Week in Review: Vassar’s “Open Hillel,” Torah Scrolls Discovered in Russia, Sid Caesar and much more!

By | Feb 20, 2014

The Vassar Jewish Union announced this week that it would become an “Open Hillel,” making it the second student group to break with Hillel International’s Israel policies, which prohibit its campus groups from sponsoring programs, partnering with clubs or hosting speakers that “delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel” or deny its right to exist. “We believe that Hillel International’s goal to ‘inspire every Jewish college student to develop a meaningful and enduring relationship to Israel’ does not represent the diverse opinions of young American Jews,” the Vassar Jewish Union said in a statement.

Richard Falk, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, has called on the International Court of Justice to issue an advisory on whether Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories meets the legal standard of “colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.” Falk, who concludes his tenure in March, said that the word “occupation” should be replaced with “annexation” and “colonial ambitions” in the lexicon of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Such clarifications at the level of language reinforce the contention that it is a matter of urgency to pursue more concerted efforts within the United Nations venues to implement the rights of the Palestinian people,” he said.

The New York Times takes a look at the growing number of observant Jews who are taking a stand against Israel’s policies. “The very concept of a state defined as being for one people was deeply problematic and inevitably going to lead to a moral and political disaster,” says Daniel Boyarin, a Talmud professor at the University of California, Berkeley, “which I think it has.” Boyarin, who attended Orthodox synagogues for 30 years, is observant, but has abandoned synagogue life. “I have been so disturbed by the political discourse that I felt that I couldn’t participate,” he says.

A Hungarian rabbi announced this week that he uncovered 103 Torah scrolls that had been stolen from Hungarian Jews during World War II and stored in a Russian library. Slomo Koves, chief rabbi of the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation, said he found the scrolls while recovering other Hungarian war loot in the Lenin Scientific Library, and that he plans to restore and return them to the Jewish community.

Israeli officials confirmed this week that the country has started to send African migrants to Uganda as part of a campaign to reduce the influx of refugees—mostly from Eritrea and Sudan—who have crossed the border in recent years. The Ugandan government, however, has denied that any deal is in place.

Legendary American comedian Sid Caesar, whose 1950s sketches influenced a generation of comics, from Mel Brooks to Carl Reiner to Woody Allen, died last week at 91. Born in New York in 1922, Caesar became a household name with the series Your Show of Shows, which ran from 1950 to 1954, then with Caesar’s Hour, a one-hour improvisational variety program, before fading from the limelight in the latter part of the decade. “Sid Caesar was a giant. Maybe the best comedian who ever practiced the trade,” tweeted Brooks, who discussed Caesar’s impact in a 2010 Moment profile. Caesar’s work, which was unabashedly Jewish in its humor and sensibility, cracked the magazine’s “Best Jewish TV Shows of All Time” list in 2011.

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons.

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