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Ivies, Seven Sisters Were Cozy with Nazis

While Jewish-refugee scholars went South

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A new book on the cozy relationships leading American colleges and universities maintained with Nazi Germany is a “must read,” according to the New York Times Idea of the Day blog. In The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower, University of Oklahoma historian Stephen H. Norwood argues that universities like Harvard and Columbia and smaller schools like the Seven Sisters colleges were both complicit in and indifferent to the atrocities committed against Europe’s Jews. “They just didn’t care very deeply about Jews and anti-Semitism because they were themselves involved in maintaining quota barriers against Jewish students,” Norwood said in a recent interview quoted by the Times.

It is instructive to compare Norwood’s argument with an exhibition now on view at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage. In Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges, the museum tells the story of how a number of German-Jewish intellectuals—shunned by the elite colleges and universities of the Northeast—found homes for themselves at the historically black colleges of the South.

The exhibition rests, at least in part, on the idea that the injustice of the Jim Crow laws sensitized southern blacks to the plight of Jewish refugees. It’s an idea Norwood’s new book seems to underscore.

American Colleges and the Nazis [NYT]
Beyong Swastika and Jim Crow [Museum of Jewish Heritage]

Bibi Makes Nice With Iranians

‘No conflict’ between people, he tells German paper

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Benjamin Netanyahu keeps coming up with new ways to placate Barack Obama. First he acknowledged a two-state solution for the first time, delivered to a far-right audience a mere ten days after Obama’s celebrated Cairo address. Now comes this interesting tidbit, in an interview with the German newspaper Bild: “There is no conflict between the Iranian people and the people of Israel and under a different regime the friendly relations that prevailed in the past could be restored.” He continued: “What we have seen in Iran is a powerful desire on the part of the Iranian people to be free.”

This may sound like head-of-state boilerplate, and it’s true that nothing earth-shattering is disclosed in wishing a brutalized population the very best. (Israeli President Shimon Peres is generally much more ebullient about the massive protests engulfing Iran and being met with murderous, theocratic reaction.) However, compare Netanyahu’s mild encouragement to what Mossad head Meir Dagan said to a Knesset committee last week:

The reality in Iran is not going to change because of the elections. The world and we already know Ahmadinejad. If the reformist candidate Mousavi had won, Israel would have had a more serious problem because it would need to explain to the world the danger of the Iranian threat, since Mousavi is perceived internationally arena as a moderate element. … It is important to remember that he is the one who began Iran’s nuclear program when he was prime minister.

Mousavi has been held under a microscope since becoming the public face of Iranian revolt, and Dagan did little more than express one conventional view among stateside Jewish organizations and Israel hawks that a flamboyant nasty like Ahmadinejad is better PR for preemption. But there’s not even a whiff of optimism in Dagan’s view, nothing that hints that the people of Iran genuinely want a different form of government and would happily vote away Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khameini if given a true and proper chance. But Netanyahu, typically the hawk’s hawk, is sounding softer than his chief of intelligence. If he’s moving toward the center—however conditionally—on Palestinian statehood, then Obama’s strategy of pressuring his administration would seem to be working.

[Netanyahu: Change in Iran Could Bring Peaceful Israel Ties [Haaretz]
[Mossad Head: Iran Riots Won’t Escalate Into Revolution [Haaretz]

Jihad For Kids!

Jordanian children’s rock group goes boom

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The biggest hit in children’s entertainment in the Arab world is less Jonas Brothers and more Jihad: the Birds of Paradise, a Jordanian-based production house for kids, is rapidly gaining popularity by churning out songs about martyrdom and violence against Israelis and Jews. “When we seek martyrdom, we go to heaven,” sings one little girl in “When We Seek Martyrdom,” the group’s latest blockbuster. “You tell us we’re small, but from this way of life we have become big. Without Palestine, what does childhood mean?” There’s also a music video, in which menacing-looking children sporting yarmulkes and toting semi-automatic weapons, intrude upon a garden where other children, beatific and wrapped in kaffiyehs, the traditional Arabic headdress, peacefully play.

Like other Birds of Paradise productions, the song has spawned dozens of YouTube fan tributes, and even captured the hearts of adult terrorists, who used the tune as the soundtrack for their menacing-looking videos. Their parents must be so proud.

Tablet Today

Actors, singers, authors, and Kings

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Today on Tablet Magazine, Senior Editor Michael Weiss talks to Michael Green, executive producer of the NBC series Kings, a modern-day retelling of the story of David. Allan Nadler reports from a Yiddish-theater festival in Montreal. Contributing editor Josh Lambert rounds up the latest crop of Jewish books. Associate editor Hadara Graubart reviews Regina Spektor’s new album, Far, a “meditation on finding the human within the divine, full of mini-soundtracks to life’s most intense moments.” And as always, there’ll be more throughout the day here on The Scroll.

‘W’ Spread for L.A. Iranian Jews

Filthy rich, and unfortunately timed

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Iranian Jewish ladies who lunch, in Beverly Hills.(W)

One takeaway from the new W’s look at the mind-bogglingly affluent Persian Jews of Beverly Hills, most of whom settled in California after fleeing Iran in 1979? Dispossession’s a bitch, made much easier when you’re rich. We learn that members of the community are a little bit insular, a little bit rock and roll (well, one—Sam Nazarian—owns nightclubs, anyway), and a little bit grateful for getting out when they did. “It was hard for a lot of people who lost everything,” says a 36-year old Columbia-educated interior designer. “But their kids—we learned that the sky is the limit.” It’s a classic only-in-America story, of course. But, even so, and granted no one could have predicted this spectacularly bad coincidence of timing, reading the article now, along with its accompanying photos of a Philippe Starck lamp and a $1.6 million Bugatti, while the violent shadow of Iran’s recent days lurks in the zeitgeist makes this particular charmed group of refugees seem a little bit crass.

The Persian Conquest [W magazine]

Daybreak: Highway to Hell

Conflicting names for a Missouri road, an Australian Madoff, and more in the news

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• After a neo-Nazi group adopted a highway in Missouri, lawmakers have decided to rename that section of road after Holocaust survivor Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. His daughter is appalled: “I don’t want Nazis stomping on a highway named for my father.” [AP]
• Passing forward the aid they received as refugees, Ethiopian Jews are traveling to Rwanda to help set up the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village for orphans. [JPost]
• Tony Judt argues that no one actually believes the Israeli settlements will be dismantled, thus the current debate is a canard and “political hypocrisy is its own nemesis.” [NYT]
• Australia may have its own “local Madoff”: Barry Tannenbaum is accused of bilking $1.9 billion from the Jewish community in Sydney. [JTA]
• BBC traces the relationship between a rise in internet “hate sites” and freedom of speech; earlier, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert attributed the recent spate of hate crimes to gun control issues. [BBC]

Sundown: The More the Warier

Too many converts, segregated lectures, and more

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• Jewish communities in Latin America are having a tough time dealing with recent influxes of converts—they suspect the newbies of ulterior motives like scoring Israeli citizenship, and sometimes there’s just not enough room in the mikveh. [JTA]
• Tired of participating in impromptu wet t-shirt contests while trying to stay covered up at the beach, Orthodox Jewish and Muslim women are designing modest swimwear, including something called the “burqini.” [USA Today]
• At Haifa University, Jewish and Arab students are banned from attending each others’ more incendiary guest lectures (Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and a radical sheikh, respectively). Isn’t hearing guest lecturers that piss you off, like, the whole point of university? [Ynet]
• In a series of articles attempting to debunk myths about Orthodox weddings, like the hole in the sheet (do people really still believe that?), the writer ends up illuminating some more interesting, troubling customs. Like the fact that, in her Brooklyn community, it’s considered “far more scandalous to break off an engagement than to file for divorce.” [Brooklyn Examiner]
The Jerusalem Post polled 500 Israelis and found that only six percent of them see President Obama as “pro-Israel,” compared to 30 percent last month. [JPost]

Anti-Gay, Anti-Jewish Activists Coming to New York

Westboro Baptist to target seminary, gay synagogue

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Westboro Church members protesting the 2008 Screen Actors Guild Awards.(Getty Images)

Protesters from Westboro Baptist Church, a fringe right-wing church based in Topeka, Kansas, are scheduled to pay unfriendly visits to several New York Jewish institutions this weekend. Best known for picketing funerals of AIDS patients and, bizarrely, soldiers killed in Iraq with signs that say “God Hates Fags,” Westboro’s congregation has recently begun focusing more ire on Jews, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Tomorrow and Sunday, church members are expected at the Jewish Theological Seminary as well as several synagogues, including Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, a large gay temple in the West Village.

JTS and CBST officials found out about Westboro’s weekend plans from the group’s website, they said. The institutions have planned different responses: while JTS advised students at the Conservative movement’s rabbinical school to ignore protesters (“There will be a police presence, and we said not to engage,” said seminary spokeswoman Sherry Kirschenbaum), CBST will be holding a “peaceful prayer service” in its courtyard on Sunday, within view of the opposition. “We don’t feel that we can leave these people without a response,” said CBST executive director Ilene Sameth, who connected the rhetoric of groups like Westboro with the recent murders of abortion provider George Tiller and a guard at the U.S. Memorial Holocaust Museum.

Westboro members have apparently been busy lately. Yesterday they protested at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, where a gay male student was elected prom queen last month.

Related:
CBST Is Under Attack by the Westboro Baptist Church [CBST]

Militant Anti-Gay Church Turns Its Sights on Jews
[JTA]

Jews are White

Declares Daily Kos poll after Coates kerfuffle

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“For what it’s worth, on a very visceral level, what I see is a bunch of drunk racist white kids, doing what I’d expect a bunch of drunk racist white kids to do,” Ta-Nehisi Coates, a blogger for The Atlantic who writes often on race, wrote earlier this month, after watching the widely circulated Max Blumenthal video of drunken Jewish kids making racist comments about President Obama. And thus started an interesting debate, in the comments section of Coates’s blog and elsewhere on the Internet. “Jews are not White,” wrote one reader Coates quoted in a subsequent post. “ Why are you blaming ‘white kids’ for this racial hatred when no white kids were involved? When Jews do good things they’re Jews, and when they do bad things they’re white?” Others disagreed. “I’m a Jew and a white person,” commented another reader. “I am positive that this is not a minority opinion. Our skin is white, our cultural heritage is basically the same as all the WASPy kids in our schools except we got a couple of extra days off for our holidays and we had to go over to our friends’ houses to see a Christmas tree.” On Daily Kos, blogger Kylopod, an Ashkenazi Jew, proved his Talmudic chops by sidestepping the debate altogether. Jews, he claimed, were not a race but an ethnoreligious group, and so there was little point in wondering whether they’re white or not. But the debate raged on, and Daily Kos ran a readers’ poll to answer the heated question. The results are in: we’re white, folks.

On Jewish Racism [Atlantic]
You Can Not Win [Atlantic]
Are Jews White? [Daily Kos]
Earlier: Culture Learnings of America: Zion Square Edition

Palestinian Authority Speaks Hebrew

On new news-service website

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The editors of the new Hebrew-langauge version of WAFA, the Palestinian Authority’s news service, will “focus on what interests the reader” without “incitement or demagoguery,” they write in their introductory letter. The Hebrew site launched yesterday, and it’s far more attractive than the English- and French-language counterparts. In addition to news updates (Mahmoud Abbas heads to Syria and Saudi Arabia), there’s coverage of sports, arts and culture, and the economy. Women’s issues, too, will get treated, or so suggests a still-empty section of the site. The raison d’etre of the Hebrew edition? For its reader to “get to know his Palestinian rival, as the Palestinian knows his Israeli rival.”

Mutual understanding—an admirable objective; in which case perhaps the word “neighbor” would have been un peu plus diplomatique.

Palestinian News & Information Agency [WAFA, in Hebrew]

Weak, in Review

Harold Ramis and Woody Allen get mostly panned

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Larry David in a still from Whatever Works.(Sony Pictures Classics)

Harold Ramis’s film Year One opens today, and most critics seem to agree with MTV that the teaming of Ramis, co-producer Judd Apatow, and a bevy of comedic stars including leads Jack Black and Michael Cera, “might seem a match made in comedy heaven, and you might expect the picture to kill. But it overkills, in an altogether underwhelming way.” The A.V. Club accuses the film of committing “comedy heresy when Black ends up learning a lesson at the end,” while the Los Angeles Times is moved to ask, “Ever wonder what would happen if you locked some screenwriters in a room with a history of man, an Old Testament, some really potent pot and a tape recorder?” Pop Matters takes more intellectual aim, declaring that “though the film seems mostly determined to skewer self-serving Judeo-Christian myths, its critique is at once misogynist, heterosexist, and resolutely incoherent,” while Roger Ebert calls it simply “a dreary experience.” The lone advocate is New York Times critic Manohla Dargis, who makes Year One a “critic’s pick” for its “generous” laughs and “knowing and often profane swats at the sacred.”

The kvetching about Woody Allen’s newest, Whatever Works, starring Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, and Patricia Clarkson, is just a bit more tempered. J. Hoberman at The Village Voice calls it “an exercise in Woody Allen nostalgia” that “goes out of its way to mock It’s a Wonderful Life [but] winds up even more lazily pandering.” Entertainment Weekly concedes that the script was written in the 1970s, “but still, the guy couldn’t maybe come up with some new spritz of nu?” The New Yorker says that Clarkson “just about rescues” the film, while blurb-machine Peter Travers of Rolling Stone says that while “not everything works,” fans won’t be able to resist “the comic mind–meld” of Allen and David, “On that level, at least,” he says, “there’s no need to curb your enthusiasm.”

Heil, Khamenei?

Iran’s supreme leader on CNN’s homepage right now

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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wasn’t giving a Nazi salute when a Getty Images photographer snapped him for the picture now displayed on the CNN.com homepage, was he? Some alternative theories:

• “Guys, shhh.”
• “Here we go, yo.”
• “By the power of Jesus, I command these demons to leave your body.”
• “No, I think the right side needs to be just a little bit lower.”
• “If you’ve finished the silent amidah, please be seated and turn to page 381.”

Homepage [CNN.com]
Iran’s Supreme Leader Defends Election [CNN.com]

Tablet Today

Father’s Day, Year One, and Canaan

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Tablet Magazine celebrates Father’s Day today with contributing editor Vanessa Davis’s look back at a visit to mom on Mother’s Day and a video interview with Bob Morris, author of Assisted Loving, on tips for helping your senior-citizen dad date. Also today, Mike Sacks talks to director Harold Ramis, whose Year One arrived today at a theater near you, and Tablet’s Liel Leibovitz looks at this week’s Torah portion and finds relevance to the ongoing anti-regime protests in Iran. And on The Scroll last night, staff writer Marissa Brostoff broke the news of a New York City day school, Ramaz, shuttered by a swine-flu scare. Plus there’ll be lots more on The Scroll throughout the day.

JT’s Jewish Jokes

Former ‘goy band’-er hosts UJA luncheon

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Timberlake at yesterday’s luncheon.(Getty Images)

Noted gentile Justin Timberlake was co-emcee of UJA-Federation of New York “Music Visionary of the Year” luncheon yesterday, where he presented an award to the event’s honoree, BMG U.S. Label Group chairman Barry Weiss. Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog, and presented without any further comment, we give you Timberlake’s unfortunate attempts at yiddishe humor:

“Mazel Tov, brother! That means I love you man, in Hebrew right? No?”

“Barry you’ve really given those of us who love you a lot of nachas. Though some of us aren’t completely sure what nachas is. I think I had nachas once but the doctor gave me some cream, knocked it right out … Maybe it was cream cheese.”

(Referencing special performer Jamie Foxx’s latest hit, after one of Timberlake’s first jokes) “Last I heard, I was told I could blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol.”

“After all, who am I? I’m just another schmendrick that used to be in a goy band! … I don’t know what the hell that means either.”

“What Jewish mother would not kvell about the her son, the visionary!”

Oy, goyisheh kep.

Kibitzing With Justin: Timberlake Shows ‘Nachas’ for UJA [WSJ/Speakeasy]

Daybreak: Peaceful, Easy Feelings

Sharing Jerusalem, Mubarak’s two cents, and more in the news

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• The Interfaith Encounter Association in Israel has launched a project to reimagine a shared future for the holiest site in Jerusalem for both Jews and Muslims, the Temple Mount. A part of the plan (seriously): “divine intervention.” [Reuters]
• Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says his country and the United States agree on 19 out of 20 points. The one, itsy-bitsy point of contention? It’s still the settlements. [JTA]
• But never fear: attempting to seize the “rare moment of opportunity” presented by President Obama’s leadership, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has written an editorial, titled “How to Achieve Israeli-Palestinian Peace.” That should do it! [WSJ]
• The Jewish Agency estimates a 15 percent increase in aliyah by North American Jews this year. [JTA]

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