Rank and File

Passover meals, a Jerusalem history production and contributions to Israel are honored.

Leket volunteers
Leket volunteers picking turnips outside Rehovot Leket Israel

MEALS FOR THE POOR: Passover is a time for many Jewish families to open their homes to guests joining them at the dinner table, but for those who cannot afford to host a meal there’s Leket Israel. This month alone, Leket has distributed 386 tons of fresh produce, which was picked by its volunteers, and 11 tons of dry goods and dairy products, which were donated by manufacturers all over Israel, according to Leket’s Deena Fiedler. “There is an increased need around the holiday times and we are seeing an even greater one this year with the number of working poor on the rise,” said Leket founder Joseph Gitler, a Teaneck, New Jersey native, who founded the food bank as Table to Table in 2003. Leket took its project to the next level on Wednesday, when 1,500 volunteers from Israel and abroad took part in the “Glean for the Needy” event at Leket’s Nahalal Fields, picking 40 tons of beets for distribution to hundreds of needy Israeli families. Fiedler told Haaretz it was the NGO’s biggest event to date, topping last year’s turnout of 1,200 on Passover.

MAGICAL HISTORY TOUR: Award-winning director, producer and playwright Bernie Kukoff and musical director Danny Paller have found a home for their show “Ah, Jerusalem” at the Tower of David Museum. The production, which debuted at Beit Shmuel in August, presents the tale of an American-Jewish family journeying through time in Jerusalem - finding love, escaping danger and changing history along the way. “Jerusalem is fascinating but can be very serious. This has a lot of comedy, which is very refreshing,” said Cleveland-native Paller, who wrote the music and lyrics. Paller, who has mainly worked on creative forms of Jewish education, told Haaretz that he pitched the idea to Kukoff through a mutual friend. “The idea appealed to me only because I wanted to write [a musical], and I had only produced them before,” said Kukoff, who was behind the off-Broadway hit “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” The cast includes Nitzan Sitzer, who started performing at age 8 in Houston, Roni Yacobovitz, Miri Fraenkel, Chicagoan Josh Bloomberg, Lev Kerzhner, son-of-a-Brit Gady Weissbart and Rosie Richman. The play opens tomorrow and runs every Friday afternoon through September 5. For tickets, call (02) 626-5333.

HONORING CONTRIBUTONS: With the approach of Independence Day, various Israeli institutions seek to show gratitude to individuals who have contributed to the state. This spring, two such honorees are Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, and Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City. Sacks will be honored by the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies at Bar-Ilan University. “Rabbi Lord Sacks has made an outstanding contribution to Diaspora Jewish life by bringing the message of Jerusalem to the Diaspora. He serves as a beacon of light for us all and is a true Guardian of Zion,” said Rennert Center Director Prof. Joshua Schwartz, who was born in the Bronx and moved to Israel in 1974. Bloomberg will be the inaugural Genesis Prize Laureate. The prize, which will be awarded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is a partnership between the Prime Minister’s Office, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Genesis Philanthropy Group, which has the stated mission of developing and enhancing “a sense of Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide.”

Rank and File was compiled by Steven Klein.

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