Jews in the News: Steven Spielberg and Bernie Sanders


The Beat Goes On for Bernie

It’s pretty amazing that a 74-year-old Brooklyn/Vermont Jewish socialist has won a slew of primaries. Perhaps more amazing is that Senator SANDERS is the subject of poems penned by two of the leading lights of the “Beat” movement.  Last year, the Brit paper, the Guardian, reported that ALLEN GINSBERG (1926-1997), wrote a poem clearly about Sanders while visiting Burlington, Vermont in 1986 (Sanders was then Burlington’s socialist mayor). Here’s a bit of it: “Socialist snow on the streets / Socialist talk in the Maverick Bookstore / Socialist kids sucking socialist lollipops.”  The Jewish paper, the Forward, says it looks like Sanders and Ginsburg met several times.

Then on May 6, one of the last living giants of the Beat era, San Francisco poet and City Lights bookstore founder LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI, now 97, published another ode to Bernie in the San Francisco Chronicle. Entitled, “The First and Last of Everything,” the closing lines read: “The next-to-last lefty looking for Obama Nirvana/The first fine day of Bernie Sanders’ White House Occupation/to set forth upon this continent a new nation!” (Ferlinghetti’s mother was Jewish).

So, just when you thought we were seeing the final fading away of Beat poets and American Jewish socialists (like the Yiddish speaking, democratic socialists who founded the Forward in 1897) ---they’re back in a pretty big way.

Jews in Odd Places, Part II

Last week, I noted that Iceland’s president has an Israeli Jewish wife.  Major media outlets, like the NY Times, are now reporting on a major crisis in the Congo (the much bigger of two countries with this name). The current president is hunkering down rather than relinquishing power when he is term-limited out at the end of 2016. Whether the fall election will even happen is unclear. His rival for the presidency is Moise Katumbi, 51, a very rich businessman and governor of Congo’s most prosperous state. He’s popular because he is competent and some say less corrupt than most Congolese politicians. His father, like many Sephardi Greek Jews from the Island of Rhodes, fled to Africa in the ‘30s when the Italian fascists took over island.  Unlike most Rhodes’ Jews, Katumbi’s father stayed in the former Belgian Congo when it became independent in the ‘60s. He wed the daughter of a local chief.  Moise identifies as Christian, but his father’s Jewish background may be used against him.


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