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ISRO-Press Newsletter Excerpts
Newsletter #315, Tuesday 16th March 2004

  • Two Israel Prize winners were born in Romania!
  • Elie Wiesel – honorary president of the first World Convention of the Romanian-born Jews
  • The decoration of Great Rabbi Menahem Hacohen

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  • Two Israel Prize winners were born in Romania!

    Two of the three persons to receive the Israel Prize for lifetime achievements this year were born in Romania. Mrs. Lia van Leer, now aged 80 (born in Balti, Romania), is an outstanding personality of the Israeli film industry. She will receive the Israel Prize for her decisive contribution to the development of the Israeli film culture. She is to be awarded this distinction as a founder and manager of the Jerusalem cinematheque and of the International Film Festival, which will be held in Jerusalem this year for the 21st time. She came to this land in 1940, to visit her sister, and did not return to Romania anymore because of the war. She married Wim van Leer (1913-1992), an engineer, pilot, playwright and film producer. The couple settled in Haifa, where they founded the first film club in the country, in 1955. "There was no television back then", she remembers, "and we had a 16 mm projector that had come as a gift from my father-in-law. Each Friday we would have friends over to watch movies. Our house became the most popular in Haifa."

    Soon, this film club turned into the Haifa Cinematheque. Their private collection of films grew in time, so that, in 1960, it became the basis of the newly-founded Israeli Film Archive (which was accepted as a member of the International Film Federation in 1963). In 1973 the couple moved to Jerusalem. With the support of Mayor Teddy Kolek and of the "Jerusalem" Foundation, they built, in 1981, opposite the walls of the Old City, the permanent headquarters of the Israeli Film Archive, of the Cinematheque and of the International Film Festival (founded in 1984).

    Lia van Leer’s activity has been acknowledged through many national and international awards including: the prize given by President Haim Hertzog for her volunteering (1988), the French distinctions "Knight of Arts and Literature" and "Knight of the Legion of Honor", the prize for an entire life dedicated to film given by the Israeli Film Academy (1998).

    The other Romanian-born Israel Prize winner this year is Moshe Schnitzer, founder of the Israeli diamond industry, honorary president of the Israeli Diamond Exchange, which he effectively managed for three decades. In this period, he opened markets for the Israeli diamond industry (assessed at $14 billion worth today) in many countries. Moshe Schnitzer was also the president of the World Federation of the Diamond Exchanges and the manager of the Diamond Institute in Israel. In 2000, when he turned 80, his name was given to the Diamond Center in Ramat Gan.

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  • OElie Wiesel – honorary president of the first World Convention of the Romanian-born Jews

    At the beginning of the biannual general assembly of the Unitary Organization of the Romanian-born Jews (AMIR), held on Monday, March 8, 2004, gen. (res.) Moshe Nativ (the president of the organization) proposed that a moment of silence be kept in the memory of Academy member Nicolae Cajal. The speaker also mentioned that the winners of the Israel Prize 2004 include two Romanian-born persons: Lia van Leer and Moshe Schnitzer. Then Shai Nagor, chief accountant of the AMIR, presented the general assembly the organization’s financial report for 2003; after he answered a number of questions from the audience, the report was adopted unanimously.

    After this Moshe Nativ spoke about his visit to Romania and the talks he had in January 2004 with representatives of the Romanian Government concerning the organization of the first part of the World Convention of the Romanian-born Jews in Bucharest. He announced that Elie Wiesel, Nobel Prize winner, sent a letter saying he felt honored by AMIR’s proposal that he hold the office of honorary president of the convention and that he accepted this proposal.

    Moshe Nativ also spoke about some issues concerning the hosting of the museum in the Beit Basarabia building in Tel Aviv, where two extra floors are to be added to this purpose. He said that, out of the three projects subscribed until now (by David Gafni, Beno Friedel and Amnon Rechter), a commission of experts chose the first two and invited engineer Moni Iucle to present them to the assembly in a multimedia format, using a projector. After the presentation was over, engineer Iucle answered the questions of the audience. An option that was discussed was the erection of not only the two floors needed by the museum, but also of an extra two floors with offices for rent. Dr. Dani Koren, president of Beit Basarabia, was among the speakers; he reasserted his support for the building of the museum at Beit Basarabia and for the contract drafts elaborated until now.

    Dr. Riri Manor, president of the Writers’ Association Israel-Romania, and Moshe Schechter, former mayor of the town of Modiin, who were present at the reunion, expressed their will to take a more active part in the organization’s efforts to create the museum and to organize the first World Convention of the Romanian-born Jews. Their wish is to be discussed by the AMIR management.

    Before the general assembly, the meeting of the AMIR management committee was held. The agenda of the meeting included the discussion of the financial report for 2003 and of some issues concerning the organization of the museum and of the world convention.

    The reunion was attended by: Moshe Nativ, president of the AMIR, Menahem Ariav, honorary president, mayor of the town of Natzeret, Moshe Nagor, vice-president, Zvi Ben Dov, general manager, Bercu Kriegler, financial manager, Uri Adar, judicial councilor, gen. (res.) Mendi Maron, Iehoshua Sontag, Zvi Sharon, Dov Kali, Shaul Carmel, rav Iosef Wasserman, Sonia Palty, Paltiel Segal, Arie Kupferschmidt, Yula Weiner, Iosef Klein, Meir Shefi, Zvika Idelman, Moshe Schechter, Dani Cohen, Shai Nagor, Wortman Yakov - Patzaki.

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  • The decoration of Great Rabbi Menahem Hacohen

    On Wednesday, at the Cotroceni Palace, Great Rabbi Hacohen Menachem, chief rabbi of the Mosaic cult in Romania, became Grand Officer of the "Cultural Merit" Order. According to Rompress Agency, the decoration was given by the Romanian president Ion Iliescu as a token of appreciation for the constant activity in the field of cults, the civic and ecumenical spirit, and for the contribution to the strengthening of the inter-religious ties, of the peaceful and productive cohabitation. The head of the Romanian State said a few words of appreciation for the activity of the Great Rabbi, who assumed this office after the death of chief rabbi Moses Rosen.

    Born in Jerusalem, the Great Rabbi felt compelled to speak in the "prophets’ tongue", as he called it, saying that the distinction represents, above all, a symbol of the friendship between the Romanian people and the Israeli people. "The history of the Jewish community in Romania is a 600 year-old uninterrupted history and much of it was a period of great Romanian-Israeli relations. There were also some less positive chapters, but mister president is doing what he can in order to make sure that these shadows are no longer shadows. I do not accept this distinction in my own behalf, but as a representative of the Jewish community and of the love that the Romanian-born Jews have for this country", Great Rabbi said during the ceremony.

    He also mentioned the late Prof. Nicolae Cajal, who was "a symbol of the relations between the Romanian people and the Jewish people."

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