Jewish Trivia Quiz

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

Joan Rivers, z”l

Early in Joan Rivers's career, she performed with Barbra Streisand. What did Joan comment about working with Barbra?

Joan Rivers

AThey performed together in a high school production of Fiddler On The Roof. Barbra played Tzeitel and Joan played Hodel. In her book, Diary of a Mad Diva, Joan wrote, "I knew right away that she had a stage career ahead of her. And I knew right away that the only way I would ever become famous is by making fun of people like her.”

B. They worked together in New York in a stage play, Driftwood, as sisters, and Joan said Barbra "was all nose.”

C. They worked together in New York in a stage play, Driftwood, as lesbian lovers, and Joan said Barbra "was all tongue.”

DThey competed against each other in a talent show at Erasmus High School in Brooklyn. In her memoir, I Hate Everyone...Starting With Me, Joan wrote, "I went on first, but when Barbra performed after me, I went to Mr. Greenbaum, the teacher in charge of the contest and said, 'I quit. I'm going to put my head in an oven.' And I never appeared on the same stage with her again.”

E. They both performed regularly in New York clubs including the Blue Angel and Bon Soir, but seldom on the same evening. Joan said that "every time I went to an audition, the management told me that they only have room for one loud Jewish girl with an irritating accent. And they didn't mean me!”

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Labor Day

Jewish immigrants made up a large part of the early American labor movement, and Jewish women, in particular, were a significant part of the membership of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). The union, driven in part by the insight of women, recognized the importance of addressing not only labor issues such as wages and safety, but also broader human issues, such as education, community, and dignity. What phrase captured this concept?

Labor Day

A. Avodah v’Chaim (Work and Life).

B. Bread and Roses.

C. Guns and Roses.

DParnosseh iz a refueh tsu alleh krenk (A good livelihood is a cure for all ills).

E. All work and no play make Jews very dull boys and girls.

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Ice Bucket Challenge

Why did the U. S. State Department bar ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro from participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?

Ice bucket

A. He was planning to participate in an Ice Bucket Challenge event that was scheduled to take place in Tel Aviv on September 11, which the State Department deemed to be an inappropriate date.

B. The Chief Rabbinate in Israel was requiring all participants to recite the "Netilat Yadayim" (hand washing) prayer before participating. The State Department's rules do not allow employees to participate in religious rituals.

C. The State Department did not want its ambassador to be taking part in an event that might be perceived as frivolous at the same time that difficult negotiations are taking place between the Israeli and American governments over the Gaza crisis.

D. State Department rules forbid employees from public involvement with charities, to avoid any show of favoritism.

E. The State Department has rules forbidding its employees from participating in events deemed to be "inappropriate, lewd, or indecent." As a result, they ruled that participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge was forbidden as it is a form of a wet T-shirt contest.

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Where Y’at, New Orleans

Shout out to the New Orleans Crescent City Jewish News, now carrying the RASHI, RAMBAM and RAMALAMADINGDONG weekly quiz on their website.

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In 1961, American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell organized a "hate ride" to New Orleans in a bus emblazoned with signs reading "Lincoln Rockwell's Hate Bus," "We Do Hate Race Mixing," and "We Hate Jew-Communism." What local event were they protesting?

New Orleans Mardi Gras balcony

A. The New Orleans premier of the movie Exodus.

B. The appearance of Louis Armstrong at a concert held at Temple Sinai, the first time in New Orleans that a black entertainer performed in front of a mixed black and white audience in a public venue.

C. The decision by the Mardi Gras Krewe of Rex to admit a Jewish member.

DThe support of the desegregation of the New Orleans public schools by the local Jewish Federation and Anti-Defamation League.

E. The decision by Café Du Monde to obtain kosher certification for its beignets.

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When the Sanhedrin (the “Torah court” of ancient Israel) determined that the new moon had been sighted, marking the beginning of a new month, they spread the word through the building of a series of hilltop bonfires which could be seen by others further from Jerusalem. Why did they discontinue this system and instead begin using dispatched messengers?


A. After Constantine the Great, leader of the Roman Empire, converted to Christianity, the Sanhedrin determined that a public announcement of the new month via bonfires would draw undue attention to the Jews, leading to a possible effort by Constantine to convert them. Therefore, they discontinued the bonfires and began using messengers.

B. One of the bonfires spread out of control and destroyed the town of Shiloh, leading to the Sanhedrin's ban on bonfires.

C. As a result of climate change, the normally desert-like climate of ancient Israel became very humid and rainy. Torrential downpours were frequently preventing the building of bonfires, thus causing the Sanhedrin to make the change to dispatched messengers. (The Sadducess, who were climate-change deniers, continued to build bonfires despite the fact that they were regularly extinguished by monsoon-like rains).

D. This was an example of the difference between the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel. Shammai said that fires should be lit as a reference to G-d's announcement of the creation of the universe, "Vayehi Or (Let there be light)." Hillel said that messengers should be sent, as a symbol of the angels that G-d sent as messengers to the Patriarchs, Moses, Joshua, and other Biblical figures. As was generally the case, the opinion of Hillel took precedence.

E. The Sadducees, who did not recognize the rabbinic authority of the Sanhedrin, began setting bogus bonfires on the wrong date to manipulate the calendar.

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The Congressional Dillingham Commission, which operated between 1907 and 1911, impacted Jewish immigrants to America in what way?

A. Until the turn of the 20th century, United States senators were elected by state legislatures. Based on the recommendation of the Dillingham Commission, the Seventeenth Amendment to the constitution was proposed, and eventually ratified in 1913, bringing about direct election of senators by popular vote. This benefited the Jews because no state legislature had ever elected a Jewish senator, but with a popular vote rather than one dependent upon bargaining and politicking in state legislatures, the first Jewish senator, Isidor Rayner, an immigrant from Lodz, Poland, was elected from the state of Maryland in 1914.

B. The Dillingham Commission was created to study how to better integrate the huge influx of eastern European immigrants, including Jews, into the United States military. Among their findings was a need to provide kosher food for Jewish soldiers, resulting in an arrangement with the National Jewish Welfare Board to provide this food, as well as matzah at Passover time, and kiddush wine on Friday nights.

C. Studying immigration issues, the Commission concluded that the huge number of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe (including millions of Jews) was a serious threat to American society. This led to increasing restrictions on the number of immigrants, and eventually an almost total closure of the borders to Jewish and other immigration through the Emergency Immigration Act and the Immigration Restriction Act of 1921, followed by the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924.

D. As modern refrigeration methods had not yet been invented, the Dillingham Commission studied safety in the food industry, and in particular the new “Dillingham” process of pickling pig meat in order to preserve it. With the approval of this method of preserving ham, pork and other pig products, many poor immigrant Jews chose to abandon the rules of kashrut at a time when kosher meat was expensive and difficult to store safely.

E. Huge numbers of Jewish children were fleeing pogroms in Europe by stowing away on ships sailing to America. To prevent the influx of these illegal immigrants, the Dillingham Commission recommended the construction of a border fence around Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to prevent these illegal aliens from entering America and taking jobs from American citizens.

Statue of Liberty behind barbed wire

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Superman is often described as being Jewish, or at least being based on Jewish themes. Which of the following is NOT a part of that narrative?

Super Man

A. In order to save him, Superman's parents sent him from his home planet into space in a small capsule, paralleling the story of Moses' mother, who placed him in a basket in the Nile River to save his life.

B. Superman's mission was summed up by the words, "Truth, Justice, and the American Way," which was a variation of Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel's statement that the world endures on three things: Justice, Truth, and Peace.

C. Superman's original name was Kal-El, which is Hebrew for Voice of G-d.

D. When Superman, as Kal-El, landed on earth, he was taken in by a kind family, the Kents, and he then lived a double life as the mild mannered Clark Kent and the hero Superman. Similarly, baby Moses was taken in by the kind Batya, daughter of the Pharaoh, and he lived an assumed life in the royal palace while later showing himself to be the hero of the Jewish people.

E. Kryptonite, the green substance that was the only thing that could harm Superman, was based on Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham.

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That’s One Small Step

Forty five years ago this week, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. An Israeli company, SpaceIL, is competing to win the Google Lunar X prize that requires a private company to land a craft on the moon and then travel at least 500 meters. What unique technology will SpaceIL be the first to utilize?

A. The Israeli craft will be launched and guided to the moon using the technology developed by Israel to guide the missiles fired by the Iron Dome defense system.

B. Rather than navigating the lunar surface on wheels, the Israeli craft will travel across the moon's surface using the patented Etz Chaim system. The craft will rest upon a flat platform with rollers on each end that alternately furl and unfurl, thus propelling the craft forward.

Lunar Module

C. The Israeli space craft will navigate using SLAM technology (Simultaneous Localization And Mapping), which allows the craft to navigate in space, where GPS technology is not available.

D. The Israeli space craft will navigate using SHALOM technology (Simultaneous High Altitude Localization and Observational Mapping), which allows the craft to peacefully navigate in space, where GPS technology is not available.

E. To ensure against landing on an uneven rocky surface (a problem that almost doomed Armstrong and Aldrin's Eagle lunar module) the Israeli craft will land safely by first ejecting a protective padding upon which it will set down. The padding was designed based on bulletproof vests developed by the Israeli military.

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Iron Dome

Which of the following is true regarding Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile defense system?

Iron Dome Missile

A. The system was developed by Jewish engineers who fled Iran after the Islamic revolution in 1979.

B. Some of the missile's components were derived from a toy car sold by Toys"R"Us.

C. After the Israeli government rejected the original proposal for Iron Dome as unfeasible, the project developers raised the initial funding for the defense system through a Kickstarter campaign.

D. The original name for the system was the Super Dome, but this was changed when Israel was sued by the New Orleans Saints.

E. Amazon discontinued a drone delivery testing program in Israel after an Iron Dome missile destroyed one of the prototype drones.

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Reb Zalman, z”l

Which of the following statements about Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi is true?

A. After taking LSD with Timothy Leary in 1962, he told Leary, "This is better than schnapps.”

B. Along with Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and others, he was one of the background singers seated around the Beatles during their live worldwide broadcast of the song All You Need Is Love in 1967.

C. In 1986 he changed the name of his organization from B'nai Or Religious Fellowship ("Sons of Light") to P'nai Or Religious Fellowship ("Faces of Light") after being threatened with a lawsuit by B'nai B'rith for copyright infringement.

DAfter meeting him at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, Joni Mitchell wrote this lyric about Reb Zalman: "I came upon a child of God/He was walking along the road/And I asked him where are you going/And this he told me/I'm going on down to Yasgur's farm/I'm going to join in a rock 'n' roll band/I'm going to camp out on the land/I'm going to try an' get my soul free.”

Going to Woodstock

E. When he first met the Dalai Lama in 1990, he greeted him by singing, "Hello Dalai. This is Zolly, Dalai."

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