Friday, January 21st 2022   |

Jewish Trivia Quiz

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

Boris Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in political trouble, as he once again was caught violating governmental COVID restrictions. Since the pandemic began, there have been numerous incidents where the Prime Minister and his staff were found to have been partying at his official residence. Among the latest revelations are that Johnson and his staff have held weekly “wine-time Fridays” throughout the pandemic, including right before the funeral of Prince Philip. Johnson has apologized for the incidents, dubbed Partygate, which are now part of an official investigation, but he has so far refused calls for his resignation. What did Prime Minister Johnson do recently that got negative reaction in the Jewish community?

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson by BackBoris2012 Campaign Team is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

APrime Minister Johnson was invited to speak on a Friday night at London’s historic Central Synagogue. As Johnson spoke from the bima following services, his cellphone rang, which he proceeded to answer mid-speech. Congregants were stunned to hear him say into the phone, “I can’t speak now. I’m talking to the Jews.”

BAt a Chanukkah celebration sponsored by the Conservative Friends for Israel organization, Boris Johnson was presented a menorah, which he proceeded to wave in the air like a trophy, causing pieces of the menorah to go flying.

CPhotos were published last month in the tabloid newspaper The Daily Mirror showing Johnson and some friends and aides seated without masks at a table which was covered with wine bottles, dreidels and money. This Dreidelgate scandal has led to calls within the Jewish community for his resignation, especially since it was reported that Johnson took the entire pot after spinning a shin, claiming that COVID dreidel rules were the opposite of the regular rules of the game.

D. Johnson recently visited the Chassidic neighborhood of Stamford Hill in London. As he was walking through the area, he came upon a crowd of Chassidic men surrounding a young child sitting in a chair. The 3-year-old boy was about to get his first haircut at the upsherin ceremony, but Johnson yelled out, “Don’t do it. Look at me. I have pride in my long hair. Let that boy be like me, a bloody proud Englishman!”

EEd Miliband was the Leader of the Labour Party from 2010-2015. Miliband, son of Polish Jewish immigrants, was often at odds with Boris Johnson, who served as Mayor of London during that time. A tape recently emerged of Johnson speaking to his political advisors about Miliband in 2014, where he said, “I don’t like that shmegegge. I want to launch a campaign to get rid of him, but what shall I call it? By George–I think I’ve got it. Shmeg-exit! That’s what I’ll call it.”

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Eric Adams

Former policeman and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams was recently installed as the new mayor of New York City. The inauguration traditionally takes place at noon on New Year’s Day. But because New Year’s Day was on a Saturday, Adams had rescheduled the ceremony to New Year’s night after the end of Shabbat to enable Jewish supporters to attend. Ultimately, however, Omicron led the city to cancel the large indoor ceremony, and Adams proceeded with a small outdoor event in Times Square on Friday night, New Year’s Eve, thus undoing Adams’s effort to accommodate the Jewish community. What else has Eric Adams done in his career to strengthen his ties to New York’s Jewish community?

New York City Mayor Eric Adams

Eastern Pkwy-Brooklyn Now ADA Accessible Museum bMetropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York is licensed under CC BY 2.0

AFollowing the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, then Brooklyn Borough President Adams announced that he would carry a gun whenever he visited a synagogue.

B. On the Sunday morning following his inauguration, Adams celebrated by visiting the Barney Greengrass deli, where he ordered the restaurant’s signature dish, Nova Scotia salmon scrambled with eggs and onion.

CDuring the Crown Heights riot of 1991, Eric Adams was a New York City policeman. He joined with Jewish members of the New York City Police Department to call for calm, and he expressly criticized Al Sharpton and other black leaders for their involvement in violent anti-Jewish marches through Crown Heights.

DLast month Mayor-elect Adams honored the Grand Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson by visiting the Chabad house in the Ghanian capital of Accra.

EFollowing his diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes in 2016, Adams adopted a plant-based diet and began to advocate for vegan and plant-based nutrition. As part of that effort he led the New York City Council to pass a resolution titled “Ban the Baloney,” calling on schools to stop serving processed meats. After being contacted by leaders of New York’s Orthodox community, he added a clause that still forbid Orthodox Day Schools from serving cold cuts, but allowed mothers to send sandwiches from home for their children, in what Adams called the “Mommies Send Salamis” rule.

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Teva Pharmaceuticals

The American division of the Israeli company Teva Pharmaceuticals was found liable in a lawsuit alleging responsibility for aspects of the opioid crisis in this country. “Teva Pharmaceuticals USA...misled the American people about the true dangers of opioids,” said New York’s attorney general Letitia James. In 1901 Chaim Salomon, Moshe Levin, and Yitschak Elstein founded a pharmaceutical company in Jerusalem called S.L.E., the founders’ initials. In 1935, Günther Friedländer, a pharmacist who fled Nazi Germany to Palestine, took over the company and renamed it Teva Middle East Pharmaceutical & Chemical Works Co. Ltd. Teva grew through a series of mergers and acquisitions, and now maintains patents on many medications including Copaxone, the world’s best selling multiple sclerosis drug, and Azilect, which is used to treat Parkinson’s disease. What was the founding philosophy of the company, as stated by Günther Friedländer?

Teva Pharmaceuticals Building

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries is in the Public domain

A“When keeping the body in health and vigor, one walks in the way of God.” Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Deot 4:1.

B. “Just as a tree does not grow if it is not fertilized, plowed and weeded–and even if it already grew but then is not watered, it dies–so the body is like a tree, the medicine is the fertilizer and the doctor is the farmer.” Midrash Shmuel 4:1.

C. “The Holy One, blessed be He, said that there is no ailment that does not have its cure; and the cure and drug for every ailment have been predetermined.” Midrash Tanchuma, Yitro 8. 

D. “One may not rely on a miracle.” Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 64b.

E. “A Jewish mother will always buy medicine for her children.”

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President Joe Biden

RASHI, RAMBAM and RAMALAMADINGDONG are on vacation for the New Year. We hope you’ll enjoy this trivia question from 2020. Given how much of a fog all of our brains are in because of almost two years of COVID fatigue, we’re assuming you don’t remember the answer!

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Speaking in 2013, Joe Biden said of the Jewish people, “You make up 11 percent of the seats in the United States Congress. You make up one-third of all Nobel laureates. So many notions that are embraced by this nation that particularly emanate from over 5,000 years of Jewish history, tradition and culture: independence, individualism, fairness, decency, justice, charity.” He concluded by saying what?

Joe Biden - Caricature by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A. “These are all as you say, as I learned early on as a Catholic being educated by my friends, this tzedakah.”

B. “These are all as you say, as I learned early on as a Catholic being educated by my friends, this mitzvah.”

C. “These are all as you say, as I learned early on as a Catholic being educated by my friends, this chutzpah.”

D. “These are all as you say, as I learned early on as a Catholic being educated by my friends, this yiddisher kop.”

E. “These are all as you say, as I learned early on as a Catholic being educated by my friends, this kreplach.”

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The Rockettes

The number of COVID cases has increased dramatically across the country. Universities such as Cornell, Georgetown, and Princeton, among others, have gone back to virtual-only classes and exams. The NFL postponed three of this weekend’s games. And in New York City, which saw the positivity rate double over just three days last week, many Broadway shows have canceled performances. In addition, the Radio City Rockettes announced that they have canceled the remainder of their Christmas Spectacular season, which had been scheduled to run through January 2. Which of the following is part of the Jewish history of the Rockettes?

The Rockettes

Rockettes by Ralph Daily is licensed under CC BY 2.0

AOne former Jewish member of the troupe, Alyssa Epstein, went on to become a Reform rabbi. Every year since, she has returned for the Rockettes organization’s holiday party where she has led the group in a Chanukkah candle lighting.

B. The Rockettes have performed at many events besides the Christmas Spectacular, including the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Radio City Easter Pageant, and President Donald Trump’s Inaugural Ball. The group has also been hired to perform at private events including Jared Kushner’s bar mitzvah at the Plaza Hotel in 1994.

CChristine Frances Masave Horii, a Protestant Japanese-American, who was a Rockette in the 1990’s, later converted to Judaism and moved to Israel, where she now only dances in front of all-female audiences.

DThe Rockettes were conceived of and created by Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel, who was inspired by the group dancing of the hora which he saw and participated in at many bar mitzvahs and weddings.

EThe Jewish co-producer and choreographer of the Rockettes, Leon Leonidoff, also produced a Kol Nidre spectacular that performed at Radio City Music Hall.

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Israel’s Air Force One

Five years ago Israel purchased a used jet with the intention of customizing it for the use of the Prime Minister and the President for official travel. Prior to that these officials had been renting commercial planes. While the aircraft’s upgrade has been completed, the plane is still sitting in a hangar and it is not clear if or when the current Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, or Israel’s president Isaac Hezog will use the craft. While it hasn’t been publicly stated, it is believed that there is reticence because the plane is viewed as a symbol of the corruption of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under whose authority the plane was purchased and renovated at a cost of almost $300 million. What do they call this plane, the equivalent of the United States’ Air Force One?

El Al airplane

LY/ELY El Al Israel Airlines B737 4X-EKC by Riik@mctr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

AKochav Tzion, Star of Zion.

BAliyat Tzion, Rising to Zion.

CYonat Tzion, Dove of Zion.

DKnaf Tzion, Wing of Zion.

EBibi’s Follies.

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Supply Chain

Supply chain problems have led to shortages of many consumer products, including computer chips, breakfast cereal, running shoes, paint and more. What product has been in short supply recently which has affected the Jewish community?

Shipping containers

Containers by russellstreet is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

AChanukkah candles, causing many consumers to use birthday candles and even votive candles for their Chanukkah menorahs.

BCream cheese, leaving New York bagel stores scrambling to be able to fulfill orders for bagels with a shmear.

CParchment, which is holding up the production of new Torah scrolls, megillot, and mezuzah scrolls.

DKosher meat, resulting in more vegetarian or dairy Shabbat dinners in Jewish households.

ECommon sense and decency among many Republican politicians, who continue to compare COVID restrictions to those imposed on Jews during the Holocaust (just a short list includes Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, New York gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, Maine state Representative Heidi Sampson, Oklahoma Republican Party chairman John Bennett, North Carolina Representative Madison Cawthorn, and Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry).

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Stephen Sondheim, z”l

Musical theatre lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim passed away last week at the age of 91. The legendary artist wrote the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy, and wrote lyrics and music for many shows including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, and Into the Woods. He was the winner of multiple Tony and Grammy awards, an Academy Award, and a Pulitzer Prize among others, and he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. Sondheim, the grandson of German-Jewish immigrants, had no formal Jewish upbringing. However, when asked about his Jewish identity, he replied, “It’s very deep. It’s the fact that so many of the people I admire in the arts are Jewish. And art is as close to a religion as I have.” Sondheim’s upbringing did include attendance at summer sleepaway camp with many other Jewish campers. Where did Sondheim go to summer camp?

Stephen Sondheim

Stephen_Sondheim_-_smoking by an Unknown photographer is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

AHe attended Camp Androscoggin in Maine. The camp focuses on athletics, including archery, tennis, boating, and soccer. Other Jewish attendees over the years at Camp Androscoggin were Alan Jay Lerner, Tom Lehrer, and S.I. Newhouse, Jr.

BHe attended Herzl Camp, a Zionist camp in Webster, Wisconsin, where he learned to play piano. Attending Herzl in other years were Bob Dylan, who learned to play guitar there, and Ethan and Joel Coen, who both focused on photography.

CHe attended Surprise Lake Camp in Cold Spring, New York, where he sang in the camp choir. Other Jewish campers who sang in the choir at other times included Eddie Cantor, Neil Diamond, and Gene Simmons.

DHe attended Interlochen Arts Camp in Interlochen, Michigan. The camp program is centered around musical theatre (which Sondheim concentrated on), plus creative writing, dance, and visual arts. Other Jewish attendees have included actor Tovah Feldshuh and singer Peter Yarrow.

EHe attended Fleet Street Camp in London Town. At camp Sondheim learned to shave and also to bake pies.

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This year Americans will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving feast which took place in Plymouth Colony in 1621. At that event, roughly 50 Pilgrims came together with more than 100 American Indians to celebrate a successful harvest. There was some concern in the past among Jews as to whether observance of the holiday might violate the proscription against copying “the ways of the Gentiles.” However, the great 20th century Orthodox authorities Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik agreed that the holiday is secular, not Christian, and therefore celebration by Jews is not religiously prohibited. There has been another controversy around the holiday, however. What past Thanksgiving event led a group of rabbis to protest?

Macy's Parade Turkey Balloon

The famous Macy's Turkey by Ben W is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

AIn the mid to late 1800’s, the largest producers of turkeys were Arkansas and Virginia. Being fresh on the heels of the Civil War, and recognizing that New York had a very sizable hog farming industry, in 1867 Governor Reuben Fenton of New York called on New Yorkers to “punish the people of the states of insurrection, and support the good people of the state of New York, by gracing your Thanksgiving table with ham rather than turkey.” A group of rabbis protested that the governor’s comments were insensitive to the “beliefs of the children of Abraham, who are also good citizens of New York.”

BIn Israel, it is a tradition for the President to attend a Thanksgiving dinner at the United States Embassy. But in 2007, rabbis from a number of Chassidic sects, including the Belz, Ger and Bobov, protested when Israeli President Shimon Peres attended the event. In that year, Thanksgiving happened to fall on the 10th of Tevet, a minor fast day commemorating the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BCE. The rabbis did not believe that the Israeli president should have attended a meal celebration on that date, even though only a small number of very religious Israelis observe the fast.

CIn 1868, Pennsylvania Governor John W. Geary issued a proclamation calling on Pennsylvania citizens to celebrate Thanksgiving by praising “the name of God and magnify Him with thanksgiving,” and to pray that “our paths through life may be directed by the example and instructions of the Redeemer, who died that we might enjoy the blessings which temporarily flow therefrom.” All seven of Philadelphia’s rabbis criticized the governor for his exclusion of Israelites, which they said cast “reflections upon thousands, who hold a different creed from that which he avows.”

D. In 2013, Thanksgiving overlapped with Chanukkah, leading many to reference Thanksgivukkah, and to combine the celebrations. Some people served latkes at their Thanksgiving meal, while others lit Chanukkah menorahs shaped like turkeys. Rabbis from the ultra-Orthodox Satmar community in Brooklyn objected to this combining of the holidays, saying that it was a “chillul HaShem” (a profaning of God’s name) to mix the religious and secular holidays.

EIn 2013, Thanksgivukkah was celebrated by many Jews as the two holidays of Thanksgiving and Chanukkah overlapped. Macy’s, the sponsor of the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, picked up on that theme by including a giant Menurkey balloon, a turkey which featured Chanukkah candles on its back. However, immediately behind that balloon was a float sponsored by Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. This float featured the Cheesasaurus Rex, and rabbis from the Orthodox Union objected to that float’s position right behind the Jewish-themed balloon, as they felt the dinosaur that was covered with cheese violated the Jewish prohibition of mixing meat and milk.

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Britney Spears

A judge just ended the almost-14 year conservatorship which Jamie Spears maintained over his daughter, the performer Britney Spears. While the singer had suffered from mental illness leading to the court-established conservatorship, there is much controversy as to the role played by her father, and whether he was operating in his daughter’s best interest. During this time, Britney continued to perform, including a concert in Israel. What problem arose when Britney Spears performed in Tel Aviv in 2017?

Britney Spears

Britney Spears by steven.i is licensed under CC BY 2.0

ASpears visited the Western Wall when she arrived in Israel. When word got out that she was there, fans mobbed the holy site, causing authorities to shut down the women’s section of the Wall.

B. The Labor Party had to cancel their leadership elections, which were scheduled on the same day as Britney’s concert. The polling place was across the street from the Yarkon Park concert venue, and the chaos of the huge crowds in the area led the Labor leaders to postpone the election until the next day.

CThe concert happened to be scheduled on the minor fast day of Shiva Asar b’Tammuz, the 17th of Tammuz, which commemorates the date that the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. Members of the haredi religious community held protests outside the concert site at Yarkon Park because they were offended that a concert featuring the sexy performer would be held on that date.

D. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to speak at a fundraising event in Tel Aviv on the date of the performance. However, his motorcade could not get to the venue because there was so much traffic heading to Yarkon Park, the site of Britney’s concert, and the event had to be canceled.

ESpears had shaved off her hair again before flying to Israel. She visited Jerusalem, and when she got to the Plaza at the Western Wall, a rabbi approached her from the rear and said, “Hey Mister. This is a holy place,” as he put a yarmulke on her head.

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