Jewish Trivia Quiz

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

Green Book

The Academy Award for Best Movie went to Green Book, a film about black musician Don Shirley, who toured through the Jim Crow South in the 1940’s, and his relationship with his bodyguard/driver, a white Italian from New York named Tony Vallelonga. The movie title refers to an annual series of guidebooks called The Negro Motorist Green-Book, published from 1936-1966, providing information to black travelers as to where they could safely find meals, lodging, and other support during an era when there was much legal and de facto segregation and discrimination. What is the Jewish connection to the actual Green Book?

Cover of The Negro Motorist Green-Book, 1940 edition

The_Negro_Motorist_Green_Book Wikipedia article on The Negro Motorist Green-Book, 1936-1966 by jalexartis Photography is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AWhile the Green Book was eventually supported by ad sales from many of the businesses listed in the book, initially the Green Book was funded largely by the Julius Rosenwald Fund, a philanthropy established by Julius Rosenwald, one of the owners of Sears-Roebuck, and a supporter of many black causes, including thousands of Rosenwald schools which he created to provide education to poor and rural black children.

BThe Green Book was created by Pastor Victor Hugo Green from the Upper Harlem AME Zion Church. He was inspired by his reading of the Old Testament. “I learned that as the Israelites fled Egypt and crossed the Red Sea, they found themselves wandering through the desert for 40 years. They were surrounded by enemies–Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Jebusites, and so many others. And how did they know which way to turn to avoid destruction and find the Promised Land? Because God told them where they could travel safely across the desert. In effect, he gave them The Jewish Desert Wanderers Blue and White Book, and that inspired me to create The Negro Motorist Green Book to help keep my people safe in their travels.”

CThe Green Book was created by a New York mailman named Victor Hugo Green, who contacted other black mailmen around the country for input. He was inspired to create the guidebook after learning from a Jewish friend about guidebooks geared to Jews travelling in the Catskills. These books helped Jewish travelers locate kosher meals or find other businesses that were friendly to Jews at a time when there was much anti-Semitic discrimination.

DThe Green Book was started by Victor Hugo Green, a black man in Harlem who worked at a local Orthodox synagogue as the Shabbos goy, turning on lights and the heating system on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. He mentioned his idea to the rabbi, who connected him to other synagogues where he corresponded with their Shabbos Goys, sharing information about “black-friendly” businesses in their area that would be included in the guide.

EThe Green Book was written by Victor Hugo Green, a black man who worked as a dish washer at Ratner’s, the famous kosher dairy restaurant on New York’s Lower East Side. Green learned from Jewish waiters of a book called the Levine Book, written by a local matchmaker named Yente Levine. The Levine Book was described as a guide for Jewish parents who were looking to find nice Jewish boys for their daughters. The book guaranteed to help Jewish parents know where to go in New York City to find a Chasan (a groom), without fear of coming upon goyim who might not be welcoming. Said Green in an interview years later, “Our people didn’t need help finding spouses, but we did need helping knowing where to shop, dine and travel, without fear of being unwelcomed. That’s how I got the idea for my Green Book.”

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Netanyahu and Trump

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has received much negative press in the last few weeks. First, he made a deal with the Otzma Yehudit party, the successor to Rabbi Meir Kahane’s racist Kach party, leading to criticism from many in Israel, as well as American organizations including AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee. Then, Israeli Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit announced that Netanyahu will be indicted for fraud, bribery and breach of trust. This comes at the same time that President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen testified before Congress, calling Trump a racist, a conman, and a cheat, and noting that the Southern District of New York is investigating Trump for unnamed illegal acts. It is also expected that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report will be issued soon, possibly presenting other charges against Trump. Last year, Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke of President Trump and his support of Israel, referencing what famous king?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump

A. When President Trump announced that he would be moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he said, “Today we finally acknowledge the obvious–that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality.” In response, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “The President is a wise man, a modern-day King Solomon. You know, King Solomon is famous for suggesting that a baby be split in half, so that each of the two women claiming to be the mother could receive half of what they claimed belonged to them. President Trump understands as King Solomon did, that just like that baby, Jerusalem must not be divided, and can only really belong to one people, and that is the Jewish people.”

B. After Trump declared that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, and announced his plans to scrap the Iranian nuclear deal, Netanyahu spoke of Trump’s deeds, noting, “I want to tell you that the Jewish people have a long memory, so we remember the proclamation of the great king, Cyrus the Great, the Persian king 2,500 years ago. He proclaimed that the Jewish exiles in Babylon could come back and rebuild our Temple in Jerusalem.” He then said that similarly, “we remember how a few weeks ago, President Donald J. Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Mr. President, this will be remembered by our people through the ages.”

C. On May 14, 2018, the United States Embassy in Jerusalem was opened. As part of his remarks at the ceremony, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “President Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem places him with other great leaders in history who demonstrated that they stood side by side with the Jewish people. Great leaders who understood that history and justice are with us. People like King Christian, of Denmark, who wore a Jewish star to stand with our people during the dark days of the Holocaust.”

D. While President Trump did not attend the opening of the United States embassy in Jerusalem last May, he did address the event via a videotaped message where he said, “Today, Jerusalem is the seat of the Israeli government, the home of the Israeli legislature and the Israeli Supreme Court and Israel’s prime minister and president. For many years, we failed to acknowledge the obvious ... the plain reality that Israel’s capital is Jerusalem.” Following those remarks, Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked the President, and addressed Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who was in attendance. “Your father is a great man,” he said. “Around 3000 years ago, David became King of Israel, and he named Jerusalem the capital. Now your father echoes the great deed of David Melech Yisrael, by again recognizing that Jerusalem is our capital, for now and forever.”

E. Speaking at the opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said, “I particularly want to thank President Donald Trump. He and I are so much alike. We both love Israel. We both have Jewish grandchildren. And we both have similar futures ahead of us. In fact, the great King of Rock 'n' Roll, Elvis Presley, could have been speaking about Donald and me when he sang ‘Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock. Everybody in the whole cell block. We’ll be dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock’.”

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Israeli Moon Flight

Israel just became the fourth country to send a spacecraft toward a moon landing, a feat previously accomplished only by the United States, Russia and China. In addition to scientific equipment, the craft, named Beresheet, also contains a digital time capsule that includes drawings of the moon and space by Israeli children, a photo of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon (who tragically died in the Columbia space shuttle disaster), a copy of the Tefilat HaDerech prayer which is traditionally said before a journey, and the Wikipedia encyclopedia. Normally, a journey to the moon takes 3-4 days, but Beresheet’s journey will take weeks. Why?

SPACEIL model as was presented in the 66th IAC in Jerusalem

SPACEIL model as was presented in the 66th IAC in Jerusalem is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

A. The launch of the spacecraft from Cape Canaveral took place on Thursday. Rabbi David Lau, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, ruled that the flight could not continue over Shabbat, and as a result, the Israeli engineers had to program a pause in the flight at the beginning of sundown on Friday. However, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, ruled that because the rocket ship was beyond earth’s atmosphere, its flight was covered by the calendar on the moon. A lunar day lasts over 29 earth days, so therefore the craft cannot reengage its engines and complete its mission until the end of March.

BThe length of the journey is connected to the size and weight of the craft. Basically the larger the craft, the faster it will travel through space. Most of the spacecrafts previously sent to the moon were quite large. The Apollo lunar modules, for example, were approximately 23 feet in height and weighed in the range of 10,000 pounds, whereas the Beresheet craft is barely the size of a washing machine and weighs just over 1000 pounds. As a result, it travels slower and will not achieve touchdown on the lunar surface until around April 3.

CThe Beresheet was launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, along with an Indonesian communications satellite and an experimental satellite built by the United States Air Force. Because of this, the Israeli craft must take an indirect route in order that the two other payloads can be placed in their proper orbits. Therefore, instead of a straight path to the moon, Beresheet will circle the earth for weeks in ever-widening paths, until the proper time for it to change directions and head to the moon with a scheduled April 11 landing.

D. The length of a trip to the moon is dependent upon the time when the craft is launched, in relation to the position of the moon. Normally, the optimal launch date is chosen so that the craft will reach the proper rendezvous point with the moon, a difficult confluence to achieve. However, because Israel only built the landing craft, not the launching rocket, they were prevented from launching on the ideal date, which would have been April 3. Therefore, the craft has been programmed to circle the moon for about 6 weeks until the moon and craft are in proper alignment, at which point the Beresheet will launch its rockets and descend to the moon’s surface around April 7.

E. In order for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to get approval from the Knesset for the funding of the Beresheet project, he had to convince all of the coalition partners to go along with this significant outlay of shekels. The head of the government’s Finance Committee is Moshe Gafni, of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party. To get Gafni to sign on to this funding, Netanyahu had to give in to his demand that the journey take 40 days and 40 nights, mimicking the Exodus from Egypt.

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There are more than 150 confirmed cases of measles within New York’s Orthodox communities. It is believed that these outbreaks began with an unvaccinated child who traveled to Israel and caught the measles there. Most Jewish religious authorities have urged their followers to get vaccinations. The Orthodox Union (OU) and the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) issued a statement urging “all parents to vaccinate their healthy children on the timetable recommended by their pediatrician.” The Chabad website states “Guarding your own health doesn’t only make sense, it’s actually a mitzvah.” Yet there are some ultra-Orthodox rabbis who disagree. Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky, dean of the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia, has stated, “I see vaccinations as the problem. It’s a hoax. Even the Salk [polio] vaccine is a hoax. It’s just big business.” He also made another argument against vaccinations. What else did he say?


FluShot by NIAID is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. Rabbi Kamenetzky said that vaccines are not necessary because it is God who decides “who shall live and who shall die.”

B. “I am not against preventing diseases among our beloved children,” said Rabbi Kamenetzky. “But the vaccines were all created from gelatin which is derived from pigs. Pigs are treif, so the vaccines are treif. Even if the vaccines would work, it would be a chillul Hashem (a desecration of God’s name) to expose our children to this unkosher medicine.”

CRabbi Kamenetzky said that even if vaccinations can prevent measles, they are more likely to cause autism.

DSaid Rabbi Kamenetzky, “I am not saying that no one should get vaccinated. But I am saying that the government should not be telling us what we must do. The government is already telling us we cannot perform a bris by metzitzah b’peh (a practice where oral suction is part of the circumcision procedure). In some countries in Europe they are telling us we cannot wear a yarmulke, and that kosher shechita (ritual slaughtering) is forbidden. We cannot, and must not, allow the government to interfere with our religious beliefs and our Jewish lives.”

ERabbi Kamenetzky said that if the diseases that vaccines purport to prevent were really a problem, children would already be sick because of their exposure to school janitors, who “are mostly Mexican and are unvaccinated.”

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Jeff Bezos and Amazon

Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, has charged that the National Enquirer attempted to blackmail him by threatening to release lurid photographs of Bezos. In 2017, Amazon removed a controversial book from their website. The book, A History of the Palestinian People: From Ancient Times to the Modern Era, was written by Israeli author Assaf A. Voll and was available in Hebrew and English. What was the issue that led Amazon to remove the book from their website?

Hebrew book cover of A History of the Palestinian People: From Ancient Times to the Modern Era

A_History_of_the_Palestinian_People_Hebrew_Cover is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

AIt was discovered that the book was actually written by a Palestinian historian, Tarif Sharabi. Knowing that he could not get his book published by an Israeli publishing company, Sharabi partnered with his friend, Israeli writer Assaf Voll, who submitted the book under his name to Geffen Publishing House, where in fact it was accepted for publication.

B. There was an outcry from some Israeli and American Jewish organizations, claiming that the book gave undue legitimacy to the Palestinian argument for statehood, and in particular, the idea of a single Palestinian majority state within the entire region of Israel and the Palestinian territories. They noted that there was not a single mention of the name Israel, only negative references to “the Zionist entity.”

CCharges were made that sections of the book had been plagiarized from the book Palestine and the Palestinians: A Social and Political History by Palestinian writers Samih K. Farsoun and Naseer Aruri, pubished in 2006. While Voll denied the claim, a comparison of numerous entries in the two books led many scholars to conclude that Voll had improperly used material from the earlier work.

DThere was an outcry from within the Palestinian and greater Arab communities that the book was an illegitimate appropriation of Palestinian history by an Israeli writer.

E. The book consisted only of more than 100 blank pages, plus a quote from the Seinfeld television show character George Costanza, “Just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.”

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Super Bowl LIII

The New England Patriots were the victors against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII, which sports writer Jeff Pearlman (and many others) called “the worst Super Bowl ever.” Wide receiver Julian Edelman, the first Jewish player to win the MVP honor in a Super Bowl, led the Patriots to victory over the Rams, also known as “the wrong team,” following the infamous “non calls” of pass interference and helmet-to-helmet contact in the NFC Championship game, where the New Orleans Saints had the game stolen from them by the incompetence of the officiating crew. Michael Hurley of CBS Boston Sports said, “This was a missed call that literally took a Super Bowl trip away from the Saints.” Don Van Natta Jr. of ESPN called it the “worst no-call in NFL history.” Former NFL quarterback and 4-time Pro Bowler Boomer Esiason tweeted, “The @Saints got royally SCREWED!”  New Orleans is a city which is totally devoted to their football team, and that includes the local Jewish community, about 11,000 strong. What is the name of a Saints fan group within the New Orleans Jewish community?

New Orleans Saints

A. Drew’s Jews.

BBlue and White for Black and Gold.

C. Drew’s Hebrews.

DJew Dat Nation.

EJews for Breesus.

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Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter, the conservative political commentator who is considered a strong influence on President Trump, appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher. She criticized Trump for giving in on the government shut down without getting funding for a wall on the Mexican border, saying “He promised something for 18 months, and he lied about it.” She argued that the wall Israel built to stop suicide bombers is proof that a wall works. In the past, Coulter has made remarks which offended many Jews. What did she say?

Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. Coulter recently tweeted about the confrontation between Catholic high school students, a Native American veteran, and Black Hebrew Israelite protesters, saying, “Too bad the Catholic school didn’t defend these innocent kids with the same gusto they defend pedophile priests. And too bad the ‘media’ were too busy chastising the kids instead of calling out their Black Hebrew brethren.”

B. In response to Senator Bernie Sanders’ call on the campaign trail in 2015 for universal health coverage, Coulter responded, “Hey, Bernie. Isn’t food important? Why not universal food coverage? Then you could not only have free medical care, but all the corned beef and matzah balls you can eat.”

C. In 2015, Coulter tweeted, “A word to those of you out there who have yet to be offended by something I have said: Please be patient. I am working as fast as I can. Even you liberal Jews. You’re lower on my list than the Muslims (oy gevalt) and the gays (oy vey), but I'll get to you soon enough.”

DIn response to a Huffington Post article that said that the use of the word “globalist” by many in the Trump administration was a veiled anti-Semitic reference, Coulter belittled the issue, tweeting, “Come on, libs. Especially you Jewish libs. Stop this. Look at Jared. Look at Ivanka. Look at the grandchildren. And look at Trump’s relationship with Bibi. So just stop this anti-Semitism smear.”

EIn response to a Huffington Post article that said that the use of the word “globalist” by many in the Trump administration was a veiled anti-Semitic reference, Coulter belittled the issue, tweeting that “Paul Newman is only half Globalist” and “Baseball Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax is also a Globalist.” 

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Carol Channing, z”l

Actress Carol Channing, best known for playing the role of Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly more than 4500 times in her career, died last week at the age of 97. Channing was raised as a Christian Scientist, though she later discovered that her mother was Jewish. She learned Yiddish fluently from her first husband’s grandfather, Sam Cohen. Which of the following details another time she interacted with the Jewish community?

Carol Channing

Carol Channing by John Mathew Smith is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AIn 1964, Channing sang a version of Hello Dolly rewritten as Hello Lyndon, which President Lyndon Johnson used on the campaign trail. In fact, this was her second recreation of that song for a politician, as she sang Shalom David for Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion earlier in 1964, at a celebration in his honor hosted by the United Israel Appeal organization in New York, following Ben-Gurion’s retirement from government at the end of 1963.

BChanning was known for her voice, her big eyes, and platinum blonde hair. Though she performed in her real hair early in her career, over time the constant dying and teasing damaged her hair, and she eventually began wearing a wig. A hair and makeup artist who worked with Channing during Hello Dolly directed her to Claire Grunwald of Claire Accuhair in Midwood, Brooklyn. Almost all of Claire’s client base was Orthodox women who must wear wigs in public to maintain modesty. Grunwald and Channing became very good friends, with Channing attending Passover seders and other holiday celebrations at Claire’s apartment.

C. Carol Channing had one son, with her second husband Alex Carson. That son, named Channing, was not raised Jewish. However, he learned that his mother was in fact Jewish (by virtue of the fact that her mother, Adelaide Glaser was Jewish), and that therefore he too was Jewish. He had many Jewish friends in school, and eventually decided he wanted to have a bar mitzvah. Channing respected his wishes, and her son had a bar mitzvah at Central Synagogue in New York, followed by a party at Sardi’s Restaurant.

DAt Temple Israel in Hollywood, the tradition was to announce, just before the start of Yom Kippur services, that the reserved seats up front which were not occupied would now be available for anyone to sit in. One year, Carol Channing attended services there, and the rabbi had her make that announcement from the bima. One congregant complained out loud, “The nerve of them! Bringing in a Carol Channing impersonator — and for the High Holidays!”

E. Channing’s first lead role on Broadway was in the musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, where she sang the song Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend. To promote the show, the producers set up a stage on 47th Street in the heart of New York’s Diamond District, and Channing would appear daily and sing that song. Chassidim who worked in many of the diamond businesses there began disrupting the events saying that it was improper for religious men to hear a woman sing. Not wanting to end the show promotion, the producers convinced the Chassidim that this was actually a Carol Channing impersonator in drag, so the prohibition against hearing a woman sing did not apply. Satisfied, the Chassidim instead joined in, dancing the hora as “she” sang.

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Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the playwright and composer who wrote the mega-hit Broadway show Hamilton, and who is currently starring in the movie, Mary Poppins Returns, just returned to the role of Alexander Hamilton in a production of the show in Puerto Rico. Miranda staged the show there to raise funds and bring attention to the island from which his family came, as they still struggle to recover from the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017. When Miranda married Vanessa Nadal in 2010, he surprised her and the wedding guests at the  reception with a performance of L'Chaim, from Fiddler on the Roof. What previous musical Jewish connection does Miranda have?

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda Walk of Fame ceremony by Luke Harold.

AMiranda participated in the chorus during elementary school at Hunter College Elementary School. One of the songs the chorus sang at Chanukkah time was Sivivon. According to Miranda, “My part in Sivivon was to sing ‘Sov’ about 6,000 times in a row.”

B. In 2002, shortly after graduating from college, Miranda participated in the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, the premier training program for musical theater composers. He partnered with another participant who had begun writing a musical version of the Biblical story of Moses set in modern times. Among Miranda’s contributions was the song Ten Cool Commandments, which Miranda later used as the basis for the song Ten Duel Commandments in Hamilton.

C. Growing up in New York City, Miranda attended Hunter College High School from 7th through 12th grade, where many of his friends were Jewish. In 1993, when he was thirteen years old, he wrote and performed a song at a friend’s bar mitzvah party called Today You’re A Man/Today You’re My Man.

D. At Wesleyan College, Miranda was a member of the Jewish a capella group The Mazeltones. Their repertoire included the song Hinei Ba Hashalom, where Miranda sang the lead, even pronouncing the guttural Hebrew “CH” sound perfectly.

E. Growing up in New York City, Hamilton had many Jewish friends, including his best friend, Davey Goldblum. Miranda would sometimes go with Goldblum to services at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue in their neighborhood on the upper East Side of Manhattan. Miranda later spoke of his vivid memory of the old Jewish men at the kiddush after services, all rushing to grab a small glass of Slivovitz. Said Miranda, “The old men used to jostle at the table for this little glass of schnapps, and they would start singing. Davey said it’s some kind of bracha, a blessing. It went something like this: ‘And I am not throwing away my shot/I am not throwing away my schnapps/Oy vey, I’m just like my misphoches/I’m young, scrappy and falling on my toches/And I’m not throwing away my shot’.”

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Nancy Pelosi

Following the election of a Democratic-majority House of Representatives, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi has just been elected as Speaker of the House. Pelosi, a strong supporter of Israel and the Jewish community, is the only woman to have ever held that post, and the first person in sixty years to regain that position after her party had lost their majority status. What did Pelosi do once when speaking to a Jewish audience which impressed those who were listening to her?

Nancy Pelosi

A. Shortly after the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville in 2017, Pelosi was addressing an audience at Temple Emanu-El, the large Reform synagogue on Fifth Avenue in New York, when a protestor in the back of the room stood and shouted, “Jews will not replace us.” As the audience reacted with trepidation while security guards removed the protestor, Pelosi began singing the Star Spangled Banner. The entire audience stood and joined in, after which Pelosi received a huge round of applause.

B. In October of 2018, Pelosi was addressing an audience at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly convention, which met in Tel Aviv for the first time. An alarm went off in the room, and attendees were advised to shelter in place while officials determined whether there was a serious threat. One security official approached Pelosi on the speaker’s platform to lead her through a secure back exit, but Pelosi insisted on remaining in the room with attendees, saying that she deserved no better treatment than any of the convention delegates.

CPelosi was addressing an AIPAC meeting in San Franciso a few weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks, when an alarm went off in the building, causing much consternation in the room. As people reacted, in some cases, heading for the exits, Pelosi began reciting the words of the Israeli national anthem, Hatikva, which brought much calm and comfort to those assembled.

D. Pelosi spoke this past Sunday at a meeting of the National Jewish Democratic Council, a lobbying organization that promotes Jewish values within the Democratic Party. In response to a question about freshman congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who used a vulgarity about Donald Trump when calling for his impeachment, Pelosi said, “I probably have a generational reaction to it, but in any event I’m not in the censorship business. As the Israeli writer Amos Oz, may his memory be for a blessing, wrote recently, ‘Listen, you don’t necessarily have to agree to what you listen to, but listen very carefully. Listen even to voices which you regard as dangerous, abhorrent, terrible, monstrous.’ Oz is right. We all need to listen to every voice, even when they speak with words that do not reflect our personal values.”

E. Pelosi was the guest speaker at a meeting of Magen Tzedek, an organization within the Conservative Jewish movement which seeks to bring social justice and ethics into the kosher food production industry, ensuring fair treatment of workers and humane treatment of animals. Addressing a room full of shochets, ritual slaughterers, Pelosi said, “Let me show you how to do this right. Put me in a room filled with cattle, and I will cut their heads off and they won’t even know they’re bleeding.”

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