The Jerusalem Post

Grapevine, September 23, 2022: Overlooking important events

 Sara Netanyahu, in the company of wives of heads of state and government, arrives at Fashion 4 Development.  (photo credit: Ohad Kav)
Sara Netanyahu, in the company of wives of heads of state and government, arrives at Fashion 4 Development.
(photo credit: Ohad Kav)

Sara Netanyahu was most definitely treated as a first lady in New York and was seated at one of the most prominent tables when she attended the Fashion 4 Development event.

The media have been so preoccupied with the judicial reform and whether or not there would be a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden that they tended to overlook some important events in Jewish history.

While ample coverage was given to the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, partially because President Isaac Herzog flew to Poland for a day to attend the memorial ceremony, very little coverage was given two months later to the 80th anniversary of the order by Heinrich Himmler in June 1943, that all ghettos in Nazi-occupied areas of the Soviet Union be liquidated and surviving Jews deported to extermination camp. 

This month, September 23-24, marked the 80th anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto, while September 22 marked the 81st anniversary of the liquidation of the Czestochowa Ghetto from which 40,000 Jewish men, women, and children were taken in cattle cars to Treblinka where they were murdered. Here too, there was minimal media coverage.

One of the leaders of the uprising of the Vilna Ghetto was Abba Kovner, who survived, and who was the driving force behind the establishment of the Beit Hatfutsot Museum, now known as ANU. One can only surmise how much richer Jewish culture and creativity would be had there not been a Holocaust.


There is much talk among leaders of global Jewish organizations about preservation of the memory of the Holocaust in the hope of preventing it from happening again. But if we don’t do it among ourselves, what hope is there for creating Holocaust awareness among non-Jews?

The singing Rosenbergs: Ori, Lionel, and Gidon. (credit: SARAH MANNING)
The singing Rosenbergs: Ori, Lionel, and Gidon. (credit: SARAH MANNING)

Despite the many negative reports about her behavior, when accompanying her husband abroad, Sara Netanyahu seldom puts a foot wrong. She is familiar with the protocol and generally follows the rules, though there have been occasions when her choice of attire was neither flattering nor appropriate. But most of the time, she looks just fine in what she’s wearing.

During this current visit to New York, she attended two events for wives of heads of state and government, who in the US are called first ladies.

Israel does not actually go along with the first lady concept – certainly not in Hebrew, though the honorific is sometimes bestowed on the wife of the president of the state or on the wife of the prime minister, depending on the who, where, and what of the event. But who is the real first lady? There can’t be two firsts, though organizations that invite Michal Herzog or Sara Netanyahu have claimed that the assistants of each have demanded that the woman they work for be referred to as first lady.

Be that as it may, Sara Netanyahu was most definitely treated as a first lady in New York and was seated at one of the most prominent tables when she attended the Fashion 4 Development event, which she has attended many times in the past.


Fashion 4 Development’s mission is twofold. One is to use fashion as a platform for the empowerment and advanced economic development of women, and the other is to work toward positive and sustainable change for the betterment of society in all countries.

This year’s event was dedicated to the memory of Queen Elizabeth II, and included awards to women who had influenced change in the countries in which they live.

As so often happens in this digital age, the women took out their mobile phones with built-in cameras and began photographing each other as well as taking selfies together with one or more of the other guests. Netanyahu lost count of the number of times she was photographed.

She also attended another reception hosted by Dr. Jill Biden, the first lady of the United States. Both receptions were based on a fashion theme.

Residential retirement complexes are increasingly opening their doors to the wider public, and luring people in with a variety of cultural programs. It’s hard to tell whether this is being done so as to enable residents to meet and greet mainstream society individuals of all ages, or whether it’s a subtle marketing gimmick to show visitors the pleasant surrounds, so that they will persuade aging parents or other relatives, that this is the place in which to develop many more interests in life and make new friends.

But touring the public areas and looking into apartments is not enough. It is essential to attend a few cultural events – both lectures and musical performances to be rest assured that this is where a senior loved one would continue to receive stimulation of the brain.

The Mishan network has long been inviting the general public on a regular basis, and other assisted living facilities have been quick to follow suit.

At Jerusalem’s Beit Tovei Ha’ir, where many of the residents are religiously observant, last week’s public event was a slihot (penitential prayers) recital by three generations of the Rosenfeld family, who sang near the site where one of their forebears had given a concert prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.

Cantor Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld, emeritus rabbi of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue in Central London, followed his father’s example in performing uplifting liturgical music in Jerusalem.

In July 1939, his father, Cantor Rabbi Abraham Rosenfeld, led a stirring choral prayer service in Jerusalem, and 84 years later, three generations of his offspring sang the inspiring melodies of the penitential prayers.

Lionel, together with his son Gidon and Gidon’s son Ori, who has just completed his service in the IDF, sang to an appreciative audience in the atrium of Beit Tovei Ha’ir.

During his tenure in London, Lionel Rosenfeld worked closely with the late chief rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and composer Stephen Glass, to write new melodies for many traditional prayers, which they sang in Jerusalem, and which are well known in Ashkenazi synagogues in London.

Moderator was Lionel’s daughter Shlomit Rosenfeld, and the piano accompaniment was by veteran concert pianist Raymond Goldstein from Cape Town. Goldstein is responsible for many of the musical arrangements of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue choir.

At the initiative of the IDF Widows and Orphans organization, a unique conference was held last week to mark the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War.

Is the war truly over?

Under the heading of Women Talk About Bereavement, the conference, held in conjunction with the Defense Ministry’s Department for Family and Commemoration, provided a platform for 30 YKW widows and orphans to share their emotions and experiences. Orphaned children who are now middle aged, and who in most cases have raised families of their own, spoke of the pain of having had a father who never came home.

Rivka Yahav, the widow of Lt. Yehuda Munheim, said she was in the ninth month of her pregnancy and did not know of her new status when giving birth.

“To ask me what I feel like after 50 years is like asking me what I experience on a daily basis for 50 years. It’s not just a single day. It’s 365 days every year for 50 years. The pain doesn’t go away.”

Ettie Partush, the daughter of Cpl. Motti Cohen, said life simply went on after she lost her father. No one knocked at the door to ask how we were coping – not the Education Ministry, not the Defense Ministry. Except for a few neighbors, no one was there for us.”

Speaking on behalf of the orphans, Michal Ungar, the daughter of St.-Sgt. Nachum Avraham, said that just as it had been clear that the state must recognize the widows of fallen soldiers, recognition must also be given to their orphaned children, some of whom bear a very heavy burden.

Tami Shelah, the chair of IDF Widows and Orphans, said it had been the worst day in her life when she learned after a knock at the door that her husband, Ehud, had fallen. “Life goes on and we mature, but the void left by Ehud remains. It does not disappear. Each day is traumatic.”

The reason for the conference, she said, was to create awareness of the constant struggle of widows of fallen soldiers.

“In every bereaved family, the struggle goes on daily.”

MK Matan Kahana said he knew a YKW widow who every time the door opens in her apartment, she thinks that it might be her husband coming home.

Due to certain anomalies, he said, the Knesset had established a special lobby on behalf of IDF widows and orphans.