Jewish Trivia Quiz

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

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

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?

Trump Orange Head

#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?

St. Patrick's Day

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?

Baseball with a Star of David

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?

Republican Jewish Coalition meeting

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?

Sweden map and flag.

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

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?

Chuck Schumer

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

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

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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