10.
17.
2019

The Bulletin


1. A Steely Brouhaha on the Hudson

   
 
Last week I applauded the German anti-BDS legislation. This week I return to anti-Semitism at home, at Bard College right here between the Berkshires and the Catskills.
 
The Forward's opinion editor, Batya Ungar-Sargon, was invited to speak on a panel at an anti-Semitism conference hosted by the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard. She walked out of that conference midway and subsequently wrote an article titled I Was Protested at Bard College for Being a Jew. If you follow Sargon's writing for the Forward, you'll find her one of the most critical writers in Jewish (or any) media about Israel. It was that fact (I suspect) that made it so hard for her to deal with the protests she encountered.
 
Personally I am not surprised when a discussion about anti-Semitism can't be separated from Israel or Zionism - certainly not on a college campus on a panel with three Jews. I actually find it a bit naive of Sargon not to expect otherwise. Students for Justice for Palestine (promoters of BDS) don't just protest these discussions, they make it impossible for anyone to speak. Sargon also found it surprising that Bard faculty and other participating scholars joined the protests. She fully expected that her request ahead of the panel that the protests would take place at the Zionism discussion was ignored. The SJP protesters of course disrupted the conversation, faculty and others supported them and Sargon left the panel in protest.
 
In the aftermath Sargon's words sounded more like Deborah Lipstadt (yes, it has been a few weeks since I mentioned Lipstadt, I know): "Right-wing anti-Semites see any accusation of anti-Semitism as a Jewish conspiracy to take away the rights of whites, while left-wing anti-Semites see the same accusation as an attempt to silence Palestinians." The mere raising of the issue is unacceptable since it makes those who hate Israel feel "unsafe." Perhaps seeing what is a reality on campuses everywhere first hand finally reached and disillusioned her. One can hope. Someone always wants to attack Israel and because they do it is hard to distinguish between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. As Sargon learned, even strong critics of Israel aren't safe.  
 
Bard's most famous graduates Donald Fagan and Walter Becker, known as Steely Dan, were once arrested at Bard together with a few dozen students for possession of marijuana . "I'm never going back to my old school," they wrote and sang feeling betrayed by the school that helped the police plant an undercover officer among them. Fifty years later Ungar-Sargon might want to better prepare before going back to school because for BDS or SJP, what you stand for, your values and your opinions are of no consequence. It only matters that you are Jewish.  
 
I include a link to Sargon's article (so you can read it in her words and not how I read them). When you do, please pay attention to several letters to the editor at the bottom of the article, some from people who claim they were misrepresented in the article.
2. A Jewish Girl in the Attic

Opening this weekend and winner of the Toronto film festival's top prize, an Oscars bellwether, JoJo Rabbit highlights director-writer Taika Waititihis' signature style of humor and pathos. The film is a World War II-era satire that follows a lonely German boy whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother (played by Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl in their attic. Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, Jojo must confront his blind nationalism.  
 
If you don't know what to make of this, here's a review from The New Republic "JoJo Rabbit's Satire Fail" and an interview with the director in The Times of Israel.


JOJO RABBIT | Official Trailer [HD] | FOX Searchlight
JOJO RABBIT | Official Trailer [HD] | FOX Searchlight

3. A Synagogue by Any Other Name

Once nearly 50 percent Jewish, with more Jews per square mile than any U.S. city outside of New York, Chelsea played a significant role in 20th-century American Jewish life. Kosher butchers, Jewish bakeries, and more than 18 synagogues were located within a 1.8-square-mile area. But that was yesterday.

Today this city just north of Boston is reconciling itself to a newly purposed Walnut Street Synagogue, Chelsea's only surviving Orthodox shul. It has become a struggle to pay bills, maintain and heat this large, century-old structure. The current synagogue president's proposal to transform the synagogue was accepted by the board of directors in 2017. The shul plans to become the Chelsea Jewish Museum and Cultural Center at the Walnut Street Synagogue - following the example of other historic U.S. synagogues that have successfully adapted themselves for 21st-century audiences.

It's story we are likely to hear repeated as American society shifts away from an era of synagogue and church attendance. Read Tablet Magazine's "A Synagogue's Second Act" for more on local synagogues' transformations.
4. A Starring Role

Was the original Dodge logo a Jewish star? While there are many theories about its origin, no one can say with any authority how it really came to be. What we do know is that the DB (Dodge Bros.) star was discontinued for the 1939 models. The timing of that decision can be no mystery.


5. Where Have You Gone Sandy Koufax?

 
Israeli tennis player Dudi Sela, meanwhile, quit his game in the third set tied at 1:1 because Yom Kippur had begun. His request to start early was denied and the technical loss cost him $34,000 in prize money.
 
FOR YOUR CALENDAR


Wednesday, October 23, 12:30 - 1:45 PM
Lunch lecture: "The Armenian Genocide and the German Connection"
Manya Bark, independent Holocaust scholar and instructor at the Second Half Institute of Fall River
BCC, Room TBA

Wednesday, November 13, 12:30 - 1:45 PM
Lunch lecture: "Preserving Czech-Jewish History: Honorable Friendship During the Holocaust"
Dr. Ilana Offenberger, professor of Holocaust History, UMass Dartmouth
BCC, Room TBA

VISIT OUR WEBSITE

Shabbat Shalom,

Amir

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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