Jewish Trivia Quiz

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

Alan Dershowitz

Lawyer and professor Alan Dershowitz has spent much of his career defending controversial figures, including O. J. Simpson, Claus von Bülow, Patty Hearst, Mike Tyson, Leona Helmsley, Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein, and now Donald Trump. He has also been a staunch defender of Israel and advocate for Jewish causes. Professor Dershowitz was scheduled to participate in a mock trial; however, the hosts canceled the event. What were the circumstances?

Alan Dershowitz

Alan Dershowitz by The Huntington is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. In 1995, Dershowitz was scheduled to participate in a mock trial at New York’s Central Synagogue entitled “If the Tefillin Don’t Fit, You Must Acquit: Should Abraham Have Killed his Bound Son?” based on the Biblical story of Abraham preparing to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac upon God’s command. However, the event was called off when it was announced that Dershowitz had joined the legal team defending O. J. Simpson against charges of killing his wife. A spokesman for the synagogue said, “In the interest of not conflating the story of O. J. Simpson with our forefather Abraham, we have concluded that it is best to cancel this mock trial.”

B. In December 2019, Dershowitz was scheduled to participate in a mock trial at The Great Synagogue of Jerusalem entitled “Be My, Be My Bibi: Should Benjamin Netanyahu’s Indictments Be Quashed?” Dershowitz issued a statement in advance of the mock trial, saying that the Israeli attorney general “completely failed to meet that high constitutional standard and, therefore, it would be unconstitutional to remove a president based on the allegations that were made against them in the articles of impeachment.” When told that his comments must be referring to the impeachment of President Trump rather than the indictment of Prime Minister Netanyahu, Dershowitz said, “Trump. Bibi. Harvey. OJ. Claus. Jeffrey. They’re all the same to me.”

C. In August 2019, Dershowitz was scheduled to participate in a mock trial at New York’s Temple Emanu-El entitled “The Charges: Kidnaping and Child Trafficking” based on the Biblical story of Joseph, whose brothers kidnapped him and sold him into slavery. Dershowitz was going to serve as the defense attorney for Joseph’s brothers, defending their actions against Joseph. The event was canceled, however, after Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide. Dershowitz had previously defended Epstein, helping him secure a beneficial plea deal to charges of sexually abusing young girls, and it was decided that Dershowitz’s role in this mock trial defending kidnaping and child trafficking would be problematic, to say the least.

D. In April 2019, Dershowitz was scheduled to participate in a mock trial at New York’s B’nai Jeshurun synagogue entitled, “The Thousand Songs of Solomon: Should the 1000 Wives and Concubines of Solomon Disqualify Him as Israel’s Greatest King?”. Dershowitz’s role was to defend King Solomon, arguing that all of Solomon’s relationships were voluntary, and that this was the nature of male/female relationships during that Biblical era. The event was canceled, however, when Dershowitz joined the legal defense team for Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual assault by more than 100 women. Said Dershowitz upon learning of the cancellation, “Mr. Weinstein and King Solomon both deserve the best defense possible, and I was prepared to do so for both. However, I will continue to defend Mr. Weinstein, and I will leave it to others to defend King Solomon.”

E. In early January 2020, Dershowitz was scheduled to participate in a mock trial at Washington D.C.’s Sixth & I synagogue entitled “It’s a Family Affair: Was Jacob Right to Steal His Brother’s Birthright?”. Dershowitz had submitted his opening argument for the mock trial to the synagogue for use in their publicity: “There is no question but that Jacob did the right thing, and there is no doubt that his father Isaac rightly enabled Jacob to carry out his deception.” However, shortly before the mock trial, Dershowitz, in preparation for his defense of President Trump, said, “There is no question but that Hunter Biden did the wrong thing, and there is no doubt that his father Joe Biden wrongly enabled Hunter to carry out his deception.” At which point the synagogue canceled the mock trial, saying, “Oy vey, what were we thinking? Instead of a mock trial, please join us for a chicken dinner and screening of the movie Fiddler on the Roof.”

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Jerry Nadler

Congressman Jerry Nadler is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which drafted the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Nadler is now one of seven Congresspersons who will serve as prosecutors during the Senate trial. Congressman Nadler was born in Brooklyn to Jewish parents, and is the only current member of Congress to have a Yeshiva education. When Congressman Nadler ran for reelection in 2016, he faced primary opposition from Oliver Rosenberg, a gay Yeshiva University graduate who switched his registration from Republican to Democratic in 2012. Rosenberg was particularly critical of Nadler’s vote in favor of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. What famous person placed robocalls to district voters criticizing Nadler, who went on to win that primary and reelection to his 14th term?

Congressman Jerry Nadler

U.S. Representative & Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) by U.S. House Office of Photography is in the public domain.

ANew York assemblyman Dov Hikind issued the robocall, saying “It’s a no-brainer that I’m going to vote for Rosenberg and everyone in my family is going to vote for him. One of the major reasons is we don’t forget that Nadler set the tone and played an important role in support for Obama in the Iran deal. We can disagree on most issues, but the Iran deal was a defining piece of legislation and it defined what Jerry Nadler was really all about. In our community, I can’t imagine anyone voting for Nadler.”

B. Howard Stern, famous shock jock and SiriusXM broadcaster, said the following on the robocall: “Hi New York. Yes, it’s me, Howard Stern calling you. Now I know you’re wondering why I would get involved in this election. Well, there’s two reasons. The first is that I love the idea of a gay Yeshiva bocher in Congress. Only in New York, am I right? And also, because I know that Iran is just waiting for any opportunity to blow us off the planet. And now Jerry Nadler has made that more likely. So I’m telling you. You have to vote for the gay Jew. Got it? Gay Jew for Congress!”

C. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani recorded the robocall, saying, “I am America’s mayor. But more imporantly, I was New York’s mayor. So I know what’s best for New Yorkers. And what’s best is not Jerry Nadler, who just voted to sell out Israel, America’s greatest ally and such an important place for New York’s Jewish community. It’s time for New Yorkers to retire Jerry Nadler.”

DComedian Jackie Mason recorded the message, which said “You would never know he was a Jew all his life. By looking at him, you could tell he’s a little overweight, and he’s a little short...He winds up voting for something like the Iran deal. And you know what happens to the Jews? The Jews are facing the hydrogen bomb. No decent person would vote for Jerry Nadler.”

E. Donald Trump lent his support to Oliver Rosenberg, saying, “That’s right. It’s me, Donald Trump on this robot call. And yes, this is the perfect robot call. Like all my calls. This call is for you Jews, who unlike my son-in-law Jared, do not love Israel enough. I know many of you are in the real estate business. You’re brutal killers. Not nice people at all. But you have to vote for Oliver, you have no choice. Oliver is a great gay. I mean, a great guy. So believe me. You must not vote for Zaftig Nadler.”

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Jeopardy

Jeopardy continues to make the news. Host Alex Trebek and his wife recently gave an interview to Michael Strahan about his struggle with pancreatic cancer. One of last week’s episodes has raised some controversy when a contestant’s answer of Palestine as the location of the Church of the Nativity was not accepted (with Israel being given as the correct answer). And the show is generating huge ratings with its Greatest of All Time tournament between Brad Rutter, Ken Jennings, and James Holzhauer, with the winner to be determined this week. Over the years there have been many Jeopardy questions with a Jewish theme. In 2015, returning champion Choyon Manjrekar won a match despite his wrong answer to the question “A Christian hymn and a Jewish holiday hymn are both titled this, also the name of a 2009 Tony-nominated musical.” What was his funny/controversial wrong answer that went viral at the time?

Alex Trebek

160204-D-PB383-346 by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AJesus Christ Superstar.

BAmerican Idiot.

CKinky Boots.

DThe Book of Mormon.

EI Can Get It For You Wholesale.

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Rudy Giuliani

There are still many unanswered questions remaining as to the role that Rudy Giuliani played in the efforts by President Trump to have Ukraine investigate Joe Biden’s son Hunter, Joe Biden himself, and Hillary Clinton. It is known that Giuliani had ties to Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were indicted for conspiring to violate the ban on foreign donations in connection with United States elections. Parnas and Fruman also introduced Giuliani to a Ukrainian rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Azman, who bestowed what title on the man who was once known as “America's Mayor?”

Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. Rabbi Azman gave Giuliani the title of “Honorary Chief Rabbi of Ukraine” and presented him with a mezuzah.

B. Rabbi Azman gave Giuliani the title of “Rudy, Melech Yisrael” and gave him a yarmulke with a map of Israel and a map of Ukraine linked by a Jewish star.

C. Rabbi Azman gave Giuliani the title of “Honorary Mayor of Anatevka” and awarded him a key to the city.

D. Rabbi Azman gave Giuliani the title of “The Righteous Gentile of Ukraine” and planted a tree in his honor in front of the Great Choral Synagogue of Kiev.

E. Rabbi Azman gave Giuliani the title of “More of a Jew Than George Soros” and circumcised him.

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Jerry Herman, z”l

Tony Award-winner Jerry Herman, composer of Mame, Hello, Dolly! and La Cage aux Folles, died last week. His first Broadway score was for the musical Milk and Honey, which told the story of Jewish widows traveling to Israel with hopes of finding husbands. Among the stars of Milk and Honey was Yiddish theatre legend Molly Picon, who had first appeared on stage in 1904 at the age of 6. When Milk and Honey was in previews in New Haven, Picon got a rousing round of applause following her rendition of the song Hymn to Hymie. The show’s director, Albert Marre, then suggested to Jerry Herman that they add Picon’s “trademark move” at the end of that song. Herman questioned what the move had to do with the song, to which Marre replied, “We’re a musical comedy, we can do what we want.” What was the 64-year-old Picon’s “move” that Marre and Herman added to the show?

Jerry_Herman_2010 by U.S. federal government is in the public domain.

A. She launched into a Tza’ad Temani, the traditional Yemenite dance steps often performed at Sephardic weddings.

BShe started shimmying and shaking her arms in the air, a dance move that she first performed in the 1936 movie Yidl Mitn Fidl. In the movie, Picon and her father are traveling musicians in Poland, and she dresses as a boy for safety, which becomes complicated when she falls in love with another of the musicians and performs that dance move. Picon’s dance was later copied by Jerome Robbins for Tevye’s If I Were a Rich Man choreography in Fiddler on the Roof.

CPicon, who was the daughter of Polish immigrants, danced the Mazurka, which is a traditional up-tempo Polish dance common among Ashkenazic Jews.

D. Picon revived her famous “patsh-tants” moves that she first performed in the film Mamele in 1938. Patsh-tants means clap dance, and refers to a style of dancing with hand clapping that was common at Jewish weddings in Eastern Europe.

EShe did a somersault, a move she had done since she was a rambunctious young girl dancing around her living room.

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Chanukkah Miracle

The primary focus of Chanukkah is on the miracle of the oil. The Maccabees rededicated the Temple after their victory over the Greeks, and found only enough oil to last for one day. But miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, leading to the 8-day celebration of Chanukkah and the lighting of the menorah. When was the story of the oil miracle first mentioned?

Chanukkah menorahs

AThe Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus wrote about the oil miracle in his book Jewish Antiquities, about a hundred years after the Maccabean victory. He described in great detail the decrepit condition of the Temple when the Maccabees arrived, including “plants growing in the temple of their own accord.” He also noted the effort of the Maccabees to find oil for the rededication of the Temple, writing, “they searched throughout the Temple, and in every corner, but did not find enough holy oil for their needs.” But Josephus ends by saying that “Judas and his men praised God for the light which shone for eight days and eight nights.”

B. The oil miracle was not mentioned until about 600 years after the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees. In the Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 21b states that “there was sufficient oil there to light the candelabrum for only one day. A miracle occurred and they lit the candelabrum from it eight days. The next year the Sages instituted those days and made them holidays with recitation of Hallel and special thanksgiving in prayer and blessings.”

C. The miracle is described in the first Book of Maccabees which was written soon after the Maccabean victory. The book describes Alexander the Great’s conquest of Judea, his eventual replacement by Antiochus, and the Maccabean revolt and victory. The last chapter of the Book of Maccabees describes the return to the Temple and its rededication, stating “They rose early on the morning of the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, that is, the month of Kislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight, and offered sacrifice according to the law on the new altar for burnt offerings that they had made...For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar and joyfully praised God for the miracle of light.”

D. The Mishnah was compiled by Rabbi Judah the Prince around 200 CE, about 350 years after the Maccabean victory. Much of the Mishnah focuses on the Oral Tradition, noting the debates of the rabbis on such topics as marriage, civil law, and sacrificial rites. In the Tractate Chanukkah, Rabbi Judah writes about the miracle of the oil lasting eight days, and goes on to describe the debate between Hillel and Shammai regarding the correct way to light the menorah (Shammai said that it was correct to light eight candles on the first night, and one less each subsequent night, while Hillel argued that “On the first day one kindles one light, and from there on, gradually increases the number of lights until, on the last day, they kindle eight lights.”)

EIn the Book of Chevron, written centuries after the rededication of the Temple, it was posited that oil could last forever, a concept which maintains primacy among certain politicians in America to this very day.

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Toilets in Israel

President Trump railed against regulations which are designed to conserve water by claiming that people flush their toilets 10 or 15 times. Unlike America, Israeli toilets all have double handles, allowing the flusher to use less water when that is called for. Archaeologists in Israel have discovered toilets that are thousands of years old, and the Book of Judges includes a reference to King Eglon of Moab which says, “When they saw that the doors of the upper chamber were locked, they thought, ‘He must be relieving himself in the cool chamber.’ ” [Chapter 3, Verse 24]. Much is written in the Talmud about bathroom etiquette, including by Rabbi Tanhum b. Hanilai, who said “Whoever behaves modestly in a privy is delivered from three things: from snakes, from scorpions, and from evil spirits.” [Berakhot 62a]. In 1975, Israeli writer Alona Frankel wrote a toilet training book for her child that became universally used in Israel and around the world, and is still in print today. The child finally succeeds at the task, and ends the book by saying “Bye-bye, wee-wee, Bye-bye, poo-poo.” What is the title of that children’s book?

Ancient Toilets-Israel by Greg Schechter is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AMy Little Pishers.

BHaggadah Go. Now!

CJudah Make-a-Pee.

DThe Book of Tuches.

ESir HaSirim (Potty of Potties).

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Israeli Cars

Automobile manufacturers are in the news lately. Tesla had a huge fail during the marketing “reveal” of their new Cybertruck, when a steel ball thrown at the window smashed through the supposedly unbreakable armored glass. Dozens of companies are working on self-driving cars, including Amazon, Bosch, Apple, and Samsung, along with many traditional auto manufacturers. And the movie Ford V Ferrari starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale highlights the true story of Henry Ford II and Lee Iaococca as they attempted to create a racing car that could defeat the dominant Ferrari at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France. Meanwhile, an Israeli startup named REE has brought their own ingenuity to auto design. What is the unique feature of the automobile they are developing?

"Jewish" car

Breslau Car-1 by zeevveez is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. Addressing the very high rate of injuries and deaths from auto accidents in Israel, REE has developed a car that will not crash into other vehicles, road signs, trees, or pedestrians. The car utilizes the Iron Dome technology developed by the Israeli defense industry. Sensors mounted on the front of the car detect potential obstacles ahead and immediately launch intercept rockets to eliminate the potential collision risk. The car’s production is on hold, however, as the courts attempt to resolve a lawsuit filed by the Israeli Safe Streets Association, a pedestrian-safety organization which objects to missiles being launched at jaywalkers.

B. Utilizing technology developed by Israel’s energy industries, REE has created a car which is completely powered by solar panels on its roof. The difficult part of the project was not the collection of solar energy (though the solar panels eliminate the ability to have a sunroof or moonroof on the car), but rather the storage of the energy for use at night or during periods of limited sunshine. Israeli engineers at the Technion Institute were able to develop storage batteries that are a built-in component of the car’s chassis and doors.

C. REE engineers designed the car based on the hoverboards which have become ubiquitous in Israel and elsewhere. The car does not have a front engine and steering mechanism, but rather functions with all of the major components (motor, brakes, drivetrain, steering, etc) built into the wheels, which are topped by a flat skateboard chassis.

D. Utilizing one of Israel’s most abundant resources, REE has developed a car engine that runs on salt water. The high electrical conductivity of salt water makes it a product that is very conducive to energy-producing reactions, and the only emission is clean water. The car is also lightweight, as all of the engine components are made of aluminum, to avoid the possibility of rust formation from the salt water.

E. Engineers at REE have designed an “Orthodox friendly” minivan, which they are calling the ChassidiVan. The 6-person vehicle is built with an expandable accordion design, allowing the car to be lengthened as the size of the family grows, ultimately accommodating up to 12 passengers. The car is programmed to automatically stop driving 20 minutes before sundown on Friday nights and holidays, and won't start up again until Shabbat or the holiday ends. The Diaspora model is specifically designed for export sales, as it is programmed to shut down for two days on the major holidays. The ChassidiVan also comes with a raised roof over the driver’s seat, based on the cupola top of the Israeli Merkava tank, to accommodate the tall shtreimel hat worn by religious drivers. Plus, the vehicle features 8 milchig and 8 fleishig cupholders.

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Netanyahu Indictment

Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu faces a leadership battle within the Likud party following his indictment for fraud, breach of trust, and bribery. In one investigation known as Case 2000, it is alleged that Bibi pressured Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Israel Hayom newspaper, not to expand, which would benefit another newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, and its publisher Arnon Mozes who was also indicted. This case pits Netanyahu against Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, who were previously among Bibi’s biggest supporters. Miriam Adelson, who is the current publisher of Israel Hayom, told investigators, among other things, that Sara Netanyahu complained that when Israel Hayom published a picture of her, the picture was too small. What bad consequence did Sara Netanyahu say would befall Bibi because Israel Hayom did not defend him enough?

Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu

Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu

A. She stated that their lack of support would lead to Bibi’s electoral defeat.

BShe complained that if Donald Trump got impeached, Bibi would be blamed for naming an Israeli town after him.

C. She said the newspaper’s lack of support for Bibi would lead him to be blamed if Iran got nuclear weapons and wiped out Israel.

DShe said that because of their lack of support, Bibi would definitely be indicted.

E. She said that the paper’s insufficient defense of Bibi would lead to his ouster, followed by his loss to Sean Spicer on Dancing With the Stars.

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Hunter Biden

Impeachment hearings for President Donald Trump focus on his withholding of Congressionally-authorized United States aid to Ukraine in order to first get a Ukrainian commitment to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. It is alleged that this was an extortion effort by Trump for the purpose of hurting his Democratic rival and benefiting his own reelection efforts. Hunter Biden has what Jewish connection in his life?

Hunter Biden

Hunter Biden 3219469044 by acaben is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AHunter Biden and his wife Melissa, who is Jewish, are members of a Reform synagogue. Hunter Biden recently became one of two non-Jewish members of the Board of Trustees of the Temple.

B. Hunter Biden and his wife Melissa, who is Jewish, both have tattoos which read “Ani Dodi v’Dodi Li” in Hebrew (“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”)

CHunter Biden attended Georgetown University, where he was one of the first two non-Jewish members of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity.

D. Hunter Biden and his wife Melissa, who is Jewish, both have tattoos which read “Shalom” in Hebrew.

EHunter Biden, whose wife Melissa is Jewish, joined the board of her synagogue, which paid him $50,000/month, even though he never did any work and he did not even show up in shul.

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