Jew of the Week: Tamar Eshel

In Memory of a Great Israeli Pioneer

Tamar Finkelstein (1920-2022) was born in London, England while her parents worked there for the Jewish Agency. She returned with them to the Holy Land in 1923, at which point the family resettled in Haifa (and also Hebraized their last name to “Shoham”). Tamar Shoham became a youth leader of the Tzofim (Israeli scouts), and later joined the Haganah. For three years, she served as a signal operator and grenade maker. She returned to England to study at the University of London. At the same time, she operated a Haganah radio station and worked in the underground to assist Jews in making aliyah. During World War II, Shoham volunteered to serve in the British Army, and in 1944 was posted as an intelligence officer in Cairo. She returned to Israel in 1948 and took up a position at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There she would meet her second husband, Arye Eshel, who was Israel’s ambassador to Canada. After their wedding in 1960, she went by the name “Tamar Eshel”. Eshel was a frequent delegate to the United Nations, and in 1968 officially became Israel’s UN ambassador. She was appointed by the UN to head its Commission on the Status of Women, becoming the first Israeli in that position. After retiring, Eshel joined Jerusalem’s city council, and later became its deputy mayor. Around the same time, she was elected head of Na’amat, Israel’s largest women’s organization, that still has some 800,000 members today. In 1977, Eshel won a seat on the Knesset, and served as a parliamentarian until 1984. For the rest of her life, she volunteered for Hadassah Medical Center (established by former Jew of the Week Henrietta Szold), and at the Beit Tzipora women’s shelter, which she had co-founded. Eshel passed away last week on her 102nd birthday. She was Israel’s oldest former MK, and one of its most distinguished diplomats.

Words of the Week

The entire Torah was granted solely to bring about peace in the world.
Rabbi Moses Maimonides (1138-1204), “Rambam”, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Chanukah 4:14

Jew of the Week: Ben Shapiro

America’s Top Political Pundit

Ben Shapiro (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Benjamin Aaron Shapiro (b. 1984) was born in Los Angeles to a Jewish family of Russian and Lithuanian heritage. His family became Orthodox when he was 9 years old, and Shapiro has been a Torah-observant Jew ever since. He skipped two grades and graduated from high school at 16, and from UCLA at 20 with a degree in political science. That same year, he published his first book, Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth. By this point, his political column was nationally syndicated, and Shapiro still has the distinction of being the youngest person in American history to have a nationally syndicated column. Shapiro then went to law school at Harvard, after which he worked as a lawyer for several years. In 2012, he became the editor of Breitbart News, though he resigned in 2016 over disagreements over Breitbart’s direction. He subsequently became the number one target of anti-Semitism in America, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Since then, he has been the editor of The Daily Wire, which is currently the top news page on Facebook (and has more engagement than The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC News and CNN combined!) He is also the host of The Ben Shapiro Show, now the second most popular podcast in the US (ninth-most in the whole world!) and carried by over 200 radio stations across the country. Shapiro is famous for his many stimulating speaking engagements on campuses, and for his quick wit and debate skills. Altogether, Shapiro has written 11 books thus far and is among today’s leading conservative commentators. He has sometimes been confused with the alt-right, who he actually strongly opposes, and has been a frequent target of. Shapiro is an avid violinist (see a 12-year-old Shapiro play “Schindler’s List” here). Last week, he was in Israel for a CPAC conference and several thousand people crammed into an auditorium to hear him speak. He also made sure to visit the Temple Mount and pray there.

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Words of the Week

Before the thinkers of Athens came along, the Torah arrived at the notion of equality before the law. All public institutions in the Torah – the judiciary, the priesthood, the monarchy, the institution of prophecy – are subordinated to the law. Moreover, the law is a public text whose dictates are meant to be widely known, thus making abuse of power more obvious and safeguarding the common citizenry… the most important body of authority in the polity envisioned by the Torah is none other than the people themselves.
Rabbi Dr. Joshua Berman (Ani Maamin, pg. 174)

Jew of the Week: Doron Almog

The Commando Heading the Jewish Agency

Almog in 1982

Doron Avrotzky Almog (b. 1951) was born in Rishon LeZion, Israel. He went to a military boarding school and eventually joined the Paratroopers Brigade. He became an officer in 1971, and served as a company commander during the Yom Kippur War, in which his brother Eran lost his life. In 1976, Almog was one of the company leaders of Operation Thunderbolt to save Israeli hostages in Entebbe. In fact, he was the first commando to disembark at the Entebbe airport runway, and led the way to capture the control tower. Almog fought in the 1982 Lebanon War, too, and later commanded Operation Moses to airlift over 7000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. In 2000, now with the rank of major general, he was appointed to head the IDF Southern Command. Almog had a son with severe disabilities who died young, and a daughter born with a heart defect that ended her life after just a month. Sadly, a devastating suicide bombing in a Haifa restaurant in 2003 took the lives of five more of his family members, and left another severely injured. These horrible tragedies motivated Almog to devote the rest of his life to helping people with disabilities. He retired from the military that same year, and founded the village of Aleh Negev (also called Nahalat Eran, both after his son and fallen brother), a 40-acre rehabilitation and living centre for people with severe disabilities. Today, the village cares for 150 residents, and provides services for another 12,000 patients across Israel. Almog was awarded the Israel Prize in 2016 for lifetime achievement. Last week, he was appointed as the new head of the Jewish Agency. His most pressing task will be settling new Ukrainian and Ethiopian refugees in Israel. In his first speech, he said his mission would be “To reach the heart of every Jew on Earth. To instill pride in our Judaism and the State of Israel, the most important enterprise of the Jewish people since 1948. To instill pride in this one miracle called the State of Israel and its extraordinary achievements in science, technology, culture, agriculture, medicine, society, economy, army, aliyah, and more.”

Words of the Week

“They called me a wiseguy. I won ‘Italian of the Year’ twice in New York, and I’m Jewish, not Italian… I was denied in a country club once.”
James Caan (1940-2022)