Jewish Trivia Quiz

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

Hatikvah

The Star Spangled Banner, America’s national anthem, has been in the news in recent years as NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and then others, have chosen not to stand during its playing at athletic events as a political statement. Last week, President Donald Trump suggested that NFL owners should fire players who participate in these protest actions. Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, was first selected as the Zionist anthem at the First Zionist Congress in 1897. From that time until the present, the song has been surrounded by controversy. Today many Arab citizens of Israel are not comfortable singing the anthem, which refers to the two thousand year old dream to be free people in the land of Zion, an aspiration which does not speak to many Israeli citizens of non-Jewish descent. Hebrew University announced a few months ago that it would not play Hatikvah at its graduation ceremony out of “consideration for the other side,” a reference to the university’s Arab community. Which of the following reflect Hatikvah-centered controversies?

Hatikvah sheet music

Hatikvah is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

A. Religious Zionists objected to Hatikvah because the song makes no reference to God. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, considered to be the “father” of religious Zionism, composed a poem, Ha-Emunah, (The Faith), referencing a “return to our holy land” where “we shall serve our God,” which was suggested as an alternative song, but Hatikvah maintained its position as the official Zionist anthem.

BTheodor Herzl and others were supportive of using the poem Tikvatenu, written by Naftali Hertz Imber, as the anthem for the Zionist movement, but did not approve of the music to which the lyrics were matched, which was based on The Moldau, a composition by Bedřich Smetana. Smetana, a gifted composer who gave his first public performance at the age of 6, was also a Czech nationalist and known anti-Semite.

CTheodor Herzl disliked the song Hatikvah, in part because the writer of the lyrics, Naftali Hertz Imber, was a “perpetual ne’er-do-well” and a “drunkard.”

DThe early Zionist movement saw a split between those who felt that a Jewish homeland needed to be established in what was then called Palestine and those who felt that location was not the key, rather it was necessary to find any place where Jews could live safely. Advocates of the latter proposed such locations as Uganda, Buffalo, and Argentina, among others. This faction of the Zionist movement objected to the selection of Hatikvah as their anthem because of the lyrics which read, “To be a free people in our land, The land of Zion and Jerusalem,” with the belief that adopting the song with this geographic reference would lessen the likelihood of success in establishing a Jewish homeland in an alternate location.

EIn 1993, actress Roseanne Barr traveled to Israel to see her daughter Jessica participate as a soccer player representing the United States in the Maccabiah games. Barr was invited to sing Hatikvah at the beginning of the match between her daughter’s U.S. team and the competing Israeli team. Her rendition was loud, out-of-tune, and extremely shrieky, and ended with Barr grabbing her crotch. The next day, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who had attended the game, was quoted as saying, “I have been a Zionist my entire life, and everything I have ever done was guided by the Zionist motto, ‘Im tirtzu, ein zo agada,’ ‘If you will it, it is not a dream.’ But no matter how hard I try, I am unable to will myself to unhear and unsee that disturbing rendition of Hatikvah.”

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High Holidays Shopping

Many holidays have lost much of their original purpose and meaning as the American retail industry has ramped up its sales promotions, leading to Martin Luther King Jr. Day sales events, Black Friday mall openings beginning during the Thursday Thanksgiving feast, and even Memorial Day mattress sales. The Jewish holidays are not immune to this trend. Which of the following is a real product that is for sale during the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?

Round challah

Rosh Hashanah 5773 Dinner by Edsel Little is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. “Tapuchei-D’vash,” is offered in chassidic communities including Crown Heights, Williamsburg, and Monsey. The product is a small zip-locked bag containing a sliced apple (tapuach) pre-dipped in honey (d’vash). Besides the general convenience, this product enables the user to eat apple slices without cutting them, thus avoiding the prohibition against koraya, or “tearing.” This is the same proscription which some very observant Jews follow when pre-tearing toilet paper prior to the Shabbat or holidays.

B. Jason’s “Tashlich Croutons” is offered by the company that makes Jason’s Kosher Pareve bread crumbs. Tashlich Croutons are made for use during the Tashlich ceremony, when Jews symbolically cast their sins into the water. Instructions on the label say “Just open and toss into water. May also be used in soup.”

C. “Shofar Odor Neutralizer” is available on amazon.com for only $12.95. The label states, “Spray directly into the shofar, repeat if necessary.”

D. Davka Corporation sells an app for iPhone and Android devices called “BTF Countdown Clock” (Break The Fast). The app is programmed with the correct time for breaking the Yom Kippur fast every year, and is tied to the device’s built in GPS system to accurately note the correct break-the-fast time wherever the phone is located. When activated, the app vibrates throughout Yom Kippur day on an hourly basis. Starting one hour before the break-the-fast time, the vibrations occur every ten minutes, and finally, on a minute-by-minute basis during the last 10 minutes. Upon reaching the break-the-fast time, the phone will begin playing the Motzi, or a song of the user’s choice from their music library.

EThe Reform congregation, Temple Emanu-El, one of the largest synagogues in Manhattan, offers $5 student rush tickets for its High Holiday services.

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Sara Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family are embroiled in numerous scandals. Recent court documents show that the Prime Minister is a suspect in two investigations of “fraud, breach of trust and bribes,” with the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom saying on its front page recently that his indictment is imminent. Netanyahu’s son Yair is being condemned in Israel and the United States for recently posting a cartoon critical of some of his father’s supposed opponents. The cartoon showed the faces of George Soros, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and others, pasted over the original faces from a classic anti-Semitic cartoon suggesting that Jews control the United States (bringing praise from KKK leader David Duke among others). And Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara is about to be indicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust, according to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. Sara Netanyahu has been at the center of previous controversies, including a lawsuit filed by Manny [Meni] Naftali, the caretaker of the family’s residence, who was awarded NIS 170,000 by the court. Which of the following describe scandals that have swirled around Mrs. Netanyahu?

Sara Netanyahu with Melania Trump

Trump visits Israel by StateofIsrael is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AAccording to the court case won by Manny Naftali [who is of Moroccan descent], Mrs. Netanyahu complained about a Shabbat meal she had been served, saying, “We are sophisticated Europeans. We don’t eat as much food as you Moroccans. You are stuffing us, so that when they photograph us abroad, we look fat.”

B. When President and Mrs. Trump visited Israel, Mrs. Netanyahu greeted Melania Trump, saying, “You know in Israel all the people like us. The media hate us but the people love us. Like you.”

C. Monique Ben Melekh, wife of Eli Moyal, former mayor of Sderot, had criticized Prime Minister Netanyahu’s handling of the Gaza war. In response, Mrs. Netanyahu accused Ben Melekh and Moyal of being jealous of the prime minister, saying “He [Moyal] is jealous of him [the prime minister] because he is so successful, because he is a great leader!! And your man just babbles and babbles...Why do you have to spit into the well you drank from? What kind of person does something like that? I can’t help thinking of the BBC drama Downton Abbey, with its upstairs/downstairs intrigue, scheming staff and the bubbling cauldron of endless gossip.”

D. Another Netanyahu household employee, Gil Eliyahu, said that he was awakened in the middle of the night and ordered to return to the prime minister’s residence to heat up a bowl of soup for Mrs. Netanyahu. He was also ordered to return to the residence once for failing to wish her good night. “You have to say goodnight to me before you go,” she allegedly said to him.

E. Mrs. Netanyahu kept the deposits from bottles returned to the recycling center, even though the government had paid for the bottles that she returned.

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Jews & Kenya

Last month, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta won reelection to a second term against opposition leader Raila Odinga. However, the country’s Supreme Court ruled that due to election irregularities, the results are nullified and a new election must be held within the next 60 days. There has been a Jewish presence in Kenya since J. Marcus, a Jewish businessman from India, moved to Nairobi in 1889. Which of the following is true regarding Jews and Kenya?

Map of Kenya

Kenya-Map1 by greenravine  is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. The Kasuku Gathundia Jewish community consists of approximately 60 members, mostly subsistence farmers, who live in and around Naharuru, Kenya, about four hours north of Nairobi. They had been members of a larger Messianic Jewish congregation until they learned from members of the Nairobi Hebrew Congregation that their Messianic practices were “not  Judaism.” Said one of their leaders, “if this is not Judaism, then what is Judaism?” They then broke from the Messianic group and studied and adopted traditional Jewish beliefs and practices. Because it is illegal to circumcise young children in Kenya, their community members travel to Uganda for this ceremony when baby boys are born.

BThe Nairobi Hebrew Congregation was founded in 1904, and their first synagogue was built in 1913. The congregation was established by Yemenite Jews who fled south to Africa from Yemen after the government issued a decree (based on an ancient Islamic law) which required Jewish orphans under age 12 to be converted to Islam. The fleeing Jewish families had children who were adopted, and they feared that the new law would apply to their children.

C. In 1963, Golda Meir, then Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, visited Kenya and met with Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta. One of the major accomplishments of the visit was the establishment of a program of agricultural cooperation between the two countries. Specifically, Israel sent representatives from the kibbutz movement to help establish communal farms in Kenya which were run according to the model of Israeli cooperative kibbutzim. Combining the Swahili word for farm with the Hebrew word “kibbutz,” these Kenyan agricultural villages were known as Mashamba Kibbutzah.

D. In 1947, the British government set up a detention camp in Gilgil, a small town about two hours north of Nairobi, to house members of the Irgun and Lehi underground Jewish military organizations, who had been captured in Palestine. Conditions at the camp were difficult, though local Kenyan Jews provided much needed support for the detainees.

E. The Nairobi Hebrew Congregation currently has about 250 members, and holds services on Shabbat and holidays following Orthodox practice, though many members are not observant. In the early 1970’s, Barack Obama, whose family lived next door to the synagogue, served as the Shabbos Goy who would turn on lights and heat in the building on the Sabbath.

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Jerry Lewis, z”l

Comedian Jerry Lewis died last week at the age of 91. Lewis, who was Jewish and was born Jerome Levitch, rarely spoke of his religious beliefs, though he did say in reponse to a question about his high school years that he was “the original graffiti artist—I drew a picture of Hitler kissing a Jewish lady!” He visited Israel in 1981 for a telethon, having had a previous visit canceled as he was scheduled to fly to Israel the night before the Six Day War. Which of the following is true about Jerry Lewis?

Jerry Lewis

63 jerry lewis by 1950sUnlimited is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. He is the only performer to receive a nomination for an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Chevalier de l' Ordre National de la Legion d'Honneur award in France, a British Academy Film Awards, a Cannes Film Festival award, and a Clown d’Or (Golden Clown) award at the International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo.

BHe is the only Jewish comedian nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

C. Albert Einstein saw Jerry Lewis’s debut on a local New Jersey television show, and met him afterward, telling Lewis “You did a good job, young man.”

DMany years ago Jerry was a guest at a Chabad fund raising event in Los Angeles. As Jerry danced in a circle with arms wrapped around the rabbis on either side, he noticed that there was a young boy in the room who was in a wheelchair. Jerry went over to him and twirled his wheelchair around as the boy clapped and sang. From this experience, Jerry decided to do whatever he could to help other handicapped children, leading to the idea of a telethon for Muscular Dystrophy.

E. Early in his performing career, Lewis was booed off the stage at a club in Nashville when the audience realized that he was not the rock 'n' roll performer Jerry Lee Lewis. And oddly, Jerry Lee Lewis was booed off the stage at a concert in Las Vegas when the audience realized that he was not the comedian Jerry Lewis.

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Solar Eclipse

Some rabbinic sages say that solar eclipses are bad for gentiles, while lunar eclipses are bad for Jews (based on the idea that gentiles follow a solar calendar, while Jews follow a lunar calendar). In the Gemara Sukkah 29a, it says “When the sun is eclipsed it is a bad omen for the entire world.” The Gemara goes on to state that there are four circumstances that lead to the occurrence of a solar eclipse. One circumstance is when a head judge dies and is not sufficiently eulogized. Another is homosexual relations. The third circumstance is when a betrothed woman yells for help when she is being raped, and no one responds to help her. What is the fourth event that would lead to the bad omen of a solar eclipse, according to the Gemara?

Solar eclipse

Solar Eclipse - November 13, 2012 by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. When hackers released this season’s Game of Thrones episodes before they aired on HBO.

BWhen twin brothers are killed at the same time.

CWhen domesticated animals, such as cows and goats, are mistreated by being beaten or starved.

DWhen someone defiles the Temple in Jerusalem by entering during a state of impurity (for example, someone who has touched a dead body and not yet cleansed at the mikveh).

E. When Steve Bannon is angry (which explains today’s solar eclipse).

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Solar Eclipse

Some rabbinic sages say that solar eclipses are bad for gentiles, while lunar eclipses are bad for Jews (based on the idea that gentiles follow a solar calendar, while Jews follow a lunar calendar). In the Gemara Sukkah 29a, it says “When the sun is eclipsed it is a bad omen for the entire world.” The Gemara goes on to state that there are four circumstances that lead to the occurrence of a solar eclipse. One circumstance is when a head judge dies and is not sufficiently eulogized. Another is homosexual relations. The third circumstance is when a betrothed woman yells for help when she is being raped, and no one responds to help her. What is the fourth event that would lead to the bad omen of a solar eclipse, according to the Gemara?

Solar eclipse

Solar Eclipse - November 13, 2012 by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. When hackers released this season’s Game of Thrones episodes before they aired on HBO.

BWhen twin brothers are killed at the same time.

CWhen domesticated animals, such as cows and goats, are mistreated by being beaten or starved.

DWhen someone defiles the Temple in Jerusalem by entering during a state of impurity (for example, someone who has touched a dead body and not yet cleansed at the mikveh).

E. When Steve Bannon is angry (which explains today’s solar eclipse).

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Netanyahu/Trump

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under multiple investigations that may lead to criminal charges. Echoing Donald Trump, Netanyahu has called the charges “fake news” and the investigations “a witch hunt.” What else has Netanyahu said in the past that seems to echo Donald Trump?

Netanyahu and Trump.

A“Will we surround all of the State of Israel with fences and barriers? The answer is yes. In the area that we live in, we must defend ourselves against the wild beasts.”

B[Prior to the passing of the Iran deal]. “Let the Ayatollah and his government understand that regardless of any deal they may make, Israel will never tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. And if there is even a hint that Iran is going to threaten us, I assure you, fire and brimstone will rain down upon them like the world hasn’t seen since Sodom and Gomorrah.”

C. “I always lose the election in the polls, and I always win it on election day.”

D. “My level of intervention in the press, trying to control stories, is zero. Subzero.”

E. “If Miri Regev weren’t my minister of culture, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

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Trump & Golf

Donald Trump is beginning a 17-day working vacation at the Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, New Jersey. When Barack Obama was president, Donald Trump tweeted at least 27 times in criticism of Obama for playing golf too much when he should be dealing with the country’s problems (for example: “Obama’s mind, IsIs, ebola, etc.... and then thinking, boy I wish I was on the golf coarse [sic]. What should I wear on the Links” and “While our wonderful president was out playing golf all day, the TSA is falling apart, just like our government! Airports a total disaster!”). In fact, Obama played golf 11 times in his first 7 months, while Trump has already played golf 21 times since his inauguration. What golf story about Donald Trump has a Jewish connection?

Donald Trump golfing

Donald Duffs by Steve Jurvetson is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. Donald Trump visited Israel in May of this year, and was given a tour of many historic sites in Israel, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The entourage visited the historic amphitheater at Caesarea before driving past Israel’s Caesarea Golf Club, site of the only 18-hole golf course in Israel that meeets international standards. Trump said to Bibi Netanyahu, “Let me buy that decrepit stadium and I’ll build a first class golf club and resort there. Then the world will respect Israel.” Netanyahu and his staffers laughed at what they thought was a joke, but Trump just gazed seriously at them before changing the subject.

B. Donald Trump originally decided to purchase Mar-a-Lago, the estate of socialite and heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, as a winter home for himself and his family. However, he faced major opposition from local politicians and wealthy residents of the area, and long legal battles ensued. At one point, the claim was made that Trump wanted to turn that property into a private club (which, of course, he eventually did) because he was angry that the nearby super exclusive Bath and Tennis Club would not invite him to join. In response to that claim, Trump stated, “Do you think if I wanted to be a member they would have turned me down? I wouldn’t join that club, because they don’t take blacks and Jews.”

C. In October 2009, Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka married Jared Kushner at the Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, New Jersey, where large tents were set up in the middle of the golf course for the ceremony and reception. Another tent was set up with an entire kosher kitchen inside, as the management of the catering facility in the clubhouse refused to allow their kitchen to be kashered for the event. Originally, Ivanka wanted to arrange for the kitchen in the clubhouse to be kashered, but the catering manager refused, reportedly saying that “the last time those rabbis came into this kitchen they almost burned the place down.” When Ivanka asked her father to intervene, he replied, “When I bought this club, I made a deal with the caterer. I told him, ‘I won't tell you how to run your kitchen, and you don’t tell me how to play golf.’”

D. The Trump International Golf Club in Dubai opened in February 2017 with an invitation-only ceremony. Donald Trump did not attend, but was represented by his sons Eric and Donald Jr. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was also scheduled to attend the event, which was originally supposed to take place in the fall of 2016. Construction delays led to the opening being delayed until Feburary. By then, Trump had become president, and on the advice of Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, Trump instructed Kushner to skip the event out of concern that sending Kushner, who is Jewish, might offend some in the Arab world.

EIn 2009, Donald Trump purchased the Pine Hill Golf Club in New Jersey, turning it into a private and exclusive golf resort, the Trump National Golf Course where he is now vacationing. In 2011, when renovations to the course were completed, Trump allowed a Golf Channel camera crew to accompany him on a round of golf. At one point during the filming, Trump approached a couple who were golfing and said to them (while pointing at the three men with whom Trump was playing), “You got some place here, I’ll tell you [referring to the golf course]. Even these spoiled, rich Jewish guys, they can’t believe how good this is, you know?”

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Justin Bieber

After touring for almost 2 years, last week Justin Bieber abruptly canceled the remaining 14 concerts of his Purpose world tour, with little explanation. Bieber, who is not Jewish, participates in what Jewish ritual?

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber by Adam Sundana is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. Bieber wears a red string “Kabbalah bracelet” which he received as a present from Madonna.

BPrior to eating, Bieber recites the Motzi blessing.

CPrior to each concert, Bieber recites the Shma in Hebrew.

DAt the end of each concert, as he leaves the stage, Bieber recites the Shechecheyanu prayer.

EAfter running into a photographer with his truck last week in Beverly Hills, Bieber crouched next to the injured man and chanted the Mi Shebayrach prayer for a speedy recovery.

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