From:                              Jewish Federation of Greater New Bedford

Sent:                               Thursday, August 20, 2015 12:15 PM

To:                                   'New Bedford Jewish Federation'

Subject:                          The Bulletin -- A Community Update for August 20, 2015

The Bulletin - A Community Update for August 20, 2015

Our Man in Iran

When the news emerged last month that the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, which accredits foreign journalists in the country, had issued a visa to The Forward it was a major accomplishment for the paper. It has been decades since a Jewish newspaper had been granted such access. At the time the paper did not reveal the identity of the journalist, but I had little doubt who it was going to be.

As readers of this Bulletin know, a few years ago I founded a Jewish journalism prize in memory of my friend and colleague David Twersky. David and I worked at The Forward in the early ‘90s and the 2013 winner of the David Twersky Prize was Forward journalist Larry Cohler-Esses. I had little doubt Larry was their man in Iran.

Cohler-Esses, Forward assistant managing editor for news, with the 2013 David Twersky Prize. To his left are David Twersky’s children Anna and Michael and yours truly to his right.

Fast forward a month and Larry has filed several reports from Iran that make for very interesting reading. In this article he shares memories from the two years he lived in Iran more than 35 years ago before the fall of the shah and talks now to members of the Iranian Jewish community.  Here Larry writes about how Iran’s Jews survive in the mullahs’ world. 

Cohler-Esses in Iran

Forward editor Jane Eisner explains why the paper sent a reporter to Iran even as the country debates the proposed nuclear deal.  “We had no agenda here except to tell a sensitive story with accuracy, objectivity and historical context,” she writes.

American lawmakers remain divided and even among Jewish groups there is little consensus when it comes to this historic deal.  Yet it is looking increasingly likely that the deal will not be halted by Congress.  

In Israel, meanwhile, Netanyahu’s anti-deal rhetoric has resulted in a highly charged atmosphere with American ambassador Dan Shapiro receiving death threats. Read  J.J. Goldberg’s take on Israel and the Iran deal now.


Matisyahu Sings the BDS Blues

Matisyahu, born Matthew Paul Miller, is a Jewish American reggae, rap and alternative rock musician known for hits like “One Day” and “King Without a Crown.”  He is a seeker and an artist who has been inspired by Bob Marley, Orthodox Jewish themes, the band Phish and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach over the years.  Once a Hassid, now not.  What he is also not is Israeli.  And definitely not someone who has expressed polarizing views about Israel and Palestine.  Dude just wants to sing.

So it was of interest to, well, the world when his invitation to perform at a music festival in Spain was rescinded because Matisyahu refused to bow to pressure from the local Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions movement and clarify his stance on Israel and Palestine. 

This Vox piece explains how events unfurled, with the writer opining, “Yet the BDS campaign against Matisyahu claims he supports ‘apartheid and ethnic cleansing.’ Why? Given the scant evidence, it looked like the BDS chapter had concluded this based in part on Matisyahu's religion, and an assumption that Jews necessarily support all Israeli policies unless they prove otherwise. It's not a standard, after all, that non-Jews are being held to.”

Rabbi David Wolpe writes in Time about the implications of the Matisyahu story in the context of anti-Semitism in Europe and Latin America.

Realizing the error of its ways – following outrage from the Spanish government and people around the world – the Rototom Sunsplash reggae festival issued an apology and reinvited Matisyahu to perform this Sunday.  Read The Jerusalem Post's coverage for the festival’s explanation and Spain’s response.

If you’ve never heard Matisyahu’s music, check out his cover of John Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels” here.

Ain’t No Sunshine


Israel is virtually rainless from early spring to late autumn.  Sunblock is recommended even in winter months.  Yet the country renowned for being a leader in technological innovation and making the most of little (drip irrigation, for example) has been slow to embrace solar energy.  Despite the fact that solar panels heated the water in the house I grew up in the early ‘60s, last year Israel derived less than two percent of its power from renewable sources, preferring instead to rely upon coal, natural gas and diesel.

Turns out that another Jewish journalist, my former colleague and friend from Newton, MA, is working hard to bring that two percent number up.  Read the fascinating story of the first utility-scale solar plant to be built in Israel in this Slate article.  



Dancing with the Enemy: End of Summer Read

If this JTA article about Roosje Glaser, the Dutch woman who taught SS officers how to dance, piques your interest, then follow this Amazon link for the book about her written by her nephew.  With charisma and chutzpah in equal measure, Rosie survived the Holocaust only to become estranged from her brother and family in the years following.     

“She had charm and she spoke to the Germans like she was one of them, like a classmate. She lacked that victim mentality,” said Paul Glaser, who interviewed his aunt for the book close to her death.

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