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Auburn Basketball Gets a Jewish Coach

Jewish Coaches Association founding member Bruce Pearl heads to Alabama

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Tennessee Volunteers coach Bruce Pearl on Nov. 13, 2009. (AP)

Today the Auburn University athletic department announced they’d hired Bruce Pearl as the school’s new men’s basketball coach. Pearl, a former Maccabi USA coach, is a founding member of the Jewish Coaches Association, which hosts an annual bagel brunch during the NCAA Final Four tournament (you can read former Scroll editor Marc Tracy’s charming dispatch from the 2012 event here).

“We are a minority,” Pearl said of the group at the time. “We really are a minority, as it relates to coaching and to some of the natural challenges of recruiting.” (more…)

Dead Sea Scrolls Found in Israeli Storeroom

The nine unopened scrolls were discovered in 1952 but never investigated

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A conservation analyst from the Israeli Antiquities department prepares fragments of the Dead Sea scrolls on December 18, 2012 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Dr. Yonatan Adler, lecturer at Ariel University and post-doctoral researcher at Hebrew University, found a rich secret hidden in an unmarked phylactery case buried in the Israel Antiquities Authority storerooms. Inside were nine tiny Dead Sea Scrolls, the Times of Israel reports.

The two scrolls found inside the phylactery case were originally discovered in 1952, but had apparently never been investigated. Seven more previously unopened scrolls were subsequently discovered amongst the antiquities. All nine are believed to have been found in Qumran Cave 4, the site of the initial Dead Sea Scroll excavations. (more…)

Bomb Wounds IDF Soldiers Near Syrian Border

Third incident in north of Israel in past two weeks

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Israeli soldiers patrol along the Israel-Syria border on March 5, 2014. (JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)

Three Israeli soldiers were wounded today near the Syrian border when a bomb hit their jeep, Haaretz reports. The wounded soldiers were evacuated by helicopter and are being treated for light and moderate wounds at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. The IDF responded to the explosion with artillery fire, hitting several targets.

(more…)

Minneapolis Restaurant Has Nazi-Themed Event

So-called ‘historical reenactment’ complete with swastika banners

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The Nazi-themed dinner event at Gasthof zur Gemütlichkeit in Minneapolis, Minn. (City Pages )

A German restaurant in Minneapolis, Minn. hosted a strange holiday party this year—and for the past six years, too. It’s like a regular party, Gawker explains, except that dinner guests don what look a lot like Nazi uniforms, and the restaurant hangs swastika banners all over the place.

The restaurant, Gasthof zur Gemütlichkeit, hosts what one attendee described to City Pages as “a Star Trek convention but for WWII enthusiasts.” (more…)

Another Teenage Holocaust Diary Discovered

14-year-old Rywka Lipszyc documented life in the Lodz Ghetto

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L: Cover of The Diary of Rywka Lipszyc; R: Note written by former Red Army doctor Zinaida Berezovskaya about where she found the book. (The Diary of Rywka Lipszyc)

While Anne Frank and her diary have become something of an emblem of early Holocaust education for students, another diary written by a teenager during the Holocaust has surfaced that can perhaps offer a different perspective of the atrocities. JWeekly reports that the diary of Rywka Lipszyc, which chronicles six months of life in the Lodz Ghetto through the eyes of a 14-year-old, has been discovered—and, after an extensive authentication process, published.

The Diary of Rywka Lipszyc has a strange provenance. (more…)

Syrian Forces Seize Rebel Town Near Lebanon

With Hezbollah’s help, Assad secures last rebel stronghold on border

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Destroyed homes are seen in the Syrian town of Yabrud on March 16, 2014 after Syria's army and Lebanon's Hezbollah seized full control of the rebel bastion in the strategic Qalamun region near the Lebanese border. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian government forces, backed by Hezbollah, have taken control of the Syrian town of Yabroud after driving out rebel fighters, Reuters reports. As an influx of militants from Syria into Lebanon threatens to destabilize the country, tensions were running high on the border and in the nearby town of Yabroud. Eager to suppress the Syrian rebels, Lebanon-based Hezbollah supported the Syrian army and pro-government fighters.

Possession of Yabroud helps President Bashar al-Assad secure the land route that connects Damascus with Aleppo and the Mediterranean coast. Capturing this coastal region marks a major strategic victory for the Syrian military. (more…)

Why Did Obama Meet With Abbas in Washington?

The president’s Middle East policy has been about minimizing America’s role

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U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) in the Oval Office of the White House March 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Obama met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas this morning at the White House. The question is why? Given Obama’s broader strategic view of the Middle East, why does the Arab-Israeli conflict still matter?

Yes, Obama said in his speech last fall to the United Nations General Assembly that Palestinian-Israeli peace is still one of the White House’s two key concerns. It surely matters a lot to Secretary of State John Kerry, who has staked his reputation on being the man who can break the impasse. But the broader issue is that the peace process just doesn’t play the same role in U.S. Middle East policy as it has for four decades. In the context of how the administration is handling its other key diplomatic initiative—Iran—the peace process has entered its mannerist phase, an empty formalism signifying nothing. (more…)

Anti-Semitic Elmo Inspires ‘Good Wife’ Cameo

Costumed bear in Times Square calls show’s character a ‘dirty stinking Jew’

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Last night was Bill de Blasio’s much-awaited cameo on The Good Wife last night, which came in the form of a Taxi TV PSA that Nathan Lane can’t figure out how to mute. But viewers of the political drama, which stars the unstoppable Julianna Margulies and is loosely based on Eliot Spitzer’s relationship with his ex-wife Silda Wall Spitzer, got another ripped-from-the-headlines (ours, at least) surprise on last night’s episode: Anti-Semitic Elmo.

Well, not anti-Semitic Elmo himself—he was sentenced to a year in jail for trying to extort the Girl Scouts—but a fuzzy life-sized Times Square costumed bear based on him. (more…)

Court: Jerusalem Cinema Must Close on Shabbat

Supreme court says secular movie megacomplex must rest on the seventh day

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One of 15 movie theaters in Jerusalem's new Cinema City. (iTravelJerusalem)

Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that a newly opened movie complex in Jerusalem must remain closed on Shabbat. The Cinema City complex, which has 15 theaters and approximately 50 restaurants and shops, opened last month amidst controversy that began in 2010 when its owners were issued a building permit that stipulated that the complex close for business on Shabbat, JTA reports.

The Finance Ministry and Jerusalem Municipality’s 2010 edict stated that because the complex was built on government property, it must be closed on Shabbat like all other government offices. (more…)

Moscow’s Long History of Intervening in Votes Like Crimea’s

Century-old Soviet method of legitimizing national self-determination lives on

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Members of the public walk past a Russian military personnel carrier outside a Ukrainian military base on March 17, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

On Sunday, the residents of Crimea voted overwhelmingly in favor of incorporating into Russia. But the referendum is unlikely to settle the matter—not just because it was conducted under Russian military occupation. Despite their promise of a democratic solution to territorial disputes, plebiscites have a poor record of resolving ethnic conflicts. Rather, they are more likely to produce continued clashes and population displacement. All too often, borderland minorities have suffered the most in the aftermath of referendums like this one—and already we have seen Jews from Crimea leaving or preparing to flee. Other minorities, including the Crimean Tatars, will likely follow.

So why would anyone have thought this was a good solution to the Crimean crisis? (more…)

Comedian David Brenner Dies of Cancer

The Tonight Show favorite and king of observational comedy dies at 78

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Comedian David Brenner performs at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia on April 6, 2010. (William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

Stand-up comedian, actor, and author David Brenner died of cancer on Saturday at age 78. In Brenner’s New York Times obituary, comedian Richard Lewis calls him the “godfather of hip, observational comedy.”

Born and raised in poor areas of South and West Philadelphia, Brenner directed documentaries before he debuted on TV in 1971 on the The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, later becoming one of the show’s most frequent guests. (more…)

The White House’s Hamantaschen Recipes

Purim may be over, but there’s always time for presidential pastry selections

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Hamantaschen.(Shutterstock)

‘Twas the night before Purim, when all through the house (the White House, that is) no creature was hungry, not even a mouse.

The White House Office of Public Engagement released a statement Friday telling the story of Purim and sharing not one, but two hamantaschen-related recipes. (more…)

Workmen’s Circle Restores Defaced L.A. Mural

Vandalized by pro-Palestinian taggers despite group’s pro-Palestinian stance

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Mural at SoCal Workmen's Circle in Los Angeles. (Photo by the author)

Hershl Hartman squinted in the late Friday afternoon sunlight at the south wall of the SoCal Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring building, a tired structure bravely holding down a corner of Los Angeles along the Jewish stretch of South Robertson Boulevard. A few weeks ago, someone spray-painted “Free Palestine” on this wall, defacing a mural commemorating the Jewish activist organization’s 114-year history. Opposition spray-painters then replaced “Free” with a more aggressive four-letter word.

The dueling acts of vandalism have officially been classified as a hate crime and are now under investigation by the LAPD—but the members of the Workmen’s Circle weren’t going to wait for resolution before fixing the mess, and hired the original artist, Eliseo Art Silva, to restore the mural, which he originally painted in the 1990s. (more…)

Editing Out Elements of Judaism Doesn’t Work

Instead of masking our ambivalence and discomfort, we should confront it

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(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Years ago, I attended a Passover seder hosted by a wonderful woman. As we prepared the table, my hostess took a stack of progressive haggadot out of a box and started laying them out at people’s settings. Suddenly, she started, and asked: “Which hagaddah do you use?” At first, I thought she was nervous about her own choice, and told her I had no qualms using whatever haggadah she and her family preferred. But she persisted. “Of course, of course. What I mean is, which one do you like the best? Which would you use if it were your house?”

I told her that, perhaps because I was raised in an Orthodox home, I was—and might always be—most comfortable with a traditional haggadah. She nodded, and explained that, unlike me, she felt moved to use a modernized version for a specific reason. I expected her to say that the traditional text didn’t speak to her in some way, or that she felt it was somehow inaccessible—complaints I had heard before, and which seemed perfectly logical. Instead, she admitted that she actually loved the traditional text, but that she was married to a non-Jewish man and had non-Jewish stepchildren, and couldn’t imagine reading passages about how Jews were the chosen people in front of these people—her family.

Her problem wasn’t religious, per se, or even political. It was emotional. (more…)

Ahead of Referendum, Nothing Is Normal In Crimea

Jewish residents think about fleeing—if they have anywhere to go

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A man holds a sign reading 'Illegal referendum' (L) and women hold a Ukrainian national flag as members of the Crimean Tatar community take part in a demonstration rally in front of a Ukrainian military base in the town of Bakhchisarai, some 40km south of Simferopol, on March 14, 2014, two days before a referendum in Crimea over its bid to break away from Ukraine and join Russia. (VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images)

On Sunday, Crimeans will vote in a referendum about whether to join the Russian Federation, or remain part of Ukraine. Almost no one imagines that the result will favor Kiev over Moscow. The question is whether that is, in fact, what Crimeans want: With the peninsula occupied by violent pro-Russian forces and regular Russian military forces massed just over the border, people in Sevastopol and Simferopol say there’s only one safe choice.

“They are beating people up who are for Ukraine,” said Natasha, a member of Simferopol’s Jewish community, who agreed to give only her first name when we spoke via Skype this week. “Russia came in against the law. They scared everyone, came in with arms and in tanks, and took over the stations. Now, all you hear on the radio is from Russian stations saying, ‘Everything is normal.’” (more…)

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