Sunday, May 9th 2021   |

Jewish Trivia Quiz

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

James Carville

Democratic political operative James Carville, chief architect of Bill Clinton’s presidential election, gave an interview recently to the online news site Vox on the election of Joe Biden, and the current state of the Democratic Party. He praised President Biden (“It’s very difficult to find something to complain about.”). And he offered advice and criticism to the Democratic Party for their overall poor results (other than winning the presidency) in the last election (“We won the White House against a world-historical buffoon. And we came within 42,000 votes of losing.”). What “Jewish-referenced” comment did Carville offer?

James Carville

James Carville by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A. Speaking of the division between Republicans and Democrats over the last few administrations, Carville said, “Not every problem is intractable, like the Israeli/Palestinian issue, chas v’chalila. Most issues really do have points of compromise. We just need politicians who are willing to compromise.”

B. Said Carville, who was an advisor to Ehud Barak in the 1999 Israeli elections, “Do I think anything is possible in politics? Hey. I'm the guy who helped Ehud Barak defeat Bibi Netanyahu for prime minister in 1999. I haven’t seen anybody else doing that lately, even with that guy under indictment. Guess you could say I’m a goy with a yiddishe kop!”

CReferencing the way that politicians communicate, using too much “jargon-y language,” Carville said that political speech needs to be more accessible. He went on to say, “I always tell people that we’ve got to stop speaking Hebrew and start speaking Yiddish. We have to speak the way regular people speak, the way voters speak.”

D. Regarding his general philosophy about political work, Carville said, “Coming from Louisiana, I always say that we have to view American politics like red beans and rice. You have to take your time to get where you’re going. Put the beans in a pot, put it on the stove on low, and give it most of the day. Don’t rush it. If you’re patient, you’ll end up with a simple but delicious feast. I told this story once when signing books in New York and this lady said to me, ‘That’s just what my Bubby always said to me. Be patient. But she talked about her cholent sitting on the stove overnight’.”

ECarville married Mary Matalin in 1993. She was a Republican political consultant and operative, having worked for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, as well as Vice President Dick Cheney. Said Carville, “People ask me all the time how I could marry Mary? I have no idea (well, really, I have no idea why she would marry me). But knowing that we made our marriage work is what gave me the chutzpah to push President Clinton to get Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat to shake hands at Camp David.”

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Abbie Hoffman

Among the nominations for Best Picture at the 2021 Academy Awards was The Trial of the Chicago Seven, and that movie featured Sacha Baron Cohen, nominee for Best Supporting Actor (neither won). Cohen played Abbie Hoffman, Viet Nam war protestor, co-founder of the Youth International Party (Yippies), and one of the defendants in the trial of the Chicago Seven, charged with intent to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention. Hoffman said that Judaism informed his world view in regard to the importance of rebellion, as he wrote in his autobiography Soon To Be A Major Motion Picture. “Intellectual arrogance and moral indignation grow out of the ghetto history. For 5,000 years, Jews always had the opportunity to rebel against authority, because for 5,000 years there was always someone trying to break their backs.” What was Abbie Hoffman’s “Jewish” interaction with pediatrician Dr. Spock, a fellow anti-war protestor?

Abbie Hoffman and Jane Fonda

1970, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA - Jane Fonda - Jane Fonda by Tommy Japan 79 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

ADr. Spock was president of the synagogue where Abbie Hoffman was bar mitzvah, and presented him with a gift from the congregation.

BAbbie Hoffman cooked gefilte fish from scratch for Dr. Spock when Spock invited him for dinner while they were both hiding from authorities in the Virgin Islands.

CDr. Spock performed Abbie Hoffman’s circumcision.

DOne of the protest activities at the 1968 Democratic Convention was a Friday night Shabbat service and protest led by Rabbi Michael Lerner. Following the service, Hoffman and Dr. Spock danced the hora arm in arm.

EAbbie Hoffman, who is a Kohen, met Dr. Spock for the first time when they both spoke at an anti-war rally in New York’s Central Park in 1967. Rather than extending his hand in greeting, Hoffman held up both hands with fingers spread in the traditional pose of the Kohanim, the Jewish priests, much to Dr. Spock’s bewilderment. It turns out that Hoffman confused Dr. Spock with Mr. Spock, who co-opted the Kohen sign as the Vulcan salute on Star Trek.

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Hatikvah

Israel celebrated her 73rd birthday with the Yom Ha’atzmaut holiday last week. Among the many ways in which the occasion was noted was the singing of Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, by Wanda Howard Battle as part of the Israeli embassy’s virtual celebration.  Battle is a vocalist at Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. She had recently led Israeli ambassador Gilad Erdan on a tour of the church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been the pastor, and where he had helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. Hatikvah was not officially adopted as the Israel national anthem until 2004, though it had been the de facto anthem since statehood was declared in 1948. Hatikvah, under the name Tikvatenu (Our Hope), was originally a poem written in 1878 by Naftali Herz Imber, a Jewish poet from Ukraine. In 1887, Shmuel Cohen of Rishon LeZion sang the poem using a Moldavian folk-song melody. That melody, which is the tune that Hatikvah continues to be sung to, actually has roots to the 16th century in Italy, from a song called La Mantovana (Mantua Dance) by Giuseppe Cenci. The Hatikvah melody has been heard more recently when a singer sampled the tune in one of his songs. Which rap or hip hop musician sampled the music of Hatikvah in a rap song?

Israeli flag with Hatikvah lyrics

HaTikvah Flag by Avital Pinnick  is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

ATupac Shakur.

BDrake.

CMatisyahu.

DThe Notorious B.I.G.

EThe Notorious Bet Ayin Gimel.

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Prince Philip, RIP

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth, died last week at the age of 99. He was born into the Greek and Danish royal families, and in 1939 he joined the British Royal Navy. After the war, British King George VI gave him permission to marry his daughter, the then Princess Elizabeth. She ascended to the throne upon George’s death in 1952, and Philip was made a British Prince in 1957. Which of the following is true about Prince Philip and his family?

Prince Philip

HRH Prince Philip by Joe Lane is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A. Prince Philip’s sister Sophie was married to a Nazi who was director of the Third Reich’s Ministry of Air Forces and held the rank of Oberführer in the SS.

B. Prince Philip’s mother Alice is honored as a Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem in Israel for sheltering a Jewish family in her house in Greece during World War II.

CPrince Philip’s son Prince Charles owns a velvet yarmulke with his official royal crest on it.

D. Prince Philip’s sister Margarita married a German aristrocrat who became a Nazi officer who was later implicated in the “Operation Valkyrie” plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944.

EPrince Philip’s son Prince Charles was circumcised by Rabbi Jacob Snowman, the renowned mohel of the Jewish community of London.

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Marijuana

The medical use of marijuana is legal in 36 states, and recreational use is legal in 15 states, with New York joining that list last month. Medical marijuana is legal in Israel, and recreational use is mostly decriminalized, with little enforcement. A draft law is being considered to legalize recreational use, though smoking in public places will not be allowed. Most religious authorities agree that marijuana is kosher, as it is a plant which would not even need certification unless it was processed or included in an edible product. In 2020, archaeologists and scientists studied residue found in an altar at Tel Arad in Israel from the period 760 BCE to 715 BCE and determined that it was the remnants of burning cannabis plants used in a ritual ceremony. What term related to marijuana is believed to have Jewish roots?

Marijuana plant

Marijuana Plants by Anthony Quintano is licensed under CC BY 2.0

ALinguists believe that the source of the word marijuana is the name מר חנה, Mar Chana, meaning the Sea of Chana, a small body of water in northern Israel in the area that the cannabis plant was grown in Biblical times.

BIt is believed that the word cannabis derives from the Hebrew words, קנה בשם, Kaneh Bosem, which was one of the ingredients of anointing oils mentioned in Exodus.

CThere are many theories behind the use of the number 420 in reference to marijuana. Many think that the number refers to California penal code Section 420 about marijuana, and others contend that Bob Dylan's song Rainy Day Woman #12 and 35 is the source (“Everybody must get stoned,” not to mention that 12x35=420). But the most likely source is Hebrew gematria, where the numerical value of words is analyzed. The Hebrew word עשן, Ashan (ayin, shin, nun) means smoke, which has a value of 420 in gematria.

DThe word ganja, typically used by Rastafarians to refer to marijuana, comes from the Hebrew words גן יה, Gan Ya, meaning Garden of God. Rastafarians believe that the Tree of Life referred to in the Biblical story of Eden is in fact the marijuana plant.

EOne day Shirley Sobchak came home to find her son, Wally, smoking marijuana. She was shocked, and said to him, “Walter! What are you? A putz? Smoking?” Wally, being high, misheard her and said, “Yeah, I’m pot smoking. But don’t worry. I don’t roll on Shabbos.” And thus was born the phrase Pot Smoking for using marijuana.

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Seder Plate

Jews around the world celebrated Passover with the traditional seder meal, some in person, many more via online technology, as the pandemic took its toll on the holiday for the second year in a row. One of the primary traditions of Passover is the inclusion of a seder plate, consisting of a variety of symbolic items, including bitter herbs, representing the harshness of slavery suffered by the Jews in Egypt, and a shank bone, a symbol of the korban pesach, or paschal lamb sacrifice. A tradition started 40 years ago that has gained widespread acceptance in many non-Orthodox households is the placement of an orange on the seder plate. Though many see this as a symbol of women’s important role in Judaism, it was in fact started by Jewish feminist scholar Susannah Heschel in support of gays and lesbians. More recently, others have suggested new additions to the seder plate, though none has as yet gained widespread acceptance. Which of the following are among those new seder plate suggestions?

Passover Seder Plate

Passover Seder plate with wine and matzot by Mikael Häggström, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons is licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

AA group of rabbis and others representing The Jewish Working Group to End The New Jim Crow suggested the addition of a padlock and a key to call attention to the problem of mass incarceration in America.

B. Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael, Spiritual Arts Director of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, suggested the addition of an artichoke to symbolize the issue of intermarriage within the Jewish community. She notes that the artichoke is complex, with its petals, thistle and heart, and thus represents the diversity of the Jewish people. But she also says that the thorny bristles reflect the fact that “the Jewish people have been thorny about” the issue of interfaith marriage.

CA number of years ago, Rabbi Wesley Gardenswartz, senior rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Newton, Massachusetts, had seen a sign in a local CVS drug store asking people to buy bags of cashews for U.S. troops who were serving in Iraq. The Rabbi learned that the salty nuts were considered a good way to keep the service men and women hydrated in the dry dessert. The Rabbi went on to urge his congregants to include cashews on their seder plates to honor the soldiers serving in Iraq.

DIn 2015, the world was saddened to see a photograph of a young Syrian boy who had drowned off the coast of Turkey (along with his mother and brother) as their family attempted to escape the civil war in Syria. The father spoke of how he had given his sons bananas every day despite the difficulty of obtaining this fruit in war-torn Syria, in an attempt to make their lives just a bit sweeter. In response to this story, Rabbi Dan Moskovitz of Temple Sholom in Vancouver, British Columbia suggested the placing of a banana on the seder plate to remind us of the plight of refugees world-wide.

EGovernor Brian Kemp of Georgia just signed a bill designed to “make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.” One of the provisions of the bill is to make it illegal to provide water or food to someone standing in line outside a polling place, as this is one of the primary ways that Joe Biden, Reverend Raphael Warnock, and Jon Ossoff were able to fraudulently win in the recent Georgia elections. To further promote this “good government” legislation, Governor Kemp has called on all Jewish Georgians to add a glass of water to their seder plates. Said Governor Kemp, “Your tradition says, ‘let all who are hungry, come and eat.’ I support that, so long as this does not take place in a line outside a polling place. If we make it easy for white people to vote, but difficult for minorities to stand in a ridiculously long line suffering from hunger and dehydration, Dayenu!”

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The Dead Sea Scrolls

Researchers at the Israel Antiquities Authority announced that additional Dead Sea Scrolls have been found and studied, including texts from the Books of Zechariah and Nahum. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of ancient manuscripts (including every book of the Hebrew Bible except for Esther) found in the Qumran Caves of the Judaean desert. The scrolls generally date to the third century BCE through the first century of the common era, and are among the oldest copies of most of the Hebrew Biblical texts. The original discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls took place in 1946 and 1947 when young Bedouin shepherds stumbled upon the caves and large clay jars which contained many of the leather and papyrus scrolls and fragments. The Bedouins who found the original scrolls sold some to local antiques dealers, and they changed hands multiple times. Meanwhile, other caves were searched by Bedouins as well as archaeologists from the American Schools of Oriental Research, yielding additional scrolls and fragments. Almost all of the Dead Sea Scrolls that have been found to date are housed in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. How did Israel obtain a number of the Dead Sea Scrolls?

The Dead Sea Scrolls

dead-sea-scroll-israeli-museum-jerusalem- by Larry Koester is licensed under CC BY 2.0

AResearchers from the American Schools of Oriental Research sold the scrolls and fragments which they had discovered to the Israel Antiquities Authority in 1959. The IAA then began initial research into the authenticity of the scrolls, before passing them on to the Israel Museum which constructed the Shrine of the Book in 1965.

BA few of the scrolls were in the The National Museum of Damascus, having been obtained from one of the antiques dealers to whom the Bedouins had sold some of their finds. In 1962, Israeli spy Elie Cohen was working undercover in Syria, and one of his accomplishments was to provide information to the Mossad about the location of the scrolls. The Mossad then arranged for some of their operatives to steal the scrolls and bring them to Israel.

CA number of the scrolls were in the possession of Jordanian authorities who had obtained them from antiques dealers in Syria and Lebanon. After the Six Day War, Israel gained control over all of Jerusalem, including the Jordanian Department of Antiquities. After negotiations, the Jordanians agreed to turn over to Israel their Dead Sea Scrolls while maintaining possession and authority over other antiquities that were housed in the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount.

D. Many of the scrolls were discovered by Professor Yigael Yadin, an archaeologist and researcher who led an excavation of some of the Qumran Caves beginning in 1951, shortly after Israel’s War of Independence gave Israel possession of the Judaean Desert territory where the caves are located.

EProfessor Yigael Yadin purchased four of the scrolls when they were offered in a Wall Street Journal classified ad under the category “Miscellaneous Items for Sale.”

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Tiffany Haddish

Comedian Tiffany Haddish won a Grammy award for Best Comedy Album for her album Black Mitzvah, the recording of her 2019 Netflix comedy special. In the performance, Haddish explored her Jewish heritage, something she only discovered as a young adult when she learned that her father was an Eritrean Jew. Haddish embraced her Jewish heritage and held a bat mitzvah under the guidance of Rabbi Susan Silverman, including Torah reading and a d’var Torah speech about Jacob’s ladder from the Parsha Vayetze. But Haddish was no stranger to Judaism, as she had worked since the age of 17 as a dancer and an MC at more than 500 bar and bat mitzvah parties. What did Haddish say about that experience?

Tiffany Haddish (2019) by MTV International  is licensed under CC BY 3.0

A. “I’ve been to like over 500 bar mitzvahs, and I’m so glad it’s finally my turn to get candy thrown at me.”

B. “I’ve been to like over 500 bar mitzvahs, and I can pronounce the ‘ch’s’ better than any of those old Jews.”

C. “I’ve been to like over 500 bar mitzvahs, and I am so tired of that f*** chicken dance.”

D. “I’ve been to like over 500 bar mitzvahs, and I’m tired of people telling me to go to the kitchen.”

EShe told of grabbing an 80 year old man by the tie and dancing with him. “And then I decided to turn it around on him and drop it like it’s hot and give him that booty action...and I turned around and he was on the ground on his back...and he passed away...I didn’t want to dance no more, I felt like this [behind] was deadly.”

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Tiffany Haddish

Comedian Tiffany Haddish won a Grammy award for Best Comedy Album for her album Black Mitzvah, the recording of her 2019 Netflix comedy special. In the performance, Haddish explored her Jewish heritage, something she only discovered as a young adult when she learned that her father was an Eritrean Jew. Haddish embraced her Jewish heritage and held a bat mitzvah under the guidance of Rabbi Susan Silverman, including Torah reading and a d’var Torah speech about Jacob’s ladder from the Parsha Vayetze. But Haddish was no stranger to Judaism, as she had worked since the age of 17 as a dancer and an MC at more than 500 bar and bat mitzvah parties. What did Haddish say about that experience?

Tiffany Haddish (2019) by MTV International  is licensed under CC BY 3.0

A. “I’ve been to like over 500 bar mitzvahs, and I’m so glad it’s finally my turn to get candy thrown at me.”

B. “I’ve been to like over 500 bar mitzvahs, and I can pronounce the ‘ch’s’ better than any of those old Jews.”

C. “I’ve been to like over 500 bar mitzvahs, and I am so tired of that f*** chicken dance.”

D. “I’ve been to like over 500 bar mitzvahs, and I’m tired of people telling me to go to the kitchen.”

EShe told of grabbing an 80 year old man by the tie and dancing with him. “And then I decided to turn it around on him and drop it like it’s hot and give him that booty action...and I turned around and he was on the ground on his back...and he passed away...I didn’t want to dance no more, I felt like this [behind] was deadly.”

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Dr. Seuss

The estate which controls the publishing of Dr. Seuss books has announced that six of his books will be pulled from publication because of racist and stereotypical images that appear in the books. The books are mostly unknown, including McElligot’s Pool, The Cat’s Quizzer and Scrambled Eggs Super!. The book being withdrawn that is most familiar to many readers is And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, which includes a stereotypical image of an Asian person with slanty eyes. While many on the right are criticizing this as a form of cancel culture or censorship, others recognize that the estate management made the decision on their own after having a panel investigate the author’s works. Representatives of Dr. Seuss Enterprises said, “These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong. Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families.” In fact, later works by Dr. Seuss carried strong messages of the importance of acceptance of others, including Horton Hears a Who!, with a theme of “a person’s a person no matter how small.” Seuss was inspired by a post-World War II visit to Japan that opened his eyes to seeing the Japanese people differently than he had during the war. Which of Dr. Seuss’s works was inspired by something Jewish?

Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Seuss Geisel

Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) by Al Ravenna, New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer is in the public domain

ATheodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss’s real name) was inspired to write one of his most famous books, Green Eggs and Ham, by a Jewish boy who was friends with Geisel’s son. The boy, named Sammy, came over one day and refused to eat the ham dinner which was offered to him. This inspired Geisel to write about Sam-I-Am who did not like green eggs and ham.

B. One of Seuss’s lesser known works was Too Many Daves about a mother who named all 23 of her sons Dave. Geisel was inspired by two neighbors of the Geisel family. Each family was Jewish, and each had a son named David. When Theodor Geisel and his wife attended a Passover seder sponsored by one of the Jewish families and attended by the other, Geisel was amused by the fact that whenever someone said the name David during the seder both boys responded, always leading to confusion.

CSeuss’s book Sneetches was about characters with a star on their chest who discriminated against others without the star. An entrepeneur invented a machine that placed stars on people’s chests, and all the non-starred characters suddenly had stars. The originally-starred characters then used a “star off” machine, and eventually everyone was running from machine to machine until no one knew who was part of which group originally. Seuss was inspired to write the book when he learned of Nazis forcing Jews to wear stars on their clothing.

D. In 1927 Geisel published his first national cartoon in the Saturday Evening Post, at which point he moved to Queens, New York. He met a neighbor, Mickey Katz, who was an Orthodox Jew. Katz always wore a yarmulke, something that Geisel had never seen before. So Mr. Katz and his “hat” became the inspiration for The Cat in the Hat.

E. In 1946, Dr. Seuss was invited to a Yom Kippur break-the-fast meal by his editor (who was Jewish) at Vanguard Press. He felt he should bring something to the meal but not being Jewish, he had no idea what would be appropriate. He went to a local Jewish deli and asked the counterman what he should buy for the occasion. Said the employee, “I have nice lox in my ice box.” That line kept whirling around in Geisel’s head, and sure enough, the next day he began writing Fox in Socks. An early draft of the book included the line “Fox in socks on box on Knox enjoyed nice lox from the ice box,” but the line was later cut from the book.

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