Jewish College Basketball Coach Compares Ukraine War to Purim, Says ‘All In’ for Relief Efforts
by Shiryn Ghermezian
The Jewish head coach of Auburn University’s men’s basketball team on Saturday drew comparisons between the holiday of Purim and the Russia-Ukraine war when asked about the ongoing conflict in Eastern Europe.
During a virtual press conference, a reporter told Auburn Tigers coach Bruce Pearl that Stanford University women’s basketball coach Tara VanDerveer was pledging $10 to humanitarian relief efforts in Ukraine for every three-pointer made in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, and had challenged other coaches to join her. The reporter asked Pearl if he would take on VanDerveer’s offer.
“I sort of feel like this is a calling from up above,” Pearl began, seemingly joking about the question coming from someone who was not in the room. He said that Jews just finished celebrating Purim, a festival commemorating how the Jewish Queen Esther convinced the King of Persia not to kill all the Jewish people.
“Haman was a very close adviser to that King, and he was advising the King that maybe it was time to get rid of all the Jews. Queen Esther’s uncle was Mordecai,” he said. “My Hebrew name is Mordecai, and I think my family gave me that name for this reason. Mordecai talked to Esther the queen and said, ‘Look, Esther, you might survive this for a little while, but you won’t survive this. He’s really going to kill all the Jewish people and your family.’ And he gave Esther the courage to try to see if she could turn the King’s heart, and she did. And saved the nation.”
“You asked the question about Ukraine,” he added. “We say never again. I was born in 1960, 15 years after they opened up the gates, and they saw six million Jews were murdered and three million more people. So if Tara VanDerveer wants money for three-pointers, I’ll up whatever they’re offering. I’m in. I’m all in. Help the Ukrainian people survive that.”