Tuesday, September 22nd 2020   |

Jewish Trivia Quiz

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


Ringo Starr just celebrated his 80th birthday by hosting a livestream concert benefiting Black Lives Matter and other causes. The concert featured performances by Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Steve Earle, Keb Mo and others, with Ringo opening the show performing It Don’t Come Easy. The Beatles drummer once found himself at the receiving end of a very scary threat, which led him to say, “I’m not Jewish.” What was the frightening event?

Ringo Starr

Ringo Starr Hamburg by Schröder+Schömbs PR _ Brands|Media|Lifestyle is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

A. The Beatles were scheduled to perform in Israel in 1965 thanks to the effort of their manager, Brian Epstein. The concert never took place, however, because of threats from the Orthodox Jewish community in Israel who opposed the playing of rock and roll music. The Chief Rabbi of B’nei Brak, a religious community only a short distance from the concert venue in Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv, condemned Epstein, who was Jewish, saying “If the band of Mr. Epstein plays here, it will be a chillul hashem.” When Ringo was told that this meant “a desecration of the name of God,” he replied, “Then let Brian stay home and let me go and play. After all, I’m not Jewish.”

B. When the Beatles performed a concert in Belfast in 1964, authorities learned of a threat to the drummer by a group of IRA terrorists who believed that Ringo was Jewish because they thought that Starkey, Ringo’s real last name, was a Jewish name. Many in the IRA believed that there was a Jewish conspiracy behind the British government’s opposition to their cause. British military accompanied the Beatles throughout their time in Belfast, and audience members were frisked before being allowed into the auditorium. Ringo later said, “It made no sense. After all, I’m not Jewish. But still, I had the cymbals up towards the audience to give me a bit of protection. I usually had them flat.”

CWhen the Beatles performed concerts in Montreal in 1964, authorities learned of a threat to the drummer by a group of radical French-Canadian separatists who believed that Ringo was Jewish, apparently because of his big nose. A plainclothes policeman sat with Ringo throughout both shows, and stayed with him during the entire time the Beatles were in Montreal. Ringo later described the event, saying, “Some people decided to make an example of me, as an English Jew. The one major fault is, I’m not Jewish.” Referring to the policeman sitting with him, Ringo said, “What is this guy going to do? Is he going to catch the bullet?”

D. The Beatles were in New York in August 1965, about to perform at Shea Stadium. Word had gotten out that Ringo was planning to propose to his girlfriend Maureen Cox, and as a result, the concert at Shea almost didn’t happen. Throngs of Chassidic Jews from the Diamond District in Midtown Manhattan appeared outside the Plaza Hotel where the Beatles were staying. They all had brought inventory of diamond rings, hoping that the most famous ring wearer in the world would choose one of their products as an engagement ring for Miss Cox, thinking it would be great publicity if their ring was selected. The jewelry salesmen all jockeyed for position at the hotel’s exit, hoping to get the attention of the drummer as the Beatles headed toward their limo. The crowd surged toward Ringo in a near-stampede, causing the security staff to turn the Beatles around to return to the safety of the hotel. Luckily, the Beatles were able to sneak out through a rear door of the hotel. When interviewed later, Ringo said, “I don't really understand why all those old bearded men thought I would buy a ring from them. I’ve got my own collection, as everyone knows. And besides, I’m not Jewish.”

ERingo appeared in the film Caveman in 1981, where he played Atouk, a scrawny caveman who lusted after a beautiful cavewoman, Lana, played by Barbara Bach, who Ringo went on to marry. Lana was the mate of bullying tribe leader Tonda, played by John Matuszak. The dialogue was almost entirely in cave language, including such words as bobo (friend), zug zug (mate), macha (monster), and caca (you figure it out). Ultimately, Atouk overcame the threats and power of Tonda and won Lana’s heart. But when Lana’s parents Shirley and Murray met Atouk, they asked him what shul he belonged to. He replied, “I’m not Jewish,” leading them to break up the relationship, saying “No goyishe macha will be a zug zug of our daughter.”

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Carl Reiner, z”l

Comedian, actor, writer, and director Carl Reiner died last week at the age of 98. Reiner was a pioneer in television as a writer and performer on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows and Caesar’s Hour. He created one of the best sitcoms in television history, The Dick Van Dyke Show. He performed in films including It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming. He wrote and/or directed movies such as The Jerk, Oh, God!, and Where’s Poppa. He starred on Broadway, and he voiced characters in animated films including Toy Story 4. And he partnered with his best friend Mel Brooks to perform The 2000 Year Old Man and other comedic routines on records and TV. Reiner grew up in the Bronx, the son of Jewish immigrants. While proudly Jewish, he said he became an atheist after the Holocaust. How did Reiner describe his bar mitzvah?

Carl Reiner

A. Reiner did not make a bar mitzvah until he was an adult. In a 1968 interview in TV Guide he said, “My father was a watchmaker. My mother was a seamstress. They worked all the time, and didn’t have time or money for a synagogue. When my son Rob was preparing for his bar mitzvah he asked me about mine. I told him I never had a bar mitzvah, and he said I should have one. I didn’t do anything at that time, after all, it was his moment. But a few years later I decided it’s my turn. I didn’t tell anyone about it except Estelle [Reiner’s wife] until a week before the service.” His experience inspired the episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show when Dick and Sally thought Buddy might be having an affair, but it turned out he was secretly studying for his bar mitzvah.

B. Reiner noted that he had “a bootleg bar mitzvah.” While his friends (Lenny, Shlermy, David, Marty and Mutty) all went to Hebrew School for many years, he only began bar mitzvah lessons a few months before his 13th birthday, when his father hired a rabbi to teach him. As Reiner wrote in his autobiography, I Remember Me, “All I can remember about the rabbi was his long, white beard, his healthy paunch, and the dirty toothpick he took from his vest pocket at the start of each lesson. He used the weathered toothpick to pick his teeth and to point to letters and words in the prayer book.”

CReiner described his bar mitzvah in his 2004 book, My Anecdotal Life: A Memoir. “I didn’t grow up in a religious home. Like any 12 year old, I didn’t really know what being Jewish meant, except that we ate salami and knishes, and some of the other kids in the neighborhood disappeared on Saturday. But we joined a little shul, really a shtiebel, that met in our apartment building, and the rabbi was a nice guy, with a real twinkle in his eye. He taught me some prayers, I went to shul with my family, sang the prayers, and then had my first sip of schnapps. It’s a nice memory. And that rabbi, that’s who I had in mind when I cast George Burns as God in Oh, God!

D. Reiner spoke about his bar mitzvah in an interview with Barbara Walters in 1996. “It wasn't a big deal,” he said. “I studied with this old rabbi at the shul in our neighborhood in the Bronx. He was ancient, he had this accent that I could barely understand. He kept telling me stories about how Jews walked through the desert 2000 years ago. I just wanted to get outside and play Ringoleavio or stickball. But I owe a lot to that rabbi. He was the inspiration for Mel’s 2000 year old man. That paid a lot of bills for me.”

ESaid Reiner in a 1992 People Magazine article, “I wasn't really interested in a bar mitzvah. But I did go to Hebrew School, and I remember the rabbi saying that I had to decide what prayers I wanted to lead. I had no idea, and no interest. I played like the prayers meant something, but I was just faking it. But then one day I heard this really cute girl in class named Sally sing some prayer. It was amazing. I had never heard anything like it. She was definitely not faking it. I went right to the rabbi and said, ‘I'll daven what she’s davening.’ ”

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Al Jaffee

Mad Magazine cartoonist Al Jaffee retired this month at age 99. Jaffee, the son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants, was one of a cadre of mostly Jewish humorists, writers, and cartoonists known as the “usual gang of idiots” who filled the pages of the satirical magazine since its founding in 1952. Jaffee was particularly known for creating the Fold-ins (based on Playboy Magazine’s Fold-outs) as well as the “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” feature. He was a major contributor to the magazine’s Jewish ethos, which included the use of Yiddish and faux-Yiddish words such as furshlugginer, farshimmelt, and Potrzebie (possibly based on the insult “putz-rebbe”), as well as the use of Yiddish phrases, such as when the Superman spoof character Superduperman uttered the words, “Shazoom? Vas ist das Shazoom?” In addition to working for Mad Magazine for 65 years, what other magazine did Al Jaffee write for?

Karen Green with Al Jaffee

With Al Jaffee by Karen Green is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. The Chabad children’s magazine The Moshiach Times, where he wrote a regular column called “The Shpy.”

BGood Housekeeping, where he illustrated a column called “The Bad Housekeeping Seal of Disapproval.” Based on the magazine’s seal of approval, this column featured items that were rated as failures by the magazine’s testing panel, and included a Jaffee illustration of a seal spitting on the failed product.

CNational Lampoon, where he wrote and illustrated a monthly feature called “Jew/No Jew,” featuring celebrities and their Jewish backgrounds (whether or not the celebrity was actually Jewish).

DTwo Pence, a British humor and satire magazine that was based on Mad Magazine.

ETrump, a glossy humor and satire magazine that folded after two issues.

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This weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma, President Trump held his first campaign rally since the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the country. The campaign said that there were more than a million ticket requests; however, the 19,000 seat arena was only a third full. The Jewish community of Tulsa traces its history to the beginning of the 20th century, with many Jews settling there and opening retail stores. In 1908, Russian immigrants Max and Harry Madansky opened a clothing store in Tulsa that eventually added additional locations in Bartlesville, Muskogee, and Oklahoma City. In 1921, they took out a full page newspaper ad announcing the change of the store name from Madansky Brothers to May Brothers, explaining that the name change was “the final step to prove ourselves wholly American in every sense of the word. We have eliminated those parts of the name Madansky that are of foreign origin. We wish to forever renounce the name that reminds us of our foreign birth.” In the early-1940’s, B’nai Emunah, a synagogue that was a hybrid of Orthodox and Conservative practice, built a new building, only to learn that many women protested and refused to sit upstairs in the women’s balcony. How did the synagogue resolve that dispute?

Tulsa Golden Driller Statue

Golden Driller, Tulsa USA by The Erica Chang is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

AThey designated one side of the downstairs room for mixed seating and the other side for men only, with a large curtain down the middle aisle.

BThey designated the front half of the sanctuary for men and the rear rows for mixed seating, with a large curtain dividing the front and back sections.

CThe synagogue leadership refused to allow the women to sit downstairs, at which point roughly a third of the membership resigned and started a new synagogue which had mixed seating.

DThey designated half of the balcony for mixed seating, maintaining the downstairs seating for men only.

EThe President of B’nai Emunah made a speech where he called out the protestors. “Our incredible success in rebuilding B’nai Emunah stands in stark contrast to the extremism and destruction and violence of the radical mixed seaters. We just saw it outside. We just saw it outside, you saw these thugs that came along. These people, call them protesters, isn’t it beautiful, it’s so beautiful. No, they’re so wonderful. They call them the Tulsa Mixed Seaters. But they can’t do that. The lion may lie down with the lamb, but the men shall not sit down with the women. Not in my synagogue. MEGA! MEGA! Make Emunah Great Again!”

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West Point

President Trump addressed the graduating class at the United States Military Academy at West Point last Saturday. The event was controversial, as the campus had previously closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic; yet, President Trump decided to address the graduates, requiring them to return to the campus for the event despite the health risk to the cadets. There is a long Jewish history at West Point. The 2019 graduating class included the 1000th Jewish graduate of the Academy since its founding in 1802. And in fact, half of the graduates in the very first class in 1802 were Jewish (though there were only two students in the class). The Jewish student, Simeon Magruder Levy, graduated at the bottom of his two-person class, but went on to distinguish himself at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, marking the end of the Northwest Indian War. For more than 60 years the West Point Jewish Chapel Choir has been a part of student life. The Choir sang at what presidential event?

United States Military Academy at West Point

West Point 16 by Gurney Halleck is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AThe West Point Jewish Chapel Choir made one of their first public performances at the inaguration of President John F. Kennedy on January 20, 1961. The event took place the day after a blizzard hit the Washington, DC area, which almost led to the canceling of the Inauguration parade. But they managed to clear the streets, the parade rolled, and the ceremony took place on the East Front of the Capitol building. Poet Robert Frost recited his poem, The Gift Outright, after which the West Point Jewish Chapel Choir sang a medley of songs including Let My People Go and God Bless America.

BIn January 2002, President George W. Bush hosted a memorial concert at the White House to remember the victims of the September 11 terrorist attack and to honor the first responders. Among the performers were Bruce Springsteen and the National Symphony Orchestra, as well as the West Point Jewish Chapel Choir. The choir sang a choral arrangement of Psalm 23, which is traditionally recited at Jewish funerals, and then sang Amazing Grace with the Howard University Gospel Choir.

C. President Dwight Eisenhower died in March, 1969, two months after Richard Nixon’s inauguration. A memorial service was held in the United States Capitol. Nixon eulogized President Eisenhower, whose grandson David Eisenhower had married Nixon’s daughter Julie only three months earlier. Because President Eisenhower was one of only two U.S. presidents who attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (the other being Ulysses S. Grant), the West Point Jewish Chapel Choir performed at Eisenhower’s memorial service, singing the Star-Spangled Banner.

DAt the White House Chanukkah party in 2011, the West Point Jewish Chapel Choir entertained guests by singing holiday songs including Maoz Tzur, Who Can Retell and Oh Chanukkah. After the official end of the party, the choir met privately with President Barack Obama for a photo op, at which time he asked them to sing another song. At the suggestion of the choir director, the group sang Lo Yisa Goy, the traditional Jewish folk song based on the words of Isaiah, including the line “Nation shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war.”

EThe West Point Jewish Chapel Choir actually sang last week at the 2020 graduation ceremony which President Trump ordered the cadets to attend. Per the request of President Trump, the choir sang If I Were a Rich Man and a rewritten traditional Jewish song, Donald, Melech USA.

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The Bible

Last week President Trump appeared for a photo op in front of the St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC. The event was in response to demonstrations calling for justice and equality for black Americans following the horrendous murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. After the police and National Guard used chemical irritants and smoke to disperse the peaceful protesters, Trump walked to the church and posed for pictures while holding a Bible. After 10 minutes he returned to the White House. While there have been Christian Bibles printed in English for many centuries, English editions of the Hebrew Bible have only been around for about a century and a half. Which of the following is an English edition of the Hebrew Bible?

President Trump holding a Bible in front of St. John's Church

AThe Jewish School and Family Bible, by Abraham Benisch, published in England in four volumes from 1851 to 1861. Benisch, a respected journalist and Hebraic studies scholar, went on to become the editor of the Jewish Chronicles, the oldest continuously published Jewish newspaper in the world.

BThe Koren Jerusalem Bible, a Hebrew/English Bible from Koren Publishers in Israel. This edition followed their earlier publication of the Koren Bible in Hebrew, the first bible published in modern Israel, leading David ben-Gurion to state, “Israel is redeemed from shame.”

CThe Jewish Family Bible, edited in 1881 in England by Michael Friedländer, the principal of Jews’ College in London. Friedländer, who taught theology, Talmud, mathematics, Arabic and more, was best known for his English translation of Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed.

DThe Twenty-four Books of the Holy Scriptures, also known as the Leeser Bible. This edition was the first Hebrew Bible published in English in America. Isaac Leeser, a rabbi and educator in Philadelphia, finished this work in 1853.

EThe MAGA Bible, also known as “the bible that Ivanka Trump carried in her $1,540 Max Mara handbag to a photo op for her daddy.” Asked by reporters about the bible, President Trump replied, “It’s Ivanka’s bible. So it’s a Jewish bible. A Hebrew bible. Because Ivanka is now Hebrew, as you know. So she wouldn’t hand me a Christian bible like Eric would. But all bibles are good. Jewish bibles are good. Christian bibles are good. Muslims don’t have a bible. But anyway, the bible I held is more than good. It’s great. I call it the MAGA Bible because one of the ways we can Make America Great Again is by holding bibles. That’s why I went to that church to show the nasty demonstrators that good Americans hold bibles. I’m guessing that George Floyd is looking down and smiling at this bible, and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. This is a great day for him, it’s a great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality and the Bible.”

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CNN & Wolf Blitzer

CNN not only reported the news, but was in the news last week, as one of their journalists was arrested live on TV by Minnesota State Police as he covered the demonstrations following the police killing of George Floyd. In addition, demonstrators in Atlanta defaced the iconic CNN sign outside their headquarters. CNN was launched in 1980 by Ted Turner as the first 24-hour cable news channel. In 1990, journalist Wolf Blitzer joined CNN as a reporter, and he eventually became a news anchor and host of CNN’s Sunday interview show, Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. He has won numerous honors including an Emmy and the Anti-Defamation League’s Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize. Blitzer’s parents were Auschwitz survivors who emigrated to Buffalo where he was raised. He studied Hebrew at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and one of his first jobs was as a Washington correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. Not everyone is a fan of Wolf Blitzer, however. Which of the following has criticized Wolf Blitzer?

Wolf Blitzer

Wolf Blitzer - CNN Portrait by Philkirwin is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

A. David Duke, white nationalist and former Ku Klux Klan leader, stated that the “Jewish media” was unfairly attacking Donald Trump, and said directly to Wolf Blitzer during an interview, “You can’t handle me, and you can’t handle the truth, and the fact is, you are an agent of Zionism. You work for AIPAC…You’re an Israeli agent.”

B. Journalist and MSNBC reporter Joy Reid criticized Wolf Blitzer for supposedly treating Jewish guests too deferentially. She wrote in a blog that Blitzer is a “former flak for the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)” who “doesn’t even try to hide his affinity for his Israeli guests, or his partisanship for their cause, while turning instantly to prosecutorial mode when questioning any guest who has the dumb luck to be an Arab or Muslim in King Blitzer’s court.”

C. Wolf Blitzer recently criticized President Trump for concluding a coronavirus press briefing without taking questions from reporters. Said Blitzer, “This is the first time that the President has been afraid to answer questions from reporters...The President clearly, uh, shall we say, was chicken today.” Trump later tweeted about Blitzer, “Today I was called chicken by that kosher turkey Wolf Blitzer. HOW RUDE IS THAT. I’m the President. I answer questions when I want to answer questions.”

D. Kellyanne Conway, political consultant and advisor to President Trump, was offended when Wolf Blitzer asked her questions about her husband, George Conway, who is an outspoken critic of Trump. She responded, “You wanted to put it in my husband’s voice because you think somehow that will help your ratings or that you’re really sticking it to Kellyanne Conway. And let me make it very clear, you didn’t stick it to Kellyanne Conway. I think you embarrassed yourself and I’m embarrassed for you.”

EWolf Blitzer studied journalism at the State University of New York in Buffalo, where he joined the Jewish Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. He basically spent all of his time in the frat house in front of the TV, watching every news program he could find. He wouldn’t even hear his fraternity brothers calling out to him, thus earning him the nickname Laser Wolf because of his laser focus on the headlines. He adopted this nickname as a badge of pride and when he began anchoring a news program on the campus radio station, he called it “The Situation Room with Laser Wolf.” But shortly thereafter, he received a cease and desist letter from a lawyer representing the writers of Fiddler on the Roof which stated, “Your radio show title infringes on our copyright and brings discredit to our character, the butcher Lazar Wolf. Simply put–If Blitzer says he’s Laser Wolf, we pity him so. He’ll broadcast for three weeks. And when three weeks are up. We’ll drag him into court. We’ll guard our copyright. And thus we’ll sue you Blitzer. Litigate you, Blitzer. Prosecute you Blitzer. Here’s our court subpoena if you say you’re Laser Wolf!!!!”

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Hong Kong

Thousands of protesters were met by police with tear gas and water cannons in the streets of Hong Kong as China imposed new national security laws over Hong Kong, bypassing the territory’s legislature which normally would deal with such issues. The Jewish community in Hong Kong dates to the mid-1880’s. The Sassoon family of Iraq were among the first people to establish a business outpost in Hong Kong, which played a significant role in the growth of the territory. Another Jew who had an impact in Hong Kong was Matthew Nathan, who is remembered for Nathan’s Folly? What does that refer to?

Hong Kong skyline

Hong kong kowloon skyline by Gustavo Jeronimo is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. Matthew Nathan was a British general during the era when merchants of the British East India Company began to grow opium in Bengal which they then wanted to sell in China. The Chinese resisted these efforts, which were harmful to their economy and led to major addiction problems. General Nathan pushed the British government to support the merchants, leading to the First Opium War from 1839-1842. Nathan led the British troops to victory, resulting in the transfer of Hong Kong to the British. However, the victory was hollow as Chinese resistance continued and intensified after the war, eventually leading to the Second Opium War in 1856. As a result, the First Opium War has become known as Nathan’s Folly.

B. Great Britain’s 100 year lease of Hong Kong came to an end in 1997. There was great trepidation in Hong Kong as to whether China would impose their restrictive political and economic system on the territory, which had been operating as a free market democracy. Because of these fears, a recession set in with property values greatly plummeting. Seeing an opportunity, Matthew Nathan, a British entrepreneur, purchased office buildings, shopping centers, and other properties throughout Hong Kong, believing that China would respect their agreement to let Hong Kong continue to operate as they had under British rule. In fact, though China did not initially intervene in any significant way, Nathan was not able to capitalize on his investments because of the general fear of the future, leading him to declare bankruptcy in 2002 in the largest bankruptcy filing in Hong Kong history, which became known as Nathan’s Folly.

C. Matthew Nathan was a British engineer who went to Hong Kong in the early 1900’s as part of British civil service. He proposed building an access road to the swampy area called Kowloon from the developed area of Hong Kong. Nathan Road was seen by many at the time as a huge waste of resources, thus getting the nickname Nathan’s Folly. Eventually, however, Kowloon grew to what is now the most densely populated part of Hong Kong, and Nathan Road is one of Asia’s most notable shopping areas.

D. While there had been a Jewish community in Hong Kong since the 1800’s, the numbers remained small, with only a couple of hundred Jews in Hong Kong in the 1960’s. One of those Jews, Matthew Nathan, decided that the community should have a synagogue and community building, instead of meeting in people’s houses, as had been the practice. He began a fundraising campaign reaching out to local Jews as well as Jews in Europe and America, as he developed plans for a 500 seat sanctuary and a social hall large enough to seat more than a thousand. Many in the local community thought that this was a waste of resources, as the community remained small and somewhat disconnected. Thus they dubbed the project Nathan’s Folly. Yet Nathan managed to raise more than $1 million and oversaw the construction of the building, which has become a focal point of the Hong Kong Jewish community, which has grown to approximately 5000 today.

EMatthew Nathan was an American Jew who was raised in New York City. His family had a tradition of eating out every year on December 24 at a local Chinese restaurant, along with everyone else they knew. Nathan ended up moving to Hong Kong, where he decided to open a Chinese restaurant. People told him that he’d never succeed, as there were literally thousands of Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong. They called the project Nathan’s Folly, but Nathan moved forward, believing that he had a “guaranteed not-to-fail” marketing idea. He named the restaurant Christmas Eve, because he knew from experience that on Christmas Eve, Chinese restaurants were ALWAYS mobbed with people. Sadly, the idea did not catch on, and the restaurant quickly closed.

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Jerry Stiller, z”l

Actor and comedian Jerry Stiller died last week at the age of 92. Stiller was most famous for playing the quintessentially Jewish, but technically non-Jewish Italian Frank Costanza, father of George Costanza on the Seinfeld sitcom. Born to Polish immigrant parents, Stiller grew up in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side, and studied drama after serving in the army during World War II. He married comedian and actor Anne Meara, and the two created a hugely successful comedy duo, focusing on their lives as an intermarried couple. Among their bits was an “I hate you” routine, in which Meara called Stiller a “matza head” and he called her a “shillelagh shiksa.” What was one of Jerry Stiller’s first acting roles?

Jerry Stiller

AHe played the part of the sailor, Ralph Rackstraw, in a high school production of H.M.S. Pinafore.

BHe had a small ensemble part in a Second Avenue Theatre production of the Yiddish play Yankele, which starred Molly Picon.

CHe played Franklin Roosevelt in a high school production of Roosevelt Goes to Heaven.

DHe played Adolf Hitler in a high school production of Hitler Goes to Heaven.

EHe played Charlie B. Barkin in a high school production of All Dogs Go to Heaven.

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Little Richard, RIP

Rock and roll pioneer Little Richard died last week at the age of 87. Richard (whose real name was Richard Penniman) had his first hit, Tutti Frutti, in 1955, followed by other hits including Long Tall Sally, Good Golly Miss Molly, Jenny Jenny, and Slippin' and Slidin'. He was a major influence on so many musicians who followed, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Joan Jett, Brian Wilson, Bette Midler, and Elton John. Which of the following is true about Little Richard?

Little Richard

IMG_8246 by xrayspx is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. Little Richard was a presenter at the 1988 Grammy Awards, announcing the winner of the Best New Artist category. Richard, who had never won a Grammy, held up the envelope and said, “the best new artist is -- me!” After a standing ovation from the audience, he again held up the envelope and said, “and the winner is…still me! Being a brown Jew from Georgia, I had to tell the truth.”

B. Little Richard was one of the first musical heroes of Bob Dylan, who wrote in his high school senior yearbook that his life’s ambition was “to join ‘Little Richard’.” They met many times, and Little Richard was one of the main influences on Dylan’s decision to convert to Christianity in the late 1970’s. And oddly, it was Dylan who influenced Little Richard when Richard embraced Judaism in the mid-1980’s.

C. Shlomo Carlebach, the rabbi, composer, singer, and spiritual leader, began his singing career in Greenwich Village, where he met and worked together with Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger, among others. Dylan told “Reb Shlomo” about Richard and lent him some of his Little Richard albums. Carlebach later said, “I learned a lot about the importance of lyrics in music from Dylan, but I learned everything about the soul of music from Little Richard.”

D. At one point in his life, Little Richard converted to Judaism. One Friday in the 1980’s, Little Richard was recording with Paul Shaffer and Richard said he had to be done by 5pm because “It’s Shabbos and I’m an Orthodox Jew, have been for years. After sundown, I do no work.” The session ran a bit long, but Shaffer was able to show Little Richard that Shabbat didn’t actually start until 5:21pm that day. Little Richard told Shaffer, “Baby, you’re a better Jew than me.”

ELittle Richard was born and raised in Macon, Georgia. His family, like many black families in the south, had contact with the local Jewish community because many of the local businesses that served the black community were owned by Jewish immigrant families. As a child, Richard had already begun applying his musical and comedic talents when talking about his life, including referring to the local Jews as Heebie Jeebies. He eventually used that phrase in one of his first songs, Heeby-Jeebies, though the song had nothing to do with Jews.

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