The Bulletin

1. Our Boys and Wounded Souls

Our Boys (2019): Official Trailer | HBO 
Our Boys (2019): Official Trailer | HBO
Let me start by saying that If you are not watching Our Boys on HBO you should be. I say this because it is based on real and recent events (2014) even if those events may not be presented in a "balanced way" and to everyone's liking. It is a co-production of Keshet (Israel) and HBO and the first ever Hebrew-Arabic-only series on HBO. It involves Israeli and Palestinian producers and includes some who were (or are) Orthodox Jews (it's an important detail). It checks many of the boxes I like to check for a Bulletin piece because we have politics, anti-Semitism, a view from one side as well as the other, controversy and all that with a healthy amount of Fauda. (Read - all the ingredients we have grown to expect from original Israeli television.)

That said, if I were to pick a one-word intro, I'd say it is a series about hate. How low, hateful and evil humans can become when subjected to insane dogmatic ideologies, continuous incitement and straightforward racism. As Jews, we know because it happened to us some 80 years ago, but we came out of it saying "never again" and here we are not many historical moments later dealing with (even if on a much smaller scale) the same not-so-humane expression.
Our Boys, which premiered on August 12th, is a series based on the events following the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in June 2014. The entire country held its breath in hope until their bodies were discovered nearly three weeks later. The national concern is done well, but the personal view of the families is not and this (my opinion) is one of the reasons for the controversy.  
A few days later, a Palestinian teen, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 16, was kidnapped and burned alive in the Jerusalem forest by Israeli extremists. The show does a superb job of setting the story of the Palestinian family in the most personal terms, which makes the lack of such an approach for the three Israeli families so hard for many (including Prime Minister Netanyahu) to accept.  
More importantly, the families of the Israeli teens have all spoken out against the series, and some people have asked HBO to issue a statement admitting imbalance. HBO has of course defended its series. There is, however, one part of the show (full disclosure - I'm only five episodes in and as such my view is not yet complete) that I think is not only balanced, but is in my opinion the strongest part of the series. It is the work of those investigating the murders, the Jewish Division of Shabak. The storytelling is superb, the narrative dramatic and the character building great. It is the part where as viewers we look for - and for me, in Simon played by Shlomi Elkabetz, find - our heroes.  
Watching thus far I was again horrified by the murder of Eyal, Naftali and Gilad as much (if not more) than I was five years ago when it happened. That goes for Mohammed in exactly the same way. That I have had such a reaction to a story when I already knew the outcome is perhaps a good enough reason to create, air and watch this show and that is why I hope you will watch it too.  
I think it can educate us and remind us of how imperfect Israeli society is. It shows us elements of Palestinian life we do not often see and perhaps should. It shows us that in this chaos there remains a strong element of justice and the people who seek it, even if we are forced to live with truths we are uncomfortable with as Jews and as humans. The show's title in Hebrew is Boys. Perhaps in an effort to make all four teens equally belong to the story it was translated to OUR Boys. I think that was a good idea because to paraphrase Golda Meir, not until we (on both sides) love our boys more than we hate theirs will we ever achieve a peaceful resolution.
The response to the show in Israel has been predictably passionate. I share with you here some varying viewpoints  

Haaretz "Why you must watch HBO's brilliant new Israel drama Our Boys"
A rabbi and Yeshiva University professor's opinion: "The HBO series uses a Jewish tragedy to condemn Israeli society"
The New York Times coverage: "HBO Drama Revives a National Trauma for Israel."

2. Rhoda Morgenstern - Always & Forever

"I decided to move out of the house when I was 24; my mother still refers to this as the time I ran away from home." Rhoda quotes are like Beatles songs, it's so hard to pick a favorite. Valerie Harper, who played lovable, sassy, Jewish sitcom star Rhoda, died at 80 last week. She was Catholic, but in Rhoda, she put a Jewish character front and center on a major network, later also portraying Golda Meir.

Harper said playing Jewish characters came naturally for her. "I always had this neshama (soul) for some reason. Living in New York, I always had Jewish friends. And they have been my closest friends. They are my chosen family." She added, "Jewish New Yorkers are very similar to American Italian New Yorkers. They share a certain attitude, a joie de vivre, a 'don't mess with me' kind of thing. It's great for the comedy mill."

Take a walk down memory lane with the 15+ best Rhoda Morgenstern quotes.
3. Sababa

Everything is sababa in Adeena Sussman's long-awaited Israeli cookbook. Sababa is derived from Arabic and translates loosely to mean "everything is awesome," "everything's cool" - which it seemingly is in this native Californian, now Israeli-based food writer and recipe developer's world.

For Sussman, the character of Israeli food is derived at least as much from the country's character than from the places its inhabitants came from. "If I had to define Israeli food," she said, "I might try to shy away from attributions of nationality and talk more about national culture. To me, Israeli food has a looseness to it, it has a spontaneity to it that's similar to Israeli culture: It's very lemony, it's very sunny and bright, it's got spice. It's complex but not complicated."

On Epicurious, Sussman shares "New Year, New Brisket: A Modern, Israeli-Inspired Rosh Hashana Menu" just in time for your holiday planning.

 4. Hamas V. ISIS - Can't Make This Up

Explosions last week at two Hamas police checkpoints in Gaza City left three officers dead. According to Hamas, it was Islamic State suicide bombers. I have in the past mentioned that at times their hate for Israel is only second to their hate for each other.

Why do the two Islamist groups consider each other enemies? "The short answer is that Hamas, which is considered a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, is a national liberation movement, albeit with an Islamist bent, intent on forming an Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. ISIS, which stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, belongs to the Salafist branch within Islam that wants to re-create the Islamic caliphate and impose Sharia law throughout the region. ISIS views Hamas and its supporters as 'apostates'." There's more on that if you open the above link.
5. Finding Meaning

For six years, Sarah Hurwitz wrote speeches for First Lady Michelle Obama while intensively studying Jewish texts to discover meaning in Judaism. She discusses this process in this Jewish Boston Q & A as well as in her new memoir Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life - in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There).

She will be speaking at Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline on Wednesday, September 11.


Monday, September 16, 4:00 PM
Immigrants in Film: Classic Hollywood and the Ethnic American Experience
Raphael Shargel, associate professor of English at Providence College
Grand Reading Room, Claire T. Carney Library, UMass Dartmouth

Thursday, September 26, 12:30 PM
Lecture: "Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Atrocity"
Dr. James Waller, professor of the Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Keene State College
Jackson Arts Center, BCC, Room 209

Sunday, October 13, 2:00 PM
Connecticut Lyric Opera's production of Der Kaiser von Atlantis, an opera by Jewish composer Viktor Ulmann and librettist Peter Kien who collaborated while imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. They were later sent to their deaths at Auschwitz.
Jackson Arts Center, BCC
Reception immediately following in the Grimshaw-Gudewicz Art Gallery, 3:45-4:30 PM
Support levels: $25 student, $50 individual, $100 sponsor, $200 benefactor

Wednesday, October 16, 12:30 - 1:45 PM
Lunch lecture: "Racial Prophylaxis: Jim Crow and Nazi Race Laws"
Dr. Kathleen Pearle, dean of Division of Social Science and Education, Bristol College

Wednesday, October 16
2:00 PM - Woodland Commons, UMass Dartmouth
6:00 PM Charlton College of Business Auditorium, UMass Dartmouth
Nataly Kogan, a Soviet-Jewish refugee and "happiness expert," is the Rev. Dr. Robert Lawrence Lecture speaker. She is the author of Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Event the Difficult Ones).
Admission is free, but registration is required at lawrence-lecture-2019.eventbrite.com

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

November 6 - 17 (Save the Dates)
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


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.

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