Jewish Trivia Quiz

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

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

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?

Jewish teens dressed in white.

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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Hatikva

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 sheet music

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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Hatikvah

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 sheet music

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?

Round challah

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?

Sara Netanyahu with Melania Trump

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?

Map of 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?

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 Awards, 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

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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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

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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