Sunday, November 28th 2021   |

Jewish Trivia Quiz

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


The United States Office of the Director of National Intelligence just released a report on the issue of unidentified aerial phenomena, colloquially called Unidentified Flying Objects, or UFOs. The document referenced 143 reports of sightings for which government scientists and military personnel could offer no explanation. At least 21 of these reports include aerial technology that is beyond our current capability or understanding, such as objects moving without observable propulsion. The report drew no conclusions about these sightings, other than that further investigation is needed. The report has greatly increased interest in UFOs and strengthened the belief of many that these objects may be from intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Haim Eshed, the director of space programs for the Israel Ministry of Defense for nearly 30 years, gave an interview on the topic of UFOs. Eshed is considered to be the father of Israel’s space program, and has won many awards, including the Israel Defense Prize (the highest civilian defense honor of the State of Israel) on three occasions. What did Eshed say regarding the possibility of life on other planets?

A photo of a supposed UFO

ufo  by tonynetone is licensed under CC BY 2.0

AEshed said that Israel has long worked cooperatively with the United States in these investigations, and he confirmed that scientists involved in Israel’s space program and military are concerned about these sightings, for which there is no clear explanation. But he said, “This does not mean that aliens are about to land and take over. It just means there is more we need to learn.”

B. Eshed, an Orthodox Jew, said that he has always followed the science without hesitation. But he also said that he starts from the beginning, “literally, B’reishit. In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth. It does not say earths, so I believe that we are the humanity that God created. Having said that, I also recognize that God can do anything. So if the science shows me that there are others, I will welcome them to my Shabbat table.”

C. Though Eshed spoke extensively about space exploration and Israel’s program, he refused to speak about the specific topic of UFOs. There are reports that at least some of the unexplained aerial craft could have been created in a joint program between Israel and the United States. Some believe that the Director of National Intelligence report was in fact designed to obfuscate the level of engineering that US and Israeli scientists have developed, in particular to fool the Russians and Chinese who are also working on this technology.

D. Eshed criticized the Director of National Intelligence report, saying that releasing the report served no good purpose, and would only fuel speculation that there were aliens visiting the planet Earth. “People have wondered about UFOs forever. What I call angels sent by God some might call space aliens. People are afraid of what they don’t understand, so for the United States to announce that they don’t understand these phenomena is just an invitation to panic in my opinion.”

EEshed said that Israel and the United States have been dealing with aliens for years, that aliens and American astronauts share an underground base on Mars, and that President Trump almost revealed this secret, but the aliens, known as the Galactic Federation, convinced him that revealing their existence would lead to panic.

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Naftali Bennett

Naftali Bennett was sworn in as Israel’s prime minister last week, ending 12 years of government led by Benjamin Netanyahu. While the coalition that makes up the government is extremely diverse politically, Bennett said that “We will forge forward on that which we agree–and there is much we agree on, transport, education and so on, and what separates us we will leave to the side.” Throughout his personal and political life, Bennett has faced many challenges, and has spoken of one particular problem that he solved creatively, noting that “I had to improvise. So we MacGyvered it.” The term “MacGyvered” refers to the MacGyver television show whose eponymous lead character routinely jerry-rigged solutions to problems he was confronted with. What was Bennett referring to when he said “we MacGyvered it”?

Naftali Bennett

Israel Bilat by U.S. Secretary of Defense is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A. In 1999, prior to entering politics, Bennett founded and led a United States-based technology company called Cyota, which focused on anti-fraud efforts in the banking and e-commerce industries. “We didn’t really know what we were doing,” Bennett said. “We didn’t even know what we wanted to do. But President Clinton had just signed the Financial Services Modernization Act, which basically allowed commercial and investment banks to merge. I had a Compaq computer and my partner had one of the first iBook laptops. We knew the banks had to seriously upgrade their security for this change, so we just hammered something out. I had to improvise. So we MacGyvered it. Luckily we were in the right place at the right time.” 

B. Bennett was actually referring to his recent negotiations with Yair Lapid, head of Israel’s Yesh Atid party. Lapid, who had been tasked with forming a new government, did not have enough votes to form a government with the parties that were ideologically aligned with his. When he first reached out to Bennett, Bennett did not even agree to speak with him given their vastly different political views. But they ultimately met and agreed on the unlikely linking of their parties for the purpose of ousting Bibi Netanyahu. Said Bennett, “We looked at our options, we looked at the policies we could agree on, we recognized that there was just no meeting of the minds. But, we had to get rid of Bibi. I had to improvise. So we MacGyvered it and put together this crazy coalition.”

C. Bennett served as an officer in the Israeli Defense Forces during Operation Grapes of Wrath, a 1996 incursion into Lebanon by the Israeli Defense Forces to end rocket attacks launched by Hezbollah. During the military action, Bennett radioed for air support when his unit came under mortar fire, and the resulting Israeli air strikes hit a United Nations compound, resulting in the death of over a hundred Lebanese civilians. Bennett was accused of using “poor judgment” during the operation, to which he responded, “I had to make an immediate decision on the ground, with the tools and options I had. I had to improvise. So we MacGyvered it. The tragic ending was not my fault.”

D. Referring to his military training in the Israeli Defense Forces, Bennett spoke of the time his unit was training for covert operations. They were left in the Negev Desert and expected to survive for a week without any food and with minimal equipment and supplies (including no weapons except pocketknives). The troops came upon some wild gazelles and decided to kill some for food. But Bennett, who was the only observant Jew in the unit, did not want to eat the animal if it wasn’t properly slaughtered. So he and some other soldiers trapped a gazelle, and Bennett, using his pocketknife, performed a ritual slaughter of the animal as best as he could. Said Bennett, “I’m not sure my rabbi would have considered the animal kosher, but I had to improvise. So we MacGyvered it.”

EBennett was referencing the time that he used chewing gum to hold his kippah (yarmulke) onto his bald head when delivering a speech outdoors on a windy day.

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Louie Gohmert

Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas made headlines last week when he asked Jennifer Eberlien, an associate deputy chief of the Forest Service, the following question. “Is there anything that the National Forest Service or BLM [Bureau of Land Management] can do to change the course of the moon’s orbit or the Earth’s orbit around the sun? Obviously, that would have profound effects on our climate.” This absurd question prompted Representative Ted Lieu of California to propose a bipartisan resolution asking for the help of Captain Marvel, noting that “She can alter planetary orbits with her superpowers.” Gohmert has clearly stated that America is a Christian nation, and his religious beliefs are the foundation of his political beliefs. What verse did Gohmert quote from the Bible to justify one of his political beliefs?

Representative Louie Gohmert

Louie Gohmert by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A. Jeremiah Chapter 31 Verse 17. “And there is hope for your future–declares the LORD: Your children shall return to their country.” Gohmert referenced this verse as justification for sending migrants, including unaccompanied minors, back to their native countries, regardless of the danger facing them if they return.

B. Psalm 109 Verse 8. “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.” Gohmert made this statement on Joe Biden’s inauguration day.

C. Genesis Chapter 12 Verse 3. “I will bless them that bless thee and curse them that curse thee.” He offered this as justification for the United States supporting (“blessing”) Israel, as Israel’s enemies will be cursed by God.

D. Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 37a. “Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” Gohmert quoted this line from the Talmud at a Right to Life rally, justifying his anti-abortion position.

EII Kings, Verses 23 and 24. “As he was going up the road, some little boys came out of the town and jeered at him, saying, ‘Go away, baldhead! Go away, baldhead!’ He turned around and looked at them and cursed them in the name of the LORD. Thereupon, two she-bears came out of the woods and mangled forty-two of the children.” Said Gohmert, “Clearly, the Lord had me in mind when he wrote the Bible, and anyone can see that this means that I, with my baldhead, can basically say any idiotic thing I want. Don’t mess with me. I’ll send she-bears after you if you do.”

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F. Lee Bailey, RIP

Attorney F. Lee Bailey died last week. Bailey gained fame for defending a wide range of controversial figures, including The Boston Strangler, Patty Hearst, and O. J. Simpson. He brought a very theatrical presence into the courtroom, and advocated strongly for his clients with a focus on the concept of reasonable doubt. What did Bailey say that offended many in the Jewish community?

F. Lee Bailey

F. Lee Bailey famed Lawyer by John Mathew Smith is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A. In a 2019 podcast interview, Bailey blamed Hollywood Jews for promoting an anti-O. J. Simpson narrative, stating, “And in Hollywood, if you do a portrayal that’s favorable to O.J. Simpson we won’t fund it. So some of the people who claim that most of their lives they’ve been subjected to horrible kinds of prejudice, and indeed extermination during World War II, are now behaving in exactly the same totalitarian spirit by unfettered free press.”

B. In a 2011 interview about Patty Hearst, Bailey referenced her grandfather, William Randolph Hearst, the famous newspaper publisher. Said Bailey, “I still think it’s a miscarriage of justice that Patty Hearst was convicted. But I’m glad her grandfather wasn’t around when this happened. Patty was kidnapped by a gang of revolutionaries that hated America. William Randolph Hearst popularized the phrase ‘America First’ in his newspapers. He loved this country, not like those thugs.” Many Jews took offense at this statement, as the America First movement of the middle 20th century opposed aid to those countries who were fighting against the Nazis.

C. Bailey’s first notable case was that of Dr. Sam Sheppard. Late one night in 1954, Sheppard’s wife was bludgeoned to death in their home. While Dr. Sheppard claimed to have been awakened by noise and knocked unconscious by the perpetrator, he was charged with the crime and convicted in a case that received extensive and inflammatory coverage in the media, including an editorial in the Cleveland Press prior to Sheppard’s arrest which was titled, “Why Isn’t Sam Sheppard in Jail?” Bailey (not Sheppard’s original attorney) eventually took over as his lawyer, appealing the case to the Supreme Court, which overturned the conviction based on the inability of Sheppard to get a fair trial given the biased media coverage. In a 1972 Wall Street Journal interview, Bailey said, “The elites who control the media long got away with wielding their power indiscriminately and to their own advantage. I’m glad that the Supreme Court stood up to them and freed Dr. Sheppard, a good Christian man who suffered such a great tragedy.” Bailey was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League for his reference to “media elites,” a common anti-Semitic trope.

D. In March 1968, American soldiers fighting in Viet Nam participated in what became known as the My Lai massacre, the mass murder of unarmed South Vietnamese citizens. Bailey represented Captain Ernest Lou Medina who was the commanding officer of the unit responsible for the murders. Bailey argued in Medina’s 1971 court martial trial that the massacre was the independent action of the soldiers, not a command from Captain Medina, and the officer was acquitted of all charges. In a 1981 interview in Time Magazine, Bailey stated, “My Lai was a terrible event, but let’s keep it in perspective. It’s not like the Holocaust. A few hundred people were killed.” He was criticized by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which issued a statement saying “While the Holocaust was a unique evil in history, no one should reference the Holocaust to diminish other crimes against humanity.”

EBailey was one of many defense attorneys for O. J. Simpson, along with Alan Dershowitz, Johnnie Cochran, Robert Kardashian, and others. Bailey was reported to have complained about the body odor noticeable in the room when the lawyers met to discuss strategy. When asked who he thought was the problem, Bailey replied, “If you smell the shvitz, it’s Dershowitz.”

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Yair Lapid

Yair Lapid, leader of Israel’s centrist Yesh Atid party, was tasked by Israeli president Reuven Rivlin with forming a government after the failure of current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to do so. It is now expected that Lapid will form a coalition not only with center and left-leaning parties, but also with Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Yamina party. And apparently, Bennett will become prime minister, with a plan in place for Lapid to become prime minister at some later date. Benjamin Netanyahu has already criticized this coalition, which would result in his removal from office, saying among other things that “This government supports the dangerous nuclear deal,” based on his belief that Lapid will not stand up to Iran, and that Bennett has compromised his rightist views for his personal benefit. In fact, Yair Lapid strongly opposed the Iran nuclear deal when it was first announced in November 2013. How did then Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid describe the proposed nuclear deal with Iran at that time?

Secretary Blinken visit May 2021–Blinkin greets Yair Lapid by U.S. Embassy Jerusalem is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A. “We had a choice here between Pharoah and Haman.”

BWe had a choice here between bacon and ham.”

CWe had a choice here between Chmielnicki and Hitler.

DWe had a choice here between the plague and cholera.”

EWe had a choice here between Iraq and a hard place.”

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Marjorie Taylor Greene

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia is in the news again for controversial comments, specifically the following statement regarding the House of Representatives rule that members must still wear masks in the House chambers. “You know, we can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second-class citizens so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany. And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.” She has been criticized by people across the political spectrum, including Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) who tweeted, “It’s a grotesque idiocy mixed with a neurotic lack of self awareness,” and Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) who wrote, “Marjorie Taylor Greene: A troubled person who is unfit to serve in Congress.” Greene was previously criticized for claiming that space lasers controlled by the Rothschild family were responsible for the California wildfires. She denied the charge that her claim was anti-Semitic, with what explanation?

Marjorie Taylor Greene

GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA-14), 117th Congress is licensed under United States Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A. “I don’t even have a clue who the Rothschilds are or what my comments meant. I was just quoting from the Daily Stormer website. They obviously specialize in storms so clearly they would know about things shooting down from the sky.”

B. “I never used the word Jew or Jewish, so how could my comments possibly be anti-Semitic?”

C. “I didn’t even know and didn’t find out until recently that the Rothschilds were Jewish.”

D. “I’m not blaming the Rothschilds because they are Jewish. I’m blaming them because they are Democrats.”

E. “You can’t say I’m anti-Semitic for blaming the Rothschilds, who I didn’t know were Jewish. I am pretty sure, however, that space lasers are Jewish because I saw Fiddler on the Roof, and there’s no doubt that Laser Wolfe was a Jew.”

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Gal Gadot

Israeli actress Gal Gadot tweeted about the current military crisis between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, “My heart breaks. My country is at war. I worry for my family, my friends. I worry for my people. This is a vicious cycle that has been going on for far too long. Israel deserves to live as a free and safe nation, Our neighbors deserve the same. I pray for the victims and their families, I pray for this unimaginable hostility to end, I pray for our leaders to find the solution so we could live side by side in peace. I pray for better days.” In response, Yair Netanyahu, son of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, criticized her for her comments. What did he say?

Gal Gadot

Gal Gadot by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A. “She chose to write a neutral post as if she was from Switzerland.”

B. “I wonder what kind of woman she is, to not stand up for her country.”

C. “She is everything that a real super hero is not.”

D. “Gal Gadot has aligned herself with the anti-Israel Hollywood elite. There can be no side by side in peace when the other side wants to destroy us.”

E. “I accused Yitzhak Rabin of having ‘murdered Holocaust survivors on the Altalena.’ I was put on leave from my job at the Israel Law Center because I mocked President Reuven Rivlin for advocating on behalf of Israeli-Arab rights. I support right-wing reactionary leaders such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Brazil’s  Jair Bolsonaro. And I was suspended from Facebook for anti-Muslim comments such as ‘Do you know where there are no terror attacks? In Iceland and Japan. Coincidentally there’s also no Muslim population there.’ I’m 29, unemployed, and I live with my daddy at the official prime minister’s residence. So why wouldn’t I criticize Gal Gadot for caring about humanity?”

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Parliamentary elections were held last week in Scotland, with a major issue being the possible move toward independence from Great Britain. The drive for independence has grown much stronger since Great Britain decided to leave the European Union. Pro-independence parties gained a majority of seats in the election, and the largest party, the Scottish National Party, has stated that they will hold a national referendum on the issue. Jews have been in Scotland since at least the 17th century, and the Jewish population grew to more than 20,000 after World War II. However, at this time it is estimated that there are only about 6000 Jews remaining, centered primarily in the cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Dundee. Rabbi Mendel Jacobs of the Lubavitch of Scotland is known for what action that related to traditional Scottish culture?


Edinburgh Piper by David Blaikie is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A. Rabbi Jacobs ruled that Jewish men are not allowed to wear tartan kilts, the traditional Scottish clothing. He based his ruling on Deuteronomy Chapter 22 Verse 5, “A woman must not put on man’s apparel, nor shall a man wear woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is abhorrent to the Lord your God.”

BRabbi Jacobs ruled that Jewish men are only allowed to wear tartan kilts, the traditional Scottish clothing, if it has his rabbinical certification. He based his ruling on the shaatnez prohibition, wherein Jews are not allowed to wear clothing that combines wool with linen. Jews can bring their kilts to the Rabbi for inspection. If he determines that the item only contains wool, he stamps the clothing with a kashrut certification symbol similar to the kosher O-U symbol. However, in this case the symbol is a letter L in a circle (for linen), with a red diagonal line through the L. Jews entering Rabbi Jacobs’ shul wearing a kilt must show the O-L stamp to the synagogue gabbai for approval before being allowed in.

CThe Jacobite is a steam engine train, part of the Scottish West Highland Railway Line, that travels through the Scottish Highlands and is very popular with tourists. The train was used in many of the Harry Potter movies and presented as the Hogwarts Express. Rabbi Jacobs has declared that Jews are not allowed to ride the train, as the association with the name Hogwarts renders the train unkosher. He said this is based on the principal of marit ayin which states that things that are technically kosher but appear to violate the law are therefore deemed unkosher.

DRabbi Jacobs created a kosher tartan, the traditional Scottish cloth consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands, representing clans in Scotland. His tartan design includes blue and white for the Israeli and Scottish flags, gold for the golden items in the Biblical tabernacle, silver representing the silver decorations on a Torah scroll, and red symbolizing kiddush wine. The tartan design can be purchased in the form of a kilt, necktie, mouse pad, yarmulke, and a tallit.

ERabbi Jacobs moved to Scotland in 2017, and soon after he noticed that the name of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, appeared on signs as Rabbie Burns (which is the traditional Scottish spelling). Misinterpreting that the famed poet was actually a rabbi, Rabbi Jacobs held a celebration for the local Jewish community on Burns Day, the poet’s birthday, where he served a dinner of kosher haggis, the traditional  dish of sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, cooked inside the sheep’s stomach. Said Rabbi Jacobs, “If we can eat kishka, why not eat haggis like Rabbi Burns?”

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James Carville

Democratic political operative James Carville, chief architect of Bill Clinton’s presidential election, gave an interview recently to the online news site Vox on the election of Joe Biden, and the current state of the Democratic Party. He praised President Biden (“It’s very difficult to find something to complain about.”). And he offered advice and criticism to the Democratic Party for their overall poor results (other than winning the presidency) in the last election (“We won the White House against a world-historical buffoon. And we came within 42,000 votes of losing.”). What “Jewish-referenced” comment did Carville offer?

James Carville

James Carville by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A. Speaking of the division between Republicans and Democrats over the last few administrations, Carville said, “Not every problem is intractable, like the Israeli/Palestinian issue, chas v’chalila. Most issues really do have points of compromise. We just need politicians who are willing to compromise.”

B. Said Carville, who was an advisor to Ehud Barak in the 1999 Israeli elections, “Do I think anything is possible in politics? Hey. I'm the guy who helped Ehud Barak defeat Bibi Netanyahu for prime minister in 1999. I haven’t seen anybody else doing that lately, even with that guy under indictment. Guess you could say I’m a goy with a yiddishe kop!”

CReferencing the way that politicians communicate, using too much “jargon-y language,” Carville said that political speech needs to be more accessible. He went on to say, “I always tell people that we’ve got to stop speaking Hebrew and start speaking Yiddish. We have to speak the way regular people speak, the way voters speak.”

D. Regarding his general philosophy about political work, Carville said, “Coming from Louisiana, I always say that we have to view American politics like red beans and rice. You have to take your time to get where you’re going. Put the beans in a pot, put it on the stove on low, and give it most of the day. Don’t rush it. If you’re patient, you’ll end up with a simple but delicious feast. I told this story once when signing books in New York and this lady said to me, ‘That’s just what my Bubby always said to me. Be patient. But she talked about her cholent sitting on the stove overnight’.”

ECarville married Mary Matalin in 1993. She was a Republican political consultant and operative, having worked for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, as well as Vice President Dick Cheney. Said Carville, “People ask me all the time how I could marry Mary? I have no idea (well, really, I have no idea why she would marry me). But knowing that we made our marriage work is what gave me the chutzpah to push President Clinton to get Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat to shake hands at Camp David.”

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Abbie Hoffman

Among the nominations for Best Picture at the 2021 Academy Awards was The Trial of the Chicago Seven, and that movie featured Sacha Baron Cohen, nominee for Best Supporting Actor (neither won). Cohen played Abbie Hoffman, Viet Nam war protestor, co-founder of the Youth International Party (Yippies), and one of the defendants in the trial of the Chicago Seven, charged with intent to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention. Hoffman said that Judaism informed his world view in regard to the importance of rebellion, as he wrote in his autobiography Soon To Be A Major Motion Picture. “Intellectual arrogance and moral indignation grow out of the ghetto history. For 5,000 years, Jews always had the opportunity to rebel against authority, because for 5,000 years there was always someone trying to break their backs.” What was Abbie Hoffman’s “Jewish” interaction with pediatrician Dr. Spock, a fellow anti-war protestor?

Abbie Hoffman and Jane Fonda

1970, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA - Jane Fonda - Jane Fonda by Tommy Japan 79 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

ADr. Spock was president of the synagogue where Abbie Hoffman was bar mitzvah, and presented him with a gift from the congregation.

BAbbie Hoffman cooked gefilte fish from scratch for Dr. Spock when Spock invited him for dinner while they were both hiding from authorities in the Virgin Islands.

CDr. Spock performed Abbie Hoffman’s circumcision.

DOne of the protest activities at the 1968 Democratic Convention was a Friday night Shabbat service and protest led by Rabbi Michael Lerner. Following the service, Hoffman and Dr. Spock danced the hora arm in arm.

EAbbie Hoffman, who is a Kohen, met Dr. Spock for the first time when they both spoke at an anti-war rally in New York’s Central Park in 1967. Rather than extending his hand in greeting, Hoffman held up both hands with fingers spread in the traditional pose of the Kohanim, the Jewish priests, much to Dr. Spock’s bewilderment. It turns out that Hoffman confused Dr. Spock with Mr. Spock, who co-opted the Kohen sign as the Vulcan salute on Star Trek.

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