Weekly Quiz

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Natalie Portman

Actress Natalie Portman is in the headlines, having decided to forgo her receipt of the Israeli Genesis Prize, often referred to as the Jewish Nobel Prize. Portman said that she did not want her presence to imply approval of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was scheduled to speak at the award ceremony. Natalie Portman has an Erdős–Bacon number of 7. What does that mean?

Natalie Portman by Gordon Correll is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AThe Erdős–Bacon number was created by Star Wars mega-fans József Erdős and Jason Bacon. The number is a count of all the times in which actors from Star Wars movies have said the word “star” in other films they appeared in. Portman said the word star twice in The Black Swan, once in Jackie, once in The Other Boleyn Girl, and once in V For Vendetta. Harrison Ford holds the record, having uttered the word star 43 times in his many movie roles, including 27 times in the Indiana Jones movies.

BThe Erdős–Bacon number is a measurement of the spine which is used to diagnose scoliosis. At age 10, Portman was found to be at risk for scoliosis because of her measurement of 7, and as a result took up ballet dancing to strengthen her spine and her neck and back muscles. That skill served her well when she was cast as the lead in the movie The Black Swan.

C. The Erdős–Bacon number is a variation on the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” phenomenon, where actors determine how many levels of separation they have from Kevin Bacon in their performing roles. The Erdős–Bacon number combines the degrees of separation of an actor to Kevin Bacon along with that same person’s connection to mathematician Paul Erdős, counting degrees of separation in co-authoring academic papers. Portman has a Bacon number of 2 and an Erdős number of 5, for a combined Erdős–Bacon number of 7, as do actors Colin Firth and Kristen Stewart. Danica McKellar (Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years) has an Erdős–Bacon number of 6.

DThe Erdős–Bacon number, created by writers György Erdős and Dennis Bacon of Variety magazine, reflects the total number of combined awards an actor has won at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globe Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Portman won all three of those awards for her role in The Black Swan. She won the Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for her role as Jacqueline Kennedy in Jackie, and she won the Screen Actors Guild Award for her role as Padmé Amidala in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. Meryl Streep leads all actors with a Erdős–Bacon number of 63.

EYosef Erdős is a reporter for the tabloid newspaper, The National Enquirer. He created the Erdős–Bacon number to keep track of how many times he has caught Jewish celebrities eating non-kosher food. He tails Jewish celebrities as they enter restaurants, and then surreptitiously takes and publishes photographs of the shrimp, cheeseburgers, or bacon which the star is raising to his or her mouth. Portman’s Erdős–Bacon number is 7, Mayim Bialik still proudly maintains an Erdős–Bacon number of 0, and Ivanka Trump currently has an Erdős–Bacon number of 3 (though she has dismissed this as fake Jews news).

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James Comey

Former FBI Director James Comey has been in the headlines almost constantly since the 2016 presidential campaign. President Donald Trump just tweeted that “Unbelievably, James Comey states that Polls, where Crooked Hillary was leading, were a factor in the handling (stupidly) of the Clinton Email probe. In other words, he was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball!” In October 2017, candidate Donald Trump said at a rally, “It took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had where they’re trying to protect [Hillary Clinton] from criminal prosecution. You know that took a lot of guts.” What other comment has been made about James Comey?

James Comey by Rich Girard is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, reacting to Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017, commented, “Just look at his testimony. It was pathetic. The guy’s clearly got a goyishe kop.”

B. Steve Bannon said in an interview that Trump’s firing of James Comey “was the biggest mistake in modern political history.” Bannon went on to say “I told Jared to tell his father-in-law not to do it, but Jared–well, he wouldn’t listen. And they say Jared’s got a yiddishe kop? Sorry, but he’s just a nebbish.”

C. At the time of Comey’s firing as FBI Director, one FBI agent, reflecting the mood around FBI headquarters, said that “We’re basically sitting shiva.”

D. At the time of Comey’s firing as FBI Director, Jared Kushner, reflecting the mood around the White House, said that “We’re basically dancing the hora.”

EMichael Wolff, in his book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, reports that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said privately of Donald Trump, “What kind of person would praise a guy like James Comey at a political rally, and then criticize the same James Comey in a tweet? I think Ivanka is right when she says of her father, ‘Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!’ ”

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Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg is in the news as stories emerge about the scandal in which Cambridge Analytica obtained data for political use from as many as 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge or authorization. When Mark Zuckerberg delivered the commencement address at the 2017 Harvard University graduation, what Jewish reference did he make in his remarks to the graduates and their families?

Mark Zuckerberg by JD Lasica is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. He challenged the graduates, saying, “Right now, with social networks and other tools on the Internet, 500 million people have a way to say what they’re thinking and have their voice be heard. Your challenge is how to be heard. And the answer is not to shout–you will never be heard with 500 million people in the room. The answer is to figure out how you can be, as God was to Elijah, the still small voice in the room that will cause everyone else to be quiet and listen.”

B. Zuckerberg offered these closing remarks to the graduates. “You are about to embark on your own individual journeys. It is very likely that most of you will have a major impact on your community, this country and the world. I challenge you to always remember, however, that your purpose should be to serve your community, your country, and the world. And to never forget to give back to the society of which you are a part. I learned in Hebrew school about the concept of tikkun olam, repairing the world. That concept guides me daily, in my support of the Newark Public Schools, the efforts my wife and I have championed in combating Ebola, and our signing of the Giving Pledge, initiated by Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. I urge you to make your own pledge. And it doesn’t matter how much money you have. Judaism teaches that everyone should give tzedakah, charity, even if you’re poor, because there is always someone else more in need. Let the Harvard class of 2017 be leaders in the world by leading in tikkun olam, in tzedkah, in not taking from, but rather giving back to humanity, each in your own way.”

CHe closed his remarks with the following words. “As we sit here in front of Memorial Church I’m reminded of a prayer, Mi Shebeirach, that I say whenever I face a big challenge, that I sing to my daughter thinking of her future when I tuck her in at night. And it goes, ‘May the source of strength, who’s blessed the ones before us, help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing.’ I hope you find the courage to make your life a blessing.”

D. Zuckerberg explained to the graduates some of his thinking as he first developed Facebook. “When I was growing up, I went to Hebrew School. I wasn’t a very good student, and I was much more interested in playing Where in the World is Camen Sandiego on my Apple IIGS computer. I didn’t have any interest in having a bar mitzvah. But then I told my best friend Gary, who belonged to a different synagogue, that I was thinking of telling my parents I didn’t want a bar mitzvah. He said to me, ‘Mark, are you nuts? You gotta have a bar mitzvah. Come to my Hebrew School. The teacher is so cool. You’ll love it.’ And you know what? I actually convinced my parents to send me to Gary’s Hebrew School, I did love it, and I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on having a bar mitzvah. And the lesson I learned from this, the lesson that drove my thinking with Facebook, the lesson that I carry with me to this day, is that nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend.”

E. Zuckerberg ended his remarks to the graduates, saying, “As I leave you at this special moment in your lives, I’d like to leave you with three status updates. 1–May the Lord friend you and tag you. 2–May the Lord make His profile photo shine upon you, and be trending unto you. And 3–May the Lord offer a notification about you and grant you followers.”

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Gefilte Fish

Ashkenazic Jews around the world traditionally serve gefilte fish at their seders. Gefilte fish is usually made by grinding fish such as carp, whitefish or pike, forming patties with matzah meal, eggs and onions, and poaching it. Which of the following are true gefilte fish stories?

Passover Seder 5771 - Gefilte Fish by Edsel Little is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. Donald Trump spoke at a rally in Brooklyn’s Chassidic neighborhood, Borough Park a few days before Passover. Looking out at the crowd, all wearing black coats and hats, he said, “Thanks for coming out today. I know that everyone is busy getting ready for Passover, like my daughter Ivanka, who you know is Jewish. I had a gefilte fish at Jared’s house last year. It’s a great fish. An American fish. Not like sushi, or ceviche. Gonna put a tariff on foreign fish. I have a great relationship with gefilte fish. Not like Hillary Clinton. You heard what the people said. Lox her up. Lox her up.”

BSaid rapper LL Cool J, “My grandfather was from the Bronx. He came home with gefilte fish every week. I didn’t like it, no disrespect, but I loved him.”

C. Comedian Seth Meyers said that his father, who was Jewish, loved gefilte fish and borscht. But Meyers said, “My brother and I thought it was disgusting. That is not gateway food if you want your kids to embrace Judaism.”

D. Terrell Suggs, an African-American linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, spoke about how he managed to lose weight, saying “I like my fried chicken, my pizza, my peaches and my gefilte fish. I had to cut all that out.”

EActor Tiffany Haddish ignited a huge controversy in the entertainment world when she said in an interview with GQ, “There was this actress there that’s just, like, doing the mostest. She bit Beyoncé in the face.” Rumors swirled as to who committed this dastardly deed, and why? Denials came in from Lena Dunham, Jennifer Anniston, Frances McDormand and Amy Adams, among others. It was finally determined that the bite came from actress Sanaa Lathan, star of The Best Man, who admitted, “It was me. But I swear, it was an accident. I saw Beyoncé at a Barney Greengrass and she was eating gefilte fish. It looked so good. I mean, man, gefilte fish. I love gefilte fish. She was down to her last bite and I just couldn’t stop myself. I lunged for the fork as she raised it to her mouth, and I missed and bit her on the chin. I’m so sorry, Bey. But gee, I wish I could’a had that gefilte fish.”

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New Haggadot

In RASHI, RAMBAM and HAGGADAH-LAMADINGDONG: A Quiz Haggadah of Jewish Trivia Facts & Fun, there is a question (see picture below) about unusual Haggadot that have been published in recent years, including Ina Gada Haggadah, Haggadah for Jews & Buddhists, and The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County Haggadah (click here to get your copy and learn which of these really exists). Since the publication of that question, more new and unusual Haggadot have been published, including which of the following?


AA Passover Haggadah in Poems; The Thinking Man’s Haggadah in English; and The (unofficial) Hogwarts Haggadah.

BGlobal Diversity Haggadah; Mish and Mush Haggadah; and For This We Left Egypt?: A Passover Haggadah for Jews and Those Who Love Them.

CWorthy is Jah Lamb: A Rastafari Passover Haggadah; The Atheist Haggadah; and The Hyper-Modern Ancient With-It Traditional Haggadah.

DThe Southern Passover Seder: Haggadah shel Dixie; The Ha-Haggadah: A Series of Unfortunate Egyptian Events; and The Family (and Frog!) Haggadah.

ETenth Plague: A Shakespearean Haggadah; The Zombie Haggadah; and THE TRUMP PASSOVER HAGGADAH: “People All The Time They Come Up And Tell Me This Is The Best Haggadah They’ve Ever Read, They Do, Believe Me”.

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Irish Jews

Jews have a long history in Ireland, with historical references as far back as the eleventh century. Today there are approximately 2500 Jews living in Ireland, a community which included such prominent members as Immanuel Jakobovits, former chief rabbi of Ireland and the first rabbi to sit in the British House of Lords; Robert Briscoe, former mayor of Dublin; and sixth president of Israel Chaim Herzog. Which of the following is a real organization of Irish Jews in the United States?

Irish Jewish by Sam Szapucki is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. The Moses and Erin Go Bragh Society.

B. LLOYSOE, the Loyal League of the Yiddish Sons of Erin.

C. CBaC/CBoR Society, the Corn Beef and Cabbage/Corn Beef on Rye Society.

D. The Lepri-Kahns Landsmannschaft.

E. The Ancient Order of Chai-Bernie-Ans.

Click here for the answer.

Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, is in the news lately regarding a payment he made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, ostensibly to ensure her silence regarding an alleged affair with the president. Cohen has had a long-standing personal and professional relationship with Trump, previously serving as the Executive Vice-President of the Trump Organization. The son of a Holocaust survivor, Cohen included Donald Trump among the guests at his children’s Bar and Bat Mitzvahs (a point Cohen made as proof that Trump is not a racist). When Donald Trump first considered running for president in 2012, he described himself as pro-life, despite a clear public stance in favor of abortion rights in the past. How did Michael Cohen explain Trump’s reversal on this issue?

Trump executive Michael Cohen 015 by IowaPolitics.com is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. Said Cohen, “People change their positions all the time, the way synagogues change rabbis.”

BSaid Cohen, “People change their positions all the time, the way they change their wives.”

C. Said Cohen, “People change their positions all the time, the way Conservative Jews now eat rice on Passover.”

D. Said Cohen, “People change their positions all the time, the way that Barack Obama now disavows the Reverend Wright.”

E. Said Cohen, “People change their positions all the time, the way they change the sheets at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton Hotel.”

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Jimmy Kimmel

Jimmy Kimmel hosted last night’s Academy Awards ceremony. It’s a common misconception that Kimmel is Jewish; in fact, he is Catholic. But he has had Jewish-themed comedy sketches on his show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!. Which of the following was one of Kimmel’s Jewish bits?

146028_1352 by Disney | ABC Television Group is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

A. One of Kimmel’s regular bits is Mean Tweets, where celebrities read actual mean tweets that have been posted about them. In 2013 on the night before Yom Kippur, Kimmel featured Jewish celebrities (including Natalie Portman and Seth Rogen) reading anti-Semitic tweets which they had received. Kimmel finished the bit by reading anti-Semitic tweets directed against him (even though he is not Jewish), including one which read “I promise you that I’m much smarter than Jonathan Leibowitz - I mean Jon Stewart. Who, by the way, is way smarter than you, Jimmy Schimmmel.” Then all the celebrities promised to atone for their supposed sins, everyone yelled L’Chaim, and schnapps shots were passed around.

B. In 2007, when Kimmel was dating Sarah Silverman, he had her on as a guest and surprised her with a bat mitzvah ceremony. Kimmel started by interviewing her about growing up Jewish in New Hampshire, and asked if she had a bat mitzvah. When she said no, that her family was not very religious, Kimmel opened the curtain to reveal Silverman’s sister, Rabbi Susan Silverman, standing at a table with a Torah scroll. Sarah was asked to give a speech, and then the entire audience got glasses of sweet kosher wine while Guillermo bombarded the crowd with dessert, firing a sponge cake cannon around the room.

CSince 2011, Kimmel has done an annual segment at Halloween time, where viewers are asked to send in videos of their children, as the parents tell the kids that they (the parents) ate all of the Halloween candy. In 2016, Kimmel offered a Purim version, as they had Jewish parents send in videos of their children crying after being told that they had eaten everything in the mishloach manot basket. 

DNoting that at Passover time network television is still rerunning the movie, The Ten Commandments, even though it was made over 60 years ago, Kimmel offered a new version of the Exodus story, with Matt Damon as Pharaoh, Kimmel as Moses, and Kimmel sidekick Guillermo as Zhlub the Wonder Frog. While Damon had learned his scripted lines as Pharaoh, he never got to utter them, because every time Damon would begin to speak, Kimmel’s band would start playing Hava Nagila and Kimmel would lead the audience in a hora.

ERecognizing the dearth of Chanukkah-themed TV shows in December compared to Christmas shows, Kimmel offered a sketch with the Chanukorn, a Chanukkah-themed unicorn with a menorah where his single horn should be. The Chanukorn sang a song listing his favorite 80 Jewish words (including kugel, yarmulke, and schmutz), and also featured a spinning dreidel dog.

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Sheldon Adelson

Sheldon Adelson, the casino business magnate and philanthropist, has offered to pay for the building of the new United States embassy in Jerusalem (a move which could have political implications, and may not be legal). Adelson, a strong supporter of Republican politicians in America and a huge backer of Benjamin Netanyahu, has offered words of wisdom on a variety of subjects over the years. Which of the following quotes was said by Sheldon Adelson?

If Sheldon Adelson isn’t the most photogenic man in Vegas… by East Coast Gambler is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. So Israel won’t be a democratic state, so what.

BThe report card for a commercial enterprise is making money.

C. I had a CD on Islamic jihad. I brought it to the White House and told the chief of staff, “I would like the President to see this.” It really is amazing that we have this influence.

D. I’m against very wealthy ­people attempting to or influencing elections. But as long as it’s doable I'm going to do it.

EI think Jews should have lots of sex. That is the solution to our demographic problem.

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Bibi’s Scandals

Israeli police have recommended that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted based on two separate charges, one for accepting almost $300,000 in bribes (including champagne and fancy cigars) from a Hollywood mogul and an Australian billionaire, and the other for offering preferential treatment to an Israeli newspaper in exchange for favorable coverage. Netanyahu has been at the center of many controversies during his time in office, including spending $1600 in public funds on a hairdresser during a New York trip, and more than $2700 on vanilla and pistachio ice cream from his favorite Jerusalem ice cream parlor. When Netanyahu traveled to England for the funeral of British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 2013, he was criticized for what action?

Benjamin Netanyahu - Caricature by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. Netanyahu spent more than $6000 for the expenses of bringing a kosher chef with him from Jerusalem to prepare his meals at his hotel (despite the availability of many kosher chefs in London). The Israeli chef prepared meals ranging from oatmeal for breakfast to a kosher version of bangers and mash, the traditional British meal of sausages and mashed potatoes, which the Prime Minister’s Office said was “in honor of Netanyahu’s departed friend, Mrs. Thatcher.”

B. Though Netanyahu and his wife spent only two days in London, they brought 12 suitcases of clothing with them at a cost of more than $3000 in extra transportation fees. Said the Office of the Prime Minister, “Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife are representing the state of Israel at the funeral of Mrs. Thatcher, as well as attending a number of meetings with other world leaders while in London. It is important that Mr. and Mrs. Netanyahu be prepared for the variety of events as well as the unpredictable weather in England.”

C. During his visit to London for the Thatcher funeral, Netanyahu arranged for a private tour of the Sackler Gallery at the British Museum. The gallery had a special exhibit of Judaica, including items found in the Cairo Geniza by Solomon Schechter. Because of security needs, the Museum was closed to the public for Netanyahu’s visit, costing the Israeli government in excess of $210,000.

D. The government spent more than $127,000 of public funds for the installation of a double bed on the airplane for Netanyahu’s flight to London. The Office issued a statement saying that it was “appropriate that he be able to rest” on the 5-hour flight.

E. While in England for Prime Minister Thatcher’s funeral, Netanyahu arranged for a private tour of the Tower of London, led by London Mayor Boris Johnson. When viewing the exhibit of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, Bibi saw St. Edward’s Crown, originally worn by Charles II at his coronation in 1661 and used by most future monarchs as well. Bibi placed the crown on his head while his wife Sara took a cell phone video, as Netanyahu sang “Bibi, Melech Yisrael” to the shock of Mayor Johnson and his entourage.

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Winter Olympics

The story of the Jamaican bobsled team captured the world’s attention at the 1988 Winter Olympics. And now, another unlikely team, the Israeli bobsled team, has qualified for the first time to participate in the Winter Olympic games in PyeongChang, with four-time Israeli National champion A. J. Edelman competing in this year’s skeleton event. The Israeli Bobsled and Skeleton Team was founded in 2002 and began competing under what team nickname?

_MG_4781 by Jude Freeman is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AJoseph and the Amazing Technicolor Bobsled.

BThe Frozen Chosen.

CShul Runnings.

DThe Bob-ka Sledders.

EThe Snow Cohens.

Click here for the answer..

Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake provided the halftime entertainment at yesterday’s Super Bowl LII. In 2014, Timberlake performed a concert at Tel Aviv’s HaYarkon Park. In what way did someone honor Timberlake for that appearance?

Justin Timberlake by Shelby Casanova is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

AA community garden near the concert venue was renamed Gan Timberlake (Timberlake Garden) in honor of the singer, an outspoken advocate of vegetarian eating, who made a donation to the group that oversees the garden.

B. New York’s Carnegie Deli had a branch in Tel Aviv, where a sandwich was named the Justin, honoring the singer’s Tel Aviv performance. Celebrating Timberlake’s hit song SexyBack, the sandwich featured baby back beef ribs on rye bread.

C. In anticipation of Timberlake’s Israeli concert, the farmers at Israel’s Moshav Ein Yahav named a new fruit variety the Justin melon. The melon has an unusually long three week shelf life, leading the farmers to note that they hoped that it would be a good luck charm for the performer, “bringing him a long, healthy life and continued success in his musical career.”

D. Beit Daniel, a Reform synagogue in Tel Aviv, hosted a Friday night service on the weekend of Timberlake’s concert, which they titled “Justin Time for Shabbat.” The congregation sang prayers to the tune of some of Timberlake’s songs, and the service was attended by a Jewish member of Timberlake’s road crew.

E. A United States teen tour group from NCSY, the youth division of the Orthodox Union, was in Tel Aviv at the time of the Timberlake concert. The teens were told that they were not allowed to attend the concert as the organization did not approve of Timberlake’s very sexy persona and music, including such songs as SexyBack, Rock Your Body, and Love Sex Magic. However, a group of the teens not only attended the concert, but used markers to alter their NCSY t-shirts to instead read NSYNC, a reference to the boy band that Timberlake sang with earlier in his career. The teens were busted when Timberlake saw the shirts and brought one of the teens onto the stage to dance with him, which was then broadcast on the local news.

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James Corden

Last night, talk show host James Corden hosted the 60th Annual Grammy Awards. Corden often performs comic sketches on his program, The Late Late Show. What Jewish-themed sketch did Corden once perform?

Comedian James Corden arrives at Number 10 Downing Street to interview Prime Minister David Cameron by Andy Thornley is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. Corden’s most popular show segment is Carpool Karaoke, where he drives through Los Angeles with celebrities such as Stevie Wonder, Justin Bieber, and Adele, as they sing along with the music in his CD player. Corden did a special taping of Carpool Karaoke with Rabbi Nossom Steinsaltz of the West Hollywood Jewish Community Chabad which aired on the Chabad Telethon during Chanukkah, 2016. Corden and the rabbi sang niggunim, Hava Nagilah, and Adam Sandler’s The Hanukkah Song.

B. One of Corden’s regular bits on The Late Late Show is Crosswalk the Musical, where Corden and a large cast of musical theater performers put on a show in a busy Hollywood intersection, running into the middle of traffic at a red light and rushing to the sidewalk as the light changes. Corden recently performed as Tevye in a Crosswalk the Musical version of Fiddler on the Roof, alongside Seth Rogen as Golde. The taping was halted when the milk cow which Corden was leading into the intersection took off down Hollywood Blvd.

CCorden has a regular feature called Take A Break, where he enables someone to take a break from their job as Corden steps in. He recently gave some time off to the assistant rabbi at the Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles. Corden, wearing a yarmulke, assisted senior rabbi Kenneth Chasen at a bar mitzvah ceremony. After Rabbi Chasen offered the priestly blessing, Corden danced the hora on the bima with the bar mitzvah boy and his parents. He also sang the Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah, with rewritten lyrics: Now, I've heard there was a secret chord/That David played, and it pleased the Lord/But you don't really care for music, do you?/But now that I’m here at your bar mitz/Let’s sing some Matisyahu hits/Jewy carpool karaoke, hallelujah.

D. As part of the show’s Take A Break feature, Corden once gave a break to a worker at the Western Kosher supermarket in Los Angeles. Corden assisted the butcher in slicing steaks from a side of beef, he worked the cash register, drove a fork life, and destroyed  his wife’s credit card with the meat slicer. He also managed to get an invitation to Shabbos dinner from a store patron.

EAs part of the Take A Break segment of the show, Corden gave a break to a mohel and showed up at the home of the family of a newborn son. Corden, who was wearing a black coat and hat and a long fake beard, was moments away from performing the circumcision, when the real mohel returned from the break just in time to stop Corden from proceeding, much to the delight of all assembled (especially the 8-day-old boy).

Check it out on our weekly quiz.

James Franco

Actor James Franco has been in the headlines following his appearance at the Golden Globe Awards, where he won the Best Actor prize and wore a Time’s Up pin in support of women who have experienced sexual harassment, assault, or abuse in the workplace. After the show, a number of women accused Franco of improper sexual behavior. Franco, who is Jewish, celebrated his bar mitzvah in 2015, at a ceremony, party, and Alzheimer’s fundraiser. Which of the following took place at Franco’s bar mitzvah?

ASeth Rogen, dressed as Tevye, sang a version of the song Tradition.

B. Miley Cyrus, wearing a Shalom Y’all cape, performed with a band, under the name Miley Cyrustein & The Super Jews.

CFranco read from the Torah.

DFranco underwent a fake circumcision led by Jeff Goldblum.

EFranco underwent a real circumcision led by Jeff Goldblum.

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Yair Netanyahu

Yair Netanyahu, son of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is in the news as audio tapes have emerged of the younger Netanyahu’s drunken misogynistic banter, talk of prostitutes, and comments indicating that his father was involved in corrupt financial dealings with Yair’s friend’s father, the tycoon Kobi Maimon. Yair Netanyahu has received negative publicity in the past as well, including which of the following incidents?

Benjamin Netanyahu - Caricature by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. Following Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election as prime minister in 2015, Yair Netanyahu missed a scheduled photo shoot where official pictures of the prime minister and his family were to be taken. A photo posted on Facebook showed Yair drinking in a nearby bar with friends at that time.

BWhen walking the family dog, Kaiya, in a local park, Yair Netanyahu was called out by a neighbor for not picking up after the dog. Netanyahu responded with an obscene gesture.

C. When Yair Netanyahu’s army unit was climbing Masada for a memorial day observance, he chose to ascend via the aerial tramway with his assigned security detail. It is reported that he said “I am Bibi’s son. I do not walk up mountains. I only ride.”

DFollowing an online post entitled Five things that you didn’t know about the heir to the throne, Yair Netanyahu, Netanyahu replied with a rant which included disparaging comments about the sons of former Israeli prime ministers Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert, and Ariel Sharon, followed by obscene emojis.

EWhen Yair was in day camp, he got in trouble for yelling Amster-Amster-Dam-Dam-Dam when other children knew that you must not say that naughty word.

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The East Coast and New England are still recovering from last week’s bombogenesis storm, a term which sounds biblical, though its roots are actually not from the Old Testament. Bombogenesis refers to an intense storm which results from a drop in barometric pressure of at least 24 millibars within 24 hours. Which of the following weather terms has a derivation related to the Old Testament and biblical times?

130209 Bombogenesis (10) by Justin Brockie is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

ABows of Promise. This is another name for rainbows, which comes from Genesis, Chapter 9, where a rainbow appears as a sign of God’s covenant with Noah and his descendants after the great flood.

BSt. Elmo’s Fire. This weather phenomenon occurs in thunderstorms when the ground is electrically charged and high voltage is in the air, leading to air molecules tearing apart and glowing. St. Elmo was one of Jesus’s disciples, but he was originally mentioned in the Book of Chronicles, the final book of Ketuvim, which detailed the history of the Jewish people from the story of Adam until the time of the Temple. Elmo, whose Hebrew name was Eliam, was one of the priests in the Temple until he, along with Simon, traveled to the Galilee where they began to follow Jesus and his ministry.

CMessenger. A messenger is a single sunbeam which streams down through the clouds. The reference is to Jacob’s dream in Genesis, Chapter 28, where he sees a staircase leading up to the heavens, upon which angels were ascending and descending.

DClouds of Job. This refers to low-level clouds, typically below 6500 feet. The name comes from the Book of Job, Chapter 20, verse 6 & 7, which reads, “Though his excellency [the Assyrian monarch] mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds; Yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung.”

EAutumn Exodus. A weather phenomenon wherein the temperature in New York drops below 65°, usually in the late Fall. As a result, elderly Jews feel this cold front, leading to rapidly rising pressure, tropical depression, and haze. The seniors then join the jet stream out of Kennedy Airport, shooting through the ozone hole, and traveling in a southeasterly direction, finally converging on a warm front in southern Florida surrounded by a blizzard of snow birds.

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Pacific Islands and Jews

Of the nine votes cast against the United Nations resolution opposing President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, four were cast by small Pacific island nations: Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau. What Jewish presence can be found within these small countries?

Palau_2008030818_4749 by LuxTonnerre is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AThe Barracuda Bar and Restaurant in Palau is owned by Israelis. The menu, which offers sashimi, calamari rings, and fish carpaccio, also includes lentil soup and chicken soup.

BThe Marshall Islands comprises over 1100 islands and islets, including the Bikini Atoll, the site of multiple nuclear test detonations by the United States between 1946 and 1958. There is a continuing presence of researchers who are studying the contamination effects of the bombings. Among the researchers is a team from the Department of Particle Physics and Astrophysics at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

CChabad of the Marshall Islands offers kosher meals to Jewish tourists who visit these island nations for beach, diving, and surfing vacations.

DThe founder and president of the Micronesia Shark Foundation is an Israeli.

EPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently purchased a house in Nauru, shortly after reports of his imminent indictment on corruption charges.

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Tax Reform

Last week, Congress passed and President Trump signed a major tax reform bill, over the objection of Democrats who say that the bill will primarily benefit the wealthy. Many in the Jewish community weighed in on various aspects of the tax plan. Which of the following comments regarding the new tax proposals came from within the Jewish community?

IRS 1040 Tax Form Being Filled Out by Ken Teegardin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. Rabbi Joseph Epstein of Agudath Israel of America spoke of the repeal of the qualified tuition credit which currently benefits private schools, including day schools, by enabling them to provide tax-free tuition assistance to faculty. Said Rabbi Epstein, “This credit enables us to hire quality instructors who would otherwise not be able to afford tuition for their own children. Our teachers benefit, our students benefit, our entire community benefits. Why would a Congress that is supportive of educational choice repeal such an important rule?”

B. Jerry Silverman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Federations of North America, spoke on a conference call to the leadership of Jewish Federations across the country and urged leaders to contact their legislators in opposition to the increase in the standard deduction. He explained, “The increase from $6000 to $12000 will lead to an unintended consequence, which is that fewer taxpayers will be itemizing their deductions under this plan. And therefore, they will get no tax benefit for charitable donations. This is likely to lead to a drop in contributions, which could hurt our organizations greatly. We must do whatever we can to educate Congress about this situation.”

C. The tax bill includes a provision which expands the use of 529 savings accounts, which are presently a vehicle for funding college education. Going forward, these accounts will be available for use in paying for K-12 private school tuition. Said Rabbi Dovid Nojowitz, National Director of Torah Umesorah, the National Society for Hebrew Day Schools, “We thank Congress and President Trump for being responsive to the needs of our families. There is nothing more important to our families than an education based on Jewish values, and we are grateful to the administration for supporting our efforts.”

D. Pastor John Hagee, evangelical advisor to Donald Trump and Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein, representing the rabbinic organization Traditional Orthodox Rabbis of America, joined together to successfully lobby Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch to add a provision to the tax plan which would repeal the prohibition against clergy endorsing political candidates. Said Rabbi Adlerstein, “What makes America great is the freedom that is given to people of all religions, as guaranteed by the Constitution. It makes no sense to limit that freedom and make it harder for people of faith to participate in the American electoral process.” The provision, however, was ultimately eliminated when the Senate parliamentarian ruled that this provision violated Senate rules.

E. The loss of the state and property tax deductions will likely lead to an increase in taxes for residents of high tax states such as New York, California, and New Jersey. Said the owner of Eppes Essen, a Jewish deli in New Jersey, with concern that his tax bill will go up, “Raise my taxes, I raise your challah.”

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Chanukkah Pet Gifts

According to the Talmud, we are commanded to feed our animals before we feed ourselves. It doesn’t say anything about giving gifts to our pets before giving presents to our human family members, but many Jews include their pets in the Chanukkah gift giving. Which of the following are real Chanukkah pet toys?

Night 1 “Chag Sameach!” by Michelle oshen is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. Dog Kippah and Tallis (sold separately) and Kiss Me, I’m Chewish! T-shirt.

BSchnoz the Anteater Chew Toy and Mohel Scissors Chew Toy.

CMenorah Dog Hat and Jewish Star Pet Bow Tie.

DLlamalka in a Yarmulke Dog Chew Toy and Schmaltz the Chicken Chew Toy.

EMechitza Dog Gate and Shtreimel Frisbee.

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Chanukkah Elf on a Shelf

Children who are celebrating Christmas have the Elf on a Shelf children’s book and toy to enjoy during the holiday season. What are two Chanukkah toys which were created by children’s authors inspired by Elf on a Shelf?

2012 Elf on the Shelf - Snowy by Mark Baylor is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. The Latke on the Yacht-ke Toy Boat and the Señora Menorah Torah.

BThe Gelt Giving Golem and the Mensch on a Bench.

CThe I Have a Little Bagel Dreidle and the Deck the Halls with Boughs of Challah Easy-Bake Oven.

DThe Gelt on the Tuna Melt and the Yid on the Squid.

E. The Tickle Me Maccabee Doll and the Nightmare on Chelm Street Action Figures.

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Anti-Semitic Generals

There are reports that General Michael Flynn may be negotiating a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller as Mueller continues to investigate Russian interference in the United States election. During the campaign, Flynn received criticism when he retweeted an anti-Semitic tweet which read, “The corrupt Democratic machine will do and say anything to get #NeverHillary into power. This is a new low. >Cnn implicated. ‘The USSR is to blame!’ Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore.” What other general has offered anti-Semitic comments about Jews?

Michael Flynn - Caricature by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AAt the end of World War II, General George Patton said, in reference to an inspection of displaced persons camps by Earl Harrison, that “Harrison and his ilk believe that the Displaced Person is a human being, which he is not, and this applies particularly to Jews who are lower than animals.”

B. After the surprise attack on Israel by Egypt and Syria in the Yom Kippur War, there was great disagreement as to what role the United States should play. President Richard Nixon proposed an emergency shipment of arms to help Israel. This action was opposed by, among others, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and General Alexander Haig, who was then the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. According to the Nixon White House tapes, Haig said, “Mr. President, we all know you are no fan of the Jews. You may think that helping Israel at this time will win you their support, but no matter what you do, those people will continue to be in the pocket of the Democratic Party. And you will bear the brunt of the Arab oil boycott, which I truly believe they will implement the minute the first military plane takes off for Israel.”

C. In 1860, General Ulysses S. Grant issued an order expelling Jews from the United States military, stating “At a time when we must question the loyalty of any soldier from below the Mason-Dixon line, does it make any less sense to be concerned about the loyalty of the Israelite, whose ancestors found no discomfort in betraying our Lord as he ate with his disciples?”

DIn the summer of 1863, General Robert E. Lee proposed an assault on Union troops at Gettysburg. Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin objected to this plan and argued that it was destined to fail. General Lee is reputed to have said to Confederate cavalry commander general J. E. B. Stuart that “that little Jew is not going to tell us how to win this war.” Lee and Stuart proceeded to lead their troops towards Gettysburg. After initial success on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Confederate armies were ultimately pushed back and retreated to Virginia in defeat.

E. Jews have historically been fond of Chinese food, in part because the absence of dairy products made Chinese meals more acceptable to “kosher-style” Jews. Of course, there were many Chinese dishes made with seafood or pork products which Jews shied away from (except for wontons). One popular Chinese restaurant dish in the mid-20th century was a sweet, deep-fried pork dish called General Tso’s Pork. A Chinese restaurant on the lower East Side of New York began offering the dish using chicken instead of pork, in order to make the dish acceptable to its Jewish customers. This dish, General Tso’s Chicken, became so popular that it eventually replaced General Tso’s Pork on Chinese restaurant menus throughout the city. When General Tso learned of this, he was outraged and issued a fortune cookie reading “The best way to get rid of an enemy is to make a friend. Except for the Jews.”

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The Trump administration announced that they were ending the ban on importation of elephant hunting trophies, followed the next day by a reversal of this new policy. What is a Jewish connection to elephants?

African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) by Bernard DUPONT is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AElephants were introduced into Italy by Hannibal, who famously crossed the Alps with 40 of the huge animals in 213 B.C. One hundred fifty years later, Pompey and his Roman army, including descendants of those elephants, invaded the Kingdom of Judea and destroyed the Temple in 63 B.C. The Arch of Titus in Rome includes reliefs of elephants carrying menorahs and other spoils of the invasion and destruction of the Temple.

BWhile elephants are kosher (they chew their cud and have cloven hoofs), as a practical matter nobody is slaughtering elephants in a kosher manner, due to the near-impossibility of severing the trachea and esophagus in a single stroke. In 1997, a shochet (ritual slaughterer) in Mea Shearim announced plans to slaughter an elephant, having developed a precision titanium-steel blade which he claimed could accomplish the task; however, he canceled his plan after huge protests from animal rights activists.

C. Judah Maccabee’s brother Eleazar, mistakenly believing that an approaching elephant carried King Antiochus, bravely killed the beast, thrusting his spear into the animal’s belly. Sadly, however, the elephant’s final act was to collapse on top of Eleazar, killing him.

D. Elephants are not mentioned in the Torah, but they are first referenced indirectly in the Book of Kings, chapter 10, verse 22. “For the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram; once every three years came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.” Based on the reference to ivory, the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem obtained an elephant for display; however, a controversy developed as the zoo had acquired an Indian elephant, whereas the elephants of Tarshish, in what is now Spain, would have been African elephants. The zoo did not get rid of the Indian elephant, but subsequently added an African elephant.

EThe story is told of Paltiel the Gilonite (a tribe of North Africa), a descendent of the family of Bathsheba, mother of King Solomon. Paltiel traveled from his home to the Temple in Jerusalem to pay tribute to his great aunt Bathsheba and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Paltiel brought an elephant to offer as a “korban zevach sh’lamim,” a sacrifice of gratitude and respect for God. As Paltiel and the elephant entered the sanctuary of Solomon’s Temple, the elephant panicked and spun around, his trunk flailing in all directions. The priests frantically grabbed at the ceramic bowls of flour, the olive oil-filled pottery jars, the silver coins and the gold ladles, the jars of fragrant spices and the jewel-encrusted candelabras, not to mention the menagerie of other animals awaiting sacrifice–the he-goats and she-goats, the yearling lambs, the oxen and the rams–desperately trying to protect the items and the sanctity of the room. A 30-cubit holy sanctuary was no place for a 20-cubit 6-ton African elephant. Despite their horror, the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, chose not to say anything, lest he offend Paltiel, who had come in peace with good intentions. Said the Kohen Gadol to the other priests, “Al tidabru al ha-pil ba’cheder.” This phrase, which means “Do not speak of the elephant in the room,” has come to refer to situations where something obvious is intentionally left unspoken.

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Black Cube

Harvey Weinstein hired the Israeli intelligence company Black Cube to try and prevent publication of stories detailing his sexual abuse of women. Black Cube operative Stella Penn Pechanac duped actress Rose McGowan using an assumed name and claiming to be a women’s rights advocate. Through this subterfuge, Pechanac was able to obtain a copy of McGowan’s unpublished memoir, in order to determine whether McGowan intended to speak of her alleged rape by Weinstein. What is the interesting story about Pechanac’s family?

Rose McGowan by Gordon Correll is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. Stella’s grandparents were Muslims in Sarajevo who hid a Jewish family from the Nazis. Fifty years later, descendants of those Jews living in Israel were able to help Stella and her parents and grandmother escape the war in Bosnia and move to Israel. Stella’s Muslim mother was married to a Bosnian Christian man, but both converted to Judaism and Stella was raised as an Orthodox Jew.

B. Stella Penn Pechanac’s grandfather was among the Jews employed at Deutsche Emalwarenfabrik, the enamelware company owned by Oscar Schindler. When Schindler moved his plant to Moravia, Pechanac’s grandfather was among those on the famous “Schindler’s List” whose move to the new location enabled him to escape death at the hands of the Nazis. After the war, he was able to emigrate to Israel.

C. Pechanac’s grandfather, Eduard Fedorov, was a guard in a Moscow prison in the 1970’s. In 1977, he met Anatoly Shcharansky, the Jewish dissident who was imprisoned there, and Scharansky learned of Fedorov’s Jewish roots. Their relationship grew over the time of Scharansky’s confinement. A few years after Shcharansky was freed in a prisoner swap and emigrated to Israel (where he changed his name to Natan Sharansky), he was instrumental in helping Fedorov and his family to emigrate to Israel.

D. Pechanac is not the first member of her family to be in the spy business. Pechanac’s grandfather was Reuven Zaslani, who was born in Jerusalem in 1909, the son of a rabbi. Zaslani, who later changed his last name to the Hebrew name Shiloah, was a friend of David ben-Gurion. In December 1949, ben-Gurion appointed Shiloah to be the first director of the “Central Institute for Coordination,” the organization that later became known as the Mossad.

E. Pechanac is not the only member of her family to be in the business of subterfuge. Pechanac’s parents belong to an organization which opposes the granting of the first Torah aliyah to members of the priesthood, the Kohanim. This organization, known as Cohen-Troll, has begun a campaign of online lies, insults, and bullying of the Kohanim by its members, who post using online aliases. Pechanac’s father posts under the screen name Maxwell Chacham, and her mother uses the alias Agent Tishim v’Tisha.

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Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman

Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman is the first Jewish major league baseball player to get a walk-off hit in a World Series game. What other member of Bregman’s family accomplished something in baseball?

Alex Bregman by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. Bregman’s father, Sam, played baseball at the University of New Mexico. In 1989, he played on the United States team at the thirteenth Maccabiah Games in Israel.

B. Bregman’s younger brother, Anthony, played second base on the middle school team at Solomon Schechter Day School of Albuquerque, where he won the Most Valuable Player award in 8th grade.

C. Bregman’s grandfather, Stanley, was the lawyer for the Washington Senators before they moved to Minnesota and became the Twins.

D. Bregman’s mother, Jackie, attended the University of New Mexico, where she majored in physical education and worked as a trainer for the school’s baseball team. This is where she met Alex’s father, Sam, who was a player on the team.

E. Bregman’s great grandfather Samuel, who emigrated to America from Russia when he was 4, played catcher for St. Dominick’s in the Parochial League in Washington, DC, where they listed his name as Bregmanio so people would think he was Catholic rather than Jewish.

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Fats Domino, RIP

New Orleans musician Fats Domino died last week at the age of 89. Domino was called “the real King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Elvis Presley, and John Lennon said that “There wouldn’t have been a Beatles without Fats Domino.” What was the Jewish connection in Fats Domino’s life?

A. Fats Domino lived next door to the Anshe Sfard Synagogue in New Orleans as a teenager and served as the “Shabbos Goy,” turning on the lights in the building on the Sabbath.

B. Domino learned to play piano as a child, practicing at school and at a neighbor’s house, as his family did not own a piano. In high school, Domino worked part-time for Morris Karnofsky, a Jewish merchant who owned the Morris Music Company, selling records, phonographs, and musical instruments. Recognizing the musical talent of his young employee, Karnofsky donated a small upright piano to the Domino family, and it was on this piano that Domino wrote his first hit, The Fat Man.

C. Dave Bartholomew, the musician, producer, and co-writer of many of Fats Domino’s hits, though not Jewish, is a descendent of Sephardic Jews who had immigrated to St. Thomas from Spain during the Inquisition. The family name was Bar-Talamanca, but when Bartholomew’s grandfather moved to New Orleans, he changed his name to Bartholomew and married a non-Jewish woman.

D. New York record producer Lew Chudd, son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, hired New Orleans bandleader Dave Bartholomew as a talent scout, and Bartholomew introduced Fats to Chudd. Chudd signed Fats to Imperial Records, where The Fat Man and many subsequent Domino hits were recorded and released.

E. Just as singer Chubby Checker chose his stage name and developed much of his musical style by copying Fats Domino, so too did Domino develop his musical style, and name, by copying from an earlier musician, Borscht Belt singer Schmalz Pinochle. In the 1930’s and '40’s, Pinochle regaled audiences at Grossingers and other Catskills Resorts, singing such songs as I’m Gonna Be A Mentsch Some Day, Ain’t That A Shonda, I’m Walking To Berditchev, and I Hear You Kvetching.

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Dickinson, Texas

The intersection between government and religious and/or political beliefs is in the news with growing frequency, including debates over government-mandated birth control coverage in insurance policies, and the question before the Supreme Court of whether a baker must make a wedding cake for a gay couple when that violates the baker’s religious beliefs. Dickinson, Texas was in the news recently because of a Jewish-related controversy over laws or policies. What was the issue there?

Dickinson Texas City Hall by N. Saum is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

A. In reaction to the national controversy over kneeling during the National Anthem, the Dickinson School Board passed a policy requiring all students to stand during the anthem at school events including ball games, concerts, and other school assemblies. However, the wording of the policy refers more broadly to standing during invocations and prayers as well. The Jewish community is objecting because Jewish football players were told that they must stand when the team gathers for the “voluntary” pre-game prayer which is offered by a player, and which typically includes references to Jesus Christ.

BDickinson, which received more than 50 inches of rain during Hurricane Harvey, has posted an online application for residents to request grants to cover the expense of hurricane-related damage repairs. The application requires residents to ensure that their contractors do not boycott Israel. Some residents object, saying that this will make it more difficult to get repairs done, and the ACLU says that this clause unconstitutionally violates First Amendment protections.

C. The Dickinson City Council passed a law requiring that all schools allow teachers to carry concealed handguns. B’nai Emunah, an Orthodox synagogue, is suing because they say that it is a violation of their religious protections under the first amendment. The synagogue board does not object to this provision; however, they argue that for the synagogue’s monthly “Shabbat School” (when children come for Shabbat services and a family luncheon), the teachers should be restricted from bringing a gun to shul because this action violates the Jewish prohibition against carrying on the Sabbath.

D. When a Jewish family received the 2017-18 school calendar, they noticed that graduation was scheduled to fall on Shavuot, and they contacted the school superintendent to request that the date be changed, as they and their graduating son would be in synagogue that evening for the holiday. According to the family, the superintendent told them that while he would like to accommodate the family, if he did so he would have no choice but to provide accommodations to the growing number of Muslim students in the district, and that “before you know it, our school would be governed by Shariah law.”

E. On the Shabbat before Purim, a Jewish student came to school wearing a t-shirt that included pictures of Purim revelers in costume, dancing and drinking, along with wording which read “Remember the Amalek.” Jews are traditionally commanded on Purim to remember Amalek, an ancestor of Haman, who tried to destroy the Jewish people in the desert during the Exodus. The student was sent home by the principal who cited the school’s Code of Conduct which states “Students may not exhibit any clothing with slogans, quotes, or messages which disparage the people and the state of Texas.” Said the principal, “In Texas we remember the Alamo, where our heroes died defending our freedom, not the Amalek, whatever that is.”

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Harvey Weinstein

Jewish Hollywood mogul/film producer Harvey Weinstein was fired by the Weinstein Company last week following news reports detailing multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Throughout his career, Weinstein has received many awards, including the GLAAD Excellence in Media Award, the Commander of the Order of the British Empire from Great Britain, and the Chevalier (Knight) of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from France. He has also received much praise from celebrities, politicians, and businesspeople, including President Barack Obama, who in 2014 thanked Weinstein and his wife for “their friendship and support, and for the amazing movies that they’ve made.” Which of the following are also examples of the praise Weinstein has received?

Harvey Weinstein by Nick Step is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AIn 2005, Steve Bannon (who had previously worked in the film industry, producing such films as The Indian Runner with Sean Penn) partnered with Harvey and Bob Weinstein in a DVD distribution company, Genius Products. Said Bannon of Weinstein recently, “Harvey Weinstein taught me more than anyone about the film industry and business in general. Of course, had I known about his use of power to abuse women, I never would have had anything to do with him.”

BWeinstein was honored at the Simon Wiesenthal Center/Museum of Tolerance 2015 national tribute dinner, where fellow film industry executive Jeffrey Katzenberg offered the following words in introduction of Weinstein: “I’m going to tell you something you don’t know: He’s actually just a really nice Jewish boy.”

CWeinstein has been thanked by multiple Academy Award winners throughout his career. Based on speeches given by Oscar winners between 1966 and 2016, only Steven Spielberg had more mentions, with Weinstein tied with God for 2nd place. And among those praising Weinstein was Meryl Streep, who actually referred to Weinstein as God.

D. In 2013, Weinstein presented the Algemeiner newspaper’s “Warrior for Truth” award to Elie Wiesel, who responded to Weinstein, saying, “You made me love films, it is only thanks to you...Because at one point you came in my life and now I like films too, especially those that you make.”

ELast week, Bill Cosby, star of The Cosby Show which was produced by the Weinstein Company, said of Harvey Weinstein, “Really? He did all that without quaaludes? I tip my hat to you, Mr. Weinstein!”

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Kol Nidre Canoodling

In Israel, it is a common custom for young Israelis to gather on the streets after Kol Nidre for an evening of fun and flirting. Many of the teenagers can be seen wearing the traditional white of the holiday. The teens, including both secular and more religious youth, will often stay out late, walking or biking around, or just relaxing on blankets and pillows in parks or, as they do in the town of Shoham, lazing in the grassy area of the large traffic circle in the center of town. Which of the following is among the reasons that this tradition has developed?

IMG_8805.JPG by Andrew Ratto is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. The medieval Jewish scholar Rashi wrote that “the Holy One, blessed be He, first made Adam and Eve.” From this he noted the high value Judaism placed on marriage and children and commented that hunger for love was as powerful as hunger for food. Thus, Yom Kippur, a day of fasting, was seen as a time when young couples might be particularly attuned to matters of the heart as well as matters of the stomach.

BIn the Talmud, Rabbi Simeon Ben Gamliel noted that in ancient times girls would dance in the vineyard in white dresses on Yom Kippur and boys who were not married would go there to find a wife. The current custom, while not consistent with religious Jewish practice, can still be traced in part to this historical connection of Yom Kippur to matrimony.

C. According to Chassidic tradition, as noted on the Chabad website, “On Yom Kippur, we access and reveal the very essence of our soul, which is one with the very essence of G-d.” This deep and personal connection to God, in effect where two become one, has led the Chassidim to consider the day after Yom Kippur as an ideal day for weddings, a time when two people become as one. While the social behavior in Israel after Kol Nidre services would not be acceptable within the Chassidic community, it is the Chassidic tradition that the day after Yom Kippur is a good day to marry which has led to the practice in some Israeli communities of socializing on Yom Kippur with a goal of meeting the person whom you would eventually marry.

D. There is a traditional link between the High Holidays and weddings. God is considered to be the groom and the Jewish people are viewed as the bride, with the month of Elul seen as a time of courtship. The blowing of the shofar signifies the Jewish people’s acceptance of God’s proposal. The Israeli custom among young people on Kol Nidre flowed from this traditional concept of courtship during the High Holidays, though clearly with a much more secular approach in modern-day Israel.

E. Given that romance is forbidden on Yom Kippur, Israeli teenager Yuval Sadaka, who lives in Shoham, explained that “Girls like Yom Kippur because the boys act nice for once.” And noting that romance is actually forbidden on Yom Kippur, she added, “You want to do it because you can’t do it. Not even the bad breath you get from fasting can ruin it.”

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The Star Spangled Banner, America’s national anthem, has been in the news in recent years as NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and then others, have chosen not to stand during its playing at athletic events as a political statement. Last week, President Donald Trump suggested that NFL owners should fire players who participate in these protest actions. Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, was first selected as the Zionist anthem at the First Zionist Congress in 1897. From that time until the present, the song has been surrounded by controversy. Today many Arab citizens of Israel are not comfortable singing the anthem, which refers to the two thousand year old dream to be free people in the land of Zion, an aspiration which does not speak to many Israeli citizens of non-Jewish descent. Hebrew University announced a few months ago that it would not play Hatikvah at its graduation ceremony out of “consideration for the other side,” a reference to the university’s Arab community. Which of the following reflect Hatikvah-centered controversies?

Hatikvah is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

A. Religious Zionists objected to Hatikvah because the song makes no reference to God. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, considered to be the “father” of religious Zionism, composed a poem, Ha-Emunah, (The Faith), referencing a “return to our holy land” where “we shall serve our God,” which was suggested as an alternative song, but Hatikvah maintained its position as the official Zionist anthem.

BTheodor Herzl and others were supportive of using the poem Tikvatenu, written by Naftali Hertz Imber, as the anthem for the Zionist movement, but did not approve of the music to which the lyrics were matched, which was based on The Moldau, a composition by Bedřich Smetana. Smetana, a gifted composer who gave his first public performance at the age of 6, was also a Czech nationalist and known anti-Semite.

CTheodor Herzl disliked the song Hatikvah, in part because the writer of the lyrics, Naftali Hertz Imber, was a “perpetual ne’er-do-well” and a “drunkard.”

DThe early Zionist movement saw a split between those who felt that a Jewish homeland needed to be established in what was then called Palestine and those who felt that location was not the key, rather it was necessary to find any place where Jews could live safely. Advocates of the latter proposed such locations as Uganda, Buffalo, and Argentina, among others. This faction of the Zionist movement objected to the selection of Hatikvah as their anthem because of the lyrics which read, “To be a free people in our land, The land of Zion and Jerusalem,” with the belief that adopting the song with this geographic reference would lessen the likelihood of success in establishing a Jewish homeland in an alternate location.

EIn 1993, actress Roseanne Barr traveled to Israel to see her daughter Jessica participate as a soccer player representing the United States in the Maccabiah games. Barr was invited to sing Hatikvah at the beginning of the match between her daughter’s U.S. team and the competing Israeli team. Her rendition was loud, out-of-tune, and extremely shrieky, and ended with Barr grabbing her crotch. The next day, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who had attended the game, was quoted as saying, “I have been a Zionist my entire life, and everything I have ever done was guided by the Zionist motto, ‘Im tirtzu, ein zo agada,’ ‘If you will it, it is not a dream.’ But no matter how hard I try, I am unable to will myself to unhear and unsee that disturbing rendition of Hatikvah.”

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High Holidays Shopping

Many holidays have lost much of their original purpose and meaning as the American retail industry has ramped up its sales promotions, leading to Martin Luther King Jr. Day sales events, Black Friday mall openings beginning during the Thursday Thanksgiving feast, and even Memorial Day mattress sales. The Jewish holidays are not immune to this trend. Which of the following is a real product that is for sale during the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?

Rosh Hashanah 5773 Dinner by Edsel Little is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. “Tapuchei-D’vash,” is offered in chassidic communities including Crown Heights, Williamsburg, and Monsey. The product is a small zip-locked bag containing a sliced apple (tapuach) pre-dipped in honey (d’vash). Besides the general convenience, this product enables the user to eat apple slices without cutting them, thus avoiding the prohibition against koraya, or “tearing.” This is the same proscription which some very observant Jews follow when pre-tearing toilet paper prior to the Shabbat or holidays.

B. Jason’s “Tashlich Croutons” is offered by the company that makes Jason’s Kosher Pareve bread crumbs. Tashlich Croutons are made for use during the Tashlich ceremony, when Jews symbolically cast their sins into the water. Instructions on the label say “Just open and toss into water. May also be used in soup.”

C. “Shofar Odor Neutralizer” is available on amazon.com for only $12.95. The label states, “Spray directly into the shofar, repeat if necessary.”

D. Davka Corporation sells an app for iPhone and Android devices called “BTF Countdown Clock” (Break The Fast). The app is programmed with the correct time for breaking the Yom Kippur fast every year, and is tied to the device’s built in GPS system to accurately note the correct break-the-fast time wherever the phone is located. When activated, the app vibrates throughout Yom Kippur day on an hourly basis. Starting one hour before the break-the-fast time, the vibrations occur every ten minutes, and finally, on a minute-by-minute basis during the last 10 minutes. Upon reaching the break-the-fast time, the phone will begin playing the Motzi, or a song of the user’s choice from their music library.

EThe Reform congregation, Temple Emanu-El, one of the largest synagogues in Manhattan, offers $5 student rush tickets for its High Holiday services.

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Sara Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family are embroiled in numerous scandals. Recent court documents show that the Prime Minister is a suspect in two investigations of “fraud, breach of trust and bribes,” with the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom saying on its front page recently that his indictment is imminent. Netanyahu’s son Yair is being condemned in Israel and the United States for recently posting a cartoon critical of some of his father’s supposed opponents. The cartoon showed the faces of George Soros, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and others, pasted over the original faces from a classic anti-Semitic cartoon suggesting that Jews control the United States (bringing praise from KKK leader David Duke among others). And Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara is about to be indicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust, according to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. Sara Netanyahu has been at the center of previous controversies, including a lawsuit filed by Manny [Meni] Naftali, the caretaker of the family’s residence, who was awarded NIS 170,000 by the court. Which of the following describe scandals that have swirled around Mrs. Netanyahu?

Trump visits Israel by StateofIsrael is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AAccording to the court case won by Manny Naftali [who is of Moroccan descent], Mrs. Netanyahu complained about a Shabbat meal she had been served, saying, “We are sophisticated Europeans. We don’t eat as much food as you Moroccans. You are stuffing us, so that when they photograph us abroad, we look fat.”

B. When President and Mrs. Trump visited Israel, Mrs. Netanyahu greeted Melania Trump, saying, “You know in Israel all the people like us. The media hate us but the people love us. Like you.”

C. Monique Ben Melekh, wife of Eli Moyal, former mayor of Sderot, had criticized Prime Minister Netanyahu’s handling of the Gaza war. In response, Mrs. Netanyahu accused Ben Melekh and Moyal of being jealous of the prime minister, saying “He [Moyal] is jealous of him [the prime minister] because he is so successful, because he is a great leader!! And your man just babbles and babbles...Why do you have to spit into the well you drank from? What kind of person does something like that? I can’t help thinking of the BBC drama Downton Abbey, with its upstairs/downstairs intrigue, scheming staff and the bubbling cauldron of endless gossip.”

D. Another Netanyahu household employee, Gil Eliyahu, said that he was awakened in the middle of the night and ordered to return to the prime minister’s residence to heat up a bowl of soup for Mrs. Netanyahu. He was also ordered to return to the residence once for failing to wish her good night. “You have to say goodnight to me before you go,” she allegedly said to him.

E. Mrs. Netanyahu kept the deposits from bottles returned to the recycling center, even though the government had paid for the bottles that she returned.

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Jews & Kenya

Last month, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta won reelection to a second term against opposition leader Raila Odinga. However, the country’s Supreme Court ruled that due to election irregularities, the results are nullified and a new election must be held within the next 60 days. There has been a Jewish presence in Kenya since J. Marcus, a Jewish businessman from India, moved to Nairobi in 1889. Which of the following is true regarding Jews and Kenya?

Kenya-Map1 by greenravine  is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. The Kasuku Gathundia Jewish community consists of approximately 60 members, mostly subsistence farmers, who live in and around Naharuru, Kenya, about four hours north of Nairobi. They had been members of a larger Messianic Jewish congregation until they learned from members of the Nairobi Hebrew Congregation that their Messianic practices were “not  Judaism.” Said one of their leaders, “if this is not Judaism, then what is Judaism?” They then broke from the Messianic group and studied and adopted traditional Jewish beliefs and practices. Because it is illegal to circumcise young children in Kenya, their community members travel to Uganda for this ceremony when baby boys are born.

BThe Nairobi Hebrew Congregation was founded in 1904, and their first synagogue was built in 1913. The congregation was established by Yemenite Jews who fled south to Africa from Yemen after the government issued a decree (based on an ancient Islamic law) which required Jewish orphans under age 12 to be converted to Islam. The fleeing Jewish families had children who were adopted, and they feared that the new law would apply to their children.

C. In 1963, Golda Meir, then Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, visited Kenya and met with Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta. One of the major accomplishments of the visit was the establishment of a program of agricultural cooperation between the two countries. Specifically, Israel sent representatives from the kibbutz movement to help establish communal farms in Kenya which were run according to the model of Israeli cooperative kibbutzim. Combining the Swahili word for farm with the Hebrew word “kibbutz,” these Kenyan agricultural villages were known as Mashamba Kibbutzah.

D. In 1947, the British government set up a detention camp in Gilgil, a small town about two hours north of Nairobi, to house members of the Irgun and Lehi underground Jewish military organizations, who had been captured in Palestine. Conditions at the camp were difficult, though local Kenyan Jews provided much needed support for the detainees.

E. The Nairobi Hebrew Congregation currently has about 250 members, and holds services on Shabbat and holidays following Orthodox practice, though many members are not observant. In the early 1970’s, Barack Obama, whose family lived next door to the synagogue, served as the Shabbos Goy who would turn on lights and heat in the building on the Sabbath.

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Jerry Lewis, z”l

Comedian Jerry Lewis died last week at the age of 91. Lewis, who was Jewish and was born Jerome Levitch, rarely spoke of his religious beliefs, though he did say in reponse to a question about his high school years that he was “the original graffiti artist—I drew a picture of Hitler kissing a Jewish lady!” He visited Israel in 1981 for a telethon, having had a previous visit canceled as he was scheduled to fly to Israel the night before the Six Day War. Which of the following is true about Jerry Lewis?

63 jerry lewis by 1950sUnlimited is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. He is the only performer to receive a nomination for an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Chevalier de l' Ordre National de la Legion d'Honneur award in France, a British Academy Film Award, a Cannes Film Festival award, and a Clown d’Or (Golden Clown) award at the International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo.

BHe is the only Jewish comedian nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

C. Albert Einstein saw Jerry Lewis’s debut on a local New Jersey television show, and met him afterward, telling Lewis “You did a good job, young man.”

DMany years ago Jerry was a guest at a Chabad fund raising event in Los Angeles. As Jerry danced in a circle with arms wrapped around the rabbis on either side, he noticed that there was a young boy in the room who was in a wheelchair. Jerry went over to him and twirled his wheelchair around as the boy clapped and sang. From this experience, Jerry decided to do whatever he could to help other handicapped children, leading to the idea of a telethon for Muscular Dystrophy.

E. Early in his performing career, Lewis was booed off the stage at a club in Nashville when the audience realized that he was not the rock 'n' roll performer Jerry Lee Lewis. And oddly, Jerry Lee Lewis was booed off the stage at a concert in Las Vegas when the audience realized that he was not the comedian Jerry Lewis.

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Solar Eclipse

Some rabbinic sages say that solar eclipses are bad for gentiles, while lunar eclipses are bad for Jews (based on the idea that gentiles follow a solar calendar, while Jews follow a lunar calendar). In the Gemara Sukkah 29a, it says “When the sun is eclipsed it is a bad omen for the entire world.” The Gemara goes on to state that there are four circumstances that lead to the occurrence of a solar eclipse. One circumstance is when a head judge dies and is not sufficiently eulogized. Another is homosexual relations. The third circumstance is when a betrothed woman yells for help when she is being raped, and no one responds to help her. What is the fourth event that would lead to the bad omen of a solar eclipse, according to the Gemara?

Solar Eclipse - November 13, 2012 by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. When hackers released this season’s Game of Thrones episodes before they aired on HBO.

BWhen twin brothers are killed at the same time.

CWhen domesticated animals, such as cows and goats, are mistreated by being beaten or starved.

DWhen someone defiles the Temple in Jerusalem by entering during a state of impurity (for example, someone who has touched a dead body and not yet cleansed at the mikveh).

E. When Steve Bannon is angry (which explains today’s solar eclipse).

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under multiple investigations that may lead to criminal charges. Echoing Donald Trump, Netanyahu has called the charges “fake news” and the investigations “a witch hunt.” What else has Netanyahu said in the past that seems to echo Donald Trump?

A“Will we surround all of the State of Israel with fences and barriers? The answer is yes. In the area that we live in, we must defend ourselves against the wild beasts.”

B[Prior to the passing of the Iran deal]. “Let the Ayatollah and his government understand that regardless of any deal they may make, Israel will never tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. And if there is even a hint that Iran is going to threaten us, I assure you, fire and brimstone will rain down upon them like the world hasn’t seen since Sodom and Gomorrah.”

C. “I always lose the election in the polls, and I always win it on election day.”

D. “My level of intervention in the press, trying to control stories, is zero. Subzero.”

E. “If Miri Regev weren’t my minister of culture, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

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Trump & Golf

Donald Trump is beginning a 17-day working vacation at the Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, New Jersey. When Barack Obama was president, Donald Trump tweeted at least 27 times in criticism of Obama for playing golf too much when he should be dealing with the country’s problems (for example: “Obama’s mind, IsIs, ebola, etc.... and then thinking, boy I wish I was on the golf coarse [sic]. What should I wear on the Links” and “While our wonderful president was out playing golf all day, the TSA is falling apart, just like our government! Airports a total disaster!”). In fact, Obama played golf 11 times in his first 7 months, while Trump has already played golf 21 times since his inauguration. What golf story about Donald Trump has a Jewish connection?

Donald Duffs by Steve Jurvetson is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. Donald Trump visited Israel in May of this year, and was given a tour of many historic sites in Israel, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The entourage visited the historic amphitheater at Caesarea before driving past Israel’s Caesarea Golf Club, site of the only 18-hole golf course in Israel that meeets international standards. Trump said to Bibi Netanyahu, “Let me buy that decrepit stadium and I’ll build a first class golf club and resort there. Then the world will respect Israel.” Netanyahu and his staffers laughed at what they thought was a joke, but Trump just gazed seriously at them before changing the subject.

B. Donald Trump originally decided to purchase Mar-a-Lago, the estate of socialite and heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, as a winter home for himself and his family. However, he faced major opposition from local politicians and wealthy residents of the area, and long legal battles ensued. At one point, the claim was made that Trump wanted to turn that property into a private club (which, of course, he eventually did) because he was angry that the nearby super exclusive Bath and Tennis Club would not invite him to join. In response to that claim, Trump stated, “Do you think if I wanted to be a member they would have turned me down? I wouldn’t join that club, because they don’t take blacks and Jews.”

C. In October 2009, Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka married Jared Kushner at the Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, New Jersey, where large tents were set up in the middle of the golf course for the ceremony and reception. Another tent was set up with an entire kosher kitchen inside, as the management of the catering facility in the clubhouse refused to allow their kitchen to be kashered for the event. Originally, Ivanka wanted to arrange for the kitchen in the clubhouse to be kashered, but the catering manager refused, reportedly saying that “the last time those rabbis came into this kitchen they almost burned the place down.” When Ivanka asked her father to intervene, he replied, “When I bought this club, I made a deal with the caterer. I told him, ‘I won't tell you how to run your kitchen, and you don’t tell me how to play golf.’”

D. The Trump International Golf Club in Dubai opened in February 2017 with an invitation-only ceremony. Donald Trump did not attend, but was represented by his sons Eric and Donald Jr. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was also scheduled to attend the event, which was originally supposed to take place in the fall of 2016. Construction delays led to the opening being delayed until Feburary. By then, Trump had become president, and on the advice of Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, Trump instructed Kushner to skip the event out of concern that sending Kushner, who is Jewish, might offend some in the Arab world.

EIn 2009, Donald Trump purchased the Pine Hill Golf Club in New Jersey, turning it into a private and exclusive golf resort, the Trump National Golf Course where he is now vacationing. In 2011, when renovations to the course were completed, Trump allowed a Golf Channel camera crew to accompany him on a round of golf. At one point during the filming, Trump approached a couple who were golfing and said to them (while pointing at the three men with whom Trump was playing), “You got some place here, I’ll tell you [referring to the golf course]. Even these spoiled, rich Jewish guys, they can’t believe how good this is, you know?”

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Justin Bieber

After touring for almost 2 years, last week Justin Bieber abruptly canceled the remaining 14 concerts of his Purpose world tour, with little explanation. Bieber, who is not Jewish, participates in what Jewish ritual?

Justin Bieber by Adam Sundana is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. Bieber wears a red string “Kabbalah bracelet” which he received as a present from Madonna.

BPrior to eating, Bieber recites the Motzi blessing.

CPrior to each concert, Bieber recites the Shma in Hebrew.

DAt the end of each concert, as he leaves the stage, Bieber recites the Shechecheyanu prayer.

EAfter running into a photographer with his truck last week in Beverly Hills, Bieber crouched next to the injured man and chanted the Mi Shebayrach prayer for a speedy recovery.

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Kermit the Frog

Kermit the Frog is in the headlines, with the news that longtime Kermit puppeteer and voice Steve Whitmire was fired by Disney, curent owner of the Muppets. Whitmire became the voice of Kermit when creator Jim Henson died in 1990. While Kermit has only rarely been officially voiced by anyone other than Henson and Whitmire, there have been many others who lent their voices to unofficial Kermit videos, including Cantor Michael Smolash of Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, Michigan, who performed what song as Kermit the Frog?

Kermit The Frog by Eva Rinaldi is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AThe Temple held a Bible Stories Family Fair. At this event, Cantor Smolash sang The Noah Connection, including the lines “Why am I sitting here, with so many animals?/They’re hairy, they’re noisy, they stink./But God said to build this,/This rickety old ark boat./It was right to do this, I think./But soon we’ll be landing, at least that’s what God said/Because a dove brought me a sign./So I’ll just relax now, and milk this old milk cow, and wait for the rainbow to shine.”

B. During the Temple’s community-wide second Passover seder, Cantor Smolash introduced the section on the plagues by singing “It’s not easy being a frog/At Passover time, when we’re just another plague/We’re included in with pestilence, and locusts, and vermin, and slaying of the firstborn./I don’t know why frogs were a plague./Because I think we’re pretty nice, so I wonder, I wonder, why choose frogs, instead of crocodiles, or turtles, or reptiles more despicable than us.”

C. The Temple held a Torah Fair, which included a concert of songs about the Torah and its teachings. As part of that presentation, Cantor Smolash sang The Shalom Connection: “Why are there so many prayers about shalom,/The word that is hebrew for peace?/There’s Oseh Shalom Bimromav, and Shalom Rav, plus there’s the birkat kohanim./In Proverbs it says D’racheha, darchei-noam, V’chal n’tivoteha Shalom./The Torah is pleasant, it’s pathways are peaceful, the Shalom connection. Amen.”

DAs part of a Purim spiel at Temple Israel, Cantor Smolash sang Haman Remembrance, including the lines “Why are there so many songs about Haman/When we should be blotting his name?/Haman’s a villain–the worst one in Shushan./He made Mussolini look tame.”

E. Temple Israel held a Judaism Fair, which included opportunities to learn about the many laws of the Torah. As part of a play about keeping kosher, Cantor Smolash wore a Kermit the Frog mask and sang, “It’s not kosher eating frogs./Or serving your meals with escargot or squid./Or even eating things like pepperoni pizzas, or cheeseburgers, or bacon and eggs, or baby back ribs./But if treif is all there is to eat/Then you can eat it all, to save a life, pikuach nefesh,/Eat your treif, it’s so delish, but I still think you should not eat frogs.”

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Donald Trump Jr.

Donald Trump Jr. is in the headlines over a meeting he took with Russians for the purpose of obtaining dirt on Hillary Clinton, a meeting that was at the least politically questionable, and at worst, collusion that might be illegal. Trump Jr. was a big defender of his father last July when Trump Sr. tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton with the anti-Semitic imagery of a Jewish star and a pile of cash. Though Trump Sr. said it was simply a sheriff’s badge, the original source of the image came from a racist, anti-Semitic message board favored by white supremacists. How did Donald Trump Jr. defend his father against charges of anti-Semitism?

Donald Trump, Jr. by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. Trump Jr. said “I grew up in New York City. Three of my five best men at my wedding are Jewish.”

BSaid Trump Jr., “I was always my father’s favorite son until my Jewish brother-in-law came along. Now I’m number 2!”

C. Trump Jr. stated that his father “probably knows more Jewish people than he does Christians.”

D. Referring to anti-Semitism, Trump Jr. said “You’re doing a major disservice to the people who are actually afflicted by that plight.”

E. Trump Jr. said, “Those charges are ridiculous. And I’m tired of constantly being asked about this. I don’t have time for this foolishness. In fact, right now I’m late for a meeting at Trump Tower with my Jewish brother-in-law Jared and a good family friend, Rob Goldstone, who’s a Jewish music publicist from England. We’re having a real important meeting with some Russian folks about Hillary. I’m sorry. Did I say Hillary? I meant adoption. Anyway, it’s such an important meeting, but you’ll probably never read anything about it because all the media wants to talk about is this stupid Jewish star thing. I mean, sheriff’s badge. Really. I promise you. The biased media will never give good coverage to this important meeting with Russians about adoption.”

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Jews of India

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi just completed an official 3-day visit to Israel. The highly successful trip included agreements in the areas of technological innovation, water conservation, desalination, space technology, and more. There was also discussion about the more than 80,000 Jews who live in India, many of whom trace their roots back many generations. Which of the following is true about the Jewish communities of India?

11-Cochin-jew-town by Bernard Oh is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

A. The Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela visited India in the 12th century and reported finding a community of about 1000 Jews, “all of them black.” 100 years later, explorer Marco Polo traveled to the same area and described a thriving Jewish community there.

B. Cochin was a major center of the Jewish population in India, but now, only about 26 Jews remain in Cochin (approximately 8000 Cochin Jews live in Israel). One Cochin Jew, living in the Mattancherry section, was interviewed last year and said that there were only 6 members of the community left, but that was because she ignored the 20 “downtown” Jews in the Malabari area, with whom her group doesn’t speak. A Malabari Jew who was also interviewed said that “Those Jews [in Mattancherry] are idiots.”

COne of the oldest Jewish communities in India is the Bene Israel, who live primarily in Mumbai and western India. They claim to be descendants of Jews who left the Galilee in the 2nd century BCE to escape persecution. They also claim to be descendants of Aaron, and DNA tests in 2002 confirmed their shared heredity with the Kohanim.

DThe Bene Menashe Jewish community of India resides in the northeast of the country. Claiming descent from the Biblical tribe of Menashe, they converted to Christianity in the 19th century, but many began practicing Judaism again after one of their leaders dreamed that God said he should return his people to their pre-Christian religion. Many have since emigrated to Israel.

E. Among the oldest Jewish communities in India is the Bene Lee-Verpuhl, who settled in Peh-Purland, an Indian state in the north of the country. Only a few dozen members of the community remain, under the leadership of Rabindra Shankar Chowdhury. Though not a seminary-trained clergyman, Chowdhury, known locally as Rabbi Shankar, leads services on the sitar and has composed liturgical music, including a well known niggun (liturgical chant) that goes “Naaa, na na, na na na naaaa, na na na naaaa, Hey Jew.”

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Mika Brzezinski

MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski found herself in the middle of a media controversy last week, as President Trump attacked her and her co-host (and fiancé) Joe Scarborough in a Twitter storm that has brought much criticism of Trump for his insulting and misogynistic words. What Jewish-related controversy has swirled around Mika Brzezinski in the past?

The World Affairs Council presents Mika Brzezinski, May 20, 2011 by The World Affairs Council of Philadelphia is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. Mika Brzezinski’s father was Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor. The elder Brzezinski’s father, Tadeusz Brzeziński, was a Polish diplomat in Germany who collaborated with the Nazi regime during the rise of Adolf Hitler to power. Mika Brzezinski was criticized upon publication in 2010 of her autobiography, All Things at Once, for leaving out this information when she wrote about her grandfather. Mort Klein of the ZOA said that she was attempting to whitewash her family history in order not to hurt sales of her book within the Jewish community. Her response was that the book was about her life, not her grandfather’s, and just because she told some of her family background did not obligate her to delve into this unfortunate aspect of his life.

B. Brzezinski is the daughter of Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, whose own father Tadeusz was a Polish diplomat, stationed at various times in Germany, the Soviet Union, and Canada. The Brzezinski family were Catholics, but in 2005, a genealogist published an article claiming that Tadeusz Brzeziński’s mother was actually born Jewish. Her family, however, converted to Catholicism in reaction to pogroms in Poland in the early 20th century. When Mika Brzezinski was asked about this report, she replied, “I don't believe it. I’m not Jewish. Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” referencing the famous line from the Seinfeld television show about being homosexual. After criticism from the Jewish community, Brzezinski apologized for trivializing the issue.

C. In 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was invited to address the United States Congress by then Speaker of the House John Boehner. The visit was controversial, as normal protocal called for the president to initiate such a visit, and the speech focused on the agreement being negotiated between Iran and the west over Iran’s nuclear program, an agreement that was opposed by Netanyahu and many in the American Jewish community. Brzezinski and her co-host Joe Scarborough got into a heated debate as he supported the visit and strongly criticized President Obama, while she opposed the visit and supported the proposed Iranian agreement. In their discussion, Scarborough said to Brzezinski, “The more this president shows his hand, umm, on what he thinks about Middle East politics, and the more chaos we have in the world, the more I think yes it was—that Benjamin Netanyahu, the people of Israel, and Jews across the globe, need to know that there’s at least one country, ONE COUNTRY, that understands what they are going through, the anti-Semitism they face every day...I know there are a lot of people out there who hate Jews. Go ahead, tweet me. . .I know you hate Jews. I know you’re anti-Semitic.” Brzezinski responded simply, “That’s just low-hanging fruit.”

D. When President Bill Clinton began work on what would become the 2000 Camp David Summit with Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Mika Brzezinski was working as a reporter for CBS News. She accompanied an administration delegation which travelled to Israel for preliminary talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. She angered American and Israeli Jewish leaders when she filed a report from Jerusalem, referencing the efforts to bring peace between Israel and Palestine. At that time, both news media and government officials would only refer to the “Palestinian territories,” or “Palestinians.” When questioned, Brzezinski initially stated that she used that terminology because there would only be peace when Israel recognized a state of Palestine. However, she later apologized after executives from CBS News made it clear that their guidelines required the use of the phrase “Palestinian territories,” not “Palestine,” until such time as the adversaries resolved this issue at the negotiating table.

EFollowing a 2014 interview on the Morning Joe show with Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, Brzezinski led into a commercial break, reminding viewers to “Keep it right here on Morning Jew..., Joe.”

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Uber founder Travis Kalanick (whose mother is Jewish, but whose religious identity is not known) resigned as CEO of the company last week, under pressure from major shareholders following a number of scandals, including reports of sexual harassment and other workplace discrimination, intellectual property lawsuits, and controversy over Kalanick’s participation in Donald Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum. What Jewish-related scandal also added to the company’s troubles and Kalanick’s downfall?

IMG_3714 by TechCrunch is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. Many of the company’s drivers in New York are Muslim immigrants, particulary from Bangladesh and Pakistan. Many of those drivers were refusing to pick up religious Jews in Brooklyn, who they identified by their yarmulkes or black coats and long beards. At first the company responded simply by offering financial bonuses for drivers who increased their numbers of pick-ups in such neighborhoods as Borough Park and Williamsburg, where there are high concentrations of Orthodox residents. However, after reports broke on social meda, the company apologized and indicated that it would not allow any such discrimination by its drivers.

B. Uber launched in Germany in 2014. However, there was an immediate outcry from the Jewish community there when the company launched ads on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media, using the catchphrase “Über Deutschland Alles,” meaning “Uber Over All Germany.” The phrase was a play on the words “Deutschland über alles” from the song Deutschlandlied which was adopted as the German national anthem in 1922. While that song remains the German national anthem today, only the third verse is typically sung, avoiding the reference to Germany above all other nations, which epitomized the Third Reich government of Adolph Hitler, and which is particulary offensive to Jews who hear those words as echoing the German nationalism which led to the Holocaust.

C. In New York City, there is a very large number of Israeli Uber drivers, and this became a problem on the major Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In 2016, the first day of Rosh Hashanah fell on a Monday and Yom Kippur was on a Tuesday. Because so many of the Israeli drivers did not work on these days, Uber instituted surge pricing, which is normally enacted when there is an overabundance of demand, such as during special events or bad weather. When many regular Uber riders complained on social media that rides that are usually regular priced were unexpectedly charged at the higher rate, Uber apologized and offered refunds, saying that surge pricing should only reflect the reality of customer high demand, rather than “punishing” customers because of a shortage of drivers.

DUber was intending to launch in Israel in 2015. Despite opposition by the Egged and Dan bus cooperatives, as well as taxi and sherut shared taxi drivers, the company received a license from the Ministry of Transport to begin operations, at first in Tel Aviv, with plans to spread throughout the country. However, at the last minute, representatives of the Ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism raised objections because the Uber drivers would offer their services on Shabbat. As a result, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu overruled the decision of Transport minister Yisrael Katz and prevented Uber from legally operating. In fact, taxi cabs operate in Israel on Shabbat without objection from the religious parties, and it is rumored that Shas and UTJ leaders objected to Uber because representatives of the taxi industry offered them financial incentives to pressure the Prime Minister to block this new competition.

E. In Uber’s recently released diversity report, besides presenting gender, ethnic, and other demographic information about the company’s workforce, there was also mention of a variety of “affinity groups” of employees, such as the Hispanic group, Los Ubers, and UberHUE, promoting Black diversity and culture. There was an outcry on social media, however, at the Jewish affinity group’s description of themselves as Jewbers. Tweeted one critic, “I don’t work in HR but seems if you’re releasing a diversity report using the slang ‘Jewbers’ isn’t the way to go.”

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Whole Foods

It was just announced that grocery store chain Whole Foods is being acquired by Amazon for $13.4 billion. Whole Foods once found themselves in the middle of which of the following Jewish-related controversies?

Whole Foods by Mike Mozart  is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AIn 2015, charges were leveled against the Whole Foods store at Columbus Circle in New York when Jewish employees were told that they would not be paid for days missed as a result of the Jewish holidays. Specifically, some workers who had used up their personal days attempted to use sick days for the additional days of work which they had to miss. A company spokeswoman said that while the company respected the rights of Jewish employees to take off work for religious holidays, “being Jewish” was not a medical condition, and therefore, sick days could not be applied. The case is currently in the courts and remains unresolved.

B. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey was the co-chair of the executive board of the Center for Integral Wisdom, a think tank whose mission is to partner with “leading thought leaders and change agents to transform and evolve the source code of culture through application of ‘The Universe: A Love Story’ principles.” The organization’s founder, Marc Gafni, a former Orthodox rabbi, found himself in the middle of a sex scandal, leading to an online petition calling for Mackey to disassociate himself from the controversial Gafni. In 2016, Mackey removed all online connections between Whole Foods and Gafni, though he maintains a personal relationship with him and the Center for Integral Wisdom.

CControversy arose in 2008 when it became known that Whole Foods had removed Israeli products from the shelves of their store in Detroit and replaced them with halal products. A spokesman for the company said that this was in no way a political decision, but that it simply reflected the population who shopped at that particular location, where there is a large Muslim population. They pointed out that the Israeli products were readily available at their Bloomfield Hills location, where the Jewish population is centered. However, after calls for boycotts by many in the Jewish community, Whole Foods restored the Israeli products to the shelves at their Detroit location.

D. In July 2016, the Whole Foods location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn co-sponsored a “Kosher Food Fair” with the Chabad of North Brooklyn, offering a wide variety of Israeli and certified-kosher products. Chabad even kashered the store’s kitchen so that cooked kosher foods could be made and sold. However, as an accommodation to the local religious community, the store designated one checkout aisle for men only, so that ultra-Orthodox men could avoid standing in a line with women (including less modestly dressed women who were shopping in the store on the hot summer day). When the word got out, a protest was quickly organized in front of the store, leading to an apology by store management and the removal of the segregated line.

ENear the end of 2011, Whole Foods opened a new store in the Foggy Bottom section of Washington, DC. Washington Post reporter Jessica Goldstein reported on the store’s Hanukkah display, which featured matzah and matzah ball mix. Wrote Goldstein, “What Whole Foods is really displaying is a casual kind of ignorance for which there is no excuse...Even a Jew who only knows about Hanukkah and Passover from Rugrats or a shiksa who’s seen The Prince of Egypt could give you the rundown.”

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Bette Midler

Bette Midler won the 2017 Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, for her starring role as Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly!. Midler, who is Jewish and first performed on Broadway in 1966 as Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof, has had many Jewish connections in her life and career. Which of the following is true?

Bette Midler concert - Chicago by Alan Light  is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AMidler, who was born and raised in Aiea, Hawaii, won a singing contest in 1st grade, but she was afraid to tell her parents, as she knew her father would be angry about the winning song that she sang, Silent Night

B. Bette’s family would celebrate seders with the few other Jewish families that lived in her hometown of Aiea. Her mother always made gefilte fish from fresh carp, which was available in Hawaii. Inspired by this annual ritual, when Bette was 8 years old, as the guests sat down for seder, she wheeled herself into the room on an office chair, with her legs wrapped in a blanket. “I’m the Divine Miss Gefilte,” she sang, provoking much laughter among her siblings and the other children, but anger from her father, who chastised her for disrespecting the holiday and embarrassing him in front of their guests. Many years later, he forgave her, as she garnered great success in the personas of the Divine Miss M, and Delores DeLago, the kicklining mermaid in a wheelchair. 

C. In junior high school, Bette went to a luau with friends, and when she came home she told her mother how delicious the dinner was. When asked what she ate, Bette said, “I don't really know. It was something called kalua pua’a.” Her mother was very upset as she explained to Bette that this dish was the traditional (and very unkosher) Hawaiian roast pork.

DIn one of her comedic sketches, Midler said that she was going to make a sequel to the erotic movie Emmanuelle. Said Midler, “I call it Temple Emmanuelle. Actually, it’s not dirty at all, it’s just a lot of kissing of mezzuzas.”

EIn 1974, Bette starred in a show on Broadway called Bette Midler’s Clams on the Half Shell Revue, for which she won a special Tony award “for adding lustre to the Broadway season.” Der Tzeitung, a Chassidic newspaper, listed the special Tony Award as going to Bette Midler’s Lox on a Bagel Revue. (This is the same paper that later gained publicity when it ran a photograph of President Obama and his staff in the White House Situation Room watching the Bin Laden raid, from which Hillary Clinton had been “Photoshopped” out because she was female).

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Wonder Woman

The movie Wonder Woman, starring Israeli actress Gal Gadot, premiered this weekend to mostly rave reviews and the biggest opening ever for a female director, Patty Jenkins. Gadot, who previously won the Miss Israel contest, starred in the Fast & Furious movie franchise, and worked as a model and product spokeswoman, has found herself in the middle of some controversy as a result of her casting. Which of the following is true?

Wonder Woman by FaceMePLS  is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. When it was announced that Gal Gadot was cast as Wonder Woman, some complained that she was not buxom enough for the role. An Israeli news station interviewed her, and the reporter posed the question, “Wonder Woman has curves, will you be getting those...what about your breasts?”

BIn October, 2016, Gal Gadot and Lynda Carter jointly announced that Wonder Woman, a character whom both have portrayed, was the new United Nations Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls (other United Nations honorary ambassadors have included Tinker Bell and one of the Angry Birds). However, protests arose, including a petition which said that “A large-breasted white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee-high boots” is not an appropriate representative of gender equality. As a result, the United Nations fired Wonder Woman.

CA number of guests on the Fox News show Your World With Neil Cavuto criticized the costume design for Gadot’s Wonder Woman because the colors are not as prominently red, white and blue as they are in the comics and previous Wonder Woman movies and TV shows. Said media personality Mike Gunzelman, “I think the Hollywood aspect, we see this time and time again, it’s cool to hit America these days.” And commentator Dion Baia said, “Gal Gadot is a part of the Jewish Hollywood liberal, Obama-loving, America-hating, Israel-bashing, quinoa-eating, Soros-funded, Saul Alinsky-idolizing movie star elites who you would expect to take the God Bless America out of Wonder Woman. But boy, is she hot!”

DThere have been complaints on social media that there are no persons of color in the movie Wonder Woman. Matthew Mueller, a writer for comicbook.com, disavowed that criticism, noting that “Gal Gadot is not actually Caucasian, but is in fact Israeli.”

EWhen a trailer for the Wonder Woman movie was released in March, one brief scene showed Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, with her arms raised high as she lifts and hurls a car down the street. Many viewers posted on Twitter and other social media that Gadot’s armpits were a lighter tone than the rest of her skin, implying that her armpit hair had been shaved, digitally bleached, or in some other way altered. Said one tweeter, “Why is an Amazon with no previous contact with humankind shaven?” And HuffPost United Kingdom blogger Kirsty Baines wrote, “Although I am thrilled that a gorgeous, fierce, strong and independent woman is taking the lead on our screens, in my opinion the Photoshopped armpit saga has pushed feminism a couple of steps backward rather than forward.”

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Shavuot & Dairy

It is traditional to eat dairy products, such as cheesecake and blintzes, on Shavuot. Many reasons have been cited for this custom, including which of the following?

Cheesecake by Susanne Nilsson  is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AIn the Hebrew tradition of Gematria, where the numerical value of words is considered for interpretation, chalav, meaning milk, has a value of 40, which corresponds with the number of days Moses remained on Mt. Sinai when receiving the Torah.

B. Shavuot is referenced in the Torah portion Pinchas, in Chapter 28, verse 26, which reads “In the day of the first fruits, when ye bring a new meal-offering unto the Lord in your feast of weeks, ye shall have a holy convocation.” In Hebrew, this sentence includes the phrase “Chadasha L'Hashem V’Shavuoteichem.” The first letters of those words–Chet, Lamed, Vetspell chalav, the Hebrew word for milk.

CWhen Moses led the Jewish people out of Egypt and through the desert to the Promised Land, the people referred to him as Moshe ha-Yisraeli, ha-Levi, v’ha-melech. In English, this means Moses, the Israelite, the Levite, the King. Because the first letters of these words are M-I-L-K, the custom developed of serving dairy food on Shavuot, commemorating Moses’s journey to the top of Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.

DThe connection of dairy foods to Shavuot was actually a marketing creation. Tnuva, the Israeli dairy cooperative, was started in 1926 when kibbutz leaders came together to find ways to work jointly to produce and sell their products. As part of that effort, in the early 1930’s they published recipes for cheesecake and blintzes under the heading “Tnuva, the dairy cooperative from the land flowing with milk and honey, wishes you a Chag Shavuot Sameach.”

E. When baby Moses was rescued from the river by Pharaoh’s daughter, he needed to be fed. Moses refused to suckle from the Egyptian wet nurses that Pharaoh’s daughter hired. Only when the Hebrew slave Yocheved, who was actually Moses’s mother, was chosen for that task, would he nurse. Eating dairy on Shavuot commemorates Moses’s holding out for his own mother’s milk.

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The Western Wall

President Trump arrived in Israel today and visited the Western Wall. Controversy has swirled around this visit, as Trump was not accompanied by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visited the Wall. American diplomat David Berns had said to Israeli officials inquiring about the possibility of Bibi joining Trump, “What are you talking about? It’s none of your business. It’s not even part of your responsibility. It’s not your territory. It’s part of the West Bank.” The Western Wall has often been the site of bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies, including those of celebrities. Which of the following held their bar or bat mitzvah at the Western Wall?

Western Wall by Chris Yunker is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. Florida Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera had his bar mitzvah at the Western Wall in 2016, at the age of 42. Lopez-Cantera, whose official bio lists his religion as Catholic, had recently announced that he is in fact Jewish, saying, “My father came from Cuba but he married a nice Jewish girl in Miami.”

B. In an interview following a sketch he did with Andy Samberg on Saturday Night Live, singer Michael Bolton said, “I’ve been kicked out of every class. Andy and I were talking about that. Neither one of us had our Bar Mitzvah because we couldn’t take Hebrew school seriously.” However, when Bolton, age 62, made a trip to Israel in 2015, he spontaneously decided to make a bar mitzvah at the Wall after meeting Rabbi Shmuli Weiss, who helped Bolton don tefillin for the first time.

CSinger Paula Abdul held her bat mitzvah at the Western Wall in 2013, at the age of 51. She was wrapped in a tallit, and the ceremony lasted almost three hours, featuring a lot of klezmer music. Upon her arrival in Israel for the ceremony, she met with then-President Shimon Peres, who told her he was jealous because “he’d already had his bar mitzvah, but that she had not celebrated her bat mitzvah, so she had something to look forward to.”

DActor Jeremy Piven celebrated his bar mitzvah when he was 13, though he says he was not a good student. “It was hard for me to learn Hebrew. I actually had to rap my haftorah portion.” In 2016, Piven celebrated his second bar mitzvah on a balcony overlooking the Western Wall. After the ceremony he sang “Siman tov u’mazal tov” with NBA players Omri Casspi and Amar’e Stoudemire.

EIvanka Trump celebrated her bat mitzvah at the Western Wall at the age of 28, after she converted to Judaism and married Jared Kushner in 2009. After the ceremony, her father was overheard talking to Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, who is the Rabbi of the Western Wall. Trump reportedly said to the Rabbi, “I’m gonna be in the market for a big wall. Your wall is so bigly huge. What do you think? Could we make a deal?”

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G. I. Joe

Stan Weston, a licensing agent who was Jewish, passed away last week. Besides representing such people as Soupy Sales and the Kingston Trio, as well as the Dr. Kildare television show, Weston was the creator of G. I. Joe. Elliott Handler, a founder of Mattel (and also Jewish) taught Weston that “you’ve got to sell them the razor,” referencing the successful Mattel Barbie Doll, whose clothing and accessories were the key to the financial success of the product. With that advice, in 1963 Weston came up with the concept of a toy soldier for boys, including uniforms, weapons, and other paraphernalia, which he pitched to Donald Levine, a Hasbro executive (Levine was also Jewish, as were Herman, Hillel and Henry Hassenfeld, who founded the Hassenfeld Brothers company which became Hasbro). Hasbro bought the concept from Weston for a one-time payment of $100,000 and marketed it as G. I. Joe, one of the most successful products in toy history, selling more than 400,000,000 action figures, as well as being featured in Mavel Comics, television shows, movies, and video games. Which of the following G. I. Joe action figures was Jewish?

by @alexandriapasse "G.I Joe Who remembers this?" via @InstaReposts by Alexandria K Passe is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

A. Sci-Fi was the code name of G. I. Joe Seymour P. Fine, an electrical engineer whose role in numerous G. I. Joe cartoons was the design of advanced weaponry. In one episode, Fine travels to Israel where he works with Shin Bet operatives on the development of a handgun-sized laser weapon which is later used to stop an assault on the White House by members of the enemy Cobra Command. 

B. In a Marvel comic book,  a G. I. Joe named Lance J. Steinberg was on a mission to fight Nazis. He tells the other G. I. Joes on the mission, Roadblock, Recondo, and Dial-Tone, that he is spooked by Nazis, ever since his grandmother freaked out when she saw him watching Hogan’s Heroes with the “funny Nazis.”

CG. I. Joe Doc, whose real name was Isaac Davidson, was a member of the G. I. Joe medical team. Because he was a medic, he was not allowed to carry a weapon, in order to comply with the Geneva Convention. In one episode, he saved three other G. I. Joes by throwing a well-aimed snowball. In another, he convinced military authorities fighting against a Cobra operation in the Gulf of Mexico to use conventional, rather than nuclear weapons.

DA G. I. Joe known as Clutch was an infantry figure with a specialty in transportation. In one G. I. Joe Marvel Comics adventure, he and two other G. I. Joe characters are sent to track down a Nazi war criminal who is hiding in Brazil, where they meet up with an Israeli Mossad team on the same mission.

EG. I. Joe was prepared for release in Israel, with such characters as Uzi Ari, Samson, David Ha-Gadol, and Moshe D, a one-eyed soldier. The characters were produced and packaged under the name Tzahal Joe (Tzahal being the Hebrew acronym for Israel Defense Forces) and had been shipped to stores for sale. However, in an interview on Israeli television, the head of marketing who was promoting the new toys inadvertently referred to the product line by the code name that had been used internally–G. I. Shmo–and the resulting outcry led the product to be pulled from the shelves.

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Judah P. Benjamin

New Orleans is in the process of removing four memorials that are tied to the Civil War and the city’s past connections to slavery, including a statue of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America. This follows other southern city and state actions, such as the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse in 2015. One of the key figures of the Confederacy was Judah P. Benjamin, a Sephardic Jew who served as a Louisiana senator before serving in President Davis’ cabinet, first as Attorney General, and later as Secretary of War and Secretary of State. Which of the following is true about Judah P. Benjamin?

twcw_jpbenjaminis in the public domain.

A. Judah P. Benjamin has been dubbed “the brains of the Confederacy,” “the Little Jew from New Orleans,” “the dapper Jew,” and the “Confederate Kissinger.”

B. In 1860, while still representing Louisiana, Benjamin addressed the United States Senate in defense of the right of Southern states to secede, concluding his remarks saying “An enslaved and servile race you can never make of us—never! never!” Senator Benjamin F. Wade of Ohio responded, criticizing Senator Benjamin for his pro-slavery speech, referring to Benjamin as “an Israelite with Egyptian principles.”

C. At age 14, Benjamin entered Yale University; however, he did not graduate as he was expelled for “ungentlemanly conduct.” It’s not known what his misdeeds were, though there were rumors of gambling, carousing, or theft.

D. Benjamin’s bris was performed by his paternal grandfather, after whom he was named.

E. The Temptations Gentleman’s Club on Bourbon Street in New Orleans received numerous requests for tours from attendees at the 2010 Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly meeting in that city. The Assembly delegates said they were interested in the “Jewish aspect” of the building, telling the proprietor that it had been the home of Judah P. Benjamin.

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Spanish Armada

President Trump recently said that “We’re sending an armada” towards the Korean peninsula as a warning to the North Korean government following their recent missile testing. In fact, the so-called armada of American warships was heading in the opposite direction. The word “armada” is most often associated with the Spanish Armada that sailed against England in the late 16th century, with a goal of overthrowing Queen Elizabeth I. The attack was a failure, with the loss of more than 8000 men and more than half the Spanish fleet destroyed. What was the Jewish connection to the failed attack by the Spanish Armada against England in 1588?


A. Spain launched the Armada against England in response to England’s interference in the Spanish Netherlands, an area now comprising much of Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as parts of France and Germany. Recognizing that Spain was likely to attempt a military intervention, England began a program of military expansion which was largely financed by the Rothschild banking interests in London, led by Nathan Mayer von Rothschild, the third son of Mayer Amschel Rothschild, founder of the banking empire. It was because of this ship building program that England was able to defeat the Spanish fleet.

B. Hector Nuñez was a crypto-Jew, a Jew who publicly professed to follow the Christian faith to avoid persecution from the Portuguese Inquisition.  He eventually fled Portugal, arriving in England in 1546, where he went on to become a successful merchant, trading in wine, raisins, and other goods. Through his business and family contacts he was able to learn information about the Spanish Armada preparations to launch their assault, which he passed on to the English, giving them forewarning of the Armada’s position and plan of attack. This spying effort was instrumental in enabling England to successfully ward off the invasion.

CIt is commonly known that the journeys of Christopher Columbus to the New World were largely funded as a result of the seizure of jewels and other properties from the Jews who were expelled from Spain during the Inquisition under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. In fact, the wealth stolen from the Jews was also used to pay for the building of the fleet which became the Spanish Armada.

D. The early maps used by sailors in the Middle Ages were known as Portolan charts, which were based on compass points and distance estimates provided by ship captains. The first Portolan charts were created in the 13th century in Italy, with later maps created in Spain and Portugal in the 15th and 16th centuries. The charts used by the Spanish Armada when they sailed from Spain into the English Channel were created by Juan Oliva and hand-drawn on vellum. Oliva was a member of a prominent Jewish family of chart-makers in Catalonia.

E. In a situation that was strangely similar to President Trump’s “wrong-way” armada of last week, the Spanish Armada’s attack on England failed based on their “wrong-way” journey. In this case, the navigator for the Spanish Armada was a crypto-Jew named Diego Zevi. The Spanish Armada was approaching the English coast for their surprise assault when Zevi, having just closed his siddur after completing his secret morning davening, inadvertently looked at his map book from right to left instead of left to right. As a result, he gave the Armada commander backwards directions, leading the ships to turn left instead of right, enabling the British fleet to sneak up on them from behind and defeat them.

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Kosher Giraffes

Millions of people worldwide have live-streamed April the Giraffe over the last few months awaiting the birth of her calf, which finally came this past Saturday. While rabbinic tradition says that an animal in the Bible called the “zemer” was a giraffe, this is not believed to be accurate. In fact, giraffes are not native to the Middle East. Which of the following is true regarding giraffes and kashrut?

Baby Giraffe by StormSignal is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AGiraffes are kosher; one way that the rabbis determined this is by confirming that giraffe milk forms curds, as required by Jewish law.

BGiraffes are not kosher, based on the fact they while they have split hooves, they do not chew their cud.

CGiraffes are not kosher, because even though they chew their cud and have split hooves, their extremely long necks render it impossible for Jewish ritual slaughterers to determine the correct spot to cut the trachea and esophagus, as required in Jewish law.

DGiraffes are not kosher, based on the fact that while they chew their cud, and their hooves are separated, there is a spongy layer of tissue in-between the toes that has led the rabbis to decide that the hooves are not truly split.

E. While giraffes would be considered kosher, as they chew their cud and have split hooves, the rabbis have decided that the giraffe is an exception to this rule, based on the story of the golden calf. In response to the Israelites creating this false idol, in Exodus Chapter 32 Verses 9-10 it says “The Lord further said to Moses, ‘I see that this is a stiffnecked people. Now, let Me be, that My anger may blaze forth against them and that I may destroy them’.” Given God’s anger at the stiffnecked Israelites, the rabbis decided that eating a stiffnecked animal would further anger God and should therefore be forbidden.

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Passover Customs

Passover is a holiday filled with customs, from the dipping of greens in salt water to the chanting of the Four Questions by the youngest child. Some customs are unique to specific Jewish communities around the world. Which of the following is a real Passover seder tradition?

Seder Plate by Rebecca Siegel is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. The Dardasht Jewish community from Iran has a custom wherein the cup of Elijah is passed around and shared by all guests at the end of the seder, just before chanting “Next Year in Jerusalem.” The custom developed following a great drought which affected the community in the 1600’s, leaving many families starving. The rabbis determined that it would be wasteful to leave over any wine, so they decided the wine could be shared, with the assembled reciting the Shechecheyanu prayer at that moment, thanking God for sustaining them and allowing them to live to celebrate together.

B. There has been a Jewish community in Gibraltar since the late 1300’s, when Gibraltar was under Muslim rule. After Gibraltar fell under the rule of the Christian kings of Spain, the Jews were expelled as part of the Inquisition. In the 1700s, Gibraltar became part of the British empire, and over time a Jewish community returned, in particular from Morocco. Jews in Gibraltar have a custom wherein they prepare charoset, the symbol of the mortar used in the building of pyramids, in the Sephardic style with dates, nuts, apples and cinnamon, but also with the additional ingredient of real brick dust.

CIn the 1920s, a large number of Eastern European Ashkenazic Jews moved to Mexico following the restrictive immigration laws that were enacted in the United States at that time. The community concentrated in the Mexico City neighborhoods of Condesa and Roma, and over time the Jews interacted with and adopted aspects of the culture of the dominant community. One aspect of this is the charoset served at seders by these Mexican Jews. Rather than an apple and nut based charoset like Ashkenazic Jews make, or the Sephardic style with dried dates, apricots and other fruits, the Mexican Jews make charoset that is a variation on guacamole, to which they add pecans, a nut which is native to Mexico.

DMany Sephardic communities have a custom wherein they whip each other with scallions during the singing of Dayenu, mimicking the lashes of the Egyptian slave masters. In Turkey, it is traditional for seder attendees to eat strong maror, causing them to cry, and then to wipe their tears on the scallions before eating them, rather than dipping in salt water.

E. There are a number of unusual traditions at the seders in Mar A Lago. Most notably, in a reenactment of the exodus from Egypt, any seder attendees who are not American citizens are gathered together while the American attendees yell “Lock them up.” Then the non-citizens are sent out to the golf course, where they must first walk through a water trap, symbolizing the crossing of the Red Sea, after which they run through sand traps, symbolizing the Jews in the desert. The evening ends as the citizens place notes in a symbolic Western Wall, with the non-citizens huddled on the other side of the wall unable to return to the seder.

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Trump Passover

Despite Donald Trump often mentioning that he has a Jewish daughter, there is no indication that the tradition of a White House seder will continue under Trump. Trump has made the news in the past over a Passover controversy tied to the Trump brand. Which of the following is true?

#TheBigOrangeHead in profile by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. “Success by Trump” is a Trump-branded collection including eau de toilette, after shave and deodorant. The eau de toilette is described thusly on the product’s website: “The scent is an inspiring blend of fresh juniper and iced red currant, brushed with hints of coriander. As it evolves, the mix of frozen ginger, fresh bamboo leaves and geranium emerge taking center stage, while a masculine combination of rich vetiver, tonka bean, birchwood and musk create a powerful presence throughout wear.” Israeli model and actress Gal Gadot appeared in a television ad for this product just before Passover in 2015. An outcry arose from the Orthodox community, as vetiver, one of the ingredients, is an essential oil derived from corn, which is not kosher for Passover. Gadot apologized and donated her fee for the ad shoot to a charity providing Passover meals to needy families.

B. Michael Sophocles was a candidate on the British edition of Donald Trump’s television show, The Apprentice. In 2008, the series’ fourth season, Sophocles, who is Jewish, played up his religious background, including stories about his first business endeavor in high school when he bought large boxes of Shabbat candles and resold them in pairs of two to Jewish girls at his school. He also told the producers of the show that he could not appear on one episode as it fell on the first night of Passover. However, pictures were posted of him on Facebook showing him drinking with friends at a bar on seder night, leading him to be told by the British host, Lord Alan Sugar (who is himself Jewish), “You’re fired, and you’re a shanda for the goyim.”

C. Trump Vodka ceased production in 2011, with one exception–it continued to be sold in Israel, though a saleswoman in one Israeli liquor store said, “I don’t recommend it. It has a pungent flavor.” In fact, it is popular in Israel, but only for a couple of weeks each year, as the vodka is made from potatoes rather than grain, making it kosher for Passover. However, in 2016, Badatz Igud Rabbonim, a kosher certification organization, issued a warning about the 2013 batch of Trump Vodka (many bottles of which are still on the shelves of Israeli liquor stores), as they were apparently produced with products that were not kosher for Passover even though they have a Passover certification label.

DIn 2016, the Trump Organization offered Passover golf packages at all of its golf courses in America and around the world. Participants received passes for golf daily throughout the holiday, and on the first two days of Passover, a seder was offered at the clubhouse. However, representatives from the United Arab Emirates government contacted the Trump Organization and demanded the cancellation of the seders at the two clubs in Dubai– Trump International Golf Club Dubai and Trump World Golf Club Dubai. The Emirates, which walks a fine line between its financial and cultural ties to the West and its position as a Middle Eastern Muslim country, felt that these seders would endanger their relations with more conservative Arab countries. The Trump Organization canceled the seders at these two locations, which led to criticism from the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, among others.

E. In recent years, a new tradition has developed at some seders, wherein an orange is placed on the seder plate as a symbol of inclusiveness for those who may have felt marginalized at the Passover seder (women, the LGBT community, and others). In 2016, Donald Trump went with daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared to a seder at their friends’ home where an orange was placed on the table. When the host made reference to this orange as a symbol for excluded minorities, Trump took offense, left the seder, and later tweeted, “Seder host losers! Wrong to embarrass guest with orange on table. I am tan, not orange. Shame on you, fake Jews. #makesedersgreatagain.”

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With St. Patrick’s Day having just been celebrated, we are reminded of the long history of Jews in Ireland, going back as far as 1079, as noted in the Annals of Inisfallen (a chronicle of Irish medieval history): “Five Jews came from over sea with gifts to Toirdelbach [king of Munster], and they were sent back again over sea.” What significant event for Jews took place in the Irish city of Limerick?

College of DuPage Officials, Revelers Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Elmhurst 2017 127 by COD Newsroom is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AThe first synagogue in Ireland was established in Limerick in 1747, founded by Sephardic Jews who came to Ireland from Portugal. The synagogue, Congregation Anshe Sephardim, closed in 1848 after many congregants died during the Great Famine, while others fled to the larger cities of Dublin and Cork seeking food or jobs.

BIn 1888 Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, also known as Isaac Herzog, was born in Limerick to Polish Jewish immigrants who had fled the pogroms. Herzog studied with his father who was a rabbi, and proved to be a Jewish scholar, mastering Talmud while still young. He eventually attended the Sorbonne and the University of London, before returning to Ireland, where he became the first Chief Rabbi of Ireland, from 1921 until 1936. His son, Chaim Herzog, became president of Israel, and his grandson, Isaac Herzog, is a current member of the Israeli Knesset and a leader of the Zionist Union electoral list.

C. The Guinness brewery was established in Limerick in 1759, started by a German-Jewish immigrant, Arthur Guinness, whose original name was Arthur Ginsberg. Ginsberg, who was from Germany, had worked at the Hofbräu Brewery in Munich before moving to Limerick. He began making beer, but was unsuccessful because the Irish-Catholic tavern owners would not buy from a Jew. He changed his name to Guinness, eventually leading the company to become one of the most successful beer brands in the world.

D. In 1904, Father John Creagh of the Redemptorist Order in Limerick gave some anti-Semitic sermons which led to a boycott of the small Jewish community there, as well as assaults against some of the city’s Jews. Many of the Jewish families left Limerick and moved to Cork. The first Jewish Lord Mayor of Cork, Gerald Goldberg, was from a family who had fled the Limerick boycott.

EWhen Irish novelist James Joyce, who was Catholic, was growing up in Limerick, Ireland, he was best friends with a Jewish boy who lived next door named Leopold Bloomberg. They used to hang out almost every day after school doing all the silly things that little boys used to do. One day James said to Leo, “Listen to the poem I made up.”

A young Rabbi was teaching in cork,
And he told the kids–take out a fork.
When you’re here in this cheder
You must eat your potater
With some brisket, and never with pork.

When Joyce later gained fame as the writer of Ulysses, he honored his childhood friend by naming the protagonist Leopold Bloom. One day a reporter from the Times of London was interviewing Joyce about his youth, and Joyce recited the poem he had written for his childhood Limerick friend. The silly verse became known as Joyce’s Limerick poem, and eventually that phrase was applied to all poems that followed the same meter and rhyme scheme.

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Israeli Baseball

Israel’s ranking in the World Baseball Confederation currently stands at #41, just behind Poland and just ahead of Peru. And yet Israel has had great success in the initial rounds of the 2017 World Baseball Classic, going undefeated in their first round matches against the Netherlands, South Korea and Taiwan (Chinese Taipei), followed by a second round upset over Cuba. Next up, a rematch today against the Netherlands, followed by Japan on Wednesday. Israel’s team, which features t-shirts reading “Jew Crew,” also has a team mascot that has gotten a lot of attention. Who is the Israeli team mascot?

AThe Yid Kid.

BMegilla Gorilla.

CRav Bais-baal Bat Mitzvah.

DMr. Matzah Ball.

EMensch on a Bench.

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Republican Jewish Coalition

The Republican Jewish Coalition held their annual convention last week at the Venetian Resort Hotel in Las Vegas. Among the speakers was Elliot Lauer, RJC board member and lawyer for Jonathan Pollard. In a d’var Torah which he offered to the attendees, to what did Lauer compare Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election?

Fred delivers his remarks by freddthompson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AHe compared it to the victory of the Maccabees against King Antiochus and the Syrians, as celebrated in the Chanukkah story.

BHe compared it to the triumph of the Jews against King Ahashverus and the Persians as celebrated in the Purim story.

CHe compared it to the victory of the shepherd David who slew the giant Goliath, as told in the Book of Samuel.

DHe compared it to the victory of the Israelis against the combined armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan during the Six Day War of 1967.

EHe compared it to the Best of the Beverages contest at the 2017 Americas Food and Beverage Show which had been held at the Venetian Resort Hotel the week before, in which Orange Julius was the unexpected victor.

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Sweden & The Jews

Sweden is in the news, with President Trump’s false claim of a terrorist attack there recently. With a Jewish population of fewer than 20,000, there aren’t a lot of “Jewish/Swedish” stories. But which of the following is true?

AYiddish is one of the official languages of Sweden.

B. Benny Andersen first started performing in a Swedish pop-rock group, the Hep Stars in 1946. The band was successful in Sweden, mostly performing cover songs. Over time, Benny was interested in writing and performing original music, and he eventually teamed up with three other musicians that he had met, Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Björn Ulvaeus, to form a new band. They were writing and practicing, but had not yet decided upon a name for the band. One day Benny was in a coffee house in Stockholm when he overheard a young child at a table nearby, calling out to his father, who happened to be a tourist from Israel. “Abba, abba,” the child said. Benny liked the sound of the word “abba” and asked the gentleman what it meant. Told that it was Hebrew for “father,” Benny decided that it was fate that he should choose that name for his band, as he had only learned that morning that his wife was pregnant.

CThe first Jew to be offered Swedish citizenship was Aron Isak, in 1774. King Gustav, who granted him this privilege, then allowed Isak to bring in additional Jewish families to ensure there would be 10 men for a minyan.

D. One of the world’s most famous children’s books came out of Sweden, where author Astrid Lindgren, born in Vimmerby, wrote the Pippi Longstocking series. Lindgren, who was Jewish, purposefully did not make her most famous character a Jew, as she wanted Pippi to be seen as representing little girls world-wide. The one Jewish reference in the Pippi Longstocking books was Pippi’s father, the seafarer Ephraim Longstocking, named after Astrid’s father Ephraim, who emigrated to Sweden from Russia following the Kishinev pogrom in his hometown in 1903.

ETuvia Peretz was a peddler in Lithuania who used to blow a shofar as he pulled his cart through the streets of Vilnius, summoning the residents to come and buy his wares. He survived World War II and emigrated to Sweden, where he continued to sell small goods from a cart, eventually becoming successful enough to rent a storefront to sell home goods and furniture. As an homage to his roots in Lithuania, he named his store Tkea Furniture. However, he was told by a local customer that Tkea was very similar to the Swedish word for rubbish, so Peretz, not looking to spend money for a new sign above his front door, simply added a horizontal line at the bottom of the Letter T, making the new name Ikea, which has since grown to nearly 400 stores around the world.

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Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass was an African-American abolitionist and social reformer who was born into slavery in 1818. What Jewish connection did he have in his life?

Frederick Douglass by moosevlt is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

ADouglass was born on a plantation on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The plantation, which was owned by a Sephardic Jew named Moses Lindo, primarily grew tobacco.

BAfter Douglass escaped slavery, he moved to New York City where he became active in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, whose membership included Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. Douglass eventually became a licensed preacher, leading to the development of his oratorical skills. As he became known for his leadership in the abolitionist movement, he spoke primarily at African-American churches; however, in 1851, Douglass was invited to speak at Congregation Ansche Chesed on the Lower East Side of New York, the first time he had addressed a white audience on the subject of ending slavery.

CIn 1838, Douglass escaped slavery by boarding a train which took him to Havre de Grace in northeast Maryland. From there he made his way into Pennsylvania, where he made contact with abolitionists who were part of the Underground Railroad network. As he awaited assistance to travel to New York City, Douglass was temporarily housed by a Jewish couple, Anshel Bondi and his wife Henrietta, who were among the many white Jews and Christians who supported the movement of escaped slaves to safety in the North.

DDespite being married and the father of five children, Douglass carried on a 22-year affair with Ottilie Assing, a journalist from Germany whose mother was Lutheran but whose father was Jewish.

E. Following up on his recent statement that “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice,” President Trump recently announced that he will be inviting Douglass to come to the Passover seder at the home of his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Said Trump, “I was just talking to this Black reporter the other day, and I said to her, ‘I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting? Is Frederick Douglass a friend of yours? Set up a meeting. Invite him to my seder.’ Because Passover is a holiday about freedom, and we can all understand that freedom is big league good. My administration will have the most free Jews and Black people of any administration in the history of our country. We can do that because we got 306 Electoral College votes. That’s more than any Black or Jewish president got. Really. Just ask Bibi. I told him about that just last week. My Jewish daughter and son-in-law were sitting right there in the front row.”

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Chuck Schumer

What did Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York do recently that has stirred up controversy within the Jewish community?

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) by Center for American Progress Action Fund is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

ASenator Schumer announced his support for Keith Ellison, who is a candidate to be the next chair of the Democratic National Committee. Some Jews consider Ellison to be anti-Semitic and anti-Israel, based on his past connection to the Nation of Islam and some of his comments regarding the Israel/Palestinian issue.

B. Senator Schumer has been very critical of Donald Trump’s comments about banning Muslims, and his administration’s recent travel ban that is on hold through a court order. Recently Senator Schumer announced that if a Muslim registry is established, it is his intention to register as a Muslim (as have others in the Jewish community, including Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt). Schumer has been criticized for these comments by some in the Jewish community, including ZOA president Mort Klein and leaders of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

C. Speaking about the Trump administration appointments of former Goldman Sachs bankers (including Treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin) and his concern that Trump’s policies are designed to enrich his wealthy supporters (including Jews such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, investor Carl Icahn, and investment banker Boris Epshteyn), Schumer said “Donald Trump meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, his special interest friends and his donors.” Many in the Jewish community felt that Schumer’s comments were reminiscent of the canard of an international Jewish banking conspiracy.

DSenator Schumer has often been at odds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in particular when the Prime Minister went around normal diplomatic channels to address the United States Congress in 2015, a speech which Schumer boycotted. Schumer again criticized Netanyahu recently when the Prime Minister announced the building of the first new settlement on the West Bank in about 20 years. Schumer received much criticism for his comments from supporters of Israel, and in particular from AIPAC.

E. Senator Schumer’s meatloaf recipe was recently featured in a New York Times article. The meatloaf, which Schumer calls the Omnibus Loaf, includes not only beef, veal and chicken, but also pork. 

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Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots

The New England Patriots won a record fifth Super Bowl after overcoming a 25 point deficit, defeating the Atlanta Falcons 34-28. Robert Kraft, the Jewish owner of the Patriots, is a major philanthropic supporter of Jewish causes and Israel, including the building of the Kraft Family Stadium, Israel’s only American football stadium. The Kraft family has also brought many football players to Israel, including Tom Brady and Hall of Famers Andre Tippett, Jim Taylor, Jack Youngblood, and Raymond Berry. In 2005, what did Robert Kraft bring to Israel to show Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which got major scrutiny by Israeli security before being allowed in?

Tom Brady of the New England Patriots by Linda Seid Frembes is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

AA deflated pigskin, which was allowed in only after approval by the Chief Rabbi.

BThe three Super Bowl rings that Kraft won in Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII, and XXXIX (2002, 2004, and 2005).

CThe Vince Lombardi Trophy which the New England Patriots won in Superbowl XXXIX on Febuary 6, 2005.

D. A New England Patriots helmet that he had specially made for the Prime Minister, which featured a 6-pointed Star of David in place of the 5-pointed star that is part of the team’s logo.

E. Fashion model and Tom Brady’s wife Gisele Bündchen.

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Mary Tyler Moore, RIP

Mary Tyler Moore, who passed away last week, had a number of connections to the Jewish world, both in her real life (her husband Robert Levine is Jewish) and her performing life (an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show entitled “Some of My Best Friends Are Rhoda” grappled with the issue of anti-Semtism when Mary made a new friend who turned out to dislike Jews). Which of the following is another example of Mary’s Jewish connections?

Mary Tyler Moore (test picture) by Dave Winer  is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AAs a young child, Mary was one of only two Catholic families living in the overwhelmingly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Ocean Parkway in Flatbush. On the day of her first Communion, as she walked outside wearing her bridelike veil from the ceremony, she was teased by someone who said, “Well, so are you married to God now?” To which she replied, “No, stupid. How come you can’t touch money sometimes? And what’s the big deal about sundown?”

B. Mary, who was just starting out in her career, originally auditioned for the minor part of Buddy Sorrell’s wife “Pickles” on The Dick Van Dyke Show. The producer, Carl Reiner, liked her but decided that her little button nose would not make her believable as this Jewish housewife. However, after failing to find an actress to play Rob’s wife Laura, Reiner remembered Moore and brought her back in for what became her breakthrough role as Laura Petrie.

C. Mary Tyler Moore was involved in a number of charities, including serving as the International Chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and being a co-founder, along with Bernadette Peters, of Broadway Barks, which sponsors an annual adopt-a-pet event in New York’s theater district. She also joined the Board of Overseers of Hadassah Hospital, a fundraising and advisory group, after becoming connected to the hospital through her mother-in-law, Marion Levine, who was president of her Haddasah chapter on Long Island.

D. One of the most popular secondary characters on The Mary Tyler Moore Show was Chuckles the Clown. The episode entitled “Chuckles Bites the Dust” featured the passing of Chuckles when he marched in a circus parade as Peter Peanut. As Ted Baxter described it, a rogue elephant tried to “shell” him, causing his death. Moore’s portrayal of Mary Richards during Chuckles’s funeral is considered one of her best performances. Originally the writers intended to reveal Chuckles as Jewish at his funeral, led by a rabbi. However, the Anti-Defamation League objected to the script and the portrayal of the rabbi reciting the lines “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.” As a result, the script was rewritten to feature a pastor of unidentified religious affiliation.

E. One of Mary Tyler Moore’s first appearances on a sitcom was on The Goldbergs, starring Gertrude Berg as Molly Goldberg, the matriarch of a Jewish family who moved to suburban Connecticut from the Bronx. Mary auditioned for the role of Anna, Molly’s granddaughter. At the audition, Mary wore a Jewish star around her neck, and she told the director about her own Bubbie Esther, who she said was just like Molly Goldberg. Mary got the role, and the director later told her that she could invite her Bubbie to a taping. She admitted to the director that she wasn’t actually Jewish and that she had made up the story to help her get the part. Said the director, “You know what, you’ve got chutzpah!” As Mary demurely smiled, the director yelled, “I HATE chutzpah!”

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Jews and the Inauguration

There was controversy at the inauguration of Donald Trump over the decision of Rabbi Marvin Hier to offer an invocation. Some felt that Rabbi Hier, the Founder and Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center/Museum of Tolerance, should not participate, given Trump’s many remarks degrading minorities, Muslims, immigrants, women, and others (not to mention his support from, and refusal to disavow, alt-right, KKK, and other racist groups and individuals). The first Jew to participate in a presidential inauguration (at the 1789 inauguration of George Washington) was Gershom Mendes Seixas, spiritual leader of New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel, the first congregation established in the United States. Seixas, a self-trained hazzan (cantor), shochet (kosher slaughterer) and mohel (ritual circumciser), but not an ordained rabbi, is nonetheless known as the Patriot Rabbi of the Revolution. Which of the following is also true of Gershom Seixas?

Congregation Shearith Israel by Eden, Janine and Jim  is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

ASeixas came from a distinguished family that included his brother Moses, founder of the Bank of Rhode Island and president of Touro Synagogue in Newport; his brother Abraham, a Captain in the South Carolina militia during the Revolution; his brother Benjamin, who was a founder of the New York stock exchange; and a descendent, Benjamin Cardozo, who served as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

BBecause he was a self-taught spiritual leader, Seixas had difficulty with Hebrew. The leaders of his congregation, Shearith Israel, fined him 5 shillings for each error he committed while chanting the Torah at Shabbat services, with a goal of spurring him to improve his language skills.

CAs the first prominent clergy to lead a synagogue in the United States, Seixas set the tone for rabbinical leadership in this country in many ways, including through his adoption of the black pulpit robe and clerical collar that was commonplace within the Christian ministry, but later became the norm for American rabbis.

D. Shortly after he became the “minister” of Shearith Israel in New York City, Seixas was asked to perform a wedding in Lancaster for the Gratz family, a prominent Jewish family in Pennsylvania. Seixas’s father Isaac, concerned that his young son might not be up to this task, sent along a letter to the bride’s father, reading, “Permit me Sir to recommend my son to your particular notice. He has never been so far from home, and if you find anything amiss in his behavior, impute it favourably to his want of experience, and kindly admonish him for it.”

E. His connection to George Washington began when Washington’s daughter, Ivanka Washington, married Gershom Seixas and converted to Judaism. Seixas not only participated in the inauguration of his father-in-law, but he joined the Washington administration as a senior adviser, in particular focusing on helping the Jews of Palestine who were suffering under the rule of the Ottoman empire. Regarding that issue, Washington said, “Ya know what, Gershom is such a good kid and he’ll make a deal with Palestine and the Ottomans that no one else can — ya know he’s a natural deal-maker — everyone likes him.”

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Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has announced that it will be going out of business this year, with a final performance on Long Island on May 21. For many years the circus held special performances for the Orthodox community of New York during Chol Hamoed, the intermediate days of Passover and Sukkot. At these performances, the circus made a number of accommodations to the Orthodox audience, including serving kosher food and even providing brand-new chometz-free cotton candy machines during Passover. What other accommodation was made by the circus?

16797148480_c6c36a036e_o by Dustin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AAlex and Irina’s trained poodles performed their act in long skirts instead of their usual ballet tutus.

BHans & Mariya Kloses Mixed Animal Act includes a variety of animals that jump rope, dance, play piano and leap through hoops. For these performances, the dogs, llamas, goats and kangaroos went on, but the pigs were left out of the show.

CCrazy Wilson Dominguez, who normally crosses himself before walking on the whirling Pendulum of Pandemonium, was asked to perform this religious ritual in private instead of in front of the audience.

DFemale performers, including Intergalactic Queen Tatiana, members of the Double-Wide Flying Trapeze team, and the Heilongjiang Provincial Acrobatic Troupe, who usually wear tight fitting uniforms or leotards instead wore long sleeved tops and ankle length skirts.

EGemma Kirby, who performs as the Human Cannonball and is blasted out of a cannon and into a net 100 feet away, was introduced to the Orthodox audience as the Human Matzahball.

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Computer Hacking

Computer hacking was a major topic of the news in 2016, and will surely continue to be in 2017. Recently, Israeli scientists at Ben-Gurion University announced that their research and experimentation was successful in creating a particular type of hacking that could impact cyber security. What did they accomplish?

Crackers by elhombredenegro is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AThe scientists created code that theyve named “Nanny Cam Flip,” which enables nannies (or anyone utilizing the software) to gain control of your nanny cam, allowing them to secretly turn on the camera when you are home, so that the hacker can spy on you rather than the reverse.

BThey created a code that they call Stuxnet-Shtayim (Stuxnet-2), named after the Stuxnet virus that attacked Iranian centrifuges in 2009 and 2010, and was supposedly implemented by Israel. According to the Israeli scientists, Stuxnet-Shtayim is not designed to attack Iran’s nuclear industry computers as did Stuxnet, but rather to reside quietly outside of Irans computers, where it will monitor all communication and activity related to the restrictions which Iran accepted as part of their recent nuclear deal. Israel publicly announced this so that Iran would be aware that if they try to secretly violate the agreement in any way, Israel will know and will take whatever action it deems necessary.

CThey created code that theyve dubbed “I-Watch-U” which enables hackers to turn your Apple Watch into a spy camera, secretly recording whatever activity is going on around you without your knowledge, and transmitting that information to the hacker.

DThey created code that theyve dubbed “Speake(a)r” which enables hackers to surreptitiously turn your earbuds or headphones into microphones, secretly transmitting everything you say to the hacker whos listening in.

EThey created code that theyve dubbed "Shabbatcha-Gotcha," which they are marketing to Orthodox rabbis. The code, when activated, monitors the flow of electricity into the household where its secretly installed, enabling rabbis to see if their constituents are using electricity on the Sabbath in violation of Jewish law. For an additional fee, a second code can be installed which the researchers are calling “Not Fast Enough.” This software can specifically identify if the refrigerator light goes on, enabling the rabbis to determine if their constituents are eating on Yom Kippur or other fast days.

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Chanukkah Songs

It’s often said that Christmas music far surpasses the quality of Chanukkah music, thanks to the many Jewish composers who wrote such beautiful songs as White Christmas (Irving Berlin), The Christmas Song/Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire (Mel Tormé and Robert Wells), and I'll Be Home For Christmas (Buck Ram and Walter Kent). Adam Sandler has elevated Chanukkah music with lyrics such as “Guess who eats together at the Carnegie Deli, Bowser from Sha Na Na and Arthur Fonzarelli” while also debasing Chanukkah music with lyrics including “So drink your Jaegerbomb-ukah and smoke your medical-chron-ukah.” Though most of us only sing a few Chanukkah songs (Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel, Maoz Tzur, and Chanukkah Oh Chanukkah), there are many more Chanukkah songs to be sung. Which of the following are actual lyrics from a Chanukkah song?

AFrom the song Hanuka Gelt:
Hanuka, Hanuka, ‘Leven and Seven!
Hanuka Geltula, Dance me to Heaven!
Tickle me! Feed me a pickeldy peach!
Makes me love myself, self, self!

BFrom the song Hanukah Dance:
Jump real high! Happy Hanuka!
Jump jump high! My little fruitcake!
On your toes! Happy Hanuka!
And around and around you go!

CFrom the song Hanukah Bell:
Dinga lingle lingle, I ring your bell
Knocka knock knockie knock at your door
The week of Hanuka now is here
And you must be sad no more

D. From the song Hanuka’s Flame:
Now as I light my first and my last
Of all nine candles to guide you past
Through these winds of blowing snows
To take you to your Hanuka home.

E. From the song Honeyky Hanukah:
It’s Honeyky Hanukah, kiss me some more,
We’ll sing and go dancing around on the floor,
Your kiss is nicer than cakes from the store,
It’s Honeyky Hanukah time.

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Fast Food Chanukkah

A fast food chain is offering a special Chanukkah menu item in Israel. What is that item?

ABased on the Chanukkah tradition of eating fried foods such as latkes, McDonald’s is offering the Big Mac-abees, a traditional Big Mac that is dipped in the deep fryer prior to being served.

BChick-fil-A, a company whose culture is driven by the Southern Baptist beliefs of its founder Truett Cathy, is offering an interfaith special. Instead of on a bun, they are serving their chicken sandwich on egg bread which is topped with sesame seeds that have been dyed red and green. The sandwich is called the Deck the Chick with Boughs of Challah.

CBurger King is offering the SufganiKing, their homage to the traditional Israeli sufganiyah, the fried jelly doughnut. The SufganiKing is a burger with all the trappings (well, all except the cheese), sandwiched between two pieces of fried dough, with a squirt of catsup on top representing the jelly.

DFor the duration of the year, Starbucks has rebranded its Chai Latte as To Life, To Life, Chai Latte. The drink is served in a seasonal blue and white cup featuring the Starbucks Siren lighting a menorah.

EJamba Juice is offering a Chanukkah smoothie, known as the Jamba Jews, which is described as a blend of oil, grated potatoes and chopped onions, with a boost of flaxseed, sufganiyot, whey protein, rabbiflavin and crumbled Chanukkah gelt. The drink is pas Yisroel, pareve, Cholov Yisroel, milchig, glatt, mevushal, fleishig and non-kitniyot. It is gluten-free, dairy-free, rennet-free, gelatin-free, nut-free, peanut-free, and tree nut-free; however, because of the inclusion of sufganiyot, the smoothie is not doughnut-free. It is certified kosher by O-U, Kof-K, Diamond-K, Scroll-K, Star-K, O-K and Not O-K. And it is guaranteed not to have been boiled in its mother’s milk. Though you will pray for a miracle that the Jamba Jews will only affect your digestive system for one day, it is guaranteed to last for eight days and nights.

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Germany and Jews

The past year has seen a rise in anti-Semitic incidents and attitudes across Europe. In Germany, home to the world’s fastest growing Jewish community, the Munich-based European Janusz Korczak Academy recently launched a program to support the Jewish community there, promoting dialogue with non-Jews, and fighting anti-Semitism. What is this program called?

Germany by Thomas Roche is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AThe program is called “The German/Jewish Alliance,” with a tagline Learn From the Past/Change the Future.”

BThe program is called “Jews and Germans Together, and their symbol is the German national flag with its black, red and gold stripes, featuring a Star of David in the middle, similar to the Israeli flag.

CThe program is called “Frieden/Shalom, (peace in German and Hebrew).

DThe program is called “To Life/L’Chaim/Zum Leben with a tagline “Where Jewish and German Lives Matter.”

EThe program is called “Rent-a-Jew, with the tagline “You never forget your first.”

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Dolly Parton

While the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee was spared by the wildfires that consumed thousands of acres in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the death and destruction resulting from the fires has moved Dolly Parton to help those left in need. With funding from Dollywood as well as her Dollywood Foundation, she has established the “My People Fund” which will donate $1000/month to families who lost their homes in the disaster. Earlier in Dolly Parton’s life, she did something that provided an inspiration to someone in the “Jewish” world. What was that?

Dolly Parton by Eva Rinaldi is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AIn 1996, Parton established the Imagination Library to distribute free children’s books in Sevier County, Tennessee. The program has grown and now provides free books to children in over 1600 communities in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Philanthropist Harold Grinspoon learned of the program and helped establish a branch in Western Massachusetts. This became his inspiration to create the PJ Library which has distributed nearly 10 million Jewish children’s books to families throughout the United States and in Jewish communities around the world.

BIn 1980, Dolly Parton starred in the movie 9 to 5, about three working women and their sexist, somewhat crazy boss. Following the success of the movie, Parton was instrumental in the creation of the 9 to 5 Foundation, which worked to empower women in the workplace, fighting discrimination and providing training to enable women to advance in the corporate environment. In 1984, an Israeli delegation from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel visited the United States to learn about organizations which were helping women, and they met with Parton and representatives from the 9 to 5 Foundation. As a result, they set up an Israeli NGO, Tisha Ad Chamesh (Nine to Five) with a particular focus on helping Sephardic women who had immigrated from Arab countries and who were struggling with cultural and educational issues that prevented them from working and succeeding in the workplace.

C. One of Parton’s biggest successes as a composer and performer was with the song Coat of Many Colors, written in 1969. The song is about a coat which her mother had stitched together from rags, and which her mother described in connection to the story of Joseph’s coat of many colors in the Bible. Though the other children laughed at her ragged coat, Parton was not ashamed, because this coat was made by her mother with such pride. When Parton performed in Tel Aviv in 1981, the producers of the show organized a coat drive called “Dolly’s Coats of Many Colors,” and concert goers donated more than 5000 new and gently-used coats which were distributed to Israeli families in need.

D. In 1980, there was an incident in Sevier County, where Dolly was born. A gay teenager attempted suicide, leaving a note that he felt no one loved him. After visiting the boy in the hospital, Parton founded a non-profit agency to support young gay people, and named the organization the “I Will Always Love You Foundation,” after her most famous song. In 1994, following a similar incident involving a gay Orthodox boy in Jerusalem, an Israeli businessman who was familiar with Parton’s organization started a social service agency in Israel providing support to gay Orthodox teens in a confidential setting. The organization is called Ahavah l’Yeladim (Love for the Children).

E. In 1986, Dolly Parton took over the amusement park called Silver Dollar City and reopened it as “Dollywood.” She was pleased to expand the park, bring more jobs to the area, and highlight the history, culture, food and music of the part of Tennessee where she grew up. In 1997, an Israeli entrepreneur visited Dollywood and was inspired to do something similar in Israel. He opened an amusement park in the Galilee with a theme built around the chalutzim, the pioneering founders of the state. The park offers rides, animatronic figures including David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann, and a music venue featuring Israeli performers and an original musical about the founding of the state. The park is called Zum Gali Gali Wood.

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Fidel Castro

Cuban leader Fidel Castro died last week at the age of 90. What was Fidel Castro’s first significant connection to Jews and Judaism?

Fidel Castro by Russell Thomas is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AUntil 1973, Israel and Cuba had diplomatic relations, and one of the strongest ties was in the area of agricultural assistance provided by Israel to Cuban farmers. Much of this connection came through the Kibbutz Movement, both because of the expertise of the kibbutz farming industry as well as the socialist underpinnings of the kibbutz movement. As a result of these connections, in 1966 Fidel Castro arranged for his oldest son, Fidel Ángel Castro Diaz-Balart, to spend six months on Kibbutz Ramat Yochanan. In order to keep this quiet, the young man used the name Ángel Diaz-Balart and did not disclose his relationship to the Cuban leader.

B. Raised as a Catholic, Castro recalled that every year at Easter time, he would hear that “God is dead” because the Jews killed him. He said he didn't know what a Jew was, other than a bird with a big nose that was called a Jew bird, so he assumed a bird had killed God. He said that this childhood experience contributed to his belief that anti-Semitism was wrong and based on ignorance.

C. Rum has been distilled on sugarcane plantations in Central and South America as well as in the Caribbean since the early 1600’s, with Jews playing a prominent role, both as owners of many of these plantations as well as through liquor importing businesses led by Samuel Bronfman and Lewis Rosenstiel among others. In Cuba, one of the first distillers of rum was a Jew named Pedro Diago, known as the father of Cuban rum. When Fidel Castro was 16 years old, he got a job working in the sugarcane fields on Diago’s plantation, and because of the poor pay and working conditions he found there, he organized a strike of the plantation workers. This was the beginning of his involvement in socialist politics, as well as his dislike for capitalists, whom he associated largely with Jews because of Pedro Diago.

D. While there have been some Jews living in Cuba for centuries (including many Marranos who had emigrated from Spain to Cuba and other Caribbean Islands), the population grew significantly in the early 1900’s, with immigration from Turkey after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, and as part of the major Eastern European Jewish emigration, particularly after the United States closed their borders to most immigrants in the 1920’s. A number of these Jews, including Fabio Grobart and Enrique Oltuski, played prominent roles in the Cuban revolution, working alongside Fidel Castro and Che Guevara to overthrow the Cuban President Fulgencio Batista.

E. As a boy Fidel Castro learned to play the drums, and by the time he was in high school, he had gained quite a reputation as a performer. At that time Desi Arnaz was just starting out as a bandleader in Havana, and he brought Castro into his band. Many of their gigs were for bar mitzvahs and Jewish weddings. At one bar mitzvah, Castro spontaneously started pounding a rhythmic beat as the bar mitzvah boy’s parents, Anna and Louis, were lifted on chairs. Castro began chanting “Ima Anna, Abba Lou. Ima Anna, Abba Lou,” and the entire crowd chimed in as they circled the parents. Years later, after the Cuban Revolution, Desi Arnaz emigrated to the United States where he gained fame as a singer and bandleader, with his most famous song being one he wrote based on his slightly misremembered gig at that bar mitzvah–Babalú.

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The Broadway play Hamilton is in the news, as the cast addressed Mike Pence the other night when he attended a performance of the show. Alexander Hamilton had a little-known connection to Jews. What was it?

Alexander Hamilton - bust x by Marion Doss is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AHamilton and his wife Elizabeth Schuyler had eight children, including their daughter Eliza. Eliza married a Jewish physician and converted to Judaism. Because Hamilton was killed by Aaron Burr when Eliza was only four years old, he was not around to see his daughter grow up; however, Hamilton’s wife Elizabeth attended Eliza’s wedding and later attended the bar mitzvah of Eliza’s son Alexander, at Congregation Shearith Israel on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

B. While little is known about Hamilton’s mother, she was known to be of French Hugenot and British ancestry. There is some evidence that she was the illegitimate daughter of a member of the Rothschild banking family. While this has not been proven, one piece of evidence for this story is that when Hamilton founded the Bank of New York, among the original members of the bank’s board of governors was Jakob Mayer Rothschild, who was part of the French branch of the family and was one of the two Jewish financiers (the other being Haym Solomon) of the American Revolution.

C. Because Hamilton’s mother had never divorced her first husband, Alexander was considered illegitimate in the eyes of the Anglican church. As a result, he was not allowed to attend the local Anglican school, but instead attended a Jewish Day School where he learned to recite the Ten Commandments in Hebrew.

D. Charlestown, where Hamilton grew up on the island of Nevis, had a large Jewish population as a result of immigration from Spain and Portugal at the time of the Inquisition. Hamilton’s best friend growing up was a Jewish boy named Moises de Leon. Hamilton later wrote that he first learned about what freedom meant by going to a Passover seder at his friend Moises’ house, and this influenced his views on liberty and religious freedom in the newly independent United States.

EA number of Jewish newspapers published under Orthodox or Chassidic auspices, such as Hamodia and Di Tzeitung, do not print pictures of women, believing that this violates the custom of tznius, or modesty, and would be offensive to readers. Some papers have even removed women from photographs that they published (for example when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was airbrushed out of the iconic picture at the White House Situation Room as she and others watched the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound by Navy Seals). In a similar vein, one Jewish newspaper covered last week’s incident in which Mike Pence attended the Hamilton performance and was addressed by the cast, but rather than print the name of the show, they referred to the show as “Beefilton.” Editors explained that using the actual name of the show would violate the laws of kashruth and would be offensive to readers.

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Leonard Cohen, z”l

Surely the most famous song written and performed by Leonard Cohen, who passed away last week, is Hallelujah. The song, with its Biblical references to Samson and Delilah and David and Bathsheba, has been covered by hundreds of performers, including Bob Dylan, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainright, Willie Nelson and Justin Timberlake. The song was also featured in the movie Shrek. Which of the following also performed or recorded the song Hallelujah?

Leonard Cohen by Takahiro Kyono is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AThe Canadian Tenors sang a version which was described in Newsweek magazine as a “vomitously overstuffed murdering of the track.”

BBritish singer/songwriter Alexandra Burke won the 2008 X Factor competition, having performed Hallelujah in the final week of competition. A poll in the United Kingdom found Burkes commercially released version of the song to be the tenth worst cover song of all time (behind such choices as William Shatners version of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and Madonnas cover of American Pie).

CBono recorded a version of the song on the Leonard Cohen tribute album, Tower of Song: The Songs of Leonard Cohen, which included an odd rap delivery backed by drum machines and falsetto background vocals. The song was universally panned; even Bono later said of this recording, “I didn’t just let myself down, or my parents, I let the whole school down.”

D. Adam Sandler sang a version of the song at a Hurricane Sandy Relief Concert, including new lyrics such as “the mayors ban on 32-ounce Mountain Dew-ya” and “Turnpike Exit 13 stinkin like poo-ya.”

E. A 7-foot-tall clown known as Puddle Pity Party sang the song. Director Gary Yost filmed a performance of this version, about which he said, “The soul and heart can come through despite any costume we wear.”

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Finally, The Election

Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump - Caricatures by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

No matter what happens in the election, the nation will have a first son-in-law who is Jewish. So the big question:

Is that good for the Jews
or bad for the Jews?

While we may not know the answer to that question for some time, what we do know is that it is good for the Jews (and for everyone) that the election season is finally over. But before we move on to other delights, enjoy this bonus double weekly quiz, one question about Donald Trump and one about Hillary Clinton. Today’s questions come from


A Quizbook of
Presidential Jewish Trivia Facts & Fun

What? You don’t already have
Not to worry–there’s still time, especially as you start feeling nostalgic for the good old days when everyone you ever heard of was running for president.

Click here for more information 

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And now for today’s questions.

Hillary Clinton - Caricature by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

When Hillary Clinton’s daughter Chelsea was preparing to marry Marc Mezvinsky, the couple met with Rabbi James Ponet, the head rabbi at Yale who performed the ceremony. The rabbi told them that they could use any cloth with meaning to the family for their chuppah (wedding canopy). Marc said “My bar mitzvah tallit, that could be used, but I don’t know where it is.” What did Chelsea say?

A“I still have my Ace of Base t-shirt from when they performed at the White House when I was in 9th grade. Would that be okay?”

BWhy don’t we use the shawl I wore on our first date?

CI know where it is.

DI’m sure my mother has a spare pantsuit we could use.

EI have a blue dress that would be nice.”

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Donald Trump - Caricature by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

In 2006, Donald Trump announced plans to build an office tower in Tel Aviv that would be the tallest building in Israel. The plan never came to fruition, but what was the building going to be called?

ATrump Tower Zion.

B. Beit Trump.

C. The Trump Tower of David.

D. Trump Tower Israel.

E. One more ostentatious, overpriced monument to a self-important New Yorker.

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FBI Investigations

The FBI is in the headlines regarding their investigation of Hillary Clinton and her e-mails. The FBI has a long history of being involved in investigations that may not make any sense. The FBI file on Albert Einstein was over 1400 pages in length. Why did the FBI conduct an investigation of Albert Einstein?

AIn 1932, an organization known as the Woman Patriot Corporation wrote a letter to the State Department arguing that “not even Stalin himself” was connected to as many “anarchic-Communist” organizations as Einstein.

BEinstein helped singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson organize a rally against lynching in 1946.

C. In the 1950’s, Einstein appealed for clemency for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who had been sentenced to death for espionage.

DIn 1953, Einstein encouraged a number of individuals not to testify at hearings before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, led by Senator Joseph McCarthy.

E. In the early 1950’s, there was fear that Einstein was involved in passing nuclear secrets to the Russians (and we all know that anyone with crazy hair who is connected to the Russians should not be trusted around nuclear weapons).

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Colin Powell

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican, just announced that he is endorsing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for president in the upcoming election. Colin Powell has some knowledge of Yiddish. Where did he learn to speak this language?

Gen. Colin Powell by Charles Haynes is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

APowell grew up in the South Bronx, directly across the street from the Intervale Jewish Center. When he was a teenager in the early 1950’s, Powell was hired as the synagogues “Shabbos Goy,” responsible for turning on and off the buildings lights and heat on Friday night and Saturday. In Powells autobiography, My American Journey, published in 1995, Powell wrote, “I was very lucky to get that job, and to get to know the Jewish people at that synagogue. Many were Holocaust survivors, and hearing of their experiences greatly influenced my decision to join the military and fight for freedom. Of course, I had no idea at that time that the Yiddish words I learned would come in handy years later as I met with many of Israel’s leaders.”

BPowells mother worked as a maid/housekeeper for a Jewish family in the South Bronx. When Colin was young, his mother would often bring him with her to her employers house, where he became friendly with the children his mother was caring for. The Jewish family, who had immigrated from Poland, often spoke Yiddish, and Colins mother and Colin both learned many words and phrases from this family. Powell often told the story of attending the bar mitzvah of one of the children, and joining in as everyone yelled “Mazel Tov” at the end of the ceremony.

CWhen Powell was a teenager, he worked part-time at Sicksers, a baby equipment store in the South Bronx, where Powell lived. The Sickser family was Jewish, as were many of their customers, immigrants from Eastern Europe whose native language was Yiddish. As a result, Powell picked up some basics of the language and was able to communicate with the Jewish customers.

D. When Powell was Secretary of State, he briefly studied Yiddish with Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the Chabad rabbi who was founder of TheSHUL in Washington, DC and who organized the annual Chanukkah Menorah lighting across from the White House. Rabbi Shemtov, known as the rabbi of Capitol Hill, worked and studied together with many politicians and Washington bureaucrats, and he had suggested that Powell learn some Yiddish as it might provide a bit of an “in” for Powell in working with Israeli politicians.

EBefore he was born, Colin Powells mother Maud worked as a custodian at Congregation Hope of Israel near Yankee Stadium. Because many of the members were immigrants from Eastern Europe, she picked up a smattering of Yiddish, which she later taught her son. Part of her responsibility at the synagogue was to ready the building for the Yom Kippur services every year. She would then listen to the service and was moved by the beautiful sounds of the cantors voice. As a result (and with some slight misunderstanding of the words), when she gave birth to a son a few years later, she named him Colin Idray Powell.

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Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan just received the Nobel Prize for Literature, “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” as noted by the Swedish Academy which chooses the winners. In 1975, Dylan appeared at a congregational seder at Hollywood’s Temple Israel. What song did he perform at the seder?

Bob Dylan by nico7martin is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

ABlowin’ In the Wind.

BChimes of Freedom.

CTalkin’ Hava Negeilah Blues.

DThe Times They Are A-Changin’.

EA Hard Chrains A-Gonna Fall.

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Hurricane Names

A committee of the United Nation’s World Meteorological Organization chooses the list of names that will be given to hurricanes and cyclones around the world. One name that was selected by this group turned out to be controversial, and eventually was removed from the list. What was that name?

Hurricane Watch in Effect for Bermuda by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AIn 2005, the designated name for the letter Y in the Pacific Ocean was Yasser. Given that Yasser Arafat had died the year before, many Jewish and Israeli groups objected, saying that Yasser Arafat should not be honored in this way. At the same time, Arab countries objected, saying that naming a killer storm after Yasser Arafat would be insulting to his memory. The World Meteorological Organization said they had chosen that name only because it is a common Arabic name, however, they decided to change the Y name to Yusef.

B. In 2001, the designated name for the letter I in the Pacific Ocean was Israel, and Jewish groups protested that this was not appropriate. There was concern that there might be headlines reading “Israel Wipes Out Thousands in Manila.” The World Meteorological Organization said that the name was chosen because it is a common Spanish name, however, they did decide not to use the name Israel.

CIn 1979, the designated name for the letter G in the Atlantic Ocean was Golda. Given that Golda Meir had died the year before, many Muslim and Arab groups objected, saying that Golda Meir should not be honored in this way. At the same time, Israel objected, saying that naming a killer storm after Golda Meir would be insulting to her memory. The World Meteorological Organization said they had chosen that name only because it is a common Jewish name, however, they decided to change the G name to Gilda.

DIn 1983, the name list for the coming year was announced, and it included the name Hymie for the H storm in the Atlantic. At that time, there was no conversation at all about this choice. However, in early 1984, Jesse Jackson had begun his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president, and news stories came out about his disparaging use of the term Hymies for Jews, and Hymietown for New York City. Jackson at first denied saying this, and then tried to downplay it as an insignificant private conversation, but it became part of the national conversation surrounding his candidacy. At some point the name Hymie on the hurricane list was noticed by mainstream Jewish organizations, who pressured the World Meteorological Organization to remove it from the list, which they did.

E. In 2003, the designated name for the letter A in the Atlantic Ocean was Abram. Because of complaints from the Chief Rabbi of Israel, the World Meteorological Organization agreed to change the name, issuing a statement saying “And you shall no longer be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I make you the father of a multitude of storms.”

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Sephardic Rosh Hashanah

L’shana Tova Tikatevu



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In many Sephardic communities, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated with a seder meal, a custom which dates to the Talmud (Horayot 12a), when Abaye, a Babylonian rabbi, listed a variety of foods that should be eaten at the New Year. The foods are placed on a “Yehi Ratzon platter,” and each is eaten following a “Yehi Ratzon” blessing, which is a blessing that begins, “May it be God’s will…” A different prayer is invoked for each food. For example, we say “May it be God’s will that our enemies be decimated” when eating leeks, and “...that our merits increase” over fenugreek or carrots. What is the Yehi Ratzon blessing when eating a fish head, which is also traditionally included on the platter?

Fish head by hiroo yamagata is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AThat our enemies go the way of the Amalekites.

BThat we always look not only forward, but to the side as does the fish, so that we may stay safe.

CThat we be fruitful and multiply.

DThat we be as the head and not as the tail.

EThat this tray of fish heads inspires us to sing unto the Lord.

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Shimon Peres, z”l

RASHI, RAMBAM and RAMALAMADINGDONG joins the world in mourning the passing of Shimon Peres, as we honor him with a bonus weekly quiz question.

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Shimon Peres, who died yesterday at the age of 93, was once featured in a film entitled So Now What? What was this video about?

President Shimon Peres by Chatham House is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AThe video was made in 1995 following the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. In the film, Peres calls for unity and peace in the divided country, so that the country can focus on healing and on the external threats which face Israel.

BSo Now What? was actually a series of short videos made by the Israel Broadcasting Authority in 1967. Each of the 12 segments featured an interview with a leading public figure discussing the future of Israel, following the Israeli victory in the Six Day War and Israel’s newly-gained control over the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Besides Peres, others who were interviewed included Moshe Dayan, David ben-Gurion, and Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek.

CThe movie was made in 1994 by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the group that awards the Nobel Peace Prize. The film, which presented a vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, was shown at the award ceremony when Peres, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize.

DIn 1996 Shimon Peres founded the Peres Center for Peace. The video was made at the time to introduce the Center to the public and to potential donors. In the film, Peres talks about the mission of the Peres Center, detailing its focus on such areas as agriculture, water and the environment; civil leadership; medicine and healthcare; and social media and technology.

EThe video follows Peres as he finds himself unemployed after the end of his term as President of Israel in 2014. In the film, we see him meet with a job counselor who tells him that his past experience as a shepherd is not useful because everyone is now vegan. Peres does eventually get work as a gas pumper, a supermarket check out clerk, and a pizza delivery guy, but sadly, he is not very successful at these jobs.

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National Museum of African American History and Culture 

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture opened this weekend in Washington, D. C. The museum, with more than 36,000 artifacts, tells the story of African American life, history, and culture. One display in the museum contains an item or items with a Jewish connection which is tied in some way to Michelle Obama. What is this item or items?

Photograph of the National Museum of African American History and Culture by Alan Karchmer/NMAAHC Copyright ©2016 National Museum of African American History and Culture

A. In the museum’s section on slavery in America, there is a Hebrew Bible which had belonged to a Jewish slaveholder named Solomon Davis, a South Carolina tobacco plantation owner. Michelle Obama’s great-great-grandfather, Jim Robinson, was enslaved on Davis’s plantation.

B. The museum contains a copy of the speech that Michelle Obama offered at the 2016 Democratic National Convention last July. In her remarks, Mrs. Obama said that the Republican convention had been sadly divisive, noting that “Peace will come when the Republicans love their children more than they hate us.” Mrs. Obama has since been accused by Melania Trump of plagiarizing Golda Meir’s statement about the Arabs, “Peace will come when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us.”A spokesman for the Obamas defended the First Lady. “Michelle Obama said, ‘Peace will come when the Republicans love their children more than they hate us.’ Twilight Sparkle of My Little Pony said, ‘Peace will come when Pinkie Pie loves Fluttershy and Applejack loves Rainbow Dash.’ There’s no cribbing of Golda Meir’s speech. These were common words and values. She cares about her family. To think that she’d be cribbing Golda Meir’s words is crazy.”

C. In an exhibit about the Obamas there is a letter of recommendation that was written by Rabbi J. H. Margolis of the South Side Hebrew Congregation (now the Central Synagogue of Chicago on the north side of town) on behalf of Michelle Obama’s father, Fraser Robinson, III. As a young man, Robinson had worked as a porter at the synagogue, eventually applying for and obtaining a job at the city water plant. Rabbi Margolis’s letter stated that “Mr. Robinson has shown himself to be a diligent young man, respectful of our people and our culture, and always dedicated to hard work.”

D. One of the major exhibits at the museum is about the Civil Rights movement. Included among the displays is the iconic picture of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. marching in Selma, Alabama in 1965, flanked by John Lewis, Ralph Abernathy, Ralph Bunche and other black leaders, along with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Behind Rabbi Heschel is Pastor Kenneth B. Smith of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. This was the church that Michelle Obama’s family belonged to when she was growing up, as Pastor Smith was Michelle Obama’s uncle. This is also the church that she and President Obama later attended under the leadership of the controversial Pastor Jeremiah Wright.

EThe museum has a display about worship in the African American community that includes a Torah scroll, tallit and shofar which were donated to the museum by Rabbi Capers Funnye, spiritual leader of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Chicago. Rabbi Funnye is a cousin of Michelle Obama.

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Eight Days a Week

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week–The Touring Years, a documentary directed by Ron Howard, opened this past Friday. The film covers the years 1962-1966 as the Beatles performed more than 800 live concerts around the world. What Jewish-related event took place during the Beatles 1964 tour of America?

beatles 4 by roger is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AThe Beatles performed a concert at the Milwaukee Arena on September 17, 1964. The band had arrived only hours before the concert as an early season snow storm had closed the highway from Indianapolis, where they had performed the night before. During the storm, one of their equipment trucks had slid off the road and overturned. While no one was hurt, a Hammond organ was destroyed. On short notice, calls went out to locate a replacement organ, and one was procured from Temple Menorah, a reform synagogue located only a mile from the Milwaukee Arena. The Beatles all autographed the organ, which is still in use at the temple to this day.

BLinda Eastman was majoring in Fine Arts at the University of Arizona, where she studied photography. On September 5, 1964, she received a phone call from one of her professors, telling her that a colleague who was a professional photographer needed a student who could assist with a bar mitzvah party shoot that night, as his assistant had taken ill. Eastman took the job and worked the bar mitzvah party. After the party, the photographer told Eastman that he had press access to the after-party following the Beatles concert that had taken place that night at the Rialto Theatre in Tucson. They attended the bash and Linda had the opportunity to meet and photograph Paul McCartney for the first time. This was the start of an on-going relationship between McCartney and Eastman, at first professional as her phototgraphy career grew, and eventually as a romantic relationship and marriage.

CBrian Epstein, the Beatles manager, was with the band during their 1964 American tour. When the band performed in New Orleans on September 16, Epstein reached out to Ivor Davis, a Jewish reporter who was covering the tour for London’s Daily Express and asked if he could arrange for tickets to Yom Kippur services, which were to be held the next day. Davis called the local Conservative Synagogue and secured the tickets, but Epstein ended up leaving New Orleans early the next morning and did not show up at services.

DThe Beatles were scheduled to perform in New York City on September 8 at Forest Hills Stadium. That night was in fact the first night of Rosh Hashanah, and as the concert approached, city officials became concerned that there would be an insufficient number of police, transit, and other critical workers available to ensure safety at the concert. Mayor Robert Wagner called a meeting of the city council, who approved overtime funds to enable non-Jewish city workers to put in the extra hours necessary to cover for Jewish employees who would be taking off for the holiday, thus preventing the cancellation of the concert.

E. The Beatles’ final concert on their 1964 American tour took place at the Paramount Theater in New York City on September 20. When the Beatles arrived in New York on the day before the concert, John Lennon gave an interview to the Jewish Week newspaper, where he said, “Judaism will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that. I’m right and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Moses now. I don’t know which will go first, rock ‘n’ roll or Judaism. Moses was all right but the prophets were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.” The remarks led to threats and protests outside the theater by Jewish groups, a major reason why the Beatles decided not to tour in America again (or ever in Israel).

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Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo Bank has just been fined $185 million for fraudulently opening credit card and checking accounts in the names of people who were not aware and did not approve. The original Wells, Fargo & Company provided express delivery and banking services in California. In 1905 the company separated its delivery and banking services, followed by the merger of the bank with the Nevada Bank which was operated by Isaias W. Hellman, forming the Wells Fargo Nevada National Bank. Following additional mergers and name changes, the bank became the Wells Fargo Bank in 1954. How did Isaias Hellman, a Jewish immigrant from Bavaria, become a banker in the first place?

Wells Fargo Stagecoach by FotoGuy 49057 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AHellman’s father was a banker in Bavaria, and Hellman began working in the bank as a young man. The family fled Germany in 1839 following a pogrom in their town in which the Hellman Bank was broken into, robbed, and set on fire. When the family arrived in California in 1840, Isaias Hellman and his father borrowed money from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and established a bank in Los Angeles.

B. Isaias W. Hellman had emigrated from Germany in the mid-1800’s with his family and they settled in California. Every month the Hellman family and all of their neighbors would await the arrival of the Wells Fargo wagon, delivering packages to the residents. In December 1853, the Wells Fargo Wagon was a-comin’ down the street. One resident got a delivery of a box of maple sugar on his birthday. Another got a gray mackinaw, while a third got some grapefruit from Tampa and a fourth person got a bathtub and a cross-cut saw from Montgom’ry Ward. Little Isaias got a present that his father had ordered for Chanukkah–a piggie bank. Isaias told his father that this present was “thump’n thpethyul just for me,” and it became his inspiration to eventually become a banker.

C. Isaias Hellman had immigrated to Los Angeles in the mid-1800’s, where he established a dry goods store. His store was located in an area that was largely populated by Mexicans, the majority of whom were members of the Catholic church. Hellman was approached by the local bishop and asked if he would consider providing loans for the members of the church, as church rules forbid the charging of interest on loans by Catholics. Hellman consented to do so, and eventually opened a bank next door to his store, the first official bank to be opened in Los Angeles.

D. Mayer Amschel Rothschild established a banking business in Frankfurt, Germany in the 1760’s, and this bank went on to become an international banking institution as members of the family established Rothschild Banks throughout Europe. Isaias Hellman worked for the Rothschild Bank in Bavaria in the mid-1800’s, before deciding to emigrate to America. Upon arriving in California, Hellman partnered with Francisco Temple to established Hellman, Temple and Co., Los Angeles’s first official bank, with funding from the Rothschild family.

E. Hellman arrived in California in 1859 and worked as a clerk in his cousin’s dry goods store. He eventually opened his own store, where as a courtesy he would store his customers’ valuables in the store safe. One customer who kept gold in the safe would often come in while drunk and withdraw some of his gold. At one point, this customer went to retrieve some of the gold when he was sober, and upon discovering much of the gold gone, he wrongly accused Hellman of theft and attacked him. Hellman realized that this informal storage system was not a good idea, so he printed business cards reading “I.W. Hellman, Banker” and began providing deposit books to customers.

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Gene Wilder, z”l

The great Gene Wilder, star of such wonderful movies as Blazing Saddles, The Producers, The Frisco KidWilly Wonka & the Chocolate Factoryand Young Frankenstein, passed away last week. How did Wilder describe the role of Judaism in his life?

Gene Wilder

WONKA making some magical MEDICINE by Joe Madonna is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AI’m not at all religious, although I am certainly Jewish–which, to me, means that my mother showed up at my Hebrew school in the afternoon and brought me a piece of kugel or a bialy so I wouldn’t starve before dinner.

B. I’m not at all religious, although I am certainly Jewish–which, to me, means that my parents stopped talking to me when I married my first wife, who wasn’t Jewish, and continued not to talk to me when I married my second wife, who also wasn’t Jewish (though they did speak to my wives.) Only when I married my third wife, Gilda, who of course was Jewish, did my parents finally start speaking to me again.

COf course, The Producers was brilliantly written by Mel Brooks. But I did contribute a few lines, including when my character, Leo Bloom, said: “I’m hysterical! I’m having hysterics. I’m hysterical. I can’t stop when I get like this. I can’t stop. I’m hysterical. Oh my god. Ah-la-la-la.” That basically summed up my world view on being Jewish.

D. I’m not at all religious, although I am certainly Jewish–which, to me, means that my father, who came from a shtetl in Poland would sing niggunim on Friday night. So my Judaism was just a feeling I got from that music. I can still hear him now. “Ay, di di di die die die.” “Bum diddy dum dum bim bum bum bum.” Oy yoy, oy. Yoy diddly doy.” Oompa loompa doom-pa-dee doo.”

EI’m not at all religious, although I am certainly Jewish–which, to me, means that my parents hugged and kissed me a lot as I was growing up.

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Touro Synagogue

Tim Kaine, Democratic nominee for vice-president, recently visited the historic Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. Jeshuat Israel, the congregation that is housed in the Touro Synagogue building, was recently in the news as a result of its winning a lawsuit against Congregation Shearith Israel of New York City. What was the dispute about?

Touro Synagogue by Matt Cloutier is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AShearith Israel was founded in 1654 and is the oldest congregation in the United States. The Touro Synagogue building was built in 1763, and is the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue building in North America. Shearith Israel sued Jeshuat Israel for marketing itself as the “Oldest Synagogue in America” based on the status of its building. Shearith Israel claimed that this infringed on its claim to be the oldest synagogue, based on the founding date of the congregation. A judge ruled in Jeshuat Israel’s favor, confirming that “synagogue” refers to the building, not the congregation, and therefore Jeshuat Israel can continue to say they are the “Oldest Synagogue in America.”

BTouro Synagogue was established in 1763, but by 1776, most Jews had fled Newport as the Revolutionary War erupted.  Some of the Jeshuat Israel members moved to New York and joined Shearith Israel, in the process taking with them the keys, Torahs, and Torah scroll rimonim (finials) from the Touro building. Shearith Israel eventually returned these items to Newport, but continued to claim ownership of them, preventing Jeshuat Israel from selling the valuable finials to raise funds to support the congregation. After a 4-year legal battle, a federal judge ruled Shearith Israel no longer had any legal trusteeship over the Newport congregation or building, and that Jeshuat Israel has the right to sell the finials.

C. Touro Synagogue was established in 1763, but by 1776, most Jews had fled Newport as the Revolutionary War erupted. At that time, Congregation Shearith Israel of New York took stewardship of the Newport synagogue’s Torah scrolls and other possessions, and continued to serve as trustee for the then-empty building in Newport. After the war, Jews returned to Touro Synagogue, though the New York congregation continued to act as trustees of Touro. In August of 1790, President George Washington visited Touro Synagogue as part of his effort to bring about passage of the Bill of Rights (including the First Amendment clause guaranteeing freedom of religion). Washington followed up with a letter, “To the Hebrew Congregation at Newport,” which is one of America’s most historic documents in support of religious freedom in America. The letter, which is still housed at Touro Synagogue, includes the statement, “May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.” Shearith Israel sued Jeshuat Israel, the congregation that now operates in the Touro Synagogue building, claiming that they owned the letter and it belonged in their building in New York, as they were trustees of the synagogue at the time of Washington’s visit. A federal judge ruled in favor of the Newport congregation, however, stating that the document is part and parcel of the historic congregation in Newport, and that the New York congregation’s previous support of Touro did not confer ownership to them of this historic letter.

D. Rabbi Ezra Stein, the former rabbi at Shearith Israel, moved to Newport upon being hired as the rabbi of Jeshuat Israel. Shearith Israel sued, claiming that Rabbi Stein’s contract included a noncompete clause which prohibiting him from taking a pulpit within 200 miles of the Shearith Israel building. Lawyers for Jeshuat Israel successfully argued that the noncompete clause was not valid as the New York congregation is modern orthodox, while the Newport congregation is conservadox. Noncompete clauses cannot be enforced when the two jobs are sufficiently different. A federal judge ruled that because of the variations in practice and beliefs of the two congregations, the rabbi’s job would be sufficiently different to negate the noncompete clause.

EThe Board of Trustees of Jeshuat Israel needed to raise funds to support its operation, and as part of that effort, they sold a horse to Shearith Israel. After the delivery of the horse to the New York congregation, the president of Shearith Israel called the president of Jeshuat Israel and stated they had received a mule. “It was a horse,” responded the Jeshuat Israel president. “It was a mule,” countered the Shearith Israel president. “Horse,” the Jeshuat Israel president retorted. “Mule,” averred the Shearith Israel president. “Horse.” “Mule.” “HORSE!” “MULE!” Seeing no resolution, the case went to court, where a District Court Judge ruled that it was a horse, and that we should all live in simple peace and harmony.

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Olympic Special Delivery

The Israeli startup company Senecio is very busy making deliveries during the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. What are they delivering?

Parque Olímpico Rio 2016 by Jorge Andrade

AKosher meals. Senecio is a food delivery service which delivers meals from restaurants throughout Israel (similar to Seamless in the United States). Senecio applied for and was granted a license in Rio de Janeiro to deliver kosher meals to visitors at the Olympic games. The company is working with all the local kosher restaurants in Rio, including Kosher Planet and Bar-Ilan Restaurant, and will deliver meals to hotels, bed and breakfasts, and even to the various Olympic venues.

BSecurity video. Senecio is a high tech security startup in Israel, whose area of expertise is security monitoring via drone aircraft. They have been hired by the Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Rio 2016 to provide drone aircraft which are taking aerial photography and videography from above the various Olympic venues. The pictures are then delivered to the Brazilian Intelligence Agency that has overall responsibility for security at the Olympic Games.

CMosquitos. The company is involved in the fight against the Zika virus. A major effort in this regard is to release millions of sterile male Aedes aegypti mosquitos that will mate with the female Zika mosquitos, thus preventing the females from becoming pregnant and laying eggs. However, there was no good way to deliver these sterile mosquitos into the environment until Senecio developed a system of mass storage and safe release of millions of the sterile mosquitos from airplanes.

DKosher meals. Because of the nature of athletic training for the games, it is critical that the athletes are able to eat meals that are a part of their training regimen. In the case of the Israeli athletes, the special meals that each prefers must also be kosher, and these items are not available in Brazil. Senecio is the company which was contracted by the Olympic Committee of Israel to purchase, store, and ship the food from Israel to Brazil on a daily basis throughout the Olympic games, assuring that the athletes have the meals they need on a timely basis.

EMezuzahs. Senecio is an online supplier of religious articles, including tefillin, Shabbat candlesticks and challah covers, all sold online with overnight, and sometimes same-day delivery. The company has set up a program in Rio de Janeiro called Rent-A-Zuz, which enables Jewish visitors to the Olympic Games to order mezuzahs for use at their hotels, bed and breakfasts, and AirBnB’s. The mezuzahs are designed to temporarily adhere to doorposts without damaging the structures, and they can be returned when the travelers go home.

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Brazil’s First Jews

The Summer Olympic Games have begun in Brazil, which is the site of the oldest synagogue in the western hemisphere, founded in Recife, Brazil in 1636. The synagogue, Kahal Tzur Yisrael (Sinagoga Zur Israel in Portuguese), was founded by Spanish and Portuguese Jews who came to Brazil from the Netherlands, where their descendants had previously migrated to escape the forced conversions of the Inquisition. They were joined by New Christians already living in Brazil, a community which comprised descendants of Sephardic Jews who had converted to Catholicism. The synagogue served a community of more than 1400 Jews, and was led by a rabbi, Isaac Aboab da Fonseca, and a cantor, Josue Velosino, but only existed for about twenty years. The building, which included a mikvah, was torn down in the early 20th century, but a Jewish museum now stands on the site. The street where the synagogue was located was known at one time as Rua dos Judeus, Street of the Jews, but now carries what name?

Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima lights cauldron by U.S. Armyis licensed under CC BY 2.0.

ARua do Povo de Israel, Street of the People of Israel.

B. Rua do Cruz, Street of the Cross.

C. Rua do Sinagoga, Street of the Synagogue.

D. Rua do Bom Jesus, Street of Good Jesus.

E. Rua do Bossa Nova Lox, Street of the Dancing Salmon.

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Hillary & HIPPY

In her acceptance speech at last week’s Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton made reference to HIPPY. What is HIPPY?

Hillary Clinton - Caricature by Donkey Hotey is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AHIPPY stands for Health Insurance Program for Parents and Youth, an Israeli program designed to provide health insurance coverage for low income families, and it was the basis for the CHIP program (Children’s Health Insurance Program) which Hillary spearheaded in the United States following the defeat of her broader universal health care program proposal in 1993.

B. Clinton referred to the Ha’aretz Initiative to Promote Peace through Yiddish, a program developed by the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz to bring together various communities within Israel around the common interest in Yiddish language, music, food and culture. She copied this model in promoting State Department initiatives to promote peace and healing in countries which were recovering from civil wars or ethnic strife, such as Afghanistan and Burma. The State Department program funded classes, festivals, films and other events which emphasized the shared history and culture of the politically divided populations of these countries.

CHIPPY stands for Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters, an Israeli program designed to teach low-income parents how they could help their young children begin to learn and prepare for school. This was the basis for a program Hillary spearheaded in Arkansas in 1985 when she was the first lady.

D. HIPPY stands for Hope for Israelis and Palestinians for a Peaceful Year, an initiative of the Obama administration led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2010. The program brought together Israeli and Palestinian children in a summer camp setting, enabling them to recognize the humanity of each community and develop friendships. Sadly, the program was discontinued following the 2014 Gaza conflict.

EClinton described HIPPY as the Homeland Initiative to Protect the People of Yisrael, a program she initiated as Secretary of State, which included arms sales and intelligence sharing between the United States and Israel. However, according to internal documents released by Wikileaks, within the Clinton campaign organization this program was actually known as the Hillary Initiative to Pander to the People of Yisrael, a program designed by the campaign to attract Jewish voters by trying to convince them that she actually cares for Israel and really didn't enjoy it when she kissed Suha Arafat.

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Hillary Clinton

At this week’s Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, Hillary Clinton will officially become the first female candidate to head a major party ticket for president of the United States, despite controversy over her use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State. Among the thousands of emails written by Clinton that have been released as part of the investigation into her use of the private server, one of the emails was sent to both Jake Sullivan, one of her top advisers, and Richard Verma, the former assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs. The email simply read, “Where are we on this?” What was the subject line of that email?

Hillary Clinton's Underground Communications Center by Donkey Hotey is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AIsraeli embassy move

B. Bill’s a pain in my tuchus

CThe Iran nuclear deal and that pain in the a** Netanyahu

D. Chuppah for Chelsea’s wedding

EGefilte fish

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Trump & Religious Liberty

Leading up to this week’s Republican Convention in Cleveland, the Republican Platform Committee under RNC Chair Reince Priebus has been finalizing details of the official party platform, covering such issues as reforming government, women in combat, coal as a clean energy source, and religious liberty. According to Michele Bachmann, how does party nominee Donald Trump define “religious liberty?”

Yokozuna Trump vs. The RNC by Donkey Hotey is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

ABachmann told right-wing radio host Jan Markell that Trump said “I don’t understand, when I was growing up, everybody bowed their head for a prayer in the morning before school. Even my Jews would bow their heads and pray. New York City, there are a lot of aetheists, and they would even bow their heads and pray. Why can’t we bow our heads and pray at school anymore?”

B. Bachmann told right-wing radio host Jan Markell that Trump said “I don’t understand, when I was growing up, everybody said Merry Christmas. Even my Jews would say Merry Christmas. New York City, there are a lot of Jews, and they would even say Merry Christmas. Why can’t we even say Merry Christmas anymore?”

C. Bachmann told right-wing radio host Jan Markell that Trump said “Religious liberty means that Christians can go to work and not be persecuted because of their beliefs. And Christian business owners can’t be forced to do things they don’t believe in, like make wedding cakes for gay people. Now I’ve been to many gay weddings and I always enjoy a good cake, but religious liberty gives me the right not to bake that cake or not to eat that cake. And Jews have the right not to eat that cake if it isn’t kosher. My daughter Ivanka is Jewish, and now she won’t eat cake when we go to weddings, unless it’s a Jewish wedding. It could be a gay Jewish wedding. Then she’ll eat the cake. That’s what religious liberty is about.”

D. Bachmann told right-wing radio host Jan Markell that Trump said “I don’t understand, when I was growing up, everybody ate a bagel with a schmear. The Jews would eat it, but so would us gentiles. New York City, there are a lot of Jews and lots of Christians, and we would all eat a bagel with a schmear. Why won’t the Muslims eat a bagel with a schmear?”

E. Bachmann told right-wing radio host Jan Markell that Trump said “My administration will see that the American people have religious liberty. There will be more religious liberty when I am president than there has ever been. Religious liberty is huge in America. And my religious liberty will be the most religious. That’s what I’ve done in my own family. I gave my daughter the religious liberty to marry a Jew. You can’t get more religious liberty than that.”

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El Matador

A Spanish matodor was fatally gored this week in Spain, the first time this has happened since 1985. Though not widely known, there was a gay Jewish man who was born in Park Slope, Brooklyn in 1903 who went on to become a matador. He fought in the ring in Mexico and around the world and befriended Ernest Hemingway, who said of him, “he is one of the most skillful, graceful and slow manipulators of a cape fighting today.” His birth name was Sidney Frumpkin, though he later changed it to Sidney Franklin. But what name was he called when he first entered the bullring in Spain in 1929?

Bullfight, Spain by Christian Dalera is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AEl Judio.

BLa Shechitah de los Toros.

CEl Yanqui.

DEl Matador de los Israelitos.

EEl Matador Va-Dor.

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What argument did British Prime Minister David Cameron make to the Jewish community of Great Britain in an attempt to gain their support for staying in the European Union?

Brexit by Christopher Michel is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AReferring to the growing support throughout the European Union for an independent Palestinian state, Cameron said, “Do you want Britain, Israel’s greatest friend, in there opposing a Palestinian state unless this is negotiated directly between Israel and the Palestinian leadership, or do you want us outside the room, powerless to affect the discussion that takes place?”

B. Referring to Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has called Hamas and Hezbollah “friends,” Cameron recently said to a Jewish audience, “Even if you believe that it is in Britain’s best interest to leave the European Union, you should understand that a vote for Brexit is a vote for Jeremy Corbyn to become your next prime minister. If one is to be judged by the company he keeps, think about who his friends are, and what that might mean for you in Britain and for your brethren in Israel.”

CIn an interview with the London-based Jewish Chronicle, Cameron said, “The EU–Israel Association Agreement which was signed in 2000 provides for free trade arrangements between Israel and the European Union that are almost identical to the free trade which exists among EU members. And as a result, Israeli citrus, flowers, and many other products can be found in the markets of Britain at competitive prices. If we leave the European Union, tariffs will be imposed that will prevent these products from being offered at competitive prices. And that will be a major loss for us as well as for the Israeli economy.”

DReferring to the BDS movement that is growing in Europe, Cameron said, “Do you want Britain, Israel’s greatest friend, in there opposing boycotts, opposing the campaign for divestment and sanctions, or do you want us outside the room, powerless to affect the discussion that takes place?”

E. Speaking to a Jewish audience on the issue of Britain’s membership in the European Union, Cameron said, “All of us benefit from the trade agreements which the EU has negotiated with other countries, including Israel. With Brexit, our Jewish citizens will find huge tariffs showing up on all of your favorite food imports from Israel–Kishkes. P’tcha. Gefilte Fish. Gribenes. Schav. I mean, to be honest, I am quite gobsmacked that you can eat that rubbish. It just sounds so bloody awful. Not haggis awful, but still, quite grotty. But let me just sum up in language which you people can understand. Brexit, Shmexit.”

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Why did Israeli sports journalist Sharon Davidovitch say “LeBron James is now the most hated person in Israel. It’s a little bit joking and a little bit true: These days I can only compare the Israeli hate for LeBron James to the hate for Hamas.”

LeBron James by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AHe wrote this in 2001, when James was a junior at St. Vincent–St. Mary High School in Cleveland. LeBron’s team played against the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland in the annual parochial school basketball tournament. James scored the winning basket as time ran out, making St. Vincent-St. Mary the citywide champion, leaving Hebrew Academy to receive the runner-up trophy.

B. He said this in January, 2016, when the Cleveland Cavaliers fired their Jewish head coach, David Blatt, who was formerly the coach of the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team. Many Israelis (and others) believe that LeBron James was instrumental in Blatt’s dismissal.

CHe said this in 2014, when James criticized Israel during the Gaza war known as Operation Protective Edge. James issued his statement after an Israeli bomb killed Palestinians who were watching the World Cup in a Gaza cafe.

D. He said this right after the Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA championship, beating the Golden State Warriors, who are hugely loved in Israel. The Warriors, founded in 1946 as the Philadelphia Warriors, were first coached by Eddie Gottlieb, a Jewish immigrant from the Ukraine. Gottlieb’s first Jewish involvement in basketball was at age 19 in 1917, when he organized a Jewish men’s basketball team at the Young Men’s Hebrew Association in Philadelphia. This Jewish connection has made the Warriors the most popular NBA team in Israel since its founding, thus leading to the antipathy for LeBron James in this championship series.

E. He said this after a visit to Israel by James in 2014. The trip, sponsored by the Hebrew Union College/Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, included a prayer service at the Western Wall. The women on the mission intended to hold their own Torah reading on their side of the wall along with the Israeli Women of the Wall organization. However, the woman who was carrying a Torah scroll to place on a table for reading was detained and the Torah scroll seized by the religious authorities who oversee the area. In anticipation of this possibility, the men also had a Torah scroll, which James was able to hand over to the women, despite the 8-foot divider between the two sides, which was no barrier to the 6’8” superstar with an 8’10.25” standing reach, thus enabling the women to hold their service.

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Fiddler On The Roof

Fiddler on the Roof was one of the nominees, though not the winner, of the Best Revival of a Musical category at this year’s Tony Awards ceremony. When Fiddler on the Roof was first being developed, the opening song, Tradition, was the last to be written. What song that originally opened the show was replaced by Tradition?

Norland Scarecrow Festival - Fiddler on the Roof I by Tim Green is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AA Butcher’s Soul, with lyrics including “You say a butcher has no soul, it cuts me to the bone./You tell me if you please how many butchers have you known./What gave you the idea that a man who makes his living handling liver, lungs and kidneys has no heart./A butcher has his feelings, he is not a piece of meat./A man is not a chicken, you should hang him by his feet.”

BA Blessing for the Tsar, with lyrics including “A blessing for the Tsar, a blessing on his head./A blessing for the Tsar, we wish that he were dead.”

CI’m Going to Make Anatevka Great Again, with lyrics including “I’ll build us a wall to keep Russians away./And, oh, hey, did I mention, I’ll make the Tsar pay?/I’ll make Anatevka great again./And the Tsar, I have heard, may not even be Russian./Where’s his birth certificate, let’s start that discussion./I’ll make Anatevka great again.”

DLetters From America, with lyrics including “Here in Anatevka, 90 percent are behind in the rent and we’re hungry to a man./Once a Rothschild saw our town, crossed himself and ran.”

EWe’ve Never Missed a Sabbath Yet, with lyrics including “Somehow the house will be clean, floors will be swept, soup will be cooked, beef will be boiled./Oh, there’s noodles to make and chicken to be plucked and liver to be chopped and challah to be baked./A race with the sun, so at the proper time the candles can be lit and blessed.”

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Muhammad Ali, RIP

The world is mourning the passing of boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Some years ago, Ali made an appearance at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia. What was the reason for his visit?

Muhammad Ali-1 by Aymen Tanazefti is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

AHe was in attendance at the aufruf of his daughter Khaliah in 1997, prior to her marriage to Spencer Wertheimer.

B. He attended the funeral of Howard Cosell in 1995. Ali spoke at the ceremony, saying, “I am the world’s greatest boxer, but Howard Cosell was the world’s greater promoter of boxing. Shalom, Howard.”

C. He was in attendance at his grandson Jacob’s bar mitzvah in 2012.

D. In 2013, Ali was the honorary referee at a charity boxing match at the synagogue, pitting Israeli World Boxing Association welterweight champion Yuri Foreman against New Jersey boxer Dustin “The White Tiger” Fleischer, who wears the Chai once owned by his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor.

E. Ali was born a Baptist, and later converted to Islam. But in 2010 he converted once again, to Judaism, in a ceremony at Rodeph Shalom. Said Ali at the time, “I changed my name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali because Cassius Clay was a slave name. But now I am changing my name to Moses Ali-yah. Moses was also a slave, but he became free and made Ali-yah to Israel, so I am honoring him. Now let’s go to the kiddush and get lunch. I hear it floats like a matzah ball and stinks like a kishke.”

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Spelling Bee

Nihar Janga and Jairam Hathwar became co-champions of the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee last week by correctly spelling the words “gesellschaft” and “Feldenkrais,” respectively. In 2013, Arvind Mahankali spelled the winning word, “knaidel,” which led to much controversy in the Jewish and Yiddish-speaking world as to whether that was the correct spelling. What sentence did the judge read when Arvind asked to hear the word “knaidel” in a sentence?

National Spelling Bee by Stacey Huggins is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AHannah and Esther argued every year at Passover as to whether the knaidel should be a floater or a sinker.

BMax hoped to find at least one more knaidel in his soup bowl but all he discovered was his missing lower denture.

C. Grandma’s soup was delicious, but the knaidel was so hard that her grandson Davey thought he was biting a bagel.

D. Offering to help her mother serve the matzah ball soup at their seder, little Melissa said, “Mommy, I’ll be glad to ladle the knaidel.”

E. The famous motorcycle daredevil’s most amazing feat was riding his bike with his girlfriend in his lap, while kissing her, as they jumped over the Israeli Parliament building while studying Jewish texts, eating matzah ball soup, and spinning a top, in what was billed as the “Evel Knievel Kabbalah Knaidel and Dreidel Knesset Canoodle.”

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Mt. Everest

Very few climbers have reached the summit of Mt. Everest in the last two years, due to deadly avalanches and a huge earthquake. The 2016 season has just begun, with 9 Sherpas reaching the summit on May 11; however, four climbers have already died this month, with numerous others taking ill near the summit. In 2012, what made the Mt. Everest ascent by Israeli Nadav Ben Yehuda unusual?

Mt. Everest by Kirsten is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

ABen Yehuda, who was 24 at the time, would have been the youngest Israeli ever to reach the top of Mt. Everest. However, he abandoned his effort just 300 meters from the summit because he chose to assist a Turkish climber who was suffering from serious frostbite. Ben Yehuda carried the stricken climber down the mountain to the base camp, where they were then helicoptered to safety.

BBen Yehuda was making final preparations for his ascent to the top of the mountain when he received an e-mail announcing that his military reserve unit was being called to active duty. He was only 300 meters from the top, but because of his dedication to the Israeli Defense Forces, he immediately turned around in order to be able to report for duty on time.

CBen Yehuda had emigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union, where he had not had a religious upbringing or celebrated a bar mitzvah. As he approached the summit of Mt. Everest with Israeli friends, they recognized the unique possibility for this moment. Transforming the meaning of Aliyah, or the going up to bless the Torah, one of his friends chanted, “Ya’amod, Nadav ben Mordechai, la’aliyah Ha-Everestit,” as Ben Yehuda went up to the summit of Mt. Everest. His friends then joined him while singing “Siman Tov u’Mazel Tov” as they shared some Manischewitz and rugelach.

DBen Yehuda was climbing in late August. An Orthodox Jew, he found himself in a dilemma as his climb took much longer than anticipated. By the time he reached the summit, Rosh Hashanah was only a few days away. He radioed to other groups that were climbing at that time, and managed to locate nine other Jewish climbers in the area. The resulting Rosh Hashanah services at the North Base Camp set the record for the highest altitude minyan ever held, at over 17,000 feet.

EBen Yehuda carried two stone tablets with him on his climb, and when he reached the summit of Mt. Everest, he carved the 10 Commandments into the stone. He carried the tablets back down the mountain, and they are now on permanent exhibit at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.

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Israel’s honorary consul in Rio de Janeiro criticized Brazil’s embattled president, Dilma Roussef, for her comparison of the effort to impeach her to the Nazis’ persecution of Jews. Yet, two years ago, the criticism went in the opposite direction when what was said?

Dilma by Alex Vieira is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AThe president of the Brazilian Israelite Confederation apologized to President Roussef for remarks made by Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry. Brazil had recalled their ambassador to Israel in protest of Israeli attacks on Gaza, prompting Palmor to say that “Brazil is a friend, but we think its position is not balanced. This is an unfortunate reminder of the fact that Brazil, an economic and cultural giant, has offered nothing to the world since The Girl From Ipanema.”

BThe president of the Brazilian Israelite Confederation apologized to President Roussef for remarks made by Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry. Brazil had recalled their ambassador to Israel in protest of Israeli attacks on Gaza, prompting Palmor to say that “Brazil is a friend, but we think its position is not balanced. This is an unfortunate demonstration of why Brazil, an economic and cultural giant, remains a third world nation.”

CThe president of the Brazilian Israelite Confederation apologized to President Roussef for remarks made by Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry. Brazil had recalled their ambassador to Israel in protest of Israeli attacks on Gaza, prompting Palmor to say that “Brazil is a friend, but we think its position is not balanced. I can think of a brazillian reasons why their diplomatic efforts are not productive.”

DThe president of the Brazilian Israelite Confederation apologized to President Roussef for remarks made by Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry. Brazil had recalled their ambassador to Israel in protest of Israeli attacks on Gaza, prompting Palmor to say that “Brazil is a friend, but we think its position is not balanced. This is an unfortunate demonstration of why Brazil, an economic and cultural giant, remains a diplomatic dwarf.”

EThe president of the Brazilian Israelite Confederation apologized to President Roussef for remarks made by Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry. Brazil had recalled their ambassador to Israel in protest of Israeli attacks on Gaza, prompting Palmor to say that “Brazil is a friend, but we think its position is not balanced. As I wax philosophic about the diplomatic decision by the Brazilians, I am hurt, as if they just ripped the hair from my body.”

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Israeli Independence Day

Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, is celebrated this Thursday, May 12. How is one company marking this event?

Flag-of-Israel-2015-04-08 by Zachi Evenor is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AMars Food is selling bags of M&M’s in blue and white colors. The letter M on each candy has been replaced with the number 68.

B. Utz Quality Foods issued an Independence Day bag of chips labeled “Yom Ha’atzma-UTZ Potato Chips.”

CBank Leumi has issued a commemorative gold coin worth 100 Israeli Shekels, featuring David ben Gurion on the front and a picture of the Declaration of Independence on the back.

D. Reebok has released a sneaker that is blue and white and has the words “Israel 68” engraved on the heel.

E. Starbucks is offering a special product for the month of Iyar. The product is called Cinnamon Chai V’Kayam Crème Frappuccino.

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Trump Products

Donald Trump’s name was associated with a problem that attracted the attention of the Israeli police last month. What happened?

Trump’s Birdnest by Mark Rain is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AThousands of pounds of Trump Steaks were seized because they were stamped as kosher but they did not actually have kosher certification.

BA local bottled water distributor in Haifa was arrested for filling bottles with tap water and labeling them as Trump Natural Spring Water.

C. Hundreds of bottles of Trump Vodka were seized because they bore phony “Kosher for Passover” stickers.

DA printer in Tel Aviv was raided for printing fake Trump University diplomas and selling them on the black market to young people needing to prove they were college graduates in order to get government civil service jobs.

EA wig manufacturer in Mea Shearim was arrested for trademark infringement for selling orange wigs to religious women which were marketed as Trump Sheitels. He used the advertising slogan “Build a modesty wall around your head with a Trump Sheitel. Made in China and paid for by Mexico.”

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Ten Plagues

Many people and organizations have created new Haggadahs and supplemental readings to be used at seders. Which of the following is not an actual alternate version of the Ten Plagues?

The Ten Plagues

AThe Tzedek Seder: #BlackLivesMatter Haggadah offered Ten Plagues-Ten Lives Lost, in memory of those lost to police violence:

1. Sean Bell
2. Kendrek McDade
3. Walter Scott
4. Rekia Boyd
5. Eric Garner
6. John Crawford III
7. Kimani Grey
8. Aiyana Stanley Jones
9. Tamir Rice
10. Michael Brown

BThe JQ International GLBT Haggadah offered the following list:

1. Blood: The blood shed in the Nazi death camps and in Queer-bashings.
2. Laughter: The laughter caused by our stereotyped representation in jokes and in the media.
3. Guilt: The guilt we are told is inherent in our simple existence.
4. Shame: The shame we are made to feel when we share our lives and our bodies with someone of the same gender as ourselves.
5. Despair: The despair we feel when we are told that we are evil and monstrous, that AIDS is God’s judgment upon us.
6. Fear: The fear caused by a hostile society that would cast us out if it knew what we are.
7. Pain: The physical pain of being attacked by homophobes, and the mental pain of being rejected by family and community.
8. Loneliness: The loneliness of thinking that we are the only one of our kind.
9. Darkness: The darkness of our closets, and of where many of us are forced to spend our lives: the bars, the parks, the unsafe neighborhoods.
10. Silence: The hollow silence of when we do not speak out in our own defense, the silence from one generation to another.

CThe JewBelong seder Haggadah lists the following plagues:

1. Hunger
2. War
3. Terrorism
4. Greed
5. Bigotry
6. Injustice
7. Poverty
8. Ignorance
9. Pollution of the Earth
10. Indifference to Suffering

DPortland, Oregon based LeOr, created the Cannabis Passover Seder with this list:

1. The criminalization of nature
2. The suppression of science and information
3. The prison-industrial complex
4. The radically undemocratic and unequal application of laws
5. The systemic violence against the poor
6. The denial of medicine to the sick and dying
7. The destruction of families
8. The isolation of stigma and shame
9. The perversion and erosion of a faithful justice system
10. The perpetuation of violence by those sworn to protect us

EThe Republican Jewish Coalition sponsored a Donald Trump-themed seder which included the following plagues:

1. Muslims
2. Rally protestors
3. Mexicans
4. Megyn Kelly
5. Univision
6. Carly Fiorinas face
7. Kenyan birth certificates
8. Rosie O’Donnell
9. Hair-blowing strong winds
10. Small hands

Click here for the answer.

John Kasich

What connection between Jews and Christians did John Kasich make while visiting a Chassidic school, shmura matzah factory, and Jewish bookstore in Borough Park, Brooklyn?

John Kasich - Caricature by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AReferencing the matzah that he observed being prepared he said, “You know, I was raised Catholic, I’m now Anglican, and so all my life Ive taken communion. The communion wafers remind me of this matzah, and the matzah reminds me of our current political season. My Jewish friends tell me that they hate the taste of matzah, and they cant wait for Passover to end so they can go back to eating bread. And to be honest, the communion wafers pretty dry and difficult to swallow. What does that have to do with the presidential race? Well, my friends, think of Donald Trump as the matzah and Ted Cruz as the communion wafer. You hate the way they taste and you cant wait to be done with them. So that is why I am running for President. Think of me as the bread that you are really longing for. Vote for me next Tuesday, while you can still eat bread, and then have a great Passover.”

BReferencing the matzah that he observed being prepared he said, “At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread, which was really unleavened bread, and blessed it, saying to his disciples ‘Take this and eat it, for this is my body.’ And the great link is, it was this unleavened bread which you are baking today, Jesus’s body, which brings together the Jewish people and all Christians. It’s a wonderful, wonderful holiday for our friends in the Jewish community, the Passover.”

CReferencing the Jewish school he had visited, Kasich said, “When I walked into that school, I felt like I was in the Catholic school I attended as a child. I mean, your rabbis, with their side curls, look nothing like our priests. But they both dress mostly in black, and they both believe that God belongs in that classroom. As your president, I will see to it that your children can continue to study in a school with your God just as I did when I was young.”

D. Referencing the lamb’s blood placed on the doorposts of the Israelites’ houses in Egypt to save them from the plague of the slaying of the firstborn, Kasich said “The great link between the blood that was put above the lamppost, the blood of the lamb, is Jesus Christ is known as the Lamb of God. And the great link is, it was the blood of the lamb that saved the Jewish people, and in Christianity, it was the blood of the Lamb of God that saves all of us. It’s a wonderful, wonderful holiday for our friends in the Jewish community, the Passover.”

EAddressing a large gathering of Chassidic Jews at the bookstore, Kasich said, “You know, as I stand here I am reminded that there really isn’t much difference between you people and the people of my state of Ohio. Well, not all the people of Ohio–you’d really stand out at a Cleveland Indians game. But we also have Christian people in Ohio that are just like you–the Amish. I mean, not exactly like you, but they have long beards, they don’t use electricity, and they speak a German dialect. So that’s pretty similar. And did I mention their hats? So happy Passover to you all.”

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Stephen Curry

On Wednesday night, the Golden State Warriors play the Memphis Grizzlies. A win will set a new record for the most wins in a season, 73. Their record-breaking season is led by Stephen Curry, the point guard who many consider to be the greatest shooter in the history of the game. Curry has a Hebrew tattoo on his right wrist that is taken from the Bible. What does the tattoo say?

Stephen Curry/Warriors at Wizards 2/3/16 by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A“Ani L’Dodi vDodi Lee,” meaning “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,” from The Song of Songs, Chapter 6 Verse 3 in Ketuvim in the Hebrew Bible. His wife has a matching tattoo.

BAhavah LOlam Lo Nichshelet,” meaning “Love never fails,” from 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 Verse 8 in the New Testament. His wife has a matching tattoo.

C“Me-Chayil El Chayil,” meaning “From strength to strength,” from The Book of Psalms Chapter 8 Verse 7 in Ketuvim in the Hebrew Bible.

DHagedulah VHagevurah VHatiferet VHanetzach,” meaning “The greatness and the power and the glory and the victory,” from 1 Chronicles Chapter 29 Verse 11 in the New Testament. 

EHeyn Goyim KMar Midli,”–meaning “Behold the nations are like a drop in a bucket, from Isaiah Chapter 2 Verse 22 in Neviim in the Hebrew Bible.

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Basketball Tournament

At the same time that colleges were competing in the NCAA basketball championship series, Hillel chapters from around the country were competing in the annual National Hillel Basketball Tournament, held at the University of Maryland. Yeshiva Unversity-Ammar (men’s competition) and Emory University (women’s competition) won this year’s championships. What prize did they receive?

AThe Kiddush Cup.

BThe Elijah Cup.

CThe Star of David Trophy.

DThe Yiddishe Kop.

EThe Matzah Ball Athletic Cup.

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Easter Parade

Among the most famous songs of the great Jewish composer Irving Berlin are White Christmas and Easter ParadeBing Crosby introduced Easter Parade in the movie Holiday Inn in 1942. But Berlin first wrote this melody in 1917 with different lyrics. What was this original version of Easter Parade?

Holiday Inn (1942) by Insomnia Cured Here is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

ABeing With My Honey, including the lyrics “Days are bright and sunny/When I am with my honey/There’s no more fun than holding hands and walking along.”

BMarriage Made Right, including the lyrics “Candlelight and roses/Are musts when one proposes/To guarantee she knows that you’re the fellow for her.”

CSmile and Show Your Dimple, including the lyrics “Smile and show your dimple/Youll find its very simple/You can think of something comical in a very little while.”

DStars and Stripes Forever, including the lyrics “Stars and stripes forever/Let no one ever sever/The bonds that hold together the great U S of A.”

EPurim Parade, including the lyrics “Now it’s time for noshin/So eat your hamantaschen/Then loudly shake your gragger at the Purim parade.”

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Purim Customs

There are many different ways in which children around the world celebrate Purim. Which of the following is not a Purim custom?

AChildren in Italy divide into two teams and throw nuts at each other.

BChildren in Tunisia make “Hamans” out of paper or rags and straw. Everyone then gathers around a bonfire and throws these “Hamans” into the fire, after which they beat the burning “Hamans” with sticks.

CIn Germany, cakes which are called “Haman” are baked in the shape of dolls. Children delight in cutting off the heads and eating them.

DBukharan children build a snow-Haman with charcoal eyes and a carrot nose. They then surround the snow-Haman with wood and rags that they ignite, causing the snow-Haman to melt as they sing songs.

E. At Trump Tower, little Trump children build a wall with their toy blocks. They then bake gingerbread Hamans, which they throw over the wall while chanting, “Get 'em out of here. Go back where you came from. Cursed is Haman and Mexicans and Muslims. Blessed is Mordechai and the USA and the Donald.”

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Merrick Garland


In addition to our weekly Monday trivia question, we are pleased to present a bonus Thursday question.

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Merrick Garland, who if approved would be the 4th Jewish person to sit on the current United States Supreme Court, was not the first member of his family to receive an appointment from a president. What relative of his shares that honor?

Supreme Court Authority of Law Statue by Matt Wade is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AAs Merrick Garland said in his speech on the White House lawn, his maternal grandfather, Irving Horowitz, came to America from the Pale of Settlement in the early 1900’s. At the same time, Irvings brother Sam went to Palestine and settled in Jerusalem. His grandson, Dr. Yishai Horowitz, a surgeon, was appointed in 1973 by Israeli president Ephraim Katzir to be head of the Magen David Adom, Israels version of the Red Cross.

BSamuel Irving Rosenman, a relative of Garlands wife Lynn Rosenman Garland, was a lawyer who was active in Democratic politics in New York in the early 1900s. He served in the New York State Assembly throughout most of the 1920s, and in 1932 was appointed to the New York Supreme Court by then-governor and eventual president, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

CGarlands mother, Shirley Horowitz Garland, worked for many years as the director of volunteer services at Chicagos Council for Jewish Elderly. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan appointed her to the Board of Directors of the National Council on Aging, where she served for seven years.

DHoward Rosenman, a relative of Garlands wife Lynn Rosenman Garland, is a Hollywood producer of such films as Father of the Bride and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Following the controversy over the lack of diversity in Academy Awards nominations, he was appointed last month by Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to a committee whose task is to study this issue, with a goal of recommending improvements to the Oscar nominating process.

EIn 1910, Merrick Garlands maternal grandfather, Jacob Horowitz, emigrated from the Pale of Settlement to America, settling on the Lower East Side of New York. He worked as an itinerant peddler, and eventually saved enough money to open a storefront. In need of a location for his shop, Horowitz asked his apartment landlord to get him an appointment with the president of the real estate company that owned his building, Friedrich Drumpf. Horowitz went to the appointment, where Mr. Drumpf proceeded to yell at him about immigrants and all the problems they were causing, finally ending the meeting by yelling, “Get out. Get him out. Go back to Russia.”

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Marco Rubio

With polls showing Marco Rubio dropping to third place
in Florida, this Tuesday’s Florida primary could bring the end
to his presidential campaign. Before he goes, here’s a
question about Marco that comes straight out of 


A Quizbook of Presidential Jewish Trivia Facts & Fun

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to learn how you can get 59 more unbelievable
but true questions about this year’s
unbelievable but true crop of presidential candidates.

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When Marco Rubio gave the Republican response to President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address, why did the National Jewish Democratic Council criticize Rubio?

Marco Rubio by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AThey criticized him because the bottled water that he grabbed during his speech was not kosher.

BThey criticized him because he said that the United States was founded based on Christian values.

CThey criticized him because he did not mention Israel in his speech.

DThey criticized him because he said that the lack of peace in the Middle East falls solely on the Palestinian Authority.

ERubio spoke both English and Spanish during his speech. The National Jewish Democratic Council criticized him, saying “Mr. Rubio proclaims his love for Israel while at the same time pursuing policies which are hurtful to Spanish speaking immigrants. Given that, he should have spoken Hebrew rather than Spanish.”

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O. J. Simpson

O. J. Simpson is back in the news, as we learn of a knife that is being examined by the Los Angeles Police Department. Might it be the murder weapon used to kill Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman? O. J. Simpson has a connection to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. What is that connection?

O. J. Simpson

Image courtesy of Charles LeBlanc is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

ANetanyahu lived in America on and off in the 1950’s and 1960’s, as well as throughout most of the 1970’s, when he studied at MIT and Harvard. As a result, he was a huge football fan, in particular of the Philadelphia Eagles, as he had graduated from Cheltenham High School, a Philadelphia suburb. In 1976, Netanyahu attended a game between the Eagles and O. J.’s team, the Buffalo Bills, and after the game Netanyahu met with Simpson in the Bills locker room. Said Netanyahu at the time, “It was great to meet O. J. No matter what else I ever do in my life, I think this will always rank as the most thrilling.”

B. When Benjamin Netanyahu was studying at Harvard, he earned extra money by tutoring bar and bat mitzvah students. One of his students was Ron Goldman. Netanyahu attended Goldman’s bar mitzvah, and when Goldman was murdered, Netanyahu flew from Israel to the United States to pay a shiva call to the Goldman family.

C. In the late 1970’s, O. J. was hired as a spokesman for Hertz rental car company, and he filmed a famous series of ads depicting him racing to the Hertz rental car counter, sometimes jumping over furniture and barricades, sometimes flying above the crowd. When one of these ads began running in Israel, Netanyahu called on the Israeli Broadcasting Authority to ban the ad. He said, “At a time when our enemies are attempting to hijack and blow up airplanes, we cannot encourage people to run past barriers in our airports.” Despite his efforts, the ads remained on the air.

D. Shortly after Benjamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister for the first time, Attorney Alan Dershowitz met with him in Israel. At one point, Netanyahu said, “I want to go to the secret office where no one can can overhear. I want to ask you something.” After entering this secure space, Netanyahu proceeded to ask, “So, did O. J. do it?” Dershowitz replied, “Mr. Prime Minister, does Israel have nuclear weapons?” to which Bibi responded, “Alan you know I can’t tell you that.” Said Dershowitz, “Aha! You know I can’t tell you that.”

ENetanyahu is a huge fan of the Naked Gun trilogy of movies, and his favorite character is Officer Nordberg, who was played by O. J. Simpson. Nordberg’s claim to fame in these movies is that he always found himself in terrible and absurd situations where he sustained what should have been fatal injuries. For example, in the first film, Nordberg is shot multiple times and falls, banging his head on a pipe and burning his hand on a stove, eventually falling head first into a wedding cake and stepping into a bear trap. He goes on to suffer continued injuries and indignities while in intensive care, but recovers, only to suffer more injuries throughout that movie as well as Naked Gun 2 1/2 and Naked Gun 33 1/3. It is rumored that Netanyahu, whose own political career of frequently rising from the dead closely parallels that of Officer Nordberg, keeps a photo of O. J. Simpson in his private office.

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The Oscar Awards

Emmanuel Lubezki won the Oscar for Best Cinematography for the film The Revenant. Lubezki, a Jewish-Mexican with family roots in Bolshevik Russia, has now won this award three years in a row (having previously won for Gravity and Birdman). When Leo DiCaprio won the Best Actor award for The Revenant, he specifically thanked Lubezki, calling him by his nickname. What is that nickname?

Image courtesy of Davidlohr Bueso is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

ALubezki’s nickname is “El Chivo,” meaning “the goat.” He was given this nickname by a friend when he was five years old. Explained Lubezki, “I guess it was my face that looked like a goat.”

BLubezkis nickname is “El Canon.” Explained Lubezki, “I got my first camera when I was thirteen years old. It was a bar mitzvah present from an uncle of mine, and it was a Canon brand camera. Until then I didnt have any hobbies, but I loved taking pictures, and I never put that camera down. My father started calling me ‘El Canon,’ and the nickname stuck. I still have that camera to this day.”

CLubezkis nickname is “El Chapo,” meaning “the short one.” He was given this nickname by a friend when he was in high school. Explained Lubezki, “I had already become known for my photography skills, and I was the official photographer for my school newspaper. Because I was so short, I regularly used a stepladder when shooting school events. Thats why my friend started calling me ‘El Chapo’.”

DLubezkis nickname was “La Vaca,” meaning “the cow.” Explained Lubezki, “When I was growing up, my family kept kosher. That was strange to my friends, who ate traditional Mexican foods–camarón, shrimp, and puerco, which was pork. I only ate beef and chicken. One of my friends noticed that I always brought roast beef sandwiches to school and he started calling me ‘la vaca.’ Before you know it, the nickname stuck.”

ELubezkis nickname is “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan.” Explained Lubezki, “My good friend Herman Cain could never pronounce my name correctly. He tried to say it, but it just never came out right.”

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Republican frontrunner Donald Trump (okay, take a second and read those words again!) has drawn criticism from some Israel supporters because of his recent comments on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, when he stated, “Let me be sort of a neutral guy,” while declining to say who was at fault for the recent outbreak of violence. Yet Trump continues to argue that he is a friend to Israel, including remarks he made in January during an interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. What did Trump say to prove his pro-Israel position?

Donald Trump - Caricature” by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A“Do I support Israel? Of course I support Israel. That’s why I've made their ‘build a wall around us’ idea the cornerstone of my policy against Mexico. Not to mention that I love falafel.”

BLook. This is the Christian Broadcasting Network. You love Israel. I love Israel. All of us Christians love Israel. Maybe more, even, than the Jews. Because our Messiah lived in Israel. Their Messiah, when He returns, could come from anywhere. But when He does come, you can be sure that because of my policies as Americas president, there will be an Israel for Him to return to.”

CDo you think I would have let my daughter marry a Jew if I wasnt a supporter of Israel and the Jewish people?”

DI was even the grand marshal for the Israeli Day Parade a few years ago. So I will back Israel.”

E"You think I dont love Israel? Thats ridiculous. I love Israel so much that I actually allowed a rabbi to put a beanie on my head when I visited the Western Wall in Israel a few years ago. And I usually dont let ANYONE touch my hair. So thats how much I love Israel.”

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Republican presidential candidates are dropping like flies, with only 5 left (candidates, that is, not flies). It seems like it was only three weeks ago when there were 12 candidates still in the race. Well, actually, there were 12 candidates still in the race three weeks ago, but you’re probably already feeling nostalgic for Jeb!, Bridgegate Christie, Ayn Rand Paul, and so many other fun action figures. But you’re in luck, because there’s still time to get


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Antonin Scalia, RIP

In the 2015 case of Zivotofsky v. Kerry, the Supreme Court tackled the issue of whether passports of American citizens born in Jerusalem should list their birthplace as “Jerusalem” (as was the practice since Israel’s founding) or “Jerusalem, Israel” (as advocated by Zivotofsky). The court ruled that passports could continue to list only Jerusalem as the birthplace. Scalia, in opposition, criticized the judgment of the majority, saying what about their reasoning?

Antonin Scalia

AHe stated that their reasoning was “the ultimate in chutzpah.”

BHe stated that their reasoning was a “leap worthy of the Mad Hatter.”

CHe stated that “this is the first time that my liberal colleagues on the court have accepted my originalist view of the Constitution, that only the thoughts and intentions of our founders could shape our decisions on the profound questions before us. However, in this case, they are wrong to apply that standard. The fact that our founders did not mention Israel almost 200 years before its establishment in 1948 does not mean that they would have rejected the inclusion of that country’s name alongside the name of the holy city of Jerusalem.”

D. He stated that their reasoning is “jiggery-pokery, pure applesauce.”

E. He stated that their reasoning is “yisgadaly v’yiskadashy, pure gribenes.”

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Super Bowl 50

What role did the Israeli company Wix play in this year’s Super Bowl?

AWix is the parent company of Sabra, which produces the hummus which has been the National Football Leagues official dip since 2013. Sabra hummus was sold throughout Levi’s stadium, and was featured in an ad during the halftime show.

BWix is an engineering company that produces a variety of precision tools for the Israeli military aircraft industry, including engine thrust reversers, gearbox monitors, and engine pressure gauges. The NFL hired them to produce a small handtool that the referees could use to quickly measure the pressure of footballs, in order to avoid any possibility of another Deflategate scandal.

C. Wix is a “do-it-yourself” website development platform that advertised during the Super Bowl for the second straight year. Last year’s ad featured Brett Favre and this year’s ad featured Kung Fu Panda.

DBeyoncé released a new song and video last week, entitled Formation and she then performed the song during the Super Bowl halftime show. All the costumes in the video, as well as the costumes she wore during the Super Bowl performance, were created by the Israeli designer Alon Livne and his company Wix. Livne had previously created the wardrobe for Beyoncé’s “Mrs. Carter Show World Tour in 2013 as well as gowns worn by Naomi Campbell, Lady Gaga, and others.

E. Wix is the graphic design and photo-editing company which was previously in the news when a Brooklyn-based Chassidic newspaper ran a picture of President Obama and his aides watching a live video broadcast of the raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed. Wix was responsible for the version of the picture that ran in the Chassidic press, which had Hillary Clinton removed, as the newspaper did not want to include a picture of a woman due to religious sensibilities. For the Super Bowl, Wix filtered the broadcast which went out to Chassidic communities in Israel and elsewhere, removing any shots of CBS’s female broadcaster Tracy Wolfson, Beyoncés entire performance, and all uses of the term pigskin by the commentators.

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The focus today is on Iowa, with the 2016 caucuses just a few hours away. Iowa’s first Jewish settler dates back to 1833, when Alexander Levi arrived in Dubuque from New Orleans and helped develop lead mines. More recently, a Jewish resident of Postville, Iowa, referred to Jewish life in that town as “moshiach time” [messiah time]. Why did he say that?

APostville is the location of Agriprocessors, a kosher slaughterhouse and meat packing plant. Its former leader, Sholom Rubashkin, has been serving time in jail in New York after being convicted of bank fraud, money laundering, and other crimes. The statement was made because Rubashkin was recently released from prison and returned to his home in Postville.

BThe statement was actually made in a wishful manner. The man had recently moved to Postville from New York because of a job transfer. As he walked down Main Street looking in vain for a bagel store, he was trying to figure out a way out of Postville, concluding that only the coming of the Messiah would help.

CPostville is the location of Agri Star, a kosher meat packing plant which replaced the bankrupt Agriprocessors business. The man was reflecting on his time working for Agriprocessors when federal agents raided the facility and shut it down, and comparing that to today, when he is happily employed by the new owners who are running the business without scandal.

D. There is a belief in Judaism that the messiah will come “in a generation that loses hope.” The statement was made when the man read the latest polls in Postville showing Donald Trump with an 18 point lead.

EThe man was referring to religious services which are held at the Chabad of North Iowa in Postville. Attendees include Chassidim of all stripes, including Lubavitchers, Gerers and Bobovers, a coming together of diverse Chassidic groups that usually do not pray, work, or socialize together.

Click here for the answer.

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin is in the news for her endorsement of Donald Trump for president. What member of her family has a name which is of Jewish origin?

Sarah Palin” by David Shankbone is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AHer daughter Willow, who was born on Sukkot and is named after the willow branch that is part of the lulav. Palin chose the name willow (rather than myrtle or palm, the other parts of the lulav) because it is a symbol for lips, as Palin kissed her daughter when she was born.

B. Her dog, Jill Hadassah, named for Palin’s college roommate Jill and the Biblical Hadassah.

C. Sarah Palin herself, as her birth name was Sally Palin. In high school Palin became very active in her church Bible studies group, and she decided to change her name to Sarah. Palin wrote in her high school yearbook, “God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, and now he has changed my name from Sally to Sarah.”

DHer oldest son Track, because he was conceived underneath the bleachers at the Juneau Jewish Day School running track.

EHer rifle, which she has stated is a member of her family just like Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, and Trig. She calls the rifle, which she named after the Israeli Prime Minister, Bibi Gun.

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Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom has aroused controversy by her critical remarks concerning Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. There have been Jews in Sweden for many years. What is perhaps the first record of a Jewish presence in Sweden?

AJews were well established throughout much of Europe by the Middle Ages; however, there are no records of Jews anywhere in Scandinavia until the late 1700’s. In 1789, Mayer Moses Rothschild, a member of the prominent banking family, moved from Frankfurt to Stockholm to open a branch of the M. Rothschild & Sons Bank and establish a relationship with King Adolf Frederick and the Swedish royal family.

B. The first identified Jews in Sweden were the Vikings Erik the Red and his son Leif Erikson. Erik was known as “The Red,” referencing a red heart, a symbol of his compassionate leadership of the Viking communities. His son Leif was actually named Lev, the Hebrew word for heart, but the name has been anglicized to Leif.

C. It was not unusual for Jews to serve as court physicians in the royal houses of Europe during the Middle Ages (5th-15th centuries) and Early Modern Period (15th-18th centuries). An October 1557 letter makes a reference to the Jewish doctor of Sweden’s King Gustav Vasa.

DThere are some theories that the Vikings of Scandinavia were actually descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel. While there is not a lot of hard evidence, there is a record of a stone found in the area of modern day Malmö, which contained Hebrew letters, and is believed to be from a grave site. In 2003, researchers from Tel Aviv University began a DNA study in conjunction with the University of Gothenburg to see if  so-called “Ashkenazic genes might be found in the Swedish population, but results have so far been inconclusive.

E. The first record of Jews in Sweden was Waterloo, released by ABBA in 1974 after winning that year’s Eurovision Song Contest. The band, consisting of four members–Benny Andersson, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Agnetha Fältskog, and Björn Ulvaeus–got its name when Bennys 2-year-old son Ari came into the room while the band was rehearsing, and called out to him, “Abba, Abba.” The other band members were not familiar with the Hebrew word for father, but liked the sound of it.

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David Bowie, RIP

What is David Bowie’s Jewish connection?

Aladdin Sane [Belgian]” by Marc Wathieu is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

ABowie performed at a concert at Park Hayarkon in Tel Aviv in 1990, during the time of the first Intifada. During the performance, he altered the lyrics of his song, Space Oddity, singing, "Ground Control, we need Salaam. Ground Control, we need Salaam. Love your neighbor and may God bring you Shalom.”

B. In his song, Station to Station, Bowie sings, “Here are we, one magical movement from Kether to Malkuth.” The lyrics reflect Bowie’s interest in Kabbalah, with Kether, the crown, representing the divine light, and Malkhuth, kingship, representing the nurturing receptacle of that light.

C. Bowie starred in the 1976 movie The Man Who Fell to Earth, about an extraterrestrial (Bowie) who lands on Earth while on a mission to bring water back to his planet, which is suffering from a destructive drought. The movie, written by Paul Mayersberg, was loosely based on the true story of an Israeli spy who was sent by Ben Gurion to Moscow in 1951. The spy, a trained chemist, infiltrated the D. Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology of Russia in order to steal Russian desalination technology. This information was critical to Israel’s survival, where a lack of fresh water was as great a threat to the fledgling state as was the military threat from its Arab neighbors.

D. Bowie, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post when he toured in Israel in 1996, explained that his song Space Oddity was based on his interest in Kabbalah. Said Bowie, “When Major Tom leaves the space capsule and floats away in space, it is for me a representation of the Kabbalistic teaching about the relationship between the Ein Sof, the mysterious infinity, and the finite world which God created. By separating from his earthly tin can, Major Tom is seeking to connect to the eternal God of the universe.”

E. David Bowie was Jewish, and his birth name was David Borowitz. At his bar mitzvah party in 1960, he sang a song, which later morphed into his greatest hit, Space Oddity. The lyrics he sang that day were “Ground Control to Rabbi Baum. Ground Control to Rabbi Baum. Take your prayer book and put your kippah on. Ground Control to Rabbi Baum. Commencing Torah, tallis on. Kiss your tzitzit and may God’s love be with you.”

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Kosher Marijuana

The Orthodox Union has given kosher certification to a medical marijuana product produced by Verio Health of New York. In regard to this, Rabbi David Bleich, a Yeshiva University professor and authority on Jewish medical ethics, did NOT make which of the following statements?

Medical marijuana

White Widow” is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AHe said that medicinal marijuana is “a perfectly acceptable use of a plant that grows in God’s garden.”

BHe said that he can’t tell you the 614th mitzvah is thou shalt not smoke pot.”

CHe said that once it [marijuana] is in a cookie, it is no different from any other cookie and a cookie needs certification.”

DHe said that recreational use of marijuana is “pleasure for pleasure’s sake,” and “certainly not that to which a Jew should aspire.”

EHe said that use of medical marijuana on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur would be “a double mitzvah, as these days are known as the High Holidays.”

Click here for the answer.

The Beatles

The Beatles are once again in the news, as they have finally allowed their music to be streamed on such music services as Spotify and Apple Music. What was the Jewish connection to the Cavern, the Liverpool nightclub where the Beatles performed regularly at the start of their career?

Photo credit: MEDIODESCOCIDO via Foter.com / CC BY

AThe Cavern was originally opened by the Jewish Labour Movement organization as a club for young Jewish teens to socialize. The food served was kosher, and the club was closed on Friday nights, only reopening on Saturday night after sundown. The underground club was named The Machpelah, referencing the Biblical Cave of Machpelah, the burial place of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs. The club was later sold to local businessmen who converted it into a music club and renamed it the Cavern in homage to its original name.

BThe Cavern was owned by a Jew, Alan Sytner. Sytner, a member of the Greenbank Drive Synagogue (where Brian Epstein’s family were members), knew that many local Jews kept kosher. Therefore, he allowed them to just buy pastries and coffee at the Cavern’s cafe, rather than the full meals that patrons usually had to purchase.

CThe Cavern was originally an air raid shelter, built during World War II. From 1940 until the end of the war, the space was used on Saturday mornings as a synagogue by the Jews of Liverpool. Among its members were Harry and Queenie Epstein, parents of Brian Epstein, who went on to manage the Beatles career and rise to stardom.

DThe Cavern was located around the corner from the Greenbank Drive Synagogue, where Brian Epstein’s family were members. On Kol Nidre night in 1961, Brian snuck out of services, where he never really felt comfortable, and went to the Cavern to hear music. This was where he discovered the Beatles, who were performing that night, and he eventually went on to manage the group.

E. The Cavern was owned by a Jew named Alan Sytner. In 1958, he hosted his son’s Bar Mitzvah party at the club and hired the Quarrymen, a regular club act, to play at the affair. The Quarrymen consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Shotton. At the party, Lennon spontaneously started singing a ditty he made up on the spot: “As I read this Torah, Send my blessings to you. Remember that I’ll always be in love with Jews.” Four years later the Beatles recorded the reconfigured “P. S. I Love You.”

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The Force Awakens

What did Mike Zof, an Israeli DJ and bar owner, do to celebrate the opening of the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, in Israel?

Star Wars

Star Wars Rebels”is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AZof’s bar, located in Petach Tikva, is across the street from the local movie theater that is showing The Force Awakens. Fans camped out in line by the theater for three days prior to the opening. Zof kept his bar open around the clock, providing music, food and drinks, and use of bathroom facilities.

BZof hosted a Star Wars-themed party at his bar, based on the Mos Eisley Cantina bar scene from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Anyone dressing as a Star Wars character received a discount on drinks, and all of the previous Star Wars movies were playing on the large screen televisions that usually broadcast soccer matches. The highlight of the event, however, was the appearance of Israeli-born Natalie Portman, who starred as Padmé Amidala in three previous Star Wars movies.

CZof rented out an entire movie theater in Petach Tikva for his own personal showing of the film. To avoid conflicting with the Sabbath, films in Israel generally open on Thursday rather than Friday as they do elsewhere. Therefore, The Force Awakens opened a day earlier in Israel than elsewhere, enabling Zof to be one of the first people in the world to see the flick.

D. Zof’s son’s bar mitzvah had long before been scheduled to take place on December 19. When Zof, a huge Star Wars fan, learned that the movie was opening at the same time, he rented out a movie theater and moved the bar mitzvah there. The ceremony took place in the theater, followed by a showing of The Force Awakens. After the movie, Zof’s son offered a d’var Torah comparing the theme of Vayigash, where Joseph reunites with his brothers and asks “Is my father still alive,” with the movie theme, wherein the Resistance, a military force led by Leia Organa, searches for her missing brother Luke Skywalker.

E. Zof created a new drink in honor of the movie, which he offered for free to anyone who showed a ticket receipt from a viewing of The Force Awakens. Over the first weekend of the movie’s release, Zof gave away more than 1000 of the drinks, which he calls the Darth 'n' Storm-trooper-y.

Click here for the answer.

COP21 Climate Conference

What did Yosef Abramowitz, CEO of Energiya Global and a pioneer of the Israeli solar energy industry, say at COP21, the global climate change conference?

A“Because it is Chanukkah, I’m expecting a miracle of renewable light and that the deal will actually be done.”

B“While we Jews may be better than anyone in coaxing more energy out of limited oil, as we are reminded during this week of Chanukkah, I hope that going forward we will refocus on the never-ending resources of the sun above rather than the rapidly shrinking non-renewable energy sources below.”

C“Israel has survived and thrived for almost seven decades despite being the only country in this part of the world that is not sitting on top of vast oil fields. We have, by necessity, learned to maximize our oil and gas usage while expanding the use of solar energy to levels that far surpass all of our neighbors. We would welcome the opportunity to share our knowledge and technology with our Arab neighbors so that this region can fulfill our obligations under the COP21 agreements.”

DMashiv haruach u’morid hageshem. God causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall. But even our rabbis recognize that the wind does not always blow, and the rain does not always fall, when and where the earth needs it. I am pleased to be a part of this world-wide effort to help God to do his job, what you might call our Climate Tikkun Olam.”

EI am proud to represent Israel at this conference. The Jewish people understand the problems of climate change. Remember–it is in our land that it rained, and poured, for forty daysies, daysies. Rained, and poured, for forty daysies, daysies. Nearly drove those animals crazy, crazy. Children of the Lord. But then the sun came out and dried up the landy, landy. Sun came out and dried up the landy, landy. Everything was fine and dandy, dandy. Children of the Lord.”

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Chanukkah Beer

For more Chanukkah trivia, get your free copy of


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Shmaltz Brewing Company offers a beer for Chanukkah. What is it called?

AShmuel Adams.


CLone Six Pointed Star.

DJudah Maccabeer.

EHanukkah, Chanukah: Pass the Beer.

Click here for the answer.

Cyber Monday

Which of the following online deals is being offered from Israel for Cyber Monday shoppers?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

AEl Al is offering round-trip first class fares between Tel Aviv and New York for $7040, a 20% discount off the regular fare of $8800. Travel must take place during Chanukkah week, between December 6 and December 14.

B. Ahava is offering a “Cyber Love” 20% discount on all of its beauty products, plus free shipping. There is a minimum $100 purchase.

CThe Israel Diamond Industry is offering a 6.82 carat yellow radiant diamond, which normally sells for $450,000, for only $366,000.

D. None, as the Chief Rabbinate has ruled that Cyber Monday (and Black Friday and Small Business Saturday) are “treif,” as they are part and parcel of the Christmas shopping season.

EThe Mossad is offering a special deal called Pollard-Palooza. Anyone who gets caught making an online transfer of stolen intelligence information from the United States to Israel will receive a 20% discount on the length of their imprisonment.

Click here for the answer.

Turkey Time

Because the turkey is native to America, it is not mentioned in the Torah. Therefore, a name was devised for this bird in modern Hebrew. What is that name?

AThe turkey is called tarnegol hodu. Tarnegol means chicken. Hodu means thanks (the same root as todah.). By the time President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863, turkey had already become the traditional meal of the day. Trade between the United States and Europe was a major industry by that time, including the American export of turkeys. As European rabbis determined that this new bird was in fact a kosher bird, they connected the American holiday to the bird and assigned it the name tarnegol hodu, chicken of thanks.

BThe turkey is called tarnegol hodu. Tarnegol means chicken. Hodu means India. The bird got this name because it was believed that America, where these birds were native, was part of India; thus the bird was called Indian chicken.

CThe turkey is called tarnegol hodu. Tarnegol means chicken. Hodu means India. Turkey was served by the native Americans, or Indians, to the Pilgrims at Plymouth at the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621. In 1649, Solomon Franco, a Dutch-Jewish merchant in Boston, heard of this dinner, and on a subsequent trip back to Europe, he introduced turkey to the Jewish community of Holland, explaining that it was an Indian bird; hence the name.

DThe turkey is called tarnegol gadol, meaning big chicken.

EThe turkey was called tzipor gadol, meaning big bird. However, in 1983, the Childrens Television Workshop, creator of Sesame Street, licensed Israeli Educational Television to produce an Israeli version of the show, Rechov Sumsum. As part of their negotiations, the Childrens Television Workshop petitioned The Academy of the Hebrew Language to change the turkeys Hebrew name to avoid confusion, as Big Bird, while variously described as an ibis, a golden condor, or even a canary, was definitely not a turkey. As a result, since that time turkeys in Israel have been referred to as nesher katan, or little vulture.

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John R. O’Donnell's book Trumped! quoted Donald Trump as saying which of the following (to which Trump later acknowledged, “The stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.”)?

"Donald Trump” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. “I would never build a casino in Israel. The rabbis would never let me stay open on Saturday, even though I know that most of the little old ladies who come to my Atlantic City casino on Saturday are Jewish. How do I know? Because the most popular item in our restaurant is matzah ball soup!”

BBlack guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”

C. “People ask me why I only build expensive buildings. Why don’t I build more affordable apartments? Because that’s not what I do. That’s what the Jewish builders do. LeFrak. Fred Wilpon. Tishman. Sol Goldman. Those Jews just build for the masses. Cheap, ugly buildings. Not like my buildings. I build for the rich Wasps. Beautiful buildings. And that’s why I put my name on them.”

D. “The last thing I want is for my daughter to marry a Jew. My life is complicated enough.”

E. “I won’t go into a synagogue. Well, I would go into a reform synagogue, just not one where they try to make me put a beanie on top of my head. That would never work.”

Click here for the answer.

Ronald Reagan

In exactly one year, you will be entering a voting booth to select the next president of the United States. Will it be Hillary? Jeb? Marco? Bernie? Or could it even be Donald?

The good news is that you can begin narrowing down your choice now, because


A Quizbook of Presidential Jewish Trivia Facts & Fun

is now available.

Click here to learn more.

And now, one more presidential weekly quiz.

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To what did Ronald Reagan attribute his strong negative feelings about anti-Semitism?

AHe credited his father, John Reagan, a traveling salesman, who told of checking into a hotel while on a sales trip. The clerk said to Mr. Reagan, “I’m sure you’ll enjoy it here; we don’t allow any Jews.” At that point, despite the fact that there was a blizzard outside, Mr. Reagan informed the clerk that he would not enjoy sleeping there, and he left the hotel and slept in his car.

BHe credited his mother, Nelle Wilson Reagan, who shopped regularly at a store in his birthplace, Tampico Illinois. Because Reagans father, a traveling salesman, was often on the road, Mrs. Reagan did not always have the funds needed to make purchases. As Mrs. Reagan explained it to Ronald, “The storekeeper was a very kind Jewish man, Mr. Harry Schilkofsky. He would let me shop and he kept a record of what I owed, so that when your father returned, we could pay our debts. Many stores would not let Irish Catholics shop on credit. Mr. Schilkofsky was a godsend to us.”

CSaid Reagan in an interview with Barbara Walters in 2001, “I was very lucky to meet so many wonderful Jewish people when I was working in Hollywood. Kitty Carlisle, Kirk Douglas, John Garfield, Dinah Shore, and so many others. But I really owe everything to Jack Mayer of Warner Brothers, who gave me my first break, signing me to a contract in 1937. I knew that people like this did not deserve the hatred that so many Americans felt toward them just because of their religion.”

DIn an interview with Dick Cavett, Reagan said, “I had only been working in Hollywood for a few years when Senator McCarthy began holding a series of hearings, looking for Communists. A lot of people I knew were called to testify, and over time, I noticed that many Jewish actors I had known and worked with seemed to disappear from view. Edward G. Robinson, Stella Adler, Howard da Silva, John Garfield. So many wonderful actors who hadn’t done anything wrong. That’s when I first began to understand how terrible anti-Semitism was, and that’s when I first began to get involved in politics. If not for this awakening, I might never have run for president of the Screen Actors Guild, which was really my first elected position.”

EReagan had starred in the movie Bedtime for Bonzo, where he and actress Jane Linden posed as the parents of a chimpanzee, Bonzo, so that Reagan's character, a psychology professor, could experiment with the chimp regarding the classic “nature vs. nurture” issue of human development. Said Reagan, “The producers had intended to hire Lauren Bacall to play my wife in the movie. But it turns out that Bonzo had a clause in his contract saying that he would not work with any Jewish actors, and as a result, Bacall was not hired. I even tried to intervene, pleading with Bonzo to make an exception. But he just squealed and threw a banana at me. I finished the film because I had already signed my contract, but I decided never to put myself in that position again.”

Click here for the answer.

Bill Clinton

Another presidential weekly question,
all leading to the upcoming release of


A Quizbook of Presidential Jewish Trivia Facts & Fun

  • Is Donald Trump going to stop Mexican rapists from crossing the Gaza border?

  • Will Mike Huckabee convert so he can wear a yarmulke over his bald spot?

  • Did Hillary Clinton offend Orthodox Jews by dressing like a man?

  • What did Lawrence Lessig smuggle into the Soviet Union in his pants (and who the heck is Lawrence Lessig?)

  • Does Jeb Bush have dreidel cred?

Click here to learn more.

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Bill Clinton was the first president to hold a candle lighting ceremony for Chanukkah at the White House, in 1993. What did a 6-year-old girl do at the event?

AShe wandered off in the White House, eventually coming upon Chelsea Clinton in her bedroom. Chelsea and the girl played games and Chelsea read her a book until the Secret Service came in looking for the lost girl.

BShe got too close to the table which held the menorah and knocked into it, causing the menorah to fall over, igniting the tablecloth. The Secret Service quickly snuffed out the flames.

CShe got too close to the candles, causing her ponytail to catch fire. President Clinton quickly snuffed out the fire with his hands.

DShe got too close to President Clinton. The Secret Service quickly snuffed her out with their hands.

EShe sang the Chanukkah blessings and then taught President Clinton how to play dreidel.

Click here for the answer.

Abraham Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln sent a Jewish man, Issachar Zacharie, as an emissary to New Orleans to promote loyalty to the Union and to spy on Confederate troop movements. How did Lincoln know Zacharie?

AZacharie was an attorney who gave Lincoln his first job in Springfield in 1836 after Lincoln was admitted to the bar.

B. Zacharie was a banker who provided funding for Lincoln’s presidential campaign in 1860.

C. Zacharie was a barber who removed hair from Lincon’s face.

D. Zacharie was a podiatrist who removed corns from Lincoln’s feet.

E. Zacharie was a mohel who removed, well, you know what, from Lincoln’s sons Robert, Edward, William, and Thomas, a practice that was common among non-Jews as well as Jews.

Click here for the answer.

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A Quizbook of Presidential Jewish Trivia Facts & Fun

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The presidential campaign is heating up, and American Jews, like everyone else, are trying to learn as much as they can about the candidates. Every candidate has a Jewish connection, or maybe many Jewish connections.

  • Is Donald Trump going to stop Mexican rapists from crossing the Gaza border?

  • Will Mike Huckabee convert so he can wear a yarmulke over his bald spot?

  • Did Hillary Clinton offend Orthodox Jews by dressing like a man?

  • What did Lawrence Lessig smuggle into the Soviet Union in his pants (and who the heck is Lawrence Lessig?)

  • Does Jeb Bush have dreidel cred?

In RASHI, RAMBAM and PRESIDENTIAL-DINGDONG: A Quizbook of Presidential Jewish Trivia Facts & Fun, you’ll learn the answers to these and many more questions about the ridiculously large number of candidates for president and their connection to the Chosen People. Click here to learn more.

Ben Carson

When Ben Carson visited Israel for the first time in December 2014, he quizzed his guide about the Israeli system of government, asking “In the United States, we have Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. What do you have?” When the guide explained Israel’s parliamentary system in the Knesset, he asked “And what is the role of the Knesset?” After further explanation from the guide, Carson finally said what?

A. “So it’s the Knesset that makes the laws enabling Israelis to have guns. And because of that, Israel can stand up to its enemies. I respect that.”

BIt sounds logical. Maybe thats what the United States needs to ensure a government that works.”

CSo could a Muslim be elected the head of the Knesset? I've gotten in trouble for saying a Muslim shouldnt be president of the United States, but Ill say it now. I dont think a Muslim should be president of the Knesset either.”

DIt sounds complex. Why don’t they just adopt the system we have?”

EThats interesting. But did you know that I achieved fame by separating conjoined twins? And here I am in the land of King Solomon, whose claim to fame is that he suggested separating a baby into two to solve a dispute between two women. I separate babies and the King of Israel separates babies. Now surely that cant be a coincidence.”

Click here for the answer.


How did a Jew named Abraham Zacuto play a role in the saving of Christopher Columbus’s life?

ADuring the Inquisition, Jews were rounded up throughout Spain and given the choice to convert or be killed. But many non-Jews were swept up in these efforts, as well. Columbus was imprisoned in Seville in 1491 where Zacuto, a rabbi, was the leader of the Jewish community. Zacuto was able to convince the Inquisition authorities that Columbus was not Jewish, at which point he was freed.

B. Zacuto was a financier and banker for the Vatican in the late 1400’s during the papacy of Pope Innocent VIII. Columbus, who had been a trader sailing around the Mediterranean, was imprisoned by the Berbers on the North African coast and was at risk of being put to death because of claims that he had cheated local merchants. Zacuto, who knew Columbus’s family in Genoa where he was born, arranged to make a payment to Columbus’s captors, who then expelled him to Spain, where he made his connection with Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand.

CZacuto, an astronomer, prepared the astronomical charts which guided Columbus on his voyages. In 1502, Columbus and his crew were stranded off the Jamaican coast and in danger from the natives. Learning from the charts that a lunar eclipse was imminent, Columbus told the natives that if they did not cooperate with him, the moon would disappear from the sky. While they did not believe him at first, when the eclipse took place, the frightened natives relented and brought food to Columbus and his crew.

D. Zacuto was the doctor on Columbus’s second voyage to the New World in 1493. On the journey, Columbus took ill with dysentery, but he recovered with the help of herbs and potions provided by Zacuto.

E. Columbus and Zacuto were friends growing up in Genoa. Columbus attended Zacuto’s bar mitzvah, and at the party, Columbus suddenly choked on a meatball. Abie gave his friend Chris a whack on the back which popped the meatball out of his throat, saving Columbus from certain death and evoking a rousing “Mazel Tov” from the crowd. In appreciation, Columbus later named one of his ships after Zacuto’s mother, Penina.

Click here for the answer.

Shemini Atzeret

Jews worldwide are celebrating Shemini Atzeret by chanting the Tefilat Geshem, the prayer for rain. A group of Jewish witches in Northern California will gather in a sukkah built around a hot tub, while invoking Native American ancestors and the Canaanite storm and rain god Ba’al Hadad. What is this community of Jewish witches called?

AUnited Jewitch Appeal.

BThe Lubav-witches.

CThe Jewitch Agency.

DThe Pastrami Sand-witches.

EJewitch Camp.

Click here for the answer.

Yogi Berra, R.I.P.

What did Yogi Berra say when he was told that a Jew was elected mayor of Dublin?

ADublin? Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.

BIt’s like déjà Jew all over again.

COnly in America.

D. Why shouldn’t he? Jimmy Walker’s Irish, and he was elected mayor of New York.

E. Yeah? Well, he wouldn’t have won the election if the other guy had beaten him.

Click here for the answer.

Pope Francis

A body of rabbis in Israel calling themselves the Sanhedrin recently tried Pope Francis in absentia, for “crimes leading to the mortal endangerment of Israel and the Jewish nation.” What specifically did they claim was his crime, leading them to write [somewhat incoherently] that “these actions, to our great dismay, are consistent with a long series of actions and stances that are as in the days of the Roman Catholic Religion, that swore to persecute Israel because we refused to accept their Messiah as the Messiah of Israel, and to renounce our faith?”

A. The Sanhedrin tried Pope Francis over his statement about homosexuals, where he said, “If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” The rabbis, who had previously worked together with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem (the head of the Catholic Church in Israel) and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (the top Muslim cleric in Israel) to oppose any movement toward acceptance of homosexuality, saw the Pope’s statement as a betrayal of their joint efforts to fight against what they see as a biblical sin.

BThe Sanhedrin tried Pope Francis for recognizing “the organization known as the Palestinian Authority as a nation, and naming Abu Mazen, “the head of said authority, as an ‘Angel of Peace’. A letter from the Secretariat of the Court of Mount Zion of the Sanhedrin went on to say, “If His Honor the Pope, and the Vatican, do not apologize within two weeks of receiving this letter, and if he does not change his ways, we shall judge these actions in the Court of Mount Zion, in a court of 71 Jewish elders of Zion, and enact the prophecy of ‘The liberators will rise up upon Mount Zion, to judge the Mountain of Esau and the kingdom shall be God’s (Obadiah 1:21). The court shall judge the Vatican in its presence or in absentia, and it is possible that the Vatican will be found guilty of anti-Semitism, as has been known to be done several times throughout history, and to place responsibility upon the Vatican for all of the outcomes of its actions.”

CThe Sanhedrin tried Pope Francis because of his comments on climate change. Charged Rabbi Yehuda Halevy of the Sanhedrin, “Pope Francis stated that man has contributed to climate change and man must do something to reverse this process. This is blasphemy, as our liturgy clearly states ‘Mashiv HaRuach UMorid HaGashem. God causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall. We are disappointed that a man such as the Pope, who claims to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, would challenge God’s dominion over the earth, and we intend to hold him responsible before a court of rabbinic sages.

DThe Sanhedrin tried Pope Francis because of his support of the Iran nuclear deal. The Popes spokesman had said “The way to resolve disputes and difficulties should always be that of dialogue and negotiation.” Sanhedrin spokesman Rabbi Yechiel Cohen stated, “There can be no negotiation about the right of Israel to exist. Anyone who believes otherwise is an enemy of Israel, and we will not allow outsiders to lead us down a path of destruction.”

E. The Sanhedrin tried Pope Francis over his red zucchetto, the small skullcap that he regularly wears. The skullcap had fallen from the Pope’s head as he bent to kiss a child during a recent public audience at the Vatican, and writing could be seen printed on the inside. According to Rabbi Eliyahu Aryeh Kiddin of the Sanhedrin, “The skullcap that the Pope wore was clearly stolen from a synagogue, as evidenced by the fact that the inside of the yarmulke read ‘Bar Mitzvah of Jacob Bienenfeld, Yaacov ben Moishe, May 16, 2015, 27 Iyyar 5775’.”

Click here for the answer.

High Holidays

A lawsuit has been filed in California against a number of synagogues, including Young Israel of Beverly Hills, alleging a violation related to the High Holidays. What is the lawsuit about?

AOn the High Holidays, these synagogues do not open their parking lots as it is a violation of Jewish law for congregants to drive. The suit, brought by residents who live near the synagogues, alleges that congregants are parking their cars illegally on side streets near the synagogues, blocking driveways, fire hydrants, and cross walks.

B. The lawsuit, filed by neighbors of the synagogues, states that shofar blowing in these synagogues during morning minyan and throughout the day on the High Holidays is a violation of noise regulations.

CThe suit, by animal rights activists, aims to prevent the synagogues from participating in the kapparos ritual wherein live chickens are swung overhead between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as a form of atonement for sins.

DThe lawsuit was filed by animal rights activists who allege that the throwing of bread into waters for the pre-High Holidays tradition of tashlich is dangerous for ducks and other wildlife whose digestive systems are negatively affected when they eat the bread products.

EThe lawsuit was filed by congregants of these synagogues who allege that movie stars and other celebrities who are members of these institutions are given better seats at High Holiday services, even when their Kol Nidre appeal donation is lower than that of wealthy, but non-famous, members.

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Kim Davis, Rowan County, KY Clerk

Kim Davis is the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses because of her religious objection to same-sex marriage. What Jewish reference did her attorney, Mathew Staver, make when speaking about this case?

A. “Would the Supreme Court tell a rabbi to marry a Christian and a Jew? Or a Muslim and a Jew? What kind of rabbi would agree to that? None. And that's what we’re talking about here. Youre asking a Christian woman to enable the marriage of two men, or two women. So its not a matter of whether you think thats okay, or that the Supreme Court thinks thats okay. Its simply a matter that Mrs. Davis, as a Christian woman, does not think its okay.”

B“Does that mean that if you’re Christian, don’t apply here; if you’re a Jew, you gotta get — what happened in Nazi Germany, what happened there first, they removed the Jews from government public employment, then they stopped patronizing them in their private businesses, then they continued to stigmatize them, then they were the ‘problems,’ then they killed them.”

CMrs. Davis is not the first person to suggest that certain couples just do not go together. Remember Tevyes words in Fiddler on the Roof, when Chava tells him, ‘Fyedka is not a creature, Papa. Fyedka is a man!? Tevye replies, ‘Who says he isnt? Its just that hes a different kind of man. As the Good Book says: Each shall seek his own kind. In other words, a bird may love a fish, but where would they build a home together? In Rowan County we too are talking about men who are ‘a different kind of man. There is no place for them to build a home together in Anatevka, and there is no place for them to build a home together in Kentucky.”

DI dont understand all the hatred that is being spewed toward my client. She did not make up the rules. Those are Gods rules. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In Leviticus in the Old Testament, it says, ‘Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence’ (Leviticus 18:22) and ‘If a man lies with a male as one lies with a woman, the two of them have done an abhorrent thing; they shall be put to death—their bloodguilt is upon them’ (Leviticus 20:13). All that Mrs. Davis is doing is refusing to issue marriage licenses. Shes certainly not suggesting anyone be put to death.”

ETu on a khazer a shtrayml, vet er vern rov? If you put a shtreimel on a pig, would it make him a rabbi? I dont think so. And if you put a bridal gown on a groom, does it make him a bride? That I dont think so either.”

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Darryl Dawkins, R.I.P.

In 2011, NBA Superstar Darryl Dawkins, known as Chocolate Thunder, visited Crane Lake Camp, a sleepaway camp in western Massachutsetts run by the Union for Reform Judaism. What type of class did Dawkins, who passed away this week, run for the campers?

AHe taught them how to shoot free throws.

BHe taught them how to shoot layups.

CHe taught them a class on how to apply Jewish precepts to basketball. For example, if one commits an intentional foul, are two free throws a sufficient penalty, or should the offender also be required to bring a sin offering to center court.

DHe taught them how to dunk the ball (though for this class, they lowered the height of the goal to 8 feet).

EHe taught them how to make a healthy fruit salad topped with Chocolate Thunder chocolate syrup.

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Ashley Madison

When Noel Biderman, CEO of the recently hacked adultery dating website Ashley Madison, introduced the site in Israel last year, what did he say?

Ashley Madison

A. “Before the launch of Ashley Madison in Israel, people had affairs, and when I leave, they’ll have affairs. So why not give them a social network where they can be together.”

BIm not telling anyone to violate the 7th commandment prohibition against adultery. Im just saying that it takes a Yiddishe kop to figure out how to make money off of people who are violating the commandment.”

CThe last time I was in Israel was for my bar mitzvah. I gotta say, my bubby was a lot happier that time.”

DI am happily married, and I have never cheated on my wife. But many Israelis have, so I hope theyll use Ashley Madison. And we do offer the option of specifying that you prefer a Jewish hook up.”

EI was going to incorporate in Israel as YentaTheNaughtyMatchmaker.com, but the Fiddler on the Roof people threatened to sue, so well just stick with Ashley Madison.”

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Donald Trump

In April 2015, Donald Trump tweeted that “Nobody but Donald Trump will” do what?

A. “…build a wall between the United States and Mexico that will put the Israeli West Bank security wall to shame.”

B“…personally pay to kosher the White House kitchen when the Israeli prime minister visits.”

C“…convince American Jews that they should vote for a Republican for president instead of the Democratic nominee.”

D. “…save Israel. You are wasting your time with these politicians and political clowns.”

E. “…attach payess to my hair/wig/whatever that thing is on my head when I march in the Celebrate Israel parade.”

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Jon Stewart

What was unusual about Jon Stewart's bar mitzvah?

Jon Stewart

A. Actress Bebe Neuwirth (known for her role as Frasier Crane’s wife Lilith) grew up in Princeton near Jon Stewart (then known as Jonathan Leibowitz). She is four years older than Stewart, and actually worked as his bar mitzvah tutor at the Princeton Jewish Center.

B. Stewart and his family were not religious and he did not have a bar mitzvah at age 13. When he started doing stand-up in New York in the mid-1980’s, he was taken under the wing of Manny Dworman, owner of the Comedy Cellar where Stewart got his start. When Dworman learned that Stewart had not had a bar mitzvah, he arranged for Jon to do so at the club on Stewart’s 26th birthday, which they billed as Jon Stewart’s Double Bar Mitzvah and Comedy Hootenanny.

C. Jon’s bar mitzvah parsha was Lech Lecha. In his speech, he quoted Chapter 17, verse 5 where God said, “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham.” Stewart then said that God “called me last night and said ‘Neither shall thy name any more be called Jonathan Leibowitz, but thy name shall be Jon Stewart.’ So please make out the bar mitzvah checks to Jon Stewart. That’s S. T. E. W. A. R. T. Thank you and good Shabbos.”

D. He was on crutches because he learned the hard way that “playing basketball on a skateboard” wasn’t a good idea right before your bar mitzvah.

E. Jon’s parents had divorced when he was 11, and his mother struggled financially. Jon had a bar mitzvah at the Princeton Jewish Center, but there was no party. After the ceremony, his mother took Jon and his three brothers to lunch at Jon’s favorite restaurant, Arby’s, or as Jon called it, “Arby’s. The fast food restaurant that makes a Jew long for kosher meat.”

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Jonathan Pollard

In 1985, while Jonathan Pollard was working as a civilian analyst for the Navy, he removed classified material from his workplace. Recognizing that he might be caught, Pollard had set up a secret code with his wife Anne to signal her to remove the classified information from their home if necessary. When the FBI was alerted to the fact that Pollard had taken documents, they set up an interview with him. During the meeting, Pollard got permission to call his wife, and he used the secret code in the conversation, leading her to remove the stolen documents. What was the secret code that fooled the FBI?


B. Dayenu.

CUmp-day the Apers-pay, Ow-nay!



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Shark Attack

Shark attacks are on the rise around the world, with numerous attacks off the Carolina coast this summer and a recent fatal attack off the Australian coast. What was  unusual about a shark attack in the Middle East in 2010?

AThe Israeli navy was engaged in anti-terror training near Eilat on the Red Sea coast. The Israelis launched a small dinghy with two sailors on board, to mimic the situation where terrorists might try to land on the beach in a small craft. The dinghy, however, was overturned by a shark that proceeded to attack the sailors. Thankfully other sailors on a nearby Israeli warship were able to shoot the shark before the two men were severely injured.

B. Following a number of shark attacks in the Red Sea waters near Sharm el-Sheikh, including the fatal mauling of a 70-year-old German woman, an Egyptian authority suggested that the Israeli Mossad was responsible. “What is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark (in the sea) to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question,” said South Sinai Governor Mohamed Abdel Fadil Shousha.

CThe Israeli military was participating in war games over the Red Sea. A huge bomb was accidentally dropped very close to the Eilat coast. The explosion was so large that fish, coral, and even a few sharks were blasted out of the water and rained down upon the nearby beach. Thunder Levin, who had previously written such films as Mutant Vampire Zombies from the 'Hood! happened to be vacationing on that beach and used the event as inspiration for the writing of Sharknado, which became a huge cult hit.

D. In what was the world’s first indoor shark attack, an incident occurred at the Underwater Observatory Marine Park in Eilat. The facility, which includes a 1000 square meter shark pool, suffered a failure in a glass wall, enabling some sharks to come crashing through into the viewing area, where a number of tourists were attacked, though none seriously.

E. The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo created an exhibit called “Mysterious Animals of the Bible” featuring animals mentioned in the Old Testament that are either mythical, now extinct, or not able to be identified as modern species. The animals, such as the attacus (a kind of locust), basilisk (believed to be a cobra or viper) and cockatrice (a serpent), were represented in the exhibit by living animals that were reminiscent of the biblical animals in some way. One biblical animal, the Leviathan, or sea monster, was represented by a great white shark. According to the Talmud Baba Bathra 75a, the Leviathan is to be slain and served to the righteous at the Time of Redemption. A mentally deranged person reached into the tank to remove the shark, shouting that he was going to eat the creature to help bring about the coming of the Messiah. The shark bit the man’s arm before he was rescued and apprehended by guards.

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Bill Cosby

From 1969 through 1971, Bill Cosby starred in a sitcom entitled The Bill Cosby Show, in which he played Chet Kincaid, a high school physical education teacher. The final episode of the series featured a Jewish character. What was the premise of that episode?

AA new student, Sarah, entered the high school. As a religious Jew, she would not change to gym clothes to play on the basketball team. The other girls on the team made fun of her for playing in a long skirt, and as a result, Sarah refused to participate. At first Mr. Kincaid thought she was just being difficult and he threatened to kick her off the team. But when he saw how resolute she was, he spoke with her parents and learned about the Jewish laws regarding modesty. He then called a team meeting without Sarah in attendance and explained the situation to the students. At the next practice, Sarah walked into the gym to see that all of the girls were wearing long skirts, and she ran over and joyfully joined in.

B. Danny Rosen was a new student who had transferred into Mr. Kincaid's school. Mr. Kincaid noticed Danny sitting by himself at lunch looking sad and asked him what was wrong. Danny explained that he had no friends, and that his bar mitzvah was in just a few weeks. To convince other students to come to Danny's bar mitzvah, Mr. Kincaid offered to do a comedy routine at the party. As a result, all the kids attended and listened to Mr. Kincaid tell funny stories that were based on the hijinks of the students. This episode became the basis for Cosby's Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids animated television program.

C. A new teacher, Miss Jacobson, joined the faculty of the school as the girls gym teacher. Mr. Kincaid befriended her, showed her around the school, and took her under his wing. As they became more friendly, Mr. Kincaid asked her out on a date. She explained to him that she was touched that he asked, but that she could not go out with him as she had committed herself to only dating Jewish men. At first Mr. Kincaid was insulted, and he started treating her very curtly when he saw her at school. Eventually, however, he recognized that he was wrong, and he apologized to her, saying, “I shouldn’t have treated you badly. I should have respected your wishes as a proud Jewish woman. So now can we just go shoot some baskets?”

D. A new student, Harry, joined the community baseball team which Mr. Kincaid coached on Sundays. Harry, a Chassidic Jew, wore a yarmulke and had payess, and the other kids made fun of him and his “baby curls.” As it turned out, Harry was a great hitter and fielder, and he became the team hero. But he faced a dilemma when the next game was switched from Sunday to Saturday. Harry snuck out of his house on Shabbat and came to the ball field, intending to play. But following words of wisdom from Mr. Kincaid about being true to your beliefs, Harry decided to abide by his faith and headed off to synagogue.

E. Mr. Kincaid’s school hosted a Career Day program which featured parents of some of the students, who addressed a school assembly and discussed their jobs. David Cohen’s father spoke to the students about his job as a criminal defense attorney. After the talk, Mr. Kincaid approached him and said, “Mr. Cohen, can I have your business card? I gotta feeling that I’m gonna need it some day.”

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While Greece does not seem to have too many friends left in the world lately, Israel and Greece have maintained very close ties for many years. Speaking of the strong cultural ties between Greece and Israel in 2007, then-Israeli President Shimon Peres said what about the relationship between the two countries?

AIn Israel we love the Greek food. For us Greece is a country but also a flavor.

B. In Israel we love the Greek wine. For us Greece is a country but also a fragrant vineyard.

CIn Israel we love the Greek music. For us Greece is a country but also a melody.

DIn Israel we love the Greek dancing. For us Greece is a country but also a sensuous movement.

EIn Israel we love Greece. For us Greece is a country but also a great lubricant.

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Same Sex Marriage

As New York’s Gay Pride Parade celebrated the Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage, many groups attended the parade in support or in protest. What was unusual about the Jewish Political Action Committee, whose members were at the parade?

AThis organization is a gay Orthodox group that was at the parade in support of the gay community and same sex marriage. However, the members of the group all wore masks to hide their identities, as they are not out in their communities, where homosexuality is considered a sin.

B. The group members were carrying signs protesting the possible deal between Iran and the Western powers regarding Iran’s nuclear energy program. When asked by a reporter why they were holding their protest at the Gay Pride Parade, Heshie Freed, spokesman for the group, said, “If the Iranians get nuclear weapons, it will mean the end of Israel and the end of the United States. We are prepared to show up anywhere and everywhere to raise the alarm that this so-called deal with Iran must not be signed and the Ayatollah must be stopped.”

CThis group of Orthodox Jews was protesting the parade based on their belief that homosexuality is a sin. They stood arm in arm with a group called Muslims for Traditional Values, who were there for the same reason. A month ago, however, the Muslim group had taunted the Jewish group at the Celebrate Israel parade in New York over their differences regarding Israel and Palestine. almost coming to blows until police separated them.

D. The members of this group of men wore tzitzit and carried signs referencing (among other things) the Biblical prohibition in Leviticus against homosexuality. Many of the men, however, were actually hired Mexican laborers dressed as Jews. A spokesman for the group explained that they usually bring yeshiva students to protests, but that “The rabbis said that the yeshiva boys shouldn’t come out for this because of what they would see at the parade.” Therefore, the workers were hired as “supplementary troops” in place of the students.

EThis group of Chassidic Jews was protesting the parade because of their belief that homosexuality is a sin. When the men and women in the group began to sing and dance the hora in sex-segregated circles, some parade marchers, assuming that this was a group of homosexual men and lesbian women, joined in the circles and danced with the protesters. A good time was had by all.

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Confederate Battle Flag

When South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1860, a new “South Carolina Sovereignty Flag” was created under the leadership of William Porcher Miles, a member of the state secession convention. That flag, pictured below, then underwent changes in design, in part because of the critique of Charles Moise, a self-described “Southerner of Jewish persuasion.” What was Moise’s input?

Flag © By Emok (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

A. Moise complained that “the symbol of one particular religion should not be left out of the flag which will serve our new nation.” He noted that Christians were represented by the cross, Muslims by the crescent moon, and Quakers by the palm tree, but that there were no symbols representing Jews. As a result, Miles added a ram’s horn to the flag, which flew over the South Carolina capitol until the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox in 1865.

BMoise suggested that “the symbol of a particular religion not be made the symbol of the nation.” As a result, Miles changed the upright St. George’s cross to a diagonal heraldic saltire cross. Miles noted that this “avoided the religious objection about the cross (from the Jews and many Protestant sects), because it did not stand out so conspicuously as if the cross had been placed upright thus.” With the subsequent removal of the crescent moon and palmetto tree, the flag evolved into the Confederate Battle Flag which is currently in the news.

C. Moise suggested that “the symbol of a particular religion not be made the symbol of the nation.” As a result, Miles added the Christian fish and dove symbols to the flag and had “the heretic” Moise arrested and imprisoned for blaspheming the Christian sovereign state of South Carolina.

D. Moise suggested that “the symbol of a particular religion not be made the symbol of the nation.” As a result, Miles changed the large star in the middle of the flag from five-pointed to six-pointed, thus satisfying Moise’s request for a flag that represented Jews as well as Christians.

E. Moise said, “Billy. I know you think this flag design is nice, but trust me. This flag will never do. It’s way too ongepotchket. I mean, I get it. Yedeh mutter denkt ir kind iz shain [Every mother thinks her child is beautiful]. But oy vey iz mir, bubeleh. South Carolina needs this flag like it needs a loch in kop.”

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Climate Change

Pope Francis just issued a papal encyclical on the climate change crisis in which he states, “The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” This follows a recent letter on the same topic which was initiated by Rabbi Arthur Waskow and six other rabbis from across the religious spectrum. Their letter, which has been signed by more than 350 other rabbis, refers to the Koch Brothers and others whose funding backs climate deniers using what phrase?

A. They are referred to as “Big Oil Carbon Pharaohs.”

B. They are referred to as Big Oil Carbon Shmendricks.”

CThey are referred to as Big Oil Carbon Hamans.”

DThey are referred to as “Big Oil Carbon Amaleks.”

EThey are referred to as “Big Oil Idiots Who Believe That Things Go Better With Koch.”

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Clinton Correctional Facility, Dannemora

Jamal Michael Barrow, a rapper from Belize who performed using the name Shyne, served 8 years at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York for attempted murder, assault, and reckless endangerment. His time there overlapped that of escaped killers Richard Matt and David Sweat. Unlike them, however, Shyne turned his life around in prison. How does he describe this life change?

AWhile in prison, Shyne became friends with a Chassidic Jew, Dovid Litvak, who was serving time for mail fraud. Litvak told Shyne about his beliefs, and how even though he personally had failed to uphold the commandments, that the God of the Jews was a forgiving God, and that Litvak had a community waiting to welcome him back when he returned. Said Shyne in a Vibe magazine article, “I saw the light and embraced that message. I was no longer just Shyne. I was Sunshyne. At that moment I changed my name to Shemesh, Hebrew for Sun, and committed myself to turning around my life.”

B. In prison, Shyne shared a cell with Solomon ben David, a member of the Commandment Keepers, which is a group of Black Hebrews who were inspired by Marcus Garvey as well as the Beta Israel, black Ethiopian Jews. Ben David convinced Shyne that blacks were the true descendants of the tribes of Israel, and he told Shyne that after jail, he could find a positive place for himself with the Commandment Keepers. Shyne moved to Harlem upon his release and is now studying to be a rabbi at the organization’s Israelite Rabbinical Academy.

CAccording to an interview Shyne gave to the Joy of Kosher magazine, “I didn’t know nothing about Jews, but the food in that jail was awful. I noticed this white guy with a long beard who got different food. It came wrapped in plastic on a tray, and he used to close his eyes, sing a song and start swaying every day before he ate. Then he just looked so happy. I got to know him, and found out he was Jewish. I asked how I could get some of that food, and he said they had to give it to him because of his religion. So I became a Jew and everything changed. I mean, man, those matzah balls are sooo chill.”

DIn an interview in Rolling Stone in 2013, Shyne said, “They have concerts at the prison, and this weird reggae dude named Matisyahu came and performed. I ain’t never seen nothing like that. I mean, this white guy had a long beard and crazy sideburns, but he sounded like he could’a been Marley. I talked to him and I said, hey man, when I get out of here, I’m gonna do what you do. Sure enough, I did, and in 2012 I performed Buffalo Soldier with him on his Spark Seeker album.”

E. Shyne, who changed his name while in prison to Moses Michael Levi to honor his Jewish grandmother, told the Jerusalem Post, “It was all through the grace of the kadosh baruch hu [the holy one, blessed is He]. I’m not a guy to wax religiosity, but when I was in jail, I got on my knees, I cried, I prayed. I said to Hashem, ‘Listen, I gotta get my album out. You can’t do this to me, You can’t send me back to the ghetto. You can’t do this to all the kids who are going to have their lives changed by my music. What do I gotta do?’ God replied, ‘Be a shomer brit [guardian of the covenant]’.”

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FIFA, soccer’s governing body, is in the midst of a huge organizational scandal. During the last FIFA World Cup, held in Brazil in 2014, what did the Israeli company Elbit Systems do to support the games?

AThey supplied kosher food for all of the Jewish athletes who were participating in the competition.

B. They sold the software to FIFA that was used to manage all aspects of the event, from ticket sales to financing to game statistics.

CThey developed a miniature video camera in partnership with GoPro, which was worn by team goalies, providing a view of the action from the net.

DThey provided hundreds of drones which were used by the Brazilian Air Force for defense and security at the soccer venues.

E. In line with FIFA’s way of doing business, they offered millions of dollars in bribes to get the hot dog concession at World Cup venues.

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Celebrate Israel Parade

Which of the following marched in the 2015 Celebrate Israel parade in New York City?

ASaint Brigades Drum & Bugle Corps, Kars 4 Kids, and The Amazing Juggling Mohelim.

B. Jordache, Areyvut Mitzvah Clowns, and Mr. Pickle.

CBushwackers Drum & Bugle Corps, Caucasian Jewish Congregation, and The Cheese Guy.

DGolem, Bi-Cultural Day School, and the Star of David Drum and Bagle Corps.

E. Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorino, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Mike Kasich, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, and Scott Walker, all of whom carried signs declaring “I stand with Israel more than anyone else here and waaaay more than Obama.”

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David Letterman

In what context did David Letterman recently speak about his son Harry and a bar mitzvah?

A. Letterman was one of the presenters at a recent event at Lincoln Center benefiting children with cancer. He told the audience about a drive he took with Harry from their home in upstate New York to Manhattan during a huge snow storm. Harry complained that he needed to use the bathroom. Explained Letterman, “Having to go to the bathroom at that level weve all experienced, he did so while we were inching along in traffic in a blinding blizzard—in my coffee thermos. Thats when I said to him, ‘Son, you dont need a bar mitzvah. Today, you are a man.’ ”

B. While television viewers saw Letterman introduce his wife and son on his last Late Show broadcast, prior to the show he brought them onto the stage. At that time, the audience cheered wildly for Harry, who looked a bit overwhelmed by the attention. When the audience finally stopped clapping, Letterman said to his son, “Gee, Harry. Now you don’t need a bar mitzvah. This is even better than being called to the Torah.”

CAs he approached his pending retirement, Letterman gave an interview to his hometown Indianapolis Star newspaper. Said Letterman, “I’m not sure why I decided that now is the right time to retire. But in 2012 I went with Harry and Regina to the bar mitzvah of Paul Shaffers son Will, and I was reminded how quickly these kids grow up. I mean, I remember when Will was born like it was yesterday. So here he is, a young boy standing in front of a huge crowd, and the rabbi tells him, ‘Today you are a man.’ And I'm thinking, wow, and I start picturing little Harry as a young man. And I figure, hey, if I don’t want Harry to only remember me as a doddering old fool rocking on the front porch, I better be sure to be in his life while I’m still not drooling. So maybe that’s why I started thinking about retirement. After all, isn’t family what really matters?”

DThe category of one of Lettermans last Top Ten lists was Places I Might Be Seen After I Retire. In addition to choices such as “Back at the Taco Bell drive-thru” and “Doing a commercial for Hair Club for Men,” he also included “Earning a little extra gelt by presenting Top Ten lists at the bar mitzvahs of my son Harry’s Jewish friends.”

EIn an interview with the New York Times, Dave was talking about his beginnings in show business. “When I was growing up, my dad used to do magic tricks. Nothing fancy–just pulling coins out of my ear and stuff like that. But I thought it was amazing. And of course, his name was Harry, and he taught me about the great magicians he followed–Harry Houdini and Harry Blackstone. I got pretty good at some basic tricks, and started performing at children’s parties when I was in junior high. Now, it’s over 50 years later, and I’ve taught my son Harry some of the same tricks. And the timing’s great, because while I’m retiring, he just got his first job. He’ll be doing tricks for the guests at his friend Josh’s bar mitzvah in a couple of weeks. Who knows? Maybe he’ll be the next famous magician named Harry!”

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Mad Men

In the Mad Men pilot, Roger Sterling asks Don Draper if their advertising firm has ever hired any Jews. “Not on my watch,” replies Don. When Roger explains that they have a meeting with potential clients who are Jewish (from Menken's Department Store), what does Don reply?

Mad Men logo

A. “Really? Is that the only way we can do business with those people?”

B. “You want me to run down to the deli and grab somebody?” 

C. “They’re not selling knishes, Roger. They’re selling dresses. You don’t need a Jew. You just need me.”

D. “So introduce me as Don Dreyfuss. Just because I don’t have a big nose doesn’t mean I can’t be Jewish.”

E. “The client is Jewish, so you think we should bring along a Jew? What a stupid idea, Roger. Az Got hot geteylt dem seykhl bistu geshlofn.” [When God was doling out brains, you were asleep.]

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Deflategate Redux

Our weekly quiz visited the New England Patriots Deflategate scandal when it first broke last January. But as this story again rears its ugly head (well, actually, Tom Brady’s got a pretty good-looking head), we’re happy to return to the topic this week. To read our January Deflategate question, click here.

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New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich visited Tom Brady prior to this year’s Super Bowl to interview him for an article. Leibovich noticed that there was a Chanukkah menorah on a shelf in Brady’s house. When he asked Brady about it, what was Tom's response?

A. “When I was first drafted by the Patriots in 2000, I attended the annual Patriots Fans Chanukkah party that [team owner] Mr. Kraft sponsored. He explained the meaning of the holiday, and being the teams fourth string quarterback at the time, I took inspiration, that the underdogs could ultimately triumph. Mr. Kraft gave me the menorah that they used that day, and I have treasured it as a reminder of that message ever since.”

BIt has been reported that it is more probable than not that I was at least generally aware of this menorah. But I don't have really any comment. It's only been there for 30 hours so I havent had much time to digest it fully but when I do I’ll be sure to let you know how I feel about it.”

CWere not Jewish, but I think were into everything...I dont know what I believe. I think theres a belief system, Im just not sure what it is.”

DIm not Jewish. But Gisele [Bündchen, Bradys supermodel wife] is. Her family fled Germany before World War II and settled in Brazil. This menorah is the only religious object they were able to bring with them, so it is very meaningful to us both.”

EI believe that you should do everything you can do to give yourself an advantage in the game. So if that means praying to all the gods who might help, I’m in favor. That menorah is just one path I follow. I also have a Kwanzaa kinara, a cross, a statue of Buddha, and a Koran. And when people criticize me because of this, I get mad, but then I just let the angry feelings deflate, because deflating is surely the best course of action if I want to win.”

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Kentucky Derby

What is the Jewish connection to this year's Kentucky Derby?

A. The winning horse, American Pharoah, is owned by Ahmed Zayat, a Coptic Christian from Egypt. Zayat, the CEO of the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation in the 1980’s, was responsible for negotiating with Israels Energy and Water Resources Minister Yitzhak Berman for the sale of Egyptian oil to Israel after the two countries signed a peace treaty. In 1997, Zayat sold his interest in the Egyptian oil company and moved to America, where he connected with Bermans son Moti, who was then Chief Financial Officer at Calumet Farms in Lexington, Kentucky. Through this association, Zayat purchased his first race horse from Calumet in 1999, and in this years Kentucky Derby, three of his horses competed (along with American Pharoah were El Kabeir and Mr. Z).

B. Because the Kentucky Derby is held on Saturday, this year the Chabad of Louisville decided to make it easier for religious Jews to attend the race. They opened their Chabad House, which is located only a mile from Churchill Downs, to Jewish visitors, offering kosher meals and rooms to sleep within walking distance of the race.

CThe winning horse, American Pharoah, is owned by Ahmed Zayat, an Orthodox Jew from Egypt who made his initial fortune by selling the beverage company he owned in Egypt to Heineken International. As a teenager in Egypt, Zayat competed in jumping events, leading to his passion for horses. He now owns approximately 200 horses, with American Pharoah being his first Kentucky Derby winner.

DKentucky Derby entrant (and 14th place finisher) Ocho Ocho Ocho is owned by oil magnate Marco Mendoza, a Jew whose ancestors emigrated from Spain to Mexico at the time of the Inquisition. Marcos son Raphael was born on the evening of December 8, 2012. As a result, his bris, when he was 8 days old, was performed on December 16, 2012, which was the 8th day of Chanukkah. In honor of this, Mendoza named the race horse he had recently purchased Ocho Ocho Ocho.

E. The winning horse, American Pharoah, is owned by Ahmed Zayat, a Muslim from Egypt. After emigrating to America, he was invited by friends to their Passover seder. When Zayat heard about Moses telling Pharaoh to “let my people go,” he decided to name his horse American Pharoah, saying, “I asked Allah to ‘let my horsie go’ very fast in the Kentucky Derby. My prayers were granted.”

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Ringo Starr

RASHI, RAMBAM and RAMALAMADINGDONG will be on vacation next week, so this week’s question will have to satisfy you for two weeks. If you find yourself starved for more Jewish trivia questions and answers, you can download our trivia books - just click here.

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Ringo Starr was just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Everyone knows of Brian Epstein’s role in discovering and promoting the Beatles. What role did another Jew play in Ringo’s earlier life that contributed to his future success as a Beatle?

APrior to joining the Beatles, Ringo was the drummer for another Liverpool band, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Rory Storm, whose real name was Richard Stern and who was Jewish, is credited with giving Ringo the professional career start that eventually led him to the Beatles.

B. In 1946, Ringo, then known as Richard Starkey, received as a birthday gift from Eleanore Goldschmidt, his Jewish next door neighbor, a toy Dick Tracy decoder ring. This was the first ring he ever owned, and he went on from there to develop a love of rings which eventually led to his adopted name of Ringo.

CGrowing up, Ringo was friends with Manfred Mann (whose real name was Manfred Lubowitz). Ringo was invited to Manfreds bar mitzvah, the first time that Ringo had ever been in a synagogue. At the reception, everyone (including Ringo) danced a hora while the band sang the a capella Chassidic chant Ai Diddy Die, Diddy Die. At school the next week, Ringo told his friend Manfred how much he enjoyed dancing to that doo-wop “diddy diddy” song. Five years later, inspired by that memory, Manfred wrote the song "Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do" and asked Ringo to play drums on the recording. Rory Storm heard the record and invited Ringo to join his band, which eventually led to Brian Epstein asking Ringo to replace Pete Best in the Beatles.

DAs a child, Ringo suffered from many serious health problems. At age six he developed an infection as a result of appendicitis, which eventually left him in a coma. Because of Englands system of socialized medicine, his family was able to obtain medical care at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital despite their inability to afford the expensive treatment. Ringos parents credit Dr. William Shearer (who was Jewish), the hospitals Director of Pediatric Care, with saving their sons life. The Beatles song With a Little Help From My Friends, sung by Ringo and which starts with a “shout out” to Billy Shears, is an homage to Ringos doctor.

E. Ringo’s parents had divorced when he was five. When he was thirteen, his mother married a Jewish man, Harry Graves, who was a music fan. Graves introduced Ringo (then known as Ritchie) to the music of performers including Dinah Shore, Sarah Vaughan and others, and on Christmas Day 1957, he gave his step-son his first drum kit, which included a snare drum, a bass drum, and a cymbal fashioned from a garbage can lid.

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In 2008, at a fundraiser honoring Rahm Emanuel, Hillary Clinton described her relationship with him using a Jewish reference. What did Hillary say?

A. You know, Rahm and I have been through a lot together. Now, theres a word my family always used when I was growing up to describe the relationship you have with someone who understands where you come from, your roots, your values. Thats the word we used in the Rodham household in Park Ridge, Illinois. The word was…landsman.” So, Rahm, we’re proud to consider you a landsman, an honorary member of the Rodham clan.

B. You know, Rahm and I have been through a lot together. Now, theres a word my family always used when I was growing up to describe someone who always did the right thing, who always put others first, who always showed caring and compassion. Thats the word we used in the Rodham household in Park Ridge, Illinois. The word was...mentsch. So, Rahm, were lucky to have someone as special as you in our world, someone whose very being defines the word mentsch.

CYou know, Rahm and I have been through a lot together. Now, theres a word my family always used when I was growing up to describe the feeling you have when someone you care deeply about does well in life. Thats the word we used in the Rodham household in Park Ridge, Illinois. The word was…“naches. So, Rahm, I take great pride, great naches, from your success.

DYou know, Rahm and I have been through a lot together. Now, theres a word my family always used when I was growing up to describe the relationship you have with someone who has shared triumph and hardship with you. Thats the word we used in the Rodham household in Park Ridge, Illinois. The word was...mishpucheh. So, Rahm, we’re lucky to have you as part of our family.

EYou know, Ive been friends with Rahms father Gazzi, for many years. I remember attending Rahms bar mitzvah, and how moving it was when I heard the words, Ya’amod, Rahm ben Gazzi ha-Maftir. I saw the look of pride in Gazzi’s eyes at that moment as his son was called up. Rahm ben Gazzi. Rahm ben Gazzi. I knew that moment would always stay with me, and even now those words follow me every day. Rahm ben Gazzi. In my dreams (and nightmares) I still keep hearing those words. Ben Gazzi. Ben Gazzi.

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Iran & Israel

In 1998, despite the fact that Israel was called an “illegal state” and a “parasite” by Iranian president Mohammad Khatami, there was a controversy when it was reported that Israel and Iran were in fact involved in some type of business dealings. What was the controversy?

ACalifornia pistachio growers were unhappy that Israel was importing most of its pistachios from Iran. Israel claimed that it was importing its pistachios from England and Germany, which was suspicious as these countries do not produce pistachios. And as Israeli wholesaler Moshe Mussafi stated, “It’s no secret. The taste [of the Iranian nut] is better.”

B. Israel was reported to have sold antitank guns and shells to Iran for use against the regime of Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Israel denied the claim, but Iraqi newspapers printed pictures of unexploded shells launched from Iran toward Baghdad that had Hebrew writing on them.

C. While Israel had been a major importer of Iranian oil under the regime of the Shah, it was assumed that this trade had ended with the Iranian revolution in 1979. However, the New York Times reported in April 1998 that despite the Ayatollah Khomeini’s reference to Israel as the “Little Satan,” he had allowed Israel to continue purchasing Iranian oil as Israel paid with American dollars, which were very valuable to the Islamic government of Iran.

D. Iran was the world’s largest producer and exporter of pomegranates. However, in 1998, the crop suffered from a disease known as Alternaria Fruit Rot, which decimated the harvest. Concerned that their enemy Iraq, the second largest exporter of pomegranates, would overtake the market, Iran secretly purchased 10,000 kilograms of Israeli pomegranates which they relabeled as Iranian in order to fulfill their outstanding orders.

E. In July 1998, a strike by Mifal Ha-Ashpah, the Israeli waste removal company, left garbage piling up in the streets, causing a serious health problem in the hot summer weather. The rat population proliferated, leading to the threat of epidemic diseases spread by the rats. Benjamin Netanyahu, serving in his first term as Israeli Prime Minister, secretly met with Iranian president Mohammad Khatami in Aqaba, Jordan, to arrange for the purchase of 20,000 Persian cats to use for the control of the rats. The cats were flown into Israel on board an El Al flight dubbed “Operation El Ali Katz.”

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Reverend Theodore Parker & Passover

Four Questions is so passé. Add today’s question to your seder for Five Questions. Then, click here to obtain a free copy of RASHI, RAMBAM and HAGGADAH-LAMADINGDONG: A Quiz Haggadah of Jewish Trivia Facts & Fun and you will have another twenty five questions, for a total of Thirty Questions.

Had He led us to the Promised Land and not given us Thirty Questions, it would not have been enough. Only when you add RASHI, RAMBAM and HAGGADAH-LAMADINGDONG to your seder can you say Dayenu.

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The Reverend Theodore Parker, a renowned abolitionist in the 1800's, inspired Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., among others, with his writings and speeches. What statement did Reverend Parker make in reference to the Jews and Passover?

A. Representative James Buffinton of Massachusetts invited Revered Parker to deliver the opening prayer for the House of Representatives in April of 1860, as many southern states were discussing secession. Said Parker to Congress, “As our Jewish brothers and sisters gather together this week to observe Passover and celebrate the freedom of their ancestors, let us all pray today for the freedom of our Negro brothers and sisters in the south. I call on all of you, our Representatives of this great nation, to join with me in the words of the spiritual. Let my people go. Let my people go. Let my people go. Amen.”

B. In an 1860 meeting with President Lincoln to discuss the issue of slavery, Reverend Parker said, “Mr President. I stand with you in working to combat the evils of slavery. In the Old Testament, we read of the plight of the Israelite people and their long march to freedom, crossing the Red Sea, traversing the Sinai Desert, and finally crossing into the Promised Land. I will work with you to help the Negroes of the south on a similar journey. However, I beseech you to provide them loaves of bread for their journey. This matzah is just too constipating.”

C. Reverend Parker was not involved in the anti-slavery movement until he was invited to a Passover seder by Rabbi David Einhorn, a leader of the reform movement in the United States and a staunch abolitionist. On the Sunday following the seder in 1859, Reverend Parker delivered a sermon at his church stating, “Having recently heard the story of the Jewish people bravely crossing the Red Sea to freedom, I recognize that we all must take responsibility for those who are enslaved today. Therefore I am committing myself to a life devoted to the abolition of slavery. I will not rest until every slave is free to cross the Mason-Dixon line, our symbolic Red Sea.”

D. Delivering a sermon to his congregants at the 28th Congregational Society of Boston in 1858, Parker said, “Just as the wrath of the Lord rained down upon the Pharaoh in Egypt to bring freedom to the Israelite people, so shall the Lord in our time bring his wrath upon the slave masters and those who would lead our country to war to protect this evil institution.”

EIn his book, Life and Correspondene of Theod. Parker, Minister of the 28th Congregational Society, Boston, Parker wrote, “I doubt not that they [the Jews] did sometimes kill a Christian baby at the Passover.”

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This week’s question comes from RASHI, RAMBAM and HAGGADAH-LAMADINGDONG: A Quiz Haggadah of Jewish Trivia Facts & Fun. Click here to find out how you can obtain your free copy.

Your seder guests can recite the Four Questions in their sleep. In fact, they probably are sleeping at your seder. With RASHI, RAMBAM and HAGGADAH-LAMADINGDONG, you get 25 more questions and answers guaranteed to keep your guests awake no matter how late your seder drags on.

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Which of the following are all real Haggadot?

ASixty-Minute SederReudor's the Doodled Family Haggadah, and Fifty Shades of Haggadah.

BSammy Spider's First HaggadahHaggadah in Another Dimension, and The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County Haggadah.

CHaggadah Good Feeling About ThisSo Called Seder: A Hip Hop Haggadah, and Ina Gada Haggadah.

DUh! Oh! Passover HaggadahThe Un-Haggadah, and Haggadah Be Me.

EHaggadah for Jews & BuddhistsHaggadah for the Liberated Lamb, and Haggadah for Stoners.

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San Diego

RASHI, RAMBAM and RAMALAMADINGDONG welcomes readers of the San Diego Jewish World, which is now publishing our weekly Jewish Trivia quiz. As a shout-out, here’s a question about San Diego Jewish history.

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In San Diego in 1888, Congregation Beth Israel hired its first rabbi, Samuel Freuder. What career move did Rabbi Freuder subsequently make that he later considered a mistake?

A. In 1889, Rabbi Freuder converted to Christianity and became a missionary. Twenty years later, having failed in that calling, he returned to Judaism and wrote, “If ever I preach in any Christian pulpit again, may my right hand forget its cunning and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”

B. At the start of World War I, Rabbi Freuder joined the military as a chaplain, originally serving at Naval Base San Diego. However, he found that anti-Semitism was so rife in the Navy that even the Christian chaplains would have nothing to do with him. As a result, he resigned his commission and left the Navy after only one year of service.

CIn 1901, Rabbi Freuder left the rabbinate and opened a kosher fish restaurant, the first kosher establishment in southern California. However, he regretted this decision when the Lox and Sable Conservation Society launched a campaign against his restaurant, claiming that his smoking of these species was cruel, inhumane, and too salty.

DRabbi Freuder was a friend of Samuel Goldwyn, the movie producer, both having been born in Nemet Keresztur in Hungary. Rabbi Freuder moved to Los Angeles from San Diego and partnered with Goldwyn to create Goldwyn Pictures. Freuder, however, could not adjust to Hollywood culture and sold his partnership back to Goldwyn. Goldwyn Pictures eventually became Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Rabbi Freuder, who returned to the rabbinate, stated that I don’t regret leaving Hollywood. I’m just sorry I didn’t hold onto my stock for a few more years.”

E. The Panama-California Exposition, a World’s Fair, was hosted by San Diego in 1915-1916. Rabbi Freuder was hired by the Los Angeles Jewish Community Council to coordinate an exhibit on Jewish life in southern California. However, when Exposition organizers learned that this “Goldeneh Medinah California exhibit would not be open on Friday nights and Saturdays, they canceled the exhibit despite Rabbi Freuder’s efforts to explain to them the importance of Sabbath observance in the Jewish community.

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Many rabbis, most notably Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, participated in the marches and other civil rights movement activities in the 1960’s. The wearing of a yarmulke was adopted by many black marchers, necessitating the special delivery of 1000 yarmulkes for the march from Selma to Montgomery 50 years ago this month. What did the black marchers call their yarmulkes?

AAfro caps.

B. Freedom caps.

CThe Rab-beret.

DHeschel Hats.

E. My brother’s kippas.

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Happy Purim

A Purim bonus question. Chag Sameach!

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Ashkenzaic Jews remember Haman's evil by making noise with a greggar whenever Haman's name is said at the Megillah reading. How do Moroccan Jews note Haman's wickedness?

AThey make a three cornered pastry similar to a hamantashen, but it is filled with red strawberries, representing the blood of Haman.

B. Whenever Haman's name is read in the Megillah, Moroccan Jews ululate, emitting the high-pitched sound that is common in Arabic cultures as a sign of great emotional intensity.

C. They bake a bread which includes two hard boiled eggs, representing Haman’s eyes, which they proceed to pluck out.

DThey tie closed the top and bottom of a kaftan after filling it with Hamanis, which are traditional triangular Moroccan Purim candies. They hang the kaftan from a pole, and children strike it with small bats, releasing the candies for everyone to enjoy (similar to a Mexican piñata).

EThey dress up as Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour and sing We're Off on the Road to Morocco.

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Leonard Nimoy, z”l

At one point in his life, Leonard Nimoy scheduled a speaking tour, but a number of synagogues then canceled his scheduled appearances. What was their objection?

Vulcan hand gesture

A. Nimoy produced and starred in the movie Never Forget, based on the true story of Mel Mermelstein, a Holocaust survivor who confronted a Holocaust-denying organization in court. Nimoy was booked to speak in many synagogues to publicize the movie, but when some Orthodox synagogues learned about the Vulcan hand greeting based on the Priestly Blessing of the Kohanim, they took offense at this secular use of the religious ritual by Nimoy and canceled his appearances.

BNimoy, an accomplished photographer, published a book of his photographic work entitled The Shekhina Project, which explored the feminine side of G-d. He was “intrigued with scriptural mythology that tells us that G-d created a divine feminine presence to dwell amongst humanity…” The book featured photographs of women wearing tefillin (phylacteries) and nothing else. A number of synagogues had booked Nimoy for the accompanying book tour, but canceled the appearances when they learned about these photographs, which they considered offensive.

C. Nimoy was a frequent speaker at synagogues, where he shared stories of his early exposure to anti-semitism in Boston, his later embrace of Judaism, and his professional connections to the Jewish people, including playing Golda Meir’s husband in the TV movie A Woman Called Golda, his performances as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, and his portrayal of Holocaust survivor Mel Mermelstein in a film which Nimoy also produced, Never Forget. But in 2014, Nimoy reunited with William Shatner to film a Star Trek-themed Volkswagen commercial, touting the auto company’s electric cars. A number of synagogues canceled speaking engagements they had booked with Nimoy in objection to his participating in the commercial for the German car company.

D. Nimoy was on a book tour for his first autobiography, I Am Not Spock, and was scheduled to speak at a number of synagogues. However, many synagogues canceled his talk when one of the passages in his book was publicized. In the book, Nimoy mentioned that one of his favorite meals was chopped tribble liver, which he first tasted when filming the iconic Star Trek episode The Trouble With Tribbles. Nimoy noted that it was much tastier than the chopped chicken liver his mother used to serve. Some traditional synagogues objected because tribble is not a kosher animal; while it has a cloven hoof, it does not chew its cud.

E. Nimoy was on a book tour in 1995 following the publication of his second autobiography, I Am Spock. When it became known that in the book Nimoy advocated for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, a number of synagogues canceled his appearance in protest of his beliefs on this issue.

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The Oscars

What is Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Patricia Arquettes Jewish connection?

AHer paternal grandfather Cliff Arquette (also known as Charley Weaver) was Christian, her father was Muslim, and her mother was Jewish. She and her four siblings (all actors) were raised with no religion. She is the only one who now considers herself Jewish. Her sister Rosanna is Catholic, her brother Richmond is Muslim, her sister Alexis is Protestant, and her brother David is Buddhist.

B. Arquette, who is Jewish, had her first performing role as Queen Esther in a Hebrew School Purim Shpiel at the Chicago Sinai Congregation. Though only 11 years old at the time, she told her parents that she knew acting was what she wanted to do with her life. She even refused her parents offer to get her braces because she said that her crooked teeth would help her with character acting.

CBoyhood, in which Arquette starred, was filmed over 12 years, with the cast and crew working together for a couple of weeks annually. In year thirteen, sad that there was no plan to film again, Arquette (who is Jewish and had never had a bat mitzvah) decided that it would be fun to bring everyone together again, so she invited all involved to a “Boyhood Bat Mitzvah” celebration. She read a haftorah, gave a speech comparing her movie son Mason to the Biblical Isaac (each had issues with his father), and led everyone in the hora.

DHer father (who was Muslim) and her mother (who was Jewish) sent her to a Catholic school, where a teacher told her she couldn't take communion because “your mother is Jewish and she’s going to hell.” Arquette replied, “I think your Jesus and my Jesus are different.”

EWhen Arquette was 6 years old, she appeared on Hollywood Squares, sitting in the lap of her grandfather Charley Weaver (Cliff Arquette), who was the regular occupant of the shows bottom left square. When host Peter Marshall asked her, “Is this the most exciting event you've ever been to?” Patricia replied, “No, I had more fun at my brother David’s bris.”

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Brian Williams

Which of the following Brian Williams stories is true (unless, of course, it turns out not to be)?

AIn 2014, during Operation Protective Edge, Williams was reporting from Gaza when an Israeli airstrike destroyed a house a few hundred yards from where Williams was standing. Said Williams on the Nightly News broadcast, “We were close enough that we could feel the impact of the rocket as it landed, and the resulting smoke and dust from the building collapse caused us to retreat to our vehicle. It was a very frightening moment.”

B. In 2013, Williams appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, where he spoke of reporting from Israel during Operation Desert Shield, the first Gulf War in Iraq, in 1990. “This was my first war assignment for NBC News. I was stationed in Tel Aviv, far from the fighting, with no expectation of trouble (and not looking for any). I was simply interviewing Israelis on the street about the war that was happening ‘down the block.’ Suddenly there was a siren, and everyone ran to the nearest bomb shelter. As Saddam Hussein's scud missiles rained down on Tel Aviv, I thought to myself–and Dave, this is the gods honest truth–I remember thinking ‘Toto, Ive a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.’ ”

C. In 2006, Williams was flying in an Israeli military helicopter over northern Israel when, as Williams said, “There were Katyusha rockets passing just underneath the helicopter I was riding in,” leading Williams to say to a general who was on the same helicopter, “It wouldn’t take much for them to adjust the aim and try to do a ring toss right through our open doors, would it?”

DWilliams was the speaker at the UJA-Federation of New York's 2013 Annual Campaign event which raised $45 million. Said Williams, “Growing up in Middletown, New Jersey, my parents taught me that there was nothing more important than helping others, which led to my becoming a volunteer firefighter for the Middletown Fire Department during my high school years. With all that I’ve done in my career, nothing has meant more to me than being a part of that organization, with its brave and dedicated group of men and women. I believe that this is this same feeling which drives the thousands of volunteers and professionals of UJA-Federation and I am proud to stand before you tonight in that spirit.”

ESpeaking at the annual Network Affiliates meeting in 2012, Williams said, “Ive had many amazing experiences in my life, from inspiring Elvis Presleys dancing, to meeting President Kennedy (Im still embarrassed about having to pee). From fighting in Viet Nam and saving Lieutenant Dan’s life, to meeting John Lennon on the Dick Cavett show, to starting the Bubba Williams Shrimp Company. But Im most proud of the time when I got a felafel with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin and convinced them to sign that peace deal.”

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Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, a Grammy nominee for this year's Best New Artist, has what Jewish connection?

A. Israeli horticulturists at the University of Haifa have developed a breed of azalea which is resistant to petal blight, a common plant disease. They have named this new breed the Iggy Azalea, as the lead scientist is originally from Iggy Azalea’s home town of Perth, Australia.

B. In 2010, Iggy participated in the Sar-El Australia program, where young people travel to Israel as volunteers on kibbutzim, army bases, and hospitals. Iggy spent three months working on a kibbutz near Ashdod.

C. Iggy was discovered by Jewish rapper Matisyahu, who was performing in her hometown of Mullumbimby in New South Wales, Australia. After hearing her perform in a local club, he invited her to join him on his tour and introduced her to audiences in Israel, the United States, and around the world.

DThough she is not Jewish, her grandfather was a Sephardic Jew who emigrated from Greece to Australia at the start of World War II. His name was Yechiel "Yechi" Azaria, from which she derived her stage name of Iggy Azalea.

EIn 2014 Iggy was performing at a private bar mitzvah party in Beverly Hills when her pants split while she was twerking, providing an unexpected show for the guests.

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Robert Kraft, owner of the Super Bowl winning New England Patriots (and who is Jewish) was the Columbia University graduation speaker in 2005. What was the focus of his talk?

AThe Four Is – Integrity, Intelligence, Initiative, and Imagination.

B. The Four Fs – Family, Faith, Philanthropy, and Football.

C. The Four Cs – Cooperation, Compassion, Charity, and Courage.

DThe Four Ps – Prayer, Philanthropy, Patriotism, and Phootball.

EThe Four As – Achievement, Ambition, Accountability, and Air Pressure.

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Much attention is focused on deflated footballs this week, as the New England Patriots approach the Super Bowl under a cloud of scandal. What is the "Jewish" connection to the football?

AGerman Jewish immigrants Joseph Schwarzchild and Ferdinand Sulzberger were partners in the Schwarzchild & Sulzberger company, whose main business was meatpacking. They expanded by finding other uses for the by-products of their work, including tennis racket strings, surgical sutures, footballs and other products. The company eventually became the Thomas E. Wilson Company, now known as Wilson Sporting Goods, the supplier of footballs for the NFL (including the deflated footballs).

B. The Wilson Sporting Goods Company is the official supplier of footballs for the National Football League.  In 2003, the NFL complained to Wilson officials that they were not satisfied with the laces on the football, which had a tendency to open slightly on very hot days. In its effort to find a better product with which to make the laces, Wilson turned to Israeli company Para-Tec, which makes parachutes for the Israeli Defense Forces. Para-Tec provided a product based on the strings they used on military parachutes, and this product has been used on NFL footballs ever since (including the deflated footballs).

C. While footballs are referred to as pigskin, they are in fact made from leather. Originally, however, they were made of pigskin. In 1950, Brandeis University played its first football game, but the Board of Trustees was not happy with the use of the footballs made from pigs, given that the university operated under Jewish auspices. They contracted with the Spalding Company to design a football made of cow's leather rather than pigskin. The ball became so popular that over time other teams began using it, and now, all footballs are made of leather rather than pigskin (including the deflated footballs).

DWilson Sporting Goods, the official supplier of footballs for the NFL, was founded in 1915 by Thomas Wilson. This was a time of strong anti-immigrant feeling in America, and Wilson (like many employers at that time) refused to hire Jews to work in his company. In 1918, a lawsuit was filed by the recently established Anti-Defamation League on behalf of Harry Schild, a Jewish immigrant who was refused employment because of his religion. The case, Schild vs. Wilson, eventually reached the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Schild. The company hired Schild, but ironically he quit almost immediately after being assigned to work with the pig skins, a product he refused to touch because of his religious beliefs.

E. Football was invented in the shtetl of Pinsk in Belarus when a kosher butcher sewed together sections of cow hide, which he gave to the neighborhood children to play with. They began throwing it and kicking it around, eventually developing teams and rules. The ball was called the Pinsk-Skin, but over time, as the popularity of the game spread beyond the shtetl, the name morphed into Pigskin, which the non-Jews who played the game found easier to pronounce.

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El Capitan

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson just completed a free climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. In 2005, Israeli Felix Slamovics completed a partial ascent of El Capitan in a unique way. How did Slamovics climb El Capitan?

ASlamovics climbed El Capitan aided only by the use of his hands and arms, as he is paraplegic, unable to use his legs. While he did not successfully reach the summit of El Capitan, he set the record for the highest ascent of the peak by a paraplegic, a record which holds to this day.

B. Slamovics, a Chabad Lubavitch rabbi, climbed El Capitan on Yom Kippur, while observing a total fast, not even drinking any water. Though he did not reach the summit due to dehydration, he is credited with calling attention to the mitzvah of fasting among a large population of young Israelis for whom religious observance was not an important part of their lives.

C. Slamovics, an Orthodox Jew, carried a Torah Scroll with him on his climb. His goal was to read one Torah parsha (chapter) at each resting stop along his ascent. However, the climb proved so strenuous that during his frequent breaks, he completed the entire Torah before reaching the top of El Capitan, so he discontinued his effort after reading the final parsha, V'Zot Ha’Bracha.

DBecause Slamovics has ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), he ascended the mountain in a homemade device he dubbed the Harley Felixson, made of bicycle parts and mountain rescue equipment. Two years later he successfully climbed the 614-foot Azrieli Tower in Tel Aviv using this device.

ESlamovics was carrying his son, Isaac, whom he intended to sacrifice at the summit of El Capitan, to show his devotion to G-d. However, as he neared the summit, G-d stopped him and provided a ram to be sacrificed instead.

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Israel was represented by 12 high tech companies at the just ended Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. One of the Israeli companies, Silentium, offered what kind of product?

ASilentium was demonstrating a small noiseless drone known as the SilentCopter, with a high definition camera that can be controlled from a smartphone. The device is based on one which they originally developed for the Israeli military, but the consumer model does not contain a rocket launcher.

B. Silentium, founded in 1979, originally made white noise machines for use in therapist offices. They have since expanded to make a wide range of noise reducing and noise masking products. Their newest device, exhibited at CES 2015, is known as the SheketCell. Rather than masking noise, this device can be used in locations such as theaters and restaurants to block all cellular and wireless internet signals, thus silencing cell phones by eliminating their connection to the outside world.

C. Silentium invented the Quiet Bubble, which can reduce ambient noise in a zone around a person's head without the necessity of wearing noise-canceling headphones (sort of like your own personal Get Smart Cone of Silence).

DUsing high-tech technology, Silentium has invented the ultimate low-tech product–a noise canceling tallis. When placed over your head, the tallis completely blocks the noise of the two guys sitting behind you in shul who are constantly shmoozing about their aches and pains, even during the Silent Amidah. Because the “SilenTallis uses no electronics, it is acceptable for use in Orthodox synagogues.

E. The company is named after the newest atomic element, number 119, which is called Ununsilentium. The Israeli company has found a way to modify the Uzi submachine gun to fire a small burst of radiation instead of bullets. This nuclear “bullet” device is a type of portable x-ray machine that can be administered anywhere at a greatly reduced cost compared to traditional x-ray equipment.

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House Majority Whip Steve Scalise is taking heat for his 2002 address to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, a white supremacist group co-founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Duke has had much to say regarding the Jewish community. Which of the following is NOT a quote from David Duke?

AJewish hatred of Christ and Christianity can be seen in a never-ending parade of vicious Jewish attacks on Jesus and Christianity in the media. It is illustrated by Larry David’s HBO television program Curb Your Enthusiasm where this Jew urinates on a picture of Jesus.

B. [The Talmud] sets the entire course of law by which Jews must live, boasting that Jews themselves were the ones who executed Jesus, not the Romans. It also claims that Jewish priests in the afterworld have conjured up Jesus where they are boiling him in excrement for eternity.

C. No Jewish leader has to direct his minions to seek political control of Gentile nations; they do it as naturally as the Blue Jay appropriates another bird’s nest.

D. These Jews who run things, who are producing this mental illness - teenage suicide... all these Jewish sicknesses. That’s nothing new. The Talmud’s full of things like sex with boys and girls.

E. The only positive contribution ever made to the world by the Jewish people is the pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Deli. Oy. Such a mechaya!

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North Korea

In 1992 and 1993, Israel conducted secret talks with North Korea, which included a visit by Eitan Ben-Tzur, the deputy director of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, to Pyongyang. What was the issue over which they negotiated?

ANorth Korea had been a supporter of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians since the 1970's. Israel contacted North Korea in an effort to get them to serve as a go-between to Arafat. As a result of these negotiations, North Korea pressured Arafat who agreed to meet with the Israelis, leading to the successful negotiation of the Oslo accords in 1993.

B. Israel was attempting to get North Korea to open a kosher kimchi factory in the Negev to provide work for the huge influx of Russian immigrants that resulted from the Soviet Union's 1990 decision to allow Jews to emigrate. However, the deal was scuttled when the Ministry of Religious Affairs learned that the brine used to flavor the dish included a salted food known as saeujeot, which is derived from small shrimp.

C. North Korea was attempting to build nuclear weapons. Israel, which had lost South Africa as a purchaser of Israeli arms when the country transitioned to democracy from its apartheid government, was looking for other customers for its military technology. However, under pressure from the Clinton administration, Israel discontinued these negotiations.

DSupreme Leader Kim Jong-Il was attempting to hire Mossad assassins to kill Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who at the time were students at the Vancouver Talmud Torah. They had written a Purim shpiel which featured a cross-dressing Kim Jong-Il as one of the women who paraded before Ahashverus as he looked to select a replacement queen for Vashti.

E. Israel was attempting to get North Korea to agree to cease sales of Scud missiles to Israel's adversaries in the Middle East, and in particular to Iran. Korea agreed to do so only if Israel paid $500 million. Israel counter-offered to pay $25 million; however, this was rejected by North Korean officials and the negotiations fell apart.

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In the 1990's, an operation was launched which enabled more than 400 Jews to secretly emigrate from Cuba to Israel. What was this operation called?

AOperation Cigar.

B. Operation Rum.

C. Operation Git Mo Jews Out of Cuba.

DEl Exodus de los Judios.

E. Operation Ima and Aba Babalu.

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Why did Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards recall a Chanukkah gift wrap from the shelves last week?

AThe blue ink used on the gift wrap was made from products derived from copepods, which are microscopic shrimp; therefore it was determined by the Chief Rabbi of Kansas City that the gift wrap was not kosher.

B. On the gift wrap, the words Happy Chanukkah in English and Hebrew were printed against a background picture of Passover matzah.

C. The product design was a pattern of blue and silver angular lines that included swastika shapes. Said a Hallmark spokesperson, It was an oversight on our part to not notice the intersecting lines that could be seen as a swastika pattern.

DThey did so under pressure from the faculty at the University of Missouri who are pushing Hallmark to join the BDS movement and discontinue selling any holiday cards, gift wrap or other Jewish-themed products until Israel withdraws from the West Bank.

E. When they printed the Hebrew greeting Chanukkah Sameach (Happy Chanukkah), they inadvertently omitted the Chet which is the first letter in Chanukkah, yielding Nacheh Sameach, which means Happy Cripple.

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Knesset Elections

Israel faces new elections in March. Currently, thirteen political parties are represented in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Which of the following is not a current or past Israeli political party?

AAle Yarok, or Green Leaf, whose primary platform is the decriminalizing of marijuana, this party also supports legalized prostitution and gambling. At one point, Ale Yarok partnered with another Israeli political party, forming the Holocaust Survivors & Grown-Up Green Leaf Party, which ran an ad featuring a Holocaust survivor stating, “About one million Israelis use cannabis for their enjoyment. These people contribute to society. For us, the Holocaust survivors, our moral obligation is to legalize [marijuana].”

B. HaPanterim HaShchorim, The Black Panthers, who advocated for social justice for immigrants. The party was named by Israeli politician Saadia Marciano after he met Angel