mehta and Daniel Barenboim argue that no matter how rabid an antisemite Wagner was, his music was superb and there is no reason to boycott it.
Nonetheless, in respect to Holocaust survivors, Wagner is very rarely played in public in Israel, though Barenboim stirred up a storm in 2001 when conducting the Staatskapelle Orchestra at the Jerusalem International Convention Center, and had it play Wagner’s The Valkyries at the end of an Israel Festival Concert. While there were angry cries of protest, most of the audience stayed to listen.
The people who are hurt most by the frequent revivals of the stories of Carlebach’s dark side are his wife and daughters and possibly his grandchildren. His daughter Neshama, who is also a popular outreach singer, writes in a piece originally published by The Times of Israel: “My sisters, I hear you. I cry with you.
I walk with you. I will stand with you until that day when the world commits to healing and wholeness for all, for the countless women who have suffered the evils of sexual harassment and assault.”
She doesn’t overlook her father’s sins.
“Sometime in the late ’70s, my father was involved in an intervention staged by women who were hurt by him. He came, even knowing the content of the conversation that was to happen. And when they told him that his actions and behavior had hurt them, he cried and said, ‘Oy this needs such a fixing.’ I do believe that the actions, advocacy work and the way he raised his daughters in the last years of his life showed remarkable listening and personal accountability.
“I accept the fullness of who my father was, flaws and all. I am angry with him. And I refuse to see his faults as the totality of who he was.
“When I talk about my shifting perspective, I believe it must be said that I do not recognize the version of my father that some people describe. To me, he was the kindest, most respectful, most loving person to my friends and me. I myself witnessed him as a deeply passionate supporter of the role of women as leaders....”
Essentially, the message that Neshama Carlebach is trying to convey is that all human beings are complex characters with positives and negatives, and should not be judged as completely good or completely bad. She prefers, as she says elsewhere in her long message, to focus on healing.
■ WRITING IN Haaretz, Ora Cohen reported on Sunday that in a wide-ranging restructuring program, Israel Aerospace Industries is about to move most of its production abroad. The decision is partially in response to major client demands, in particular India and its defense network, to fulfill large-scale IAI contracts in local production plants.
According to Cohen, Harel Locker, who took up his post as IAI chairman last September, is determined to revolutionize the company and to significantly upgrade its profit margins. To succeed in this endeavor IAI has to establish manufacturing plants in countries where wages are low. This means that IAI will have to let go of a sizable number of its Israeli employees.
Because it is a state-owned company, IAI cannot benefit from the Encouragement of Investments Law, a factor that contributes to the increase of its production costs in comparison to one of its chief rivals, Elbit Systems, which is not state owned.
It is anticipated that some 600-700 of IAI’s 14,500 employees in Israel will lose their jobs. That’s not as bad as Teva, but it’s bad enough. Cohen writes that some senior IAI executives have already announced their intentions to step down. Among them are CEO Joseph Weiss, who will reach retirement age in August, and Nissim Hadas, the CEO of IAI’s Elta subsidiary. Several directors have already left.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to travel to India in mid-January with a delegation of Israel’s leading producers of defense equipment, and may be pressed to persuade more of these companies to open production plants in India.
Also traveling on the prime minister’s plane will be Moshe Holtzberg, whose Chabad emissary parents, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, were killed in a terrorist attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai in November 2008. Moshe will be accompanied by his grandfather Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, with whom he has been living since the deaths of his parents. Last year, Moshe met in Jerusalem with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who told him that he would always be welcome in India.
Netanyahu will be the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit India since 2003, when Ariel Sharon flew there. According to The Times of India, Netanyahu’s fourday visit “is expected to mark a new high in bilateral relations.”
■ FORMER CHIEF of staff of the Israel Defense Forces Dan Halutz, who before that was commander of the Israel Air Force, proves that age is not a deterrent to starting new ventures. Halutz, who was born three months after the establishment of the state, will celebrate his 70th birthday in August, and will also celebrate the launch of the Israel Flying Academy, which he and a group of investors are opening in Eilat in order to train pilots for commercial flights.
This will be the first such venture in Israel and will operate a two-year course in a boarding school environment. Tuition fees will be NIS 220,000 for the whole course, and graduates will be qualified to fly commercial planes anywhere in the world. Halutz will serve as the president of the academy, and Tzvika Moskowitz, who is chairman of Daka90, will serve as chairman of the academy as well. Businessman and seasoned pilot Yossi Almalam will serve as the CEO of the project. Other investors include El Al pilots and former Airports Authority executives.
■ SOME PEOPLE are born to be offered top jobs. One of them is Jerusalemite Avi Balashnikov, who is the Israel representative of international businessman, art collector, philanthropist and head of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder.
Balashnikov who continues in that position regardless of any other role he takes on, has just been appointed chairman of the College of Management, succeeding Ron Gutler, who completed his term.
Balashnikov’s CV indicates his gift for diversity. Most recently he was chairman of the Jerusalem water corporation Hagihon.
Before that he was director-general of the Environment Ministry, the Ministry for Trade and Industry, and the Communications Ministry. He was also director- general of the Israel Export Institute and director-general of the Knesset. He was appointed interim director-general of the President’s Residence by Dalia Itzik when she was acting president, having temporarily replaced Moshe Katsav, who had suspended himself in order to deal with his court case. He served as chairman of Channel 10, and as interim chairman of the board of Hadassah Medical Center during its crisis period.