Five Olim Honored for Contributions to Israel, Jerusalem and Helping Other Immigrants

Plus, 500 riders to participate in 'Wheels of Love' hospital fundraiser and J-Town Playhouse staging the classic musical 'She Loves Me'

Steven Klein
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Jodi Samuels, left, receiving her award in Jerusalem, November 5, 2019.
Jodi Samuels, left, receiving her award in Jerusalem, November 5, 2019.Credit: David Weill
Steven Klein

IMMIGRANT GONG: In honor of Yom Ha’aliyah (Israel’s newest official holiday), Jerusalem’s largest Zionist pluralist party, Hitorerut, recognized five immigrants Tuesday for their contributions to Israel, Jerusalem or other immigrants. The winners were Yoni Niemann (Denmark), who works for Gvahim to connect immigrants with Israeli high-tech; Benji Davis (Los Angeles), founder of educational initiative IMPACT Seminars; Jodi Samuels (New York), founder of Jewish International Connection; Alla Klebanov (St. Petersburg, Russia), who runs programs for the elderly; and Samantha Assuli (France), whose Lev Ha-Imahot NGO supports 400 needy families. Nearly 200 people attended the event, co-sponsored by Wine on the Vine, which served fine local wines. The project is directed by Tatiana Hasson (Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts) and is part of the Israel Innovation Fund founded by Adam Bellos (Cincinnati, Ohio). California native Yoni Mann, who heads Hitorerut’s new immigrants department, told Haaretz the group hosted the event to “raise awareness of Yom Ha’aliyah” and “to give proper respect to people contributing to Israeli society.”

BACK IN THE SADDLE: Some 500 riders and volunteers from 12 countries are expected to join next week’s “Wheels of Love” bike ride for ALYN Pediatric Rehabilitation Hospital in Jerusalem. The ride’s humble roots date back to 2000 when nine immigrants from the United Kingdom and North America raised $67,000. This year, the goal is $3 million and six of the original riders are still in the saddle: Geoffrey Freeman, Meir Hassan, Laurence Lebor, Barry Levenfeld, Steve Zerobnick and Chaim Zlotogorski. “The staff there is so dedicated, really impacting people’s lives in a way that few places are able to do,” said Zerobnick, who moved to Israel from Denver in 1980. “That’s what motivates me.” In addition, Dutch Olympic gold medalist Carina Benninga will be participating for the first time. This year’s ride starts in Birya Forest on Sunday and ends at the hospital on Thursday. To donate, visit

TONIGHT AT EIGHT?: For J-Town Playhouse’s next show, director Aviella Trapido turned to a show she saw as a kid and whose music has stuck with her ever since: “She Loves Me,” an adaptation of the Hungarian play “Parfumerie.” “I love the story line — a famous one that has been produced and reproduced over and over again,” she told Haaretz, noting that the most recent adaptation was the 1998 film “You’ve Got Mail,” starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. “I think it’s very relatable for people in different stages of singlehood, dating or marriage,” the Johannesburg native added. The production stars Avital Sykora, Shlomit Kovalski, Shimi Herman, Malcolm McElheney, Kevin McKenzie and Evan Kent. The score is by Bock and Harnick of “Fiddler on the Roof” fame. Performances run from next Thursday through December 7 at the AACI’s Glassman Family Theater. For tickets, call 02-566-1181.

Rank and File was compiled by Steven Klein.

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