Jewish Trivia Quiz

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

Chanukkah Elf on a Shelf

Children who are celebrating Christmas have the Elf on a Shelf children’s book and toy to enjoy during the holiday season. What are two Chanukkah toys which were created by children’s authors inspired by Elf on a Shelf?2012 Elf on the Shelf - Snow...

Anti-Semitic Generals

There are reports that General Michael Flynn may be negotiating a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller as Mueller continues to investigate Russian interference in the United States election. During the campaign, Flynn received criticism when h...


The Trump administration announced that they were ending the ban on importation of elephant hunting trophies, followed the next day by a reversal of this new policy. What is a Jewish connection to elephants?African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) by...

Black Cube

Harvey Weinstein hired the Israeli intelligence company Black Cube to try and prevent publication of stories detailing his sexual abuse of women. Black Cube operative Stella Penn Pechanac duped actress Rose McGowan using an assumed name and claimi...

Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman

Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman is the first Jewish major league baseball player to get a walk-off hit in a World Series game. What other member of Bregman’s family accomplished something in baseball?

Alex Bregman

Alex Bregman by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. Bregman’s father, Sam, played baseball at the University of New Mexico. In 1989, he played on the United States team at the thirteenth Maccabiah Games in Israel.

B. Bregman’s younger brother, Anthony, played second base on the middle school team at Solomon Schechter Day School of Albuquerque, where he won the Most Valuable Player award in 8th grade.

C. Bregman’s grandfather, Stanley, was the lawyer for the Washington Senators before they moved to Minnesota and became the Twins.

D. Bregman’s mother, Jackie, attended the University of New Mexico, where she majored in physical education and worked as a trainer for the school’s baseball team. This is where she met Alex’s father, Sam, who was a player on the team.

E. Bregman’s great grandfather Samuel, who emigrated to America from Russia when he was 4, played catcher for St. Dominick’s in the Parochial League in Washington, DC, where they listed his name as Bregmanio so people would think he was Catholic rather than Jewish.

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Fats Domino, RIP

New Orleans musician Fats Domino died last week at the age of 89. Domino was called “the real King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Elvis Presley, and John Lennon said that “There wouldn’t have been a Beatles without Fats Domino.” What was the Jewish connection in Fats Domino’s life?

Fats Domino

A. Fats Domino lived next door to the Anshe Sfard Synagogue in New Orleans as a teenager and served as the “Shabbos Goy,” turning on the lights in the building on the Sabbath.

B. Domino learned to play piano as a child, practicing at school and at a neighbor’s house, as his family did not own a piano. In high school, Domino worked part-time for Morris Karnofsky, a Jewish merchant who owned the Morris Music Company, selling records, phonographs, and musical instruments. Recognizing the musical talent of his young employee, Karnofsky donated a small upright piano to the Domino family, and it was on this piano that Domino wrote his first hit, The Fat Man.

C. Dave Bartholomew, the musician, producer, and co-writer of many of Fats Domino’s hits, though not Jewish, is a descendent of Sephardic Jews who had immigrated to St. Thomas from Spain during the Inquisition. The family name was Bar-Talamanca, but when Bartholomew’s grandfather moved to New Orleans, he changed his name to Bartholomew and married a non-Jewish woman.

D. New York record producer Lew Chudd, son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, hired New Orleans bandleader Dave Bartholomew as a talent scout, and Bartholomew introduced Fats to Chudd. Chudd signed Fats to Imperial Records, where The Fat Man and many subsequent Domino hits were recorded and released.

E. Just as singer Chubby Checker chose his stage name and developed much of his musical style by copying Fats Domino, so too did Domino develop his musical style, and name, by copying from an earlier musician, Borscht Belt singer Schmalz Pinochle. In the 1930’s and '40’s, Pinochle regaled audiences at Grossingers and other Catskills Resorts, singing such songs as I’m Gonna Be A Mentsch Some Day, Ain’t That A Shonda, I’m Walking To Berditchev, and I Hear You Kvetching.

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Dickinson, Texas

The intersection between government and religious and/or political beliefs is in the news with growing frequency, including debates over government-mandated birth control coverage in insurance policies, and the question before the Supreme Court of whether a baker must make a wedding cake for a gay couple when that violates the baker’s religious beliefs. Dickinson, Texas was in the news recently because of a Jewish-related controversy over laws or policies. What was the issue there?

Dickinson, Texas City Hall

Dickinson Texas City Hall by N. Saum is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

A. In reaction to the national controversy over kneeling during the National Anthem, the Dickinson School Board passed a policy requiring all students to stand during the anthem at school events including ball games, concerts, and other school assemblies. However, the wording of the policy refers more broadly to standing during invocations and prayers as well. The Jewish community is objecting because Jewish football players were told that they must stand when the team gathers for the “voluntary” pre-game prayer which is offered by a player, and which typically includes references to Jesus Christ.

BDickinson, which received more than 50 inches of rain during Hurricane Harvey, has posted an online application for residents to request grants to cover the expense of hurricane-related damage repairs. The application requires residents to ensure that their contractors do not boycott Israel. Some residents object, saying that this will make it more difficult to get repairs done, and the ACLU says that this clause unconstitutionally violates First Amendment protections.

C. The Dickinson City Council passed a law requiring that all schools allow teachers to carry concealed handguns. B’nai Emunah, an Orthodox synagogue, is suing because they say that it is a violation of their religious protections under the first amendment. The synagogue board does not object to this provision; however, they argue that for the synagogue’s monthly “Shabbat School” (when children come for Shabbat services and a family luncheon), the teachers should be restricted from bringing a gun to shul because this action violates the Jewish prohibition against carrying on the Sabbath.

D. When a Jewish family received the 2017-18 school calendar, they noticed that graduation was scheduled to fall on Shavuot, and they contacted the school superintendent to request that the date be changed, as they and their graduating son would be in synagogue that evening for the holiday. According to the family, the superintendent told them that while he would like to accommodate the family, if he did so he would have no choice but to provide accommodations to the growing number of Muslim students in the district, and that “before you know it, our school would be governed by Shariah law.”

E. On the Shabbat before Purim, a Jewish student came to school wearing a t-shirt that included pictures of Purim revelers in costume, dancing and drinking, along with wording which read “Remember the Amalek.” Jews are traditionally commanded on Purim to remember Amalek, an ancestor of Haman, who tried to destroy the Jewish people in the desert during the Exodus. The student was sent home by the principal who cited the school’s Code of Conduct which states “Students may not exhibit any clothing with slogans, quotes, or messages which disparage the people and the state of Texas.” Said the principal, “In Texas we remember the Alamo, where our heroes died defending our freedom, not the Amalek, whatever that is.”

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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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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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