Jewish Trivia Quiz

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

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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Adam Neumann & WeWork

Israeli Adam Neumann graduated from the Israeli Naval Academy and became a captain in the Israeli Navy before going to business school at Baruch College in New York. In 2010 he co-founded WeWork with his friend Miguel McKelvey, providing shared workspaces geared to startups, entrepreneurs, and small companies. WeWork (which at one point included the following slogan on their website: “We dedicate this to the energy of we – greater than any one of us but inside each of us.”) grew over the next nine years to employ more than 5000 people, and achieved a value of approximately $47 billion. The company began plans for an IPO in 2019, but public scrutiny of the company’s business model and Neumann’s leadership led to a huge drop in valuation (to approximately $12 billion) and a postponement of the IPO offering. Neumann stepped down as CEO in September. Neumann has always been a controversial figure. He claimed to have convinced Rahm Emanuel to run for president and says that Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman improved the standing of Saudi women because of his intervention. He also stated that he aspired to be the Prime Minster of Israel, as well as the “president of the world.” Prior to starting WeWork, Neumann unsuccessfully pursued other business ideas, including the design of a line of women’s shoes with collapsible heels. Which of the following was another one of Neumann’s failed business concepts?

Adam Neumann

TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017 - Day 1 by TechCrunch is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. He created a baseball cap with a built-in solar panel that could be used to charge cell phones. The product was marketed with the line “Use your head on a sunny day.”

BHe created a company which sold baby clothes with knee pads, under the slogan “Just because they donʼt tell you, doesnʼt mean they donʼt hurt.”

C. He designed a golf ball with a built in GPS which would communicate with golfers via their cell phones, enabling them to locate where the ball landed, thus preventing them from losing their balls. The product slogan was “You'll never be teed off after you teed off.”

D. He designed an airbag to go on wheeled baby walkers, marketed with the tagline “You have ten in your car. Shouldn’t you have at least one for your baby?”

E. He designed a synagogue with individual phone booth sized rooms for each congregant to pray in, under the slogan “You love to daven. You just can’t stand the whiny sound of the Jew in back of you.”

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Halloween in Israel

Halloween is controversial in many segments of the Jewish community. Halloween originated as a pagan festival, and was later adapted by the Catholic Church as All Hallow’s Eve, preceding All Saints Day on November 1. Because of these roots, many Jews do not consider the holiday appropriate to celebrate; however, others view it simply in modern-day terms as an American fun neighborhood celebration with candy, costumes, and parties. Given that history, the holiday is largely unrecognized in Israel, though in recent years there have been some Halloween celebrations–not door-to-door trick-or-treating for children, but among young people who celebrate in nightclubs, bars, and community centers. Which of the following is a real event from Halloween 2019 in Israel?

Jack-O'-Lantern

A. Halloween Costume Party at Mike’s Place in Tel Aviv, advertising that “Everyone is dressed to kill or be killed so don’t miss it.”

B. Halloween week at Kuli Alma in Tel Aviv, promoted with the description “Why not squeeze the lemon until it’s a skeleton. Than we hang the skeleton and use it as decoration.”

C. Halloween Costume Party @ The Kerem House in Tel Aviv, a center which typically offers Shabbat meals, lectures, and open mics. According to their advertising for the event, “Halloween is a celebration where little kids dress up and get candy, teens dress up, get drunk, and go get candy, and adults dress up, get drunk, and give out candy, funny how things all work out.”

D. A spooky Halloween Party at the Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem. Ads say “Make sure you have a pretty cool costume on because there will be prizes waiting for you. DJ Brother of God will take care of the music.”

E. The Lubavitchers of Bat Yam threw their annual Chabadoween party, noting in the publicity that “Goldenberg Chews will be given out to all. Children can try bobbing for apples, though that is the forbidden fruit and biting it will lead all attendees to be expelled from the party. Awards for the best Yac-Ov’-Lantern.” At the party, there was a tie in the costume contest, with the 300 attendees sharing first place for their identical Rebbe costumes.

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Trump Hotels

In a rare move, President Donald Trump backed down from one of his highly-criticized plans—to hold next year’s G-7 meeting at Trump National Doral, one of his many hotel/resorts world-wide. The plan was seen as a violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which prohibits government officials from receiving money and gifts from foreign governments. Trump has previously been denounced for maintaining his ownership and/or control over many golf resorts, hotels, and other facilities, all potentially a violation of that clause. The Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC recently instituted a change to make that property more attractive to Jews. What was that change?

Trump International Hotel, Washington DC

WERK for Consent by Ted Eytan is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AThe hotel set up one of its elevators as a Shabbat elevator, which is programmed to stop at every floor, enabling religious Jews to ride up and down on the Sabbath without violating rules about the use of electricity.

BThe hotel added a kosher option to one of its restaurant menus, with prepackaged kosher meals being brought in from an area kosher caterering company, with entree prices ranging from $105-$125.

CThe hotel set aside a small meeting room in its convention center for use by Jews who wish to hold morning and evening minyan services. On Sunday morning, they also provide bagels and lox to those participating in the morning minyan.

DThe hotel replaced the Gideon Bibles in a number of their rooms with copies of the ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash. The rooms with the Jewish bible have been designated with a Jewish star on the door.

E. In an effort to be welcoming to their Jewish guests, the hotel’s Benjamin Bar & Lounge added an item to their menu which is listed as “Kosher Snacks” with the description “please inquire, you get to open your own bag!”

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Sukkot and Camels

The Talmud references camels in discussions regarding the holiday of Sukkot. What did the rabbis say about camels and Sukkot?

Sukkah

A. The rabbis stated that it is acceptable to build a sukkah on a camel’s back.

B. In a discussion of sukkah-building rules, the rabbis considered the problem of building a sukkah in the dessert where there were few resources. They noted that a sukkah could be built using camels as the walls, so long as palm fronds, which were usually available in the desert, were spread from hump to hump, creating the necessary s’chach roof.

C. The rabbis indicated that it is acceptable to use camel hair as s’chach, the topping of the sukkah, so long as there is also at least one variety of tree branches used.

D. In discussing how large a sukkah should be, the rabbis noted that a sukkah should have seats for at least two people. It was further stated that a single-humped camel was not acceptable seating, but a two-humped camel counted as the required two seats.

EThe rabbis ruled that it was acceptable to smoke in a sukkah. However, they noted that it was not acceptable to smoke Camel cigarettes as camels are not a kosher animal.

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Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, also known as Yom Hakippurim, means “Day of Atonement.” What is another explanation for the name Yom Kippur or Yom Hakippurim?

Smoked fish sampler

Smoked fish sampler by T.Tseng is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. The name Yom Hakippurim can be translated as “A Day Like Purim.” On both Yom Kippur and Purim, we strive to make the mundane holy. On Yom Kippur this is done by avoiding focus on physical pleasures (such as eating and bathing). On Purim we actually elevate our physical selves into a holy realm through noisemaking, costuming, and eating.

B. The root of kippur or kippurim is kaf/peh/resh, which is the Hebrew word “kafar,” meaning “cover.” One explanation is that we are asking God to cover his eyes to forget our sins.

C. The word kippur shares a root with the word “kapporos” (Ashkenazic pronunciation) or “kaparot” (Sephardic pronunciation). Kapporos means casting, and is the ceremony wherein Jews twirl a chicken over their heads to cast off their sins. This ancient ceremony predated the establishment of the Temple in Jerusalem, and was incorporated into the Yom Kippur ritual, lending its name to the holiday.

D. The root of kippur or kippurim is kaf/peh/resh. As the peh and the feh are basically varieties of the same letter in Hebrew, this root is linguistically the same as the Hebrew word “k’far,” meaning village. Therefore, Yom Hakippurim actually means “the day of the villages,” referring to the fact that on this one day of the year residents of all the villages in the land gather together to pray to God for forgiveness of their sins.

EThe name Yom Hakippurim translates as Day of the Kippurs, the small oily herring fish which is traditionally eaten at the break-the-fast meal following the holiday.

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Shofar

Jews around the world will once again hear the sound of the shofar as Rosh Hashanah is celebrated this week. The shofar is typically made of a ram’s horn, but in Yemenite tradition the horn of a kudu is used. The shofar ceremony comprises two blessings followed by a series of blasts consisting of three different notes: tekiah–one long blast, shevarim–three broken sounds, and teruah–nine staccato notes. The total number of blasts is traditionally 100 for Ashkenazic Jews and 101 for Sephardim, with Yemenite Jews sounding 41 blasts. The shofar has also made appearances in popular movies, songs, and television programs, including which of the following?

10thStreetShofar (retouched) by Jonathunder is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

AThe 1983 movie Return of the Jedi and the 1979 film Alien.

B. Judith Shatin’s 1996 composition Elijah’s Chariot which was commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, and the 2013 album Shofar Rags by electronic musician Alvin Curran. 

CSteve “Gangsta Rabbi” Lieberman’s 2005 recording of Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport and punk band Yidcore’s 2007 song They Tried to Kill Us. They Failed. Let’s Eat!

D. Madonna’s 2005 song Isaac which featured a shofar blown by Yemenite singer Yitzhak Sinwani, and a commercial for the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards featuring rapper Macklemore blowing the shofar.

EThe 1963 movie Come Blow Your Horn and Carol King’s 1971 hit song Shofar Away.

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