Jewish Trivia Quiz

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

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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Jimmy Kimmel

Jimmy Kimmel hosted last night’s Academy Awards ceremony. It’s a common misconception that Kimmel is Jewish; in fact, he is Catholic. But he has had Jewish-themed comedy sketches on his show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!. Which of the following was one of Kimmel’s Jewish bits?

Jimmy Kimmel

146028_1352 by Disney | ABC Television Group is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

A. One of Kimmel’s regular bits is Mean Tweets, where celebrities read actual mean tweets that have been posted about them. In 2013 on the night before Yom Kippur, Kimmel featured Jewish celebrities (including Natalie Portman and Seth Rogen) reading anti-Semitic tweets which they had received. Kimmel finished the bit by reading anti-Semitic tweets directed against him (even though he is not Jewish), including one which read “I promise you that I’m much smarter than Jonathan Leibowitz - I mean Jon Stewart. Who, by the way, is way smarter than you, Jimmy Schimmmel.” Then all the celebrities promised to atone for their supposed sins, everyone yelled L’Chaim, and schnapps shots were passed around.

B. In 2007, when Kimmel was dating Sarah Silverman, he had her on as a guest and surprised her with a bat mitzvah ceremony. Kimmel started by interviewing her about growing up Jewish in New Hampshire, and asked if she had a bat mitzvah. When she said no, that her family was not very religious, Kimmel opened the curtain to reveal Silverman’s sister, Rabbi Susan Silverman, standing at a table with a Torah scroll. Sarah was asked to give a speech, and then the entire audience got glasses of sweet kosher wine while Guillermo bombarded the crowd with dessert, firing a sponge cake cannon around the room.

CSince 2011, Kimmel has done an annual segment at Halloween time, where viewers are asked to send in videos of their children, as the parents tell the kids that they (the parents) ate all of the Halloween candy. In 2016, Kimmel offered a Purim version, as they had Jewish parents send in videos of their children crying after being told that they had eaten everything in the mishloach manot basket. 

DNoting that at Passover time network television is still rerunning the movie, The Ten Commandments, even though it was made over 60 years ago, Kimmel offered a new version of the Exodus story, with Matt Damon as Pharaoh, Kimmel as Moses, and Kimmel sidekick Guillermo as Zhlub the Wonder Frog. While Damon had learned his scripted lines as Pharaoh, he never got to utter them, because every time Damon would begin to speak, Kimmel’s band would start playing Hava Nagila and Kimmel would lead the audience in a hora.

ERecognizing the dearth of Chanukkah-themed TV shows in December compared to Christmas shows, Kimmel offered a sketch with the Chanukorn, a Chanukkah-themed unicorn with a menorah where his single horn should be. The Chanukorn sang a song listing his favorite 80 Jewish words (including kugel, yarmulke, and schmutz), and also featured a spinning dreidel dog.

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Sheldon Adelson

Sheldon Adelson, the casino business magnate and philanthropist, has offered to pay for the building of the new United States embassy in Jerusalem (a move which could have political implications, and may not be legal). Adelson, a strong supporter of Republican politicians in America and a huge backer of Benjamin Netanyahu, has offered words of wisdom on a variety of subjects over the years. Which of the following quotes was said by Sheldon Adelson?

Sheldon Adelson

If Sheldon Adelson isn’t the most photogenic man in Vegas… by East Coast Gambler is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. So Israel won’t be a democratic state, so what.

BThe report card for a commercial enterprise is making money.

C. I had a CD on Islamic jihad. I brought it to the White House and told the chief of staff, “I would like the President to see this.” It really is amazing that we have this influence.

D. I’m against very wealthy ­people attempting to or influencing elections. But as long as it’s doable I'm going to do it.

EI think Jews should have lots of sex. That is the solution to our demographic problem.

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Bibi’s Scandals

Israeli police have recommended that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted based on two separate charges, one for accepting almost $300,000 in bribes (including champagne and fancy cigars) from a Hollywood mogul and an Australian billionaire, and the other for offering preferential treatment to an Israeli newspaper in exchange for favorable coverage. Netanyahu has been at the center of many controversies during his time in office, including spending $1600 in public funds on a hairdresser during a New York trip, and more than $2700 on vanilla and pistachio ice cream from his favorite Jerusalem ice cream parlor. When Netanyahu traveled to England for the funeral of British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 2013, he was criticized for what action?

Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu - Caricature by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. Netanyahu spent more than $6000 for the expenses of bringing a kosher chef with him from Jerusalem to prepare his meals at his hotel (despite the availability of many kosher chefs in London). The Israeli chef prepared meals ranging from oatmeal for breakfast to a kosher version of bangers and mash, the traditional British meal of sausages and mashed potatoes, which the Prime Minister’s Office said was “in honor of Netanyahu’s departed friend, Mrs. Thatcher.”

B. Though Netanyahu and his wife spent only two days in London, they brought 12 suitcases of clothing with them at a cost of more than $3000 in extra transportation fees. Said the Office of the Prime Minister, “Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife are representing the state of Israel at the funeral of Mrs. Thatcher, as well as attending a number of meetings with other world leaders while in London. It is important that Mr. and Mrs. Netanyahu be prepared for the variety of events as well as the unpredictable weather in England.”

C. During his visit to London for the Thatcher funeral, Netanyahu arranged for a private tour of the Sackler Gallery at the British Museum. The gallery had a special exhibit of Judaica, including items found in the Cairo Geniza by Solomon Schechter. Because of security needs, the Museum was closed to the public for Netanyahu’s visit, costing the Israeli government in excess of $210,000.

D. The government spent more than $127,000 of public funds for the installation of a double bed on the airplane for Netanyahu’s flight to London. The Office issued a statement saying that it was “appropriate that he be able to rest” on the 5-hour flight.

E. While in England for Prime Minister Thatcher’s funeral, Netanyahu arranged for a private tour of the Tower of London, led by London Mayor Boris Johnson. When viewing the exhibit of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, Bibi saw St. Edward’s Crown, originally worn by Charles II at his coronation in 1661 and used by most future monarchs as well. Bibi placed the crown on his head while his wife Sara took a cell phone video, as Netanyahu sang “Bibi, Melech Yisrael” to the shock of Mayor Johnson and his entourage.

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Winter Olympics

The story of the Jamaican bobsled team captured the world’s attention at the 1988 Winter Olympics. And now, another unlikely team, the Israeli bobsled team, has qualified for the first time to participate in the Winter Olympic games in PyeongChang, with four-time Israeli National champion A. J. Edelman competing in this year’s skeleton event. The Israeli Bobsled and Skeleton Team was founded in 2002 and began competing under what team nickname?

Israeli Winter Olympics team

_MG_4781 by Jude Freeman is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AJoseph and the Amazing Technicolor Bobsled.

BThe Frozen Chosen.

CShul Runnings.

DThe Bob-ka Sledders.

EThe Snow Cohens.

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Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake provided the halftime entertainment at yesterday’s Super Bowl LII. In 2014, Timberlake performed a concert at Tel Aviv’s HaYarkon Park. In what way did someone honor Timberlake for that appearance?

Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake by Shelby Casanova is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

AA community garden near the concert venue was renamed Gan Timberlake (Timberlake Garden) in honor of the singer, an outspoken advocate of vegetarian eating, who made a donation to the group that oversees the garden.

B. New York’s Carnegie Deli had a branch in Tel Aviv, where a sandwich was named the Justin, honoring the singer’s Tel Aviv performance. Celebrating Timberlake’s hit song SexyBack, the sandwich featured baby back beef ribs on rye bread.

C. In anticipation of Timberlake’s Israeli concert, the farmers at Israel’s Moshav Ein Yahav named a new fruit variety the Justin melon. The melon has an unusually long three week shelf life, leading the farmers to note that they hoped that it would be a good luck charm for the performer, “bringing him a long, healthy life and continued success in his musical career.”

D. Beit Daniel, a Reform synagogue in Tel Aviv, hosted a Friday night service on the weekend of Timberlake’s concert, which they titled “Justin Time for Shabbat.” The congregation sang prayers to the tune of some of Timberlake’s songs, and the service was attended by a Jewish member of Timberlake’s road crew.

E. A United States teen tour group from NCSY, the youth division of the Orthodox Union, was in Tel Aviv at the time of the Timberlake concert. The teens were told that they were not allowed to attend the concert as the organization did not approve of Timberlake’s very sexy persona and music, including such songs as SexyBack, Rock Your Body, and Love Sex Magic. However, a group of the teens not only attended the concert, but used markers to alter their NCSY t-shirts to instead read NSYNC, a reference to the boy band that Timberlake sang with earlier in his career. The teens were busted when Timberlake saw the shirts and brought one of the teens onto the stage to dance with him, which was then broadcast on the local news.

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James Corden

Last night, talk show host James Corden hosted the 60th Annual Grammy Awards. Corden often performs comic sketches on his program, The Late Late Show. What Jewish-themed sketch did Corden once perform?

James Corden

Comedian James Corden arrives at Number 10 Downing Street to interview Prime Minister David Cameron by Andy Thornley is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. Corden’s most popular show segment is Carpool Karaoke, where he drives through Los Angeles with celebrities such as Stevie Wonder, Justin Bieber, and Adele, as they sing along with the music in his CD player. Corden did a special taping of Carpool Karaoke with Rabbi Nossom Steinsaltz of the West Hollywood Jewish Community Chabad which aired on the Chabad Telethon during Chanukkah, 2016. Corden and the rabbi sang niggunim, Hava Nagilah, and Adam Sandler’s The Hanukkah Song.

B. One of Corden’s regular bits on The Late Late Show is Crosswalk the Musical, where Corden and a large cast of musical theater performers put on a show in a busy Hollywood intersection, running into the middle of traffic at a red light and rushing to the sidewalk as the light changes. Corden recently performed as Tevye in a Crosswalk the Musical version of Fiddler on the Roof, alongside Seth Rogen as Golde. The taping was halted when the milk cow which Corden was leading into the intersection took off down Hollywood Blvd.

CCorden has a regular feature called Take A Break, where he enables someone to take a break from their job as Corden steps in. He recently gave some time off to the assistant rabbi at the Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles. Corden, wearing a yarmulke, assisted senior rabbi Kenneth Chasen at a bar mitzvah ceremony. After Rabbi Chasen offered the priestly blessing, Corden danced the hora on the bima with the bar mitzvah boy and his parents. He also sang the Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah, with rewritten lyrics: Now, I've heard there was a secret chord/That David played, and it pleased the Lord/But you don't really care for music, do you?/But now that I’m here at your bar mitz/Let’s sing some Matisyahu hits/Jewy carpool karaoke, hallelujah.

D. As part of the show’s Take A Break feature, Corden once gave a break to a worker at the Western Kosher supermarket in Los Angeles. Corden assisted the butcher in slicing steaks from a side of beef, he worked the cash register, drove a fork life, and destroyed  his wife’s credit card with the meat slicer. He also managed to get an invitation to Shabbos dinner from a store patron.

EAs part of the Take A Break segment of the show, Corden gave a break to a mohel and showed up at the home of the family of a newborn son. Corden, who was wearing a black coat and hat and a long fake beard, was moments away from performing the circumcision, when the real mohel returned from the break just in time to stop Corden from proceeding, much to the delight of all assembled (especially the 8-day-old boy).

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James Franco

Actor James Franco has been in the headlines following his appearance at the Golden Globe Awards, where he won the Best Actor prize and wore a Time’s Up pin in support of women who have experienced sexual harassment, assault, or abuse in the workplace. After the show, a number of women accused Franco of improper sexual behavior. Franco, who is Jewish, celebrated his bar mitzvah in 2015, at a ceremony, party, and Alzheimer’s fundraiser. Which of the following took place at Franco’s bar mitzvah?

James Franco

ASeth Rogen, dressed as Tevye, sang a version of the song Tradition.

B. Miley Cyrus, wearing a Shalom Y’all cape, performed with a band, under the name Miley Cyrustein & The Super Jews.

CFranco read from the Torah.

DFranco underwent a fake circumcision led by Jeff Goldblum.

EFranco underwent a real circumcision led by Jeff Goldblum.

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Yair Netanyahu

Yair Netanyahu, son of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is in the news as audio tapes have emerged of the younger Netanyahu’s drunken misogynistic banter, talk of prostitutes, and comments indicating that his father was involved in corrupt financial dealings with Yair’s friend’s father, the tycoon Kobi Maimon. Yair Netanyahu has received negative publicity in the past as well, including which of the following incidents?

Bibi Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu - Caricature by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. Following Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election as prime minister in 2015, Yair Netanyahu missed a scheduled photo shoot where official pictures of the prime minister and his family were to be taken. A photo posted on Facebook showed Yair drinking in a nearby bar with friends at that time.

BWhen walking the family dog, Kaiya, in a local park, Yair Netanyahu was called out by a neighbor for not picking up after the dog. Netanyahu responded with an obscene gesture.

C. When Yair Netanyahu’s army unit was climbing Masada for a memorial day observance, he chose to ascend via the aerial tramway with his assigned security detail. It is reported that he said “I am Bibi’s son. I do not walk up mountains. I only ride.”

DFollowing an online post entitled Five things that you didn’t know about the heir to the throne, Yair Netanyahu, Netanyahu replied with a rant which included disparaging comments about the sons of former Israeli prime ministers Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert, and Ariel Sharon, followed by obscene emojis.

EWhen Yair was in day camp, he got in trouble for yelling Amster-Amster-Dam-Dam-Dam when other children knew that you must not say that naughty word.

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The East Coast and New England are still recovering from last week’s bombogenesis storm, a term which sounds biblical, though its roots are actually not from the Old Testament. Bombogenesis refers to an intense storm which results from a drop in barometric pressure of at least 24 millibars within 24 hours. Which of the following weather terms has a derivation related to the Old Testament and biblical times?

Bombogenesis snow storm

130209 Bombogenesis (10) by Justin Brockie is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

ABows of Promise. This is another name for rainbows, which comes from Genesis, Chapter 9, where a rainbow appears as a sign of God’s covenant with Noah and his descendants after the great flood.

BSt. Elmo’s Fire. This weather phenomenon occurs in thunderstorms when the ground is electrically charged and high voltage is in the air, leading to air molecules tearing apart and glowing. St. Elmo was one of Jesus’s disciples, but he was originally mentioned in the Book of Chronicles, the final book of Ketuvim, which detailed the history of the Jewish people from the story of Adam until the time of the Temple. Elmo, whose Hebrew name was Eliam, was one of the priests in the Temple until he, along with Simon, traveled to the Galilee where they began to follow Jesus and his ministry.

CMessenger. A messenger is a single sunbeam which streams down through the clouds. The reference is to Jacob’s dream in Genesis, Chapter 28, where he sees a staircase leading up to the heavens, upon which angels were ascending and descending.

DClouds of Job. This refers to low-level clouds, typically below 6500 feet. The name comes from the Book of Job, Chapter 20, verse 6 & 7, which reads, “Though his excellency [the Assyrian monarch] mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds; Yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung.”

EAutumn Exodus. A weather phenomenon wherein the temperature in New York drops below 65°, usually in the late Fall. As a result, elderly Jews feel this cold front, leading to rapidly rising pressure, tropical depression, and haze. The seniors then join the jet stream out of Kennedy Airport, shooting through the ozone hole, and traveling in a southeasterly direction, finally converging on a warm front in southern Florida surrounded by a blizzard of snow birds.

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