Jewish Trivia Quiz

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

Happy Purim

A Purim bonus question. Chag Sameach!

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Ashkenzaic Jews remember Haman's evil by making noise with a greggar whenever Haman's name is said at the Megillah reading. How do Moroccan Jews note Haman's wickedness?

Megillah reading.

AThey make a three cornered pastry similar to a hamantashen, but it is filled with red strawberries, representing the blood of Haman.

B. Whenever Haman's name is read in the Megillah, Moroccan Jews ululate, emitting the high-pitched sound that is common in Arabic cultures as a sign of great emotional intensity.

C. They bake a bread which includes two hard boiled eggs, representing Haman’s eyes, which they proceed to pluck out.

DThey tie closed the top and bottom of a kaftan after filling it with Hamanis, which are traditional triangular Moroccan Purim candies. They hang the kaftan from a pole, and children strike it with small bats, releasing the candies for everyone to enjoy (similar to a Mexican piñata).

EThey dress up as Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour and sing We're Off on the Road to Morocco.

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Leonard Nimoy, z”l

At one point in his life, Leonard Nimoy scheduled a speaking tour, but a number of synagogues then canceled his scheduled appearances. What was their objection?

Vulcan hand gesture

A. Nimoy produced and starred in the movie Never Forget, based on the true story of Mel Mermelstein, a Holocaust survivor who confronted a Holocaust-denying organization in court. Nimoy was booked to speak in many synagogues to publicize the movie, but when some Orthodox synagogues learned about the Vulcan hand greeting based on the Priestly Blessing of the Kohanim, they took offense at this secular use of the religious ritual by Nimoy and canceled his appearances.

BNimoy, an accomplished photographer, published a book of his photographic work entitled The Shekhina Project, which explored the feminine side of G-d. He was “intrigued with scriptural mythology that tells us that G-d created a divine feminine presence to dwell amongst humanity…” The book featured photographs of women wearing tefillin (phylacteries) and nothing else. A number of synagogues had booked Nimoy for the accompanying book tour, but canceled the appearances when they learned about these photographs, which they considered offensive.

C. Nimoy was a frequent speaker at synagogues, where he shared stories of his early exposure to anti-semitism in Boston, his later embrace of Judaism, and his professional connections to the Jewish people, including playing Golda Meir’s husband in the TV movie A Woman Called Golda, his performances as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, and his portrayal of Holocaust survivor Mel Mermelstein in a film which Nimoy also produced, Never Forget. But in 2014, Nimoy reunited with William Shatner to film a Star Trek-themed Volkswagen commercial, touting the auto company’s electric cars. A number of synagogues canceled speaking engagements they had booked with Nimoy in objection to his participating in the commercial for the German car company.

D. Nimoy was on a book tour for his first autobiography, I Am Not Spock, and was scheduled to speak at a number of synagogues. However, many synagogues canceled his talk when one of the passages in his book was publicized. In the book, Nimoy mentioned that one of his favorite meals was chopped tribble liver, which he first tasted when filming the iconic Star Trek episode The Trouble With Tribbles. Nimoy noted that it was much tastier than the chopped chicken liver his mother used to serve. Some traditional synagogues objected because tribble is not a kosher animal; while it has a cloven hoof, it does not chew its cud.

E. Nimoy was on a book tour in 1995 following the publication of his second autobiography, I Am Spock. When it became known that in the book Nimoy advocated for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, a number of synagogues canceled his appearance in protest of his beliefs on this issue.

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The Oscars

What is Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Patricia Arquettes Jewish connection?

Movies.

AHer paternal grandfather Cliff Arquette (also known as Charley Weaver) was Christian, her father was Muslim, and her mother was Jewish. She and her four siblings (all actors) were raised with no religion. She is the only one who now considers herself Jewish. Her sister Rosanna is Catholic, her brother Richmond is Muslim, her sister Alexis is Protestant, and her brother David is Buddhist.

B. Arquette, who is Jewish, had her first performing role as Queen Esther in a Hebrew School Purim Shpiel at the Chicago Sinai Congregation. Though only 11 years old at the time, she told her parents that she knew acting was what she wanted to do with her life. She even refused her parents offer to get her braces because she said that her crooked teeth would help her with character acting.

CBoyhood, in which Arquette starred, was filmed over 12 years, with the cast and crew working together for a couple of weeks annually. In year thirteen, sad that there was no plan to film again, Arquette (who is Jewish and had never had a bat mitzvah) decided that it would be fun to bring everyone together again, so she invited all involved to a “Boyhood Bat Mitzvah” celebration. She read a haftorah, gave a speech comparing her movie son Mason to the Biblical Isaac (each had issues with his father), and led everyone in the hora.

DHer father (who was Muslim) and her mother (who was Jewish) sent her to a Catholic school, where a teacher told her she couldn't take communion because “your mother is Jewish and she’s going to hell.” Arquette replied, “I think your Jesus and my Jesus are different.”

EWhen Arquette was 6 years old, she appeared on Hollywood Squares, sitting in the lap of her grandfather Charley Weaver (Cliff Arquette), who was the regular occupant of the shows bottom left square. When host Peter Marshall asked her, “Is this the most exciting event you've ever been to?” Patricia replied, “No, I had more fun at my brother David’s bris.”

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Brian Williams

Which of the following Brian Williams stories is true (unless, of course, it turns out not to be)?

Brian Williams broadcast

AIn 2014, during Operation Protective Edge, Williams was reporting from Gaza when an Israeli airstrike destroyed a house a few hundred yards from where Williams was standing. Said Williams on the Nightly News broadcast, “We were close enough that we could feel the impact of the rocket as it landed, and the resulting smoke and dust from the building collapse caused us to retreat to our vehicle. It was a very frightening moment.”

B. In 2013, Williams appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, where he spoke of reporting from Israel during Operation Desert Shield, the first Gulf War in Iraq, in 1990. “This was my first war assignment for NBC News. I was stationed in Tel Aviv, far from the fighting, with no expectation of trouble (and not looking for any). I was simply interviewing Israelis on the street about the war that was happening ‘down the block.’ Suddenly there was a siren, and everyone ran to the nearest bomb shelter. As Saddam Hussein's scud missiles rained down on Tel Aviv, I thought to myself–and Dave, this is the gods honest truth–I remember thinking ‘Toto, Ive a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.’ ”

C. In 2006, Williams was flying in an Israeli military helicopter over northern Israel when, as Williams said, “There were Katyusha rockets passing just underneath the helicopter I was riding in,” leading Williams to say to a general who was on the same helicopter, “It wouldn’t take much for them to adjust the aim and try to do a ring toss right through our open doors, would it?”

DWilliams was the speaker at the UJA-Federation of New York's 2013 Annual Campaign event which raised $45 million. Said Williams, “Growing up in Middletown, New Jersey, my parents taught me that there was nothing more important than helping others, which led to my becoming a volunteer firefighter for the Middletown Fire Department during my high school years. With all that I’ve done in my career, nothing has meant more to me than being a part of that organization, with its brave and dedicated group of men and women. I believe that this is this same feeling which drives the thousands of volunteers and professionals of UJA-Federation and I am proud to stand before you tonight in that spirit.”

ESpeaking at the annual Network Affiliates meeting in 2012, Williams said, “Ive had many amazing experiences in my life, from inspiring Elvis Presleys dancing, to meeting President Kennedy (Im still embarrassed about having to pee). From fighting in Viet Nam and saving Lieutenant Dan’s life, to meeting John Lennon on the Dick Cavett show, to starting the Bubba Williams Shrimp Company. But Im most proud of the time when I got a felafel with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin and convinced them to sign that peace deal.”

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Brian Williams

Which of the following Brian Williams stories is true (unless, of course, it turns out not to be)?

Brian Williams broadcast

AIn 2014, during Operation Protective Edge, Williams was reporting from Gaza when an Israeli airstrike destroyed a house a few hundred yards from where Williams was standing. Said Williams on the Nightly News broadcast, “We were close enough that we could feel the impact of the rocket as it landed, and the resulting smoke and dust from the building collapse caused us to retreat to our vehicle. It was a very frightening moment.”

B. In 2013, Williams appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, where he spoke of reporting from Israel during Operation Desert Shield, the first Gulf War in Iraq, in 1990. “This was my first war assignment for NBC News. I was stationed in Tel Aviv, far from the fighting, with no expectation of trouble (and not looking for any). I was simply interviewing Israelis on the street about the war that was happening ‘down the block.’ Suddenly there was a siren, and everyone ran to the nearest bomb shelter. As Saddam Hussein's scud missiles rained down on Tel Aviv, I thought to myself–and Dave, this is the gods honest truth–I remember thinking ‘Toto, Ive a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.’ ”

C. In 2006, Williams was flying in an Israeli military helicopter over northern Israel when, as Williams said, “There were Katyusha rockets passing just underneath the helicopter I was riding in,” leading Williams to say to a general who was on the same helicopter, “It wouldn’t take much for them to adjust the aim and try to do a ring toss right through our open doors, would it?”

DWilliams was the speaker at the UJA-Federation of New York's 2013 Annual Campaign event which raised $45 million. Said Williams, “Growing up in Middletown, New Jersey, my parents taught me that there was nothing more important than helping others, which led to my becoming a volunteer firefighter for the Middletown Fire Department during my high school years. With all that I’ve done in my career, nothing has meant more to me than being a part of that organization, with its brave and dedicated group of men and women. I believe that this is this same feeling which drives the thousands of volunteers and professionals of UJA-Federation and I am proud to stand before you tonight in that spirit.”

ESpeaking at the annual Network Affiliates meeting in 2012, Williams said, “Ive had many amazing experiences in my life, from inspiring Elvis Presleys dancing, to meeting President Kennedy (Im still embarrassed about having to pee). From fighting in Viet Nam and saving Lieutenant Dan’s life, to meeting John Lennon on the Dick Cavett show, to starting the Bubba Williams Shrimp Company. But Im most proud of the time when I got a felafel with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin and convinced them to sign that peace deal.”

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Grammys-2015

Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, a Grammy nominee for this year's Best New Artist, has what Jewish connection?

Records

A. Israeli horticulturists at the University of Haifa have developed a breed of azalea which is resistant to petal blight, a common plant disease. They have named this new breed the Iggy Azalea, as the lead scientist is originally from Iggy Azalea’s home town of Perth, Australia.

B. In 2010, Iggy participated in the Sar-El Australia program, where young people travel to Israel as volunteers on kibbutzim, army bases, and hospitals. Iggy spent three months working on a kibbutz near Ashdod.

C. Iggy was discovered by Jewish rapper Matisyahu, who was performing in her hometown of Mullumbimby in New South Wales, Australia. After hearing her perform in a local club, he invited her to join him on his tour and introduced her to audiences in Israel, the United States, and around the world.

DThough she is not Jewish, her grandfather was a Sephardic Jew who emigrated from Greece to Australia at the start of World War II. His name was Yechiel "Yechi" Azaria, from which she derived her stage name of Iggy Azalea.

EIn 2014 Iggy was performing at a private bar mitzvah party in Beverly Hills when her pants split while she was twerking, providing an unexpected show for the guests.

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Patriots

Robert Kraft, owner of the Super Bowl winning New England Patriots (and who is Jewish) was the Columbia University graduation speaker in 2005. What was the focus of his talk?

New England Patriots helmet

AThe Four Is – Integrity, Intelligence, Initiative, and Imagination.

B. The Four Fs – Family, Faith, Philanthropy, and Football.

C. The Four Cs – Cooperation, Compassion, Charity, and Courage.

DThe Four Ps – Prayer, Philanthropy, Patriotism, and Phootball.

EThe Four As – Achievement, Ambition, Accountability, and Air Pressure.

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Deflategate

Much attention is focused on deflated footballs this week, as the New England Patriots approach the Super Bowl under a cloud of scandal. What is the "Jewish" connection to the football?

Deflated football

AGerman Jewish immigrants Joseph Schwarzchild and Ferdinand Sulzberger were partners in the Schwarzchild & Sulzberger company, whose main business was meatpacking. They expanded by finding other uses for the by-products of their work, including tennis racket strings, surgical sutures, footballs and other products. The company eventually became the Thomas E. Wilson Company, now known as Wilson Sporting Goods, the supplier of footballs for the NFL (including the deflated footballs).

B. The Wilson Sporting Goods Company is the official supplier of footballs for the National Football League.  In 2003, the NFL complained to Wilson officials that they were not satisfied with the laces on the football, which had a tendency to open slightly on very hot days. In its effort to find a better product with which to make the laces, Wilson turned to Israeli company Para-Tec, which makes parachutes for the Israeli Defense Forces. Para-Tec provided a product based on the strings they used on military parachutes, and this product has been used on NFL footballs ever since (including the deflated footballs).

C. While footballs are referred to as pigskin, they are in fact made from leather. Originally, however, they were made of pigskin. In 1950, Brandeis University played its first football game, but the Board of Trustees was not happy with the use of the footballs made from pigs, given that the university operated under Jewish auspices. They contracted with the Spalding Company to design a football made of cow's leather rather than pigskin. The ball became so popular that over time other teams began using it, and now, all footballs are made of leather rather than pigskin (including the deflated footballs).

DWilson Sporting Goods, the official supplier of footballs for the NFL, was founded in 1915 by Thomas Wilson. This was a time of strong anti-immigrant feeling in America, and Wilson (like many employers at that time) refused to hire Jews to work in his company. In 1918, a lawsuit was filed by the recently established Anti-Defamation League on behalf of Harry Schild, a Jewish immigrant who was refused employment because of his religion. The case, Schild vs. Wilson, eventually reached the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Schild. The company hired Schild, but ironically he quit almost immediately after being assigned to work with the pig skins, a product he refused to touch because of his religious beliefs.

E. Football was invented in the shtetl of Pinsk in Belarus when a kosher butcher sewed together sections of cow hide, which he gave to the neighborhood children to play with. They began throwing it and kicking it around, eventually developing teams and rules. The ball was called the Pinsk-Skin, but over time, as the popularity of the game spread beyond the shtetl, the name morphed into Pigskin, which the non-Jews who played the game found easier to pronounce.

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El Capitan

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson just completed a free climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. In 2005, Israeli Felix Slamovics completed a partial ascent of El Capitan in a unique way. How did Slamovics climb El Capitan?

Mountain climber

ASlamovics climbed El Capitan aided only by the use of his hands and arms, as he is paraplegic, unable to use his legs. While he did not successfully reach the summit of El Capitan, he set the record for the highest ascent of the peak by a paraplegic, a record which holds to this day.

B. Slamovics, a Chabad Lubavitch rabbi, climbed El Capitan on Yom Kippur, while observing a total fast, not even drinking any water. Though he did not reach the summit due to dehydration, he is credited with calling attention to the mitzvah of fasting among a large population of young Israelis for whom religious observance was not an important part of their lives.

C. Slamovics, an Orthodox Jew, carried a Torah Scroll with him on his climb. His goal was to read one Torah parsha (chapter) at each resting stop along his ascent. However, the climb proved so strenuous that during his frequent breaks, he completed the entire Torah before reaching the top of El Capitan, so he discontinued his effort after reading the final parsha, V'Zot Ha’Bracha.

DBecause Slamovics has ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), he ascended the mountain in a homemade device he dubbed the Harley Felixson, made of bicycle parts and mountain rescue equipment. Two years later he successfully climbed the 614-foot Azrieli Tower in Tel Aviv using this device.

ESlamovics was carrying his son, Isaac, whom he intended to sacrifice at the summit of El Capitan, to show his devotion to G-d. However, as he neared the summit, G-d stopped him and provided a ram to be sacrificed instead.

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CES

Israel was represented by 12 high tech companies at the just ended Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. One of the Israeli companies, Silentium, offered what kind of product?

Consumer Electronics

ASilentium was demonstrating a small noiseless drone known as the SilentCopter, with a high definition camera that can be controlled from a smartphone. The device is based on one which they originally developed for the Israeli military, but the consumer model does not contain a rocket launcher.

B. Silentium, founded in 1979, originally made white noise machines for use in therapist offices. They have since expanded to make a wide range of noise reducing and noise masking products. Their newest device, exhibited at CES 2015, is known as the SheketCell. Rather than masking noise, this device can be used in locations such as theaters and restaurants to block all cellular and wireless internet signals, thus silencing cell phones by eliminating their connection to the outside world.

C. Silentium invented the Quiet Bubble, which can reduce ambient noise in a zone around a person's head without the necessity of wearing noise-canceling headphones (sort of like your own personal Get Smart Cone of Silence).

DUsing high-tech technology, Silentium has invented the ultimate low-tech product–a noise canceling tallis. When placed over your head, the tallis completely blocks the noise of the two guys sitting behind you in shul who are constantly shmoozing about their aches and pains, even during the Silent Amidah. Because the “SilenTallis uses no electronics, it is acceptable for use in Orthodox synagogues.

E. The company is named after the newest atomic element, number 119, which is called Ununsilentium. The Israeli company has found a way to modify the Uzi submachine gun to fire a small burst of radiation instead of bullets. This nuclear “bullet” device is a type of portable x-ray machine that can be administered anywhere at a greatly reduced cost compared to traditional x-ray equipment.

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