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April 18, 2013

This week in power: Marathom bombing, French rabbi, Class assignment, Independence Day

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A roundup of the most talked about political and global stories in the Jewish world this week:

Boston bombings
After Monday's bombings in Boston, everyone is looking for hope and answers. For some, that's come in the heroism that followed. "This is what first responders do. Without calling attention to themselves or congratulating themselves, they run towards human suffering instead of running away from it. To walk in God’s ways is to walk in their ways, too—towards people in pain and not away from them," wrote Shai Held at Tablet. The attack has lefy Jewish communities, among others, on edge. Some overseas in Israel have sent their thoughts and prayers via social media to show solidarity from afar.

Rabbi resigns
France’s chief rabbi Gilles Bernheim stepped down last week after it was revealed that he inadvertently committed plagiarism in two of his books and in an essay against gay marriage. Originally, Rabbi Bernheim defended himself, claiming that he wasn't the author of all the chapters in his book, but an assistant had made the error. Still, he eventually came forward, amid pressure, and accepted responsibility for it. His original intention to keep his position angered some: "It’s overwhelming, all this humility. And it’s reassuring to know that an Orthodox rabbi is as well versed with Orwellian Newspeak as any other politician," said Yori Yanover in The Jewish Press.

Another rabbi brouhaha
The Rabbinical Council of America dismissed Rabbi Dr. Michael Broyde, who's also a professor of law at Emory University, for unethical behavior involving creating an online persona intent on spying on other factions, reports say. "Now we need to wait and see how Emory responds. What’s the proper punishment for a professor sock-puppeting his own scholarship? Something tells me that it should be something more than 'embarrassment,' but this shouldn’t be a career ending transgression," said Elie Mystal at Above The Law. "Broyde is not a minor figure in the wider Jewish world. He sits as a judge on the most important Jewish law court in America and this year was reportedly a serious contender to succeed Jonathan Sacks as chief rabbi of England. Sure, he’s embarrassed himself, but in his world has he committed a crime?" asked Mark Silk at Religion News Service.

Controversial assignment
A teacher at a New York high school has been placed on leave after she assigned her students the task of “explaining why Jews are evil” in a writing class. The students at Albany High School were asked to watch and read Nazi propaganda, but some of the 75 students refused to do the assignment and alerted their parents. "It is clear to me that this teacher was trying to create an assignment that was incendiary and interesting, if only for its unexpectedness, and required students to incorporate history and persuasive propaganda as evidence for their persuasive claim. If this was the goal, the assignment met and exceeded expectations. However, the teacher clearly did not stop to think of how offensive and, frankly, downright painful this might be for some students to complete," said Ashley Lauren Samsa at Care2. Still, there were some defenders, like Stephen Prothero at CNN: "The teacher is a victim, too. And so are public school teachers across the country who are being told via this fiasco not to be creative as teachers, not to challenge their students to think in new ways."

Yom Haatzmaut celebrated
Israel turned 65 this week, which had some people growing nostalgic and others marking its significance. "In their wildest dreams, the founders of our state fighting a war of survival could never have envisioned the dynamic and thriving nation of eight million citizens that would emerge from that maelstrom," wrote Isi Leibler in The Jerusalem Post. "When Palestine really exists, on maps and in all offices of the U.N., when Israel has made a just peace with its neighbors and attempted to address the tremendous, nearly incalculable damage it has caused the Palestinian people over the years—then I will be able to genuinely celebrate," said Emily L. Hauser at The Daily Beast

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