Jewish Trivia Quiz

from RASHI, RAMBAM and RAMALAMADINGDONG: A Quizbook of Jewish Trivia Facts & Fun by New Orleans native Mark Zimmerman

Netanyahu/Trump

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?

Netanyahu and 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 Trump golfing

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

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

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.

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?

India, Jew-Town Road

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?

Mika Brzezinski

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

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?

Travis Kalanic, CEO of Uber

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 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

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 store.

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

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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