Wednesday, June 16th 2021   |

Jewish Trivia Quiz

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

Marijuana

The medical use of marijuana is legal in 36 states, and recreational use is legal in 15 states, with New York joining that list last month. Medical marijuana is legal in Israel, and recreational use is mostly decriminalized, with little enforcement. A draft law is being considered to legalize recreational use, though smoking in public places will not be allowed. Most religious authorities agree that marijuana is kosher, as it is a plant which would not even need certification unless it was processed or included in an edible product. In 2020, archaeologists and scientists studied residue found in an altar at Tel Arad in Israel from the period 760 BCE to 715 BCE and determined that it was the remnants of burning cannabis plants used in a ritual ceremony. What term related to marijuana is believed to have Jewish roots?

Marijuana plant

Marijuana Plants by Anthony Quintano is licensed under CC BY 2.0

ALinguists believe that the source of the word marijuana is the name מר חנה, Mar Chana, meaning the Sea of Chana, a small body of water in northern Israel in the area that the cannabis plant was grown in Biblical times.

BIt is believed that the word cannabis derives from the Hebrew words, קנה בשם, Kaneh Bosem, which was one of the ingredients of anointing oils mentioned in Exodus.

CThere are many theories behind the use of the number 420 in reference to marijuana. Many think that the number refers to California penal code Section 420 about marijuana, and others contend that Bob Dylan's song Rainy Day Woman #12 and 35 is the source (“Everybody must get stoned,” not to mention that 12x35=420). But the most likely source is Hebrew gematria, where the numerical value of words is analyzed. The Hebrew word עשן, Ashan (ayin, shin, nun) means smoke, which has a value of 420 in gematria.

DThe word ganja, typically used by Rastafarians to refer to marijuana, comes from the Hebrew words גן יה, Gan Ya, meaning Garden of God. Rastafarians believe that the Tree of Life referred to in the Biblical story of Eden is in fact the marijuana plant.

EOne day Shirley Sobchak came home to find her son, Wally, smoking marijuana. She was shocked, and said to him, “Walter! What are you? A putz? Smoking?” Wally, being high, misheard her and said, “Yeah, I’m pot smoking. But don’t worry. I don’t roll on Shabbos.” And thus was born the phrase Pot Smoking for using marijuana.

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Seder Plate

Jews around the world celebrated Passover with the traditional seder meal, some in person, many more via online technology, as the pandemic took its toll on the holiday for the second year in a row. One of the primary traditions of Passover is the inclusion of a seder plate, consisting of a variety of symbolic items, including bitter herbs, representing the harshness of slavery suffered by the Jews in Egypt, and a shank bone, a symbol of the korban pesach, or paschal lamb sacrifice. A tradition started 40 years ago that has gained widespread acceptance in many non-Orthodox households is the placement of an orange on the seder plate. Though many see this as a symbol of women’s important role in Judaism, it was in fact started by Jewish feminist scholar Susannah Heschel in support of gays and lesbians. More recently, others have suggested new additions to the seder plate, though none has as yet gained widespread acceptance. Which of the following are among those new seder plate suggestions?

Passover Seder Plate

Passover Seder plate with wine and matzot by Mikael Häggström, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons is licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

AA group of rabbis and others representing The Jewish Working Group to End The New Jim Crow suggested the addition of a padlock and a key to call attention to the problem of mass incarceration in America.

B. Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael, Spiritual Arts Director of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, suggested the addition of an artichoke to symbolize the issue of intermarriage within the Jewish community. She notes that the artichoke is complex, with its petals, thistle and heart, and thus represents the diversity of the Jewish people. But she also says that the thorny bristles reflect the fact that “the Jewish people have been thorny about” the issue of interfaith marriage.

CA number of years ago, Rabbi Wesley Gardenswartz, senior rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Newton, Massachusetts, had seen a sign in a local CVS drug store asking people to buy bags of cashews for U.S. troops who were serving in Iraq. The Rabbi learned that the salty nuts were considered a good way to keep the service men and women hydrated in the dry dessert. The Rabbi went on to urge his congregants to include cashews on their seder plates to honor the soldiers serving in Iraq.

DIn 2015, the world was saddened to see a photograph of a young Syrian boy who had drowned off the coast of Turkey (along with his mother and brother) as their family attempted to escape the civil war in Syria. The father spoke of how he had given his sons bananas every day despite the difficulty of obtaining this fruit in war-torn Syria, in an attempt to make their lives just a bit sweeter. In response to this story, Rabbi Dan Moskovitz of Temple Sholom in Vancouver, British Columbia suggested the placing of a banana on the seder plate to remind us of the plight of refugees world-wide.

EGovernor Brian Kemp of Georgia just signed a bill designed to “make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.” One of the provisions of the bill is to make it illegal to provide water or food to someone standing in line outside a polling place, as this is one of the primary ways that Joe Biden, Reverend Raphael Warnock, and Jon Ossoff were able to fraudulently win in the recent Georgia elections. To further promote this “good government” legislation, Governor Kemp has called on all Jewish Georgians to add a glass of water to their seder plates. Said Governor Kemp, “Your tradition says, ‘let all who are hungry, come and eat.’ I support that, so long as this does not take place in a line outside a polling place. If we make it easy for white people to vote, but difficult for minorities to stand in a ridiculously long line suffering from hunger and dehydration, Dayenu!”

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The Dead Sea Scrolls

Researchers at the Israel Antiquities Authority announced that additional Dead Sea Scrolls have been found and studied, including texts from the Books of Zechariah and Nahum. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of ancient manuscripts (including every book of the Hebrew Bible except for Esther) found in the Qumran Caves of the Judaean desert. The scrolls generally date to the third century BCE through the first century of the common era, and are among the oldest copies of most of the Hebrew Biblical texts. The original discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls took place in 1946 and 1947 when young Bedouin shepherds stumbled upon the caves and large clay jars which contained many of the leather and papyrus scrolls and fragments. The Bedouins who found the original scrolls sold some to local antiques dealers, and they changed hands multiple times. Meanwhile, other caves were searched by Bedouins as well as archaeologists from the American Schools of Oriental Research, yielding additional scrolls and fragments. Almost all of the Dead Sea Scrolls that have been found to date are housed in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. How did Israel obtain a number of the Dead Sea Scrolls?

The Dead Sea Scrolls

dead-sea-scroll-israeli-museum-jerusalem- by Larry Koester is licensed under CC BY 2.0

AResearchers from the American Schools of Oriental Research sold the scrolls and fragments which they had discovered to the Israel Antiquities Authority in 1959. The IAA then began initial research into the authenticity of the scrolls, before passing them on to the Israel Museum which constructed the Shrine of the Book in 1965.

BA few of the scrolls were in the The National Museum of Damascus, having been obtained from one of the antiques dealers to whom the Bedouins had sold some of their finds. In 1962, Israeli spy Elie Cohen was working undercover in Syria, and one of his accomplishments was to provide information to the Mossad about the location of the scrolls. The Mossad then arranged for some of their operatives to steal the scrolls and bring them to Israel.

CA number of the scrolls were in the possession of Jordanian authorities who had obtained them from antiques dealers in Syria and Lebanon. After the Six Day War, Israel gained control over all of Jerusalem, including the Jordanian Department of Antiquities. After negotiations, the Jordanians agreed to turn over to Israel their Dead Sea Scrolls while maintaining possession and authority over other antiquities that were housed in the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount.

D. Many of the scrolls were discovered by Professor Yigael Yadin, an archaeologist and researcher who led an excavation of some of the Qumran Caves beginning in 1951, shortly after Israel’s War of Independence gave Israel possession of the Judaean Desert territory where the caves are located.

EProfessor Yigael Yadin purchased four of the scrolls when they were offered in a Wall Street Journal classified ad under the category “Miscellaneous Items for Sale.”

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Tiffany Haddish

Comedian Tiffany Haddish won a Grammy award for Best Comedy Album for her album Black Mitzvah, the recording of her 2019 Netflix comedy special. In the performance, Haddish explored her Jewish heritage, something she only discovered as a young adult when she learned that her father was an Eritrean Jew. Haddish embraced her Jewish heritage and held a bat mitzvah under the guidance of Rabbi Susan Silverman, including Torah reading and a d’var Torah speech about Jacob’s ladder from the Parsha Vayetze. But Haddish was no stranger to Judaism, as she had worked since the age of 17 as a dancer and an MC at more than 500 bar and bat mitzvah parties. What did Haddish say about that experience?

Tiffany Haddish (2019) by MTV International  is licensed under CC BY 3.0

A. “I’ve been to like over 500 bar mitzvahs, and I’m so glad it’s finally my turn to get candy thrown at me.”

B. “I’ve been to like over 500 bar mitzvahs, and I can pronounce the ‘ch’s’ better than any of those old Jews.”

C. “I’ve been to like over 500 bar mitzvahs, and I am so tired of that f*** chicken dance.”

D. “I’ve been to like over 500 bar mitzvahs, and I’m tired of people telling me to go to the kitchen.”

EShe told of grabbing an 80 year old man by the tie and dancing with him. “And then I decided to turn it around on him and drop it like it’s hot and give him that booty action...and I turned around and he was on the ground on his back...and he passed away...I didn’t want to dance no more, I felt like this [behind] was deadly.”

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Tiffany Haddish

Comedian Tiffany Haddish won a Grammy award for Best Comedy Album for her album Black Mitzvah, the recording of her 2019 Netflix comedy special. In the performance, Haddish explored her Jewish heritage, something she only discovered as a young adult when she learned that her father was an Eritrean Jew. Haddish embraced her Jewish heritage and held a bat mitzvah under the guidance of Rabbi Susan Silverman, including Torah reading and a d’var Torah speech about Jacob’s ladder from the Parsha Vayetze. But Haddish was no stranger to Judaism, as she had worked since the age of 17 as a dancer and an MC at more than 500 bar and bat mitzvah parties. What did Haddish say about that experience?

Tiffany Haddish (2019) by MTV International  is licensed under CC BY 3.0

A. “I’ve been to like over 500 bar mitzvahs, and I’m so glad it’s finally my turn to get candy thrown at me.”

B. “I’ve been to like over 500 bar mitzvahs, and I can pronounce the ‘ch’s’ better than any of those old Jews.”

C. “I’ve been to like over 500 bar mitzvahs, and I am so tired of that f*** chicken dance.”

D. “I’ve been to like over 500 bar mitzvahs, and I’m tired of people telling me to go to the kitchen.”

EShe told of grabbing an 80 year old man by the tie and dancing with him. “And then I decided to turn it around on him and drop it like it’s hot and give him that booty action...and I turned around and he was on the ground on his back...and he passed away...I didn’t want to dance no more, I felt like this [behind] was deadly.”

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Dr. Seuss

The estate which controls the publishing of Dr. Seuss books has announced that six of his books will be pulled from publication because of racist and stereotypical images that appear in the books. The books are mostly unknown, including McElligot’s Pool, The Cat’s Quizzer and Scrambled Eggs Super!. The book being withdrawn that is most familiar to many readers is And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, which includes a stereotypical image of an Asian person with slanty eyes. While many on the right are criticizing this as a form of cancel culture or censorship, others recognize that the estate management made the decision on their own after having a panel investigate the author’s works. Representatives of Dr. Seuss Enterprises said, “These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong. Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families.” In fact, later works by Dr. Seuss carried strong messages of the importance of acceptance of others, including Horton Hears a Who!, with a theme of “a person’s a person no matter how small.” Seuss was inspired by a post-World War II visit to Japan that opened his eyes to seeing the Japanese people differently than he had during the war. Which of Dr. Seuss’s works was inspired by something Jewish?

Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Seuss Geisel

Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) by Al Ravenna, New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer is in the public domain

ATheodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss’s real name) was inspired to write one of his most famous books, Green Eggs and Ham, by a Jewish boy who was friends with Geisel’s son. The boy, named Sammy, came over one day and refused to eat the ham dinner which was offered to him. This inspired Geisel to write about Sam-I-Am who did not like green eggs and ham.

B. One of Seuss’s lesser known works was Too Many Daves about a mother who named all 23 of her sons Dave. Geisel was inspired by two neighbors of the Geisel family. Each family was Jewish, and each had a son named David. When Theodor Geisel and his wife attended a Passover seder sponsored by one of the Jewish families and attended by the other, Geisel was amused by the fact that whenever someone said the name David during the seder both boys responded, always leading to confusion.

CSeuss’s book Sneetches was about characters with a star on their chest who discriminated against others without the star. An entrepeneur invented a machine that placed stars on people’s chests, and all the non-starred characters suddenly had stars. The originally-starred characters then used a “star off” machine, and eventually everyone was running from machine to machine until no one knew who was part of which group originally. Seuss was inspired to write the book when he learned of Nazis forcing Jews to wear stars on their clothing.

D. In 1927 Geisel published his first national cartoon in the Saturday Evening Post, at which point he moved to Queens, New York. He met a neighbor, Mickey Katz, who was an Orthodox Jew. Katz always wore a yarmulke, something that Geisel had never seen before. So Mr. Katz and his “hat” became the inspiration for The Cat in the Hat.

E. In 1946, Dr. Seuss was invited to a Yom Kippur break-the-fast meal by his editor (who was Jewish) at Vanguard Press. He felt he should bring something to the meal but not being Jewish, he had no idea what would be appropriate. He went to a local Jewish deli and asked the counterman what he should buy for the occasion. Said the employee, “I have nice lox in my ice box.” That line kept whirling around in Geisel’s head, and sure enough, the next day he began writing Fox in Socks. An early draft of the book included the line “Fox in socks on box on Knox enjoyed nice lox from the ice box,” but the line was later cut from the book.

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Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo was seen as a voice of reason and calm during the early days of the pandemic, especially at a time when President Trump was offering practically no leadership at all regarding this crisis. Lately, however, Governor Cuomo is being seen in a different light as two former aides have accused him of sexual harrassment. Cuomo has denied the claims, and an independent investigation will likely take place under the auspices of the New York attorney general and the chief judge of the state court of appeals. Governor Cuomo once said “It was ugly. It was ugly. I’ll tell you the truth.” What was he referring to?

Governor Andrew Cuomo by AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin is in the public domain

AWhen Governor Cuomo was attempting to get the Orthodox community to follow state guidelines for public gatherings during the COVID pandemic, most leaders in the Orthodox community simply ignored him. However, Heshy Tischler, the Borough Park Orthodox activist and talk show host, verbally attacked Cuomo on his radio show, saying among other things that the Catholic Cuomo had “no clue what it was really like to be religious,” thus leading to Cuomo’s comment.

B. Andrew Cuomo was speaking about a trip he made to Israel in 2015. He had visited the Western Wall, and happened to be there when a group of Orthodox Jews began protesting a women’s minyan and Torah reading that was taking place in the women’s section. Cuomo was referring to the men who were yelling and throwing eggs, water bottles, and other objects across the dividing wall towards the women.

CIn 1991, Cuomo was serving as the chair of the New York City Homeless Commission in the David Dinkins administration. His comments were in response to the Crown Heights riot which occurred in August of that year. At that time Black residents in Brooklyn attacked Chassidic Jews in response to an auto accident where two Guyanese immigrant children were struck by a car whose passenger was the Lubavitch Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

D. Governor Cuomo was the main speaker at an event at the Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem in 2018. During his talk, Cuomo made the comments about Democratic consultant and Orthodox Rabbi Hank Sheinkopf, who was sitting in the front row. Cuomo was specifically referring to Sheikopf’s dancing, as Sheinkopf moved to the music that was playing in the church.

ECuomo was referring to the first time he attended a Passover seder, specifically when they served a food he had never seen before, the gefilte fish.

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Texas

Much of the country was hit by severe weather last week, including snow, freezing rain, and frigid temperatures throughout the deep South. Texas was particularly hard hit, with major power outages resulting in water shortages that are ongoing. And Senator Ted Cruz found himself in the middle of a P.R. crisis as he and his family left town for a Cancún vacation. Organized Jewish life first began in Texas in the 1850’s, though the first North American Jew known to have been in Texas was Captain Samuel Noah who commanded a Mexican force against Spain at San Antonio in 1811. The current Jewish population of Texas is over 150,000, particularly centered in the larger cities of Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso. One significant event in Texas Jewish history was the Galveston Movement. What was that?

Texas-Lone Star State post card

Texas by Noé Alfaro is licensed under CC BY 2.0

AThe Galveston Movement grew out of a regional meeting of Reform Jewish congregations along the Gulf Coast, including temples in Houston, Lake Charles, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Biloxi. The Reform movement was struggling with the question of whether to maintain rules of Kashrut following the Trefa Banquet in Cincinnati in 1883. This event was a celebration of the first graduating class of Hebrew Union College and was held at a non-kosher restaurant. The Gulf Coast congregations met and decided to discontinue support of kosher rules and established the Galveston Movement to formalize this change and advocate for it among other southern Reform congregations.

B. The Galveston Movement was an effort by owners of hotels in Miami Beach in the 1950’s to capitalize on their success of bringing Jewish New Yorkers to Florida for Passover package vacations featuring seders and kosher-for-Passover food. The hoteliers hoped to attract Jews from Midwestern cities such as Chicago and St. Louis to spend their Passover vacation in the Texas beach resort town. They contracted with Galveston hotels including the famous Beach Hotel and the historic Hotel Galvez to provide rooms, and they arranged for the kashering of the hotel kitchens. While this Galveston Movement initially met with some success, the idea ultimately did not catch on as it did in Miami Beach and the last hotel to offer a Passover package ended the program in 1963.

CThe Galveston Movement was an effort in the early 20th century to divert European Jewish immigrants to an entry at the Port of Galveston rather than Ellis Island, to lessen the burden of huge immigration to cities on the Eastern Seaboard. Financially supported by philanthropist Jacob Schiff, the Galveston Movement saw more than 10,000 Jewish immigrants arrive in the United States at Galveston, from where they dispersed to other southern, midwestern and western cities.

D. The Galveston Movement was an effort to set up bungalow colonies in Galveston for poor Jewish families to escape to during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1905. Jews from Houston, Austin and even Dallas traveled to Galveston where the less crowded conditions and gulf breeze helped stem the spread of the disease. The effort, funded by wealthy German Jews who had settled in Houston beginning in the 1870’s, was geared toward providing safer housing for the recent Eastern European Jews who had emigrated to cities in Texas.

EThe Galveston Movement was a line dance which became popular at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs in Galveston in the 1980’s. Similar to the Chicken Dance, the Galveston Movement was danced to the Glen Campbell hit song Galveston, with movements replicating sea winds blowing, sea waves crashing, and sea birds flying in the sun. At Galveston.

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Mardi Gras

Tomorrow, February 16, is Mardi Gras, the annual celebration in New Orleans marking the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. This year’s public celebration has been canceled, one more victim of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s probably just as well, given that New Orleans is facing unusual freezing temperatures with the possibility of sleet and light snow over the next 24 hours. Not surprisingly, New Orleanians are creatively celebrating through the decorating of more than a thousand Mardi Gras-themed House Floats for locals and visitors to view. Mardi Gras has a long history of exclusion of Jews from the Krewes, or parading organizations, though this has dramatically changed in recent decades. In 1996, the inclusion of Jews became even more noted, with the formation of a parading group known as the Krewe du Jieux, whose members expressly flaunted Jewish stereotypes for humor, wearing big noses, throwing decorated bagels to the crowds, and featuring characters such as the Big Macher and the Gaza Stripper. In 2006, the Krewe du Jieux split, however, over creative and philosophical differences, leading to the formation of a second Jewish-themed Krewe. What is the name of the newer Krewe?

Mardi Gras House Float

Mardi Gras decorations on St Charles Avenue, Uptown New Orleans by Infrogmation of New Orleans is licensed under CC BY 2.0

AThe Krewe of Jieux Dats.

BThe Krewe du Nieux Jieuxs.

CThe Krewe du Mishigas.

DThe Krewe of Tuches.

EThe Krewe of One Jew, Two Synagogues.

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Rabbi Abraham Twerski

Rabbi Abraham Twerski died last week in Jerusalem at the age of 90 from COVID-19. Rabbi Twerski was a a scion of the Chernobyl Hasidic dynasty who also went to medical school, leading to a renowned career as a psychiatrist, an addiction specialist, and a rabbinic scholar. He is credited with introducing twelve step programs against addiction into the Jewish world, which was resistant because of the Christian origins of that approach to treatment. Among Rabbi Twerski’s many Jewish accomplishments was the writing of a tune for the psalm Hoshea et Amecha which is sung in synagogues around the world.  Who was Rabbi Twerski referring to when he spoke of an “ultimate example of unrequited love?”

Rabbi Abraham Twerski.

Twerski (cropped).jpg by Latkelarry is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

A. Leah, for Jacob.

B700 wives and 300 concubines, for King Solomon.

CBathsheba, for David.

DDelilah, for Samson.

ELucy, for Schroeder.

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