First Read For March 31
News RoundupThe headlines American Jews are talking about today.

First Read For March 31

Dylan to accept Nobel Prize; Harry Potter-inspired Haggadah is best-seller; Israel approves new settlement; U.S. Jews applying for European citizenship.

Bob Dylan. Getty Images
Bob Dylan. Getty Images

Dylan will accept Nobel Prize

Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan will finally accept his Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm this weekend, according to JTA.

The Swedish Academy will present the Jewish native of Minnesota the Nobel diploma and Nobel medal in a “small and intimate” setting with no media present, said Sara Danius, secretary of the Swedish Academy. Dylan is scheduled to give two concerts in Stockholm over the weekend, and the academy “will show up at one of the performances,” said Danius wrote.

After the announcement in October that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, publicity-shy Dylan announced that he would be unable to travel to Stockholm for the December ceremony to receive his Nobel Prize, citing “pre-existing commitments.”

Dylan’s prize was announced on Oct. 13 “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” The academy said later that after five days of trying to contact Dylan to inform him of the award, it had given up. Dylan acknowledged the prize two weeks later.

Is Trump prompting Jews to claim European citizenship?

Germany, Spain, and Portugal have for several years offered the descendants of persecuted Jews who once lived in those countries the opportunity to seek citizenship today. Now, according to the Atlantic magazine, there is a small movement of Jews from the United States taking the countries up on their offer – as a reaction to the policies of Donald Trump.

“After last November’s election,” the magazine reports, “a small but growing number of eligible Americans—some of whom have been fearfully eyeing reports of mounting vandalism and harassment against Jews—have been exploring the option … when asked about their motivation, several cite Trump.

‘Hogwarts Haggadah’ tops best-seller list

Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg has a magic touch.

In publishing.

The spiritual leader of Congregation Etz Chaim in Queens’ Kew Gardens Hills neighborhood is the author of the ” The (unofficial) Hogwarts Haggadah,” which this week reached first place on Amazon’s Judaism Best Seller list. It is #32 on Amazon’s Best Selling list overall.

Haaretz reports that the rabbi’s book compares the hit Harry Potter series – Hogwarts is the private school where Harry and his pals study the fine arts of magic — to the Haggadah, using both books’ focus on slavery, freedom, education and the number four.

This is Rabbi Rosenberg’s second book comparing Jewish culture to Harry Potter. His first, “Morality for Muggles,” hinges on the themes of “friendship to free choice, prejudice to prophecy and rule-breaking to repentance,” according to the book’s Amazon page.

Why Harry Potter author isn’t boycotting Israel

More in Harry Potter related news, J.K. Rowling has taken a stand against the cultural boycott of Israel.

The Guardian reports that Rowling said that while she has “deplored” most of the actions of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, she does not believe a decision by artists to refrain from cultural relations with the country will force him from power.

She was among more than 150 prominent British citizens who signed a letter, written in response to one in February in which some 700 artists called for a cultural boycott of Israel, which stated that “cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory, and will not further peace.”,

Rowling wrote on TwitLonger: “I have [never] heard of a cultural boycott ending a bloody and prolonged conflict.”

Pakistan’s ‘last Jew’ converts from Islam

After extensive legal negotiations, Pakistan has officially allowed a man who has been dubbed the country’s “last Jew” to change his religion from Islam to Judaism, according to JTA. Fishel Benkhald, 29, was born to a Muslim father and Jewish mother. At birth he was registered as a Muslim but said he has sought for a long to be officially recognized as Jewish on state documents.

Benkhald, who has the Muslim name ‘Faisal’ on his Pakistani ID cards, said on Facebook that he was beaten up for arguing for rights for non-Muslim Pakistanis. 

After months of paperwork and appeals, the Interior Ministry has approved his application seeking “conversion/correction” of his religion, and he took to Twitter to thank Pakistan, NADRA and the Interior Ministry.

Benkhald is one of very few Jews – an estimated 745 families — in Pakistan.

Israel approves first new settlement in 20 years

The Knesset yesterday approved the first new West Bank settlement in two decades, bringing mild criticism from the Trump administration.

The Israeli action creates “the first serious test” for Trump’s new foray into Middle East peacemaking,” during the week that David Friedman, the new U.S. ambassador to Israel, was sworn in, USA Today reports. “The White House pointedly avoided any specific condemnation of the announcement, although it said that further settlement activity ‘does not help advance peace’ and that it expects Israel to show restraint moving forward.”

Houses in the former Israeli settlement of Amona seen on Jan. 16, 2017. JTA

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced the decision late Thursday following a meeting of his policy making Security Cabinet.

Netanyahu has vowed to build a new settlement to compensate the residents of Amona, an illegal settler outpost that was demolished in February under the orders of Israel’s Supreme Court. Thursday’s announcement said the new settlement would be built near the existing settlement of Shilo, which is nearby to the Amona site. It also said the government had approved tenders to build 2,000 new apartments from previously approved settlement projects.

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