Sunday, February 14, 2016

Life Blossoms and Love Blooms: A Valentine's Day Special

 
Yes, you read it right. Valentine's Day on Jewish Humor Central. It's today, Sunday, February 14, and it will be celebrated around the world with greeting cards, romantic gifts, and chocolates. 

There always have been mixed feelings in the Jewish world about celebrating this day which originally was named in honor of Valentine, a Christian saint. And today, you can find opinions from rabbis of all Jewish denominations that approve and disapprove of its observance.

We did some searching and found that despite some views that the holiday is foreign to Judaism and should be avoided, there are a growing number of opinions, even in the Orthodox world, that not only should the holiday be observed, but that it should be embraced.

Our contribution to Valentine's Day is a funny and heartwarming video that we received from the Los Angeles Jewish Home, called Life Blossoms and Love Blooms

Featuring current residents, the 3 minute video delves into the stories of how two couples met and fell in love while living at the Jewish Home. They talk about everything from afternoon bingo games to their sex lives.

As the video plays, one thing is for certain: it’s good to be a senior in love.

As Rabbi Benjamin Blech, professsor of Talmud at Yeshiva University, has written about Valentine's Day on the aish.com website
As Jews, we may not be sure whether it's proper for us to join the party. After all, for the longest time the full name of this holiday was “St. Valentine's Day” because of its legendary link with the apocryphal story of one of the earliest Christian saints. Yet academics aren't the only ones who have recognized the dubious historical basis of this connection. Vatican II, the landmark set of reforms adopted by the Catholic Church in 1969, removed Valentine's Day from the Catholic church's calendar, asserting that "though the memorial of St. Valentine is ancient… apart from his name nothing is known… except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on 14 February."
What's left for this day, as proponents of its universal celebration declare, is something that people of all faiths may in good conscience observe: A day in which to acknowledge the power of love to make us fully human.
When I am asked as a rabbi if I think it's a good idea for Jews to celebrate Valentine's Day, my standard answer is, "Yes, we should celebrate love… every day of the year."
Enjoy!

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Musical Showcase: Kol Esperanza Performs Jewish and Israeli Music in South Florida


One of the benefits of doing a lecture tour in South Florida in February is having evenings free to attend shows and concerts catering to a largely Jewish audience of residents, snowbirds, and tourists trying to escape the cold and snows of the North.

On Tuesday night we caught the last of nine concerts by Kol Esperanza, an exciting operatic pop trio, along with Lev Voce, a talented operatic duo who joined in for an evening of Jewish and Israeli songs intermixed with popular operatic arias and Italian songs.

Kol Esperanza consists of Israeli singers Nimrod Grinboim, Nadav Inbar, and Omer Shaish together with Musical Director Tomer Adaddi. The group started performing in 2014 and we think we'll see a lot more of them in the coming years.

In this video, Kol Esperanza sings a medley of popular Jewish songs. We hope you enjoy them.

Shabbat shalom!

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Comedy Flashback: Rich Little Roasts Jack Benny at Friars Club


The Friars Club has been conducting celebrity roasts since 1950. A typical roast has many entertainment industry greats delivering funny tributes to the annual honoree. We'll be running a series of videos showing some of the funniest roasts at the Friars Club.

Comedian Jack Benny was roasted by the Friars Club in 1963 and 1970. In this video clip, Jack is roasted by Rich Little impersonating Jack, George Burns, and Jimmy Stewart.

Enjoy!

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Treat for Mel Brooks Fans - A Police Stakeout with James Corden


Last fall on an episode of The Late Late Show with host James Corden, Mel Brooks made an appearance as a policeman with Corden playing his partner.

In the scene shown below, James and Mel dig in for a police stakeout on the mean streets of New York but are deep in meaningless conversation when thieves hit the location they're watching.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Florida Jewish Film Festivals Feature "Dough" - A Comedy Worth Seeing


February in South Florida isn't just sun, sand, and lectures on Jewish humor. It's also time for Jewish Film Festivals, and we've been doing our fair share of attending premieres of new Jewish films from all over the world. 

Dramas and films with Israel and Holocaust themes are well represented, but we're partial to comedies and we saw one today that we just have to share with you. It's titled Dough and we rate it a must see for laughs and Yiddishe nachas.

Jonathan Pryce (Miss Saigon, Evita, Pirates of the Caribbean, Game of Thrones) and Pauline Collins (Shirley Valentine) star in this hilarious new comedy that shows you don't have to be baked to make some Dough!

Curmudgeonly widower Nat Dayan (Jonathan Pryce) clings to his way of life as a Kosher bakery shop owner in London’s East End. Understaffed, Nat reluctantly enlists the help of teenager Ayyash (Jerome Holder), who has a secret side gig selling marijuana to help his immigrant mother make ends meet. 

When Ayyash accidentally drops his stash into the mixing dough, the challah starts flying off the shelves and an unlikely friendship forms between the old Jewish baker and his young Muslim apprentice. Dough is a warmhearted and humorous story about overcoming prejudice and finding redemption in unexpected places.

You're lucky if you'll be in South Florida this month, because Dough starts playing on February 12 in theaters from Miami to Lake Worth as follows:

Boca Raton - Living Room Theaters FAU
Boca Raton - Regal Shadowood 16
Delray Beach - Movies of Delray
Lake Worth - Movies of Lake Worth
Tamarac - The Last Picture Show
Fort Lauderdale - The Gateway Theatre
Aventura - AMC Aventura 24
Miami Beach - Regal South Beach 18
Miami - O Cinema Wynwood


We hope you enjoy the trailer below and attend a showing if you're in Florida. Otherwise you'll just have to wait until it comes to theaters nationwide this spring.

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Monday, February 8, 2016

A Joke to Start the Week - "A Brooklyn Boy Tries Gardening"


Another Monday and another Joke to Start the Week.

We're starting off this week with another excerpt from a standup routine by Bob Hertzendorf. Bob has been kind in sharing some of his material with us. We've already posted a few of his jokes on previous Mondays.
 
Today we're posting a brief clip from one of his shows for an audience in Lakewood, New Jersey. In it he talks about his efforts to start gardening with less than ideal results.
 
Bob has appeared on stage in productions of Fiddler on the Roof, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Lend Me a Tenor, Guys and Dolls, and Barefoot in the Park.

Enjoy!

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Great Jewish Comedians: David Steinberg in Classic Standup Comedy


David Steinberg was born in 1942 and grew up in Winnipeg, Canada. At the age of 16, he left home to study theology at yeshiva. At the University of Chicago, after seeing a performance of The Second City, David was inspired to start a comedy act called Kadish and Steinberg. 

When some Second City members saw David’s act, he was invited to join the company. He stayed for four years. In the late 60’s he moved on to Broadway, starring with Elliot Gould in Jules Feiffer’s Little Murders and Carry Me Back to Morningside Heights, directed by Sidney Poitier. 

From there he moved to stand up comedy opening at the Bitter End in 1969. He received a rave review from the The New York Times, calling him a cross between Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen. After his first appearance on the “The Tonight Show”, David became one of Johnny Carson’s most popular guests and guest hosts, with 140 appearances—second only to Bob Hope. In the early ’70s David capped a prolific stand up carreer with four comedy albums, two Grammy nominations, and a successful nightclub act at the Bitter End.

Here's a typical stand-up comedy routine that Steinberg performed in 1975. Enjoy!

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Musical Showcase: Meet "The Shuk" and their Uplifting Version of Shalom Aleichem

 
We've been showcasing new Jewish comedians and revisiting some classic old-timers in the six years that Jewish Humor Central has been visible online. Now we're doing the same for Jewish musical groups that are new on the scene and who make music that we like a lot.

Even though The Shuk was formed in 2008, we just came across them this week and we wanted to share their beautiful music with you.
 
What better way to get ready to greet Shabbat this evening than listening to this creative and moving version of the traditional Shalom Aleichem?

Enjoy and Shabbat shalom!
 
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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Jewish Traces in Unexpected Places: German Rock Group Rocks Hevenu Shalom Aleichem


We've shared lots of versions of the classic Hebrew song Hevenu Shalom Aleichem with you over the years. But we keep finding new renditions just as we've found many versions of Hava Nagila (over 50) and Hinei Ma Tov.

Here's a rocking performance of Hevenu Shalom Aleichem by a German band called Big Fat Shakin' at the Clarchers Ballhaus, a live music and dance venue in Berlin.

This song really gets around. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Rare Jewish Donkey Redemption Ceremony Carried out in Pennsylvania


Last June, the congregants of Ohev Shalom, the National Synagogue in Washington, DC became the latest to witness a rare Pidyon Petter Chamor donkey redemption ceremony (one of the 613 mitzvot in the Torah -- number 277 in the list compiled by Chabad and codified in Exodus 13:13.)

In the ceremony, led by the congregation's Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, the first male offspring of a donkey pregnant for the first time was traded for a sheep as the rabbi and members of the congregation recited prayers and sang and danced their way around the Capital Retreat Center in Pennsylvania.

While the ceremony is rare, it's been performed before, in Melbourne, Australia, in New York's Catskill mountains, and in other locations around the world.

The rationale for the ceremony and a description of the logistics involved in carrying it out were published in the synagogue's bulletin:
What is a Petter Chamor ceremony?
The Torah commands us that if we own a donkey and the first issue of the donkey's womb is a male, then we are required to redeem the donkey by giving a sheep or a goat to a Kohen as a gift (Exodus 13:13; Numbers 18:15).

The Talmud explains that the reason for this mitzvah is because each person who left Egypt had 90 Libyan donkeys to carry their possessions. When we redeem a newborn donkey we are symbolically expressing our gratitude to the donkeys who helped us carry our possessions out of Egypt (Bechorot, 5b).

How did we come to acquire a donkey?
In February 2015, one of our members, Rochel Roth, confirmed that a donkey named Margarita, who lived outside of Baltimore, was pregnant for the very first time. We conducted an ultra-sound test and determined that the fetus was a male.?�?�

Rabbi Herzfeld then traveled with Maharat Ruth Friedman and purchased the donkey. Some members of the congregation responded to our publicity of this project and also participated in the purchase of this donkey. They are considered co-owners of the donkey and the mitzvah is partially theirs as well.

Rabbi Herzfeld and Maharat Friedman were given full funding for the project by Aaron and Ahuva Orlofsky and Ron Kleinfeldt and Barbara Zakheim. Ron has requested that the donkey be named for his father, MC Kleinfeldt, so we are calling the donkey "MC" (short for Moshe Chamor).

The ceremony itself will look a little bit like a pidyon haben ceremony, but with a donkey and a lamb. We are super excited for this project. It is very rare mitzvah to fulfill and we believe that we are the first synagogue in DC history to ever publicly partake in this mitzvah.

It is our hope that this mitzvah will teach us about the importance of expressing gratitude to others and also of the great lengths we must extend ourselves in order to fulfill a mitzvah of Hashem. It is our hope that this mitzvah will inspire us all to come closer to Hashem.

No animals were harmed in this ceremony and after the ceremony the donkey was sent to live on a farm in Baltimore.
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