Jewish Trivia Quiz

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

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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Hawaii is suffering from the destruction wreaked by the eruption of the Kilauea volcano. Israel has its own volcano, Mount Bental, which last erupted about 50,000 years ago. The volcano is now a tourist site with spectacular views of the Hula Valley, Mount Hermon and the Golan Heights, as well as hiking trails, and vineyards. What facility can sightseers visit at the top of Mount Bental?

Kilauea volcano

Hawaii Volcano Eruption by macprohawaii is in the public domain.

A. The Boutros Boutros Zum Gali Gali playground, whose name is a pun based on the former United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and the Hebrew children’s song, Zum Gali Gali.

B. Bank Leu-moon, a branch of Israel’s Bank Leumi, whose name is a pun based on the former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the bank’s name, and the bank’s location, at 3842 feet, which is metaphorically as high as the moon.

CThe Dag Hummus-skjöld restaurant, whose name is a pun based on the former United Nations Secretary Dag Hammarskjöld, the Hebrew word for fish which is dag, and the Israeli mashed chickpea dish, hummus.

D. The Coffee Anan cafe, whose name is a pun based on the former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, the word coffee, and the Hebrew word anan, meaning cloud, as the cafe, at 1171 meters, is practically in the clouds.

E. Mount Bental has become a popular place to hold weddings. A small synagogue built to accommodate these events is known as the Trygve Lie v’Ani Lo Chapel, a pun based on the former United Nations Secretary Trygve Lie and the Hebrew words often uttered by brides and grooms, Dodi Li, v'Ani Lo, “I am my beloved and my beloved is mine.”

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Verne Troyer

Actor Verne Troyer, best known for playing Mini-Me in the Austin Powers movies, died last week. In 2011, he visited Israel. Besides visiting the Western Wall, what else did Troyer do in Israel?

Verne Troyer

Verne Troyer by Eva Rinaldi is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

ATroyer, a Catholic, was in Israel to speak at the Youth Summit for Peace, sponsored by the Pontifical Scholas Occurrentes (“Scholas”) and the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace (“Truman Institute”) at the Hebrew University. 

BTroyer traveled with a U. S. delegation from Yachad, The National Jewish Council for Disabilities, to participate in a conference in Tel Aviv sponsored by the Friends of Israeli Disabled Veterans/Beit Halochem. That organization raises awareness and funds to support social, cultural and sports training programs, as well as providing therapeutic treatment for Israeli service members injured in the line of duty.

CTroyer was in Israel for the Israel Film Festival, where his movie The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, directed by Terry Gilliam, was among the films presented. Troyer played Percy, Doctor Parnussus’s confidant. The movie is memorable in part because Parnussus was played by Heath Ledger, who died part way through the filming, requiring the director to make a number of adjustments to the script.

DTroyer filmed a publicity video about the ROI Community of Young Jewish Innovators’ $100,000 microgrants program and how it could benefit Jewish communities around the world.

ETroyer visited the Mini Israel Park, an attraction with almost 400 miniature replicas of important Israeli historical, religious, and archaeological sites. Troyer proudly posed for a picture of himself towering over the tiny buildings and bonsai trees and posted it on Twitter, saying, “I visited a very tiny city in Israel. I was king kong!”

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Natalie Portman

Actress Natalie Portman is in the headlines, having decided to forgo her receipt of the Israeli Genesis Prize, often referred to as the Jewish Nobel Prize. Portman said that she did not want her presence to imply approval of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was scheduled to speak at the award ceremony. Natalie Portman has an Erdős–Bacon number of 7. What does that mean?

Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman by Gordon Correll is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AThe Erdős–Bacon number was created by Star Wars mega-fans József Erdős and Jason Bacon. The number is a count of all the times in which actors from Star Wars movies have said the word “star” in other films they appeared in. Portman said the word star twice in The Black Swan, once in Jackie, once in The Other Boleyn Girl, and once in V For Vendetta. Harrison Ford holds the record, having uttered the word star 43 times in his many movie roles, including 27 times in the Indiana Jones movies.

BThe Erdős–Bacon number is a measurement of the spine which is used to diagnose scoliosis. At age 10, Portman was found to be at risk for scoliosis because of her measurement of 7, and as a result took up ballet dancing to strengthen her spine and her neck and back muscles. That skill served her well when she was cast as the lead in the movie The Black Swan.

C. The Erdős–Bacon number is a variation on the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” phenomenon, where actors determine how many levels of separation they have from Kevin Bacon in their performing roles. The Erdős–Bacon number combines the degrees of separation of an actor to Kevin Bacon along with that same person’s connection to mathematician Paul Erdős, counting degrees of separation in co-authoring academic papers. Portman has a Bacon number of 2 and an Erdős number of 5, for a combined Erdős–Bacon number of 7, as do actors Colin Firth and Kristen Stewart. Danica McKellar (Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years) has an Erdős–Bacon number of 6.

DThe Erdős–Bacon number, created by writers György Erdős and Dennis Bacon of Variety magazine, reflects the total number of combined awards an actor has won at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globe Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Portman won all three of those awards for her role in The Black Swan. She won the Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for her role as Jacqueline Kennedy in Jackie, and she won the Screen Actors Guild Award for her role as Padmé Amidala in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. Meryl Streep leads all actors with a Erdős–Bacon number of 63.

EYosef Erdős is a reporter for the tabloid newspaper, The National Enquirer. He created the Erdős–Bacon number to keep track of how many times he has caught Jewish celebrities eating non-kosher food. He tails Jewish celebrities as they enter restaurants, and then surreptitiously takes and publishes photographs of the shrimp, cheeseburgers, or bacon which the star is raising to his or her mouth. Portman’s Erdős–Bacon number is 7, Mayim Bialik still proudly maintains an Erdős–Bacon number of 0, and Ivanka Trump currently has an Erdős–Bacon number of 3 (though she has dismissed this as fake Jews news).

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James Comey

Former FBI Director James Comey has been in the headlines almost constantly since the 2016 presidential campaign. President Donald Trump just tweeted that “Unbelievably, James Comey states that Polls, where Crooked Hillary was leading, were a factor in the handling (stupidly) of the Clinton Email probe. In other words, he was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball!” In October 2017, candidate Donald Trump said at a rally, “It took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had where they’re trying to protect [Hillary Clinton] from criminal prosecution. You know that took a lot of guts.” What other comment has been made about James Comey?

James Comey

James Comey by Rich Girard is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, reacting to Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017, commented, “Just look at his testimony. It was pathetic. The guy’s clearly got a goyishe kop.”

B. Steve Bannon said in an interview that Trump’s firing of James Comey “was the biggest mistake in modern political history.” Bannon went on to say “I told Jared to tell his father-in-law not to do it, but Jared–well, he wouldn’t listen. And they say Jared’s got a yiddishe kop? Sorry, but he’s just a nebbish.”

C. At the time of Comey’s firing as FBI Director, one FBI agent, reflecting the mood around FBI headquarters, said that “We’re basically sitting shiva.”

D. At the time of Comey’s firing as FBI Director, Jared Kushner, reflecting the mood around the White House, said that “We’re basically dancing the hora.”

EMichael Wolff, in his book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, reports that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said privately of Donald Trump, “What kind of person would praise a guy like James Comey at a political rally, and then criticize the same James Comey in a tweet? I think Ivanka is right when she says of her father, ‘Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!’ ”

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Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg is in the news as stories emerge about the scandal in which Cambridge Analytica obtained data for political use from as many as 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge or authorization. When Mark Zuckerberg delivered the commencement address at the 2017 Harvard University graduation, what Jewish reference did he make in his remarks to the graduates and their families?

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg by JD Lasica is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. He challenged the graduates, saying, “Right now, with social networks and other tools on the Internet, 500 million people have a way to say what they’re thinking and have their voice be heard. Your challenge is how to be heard. And the answer is not to shout–you will never be heard with 500 million people in the room. The answer is to figure out how you can be, as God was to Elijah, the still small voice in the room that will cause everyone else to be quiet and listen.”

B. Zuckerberg offered these closing remarks to the graduates. “You are about to embark on your own individual journeys. It is very likely that most of you will have a major impact on your community, this country and the world. I challenge you to always remember, however, that your purpose should be to serve your community, your country, and the world. And to never forget to give back to the society of which you are a part. I learned in Hebrew school about the concept of tikkun olam, repairing the world. That concept guides me daily, in my support of the Newark Public Schools, the efforts my wife and I have championed in combating Ebola, and our signing of the Giving Pledge, initiated by Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. I urge you to make your own pledge. And it doesn’t matter how much money you have. Judaism teaches that everyone should give tzedakah, charity, even if you’re poor, because there is always someone else more in need. Let the Harvard class of 2017 be leaders in the world by leading in tikkun olam, in tzedkah, in not taking from, but rather giving back to humanity, each in your own way.”

CHe closed his remarks with the following words. “As we sit here in front of Memorial Church I’m reminded of a prayer, Mi Shebeirach, that I say whenever I face a big challenge, that I sing to my daughter thinking of her future when I tuck her in at night. And it goes, ‘May the source of strength, who’s blessed the ones before us, help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing.’ I hope you find the courage to make your life a blessing.”

D. Zuckerberg explained to the graduates some of his thinking as he first developed Facebook. “When I was growing up, I went to Hebrew School. I wasn’t a very good student, and I was much more interested in playing Where in the World is Camen Sandiego on my Apple IIGS computer. I didn’t have any interest in having a bar mitzvah. But then I told my best friend Gary, who belonged to a different synagogue, that I was thinking of telling my parents I didn’t want a bar mitzvah. He said to me, ‘Mark, are you nuts? You gotta have a bar mitzvah. Come to my Hebrew School. The teacher is so cool. You’ll love it.’ And you know what? I actually convinced my parents to send me to Gary’s Hebrew School, I did love it, and I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on having a bar mitzvah. And the lesson I learned from this, the lesson that drove my thinking with Facebook, the lesson that I carry with me to this day, is that nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend.”

E. Zuckerberg ended his remarks to the graduates, saying, “As I leave you at this special moment in your lives, I’d like to leave you with three status updates. 1–May the Lord friend you and tag you. 2–May the Lord make His profile photo shine upon you, and be trending unto you. And 3–May the Lord offer a notification about you and grant you followers.”

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Gefilte Fish

Ashkenazic Jews around the world traditionally serve gefilte fish at their seders. Gefilte fish is usually made by grinding fish such as carp, whitefish or pike, forming patties with matzah meal, eggs and onions, and poaching it. Which of the following are true gefilte fish stories?

Gefilte fish

Passover Seder 5771 - Gefilte Fish by Edsel Little is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. Donald Trump spoke at a rally in Brooklyn’s Chassidic neighborhood, Borough Park a few days before Passover. Looking out at the crowd, all wearing black coats and hats, he said, “Thanks for coming out today. I know that everyone is busy getting ready for Passover, like my daughter Ivanka, who you know is Jewish. I had a gefilte fish at Jared’s house last year. It’s a great fish. An American fish. Not like sushi, or ceviche. Gonna put a tariff on foreign fish. I have a great relationship with gefilte fish. Not like Hillary Clinton. You heard what the people said. Lox her up. Lox her up.”

BSaid rapper LL Cool J, “My grandfather was from the Bronx. He came home with gefilte fish every week. I didn’t like it, no disrespect, but I loved him.”

C. Comedian Seth Meyers said that his father, who was Jewish, loved gefilte fish and borscht. But Meyers said, “My brother and I thought it was disgusting. That is not gateway food if you want your kids to embrace Judaism.”

D. Terrell Suggs, an African-American linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, spoke about how he managed to lose weight, saying “I like my fried chicken, my pizza, my peaches and my gefilte fish. I had to cut all that out.”

EActor Tiffany Haddish ignited a huge controversy in the entertainment world when she said in an interview with GQ, “There was this actress there that’s just, like, doing the mostest. She bit Beyoncé in the face.” Rumors swirled as to who committed this dastardly deed, and why? Denials came in from Lena Dunham, Jennifer Anniston, Frances McDormand and Amy Adams, among others. It was finally determined that the bite came from actress Sanaa Lathan, star of The Best Man, who admitted, “It was me. But I swear, it was an accident. I saw Beyoncé at a Barney Greengrass and she was eating gefilte fish. It looked so good. I mean, man, gefilte fish. I love gefilte fish. She was down to her last bite and I just couldn’t stop myself. I lunged for the fork as she raised it to her mouth, and I missed and bit her on the chin. I’m so sorry, Bey. But gee, I wish I could’a had that gefilte fish.”

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New Haggadot

In RASHI, RAMBAM and HAGGADAH-LAMADINGDONG: A Quiz Haggadah of Jewish Trivia Facts & Fun, there is a question (see picture below) about unusual Haggadot that have been published in recent years, including Ina Gada Haggadah, Haggadah for Jews & Buddhists, and The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County Haggadah (click here to get your copy and learn which of these really exists). Since the publication of that question, more new and unusual Haggadot have been published, including which of the following?

RASHI, RAMBAM and HAGGADAH-LAMADINGDONG question about Haggadot.


AA Passover Haggadah in Poems; The Thinking Man’s Haggadah in English; and The (unofficial) Hogwarts Haggadah.

BGlobal Diversity Haggadah; Mish and Mush Haggadah; and For This We Left Egypt?: A Passover Haggadah for Jews and Those Who Love Them.

CWorthy is Jah Lamb: A Rastafari Passover Haggadah; The Atheist Haggadah; and The Hyper-Modern Ancient With-It Traditional Haggadah.

DThe Southern Passover Seder: Haggadah shel Dixie; The Ha-Haggadah: A Series of Unfortunate Egyptian Events; and The Family (and Frog!) Haggadah.

ETenth Plague: A Shakespearean Haggadah; The Zombie Haggadah; and THE TRUMP PASSOVER HAGGADAH: “People All The Time They Come Up And Tell Me This Is The Best Haggadah They’ve Ever Read, They Do, Believe Me”.

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Irish Jews

Jews have a long history in Ireland, with historical references as far back as the eleventh century. Today there are approximately 2500 Jews living in Ireland, a community which included such prominent members as Immanuel Jakobovits, former chief rabbi of Ireland and the first rabbi to sit in the British House of Lords; Robert Briscoe, former mayor of Dublin; and sixth president of Israel Chaim Herzog. Which of the following is a real organization of Irish Jews in the United States?

Fitzpatrick's Jewish Deli

Irish Jewish by Sam Szapucki is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. The Moses and Erin Go Bragh Society.

B. LLOYSOE, the Loyal League of the Yiddish Sons of Erin.

C. CBaC/CBoR Society, the Corn Beef and Cabbage/Corn Beef on Rye Society.

D. The Lepri-Kahns Landsmannschaft.

E. The Ancient Order of Chai-Bernie-Ans.

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Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, is in the news lately regarding a payment he made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, ostensibly to ensure her silence regarding an alleged affair with the president. Cohen has had a long-standing personal and professional relationship with Trump, previously serving as the Executive Vice-President of the Trump Organization. The son of a Holocaust survivor, Cohen included Donald Trump among the guests at his children’s Bar and Bat Mitzvahs (a point Cohen made as proof that Trump is not a racist). When Donald Trump first considered running for president in 2012, he described himself as pro-life, despite a clear public stance in favor of abortion rights in the past. How did Michael Cohen explain Trump’s reversal on this issue?

Michael Cohen

Trump executive Michael Cohen 015 by is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. Said Cohen, “People change their positions all the time, the way synagogues change rabbis.”

BSaid Cohen, “People change their positions all the time, the way they change their wives.”

C. Said Cohen, “People change their positions all the time, the way Conservative Jews now eat rice on Passover.”

D. Said Cohen, “People change their positions all the time, the way that Barack Obama now disavows the Reverend Wright.”

E. Said Cohen, “People change their positions all the time, the way they change the sheets at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton Hotel.”

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