Streisand Dedicates Building in Israel in Father's Name

April 4, 1984

by Joan Borsten

Streisand in front of building dedicated to her father

(Above: Barbra Streisand joined her brother Sheldon-far right- on the occasion of the unveiling of the plaque commemoration the building named in honor of her father who died at the age of 35 when Barbra was just a child. The building for Jewish Studies is on the campus of Hebrew University in Jerusalem.)

JERUSALEM—Barbra Streisand, undaunted by the terrorist attack here Monday that left 48 wounded, went ahead Tuesday with plans to dedicate a building at Jerusalem's Hebrew University in the name of her late father.

According to Simha Dinitz, Israel's former ambassador to the United States and now president of Hebrew University, this is the second time that Streisand has refused to be intimidated in Israel. In 1978, he said, despite threats on her life, Streisand insisted on appearing as scheduled on ABC-TV's hourlong “The Stars Salue Israel at 30.”

Streisand paid an emotional tribute to her father at the Tuesday ceremonies, addressing a group that included her brother Sheldon, lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, businessman/film producer Arnon Milchan, grooming entrepreneur Vidal Sassoon and more than 100 Israelis and non-Israelis associated with the university.

“I'm so glad that at the Emanuel Streisand School of Jewish Studies women will be able to study Jewish thought and Talmud (commentaries on the oral law) without having to disguise themselves as men,” Streisand said, referring to Yentl, the film she produced, directed, wrote and starred in. She arrived in Israel Sunday to attend the movie's premiere. Based on a short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, Yentl tells the story of a young Jewish girl in turn-of-the-century Eastern Europe who has to disguise herself as a boy to study Talmud. The film is dedicated to Streisand's father, who dies when she was 15 months old.

Describing Emanuel Streisand as a teacher, scholar and religious man who devoted his life to education, she pledged to devote herself to the type of personal growth and education for which Jewish tradition and the university stand.

The $1.5-million building includes lecture halls and rooms for both research and seminars. Some of the money to finance the building, which overlooks the holy city, was donated by Streisand, her friends and her associates. The rest will be raised through activities of the American Friends of Hebrew University. Streisand will become the Friends' 1984 Scopus Laureate next November in Los Angeles.

Streisand sits beside Yitzhak Shamir

(Photo: David Rubinger)

Interviewed earlier in the day, just after she met briefly with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Streisand revealed that after her tour of Israel she will not be returning to Hollywood for Monday's Academy Awards ceremony. Instead, she said she plans to go to Egypt or Spain.

[...] Streisand arrived in Israel from London where she attended the English premiere of the film.

“You know,” she said, “everyone warned me that the English are very cold and reserved. Also, I knew that this would be a very non-Jewish audience. So I was surprised that after the screening the audience applauded and yelled, ‘Speech, speech.’ I didn't want to stand up because, according to protocol, everyone has to remain seated until the royalty, in this case Princesss Alexandra, stands. But she told me: ‘Get up. They're clapping for you.’ Even the English were surprised by what a warm reception I got. Hundreds stayed on until 3 o'clock in the morning, including the princess.”

The Israeli audience attending the $50 a ticket national premiere also gave Streisand a five-minute standing ovation.

The need for Jewish studies and the struggle of women to gain equality were the twin themes dominating virtually all Streisand's public comments during her first three days in Israel.

At a press conference following the dedication, she described Hollywood as a place “where women have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts to succeed. A man's passion to make a particular film is much more respected than a woman's,” Streisand said, “especially if he is a director or producer, both fields which involve finance and leadership.

“I feel that in the last few months Hollywood has given women more chances. I am working on properties with both Jane Fonda and Goldie Hawn and I think they'll get made. This is the epoch of women.”

Speaking about Isaac Bashevis Singer, who strongly criticized her film, Streisand said gently that the reaction of the Nobel Prize winner had disappointed her, but that, in fact, she had not expected him to like her version of his story. Streisand commissioned Singer to write a screenplay, which she later rejected because it wasn't cinematic enough, she said.

“I couldn't accept some of the things he wrote in the story,” she said.

Today Streisand was expect to tour the Old City of Jerusalem with Mayor Teddy Kollek, vist Masada and Yad Vashem, a memorial to victims of the Holocaust.

Streisand in Old City, Jerusalem

Streisand's visit was not without controversy, however. There apparently was some confusion here regarding the trip. When the actress first announced that she would come to Israel, most of the nation's major institutions assumed she was coming to help them in fund-raising efforst, assumptions later attributed to vague promises apparently made by Streisand to various Israeli VIPs who visited the United States over the years.

Only a month ago, words were exchanged between Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo Lahat, who planned something to benefit the Tel Aviv Fund, and Hebrew University President Dinitz. The Diaspora Museum and Hadassah Hospital had also planned to schedule events around Streisand's visit. In the end, the university, which has a very aggressive Los Angeles chapter, and which honored her with its top award this year, won the day.

Althought Streisand only spent two days in Tel Aviv, the country's entertainment center prepared a rousing welcome. CBS, the record label to which she is under contract, saw to it that virtually every record store was plastered with Yentl and Streisand posters.

On Monday, Streisand toured Tel Aviv's Diaspora Museum and Rehovot's Weizman Institute. A small dinner party in her honor hosted by businessman Milchan was attended by Labor Party leader Shimon Peres, Rachel Dayan, widow of the late foreign minister, and various Labor Party officials.

The Class Cinema sponsored a Streisand film retrospective and funneled profits from all evening screenings to a Barbra Streisand scholarship fund for Hebrew University students. Israel Television aired three different programs: a documentary on Yentl called A Film Is Born, a history of her career and a preview of Yentl. On radio, a My Name is Barbra special, which included a telephone interview, was broadcast several times and her records were played constantly.

Streisand landed in Israel at 4:15 a.m. Sunday on El Al's regular post-Sabbath flight from London. The odd arrival hour is hte result of political concessions made by the Begin government to the religious minority in this country—El Al takes off close to midnight so that observant Jews who don't travel from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday have time to reach the airport.

To compensate for the early-morning flight, Streisand spent most of Sunday resting in the presidential suite of the Tel Aviv Hilton, having checked in under a false name. Later that evening she attended the $50-a-ticket Israeli premiere of Yentl, held in the Shahaf Cinema, flagship of the chain of theaters owned by Menachem Golan and Yoram Globus, and especially refurbished with new seats for the occasion.

Streisand arrives at Tel Aviv Hilton after YENTL premiere

Arrived escorted by Milchan, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Sam Lewis, and former Israeli ambassador to the United States Dinitz, Streisand rededicated the film: “already dedicated to my father and all our fathers—to our forefathers who came from this place: Abraham, Isaac and Moses.” The slip-of-the-tongue—the third Hebrew patriarch is usually identified as Jacob—amused the audience and made up for the superstar's late arrival.

Streisand at microphone at Tel Aviv Hilton

The premiere, as well as the $200-a-plate gala dinner that followed at the adjacent Tel Aviv Hilton, were both sponsored by the Israel Friends of Hebrew University. Proceeds went to the Streisand Building.

Logically, both events should have been held in Jerusalem, the city where the building is located, but organizers knew that only residents of Tel Aviv, Israel's capital of flash and cash, had the resources and urge to spend the evening hobnobbing with a celebrity.


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