Thursday, December 31, 2009

Need a Yarmulke (Kippa) In An Emergency? If You Have An iPhone, You're In Luck

Did your rabbi walk into a restaurant where you were eating and catch you not wearing a yarmulke?  Did you get pulled into a weekday minyan and not have a kippa in your pocket?  Fear not, for technology has come to your rescue.  This week a new application, iKippa, was introduced in the iTunes Application store for users of iPhones and iTouch.

For only 99 cents, you can choose a photo of a knitted kippa (seruga) or an embroidered white silk yarmulke and have it in place atop your head faster than you can say Sholom Aleichem.  

How does it work?  You start the app on the iPhone or iTouch and it displays the kippa of your choice.  Then place the device on top of your head with the screen facing up, and you're in business.

According to a report in VosIzNeias, this is more acceptable according to halacha (Jewish law) than covering your head with a hand, and of course, it frees both hands for eating or gesturing.

As the iTunes catalog puts it (misspellings included),
For those moments where you need Yamaka and you don’t have one
Now your iPhone can help you with all types of Yamaka’s for the everyday and for special occasionsChoose your Yamaka design and than flip your iPhone face up, for those rare times when you need to put it on your head.
אל תיתפס בלעדיה. כיפה לכל אירוע, עכשיו באייפון שלך. מיום טוב ועד הכיפה הסרוגה, האייפון שלך הוא כעת גם כיסוי ראש לשעת הצורך.
בחר את העיצוב המתאים לך, והפנה את מסך האיפון שלך כלפי מעלה לפני שאתה מניח אותו על ראשך
Will it work?  Well, even if it is halachically OK, if the wearer doesn't have the poise of a fashion model when walking, or bends over his plate when eating, or shuckles even slightly when davening, you have to believe that the hi-tech head covering will soon be on the floor, and maybe in more than one piece.  Will iPhone insurance cover such uses?  Sounds like a job for the lawyers to tackle.

As the latest iteration of the classic Jewish religious head covering, it has not yet made its way into the catalog of kippot as shown in Wikipedia, but we wouldn't be surprised if it showed up there within a few days.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Terrorism, Shmerrorism! Watch Out For Israeli Drivers, US State Dept. Urges

The US State Department has updated its guide for American tourists traveling in Israel, and has zeroed in on the real dangers facing visitors.  

While not ignoring threats of terrorism, the State Department cautions tourists to be wary of Israeli drivers.  The guide says:
Israeli roads and highways tend to be crowded, especially in urban areas.  Aggressive driving is a serious problem and many drivers fail to maintain safe following distances or signal before changing lanes or making turns.  Drivers are also prone to stop suddenly on roads without warning, especially in the right lane.  Drivers should use caution, as Israel has a high rate of fatalities from automobile accidents.
Ynet News reports that the State Department also warns American tourists of car break-ins, especially in beach areas and national parks, particularly in Caesarea.  It points out that there has been an increase in pickpocketing incidents in cities and cemeteries throughout the country.

What prompted the updating of the guide to focus on Israeli drivers?  We don't know for sure, but we suspect someone in the department may have seen the following video.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Israeli Jewish Record Set For Divorces - 11 Times and Counting

Some people buy or lease a new car every two years.  An unnamed man from the Jerusalem area has set a new Israeli record (for Jews) by divorcing his eleventh wife, after spending two years with her.  We can't help but wonder who holds the Israeli record for non-Jews.

The man said that his custom is to divorce his wives every two years and immediately start the search for a new bride, according to Matthew Wagner writing in yesterday's edition of the Jerusalem Post.

"I throw out a hook and the fish come on their own," the man is reported to have said.
The article continues,
In his latest marriage, which also lasted two years, the two sides split the debts the husband had accrued. The woman claimed her husband had promised to work but ended up living off her assets and those of her parents.
From all his marital escapades the man has only one child, to whom he is unable to make child support payments. The man said that he regretted divorcing his first wife because it set in motion a never-ending search for the next "experience." 

The man has actually been re-setting his own record for the past several years. The previous Jewish Israeli record for divorces by a single person was six.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Black and White Cookies Singled Out by Orthodox Union as Forbidden to Fast-Exempt Persons

Yesterday's fast of the Tenth Day of Tevet (Assara b'Tevet) was especially difficult for Jews who were exempted from fasting because they were ill, but not seriously, and also for pregnant women, and children.  On its web site explaining the laws of the fast day, the Orthodox Union (OU) singled out black and white cookies as a purely pleasurable form of consumption, which even those who have an exemption should not eat on that day, either in public or in private.  As the article states,  

One who is in the category of being ill-even-without-danger, or who is a pregnant or nursing woman, for whom fasting might be difficult, and all children, are exempt from fasting.  All those who are exempt from fasting should not, in any case, eat publicly or indulge in purely pleasurable forms of consumption (such as eating black-'n-whites), but should eat only that which is necessary for good nutrition.

This ruling opens up a new chapter in food banning, and boldly goes where no one has gone before.  The question now is, how many grams of protein and dietary fiber would qualify a cookie as necessary for good nutrition?  Or is it the ratio of one of these nutrients to sugar or carbohydrates that makes it purely pleasurable?  What about chocolate chip cookies, considered a necessity to many?

The ban on black and white cookies is sure to be reason itself to declare the day a fast day for the 1,761 members of the Facebook Black and White Cookie Fan Club, whether or not they know that the reason for fasting on this day is the start of the siege of Jerusalem by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar in 588 B.C.E., leading to the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash (The Second Temple).

Before banning the black and white cookie, perhaps the rabbinic authorities should have considered its value over and above nutrition, as explained by Reb Jerry Seinfeld in this video:

(A tip of the kippah to Richard Latkin for calling the article to our attention.)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Comedy Showcase: Modi On Stage In Montreal: A Jew Walks Into Home Depot...

Meet Modi Rosenfeld, professionally known as Modi.  He's not a newcomer to stand-up comedy, nor to acting on TV.  But we at Jewish Humor Central hadn't heard of him until he surfaced in a funny video about two Hassidic screenplay wannabes looking for Spielberg that we found and ran as a blog post in November.

Modi has performed at Caroline’s on Broadway, The Comedy Cellar, Comic Strip Live and The Gotham Comedy Club. Modi has appeared on HBO’s The Sopranos, The Howard Stern Show, NBC’s Friday Night Videos, BET’s 10th Anniversary of Comic View, METRO Channel’s New Joke City with Robert Klein, and on Comedy Central’s USO Tour Live from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 

On film, Modi has appeared in the independent features, "Rubout," "Little Kings," "Connecting Dots" and Rent-a-Husband with Chevy Chase and Brooke Shields. In print, Modi has been featured in Lifestyles Magazine, We the People, and has been a contributor to Fashion Police in US Magazine.

If you're involved in planning a comedy night or comedian-in-residence for your synagogue or organization, Modi is available for these events.

In the video clip below, Modi is on stage in Montreal doing his stand-up routine.  The "Jew walks into Home Depot" bit begins at 5 minutes and 45 seconds into the act.  But it's worth waiting for.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Are Imaginary Animals Kosher? Are They Jewish?

If  you think you've heard it all about "Is It Kosher?" and "Who Is a Jew?", you haven't.  In less than two months, Tachyon Publications will publish The Guide to Kosher Imaginary Animals, by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer.

This short, witty book (96 pages), in the planning stages for years and the result of blog posts and comments on the Internet since 2007, reflects on the physical characteristics of a variety of mythical and imaginary animals, and makes mostly tongue-in-cheek decisions as to whether or not they are suitable for ritual slaughter and consumption by kashrut-observing Jews.

The comments on this blog and on others are as funny as the post itself and would be a suitable basis for lengthy discussion around the table at a Purim Seudah.  We found it very much in the spirit of last year's Purim edition of The Kustanowitz Kronikle, in which the front page feature article was "Rabbis to Require Shechita For Many Fruits and Vegetables."

References to The Guide as it nears publication are cropping up in the Jewish media.  The Forward is publishing an article about it in its January 1, 2010 issue (now online), and with the viral nature of the Internet, you'll be seeing a lot about it before February 15.

Which makes us go one step further and ponder a question to which we have not yet found any answers:  Are any of the Dr. Seuss creatures kosher?  How about The Sneetches, The Lorax, Humming Fish, Brown Barbaloots, or Swomee Swans?  And if they're not kosher to eat, do their physical and emotional characteristics make them Jewish and obligated to eat only kosher food?

Let's analyze the possibilities:  First of all, we have to decide if the Sneetches are birds or mammals.  Since they don't have any visible mammary glands, we would rule out that category.  The Torah doesn't give us kosher characteristics for birds, only forbidding birds of prey and specifically named species.
Looking at the Sneetches, we would conclude that they are indeed members of the bird family, and since we couldn't find Sneetches mentioned in the scriptures, they are very likely kosher.  Swomee Swans are kosher because all swans are kosher.  Dr. Seuss' drawings do not clearly show scales on humming-fish, so their kashrut is as yet undetermined.  Brown barbaloots appear very similar to bears, which are not kosher animals. 

With regard to other Seussian creatures, we can rule out kosher status for The Cat in the Hat, and all cat-like and dog-like creatures, e.g. Marvin K. Mooney.  Other creatures that resemble non-kosher species, such as Yertle the Turtle, Horton the Elephant, and the Fox in Socks should not show up on your dinner table.

But if they're not kosher, might they be Jewish?

The Lorax, who speaks for the trees, sounds an awful lot like many Jewish environmentalists. The Zaxes, in both North-Going and South-Going varieties, are as stubborn as many Jews we know, and might have some Jewish genes.  And our friends the Sneetches exhibit characteristics of snobbishness and jealousy that we might recognize among our friends and families.

We invite you to comment on these monumental halachic and sociological questions by clicking on "Comments" just below this post, and continuing a lively discussion.
 (A tip of the kippah to Esther Kustanowitz, who spotted the article in the Forward and brought this subject to our attention.)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Politically Incorrect Yentas Get Shot at TV Stardom

What do you get when you combine the yentaness of Linda Richman (Mike Myers' Coffee Talk mother-in-law) and the political incorrectness of Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm?  

You get Ronna and Beverly, a pair of very Jewish divorcees from Boston who collaborated on a (fictitious) self-help book called You'll Do a Little Better Next Time: A Guide to Marriage and Remarriage for Jewish Singles.

The roles of Ronna and Beverly are played by Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo, two comedians who have been entertaining audiences from New York to Los Angeles in comedy clubs and on YouTube.

This year they have been busy making and promoting a Showtime half-hour pilot written with them by Weeds creator Jenji Kohan. Showtime 2 will be airing the half-hour pilot on Tuesday night, December 29 (actually very early Wednesday morning, December 30), at 12:05 am.Eastern Time.  The show was not selected by Showtime to go into full production as a series, but a buzz has been created on the internet by articles in Variety and The Huffington Post, and lots of bloggers and tweeters.

Media insiders were surprised when Showtime didn't pick up the show for their schedule, but that hasn't stopped Chaffin and Denbo from plugging it virally, including on their Facebook page which has 795 fans.

So check out some of their shtick, and if you like it, tell your friends.  Maybe Showtime will take a second look.  Here's a clip of Ronna and Beverly dropping in to a used book store in Los Angeles, as they travel across the country trying to hype their book.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fly In the Urinal Makes Appearance in Tel Aviv

Does anyone need proof that Israel is a modern country?  Well, here it is.  Today we received a report from a reader that the Fly in the Urinal has been spotted in the men's room at the Ayalon Mall in Tel Aviv.

What's the Fly in the Urinal?  What's humorous about it?  What's Jewish about it?  What does it have to do with the Amsterdam airport and the Obama administration?  We take pride in the research we do before posting a story at Jewish Humor Central, and here is the result.

It turns out that about 20 years ago, Jos Van Bedoff, a maintenance worker at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, recalled that when he served in the Dutch army in the 1960s, he noticed that someone had put small, discrete red dots in the barracks urinals, which dramatically cut back on "misdirected flow."  He recommended to the airport Board of Directors that the dots be installed in all the urinals in the airport, but in the form of flies etched into the porcelain.  

Van Bedoff decided that guys want to directly aim at an animal they can immobilize. The ability to use one's natural gifts and achieve victory over the foe while standing is the key, he explained. Guys, he felt, can always beat flies. That's why flies are so satisfying.  And now, they're showing up -- at the men's room in Terminal 4 at JFK Airport, stadiums, around the country, elementary school bathrooms, and, yes, at the Ayalon mall.

The result, research has shown, is an 80%  reduction in misdirected streams.

There's even a web site called, where you can buy a pack of stickers with images of ten flies, bullseye targets, or trees, for $9.99.  Packs of 100 stickers are also available.

 The fact that introducing a fly into urinals changes human behavior was explained in a popular book, Nudge, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, published in 2008 by Penguin.  Sunstein, after publication of the book, was appointed by President Obama as the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is under the Office of Management and Budget.  We haven't received cofirmation yet, but we suspect that flies will soon be appearing in the White House lavatories.

So, to get back to our original questions, we think we've answered most of them.  Oh, what's Jewish about it?  Only that you can see it on your next trip to Israel, if you are male and if you visit the Ayalon Mall, Kanion Ayalon, in Tel Aviv.
 (A tip of the kippah to Aliza Kwiat for forwarding the photo taken at the Ayalon mall and inspiring us to research this story.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Comedy Showcase: Elon Gold - Not ShamWow. ShmataWOW!

Today we're introducing a new feature at Jewish Humor Central -- Comedy Showcase.  From time to time, we'll highlight a Jewish standup comedian, performing his or her shtick in a short video.  We think it's a good idea to get to know up and coming joke and story tellers who have the potential for comedy superstardom.

Some of these comedians will be familiar if you're accustomed to hanging out in comedy or improv clubs, or if you're a regular viewer of late-night television shows.  If you don't frequent those night spots or if you call it a night early, you may not have seen them perform.  Either way, we hope you'll like our picks.  Please give us your reaction via comments on each blog post or in an email to

Our first Comedy Showcase features Elon Gold.  According to Wikipedia, 
Gold is an American comedian, television actor, writer and producer. He starred in the television series Stacked.  He also starred in the short-lived sitcom In-Laws. Known for his impressions, including those of Jeff Goldblum, Howard Stern and Jay Leno, Gold can be seen as a judge on the ABC celebrity impersonation competition series The Next Best Thing. Gold was also in the movie Cheaper by the Dozen as a cameraman from the Oprah Winfrey show.

Gold attended the Westchester Day School in Mamaroneck, NY and the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy (MTA)/Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Manhattan, NY. He is a practicing orthodox Jew.
 Here is Elon Gold in a parody of Vince, the ShamWow guy, as performed on the Chabad Telethon in September.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Joke to Start the Day: Jewish Personals

Jewish Personals

Shul Gabbai, 36. I take out the Torah Saturday morning. Would like to take you out Saturday night. Please write.

Couch potato latke, in search of the right applesauce. Let's try it for eight days. Who knows?

Divorced Jewish man, seeks partner to attend shul with, light shabbos candles, celebrate holidays, build Sukkah together, attend brisses, bar mitzvahs. Religion not important.

Orthodox woman with get, seeks man who got get, or can get get. Get it? I'll show you mine, if you show me yours.

Sincere rabbinical student, 27. Enjoys Yom Kippur, Tisha B'av, Taanis Esther, Tzom Gedaliah, Asarah B'Teves, Shiva Asar B'Tammuz. Seeks companion for living life in the "fast" lane.

Yeshiva bochur, Torah scholar, long beard, payos. Seeks same in woman.

Worried about in-law meddling? I'm an orphan! Write.

Nice Jewish guy, 38. No skeletons. No baggage. No personality.

Female graduate student, studying kaballah, Zohar, exorcism of dybbuks, seeks mensch. No weirdos, please.

Staunch Jewish feminist, wears tzitzis, seeking male who will accept my independence, although you probably will not. Oh, just forget it.

Jewish businessman, 49, manufactures Sabbath candles, Chanukah candles, havdallah candles, Yahrzeit candles. Seeks non-smoker.

Israeli professor, 41, with 18 years of teaching in my behind. Looking for American-born woman who speaks English very good.

80-year-old bubbe, no assets, seeks handsome, virile Jewish male, under 35. Object matrimony. I can dream, can't I?

I am a sensitive Jewish prince whom you can open your heart to. Share your innermost thoughts and deepest secrets. Confide in me. I'll understand your insecurities. No fatties, please.

Jewish male, 34, very successful, smart, independent, self-made. Looking for girl whose father will hire me.

Single Jewish woman, 29, into disco, mountain climbing, skiing, track and field. Has slight limp.

Desperately seeking shmoozing! Retired senior citizen desires female companion 70+ for kvetching, kvelling, and krechtzing. Under 30 is also OK.

Source: (submitted by Anonymous) 
Photo:  From

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mentsch or Shmuck? Michael Wex Tells How To Be and How Not To Be

There are people out there, millions of them, who act as if they still believe everything that their mothers told them in the first six months of their life: they're the nicest, most beautiful, most promising and intelligent bags of flesh ever to walk the earth, and anybody who can't see it is a jealous fool.

We call these people shmucks. In his new book, How to Be a Mentsh (and Not a Shmuck), published by Harper Collins, bestselling author Michael Wex (Born to Kvetch and Just Say Nu) offers a wise and witty guide to being a good human being (A mentsh) regardless of your religion or beliefs—a blueprint for living a decent and moral life, acting with self-control instead of self-denial, and winning through cooperation rather than competition.

But this is no dull manual about loving thy neighbor. It's a fast-paced and entertaining adventure in the wisdom of the ages, wherever that wisdom may be found: Yiddish proverbs, current events, Talmudic stories, movies, television, and more. Referencing pop culture and Jewish tradition with equal ease, Wex explores the strategies developed by an oppressed people to pursue happiness with their dignity—and sense of humor—intact.

You can get the flavor of the book by reading a few pages from the publisher's website.  It's a very readable combination of humor, etymology, pop culture, and Jewish history.

Here's an interview with the author on, where he talks about the art of mentshlichkeit and how to avoid being a shmuck.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Jew Walking: Act II - Chanukah Street Wisdom

One of our first blog posts was Jew Walking - a series of street interviews with comedian/writer Simmy Kay, sponsored by the National Jewish Outreach Program.

The questions about basic Jewish knowledge were asked in front of Zabar's on Manhattan's Upper West Side.  The answers were unpredictable, and funny.

Now, Rabbi Zvi Drizin has taken the concept to Dallas.  He takes to the streets in the West Village area where the Intown Chabad makes its home.  His questions are Hanukkah-related, including the effect of lighting candles on global warming.  Once again, the answers are unpredictable, and funny.


Happy Eighth Night Of Chanukah! Light All the Candles With the Chipmunks

Tonight's the last night of Chanukah.  It's been fun sharing video clips of Hanukkah celebrations and candle lightings from around the world.  Let's enjoy the last day of Hanukkah singing along with the Chipmunks as they sing a parody of the Chipmunk Song.

We found this video on YouTube, starting with just the audio in 2006, and then with cartoons added in 2008.  We would love to give credit to the creators, but they don't identify themselves on YouTube.  So if you're responsible for this cute video, please comment and take credit for your great work.

On Sunday we're returning to our regular format of one post every morning, Sunday through Friday.  Please be sure to bookmark or subscribe using the email subscription box at the top of the left column.  And let your friends know that this is the place to find something to smile or laugh about every day.

Here's the video.  We're reproducing the lyrics and translations of the Yiddish expressions just below the frame.

Dave: All right you chipmunks, ready to sing your Chanukah jingle?
Moishe: Oy, what a day I'm having here...
Simon: Oh, let's sing it anyway
Dave: Ready, Simon?
Simon: OK!
Dave: OK, Moishe?
Moishe: OK!
Dave: Melvin? ... Melvin? ... MELVIN!!!
Melvin: Oy vey!

Chipmunks: Chanukah's a time for all
With menorahs, matzah balls
Light the candles, eight across
Potato latkes, applesauce
Christmas jingles last too long
Melvin: We just have that dreidel song
Chipmunks: Sing meshuggeneh and oy
Them goys get all the toys

Dave: Very good, boys. Simon, you bring me such nakhes
Simon: Oy, gevalt!
Dave: Moishe, what a gesinte voice
Moishe: (giggles)
Dave: Melvin, you're a little farmishte farkakte
Dave: Melvin? Melvin? MELVIN!!!
Melvin: Oy vey!

Chipmunks: Christmas jingles last too long
Melvin: We just have that dreidel song
Chipmunks: Sing meshuggeneh and oy
Them goys get all the toys

Dave: That was much better my little mamzers
Melvin: Let's sing about Yom Kippur and Passover!
Dave: Ah, don't be a khazer now
(chipmunks all talking at once)
All: Happy holiday!

Yiddish translations:
Oy, Oy Vey: an expression of distress
Menorah: candelabrum (Simon lights one in this video)
Matzah balls: a round dumpling of unleavened bread crumbs and egg traditionally found in chicken soup
Latkes: potato pancakes, a traditional Chanukah food
Dreidel: a four-sided spinning top used in a game traditionally played during Chanukah (Melvin holds one during this video)
Meshuggeneh: crazy
Goys: gentiles
Nakhes: the joy that a parent gets from a child's accomplishments
Oy gevalt: an expression of extreme distress (I don't know why he would say it here)
Gesinte: healthy
Farmishte: mixed up, confused
Farkakte: screwed up, lousy (more literally: crappy)
Mamzer: bastard (it's not a nice word; I don't know why he's using it here)
Yom Kippur: a fall holy day of fasting
Passover: a spring holiday remembering the Exodus from Egypt
Khazer: pig

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Everything Should Taste Like Bacon"...and the Kof-K and OU Rabbis Say Okay

If you keep kosher but always had a hankerin' for the taste of bacon, a new line of products by J&D Foods should satisfy your craving.  Starting with bacon flavored salt (in 9 flavors) and moving on to bacon flavored popcorn, bacon flavored mayonnaise, bacon flavored ranch dressing, bacon flavored lip balm, and bacon flavored envelopes (yes, envelopes!) two "regular guys who love grilling and football" and a dream to make everything taste like bacon did just that.

They took their products to the Kof-K, one of the leading and most respected kosher certification agencies, who blessed their whole product line and granted them the coveted seal of kashrut.

As company namesakes Justin and Dave put it on their website,
Fortunately, there is no such thing as eternal damnation in the Jewish faith. If you keep kosher, the good news is that all of J&D's products are Kof-K certified. Hickory, Peppered, Jalapeno, Maple, Applewood and Mesquite Bacon Salts are Kof-K Parve, while Original, Natural, and Cheddar Bacon Salts along with Regular and Lite Baconnaise are Kof-K Dairy.
We decided to review the product line from the perspective of someone who has never tasted real bacon.  Of course, there's no way to tell if it's the same as the real thing.  But we tried to see how it measures up in flavor.

We tried to get reactions to the products during family gatherings and kiddush in shul on Chanukah.   Opinions are divided between two populations.  One group always wanted to taste the forbidden bacon and found nirvana when General Mills' BacO's chips and bits first appeared in 1966.  The other group can't stand the smell and wouldn't touch anything that had anything that smelled like bacon in it.

For the anti-bacon bunch, none of the products that we tried could get to first base.  For the BacO's enthusiasts, the Bacon Salts were appealing in that they added a tasty smoky flavor to soups and salads.

In our opinion, the best tasting product in the line is the Bacon Popcorn, which comes packed three microwaveable envelopes to a box and is very difficult to stop munching.

We wish that the company had done some more consumer research among kosher consumers before formulating the salts and choosing the labels for the bottles.  We found it confusing that some of the salts are pareve and some are dairy, and the designation appears on the backs of the bottles in tiny, almost unreadable type.  You'd have to be very careful in storing these bottles on a kitchen shelf to avoid picking up a dairy salt (e.g. Original or Natural) and sprinkling it on a meat dish.

This is a problem that is not unique to J&D Foods.  We've always felt that Morningstar Farms should have made all of their veggie burgers pareve so they could be put on a grill with other foods when friends and family come over for a barbecue on the deck.

As it is, most of the J&D bacon flavored foods contain milk.  We wish they didn't, because we would be inclined to use them mainly at meat meals. The Hickory and Peppered salts are Kof-K pareve.  All of the others salts are certified Kof-K dairy. For anyone who needs gluten-free foods, the Natural salt is gluten-free. J&D says all of its products are going Kof-K, but for now, the samples we have of Baconnaise and Popcorn are OU-Dairy and OU-Pareve.

Here's a video interview with the company founders from ABC TV when the product was first introduced last year.

A tip of the kippah to Esther Kustanowitz for first calling attention to this product line in her blog, My Urban Kvetch.

Chanukah Around the World: A Chinese Twist: Even In Beijing, the Celebration Goes On

Even in Beijing, they're lighting Chanukah menorahs.  BON, China's Blue Ocean Network, reports on Chanukah celebrations in China's capital city.  Chabad and Reform rabbis unite in bringing the holiday spirit to the Jewish population of about 2000, mostly expatriates and Chinese spouses.  Only those with foreign passports are allowed to attend services and cultural events.  Let's sing Hevenu Shalom Aleichem as the Jews of China prepare to light their menorah.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Senator Orrin Hatch, Mormon Hanukkah Songwriter, Gets a Payback from the Tonight Show's Only Jew

On Monday night, the Tonight Show wanted to thank Utah Senator Orrin Hatch for writing a Hanukkah song, so bandleader Max Weinberg, as a member of the Jewish Community, presented a holiday song that he wrote just for Mormons, to the tune of "I Have a Little Dreidel."

"Now this is a song for Mormons to sing at Christmas time -- I only know about Mormons from the stuff that I read online..." and so it goes, bringing in the Osmonds, the movies Children of the Corn and Witness, Mitt Romney, and Miss PacMan and...well, you really should watch it.  Enjoy!
(A tip of the kippah to Esther Kustanowitz for first calling this to our attention in her Beliefnet blog.)

Happy Chanukah ! Celebrate Day 5 With the P.S. 22 Children's Chorus

It's the fifth day of Chanukah, and we invite you to enjoy a different sound, the voices of the seventy fifth-grade students who make up the P.S. 22 Chorus from Staten Island.

Led by Gregg Breinberg, their musical director, they sing the traditional Maoz Tsur in Hebrew.  These are not Hebrew School kids.  Many of its members are from disadvantaged backgrounds. Breinberg says that several of the students in the chorus are from special education and English as a Second Language programs. “It’s one of the more rewarding aspects of my profession to see so many of our kids who have difficulties in other areas of academics thrive within the choral environment,” he says. “People often lose sight of how important music is to the education of these kids.”

Breinberg has been running the chorus since 2000. A musician by heritage, he also worked as a clown at summer camp before settling on teaching as a career. “Best decision I ever made for myself,” he says, “although full credit must be given to my parents for pointing me in the right direction and practically pushing me off the precipice.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jewish and Muslim Comics Join Forces in "Laugh in Peace"

Remember Rabbi Bob Alper?  The Reform rabbi turned standup comedian?  Jewish Humor Central introduced him to you a few weeks ago.  Well, Rabbi Bob has been touring the U.S. with Muslim Comedian Azhar Usman. They call their program Laugh in Peace. 

Imagine top-notch comedy, two seasoned performers with unique "hooks," (a Muslim and a rabbi) and beneath it all, an implicit but not preachy (and definitely non-political) message of respect and understanding.

A program that's hysterical, healthy, clean, and healing, with an underlying message of hope.  Click on the video below for a 9 minute video clip of one of their performances.

They've been performing at colleges, synagogues, and JCCs all over the U.S. and Canada.  You can check their schedule to see if they'll be anywhere near you in the next few months.  Enjoy!

Chanukah Around the World: Jewish Dance and Song in Lithuania

In 1886, Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman founded the Ponevezh Yeshiva in the town of Panevezys, Lithuania and later transplanted it to Bnei Brak, Israel.  After the horrors of the Holocaust, Jewish culture has had a revival in Lithuania.

To celebrate Chanukah this year, Fajerlech, a professional Jewish song and dance ensemble, performed a Chanukah concert in the town, and in two other Lithuanian cities.  Here's a five minute taste of the concert.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's Hanukkah. Be Happy! Act Happy! Dennis Prager says It's a Moral Obligation

What better time of year to be happy?  It's Hanukkah.

But what if something in your life is troubling you?  Then act happy and you'll make everyone around you happy.  And maybe some of that happiness will come back to you.  After all, happiness is a moral obligation.

That's the case made forcefully by national talk show host Dennis Prager, in his book "Happiness is a Serious Problem," in his weekly radio "Happiness Hour" and in his 5-minute internet course on Happiness at Prager University.

Prager has created a series of five-minute courses on fundamentals of living that bring clarity to life.  A firm belief in and understanding of Jewish values are the foundation of his mini-courses.  He maintains that most liberal arts universities have neglected to teach these basic lessons and left thousands of students morally confused.  Here is his 5-minute course on happiness as a moral obligation.
Dennis has a three hour daily talk show where he discusses "everything in life." In the New York-New Jersey area only the second and third hours are broadcast from 1 pm to 3 pm on AM 970 radio (The Apple.)

You can find everything Prager at

Chanukah Around the World: In London They Do It With Whisky

Sam Adams, writing in the online website This Is Local London, reported the lighting of Chanukah Candles last night using what is thought to be the world's first ever whisky menorah.

Dozens of people turned out at Buckhurst Hill Chabad, in Princes Road, to see the seven-foot-high ceremonial candle holder - made of clear pipes - filled with 65 litres of 17-year-old Scottish single malt in celebration of Chanukah.

Whisky from the menorah was then poured from a tap in the structure's stem and auctioned off in bottles by Rabbi Odom Brandman to raise money for a new centre for the area's Jewish community.

Rabbi Brandman - who had earlier led the lighting of a publicly displayed menorah in nearby Queen's Road - thanked the Tullibardine distillery for donating the whisky.

He said: "We like to celebrate Chanukah a little differently, and had a menorah made of old cans last year, and out of chocolate the year before.  This year we decided to go for the world's first whisky menorah.

"We knew we needed a lot of whisky, so we contacted Tullibardine, who very kindly offered to donate 65 litres for our menorah. The whisky itself is really nice. It's smooth, mellow and has a slightly fruity flavour.  I have been on a tour of the distillery and the management there have been so helpful, accommodating and as excited as us about making this Menorah really special."


(Menorah photo from This is Local London; Whisky photo from Spirax)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Haredi Rabbis Ban (Are You Ready For This?) Haredi Internet Web Sites

We'll never run out of articles about new rabbinic bans.  Just when we thought that the ban on perfume that we reported on last week was the last straw, here comes another one:  

A group of haredi rabbis in Israel have posted a ban on haredi web sites.  They had long banned non-haredi internet sites, but this new ban cuts off virtually all internet access to their followers.

The ban was publcized on a pashkevil, a wall poster that is commonly used in haredi neighborhoods to proclaim rabbinic decrees.  Ironically, the pashkevil reproduced at right (click on it to enlarge the text) came from a haredi internet site, Bechadrei Chareidim, which could be one of the newly banned sites.

Back in the 1990s, when the web was exploding with new sites, there appeared a Satmar web site entirely in Yiddish.  On top of the home page was a warning which said "If you can read this, you should not be using the internet.  It is muktze (actual meaning: not to be touched on Shabbat, but used to mean prohibited in general)."

As use of the internet became pervasive, in early 2000, a group of prominent Haredi rabbis in Israel with Hasidic, Lithuanian, Sephardic and Mizrahi followers, issued a total ban on use of the internet. They argued, "The Internet is a danger 1,000 times greater (than television, which was banned 30 years ago), and is liable to bring ruin and destruction upon all of Israel."  They did issue a dispensation for business use, showing recognition that the internet is an indispensable tool. However, the rabbis specifically noted in their halakhic document that if the use of the internet was required for business, it should, under no circumstances, be available in the home.

Fast forward to 2009.  The Haredim have a presence on the internet in the form of newspapers and blogs that report breaking news and thoughful articles on a variety of topics, mostly from a respectful perspective.  Some do permit comments from readers, which show a range of opinions from strong support of positions claiming rabbinic infallibility to disdainful references and mocking of the insularity of the Haredi world view.

But the rabbis have been unable to stop the hunger for information that drives even the ultra-orthodox to add internet service to their homes.  Bezeq, the Israeli telecommunications company, estimates that 26% of haredi households now have internet access.  Many use it for business, financial information and religious studies, but the rabbis worry that even the haredi news sites "pursue all manners of news and gossip that defame our public" and "spread slander, lies and impurities to thousands."

Until now, there was a cease-fire between the haredi internet sites and blogs and the rabbinic establishment.  But now, as reported in Ynet News, the online website of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Acharonot,
A haredi journalist said that the rabbis' position "is a very dramatic, historic thing, since they have so far refrained from taking such steps in their fight against the Internet."
This move, he added, "Is a direct war on the websites and it will be a fierce battle. It will start with the personal persecution of Internet personnel and who knows where it will end. This move may very well mean Armageddon is upon us."
Our (unsolicited) advice to the issuers of bans?  If you can read this, you should not be using the internet. Press the "Delete" key.

Lighten up.  Better still, subscribe to Jewish Humor Central.  And have a Happy Chanukah!

Happy Hanukkah: Light the Third Candle Tonight With Downers Grove Orchestra

Happy Hanukkah to all of our readers.  Tonight we light the third Chanukah candle.  Let's enjoy a rousing performance of the Hanukkah Festival Overture by the District 99 Orchestra of Downers Grove, Illinois. Be sure to watch for the dancing bass player during Mi Y'malel.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Classic Gold: A Joke to Start Your Day: How Israel Really Won the Six-Day War

During a fund-raising tour of the United States, after a State visit with President Richard Nixon in 1968, Golda Meir was asked, "How was it possible for Israel to defeat all those Arabs in 1967 in just six days?"

"It was our army," she replied.  "It was the way we were organized.  Our reserves saved the day."

"How so?"

"First," she explained, "we called up all the doctors and trained them well.  Then we called up all the dentists and trained them well.  Then we called up all the lawyers and trained them well. 

Then we called in our Minister of Defense, Moshe Dayan, and he gave the order:  CHARGE! -- and boy, did they know how to charge!"

(From "Classic Jewish Humor in America" by Henry D. Spalding.)

Chanukah Is Here!: Light the First Candle Tonight with Sarit Hadad

Tonight's the first night of Chanukah.  We have enjoyed the countdown, bringing you a taste of Chanukah every day for the past month, leading up to today.  Let's light the first candle tonight and one more each night for the full eight days of Chanukah, and let's hope the holiday ushers in a year of good health, happiness, and peace for us and for all Israel.

Tonight's Chanukah video features popular Israeli singer Sarit Hadad singing the song that she sang at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2002, accompanied by a Chanukah slide show created by Racheli Raz.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Traveling? Can't Find a Menorah? If You Have an iPhone, Light Up with Mobile Menorah

Are you on the road during Chanukah? Can't find your menorah? Are you in a non-smoking room in a hotel where you can't light candles? If you have an iPhone, you're in luck.  Among the thousands of applications (apps) available for the iPhone are a growing number of Jewish apps for Hanukkah and other Jewish holidays.

Here's one called Mobile Menorah, which you can download to your iPhone or iPod Touch for 99 cents.

There's a competing app called iMenorah ($2.95), which is demonstrated by its developers in the video below.

A bigger selection of Jewish iPhone and iPod Touch apps, can be found at The Apple Blog, including:

Kosher ($4.99) - Reviews and kashrut of restaurants
Kosher Cookbook ($4.99)
Kosher Me ($6.99) - All common Jewish prayers translated, transliterated, and sounded out.
iBlessing (99 cents) - All food-related blessings in Hebrew and English.
Siddur ($9.99) and Siddur Lite (99 cents) - The WHOLE Siddur.
Synagogue (99 cents) - Uses your GPS coordinates to find the nearest synagogue.

Senator Orrin Hatch, Mormon Republican From Utah, Writes Hanukkah Song as Gift to Jewish People

When we started our Chanukah Countdown last month, posting a musical video each night, we would not have predicted that with one day to go until the first candle, we would be posting a brand new song written for Chanukah by a Mormon United States Senator.

The New York Times reports that Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah and a Mormon, has written an original song for Hanukkah as a gift to the Jewish People.
Senator Orrin Hatch, a solemn-faced Republican with a soft spot for Jews and a love of Barbra Streisand, has penned a catchy holiday tune, “Eight Days of Hanukkah.”  The video was posted Tuesday night on Tablet, an online magazine of Jewish lifestyle and culture, just in time for Hanukkah.
Eight Days of Hanukkah from Tablet Magazine on Vimeo.

Mark Leibovich writes in the Times,
Known around the Senate as a prolific writer of Christian hymns and patriotic melodies, Mr. Hatch, 75, said this was his first venture into Jewish music. It will not be his last.
"Anything I can do for the Jewish people, I will do,” Mr. Hatch said in an interview before heading to the Senate floor to debate an abortion amendment. “Mormons believe the Jewish people are the chosen people, just like the Old Testament says.”
In short, he loves the Jews. And based on an early sampling of listeners, the feeling could be mutual.
Fingering a silver mezuzah on a chain around his neck and wearing headphones in the studio, Hatch is shown in the video following along as the song is recorded by Syrian-American singer Rasheeda Azar.

The Tablet article, written by Jeffrey Goldberg, formerly with the New York Times Magazine and The Jerusalem Post, and now a staff writer for The Atlantic, tells the fascinating tale of how his casual suggestion to the senator ten years ago led to "a Mormon senator in a studio with an Arab singer and a bunch of New York Jewish background vocalists recording a Hanukkah song of his own making."  It's an article worth reading.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Another Joke to Start Your Day: Mezuzahs

A wealthy Jewish man buys a fabulous home in Beverly Hills, California. He brings in a local designer to decorate the place. 

When the job is finished, the homeowner is delighted but realizes that he's forgotten to put mezuzahs on the doors. He goes out and buys 50 mezuzahs and asks the decorator, who is non-Jewish, to place them on the right hand side of each door except bathrooms and kitchens.

He's really worried that the decorator will chip the paint work or won't put them up correctly. However, when he comes back a few hours later, he sees that the job has been carried out to his entire satisfaction. He's so pleased that he gives the decorator a bonus. 

As the decorator is walking out of the door he says, "Glad you're happy with the job..." "By the way, I took out the warranties in each one and left them on the table for you."
(A tip of the kippah to Teddy Asch for calling this one to our attention.)

Hanukkah Countdown: The New Yorker Catches Hanukkah Fever With 2 Days to Go

What do the Beatles, the Prophet Elijah, Velvel the Tailor, Kangaroo Moses, and a candle named Blue have in common?  They all make brief appearances in a collection of (very) short Hanukkah stories by Yoni Brenner in the current issue of The New Yorker.  A bit strange, a bit eclectic, but very funny.  So we're linking to them in the spirit of Hanukkah humor.  Laugh a little.  Or a lot.

   Here's one to get you started:
In the Book of the Redemption (c. 1263), the celebrated medieval Jewish philosopher Nahmanides describes a distant land where everything—the houses, the roads, even the synagogue—is made from potato latkes. And running through this savory land are two broad rivers, one flowing with applesauce and the other with sour cream.  And on Hanukkah the Jews of Latkeland gather at the confluence of the two rivers, so they can top their latkes with a dollop of each.  Incidentally, it was around this time that Nahmanides was doing a lot of drugs.
 (A tip of the kippah - and an extra Chanukah present - to Esther Kustanowitz for bringing this to our attention.)