First Read For April 4
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News RoundupThe headlines American Jews are talking about today.

First Read For April 4

‘Critical thinking’ school assignment criticized; University defeats BDS resolution; Palestinian texts becoming ‘more radical’; Shul, church to swap buildings.

A view of the ancient cemetery in Safed, northern Israel. Wikimedia Commons
A view of the ancient cemetery in Safed, northern Israel. Wikimedia Commons

‘Sick joke’ – high school writing assignment defends the Holocaust

State Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) is calling for the resignation of New York Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia after she defended an Oswego County school teacher’s assignment asking students to support the Holocaust as “critical thinking,” the Daily News reports.

The assignment asked high school students in a “Principles of Literary Representation” class in February to put themselves in the shoes of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party members to argue for or against the Final Solution.

“Had the assignment been to argue in favor of slavery or other human atrocities, would anyone dare to defend it?” Hikind charged in a statement. “I honestly couldn’t believe this story when I heard it. I thought it was a sick joke.”

BDS resolution voted down at Columbia University

Pro BDS banners outside Columbia University in NYC. Hannah Dreyfus/JW

A Columbia University student council yesterday voted not to add a question asking about support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to a student referendum, JPost reports. The resolution was proposed by the student group Apartheid Divest.

Critics of the resolution said its wording would divide students, especially using the term “apartheid,” to describe Israel. Proponents said it was not intended to change anyone’s opinion but rather that the results would provide information that could be used to encourage divestment from Israel.

St. Louis synagogue, church swapping buildings

More than a year after Kol Rinah, a Conservative congregation in St. Louis, agreed to swap buildings with a nearby church in Clayton, the synagogue board has approved the move, according to the St. Louis Jewish Light. The vote comes three years after Kol Rinah was created by the merger of two Conservative synagogues, Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel and Shaare Zedek.

The Jewish congregation and Journey Christian Church and Christian will each renovate their new buildings and share space until the projects are completed by late 2018.

‘Entourage’ actor stars in commercial for Israeli firm

Adrian Grenier, an actor best known for starring in HBO’s “Entourage” drama, has returned to TV – in a Passover commercial for an Israeli gift card company.

Grenier, who is not Jewish, clips on a white satin yarmulke and nails the guttural pronunciation of the holiday’s Hebrew name, Pesach. He then proceeds to dispense terrible gifts — and suggest that viewers buy gift cars from BuyMe, which reportedly paid him half about $140,000 to do the ad. 

Palestinian textbooks ‘more radical’ than in the past

The latest Palestinian Authority elementary school textbooks “are even more radical than previous editions” ynetnews.com reports. According to a report issued by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, the new textbooks showed “deterioration in messages of tolerance and peace compared to previous editions,” teaching pupils to become expendable martyrs and reject negotiations, while demonizing and denying the existence of the State of Israel.

The report was based on examination of elementary- school grades one through four and high-school grades 11 and 12 of the 2016-2017 PA’s educational curriculum.

Grave of ancient sage reportedly found in Israel

A view of the ancient cemetery in Safed, northern Israel. Wikimedia Commons

The grave of Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra, a biblical commentator and philosopher nine centuries ago who spent most of his life in Spain and died in Israel, may have been found in an ancient cemetery in Safed, according to Arutz Sheva.

A “knowledgable source” confirmed that “this is a very impressive gravesite with a large stone on it. This is how they buried important people,” the news site reports. “The writing on the grave is absolutely clear,” identifying the site as the grave of “the elderly sage, the doctor Avraham Ben Ezra.”

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