Jewish Trivia Quiz

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

Vladimir Putin

United States President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are holding a meeting today in Finland. While Trump has a Rocket Man CD that he said he will be giving to North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, it is not known if he has a gift for Putin. A few years ago, Putin reunited with a former teacher of his who was Jewish. Who was the teacher and what gift did Putin give to him/her?

Vladimir Putin

putin matrix by Jedimentat44 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. When Putin visited Israel in 2005, he was reunited with his 9th grade German teacher, Mina Yuditskaya Berliner, who had emigrated to Israel in 1973. When Berliner heard that Putin would be coming to Israel, she contacted the Russian Embassy and asked if she could see Putin while he was in the country. She was invited to a meeting that was being held at Putin’s hotel, along with a group of World War II veterans. Putin then invited Berliner to a private tea where they reminisced. Following that meeting, Putin arranged to buy her an apartment in Tel Aviv.

B. In 2014, Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Among the athletes from Israel who competed was figure skater Alexei Bychenko, whose family had emigrated to Israel from the Soviet Union. Bychenko’s grandfather Anatoly joined him for the games. Advance contacts were made by the Israeli embassy to Putin’s office, informing them that the elder Mr. Bychenko would be in attendance, and that he had been Putin’s physical education coach in high school in 1969. Putin arranged to meet Anatoly Bychenko in a private suite at the Fisht Olympic Stadium, where the opening ceremonies were held. At that meeting, Putin gave Mr. Bychenko a pass to sit in the presidential box seats for all of the Olympic games.

C. In 2014, Putin visited Belarus for a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council. At the meeting, he reconnected with Iosif Goshkevich, an advisor to Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko. Goshkevich had previously been a professor of Putin’s at Leningrad State University Law School. Putin presented Goshkevich with a signed and framed copy of the Constitution that had been adopted by Russia in 1993, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Goshkevich had served as an advisor to the commission that drafted the Constitution.

D. In 2005, Putin visited Israel and met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. When plans were being made for that meeting, one of Sharon’s intelligence aides, Moshe Avraham, informed Sharon that his father, Yuri Abramovich, who had emigrated to Israel in 1975, had been Putin’s history teacher at Saint Petersburg High School. The Prime Minister’s office notified Russian officials of this connection, and Mr. Abramovich was invited to a reception in Putin’s honor at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli president’s residence. At that event, Putin presented Mr. Abramovich with a copy of his autobiography, First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait by Russia's President, which he autographed and inscribed, “To Mr. Abramovich, who taught me why history matters.”

E. In high school, Putin was a loner until a faculty member, Grigory Krivitsky, suggested that he join the A/V club, which Krivitsky advised. Putin learned how to thread and run the 16mm movie projector and how to set up the sound equipment for school theater productions. This first exposure to electronics served Putin well when he later went to work for the KGB, where he eventually became the First Chief Directorate in counter-intelligence. In 2010, Putin attended his 40th high school reunion, where he was reunited with Krivitsky. Putin presented Krivitsky with a sample of his electronic undercover work, a mix tape DVD that Putin had put together, including “The Best of Hillary’s Emails” and “Trump’s Wild Night at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton.”

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Scott Pruitt

Scott Pruitt resigned as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency following a tenure filled with controversy and scandals. In reflecting on why he entered public service, and took the job of head of the EPA, Pruitt said, “I spent a couple years just earnestly praying, asking the question that I don’t think we ask enough, ‘God, what do you want to do with me?’” He then went on to answer that question, quoting from the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament. What did he say?

Scott Pruitt

A. Pruitt was reading the book of Isaiah, and God “really spoke to my heart” when He told Israel, “I will restore your leaders as in the days of old, your judges as at the beginning.” Pruitt explained, “There was just a desire that welled up in me to say, ‘I want to be like those leaders that we had at our founding, at the inception of our country.’ ”

B. Pruitt said, “I was in church and the Pastor spoke of the verse in Leviticus, Chapter 19, verse 16. ‘Do not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.’ And that spoke to me, because I do feel like we’re facing a civil war in this country, between those who believe in God and the greatness of America, and those who do not recognize the Christian roots of our country and God’s plan for America. I knew at that moment that I had to be a soldier for God in this battle, and when President Trump asked me to be a part of his administration, it was clear that this was what God wanted me to do at that moment in my life.”

C. Pruitt spoke of his upbringing. “I was born in Danville, Kentucky, a town that was the epitome of small town America. My father was the minister at the Danville Baptist Church, so the Bible was always a source of inspiration for me. As a young boy my father taught me and my brothers the lesson from Proverbs 2:20, ‘So follow the way of the good, and keep to the paths of the just.’ Those words always guided me, and when the opportunity arose for me to serve the public, at first in Oklahoma and later in the Trump administration, I was driven by that message.”

D. Said Pruitt, “I always had a sense of how I wanted to serve God. I remember learning in Bible School about the verse from Deuteronomy, Chapter 16, verse 20: ‘Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.’ God was speaking of the land of Israel that he gave to the Jewish people, but I also believe that God gave America to us to be a great Christian nation. And once we occupied this land, it was incumbent upon us to fulfill his mission. When I was called upon by the people of Oklahoma to serve, and later by President Trump, there was no question but that this was what God wanted of me.”

E. In a speech, Pruitt said, “I’ve always looked to the Bible for guidance in my life. When President Trump asked me to serve as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, I opened my Bible and came upon the Book of Numbers, Chapter 31, verses 31-35: ‘Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the Lord commanded Moses. The amount of booty, other than the spoil that the troops had plundered, came to 675,000 sheep, 72,000 head of cattle, 61,000 donkeys, and a total of 32,000 human beings, namely, the women who had not had carnal relations.’ And I immediately thought, why shouldn't I get some of that action? So I called President Trump and signed up.”

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Israel 70 Celebrations

While Israel celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, on April 19, the country continues to mark its 70th anniversary with ongoing events and ceremonies. Which of the following is one commemoration that results from a collaboration between Israel and another country?

Israeli Flags

fabcom_DSC_1054 by fabcom is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

A. The Israeli Wissotzky Tea Company is teaming up with the Twinings Tea Company in Great Britain to produce a mint flavored tea to be called Nana Shiv’im, or Mint 70.

B. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Wakanda king T’Challa announced the opening of several pop-up bakeries in both countries to celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary. The bakeries, operating under the name T’Challa 70, are selling challah bread braided and baked in the shape of the Black Panther, which is King T’Challa’s alias.

C. Guatamala is among a small group of countries which moved its embassy to Jerusalem, following the recent American embassy move. The country celebrated that moment along with Israel’s 70th anniversary by introducing a special blend of coffee which is being marketed in Israel under the name Guatamala Antigua Setenta (Guatamala Antigua 70).

DThe Faust Brewing Company in Germany and the Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer, Israel are partnering to produce an anniversary beer to be called 70.

E. As part of the relocation of the United States embassy to Jerusalem, a steak restaurant was opened in the embassy building. The meat is provided by Trump Steaks, and is aged 70 days in honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary. Because of Donald Trump’s expertise in running the Miss Universe contest, the opening ceremony for the restaurant featured a beauty pageant in which a young woman was crowned “Trump’s Miss Steaks.”

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The Beatles in Israel

Paul McCartney appeared on a Carpool Karaoke segment of the Late Late Show with James Corden, with the two driving around Liverpool while singing Beatles tunes. They also visited sites from Paul’s childhood, and put on a surprise concert in a local pub. McCartney has many Jewish connections, from working with original Beatles manager Brian Epstein, to marrying two Jewish women. McCartney performed in Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park in 2008, but the Beatles never performed in Israel. They came close, however, with a concert scheduled for Ramat Gan Stadium on August 5, 1965; however, the concert was canceled, supposedly because of objections from the Israeli government that the band would be a negative influence on Israeli youth. Tickets were printed for that event, and referred to the band with what name (translated from the Hebrew)?

Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney - Out There Concert | 140420-5787-jikatu by Jimmy Baikovicius is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AThe Musical Beetles.

BThe Rhythm Beetles.

CThe Fabulous Beetles.

DThe Synagogue Beadles.

EThe Dung Beetles.

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Jews in Sports

Generally speaking, Jews have not dominated professional sports competition, though there were a number of successful Jewish boxers in the early 1900’s (including Benny Leonard, “Slapsie” Maxie Rosenbloom, and Barney Ross). Also, Jewish baseball players Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax are in the Hall of Fame. What unusual event occurred in sports recently featuring one or more Jewish athletes?

Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg

Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg are in the public domain.

AOn June 8, five different Jewish baseball players–Ryan Braun, Kevin Pillar, Ian Kinsler, Joc Pederson, and Alex Bregman–all hit home runs.

BIn the 2018 French Open tennis tournament, two Jewish players won preliminary matches. Israeli player Dudi Sela won his first round match before losing to Elias Ymer of Sweden in the second round, and Diego Schwartzman of Argentina made it to the quarterfinals before being ousted by eventual winner Rafael Nadal.

CIn the soccer FIFA World Cup games currently taking place in Russia, three different Jewish players scored a goal in first round play–Joshua Kimmich of Germany, Allison Becker of Brazil, and Harry Kane of England.

D. Frenchman Alexander Lévy became the first Jewish golfer to score a hole-in-one in any of the four major golf tournaments. Lévy accomplished this feat in the first round of the U. S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club during last week’s first round competition, when his tee shot on the 189-yard 7th hole bounced on the green and rolled directly into the cup.

E. For the second time ever, horse racing’s Triple Crown was won by a Jewish horse, as Justify led the field at this year’s Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. Justify, like many celebrity Jews, changed his name, which was originally Justin Fein. Among Justify’s famous Jewish ancestors is the first Jewish Triple Crown winner, Seattle Jew, as well as the Lone Ranger’s horse Silver (née Silverstein), television’s Mr. Ed (née Mr. Eddie Cohen), and Stewball (née Stuart Ball, who never drank water, he always drank Manischewitz wine).

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Anthony Bourdain, z”l

Chef/author/food raconteur Anthony Bourdain tragically died last week. Bourdain, whose mother was Jewish but who had no religious upbringing or beliefs, was seen as a uniter, using food and dining to bring people together. About whom did Anthony Bourdain once say “I’d be happy to rearrange your knee or other extremities.”?

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain by Peabody Awards is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. In 2003, Bourdain filmed an episode of the Travel Channel show No Reservations about kosher slaughtering, at the Agriprocessors meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa. While there, he was invited to the wedding of the son of the plant’s mashgiach (head kosher supervisor). Bourdain said the above words to a young Chasid who attempted to drag him into the hora dance.

BIn 2013, Bourdain visited Israel to film his CNN show, Parts Unknown. While in Jerusalem, he visited the Western Wall, where he said these words in response to a rabbi who aggressively attempted to get him to put on tefillin.

CLast year, Bourdain tweeted these words in response to an anti-Semitic tweet that former KKK leader David Duke posted about him.

D. Bourdain’s visit to Israel in 2013 angered many Jews and Israelis because he traveled and filmed on the West Bank and in Gaza. He said these words to an Israeli who angrily reproached him in Tel Aviv after Bourdain returned from the Gaza visit.

EOn a 2006 visit to a kosher slaughterhouse, Bourdain said these words to a cow whose flatulence enveloped him.

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Anthony Bourdain, z”l

Chef/author/food raconteur Anthony Bourdain tragically died last week. Bourdain, whose mother was Jewish but who had no religious upbringing or beliefs, was seen as a uniter, using food and dining to bring people together. About whom did Anthony Bourdain once say “I’d be happy to rearrange your knee or other extremities.”?

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain by Peabody Awards is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. In 2003, Bourdain filmed an episode of the Travel Channel show No Reservations about kosher slaughtering, at the Agriprocessors meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa. While there, he was invited to the wedding of the son of the plant’s mashgiach (head kosher supervisor). Bourdain said the above words to a young Chasid who attempted to drag him into the hora dance.

BIn 2013, Bourdain visited Israel to film his CNN show, Parts Unknown. While in Jerusalem, he visited the Western Wall, where he said these words in response to a rabbi who aggressively attempted to get him to put on tefillin.

CLast year, Bourdain tweeted these words in response to an anti-Semitic tweet that former KKK leader David Duke posted about him.

D. Bourdain’s visit to Israel in 2013 angered many Jews and Israelis because he traveled and filmed on the West Bank and in Gaza. He said these words to an Israeli who angrily reproached him in Tel Aviv after Bourdain returned from the Gaza visit.

EOn a 2006 visit to a kosher slaughterhouse, Bourdain said these words to a cow whose flatulence enveloped him.

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Roseanne Barr

Roseanne Barr’s television show Roseanne was canceled last week following a racist tweet which Roseanne posted about Valerie Jarrett, a former aide to President Barack Obama. Roseanne Barr grew up in Salt Lake City, where her family was a part of the very small Jewish community. Though there was a lot of anti-Semitism among the Mormon community at that time, why did Roseanne’s family have positive feelings about the Mormons?

Roseanne Barr

Roseanne Hard Rock Cafe by Leah Mark is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. Roseanne’s father owned a dry goods store in Salt Lake City, and her mother worked there three days a week. On those days, Roseanne and her siblings were watched by a neighbor who was Mormon. The neighbor was accepting and caring, serving as a reminder to the Barr family that they should not stereotype all Mormons just as Mormons should not stereotype all Jews.

B. When she was 3 years old, Roseanne suffered from Bell’s palsy, which affected the left side of her face. Her mother had their rabbi pray for her to no avail, but when she then asked a Mormon preacher to pray for Roseanne, her palsy went away.

C. Roseanne and her family attended Mormon Church on Sunday in an effort to hide their Judaism from their Mormon neighbors. Roseanne’s first public speaking came when she was 6 years old as she spoke about the Mormon faith at a number of local Mormon churches, and she was eventually elected president of a Mormon youth group.

D. While Roseanne’s parents were both Jewish, her paternal grandfather was a Mormon, so the family had regular interactions with members of the Mormon community, where they were always made to feel welcome, despite the general anti-Semitic atmosphere that existed.

EDespite the fact that she had a terrible, screechy singing voice, at age 11 Roseanne joined the Mormon Tabernacle Youth Choir, where she made many friends and did not experience the anti-Semitism that was generally faced by Jews in Salt Lake City. (This changed, however, when the choir performed the National Anthem before a Salt Lake City Bees minor league baseball game. To the shock and dismay of all in attendance, at the end of the song, Roseanne grabbed her crotch and ran off the stage.)

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Netta

Israeli singer Netta won this year’s Eurovision contest singing the song Toy. Though the song was primarily written by Israeli composer Doron Medalie, Netta added some lyrics including a Pokémon reference (according to Medalie, “that’s more her generation than mine”). Netta has spoken about Pokémon characters and what they mean to her. Which of the following is not a Pokémon character that has inspired Netta?

Netta

At the 2018 Eurovision Blue Carpet by Dewayne Barkley, EuroVisionary is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

A. Jigglypuff, who Netta says “can sing and that could help me to sleep, as I’m having trouble sleeping.”

B. Snorlax, because, according to Netta, “he’s fat and amazing.”

C. Bulbusaur, about whom Netta stated, “because he’s sassy and he’s a good friend and his vines would help me reach whatever I want.”

DPikachu, who is the Pokémon who is specifically mentioned in the song Toy. When a reporter asked Netta, “Is Pikachu your favorite Pokémon?,” she replied, “Isn’t it yours?!?!?!”

E. Poképupik, because, as Netta said, “Who wouldn’t want to Poképupik.”

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Tikkun Leil Shavuot

One of the traditions of Shavuot is the all night Torah study session known as the Tikkun Leil Shavuot, meaning Rectification (or Repair) for Shavuot Night. What are the roots of this custom?

Torah Scroll

Torah scroll by Thomas Quine is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AThe practice of the Tikkun Leil Shavuot was put forth by Rabbi Isaac Luria in the sixteenth century in Safed. Luria developed a specific text known as the Tikkun Leil Shavuot which comprised written, oral, and mystical aspects of the Torah, and was recited overnight until dawn.

BMoses ben Maimon, the Jewish philosopher and scholar known as Maimonides and also as the Rambam, taught that not only was the Torah revealed at Mt. Sinai, but also the Oral Law, the subsequent interpretations of Torah. Based on this teaching, the Rambam established the Tikkun Leil Shavuot as an all night Torah study in recognition of the immensity of the task of studying Torah.

C. Solomon ben Moses HaLevi Alkabetz, a renowned rabbi and Kabbalist, and Joseph Karo, author of the codification of Jewish law known as the Shulchan Aruch, were contemporaries in the late 1400’s and early 1500’s, who studied and lectured together in Turkey. Inspired by their mystical discussions, Karo developed the custom of staying awake all night on Shavuot to study Torah, and called this session the Tikkun Leil Shavuot.

DMoses Mendelssohn was a German Jewish philosopher who was a leader in the Haskalah movement, known as the Jewish enlightenment. In the spirit of that movement, Mendelssohn was a critic of the traditional rabbis, claiming that Jewish knowledge was not their exclusive domain, and that anyone could study Torah. In 1758 in Berlin, he held the first Tikkun Leil Shavuot, an all night study session which was open to the entire Jewish community. While many rabbis at the time objected and would not participate, as the Haskalah movement grew among the Jewish population, the Tikkun was eventually accepted by the rabbinic community.

E. According to the Midrash, on the morning that Moses was supposed to go up to Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah, the Israelites overslept. As a result, Moses was almost late to get to the top of the mountain, much to God’s dismay. The tradition of staying up all night to study Torah is a way for the Jews to atone for that error.

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