The Bulletin





 Israeli Guests at a Panel in Our Community This Afternoon 


At UMass Dartmouth earlier today we hosted a panel of Israelis from the Afula-Gilboa region for a flowing discussion about religious diversity in Israel. Before the event we honored the memory of those murdered in Pittsburgh two and a half weeks ago.    


Ravid, the panel moderator, is a young doctor who was once a SNEC Young Emissary to New England. Joining him were: Amani, an Israeli Arab (Muslim); Amir, a secular Israeli; and Ayala, an Orthodox Jew.    


Each member of the panel spoke about his or her personal experiences growing up and living in Israel now. Later, they accepted questions from the audience. Israeli Jews and Arabs living in the Afula-Gilboa region share work in hospitals, social centers and business. They live very close to each other and get together all the time. "We need to get along," surmised Ayala.  


Amani spoke about the unique status of Israeli Arabs in response to a question about military service. "We are in the middle. I am an Arab. I am an Israeli. I can't fight Palestinians. It's very complicated, this situation and feeling," she concluded.


The session ended with moderator Ravid speaking to hope and the future. "It takes time. There is no instant solution. Israel is young, a start-up nation. Things will change."  






Cease Fire or a War Just Begun?


On Tuesday, in light of the war that was going on in Gaza (and as a program reminder), I sent a special Bulletin. The situation looked dire as rockets were coming down in Israel's south at a rate of 40 per hour. I thought "boots on the ground" is a likely option and that it was going to get worse before it gets better in this dreaded piece of land no one and no country wants.  


Israeli bus hit by antitank missile seconds after passengers disembark  

The situation in the areas bordering with Gaza has been atrocious for months. Hundreds of rockets this week were a significant escalation to the kite and balloon bombs that have burned thousands of acres since the spring.  



And just when it seemed like one of those worst case scenarios, Hamas and Israel agreed on a ceasefire. You would think that a few nights or weeks away from bomb shelters is what the region needs, yet many Israelis in the areas near the border have been most vocal against the ceasefire. It was done out of weakness, they say, and it is a short-term solution before the next round. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman agreed with that position and resigned the Bibi-led government in protest in what many consider the first shot in a new election cycle. For the sake of tens of thousands kids in the region who rarely go very long without one traumatic event after another -- imagine what it felt like after Sandy Hook or Parkland and now imagine that every day for weeks in a row -- for the sake of those children let's hope this one lasts for a while and that those who play politics with these events remember that.




A Scholar's Perspective on Pittsburgh


I've always liked Jonathan D. Sarna, professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University, and author of, among other titles, American Judaism: A History. He was always the one to take a big picture view of American Jewish newspapers at a time when I was deeply involved in that industry. He was there to offer perspective for young journalists as he has for students for many years. After the massacre in Pittsburgh, The New York Times op-ed written by Dara Horn that I shared last week and the one below are my favorites.


In the Tablet Magazine article "The Future of the Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre," Sarna asks if American anti-Semitism really is distinctive from other diaspora countries and assesses just how worried we should be.


"The story of the Temple bombing [Atlanta, 1958] leaped to mind when I heard the horrific news from Pittsburgh," he writes. "The parallels are uncanny: In both cases, extremists with longstanding anti-Semitic tendencies took up arms and targeted synagogues amid an incendiary political atmosphere charged by extreme divisiveness and demagogic rhetoric. Meanwhile, traumatized Jews, in both cases, expressed alarm at what the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 1958 described as 'a frightening parallel to the coming of Hitler to power in Germany.' "


Sarna's observations and conclusions, delivered with precise poise, remove emotion from the equation and allow room for reason. Please read this one.



Antisemitism Here and Now, A New Look


Prior to the release of Deborah Lipstadt's new book (written before the Pittsburgh attack), she spoke with JTA. In the book she offers a concise and comprehensive overview of the various forms of Jew-hatred that have reappeared or intensified during the past few years. Talk about timely.  


Some excerpts from her JTA interview:

You focus largely on people who enable or minimize anti-Semitism, as opposed to hardcore anti-Semites themselves. Why is that?

" ... Farrakhan, he's a disgusting excuse for a human being. But it's the people around him, Linda Sarsour, [Women's March co-chair] Tamika Mallory, who have the voice of the press, who are listened to. They're enablers. The enablers are much more dangerous to me than the people we recognize..."

You criticize activists who lead the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, against Israel. But could you explain why you also have harsh words for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who they oppose?

" ... First of all, his welcoming and embrace of [Hungarian prime minister] Viktor Orban, who has been pushing this Soros imagery [billboards criticizing the liberal Jewish philanthropist George Soros] and cracking down on the Jewish community of Budapest in a horrible, horrible way...."


Check out the entire interview -- I sure did.



A Marvel of a Man


I don't like comic books. Never have. I didn't get into the graphic novel wave either. Not my thing. That said, where would we be without iconic comic book heroes like Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man and the like? Stan Lee's passing this week at the age of 95 gives us reason to have another look at his work.


"If you're looking to understand what makes Judaism's edicts eternal, what makes American popular culture so widely resonant, and how the two intersect, you could do much worse than picking up a Stan Lee comic book and following it into a world where good and evil still do battle," writes Liel Leibovitz for Tablet Magazine in his farewell to Stan Lee. Leibovitz has spent the last few years working on a book about Lee.

For a different but equally insightful take, there is this from the Forward: "Stan Lee and the Death of a Jewish-American Idealism.' "



Athletes Step Up


Stronger than hate. That's the message Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sent when he wore cleats designed specially to honor Pittsburgh synagogue victims in the November 4th Ravens game. Roethlisberger is close with Michele Rosenthal, the sister of the two brothers killed in the shooting.


Also getting a nod in the article for his public support is our own Julian Edelman, the Patriots wide receiver whose father is Jewish.



A Hole in None


When the news that rapper Ice-T has never eaten a bagel (and never, ever plans to have one) broke, you could have knocked me over with a poppy seed. I thought it was funny that such an unimportant food choice created a social media wave. I can't imagine, for example, the news that I will never drink iced tea (Why would anyone when there's iced coffee?) would make any waves at all.





Sunday, January 27

Global Screening Eventour for Who Will Write Our History

on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

New Bedford Whaling Museum 


November 1940, days after the Nazis sealed 450,000 Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, a secret band of journalists, scholars and community leaders decided to fight back. Led by historian Emanuel Ringelblum, the group vowed to defeat Nazi propaganda with pen and paper. Their story is told as a feature documentary.


Written and directed by Roberta Grossman and produced by Nancy Spielberg, Who Will Write Our History mixes their writings with new interviews, footage and dramatizations transporting us inside the Ghetto. They defied their murderous enemy with the ultimate weapon - the truth - and risked everything so that their archive would survive the war, even if they did not.






Shabbat Shalom,


The Bulletin is a weekly email from Amir Cohen, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Bedford.  I welcome your feedback at


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