Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Only Jewish Female Sword Swallower in America Shows How It's Done


With all the negative news that we're hearing from all over the USA and around the world, it's refreshing to find a story in the news that can serve as a diversion.

Yesterday the Jewish Daily Forward featured a story and video about the only Jewish female sword swallower in America. Yes, it's a real 19-inch-long stainless steel sword, not the one referred to by 12-year-old Josh Orlian in his stand-up comedy performance on America's Got Talent.

As Martyna Starosta reported in the Forward,
“For me a lot of the skill is not so much in shocking the audience — it’s in building the suspense,” explained Ilise S. Carter, a professional part-time sword swallower in New York who performs under the name “Lady Aye.”

And it’s true. Most of us react with shock and amazement when we see someone sticking a sword down his or her throat. But the spectacular part only takes a couple of seconds. Most of her time on stage, Carter tries to connect with the audience and create the tension that will turn her working act into a memorable experience.
Lady Aye is a minority within a minority. Based on my research, she is the only female and Jewish sword swallower in the U.S. (But it’s difficult to confirm the exact numbers of such an offbeat occupation.)
Carter grew up in a “nice Jewish family” on the Upper East Side. (Everybody in her family is a doctor, which might come in handy). Growing up she never felt “a great physical connection” with her body. “I had a lot of body issues,” she said, “for a long time I wished I could just be a brain in a jar.” But “becoming a sword swallower for me was very self-esteem building because I have this relatively rare skill that’s the result of great discipline.”
Carter was hesitant to tell me how exactly she learned to swallow a sword. The only detail that she was willing to reveal was that she consulted with a gentleman named Ward Hall, King of the Side Shows and his partner C. M. Christ on a trip to Tampa. After her return she still had to overcome months of fear before she could even start rehearsing. The rest is a trade secret.
(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.)

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How Do You Say Lobster in Yiddish? Teaching Yiddish to Senior Citizens


Last week, during a vacation in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, we took a side trip to visit the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst.

We expected to be there for no more than an hour, but ended up spending almost three hours watching the videos and browsing the collection of books, sheet music, and viewing artifacts such as a Yiddish printing press and reproductions of front pages of Yiddish newspapers that described the major events of the twentieth century. 

One of the more interesting videos is about how more than a million Yiddish books were saved and are now being digitized and translated so that anyone can read them on the Internet.

Copyright Yiddish Book Center
The center has a room dedicated to the Wexler Oral History Project, a growing collection of in-depth video interviews.  Through stories of tradition and survival, memories of bygone neighborhoods, foods and family rituals, and stories of connection to Yiddish language and culture today, they are chronicling the many ways there are to be Jewish.

In the past four years, they’ve recorded over 400 interviews, stories told by people of all ages and backgrounds—bobes (grandmothers) and young activists, Yiddish language students and professors, musicians, and grandchildren of Yiddish writers, native speakers and non-Yiddish speakers.

These interviews illustrate the ways in which Yiddish language and culture inform Jewish identity.  Together, these stories and reflections provide a glimpse into the ways in which cultural heritage is transmitted, adapted, and reinterpreted by each generation.

The goal of the Wexler Oral History Project is to record and preserve stories. They are particularly looking for people with strong connections to Yiddish language and culture, but they also interview people from all ages and backgrounds in order to explore the broadest expression of Jewish experience. 


If you are planning to visit the Book Center, consider packing your stories along with you!  They have appointments available now for the coming months.  Don't miss your chance to contribute your story to the archive in their state-of-the-art Karmazin Recording Studio in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Here's an example that was just posted on the Internet. It features Helen Kurzban, a Brooklyn-born native Yiddish speaker, describing how after retirement she volunteered to teach a variety of Yiddish-related courses to senior citizens and how she found out how to say lobster in Yiddish.

Enjoy!

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Monday, August 18, 2014

A Joke to Start the Week - "Spaceship in the Desert"


It's Monday again, and time for another Joke to Start the Week. Once again we're digging into the treasure chest called Old Jews Telling Jokes and finding one that we hope will let you get the week going with a smile.

Today's jokester is 76-year-old psychologist Sherwin Kepes with a joke from outer space.

Here's the setup: A guy is walking through the desert. He looks up and sees a spaceship. It looks like it's going to crash and it does. He runs over, a hatch opens, and this woman gets out and she's gorgeous. And then...

Enjoy!

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Efrat Residents Show How "Happy" They Are


A few months ago we posted two versions of the Pharrell Wiliams Academy Award-winning song Happy that were filmed in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The videos showed views of residents of Israel singing and dancing around the cities. 

The goal was to give people abroad a feel good impression of the cities other than a view they might have from getting all their information from the mainstream media.

And then something happened. Gaza.

But the sudden war that erupted didn't change the positive attitudes that Israelis maintained throughout the crisis. The residents of the city of Efrat, a thriving town near Jerusalem, wanted to show their high spirits by participating in a similar video showing their happiness about living in Israel. And as the video shows, while made during the height of the recent crisis, its residents, young and old, are still happy.

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(A tip of the kippah to Sheila Zucker for bringing this video to our attention)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sunday Orchestra Performs Mashup of Jewish Popular Melodies



The Sunday Orchestra is an ensemble of professional musicians from different countries, performing hit songs from five continents.

The group consists of string instruments and vocalists. It 
has participated in the opening ceremonies of various prestigious festivals and exhibitions, as well as corporate events held by the largest Russian and foreign companies, from Vladivostok to Tel Aviv and from Berlin to Bangkok.


In this video clip, the Sunday Orchestra performs a medley of Hebrew and Jewish music, including Hava Nagila, Bei Mir Bist Du Schein, Siman Tov u'Mazal Tov, David Melech Yisrael, and Hevenu Shalom Aleichem.

Enjoy!

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Comedy Showcase: Modi Rosenfeld at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal


Modi Rosenfeld is one of our favorite young comedians and we've posted many of his stand-up comedy routines and skits. 

Last year he appeared at the Just for Laughs festival, an annual summer event in Montreal. In this clip, Modi reveals the number one way to pick up women...Astrology!

Modi has a wide range of funny persona. Sometimes he appears as a Chasid in full black dress, other times as a typical Jewish stand-up comic, and others as a non-denominational general comedian. This video shows him without any ethnic attributes. Any way we look at it, we think he's funny.

Enjoy!

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Legendary Comedian Milton Berle Reflects on Jewish Humor


Legendary comedian Milton Berle (1908-2002) was known as Mr. Television, Uncle Milty, and was widely acclaimed as the first television superstar.

While Jewish Audiences reacted to his seemingly Jewish shtick, Berle never made a practice of telling specifically Jewish jokes. 

He relied on the audience to categorize him as a Jewish comedian. But he was just as likely to perform in a church as in a synagogue.

So we were surprised and happy to find the video below showing Berle being interviewed and sharing his thoughts about the unique qualities of Jewish humor.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hava Nagila Around the World - Russian Red Army Chorus


Hava Nagila continues to spread around the world. In the almost five years that we've been blogging, we have posted 43 versions of this classic Hebrew/Jewish song. 

It has shown up in many countries, including some unexpected ones (Scroll down the left column on this page and click on "Hava Nagila" in the Keywords list and you'll see what we mean.)

Russia shows up a few times in the list of Hava Nagila countries, but within Russia there are many different renditions. Here's a version sung by the Russian Red Army Chorus. Known as the Alexandrov Ensemble, it's an official army choir of the Russian armed forces. Founded during the Soviet era, the ensemble consists of a male choir, an orchestra, and a dance ensemble.

Enjoy!

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Monday, August 11, 2014

A Joke to Start the Week - "A Hole in One"


Another Monday, another Joke to Start the Week. Today's joke comes from the project "When Jews Were Funny," which became a documentary shown at Jewish Film Festivals this year.

Last month we posted a trailer of the 89 minute film, which includes a series of interviews with old and young Jewish comedians. It's available on Netflix for instant playing, and as a DVD from Amazon.com

This clip is identified as coming from the film, but we didn't see it there. We don't recognize the comedian, so if you can identify him, please share the information in the comments section below.

Here's the setup:  It's Yom Kippur, and this avid golfer decides that he's going to go out and shoot a quick nine holes before he has to go to shul. And then...

Enjoy!

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tel Aviv Flash Mob in Mashup of Hatikvah and We Will Rock You to Support IDF


Last week a flash mob showed up in Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv to perform a spontaneous salute to the Israel Defense Forces. 

The musical salute was a mashup of Hatikvah and the 1977 Queen hit We Will Rock You.

Enjoy!

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