The Bulletin

1. Overall Numbness to Rising Anti-Semitism Is No Oops
In the movie Independence Day, Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum fly an alien spaceship back to the mothership with a plan to deceptively infiltrate the aliens' defense and blow up a nuke from the inside. As they attempt to take off, Will Smith bumps the unfamiliar ship into the wall in his first take-off attempt. "Oops," he says, to which Goldblum responds, "W-what do you mean 'oops'? Don't say 'oops.'"
I was thinking about oops this week because anti-Semitism in America is coming from all corners of the political spectrum. It seems (to me) that the most we get in response to it is an occasional oops. Murderous acts like those in Pittsburgh and San Diego make it clear that these are dangerous times. Synagogues and Jewish institutions are planning for a new normal, a permanent and costly state of heightened security. Yet outside of the organized Jewish world we're still at oops.
More and more attacks on Israel cross the line into anti-Semitism. No longer limited to college campuses and white supremacists, extremists like David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan or Louis Farrakhan, members of congress regularly cross that line with not much more than an oops. Israel and Israelis are demonized far beyond commentary on Israel's policies.
Criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism have become so dangerously blurred that The New York Times saw fit to publish a cartoon of a kippah-wearing President Trump being led by a guide dog with a Star of David necklace and the face of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. This illustration doesn't even make an effort to criticize the president or the prime minister, instead unapologetically targeting their Jewishness. While this is blatantly anti-Semitic, perhaps the worst part of this editorial decision is how ignorant it is. One must be blind (pun intended) and (frankly) stupid to publish something so outrageous. The Times' illustration is such an expression of basic hate that for me it feels like the expectation of applause and acceptance weighed against the risk of an oops is a possible if not likely explanation.
And while the sound of oops is perhaps a little louder today after the blatant and insensitive error of The New York Times followed by the murder of praying Jews, it is clear to me that our job of educating the public is monumental and our need to take care of each other and protect ourselves profound. In a "dollar short and a day late" apology yesterday, the Times mentioned "evidence of a profound danger - not only of anti-Semitism but of numbness to its creep."
As we commemorate Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, this week, there is no better time for us to remember (never forget) our history. It is our past that educates our present and more importantly our future.  
I hope you will join me this Sunday at 6:15 PM at the Holocaust Monument in Buttonwood Park. Together we are stronger. It is a mitzvah, our duty and our obligation. Today more than ever before.  

2. Obrigado, Brazil

3. Weaponized Snark

You may not know them, but the IDF's social media unit took to the internet battlefield (not for the first time) where a wink and a smile are often the weapons of choice. Was there a border crossing? You decide. In the meantime, it is good to know that they are watching out for enemies foreign and domestic. And in the battle between Major Keren and Jeremy Corbyn, I'm taking Major Keren any day of the week, twice on Shabbat and three times on Passover.  
4. Sapiens - No Red String Bracelets Here

Yuval Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is one of the smartest books I have ever read. Harari is brilliant and sometimes controversial. In the Tablet Magazine article "Three Charms for Hitler" there's an academic exploration of the lengths some went to in the fight against evil. The article is a concise and non-annotated version of Harari's Three Charms for Killing Adolf Hitler: Practical Kabbalah in WW2.

"The struggle of Jerusalem kabbalists against Adolf Hitler and their attempt to destroy him through ritual tactics of ban and witchcraft is neither the first nor the last link in a chain of actions and stories about such actions," he writes.

"Armies and weapons of the kind operated by the Allies in the battlefield were not available to them. But they had, so they believed, another power, a holy force hidden in ancient manuscripts in the shape of charms and incantations, rituals and holy names. They therefore fought the enemy in their way and, resorting to the power of practical Kabbalah, tried to kill Adolf, son of Klara, Hitler, 'ruler of the Germans'.

"This was a multifaceted activity. Some arranged prayers and supplications, fasts, calls to repentance, taking Torah scrolls out of the ark, and blowing shofarot - all in an attempt to fix the flaw due to which, so they believed, God had punished the people so terribly and persuade him to revoke it. Others went to prostrate themselves on the tombs of the ancestors or tsaddikim (righteous men) to ask them to intercede in the people's favor. Some adopted a defensive strategy and asked for heavenly mercy. Others opted for an aggressive course and wanted to attack, to ban, and to curse."

Were these Kabbalists successful in their efforts? You decide.
5. The Girl in the Blue Sweater

"An elegant lady of 95 walked in to my friend's Upper West Side apartment on the second night of Passover. She had an aristocratic air. All eyes were on her, coiffed in auburn waves, wearing strings of pearls above a vibrant sapphire blue sweater. 'What a beautiful sweater!' I told her. She was quick to tell me she wore it every Passover. The sweater also came with a story," begins the Moment article written by Gail Dubov.

Helena Weinstock Weinrauch has seen much change in her long life, but one thing has remained the same -- the 75-year-old blue sweater she wears every Passover. It was gifted to her by another Auschwitz survivor whose knitting needles saved her life in the Lodz Ghetto.  
6. The Fine Arts of Jewish Film

There's a seat for you at the Jewish Film Festival at the Museum of Fine Arts May 9-19.

Since 1976, The National Center for Jewish Film (NCJF) has rescued, restored and exhibited films that document the diversity of Jewish life. The annual festival is a vibrant program of new independent films and restored classics from around the world, with visiting filmmakers and scholars. This year's festival includes the epic drama A Fortunate Man, from Academy Award-winning director Bille August; and The Spy Behind Home Plate, a documentary recounting the amazing true story of major league baseball player-turned-spy Moe Berg.

For details check out
The National Center for Jewish Film's Annual Film Festival.

7. Scholarship Applications Available

Each year we award children (and grandchildren) of Federation members college scholarships for undergraduate and graduate programs. To request an application write to office@jewishnewbedford.org or call (508) 997-7471.
Sunday, May 5, 6:15 PM
Annual Yom HaShoah Observance
6:15 PM Holocaust Memorial, Buttonwood Park
7:00 PM Tifereth Israel Congregation Main Sanctuary
Guest speaker: Albert Garih, child survivor  
Sunday, June 2, 7:30 PM
Rabbi Bernard H. and Minna Ziskind Memorial Lecture
Speaker Francine Klagsbrun, author of more than a dozen books, including Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel, The Fourth Commandment: Remember the Sabbath Day and Married People: Staying Together in the Age of Divorce. She was the editor of the best-selling Free to Be . . . You and Me and is a regular columnist for The Jewish Week and on the editorial board of Hadassah magazine. 

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 amir@jewishnewbedford.org.

Jewish Federation of Greater New Bedford, 467 Hawthorn Street, Dartmouth, MA 02747
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