Jewish Trivia Quiz

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

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

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?

Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey 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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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?

Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey 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?

computer hacking

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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Chanukah 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?

Menorahs

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 Chanukah

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

Rashi, Rambam and Chanukkah-Madingdong

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

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

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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Hamilton

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

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 vain, 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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