The Bulletin

1. Move Over Machiavelli

Nothing really is that surprising when it comes to Israeli politics. This news comes close: The new Knesset sworn in just a month ago was dissolved last night with new elections set for September.

By law the prime minister (he was given the mandate by the president after a majority of parties recommended him for the job) had until midnight to form a coalition (a majority of 61 of the 120 seats at a minimum). For the first time ever after an election that did not happen.

What was the straw you ask? Avigdor Lieberman, the head of the Yisrael Beteinu Party, insisted that a bill that would increase the number of Haredim in the military IDF be passed as part of the coalition agreement. The ultra-Orthodox parties (with more seats) rejected any change.

So why new elections you might ask? Why not try to form a coalition under another leader? Well, Bibi made sure that didn't happen and gathered a majority to vote on a law to dissolve, making the 21st Knesset the shortest-lived in Israel's history. Like Game of Thrones Season 8, Knesset season 21 was a disaster from day one. There will be some surprises before September that I am going to share with you here in the coming 15 weeks, but for now prepare for the battle or just tune out the noise. 

The New York Times covers the history-making news out of Israel in "Israel in Uncharted Territory as Netanyahu Fails to Form a Coalition": "Analysts described the chaos as unprecedented, even by the rough standards of Israeli politics. And the morning-after recriminations over who is to blame for the political crisis gave an early taste of the contentious season of campaigning to come."
There you have it.
2. The Price of Religious Freedom

The German government's commissioner on anti-Semitism, Felix Klein, said in an interview last weekend that he "cannot advise Jews to wear the kippa everywhere all the time in Germany."

Predictably, thankfully, people and agencies responded. A German newspaper printed a cut-out kippah, urging readers to wear it in solidarity with Jews. Have we really come to playing paper dolls and dress up with religious articles? Sadly, yes.

The U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, tweeted: "Wear your kippah. Wear your friend's kippa. Borrow a kippah and wear it for our Jewish neighbors. Educate people that we are a diverse society."

The New York Times Editorial Board published this last weekend, providing context: "Opinion: The Old Scourge of Anti-Semitism Rises Anew in Europe."
3. Fala Portuguese?

Portugal is offering citizenship to the descendants of Jews who were forced to leave the country hundred of years ago. BBC News reports that thousands of people across the world are taking up the opportunity three years in.

"In 1495, Manuel I ascended to the Portuguese throne. Although first seen as friendly towards the Jewish population, Manuel wanted to marry Ferdinand and Isabella's daughter, the Infanta of Aragon. As part of the marriage contract, the Spanish rulers insisted Manuel copy their strictures on the Jews of Portugal. On 5 December 1496, Manuel ordered the expulsion of all Jews who would not convert to Catholicism."

What followed, we know, was forced mass conversions, the Inquisition and waves of emigration. To this day, in our own greater New Bedford community with a strong Portuguese identity, we recognize conversos descending from this ugly time in history.

Gabriel Steinhardt, the president of the Jewish community in Lisbon, said, "I call it a law of return, allowing Jews to get back a passport that they normally would be holding if their ancestors had not been forced to leave. It's the closing of a circle of reconciliation between the Jews and Portugal."

Portugal's Jews must be on the minds of editors this week. Exploring history from the same era, there is this article: "How Portugal's Jews Saved Themselves With a Sausage." No pork sausages for these secretly observant Jews. Instead they invented a new sausage, the Alheira de Mirandela, made with kosher chicken and bread and hung from their rafters just like their Christian neighbors did. Suspicion diverted.

4. Just in Time for Summer Camp

Everyone knows about the lifelong friendships cemented in years of Jewish summer camp, but what if your bunkmate was Bob Dylan? Dylan & Me: 50 Years of Adventures by Louie Kemp offers more insight into the boy who would grow into the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature winner. Moment Magazine shares with us an excerpt from the book.

"It was at summer camp in northern Wisconsin in 1953 that I first met Bobby Zimmerman from Hibbing. He was 12 years old and he had a guitar. He would go around telling everybody that he was going to be a rock-and-roll star. I was 11 and I believed him. Even at that tender age, I could see that most of the other kids weren't really buying it." Nadine Epstein, editor-in-chief at Moment sat down with the author for this interview.
5. Been There, Seen That

I did not know it was Purim when I walked into the Jewish Ghetto in Venice eight years ago. I had also never read the entire Book of Esther from start to finish in one sitting (or on one leg). Yet on that day on one of hundreds of bridges in Venice, I did. I was thinking about it when I read Tablet Magazine's exploration of "The Ghetto" over 500 years after the first Jewish enclave in Venice. What does ghetto mean today?

"The word 'ghetto' also came to be widely used in a completely different sense from its original pre-emancipation usage as a result of at least two major factors. The first was the immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe and their initial settlement in poorer urban neighborhoods in the West that were certainly not compulsory, segregated or enclosed, as for example in Berlin, Paris, London, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston. The second was the increasing usage of the word 'ghetto' in English fiction that portrayed Jewish life in an English-speaking environment."

Yes, the writing leans academic and dry, but the subject matter really is fascinating, especially if you have visited Venice's Jewish Ghetto, as I have more than once.

6. Boiled, Baked, Bitten

When a blind writer follows her other senses through a sampling tour of Boston's bagel makers, one has to trust in the power of taste as judge in "Top Nosh: Bostonians and Bagels."

I could get around a carb-centric tour of the Hub myself. Why accept another's opinion when the source is just up the road? See you at Bagelsaurus. Or Kupel's Bakery. Or Iggy's Bread.

Thursday, May 30, 7:30 PM
Boston Jewish Film Festival screening of
Brattle Theatre, Cambridge
Sunday, June 2, 3:00 PM
Boston Jewish Film Festival screening of
House of Blues, Boston

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 editorial board member of Hadassah magazine. 
Monday, June 3, 7:00 PM
Jewish Federation of Greater New Bedford ANNUAL MEETING
All members welcome. Middle Eastern food provided.
Tifereth Israel Library
RSVP to office@jewishnewbedford.org of (508) 997-7471. 

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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