Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Orthodox Jewish Beatboxers Surprise Judges on "America's Got Talent"


Two Orthodox Jewish boys got a big ovation from the audience attending auditions for "America's Got Talent" last month. Their beatboxing performance was praised as cute and unusual. Unfortunately they were eliminated in the next round.

As Jesse Bernstein wrote in Tablet,
Beatboxing duo and friends Ilan Swartz-Brownstein and Joshua Shlomo Mendel Leviton made a smart choice to call themselves “Ilan and Josh,” because their full names are a mouthful even for members of the Tribe, let alone Gentiles.
Though they “don’t look like your typical beatboxers,” as stated during the duo’s audition on America’s Got Talent, make no mistake: these young men can flat-out spit. Tuesday’s performance was received with thunderous applause from the audience and four “yes” votes from the celebrity judges.
Based in New York, Ilan and Josh met a few years ago at the Kotel. From there, they hit it off. Leviton, who also calls himself “The Orthobox,” provides the beat (he’s even performed with The Maccabeats); meanwhile, Brownstein (aka “The Aleph Bass”), an aspiring religious singer, spits the tune to their creations.
You may find their sound familiar because they previously provided beatbox background sounds for the Maccabeats and the Y-Studs, two a cappella groups that we have featured on Jewish Humor Central.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Standup Comic Mindi Yeger Performs at Jewish Week Comedy Contest



On June 26 we attended the finals of The Jewish Week's 18th Annual Funniest Jewish Comic Contest at the Broadway Comedy Club in Manhattan. 

The contest has been run by Geoff Kole for the last 15 years.Last month we posted the winning routine by George Saltz.

Today we're sharing the standup routine of Mindi Yeger.  Mindi credits comedy with giving her the ability to take even a devastating personal situation and laugh about it or in spite of it. 

Mindi has been performing in clubs around NYC and figures she will keep getting on stage as long as it’s fun and as long as she stays funny.

In this video clip, Mindi reflects on her life as a former Ultra-Orthodox Jewish mother, her coping with its rules and attitudes towards women, and clears up a misconception about sex.

Enjoy!

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Monday, August 22, 2016

A Joke to Start the Week - "A Missing Bicycle"


A new week is starting, so it's time for another joke. For this one we're bringing back Michael Hirsch, who has been featured as a Jewish Humor Central joke teller for a few months.

Today Michael, an investment advisor for individuals and institutions, gives us a clergy joke. 

Here's the setup: In a small town in the Midwest, a rabbi and a priest would go for a bike ride every Monday morning. One day the rabbi shows up and sees the priest sitting on a bench without a bike. And then...

Enjoy!

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dog Refuses to Eat Non-Kosher While Wearing Kippah


Back in 2012 we posted a video of a "Bark Mitzvah" for a dog named Nicky in Stanhope, New Jersey. Nicky had just turned 2, or 13 in dog years, as reported in a TV newscast.

We have since discovered other similar celebrations, and are always surprised when people attending our lectures say they have attended such events.

Reactions to the posting have ranged from revulsion at the sacrilegious ceremony to praise for celebrating the coming of age of a beloved pet.

In the New Jersey video, the narrator offers a tongue-in-cheek observation that the dog's sister is also in line for a bark mitzvah if she keeps her studies up.

Apparently a dog owner in Israel decided to train it to keep kosher. In this funny video, a dog wearing a kippah is offered a non-kosher combination of salami and cheese. Its reaction is a lack of interest, bordering on disdain. As soon as the kippah is removed, the dog eagerly devours the snack. 

Enjoy!

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Tu B'Av - A Holiday for Matchmaking and a Scene from "Fiddler"


Today is Tu B'Av, the 15th day of the Jewish month of Av. And it's a holiday. A very ancient holiday that went almost unnoticed in the Jewish calendar for many centuries. But in recent decades, especially in Israel, it has taken on the trappings of Valentine's Day -- a Hebrew-Jewish day of love and romance.

Originally a post-biblical day of joy, it served as a matchmaking day for unmarried women in the second Temple period (before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.).

The website MyJewishLearning.com explains the origins of the holiday:

There is no way to know exactly how early Tu B'Av began. The first mention of this date is in the Mishnah (compiled and edited in the end of the second century), where Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel is quoted saying, "There were no better (i.e. happier) days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Israel/Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What were they saying: Young man, consider whom you choose (to be your wife)?"(Ta'anit, Chapter 4).

The Gemara (the later, interpretive layer of the Talmud) attempts to find the origin of this date as a special joyous day, and offers several explanations. One of them is that on this day the Biblical "tribes of Israel were permitted to mingle with each other," namely: to marry women from other tribes (Talmud, Ta'anit 30b). This explanation is somewhat surprising, since nowhere in the Bible is there a prohibition on "intermarriage" among the 12 tribes of Israel. This Talmudic source probably is alluding to a story in the book of Judges (chapter 21): After a civil war between the tribe of Benjamin and other Israelite tribes, the tribes vowed not to intermarry with men of the tribe of Benjamin.

Today most eligible men and women find their own matches through the workplace, the synagogue, summer camp, and, increasingly, Internet dating. In the very Orthodox world, traditional matchmaking is still practiced. The best portrayal of this tradition is in the Matchmaker, Matchmaker scene in Fiddler on the Roof, when Tevye's daughters pine for a match and contemplate the possibilities in finding one. 

Enjoy and Shabbat shalom!

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Gilda Radner (as Lisa Loopner) Sings "The Way We Were"


One of comedian Gilda Radner's memorable characters on Saturday Night Live was nerdy Lisa Loopner, who did a lot of skits with Bill Murray as her nerdy boyfriend Todd.

In 1980 Radner starred in Gilda Live!, a Broadway show in which she portrayed the characters she made famous on the show.

In this segment, Radner performed alone as Lisa, taking to the piano to play and sing The Way We Were, the song written by her idol, Marvin Hamlisch.

Enjoy!

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Great Jewish Comedians: Al Shean (Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean)


Al Shean (born Abraham Elieser Adolph Schonberg) was half of the vaudeville comedy team Gallagher and Shean with Edward Gallagher. Both comedians were relatively obscure vaudeville performers before they teamed up. 

Gallagher and Shean first joined forces during the tour of The Rose Maid in 1912, but they quarreled and split up two years later. They next appeared together in 1920, through the efforts of Shean's sister, Minnie Marx (mother of the Marx Brothers). This pairing lasted until 1925 and led to their fame.

Gallagher and Shean remain best known for their theme song Mister Gallagher and Mister Shean, which was a hit in the 1922 Ziegfeld Follies. In 1941 the song was featured in the movie Ziegfeld Girl starring James Stewart, Judy Garland, and Hedy Lamarr. Since Gallagher died in 1929, his role was played by Charles Winninger.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Remembering Fyvush Finkel and His 93 Years in Yiddish and Broadway Theatre


Philip "Fyvush" Finkel, who died Sunday at the age of 93, was an American actor known as a star of Yiddish theater and for his role as lawyer Douglas Wambaugh on the television series Picket Fences, for which he earned an Emmy Award in 1994. 

He is also known for his portrayal of Harvey Lipschultz, a crotchety history teacher, on the television series Boston Public.

Finkel was born at home in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York, the third of four sons of Jewish immigrant parents, Mary, a housewife from Minsk, Belarus, and Harry Finkel, a tailor from Warsaw. He adopted the stage name "Fyvush", a common Yiddish given name.

Finkel first appeared on the stage at age 9, and acted for almost 35 years in the thriving Yiddish theaters of the Yiddish Theater District of Manhattan's Lower East Side, as well as performing as a standup comic in the Catskill's Borscht Belt. 

Six years ago we posted a tribute to Finkel when at the age of 88 he starred in a musical celebration of his life on stage with highlights from his roles spanning Second Avenue to modern-day television stardom.

In 2008 he recalled:
I played child parts till I was 14, 15, then my voice changed. So I decided to learn a trade and went to a vocational high school in New York. I studied to be a furrier, but I never worked at it. As soon as I graduated high school, I went to a stock company in Pittsburgh, a Jewish theater, and I played there for 38 weeks, and that's where I actually learned my trade a little bit as an adult.
He worked regularly until the ethnic venues began dying out in the early 1960s, then made his Broadway theatre debut in the original 1964 production of the musical Fiddler on the Roof, joining the cast as Mordcha, the innkeeper, in 1965. The production ran through July 2, 1972. Finkel then played Lazar Wolf, the butcher, in the limited run 1981 Broadway revival and eventually played the lead role of Tevye the milkman for years in the national touring company.

Two years ago at the age of 91, Finkel invited Jews and goyim alike to celebrate Purim at the theatrical temple of 54 Below. He was joined by his two sons, pianist Elliot Finkel and xylophonist Ian Finkel, to commemorate his eight decades onstage. This video was  TheaterMania's sneak peek of Finkel's says first true nightclub performance, traversing the broad expanse of his life and career through songs, stories, and, simcha.

Enjoy!

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(Thanks to Wikipedia for biographical info about Fyvush Finkel)  

Monday, August 15, 2016

A Joke to Start the Week - "A Shabbat Aliyah"


It's Monday again, the day after Tisha B'Av, so no more mourning or fasting until Yom Kippur. It's clear sailing now for jokes and humor. 

Today's joke teller is Meyer Berkowitz, a long-time member of the Jewish Humor Central family. 

Besides serving as our photographer at Kosherfest and capturing video of our lectures and comedy programs, Meyer braved the cold and wind on a November day in 2014 to give us an on-the-scene report about the outdoor Shacharit minyan at the New York City Marathon.

Here's the setup for today's joke: This Jewish couple is visiting friends for the weekend. So the man decides, since it's Saturday, that he should go to the synagogue.  And then...

Enjoy!

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Jewish Traces in Unexpected Places: Tisha B'Av Song Goes Platinum in UK and Europe


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 to Babylon.

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. It was 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

But the liturgy of Tisha B'Av has found an audience beyond traditional Jews observing a sad day.

The words of the Psalms were incorporated into Rivers of Babylon, a Rastafarian song written and recorded by Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton of the Jamaican reggae group The Melodians in 1970. The Melodians' original version of the song appeared in the soundtrack album of the 1972 movie The Harder They Come, making it internationally known.

The song was popularized in Europe by the 1978 Boney M. cover version, which was awarded a platinum disc and is one of the top ten all-time best-selling singles in the UK. 

Somehow the song has been adopted by line dance devotees, primarily in Korea, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. The two videos below show the original song with lyrics followed by one of the line dance interpretations from Korea.

If you're fasting today, we wish you an easy and meaningful fast.

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