Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Remembering Theodore Bikel - Prolific Actor and Folk Singer


Theodore Bikel, the actor and folk singer who created the role of Baron Von Trapp in The Sound of Music on Broadway and played the role of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof more than 2,000 times, died last Tuesday in Los Angeles at the age of 91.

As Richard Severo and Ralph Blumenthal wrote in The New York Times,
A bulky, bearish man with an international background — he was born in Vienna and lived for years in England and British-administered Palestine — Mr. Bikel (pronounced bih-KEL) sang in 21 languages and was comfortable playing characters of almost any nationality, whether comic buffoons or scoundrels. He won warm reviews and a loyal following, but it was often suggested that he was underappreciated — an “actor in search of an ID,” in the words of a 1988 headline in The Los Angeles Times.
To many, Mr. Bikel was simply and enduringly Tevye, the stoic and irrepressible Jewish peasant who survives czarist Russia only to be brought low by his daughters. Zero Mostel originated the role on Broadway in 1964, but Mr. Bikel took on the part in 1967 and never entirely stopped, appearing in more than 2,000 performances of “Fiddler.”
He also portrayed both Tevye and Tevye’s creator, the author Sholem Aleichem, in a one-man show, “Sholem Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears,” with which he began touring in late 2008, when he was 84.
In his autobiography, “Theo,” first published in 1994 and revised in 2002 and 2014, he wrote with scant modesty that he was often asked “which of the many things I do I enjoy most.”
His answer: “Versatility in itself.”
We first encountered Theo Bikel when he performed for a student group at City College's Buttenwieser Lounge around 1960. We collected most of his LP records and sang many of his Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian songs, including The Kretchma. It's a comic song about a Russian drinking establishment where the vodka flowed all night and Natasha, the singer and dancer, had shoulders that vibrate, but "when she's singing, you see that she can't."

We found a video of Bikel singing this song on The Hollywood Palace, hosted by Gene Barry on May 6, 1967.

Enjoy!

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Monday, July 27, 2015

A Joke to Start the Week - "Indian Bar Mitzvah"


We thought we had exhausted the supply of clean jokes from Old Jews Telling Jokes. But we found that a similar project existed in the United Kingdom.

So this Monday our joke to start the week comes from the UK. The joke teller is Andrew, a 62-year-old food importer.

Here's the setup: Sheldon Goldbaum's parents wanted to do something different for his Bar Mitzvah. So they invited 200 of their close family and friends to go to India, to Jaipur in Rajasthan to the pink palace of the Maharaja. And then...

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

No Jokes Today - It's Tisha B'Av - A Day of Mourning for the Holy Temples

 
If you were expecting a joke today, we're sorry to disappoint you. You'll have to wait until tomorrow. 

Today is Tisha B'Av, an annual fast day in Judaism which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and the subsequent exile of the Jews from the Land of Israel.

The day also commemorates other tragedies which occurred on the same day, including the Roman massacre of over 100,000 Jews at Betar in 132 CE. Instituted by the rabbis of 2nd-century Palestine.
 
Tisha B'Av is regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, a day in which all pleasurable activity is forbidden, and is marked by synagogue attendance the night before and during the day. But that doesn't mean there's no singing, or more accurately, chanting.
 
The highlight of the day's service is the chanting of the megillah of Eicha (Lamentations), written by the prophet Jeremiah. Eicha is read in synagogues and in groups meeting indoors and outdoors.

In some Jewish communities Psalm 137 is recited or chanted. It reads:

 
Psalms Chapter 137

1. By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, we also wept, when we remembered Zion.
2. We hung our lyres on the willows in its midst.
3. For there those who carried us away captive required of us a song; and those who tormented us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
4. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
5. If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
6. If I do not remember you, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.
7. Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites, the day of Jerusalem; who said, Raze it, raze it, to its foundation.
8. O daughter of Babylon, you are to be destroyed! Happy shall he be, who repays you for what you have done to us.
9. Happy shall he be, who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock.

פרק קלז א עַֽל־נַֽהֲרוֹת | בָּבֶל שָׁם יָשַׁבְנוּ גַּם־בָּכִינוּ בְּזָכְרֵנוּ אֶת־צִיּֽוֹן
: ב עַל־עֲרָבִים בְּתוֹכָהּ תָּלִינוּ כִּנֹּרוֹתֵֽינוּ
: ג כִּי שָׁם שְֽׁאֵלוּנוּ שׁוֹבֵינוּ דִּבְרֵי־שִׁיר וְתוֹלָלֵינוּ שִׂמְחָה שִׁירוּ לָנוּ מִשִּׁיר צִיּֽוֹן
: ד אֵיךְ נָשִׁיר אֶת־שִׁיר יְהֹוָה עַל אַדְמַת נֵכָֽר
: ה אִֽם־אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ יְֽרוּשָׁלָם תִּשְׁכַּח יְמִינִֽי
: ו תִּדְבַּק־לְשׁוֹנִי | לְחִכִּי אִם־לֹא אֶזְכְּרֵכִי אִם־לֹא אַֽעֲלֶה אֶת־יְרֽוּשָׁלַם עַל רֹאשׁ שִׂמְחָתִֽי
: ז זְכֹר יְהֹוָה | לִבְנֵי אֱדוֹם אֵת יוֹם יְֽרוּשָׁלָם הָאֹמְרִים עָרוּ | עָרוּ עַד הַיְסוֹד בָּֽהּ
: ח בַּת־בָּבֶל הַשְּׁדוּדָה אַשְׁרֵי שֶׁיְשַׁלֶּם־לָךְ אֶת־גְּמוּלֵךְ שֶׁגָּמַלְתְּ לָֽנוּ
: ט אַשְׁרֵי | שֶׁיֹּאחֵז וְנִפֵּץ אֶֽת־עֹלָלַיִךְ אֶל־הַסָּֽלַע

 Here is a rendition of Psalm 137 sung by Meidad Tasa, from the film Jerusalem Code
 
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Friday, July 24, 2015

Behind the Scenes at Old Jews Telling Jokes - The Inside Story with Eric Spiegelman - Part 2


Last week we posted the first part of a four part interview of Eric Spiegelman, co-creator with Sam Hoffman of Old Jews Telling Jokes.

The interview was conducted by TV talk show host Connie Martinson.

Old Jews Telling Jokes started out as a website in 2009. Hundreds of jokes later it morphed into a book, a set of CDs and DVDs, and then an off-Broadway show that later toured the USA.

The jokes, told by Jews 65 and older, have been widely reprinted and reposted on the Internet. At Jewish Humor Central, we have used many of the video clips in our Joke to Start the Week on Mondays.

Today we'll share part two with you and give you some insights into the creative process for the series and let you hear some of the jokes, too.

Enjoy!

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Midweek Joke From Rabbi Bob Alper: "Cat Heaven"


Rabbi Bob Alper's standup sets have made frequent appearances on Jewish Humor Central.
 
We've been watching his funny DVD and just can't resist sharing some of his jokes with you, especially since he gave us permission to spread the joy that his humor brings to live audiences and to viewers of the DVD.
 
The DVD contains his 50 minute standup set and a collection of jokes that we're just starting to tap into. Here's one that we call "Cat Heaven."

Enjoy!

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Comedy Showcase: Belinda Boxer Performs Stand-Up at Jewish Week Comedy Contest


We've been running selected clips from the contestants at The Jewish Week's "Funniest Jewish Comic" Contest and special guests like Freddie Roman.

Belinda Boxer was the second place winner at the finals at the Broadway Comedy Club last month.

We're featuring a video clip from Belinda's act below. You can see her complete performance by clicking here.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Joys of Jewish Camping: Ramah Day Camp Presents Its Zimriah


More than 70,000 children attend Jewish summer camps across the United States each summer. 

When they start the next school year, whether it's in a Orthodox or Conservative day school or in a public school, they come with a strong sense of their Jewish identity and a personal connection with Israel, its culture, and its music.

A 2011 study found that camp alumni show higher levels of Jewish engagement in everything from ritual observance to Jewish charitable giving to marrying within the faith.

Overnight (sleepaway) camp is a total immersion in Jewish life and is the usual subject of studies like this one, but day camps also play a major role in keeping Jewish connections alive during the summer months.

Notable among these summer day camps is Ramah Day Camp in Nyack, New York, which provides children who are entering grades K-8 with a camping experience in a setting of love, friendship, wonder and discovery, a setting where Judaism is integral to daily activities. Camps like this one are feeder camps for overnight camps when the children get older.

One of the most anticipated days in the Ramah camp calendar is the Zimriah, a songfest where all of the children, together with their counselors and staff, display their singing talents and command of Hebrew.

Last week, only a few weeks into the camp season, the Zimriah took place outdoors on the camp grounds.

Enjoy!

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Monday, July 20, 2015

A Joke to Start the Week: "The Conversion"


It's Monday again, and we're bringing back Jerry Ostrov, Founder of the ReThink Israel Initiative, to help us start the week off with another joke.

The ReThink Israel Initiative,which operates the Facebook site From the Grapevine, was created to provide a fresh perspective on Israel. 

From the land’s natural beauty to Tel Aviv's vibrant technology scene; from the global culinary world's focus on Israeli food and recipes to the innovative Israelis who are changing the world – FromTheGrapevine covers the bounty of what Israel is about today.

Here's the setup for today's joke:  The old Jewish couple is standing in the Pale, and Chaim says to Sadie: "Listen, Sadie, every year they beat us up. They want us to convert. Our children are gone, our grandchildren are gone. Why don't we just convert? And then...

Enjoy!


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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Israeli Singing Star Noa Sings Duet With Andrea Bocelli in Vatican City


Last week Noa (Achinoam Nini), Israel’s leading international concert and recording artist,  performed at an event with Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli in Vatican City.

The singer, who attended SAR Academy and the Ramaz Upper School in New York City, has performed all over the world and recorded songs in nine languages.

As Steve Lipman wrote in The Jewish Week,
Noa, who three decades ago became the first Jewish woman to perform in the Vatican for a pope — John Paul II — called Pope Francis, on her Facebook page, “an example for world leaders everywhere.

“Without the intervention of important religious leaders we will not have peace,” she said. “We can work on the political and the diplomatic level, on the social level, but it is really the religious leaders who must [each] call their constituency and tell them: ‘No more war in the name of God, no more hate in the name of God.’”
Performing in front of a crowd estimated at 30,000, Noa and Bocelli sang Beautiful That Way in English, Hebrew, and Italian.

Enjoy!

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Comedian Freddie Roman Headlines Finals of The Jewish Week's "Funniest Jewish Comic" Contest


For the past 17 years The Jewish Week, New York's foremost weekly with all the Jewish news that's fit to print, has been sponsoring a contest to find the funniest Jewish comedian.

We attended the finals last month and have video footage of some of the contestants that we'll bring to you in the next few weeks.

The only criteria that we're aware of is that each contestant be both funny and Jewish. The contest, held this year at the Broadway Comedy Club in Manhattan, is produced by comedian and comedy teacher Geoff Kole.

The contest preliminaries and the final contest were held on consecutive Sundays during the month of June. Before the first attendees walked onto the stage, Freddie Roman, the veteran Catskills comic, took the microphone to introduce the contesants.

Freddie told a few old Catskills jokes, including one that he says is his favorite story in the whole world.

Enjoy!

(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS:  THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS.  YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)