Friday, January 15th 2021   |

Jewish Trivia Quiz

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

Steve Mnuchin

The United States Postal Service is an independent agency whose head, the Postmaster General, is appointed by the agency’s Board of Governors. The Board of Governors consists of both Democrats and Republicans who are appointed by the President. This system was devised in 1970 to ensure that the Post Office would be able to function independently of partisan political influence. However, last February Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met only with the Republican members of the Board in a meeting not covered by sunshine laws because of a lack of a quorum, thus yielding no public record of the meeting. This meeting, and other subsequent meetings and actions by Mnuchin, led to the hiring of Trump megadonor Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General. DeJoy is now facing criticism for efforts to curtail USPS operations in a way which could greatly impact the processing of mail-in ballots in the November presidential election. Steve Mnuchin’s great-grandfather, Aaron Mnuchin, was a diamond merchant who emigrated to the United States in 1916. What is the root of Steve Mnuchin’s name?

Steven Mnuchin

Steven Mnuchin - Caricature by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY 2.0

AThe name is a variation of Mincha, which is the evening prayer which Jews recite daily.

B. The name is a variation of the Hebrew words may-Noach, meaning “descending from Noah.”

CThe name is a variation of Menachem, which derives from the Hebrew word for comforter.

DThe name comes from the name Munich, as Mnuchin’s family roots are in that German city.

EThe name is a variation of Munchkin, as Mnuchin’s family roots are in that land over the rainbow.

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Kamala Harris

Joe Biden announced last week that Senator Kamala Harris of California would be his running mate. Harris, who is of Jamaican and Indian descent, is married to attorney Douglas Emhoff, who is Jewish. His two children from a previous marriage call Kamala “Momele.” Harris has a long history of support for Israel, favoring a two-state solution and opposing BDS. She has also spoken out strongly against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate crimes, saying at an AIPAC meeting, “As someone who’s personally prosecuted hate crime, I also believe that we cannot stand by while anti-Semitism, hate crime and bigotry are on the rise, whether that’s a swastika on a Jewish Family and Children’s Services bus in San Francisco or the burning of a mosque in Tampa. No one should have to be afraid to put a menorah in their front window or on their front lawn.” What Jewish activity did Kamala Harris participate in when she was growing up?

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A. Harris attended Westmount High School in Westmount, Quebec, where she played the role of Hodel in the school’s production of Fiddler on the Roof.

B. Kamala’s best friend was a member of Young Judaea. Kamala used to go door to door with her friend selling World’s Finest chocolate bars as a fundraiser for the organization.

CWhen Kamala was 12, she moved to Montreal, where her mother took a job as a researcher at Jewish General Hospital. Every year Kamala would attend the Chanukkah party sponsored by the hospital, and she would help distribute presents to the Jewish children who were being treated at the facility.

DHarris used to collect donations in the JNF Blue Boxes for planting trees in Israel.

EHarris ran for president of her senior class, and during her campaign she targeted Jewish students. She spoke of her support for a two-state solution at a local B’nai B’rith Youth Organization meeting. She appeared at a bagel store and posed eating lox on an onion bagel. She went to the Jewish Community Center’s Purim carnival where she kissed a bunch of Jewish babies. She gave a speech to the student body where she used ten Yiddish words including chutzpah, kvell, meshuggeneh, and tushie. She appeared at the county fair where she was seen eating a fried knish on a stick. And she sold campaign T-shirts that read “Vote Kamala, Bubele.”

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United States Postal Service

Many states are looking to expand their mail-in ballot options for the presidential election, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that makes many hesitant to enter a polling place, but also because of a desire to increase voter participation in elections. President Trump opposes many of these initiatives, falsely claiming that mail-in voting is particularly susceptible to voter fraud. And there is fear that Louis DeJoy, the new Postmaster General, is taking actions that will negatively affect the Postal Services’s ability to handle a huge number of mail-in ballots. What were the circumstances that once led the Postal Service to reject the mailing of an item by a Jewish person?

United States Postal Service truck

USPS by Paul Sableman is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A. In 1962, comedian Lenny Bruce, who had already been arrested numerous times on obscenity charges, brought a package to the post office to be mailed. The package was seized by the postmaster who said that Bruce was being investigated on federal obscenity charges. The postmaster opened the package, which in fact contained a copy of Bruce’s record album, The Sick Humor of Lenny Bruce. Bruce was arrested on the spot because the album included what were considered obscene riffs on sex as well as religion, including the use of many obscene words (of which “shmuck” was one).

B. In 1927, a Jewish lawyer named Aaron Sapiro filed a libel lawsuit against Henry Ford over the anti-Semitic content of Ford’s newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. Additionally, Sapiro published his own pamphlet countering Ford’s message, but when he mailed the pamphlet, the post office in Dearborn rejected the piece, claiming that it libeled Mr. Ford. Given Ford’s powerful position in Dearborn, this was not surprising, and Sapiro had no choice but to delete some of the wording, even though other post offices had no problem with the mailing. In particular, Sapiro altered a headline on the front of the pamphlet which orginally read, “Henry Ford, Great Entrepreneur, Greater Anti-Semite.”

CIn 1917, the Post Office would not mail a book by Dr. Ben-Zion Liber entitled Sexual Life: A Popular Science Book. The book, written in Yiddish, covered a variety of health topics, including healthy eating, family planning, and birth control. The postmaster declared the book non-mailable because it was obscene, until the author deleted an article titled “The Incomplete Intercourse” and edited some other pages.

DIn 1984, the Orthodox Yiddish newspaper, Der Yid, printed a front page editorial railing against Jews who celebrated Christmas, or who had expanded their Chanukkah celebration into a major competing holiday. The article was printed in Yiddish. But the editorial also appeared on the front page of the newspaper’s English language supplement, under the headline, “Let The Goyim Keep Their Santa Claus, Their Trees and Their Lights-and Also, Their Jesus.” The postmaster refused to allow the English supplement to be mailed, saying that it was hostile to Christians and violated their religious freedom.

EIn 1959, the Sisterhood of the Monticello Jewish Center in the heart of the Catskills published a cookbook. However, when they brought copies to the local post office to mail to those who had ordered the book, the postmaster rejected the mailing. Apparently, the book included “Shirley Goldberg’s Perfect Brisket” recipe. However, Rosalie Rabinowitz claimed that the brisket recipe was hers, and Shirley had stolen her recipe, only changing the quantity of sliced onions from 2 large to 3 large. Rosalie’s husband Abe just happened to be the local postmaster, and Abe said that he would not allow the post office to accept the books for mailing as long as Shirley’s name was on his wife’s brisket recipe. After some negotiating, the Sisterhood inserted an extra page with “Rosalie Rabinowitz’s Perfect Brisket” recipe (with the “correct” number of onions) and the books were mailed.

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Anti-Netanyahu Protests

A protest movement has grown in recent weeks in Israel against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently on trial for bribery and corruption charges. Thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets and called for Netanyahu’s resignation because of those charges, his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting economic crisis, and his supposed efforts to manipulate the government to protect him from the corruption prosecution. Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s son Yair was slapped with a restraining order by The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court for illegally publishing the names and addresses of leaders of the protest movement and calling for them to be trolled, potentially putting them and their families in danger. In response, Netanyahu has blamed the media for inciting the public, saying, “There has never been such a distorted mobilization—I wanted to say Soviet but it has already reached North Korean terms—of the media in favor of the protests.” What name has been applied to the anti-Netanyahu protest movement?

July 2020, demonstrators protest in front of the official residence of Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu

Jerusalem Demonstrations by Yaara Di Segni is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

AThe Crime Minister Protest Movement.

BThe Bye Bye Bibi Movement.

CThe Justice We Shall Pursue Against Bibi Movement.

DThe People of the Book, Not the People of the Crook Movement.

EThere’s Only One BB King and it Ain’t Netanyahu Movement.

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Ted Yoho

Republican Congressman Ted Yoho, who represents the 3rd district of Florida, made the headlines last week because of his crude and sexist insults hurled at Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democrat who represents New York’s 14th congressional district. Ocasio-Cortez responded on the floor of the House with a passionate speech about his behavior towards her which reflects “a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women and an entire structure of power that supports that.” Congressman Yoho traveled to Israel in 2013, where he met with many Israeli political, military and civilian leaders, but also with Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority. Yoho found the trip to be very educational, as he noted “It’s always fascinated me how screwed up that whole region is.” After returning from his trip, Yoho told a Gainesville Sun reporter that Erekat conceded Israel’s right to exist, but rejected that it should be populated by Jewish people. Noting that such a position undermined any real chance of peace negotiations, Yoho then said what?

Congressman Ted Yoho

Ted Yoho by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A. “To quote Abba Eban, ‘Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.’ ”

B“Everybody needs to take a chill pill.”

C. “I feel for the Palestinian people, but it’s very clear in the Bible that God gave the land to the Israelites.”

D. “Of course, the reason that Mr. Erekat says that is because he knows that President Obama is prepared to sell out Israel.”

E“I told Mr. Erekat that he was disgusting, and I told him directly, ‘You are out of your freaking mind.’ And as I walked away, I called him a fakakta mamzer because I cannot apologize for my passion, or for loving my God, my family, and my country. Having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I’m very cognizant of my language. The offensive name-calling, words attributed to me by the press were never spoken to my colleagues and if they were construed that way, I apologise for their misunderstanding. In other words, I didn’t say it and if I did it’s your fault for hearing it. And did I mention, I have two daughters?”

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Portland, Oregon

The state of Oregon is suing the federal government to prevent federal agents from arresting city residents who are protesting against racism and police brutality. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who is Jewish, says that federal agents have literally grabbed people off the streets without a warrant or explanation. Mayor Ted Wheeler called the actions “a direct threat to our democracy.” It is believed that the involvement of Homeland Security agents and U.S. marshals is a political ploy by the Trump administration. Portland has a long history of civic involvement by Jews, including five Jews who have served as mayor of the city, most recently when Vera Katz held that office from 1992-2004. The first Jewish mayor of Portland was Bernard Goldsmith, who served from 1869–1871. Goldsmith was born in Bavaria and emigrated to New York City at age 5. He eventually moved to California and started a jewelry store, and in 1861 he moved to Portland where he opened a retail store with some of his brothers. Which of the following is true about Bernard Goldsmith?

The "Portland Oregon" Sign

Portland, Oregon - Old Town by Colin Durfee is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A. Goldsmith was one of the first directors of the Library Association of Portland, founded in 1864. The association’s directors declared that “the library should forever be kept free of politics.”

B. As mayor of Portland, one of Goldsmith’s focuses was on making the city a livable space. He brought about the purchase of 40 acres of land for a park, which later expanded to more than 400 acres, now known as Washington Park. He also pushed for an ordinance that required business owners to plant shade trees along the street in front of their shops.

CGoldsmith served as a cavalry officer in the Indian Wars in California and Oregon in 1855-1856. He prevented renewed fighting by personally intervening and bringing complaints from Indian leaders to the superintendent for Indian affairs in San Francisco.

DGoldsmith was the driving force behind the plan to build locks on the Willamette River, enabling boats to sail from the Pacific Ocean to Eugene, Oregon, which led to  greatly reduced cost for commercial shipping. When the project was hit by cost overruns, Goldsmith contributed $200,000 of his own funds to allow the project to be completed.

EGoldsmith was the driving force behind the plan to fish for lox on the Willamette River, enabling Jewish appetizing stores to be built from the Pacific Ocean to Eugene, Oregon, which led to  greatly reduced cost for Sunday brunch. When the project was hit by cost overruns, Goldsmith contributed 200,000 bagels from his own funds to allow the project to be completed.

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Ringo Starr just celebrated his 80th birthday by hosting a livestream concert benefiting Black Lives Matter and other causes. The concert featured performances by Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Steve Earle, Keb Mo and others, with Ringo opening the show performing It Don’t Come Easy. The Beatles drummer once found himself at the receiving end of a very scary threat, which led him to say, “I’m not Jewish.” What was the frightening event?

Ringo Starr

Ringo Starr Hamburg by Schröder+Schömbs PR _ Brands|Media|Lifestyle is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

A. The Beatles were scheduled to perform in Israel in 1965 thanks to the effort of their manager, Brian Epstein. The concert never took place, however, because of threats from the Orthodox Jewish community in Israel who opposed the playing of rock and roll music. The Chief Rabbi of B’nei Brak, a religious community only a short distance from the concert venue in Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv, condemned Epstein, who was Jewish, saying “If the band of Mr. Epstein plays here, it will be a chillul hashem.” When Ringo was told that this meant “a desecration of the name of God,” he replied, “Then let Brian stay home and let me go and play. After all, I’m not Jewish.”

B. When the Beatles performed a concert in Belfast in 1964, authorities learned of a threat to the drummer by a group of IRA terrorists who believed that Ringo was Jewish because they thought that Starkey, Ringo’s real last name, was a Jewish name. Many in the IRA believed that there was a Jewish conspiracy behind the British government’s opposition to their cause. British military accompanied the Beatles throughout their time in Belfast, and audience members were frisked before being allowed into the auditorium. Ringo later said, “It made no sense. After all, I’m not Jewish. But still, I had the cymbals up towards the audience to give me a bit of protection. I usually had them flat.”

CWhen the Beatles performed concerts in Montreal in 1964, authorities learned of a threat to the drummer by a group of radical French-Canadian separatists who believed that Ringo was Jewish, apparently because of his big nose. A plainclothes policeman sat with Ringo throughout both shows, and stayed with him during the entire time the Beatles were in Montreal. Ringo later described the event, saying, “Some people decided to make an example of me, as an English Jew. The one major fault is, I’m not Jewish.” Referring to the policeman sitting with him, Ringo said, “What is this guy going to do? Is he going to catch the bullet?”

D. The Beatles were in New York in August 1965, about to perform at Shea Stadium. Word had gotten out that Ringo was planning to propose to his girlfriend Maureen Cox, and as a result, the concert at Shea almost didn’t happen. Throngs of Chassidic Jews from the Diamond District in Midtown Manhattan appeared outside the Plaza Hotel where the Beatles were staying. They all had brought inventory of diamond rings, hoping that the most famous ring wearer in the world would choose one of their products as an engagement ring for Miss Cox, thinking it would be great publicity if their ring was selected. The jewelry salesmen all jockeyed for position at the hotel’s exit, hoping to get the attention of the drummer as the Beatles headed toward their limo. The crowd surged toward Ringo in a near-stampede, causing the security staff to turn the Beatles around to return to the safety of the hotel. Luckily, the Beatles were able to sneak out through a rear door of the hotel. When interviewed later, Ringo said, “I don't really understand why all those old bearded men thought I would buy a ring from them. I’ve got my own collection, as everyone knows. And besides, I’m not Jewish.”

ERingo appeared in the film Caveman in 1981, where he played Atouk, a scrawny caveman who lusted after a beautiful cavewoman, Lana, played by Barbara Bach, who Ringo went on to marry. Lana was the mate of bullying tribe leader Tonda, played by John Matuszak. The dialogue was almost entirely in cave language, including such words as bobo (friend), zug zug (mate), macha (monster), and caca (you figure it out). Ultimately, Atouk overcame the threats and power of Tonda and won Lana’s heart. But when Lana’s parents Shirley and Murray met Atouk, they asked him what shul he belonged to. He replied, “I’m not Jewish,” leading them to break up the relationship, saying “No goyishe macha will be a zug zug of our daughter.”

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Carl Reiner, z”l

Comedian, actor, writer, and director Carl Reiner died last week at the age of 98. Reiner was a pioneer in television as a writer and performer on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows and Caesar’s Hour. He created one of the best sitcoms in television history, The Dick Van Dyke Show. He performed in films including It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming. He wrote and/or directed movies such as The Jerk, Oh, God!, and Where’s Poppa. He starred on Broadway, and he voiced characters in animated films including Toy Story 4. And he partnered with his best friend Mel Brooks to perform The 2000 Year Old Man and other comedic routines on records and TV. Reiner grew up in the Bronx, the son of Jewish immigrants. While proudly Jewish, he said he became an atheist after the Holocaust. How did Reiner describe his bar mitzvah?

Carl Reiner

A. Reiner did not make a bar mitzvah until he was an adult. In a 1968 interview in TV Guide he said, “My father was a watchmaker. My mother was a seamstress. They worked all the time, and didn’t have time or money for a synagogue. When my son Rob was preparing for his bar mitzvah he asked me about mine. I told him I never had a bar mitzvah, and he said I should have one. I didn’t do anything at that time, after all, it was his moment. But a few years later I decided it’s my turn. I didn’t tell anyone about it except Estelle [Reiner’s wife] until a week before the service.” His experience inspired the episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show when Dick and Sally thought Buddy might be having an affair, but it turned out he was secretly studying for his bar mitzvah.

B. Reiner noted that he had “a bootleg bar mitzvah.” While his friends (Lenny, Shlermy, David, Marty and Mutty) all went to Hebrew School for many years, he only began bar mitzvah lessons a few months before his 13th birthday, when his father hired a rabbi to teach him. As Reiner wrote in his autobiography, I Remember Me, “All I can remember about the rabbi was his long, white beard, his healthy paunch, and the dirty toothpick he took from his vest pocket at the start of each lesson. He used the weathered toothpick to pick his teeth and to point to letters and words in the prayer book.”

CReiner described his bar mitzvah in his 2004 book, My Anecdotal Life: A Memoir. “I didn’t grow up in a religious home. Like any 12 year old, I didn’t really know what being Jewish meant, except that we ate salami and knishes, and some of the other kids in the neighborhood disappeared on Saturday. But we joined a little shul, really a shtiebel, that met in our apartment building, and the rabbi was a nice guy, with a real twinkle in his eye. He taught me some prayers, I went to shul with my family, sang the prayers, and then had my first sip of schnapps. It’s a nice memory. And that rabbi, that’s who I had in mind when I cast George Burns as God in Oh, God!

D. Reiner spoke about his bar mitzvah in an interview with Barbara Walters in 1996. “It wasn't a big deal,” he said. “I studied with this old rabbi at the shul in our neighborhood in the Bronx. He was ancient, he had this accent that I could barely understand. He kept telling me stories about how Jews walked through the desert 2000 years ago. I just wanted to get outside and play Ringoleavio or stickball. But I owe a lot to that rabbi. He was the inspiration for Mel’s 2000 year old man. That paid a lot of bills for me.”

ESaid Reiner in a 1992 People Magazine article, “I wasn't really interested in a bar mitzvah. But I did go to Hebrew School, and I remember the rabbi saying that I had to decide what prayers I wanted to lead. I had no idea, and no interest. I played like the prayers meant something, but I was just faking it. But then one day I heard this really cute girl in class named Sally sing some prayer. It was amazing. I had never heard anything like it. She was definitely not faking it. I went right to the rabbi and said, ‘I'll daven what she’s davening.’ ”

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Al Jaffee

Mad Magazine cartoonist Al Jaffee retired this month at age 99. Jaffee, the son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants, was one of a cadre of mostly Jewish humorists, writers, and cartoonists known as the “usual gang of idiots” who filled the pages of the satirical magazine since its founding in 1952. Jaffee was particularly known for creating the Fold-ins (based on Playboy Magazine’s Fold-outs) as well as the “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” feature. He was a major contributor to the magazine’s Jewish ethos, which included the use of Yiddish and faux-Yiddish words such as furshlugginer, farshimmelt, and Potrzebie (possibly based on the insult “putz-rebbe”), as well as the use of Yiddish phrases, such as when the Superman spoof character Superduperman uttered the words, “Shazoom? Vas ist das Shazoom?” In addition to working for Mad Magazine for 65 years, what other magazine did Al Jaffee write for?

Karen Green with Al Jaffee

With Al Jaffee by Karen Green is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A. The Chabad children’s magazine The Moshiach Times, where he wrote a regular column called “The Shpy.”

BGood Housekeeping, where he illustrated a column called “The Bad Housekeeping Seal of Disapproval.” Based on the magazine’s seal of approval, this column featured items that were rated as failures by the magazine’s testing panel, and included a Jaffee illustration of a seal spitting on the failed product.

CNational Lampoon, where he wrote and illustrated a monthly feature called “Jew/No Jew,” featuring celebrities and their Jewish backgrounds (whether or not the celebrity was actually Jewish).

DTwo Pence, a British humor and satire magazine that was based on Mad Magazine.

ETrump, a glossy humor and satire magazine that folded after two issues.

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This weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma, President Trump held his first campaign rally since the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the country. The campaign said that there were more than a million ticket requests; however, the 19,000 seat arena was only a third full. The Jewish community of Tulsa traces its history to the beginning of the 20th century, with many Jews settling there and opening retail stores. In 1908, Russian immigrants Max and Harry Madansky opened a clothing store in Tulsa that eventually added additional locations in Bartlesville, Muskogee, and Oklahoma City. In 1921, they took out a full page newspaper ad announcing the change of the store name from Madansky Brothers to May Brothers, explaining that the name change was “the final step to prove ourselves wholly American in every sense of the word. We have eliminated those parts of the name Madansky that are of foreign origin. We wish to forever renounce the name that reminds us of our foreign birth.” In the early-1940’s, B’nai Emunah, a synagogue that was a hybrid of Orthodox and Conservative practice, built a new building, only to learn that many women protested and refused to sit upstairs in the women’s balcony. How did the synagogue resolve that dispute?

Tulsa Golden Driller Statue

Golden Driller, Tulsa USA by The Erica Chang is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

AThey designated one side of the downstairs room for mixed seating and the other side for men only, with a large curtain down the middle aisle.

BThey designated the front half of the sanctuary for men and the rear rows for mixed seating, with a large curtain dividing the front and back sections.

CThe synagogue leadership refused to allow the women to sit downstairs, at which point roughly a third of the membership resigned and started a new synagogue which had mixed seating.

DThey designated half of the balcony for mixed seating, maintaining the downstairs seating for men only.

EThe President of B’nai Emunah made a speech where he called out the protestors. “Our incredible success in rebuilding B’nai Emunah stands in stark contrast to the extremism and destruction and violence of the radical mixed seaters. We just saw it outside. We just saw it outside, you saw these thugs that came along. These people, call them protesters, isn’t it beautiful, it’s so beautiful. No, they’re so wonderful. They call them the Tulsa Mixed Seaters. But they can’t do that. The lion may lie down with the lamb, but the men shall not sit down with the women. Not in my synagogue. MEGA! MEGA! Make Emunah Great Again!”

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