Friday, December 31, 2010

What UCLA Students "Know" About Israel - More Scary Than Funny

We've always been fans of the interview format that Jay Leno has made famous with his funny Jay Walking episodes on his late night TV show.  The bottom line -- the typical American, and especially the college student, knows zilch about almost everything that's basic to being an American citizen, but everything about the latest pop stars and TV shows.

We've shared with you some take-offs on Jay Walking, called Jew Walking, where the National Jewish Outreach Center in New York and a Chabad rabbi in Dallas interviewed Jews and non-Jews in the street about what they knew of Jewish holidays and customs.  With a few exceptions, the results, though funny, were just as dismal.

Today's video, while funny at first glance, is really a sad commentary on what the current crop of college students is learning, or not learning.  We think it's important that they have accurate information about Jews, Israel, and the Middle East, since many of them will go into careers in international relations, and take that information with them as they assume positions of leadership. 

It was released by Stand With Us, an international organization dedicated to bringing peace to the Middle East by educating about Israel and challenging the misinformation that often surrounds the Middle East conflict.  In the video, comedian Mark Schiff asks typical UCLA students some basic questions on what they know about Israel and the Middle East.  The results are shocking.  As he says in concluding the interviews, we have a lot of work to do.  That's a good New Year's resolution.  

So enjoy the video, and also give it some serious thought.  (Please note that unlike most of our videos, this one doesn't have a big play button in the center.  To view it, you'll have to move the pointer around the image until a small play button appears at the lower left of the image.)

The Jewish Humor Central team wishes you Shabbat Shalom and a Happy and Healthy New Year!  (Hey, didn't we do that in September?)  We'll see you with more of our usual mix in 2011.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cooking In Yiddish: Just What You've Been Waiting For - Cabbage-Stuffed Strudel

Est Gezunterheit!  The Yiddish Cooking Ladies Are Back!  And this time, with a recipe that you won't find in any cookbook or video by Rachael Ray or Martha Stewart.

Earlier this year we introduced you to Rukhl Schaecter and Eve Yochnowitz, the Yiddish-speaking cooking ladies from the Forverts, the Yiddish-language version of the Jewish Daily Forward.  We've shared recipes for Sour Cherry Dumplings and Horseradish Flavored Vodka with Nut Cake.  That's right!  Recipes that you'll never find in the pages of Gourmet Magazine.  But they're in Yiddish, so they must be good!

The Forverts promised a new recipe every two weeks.  So far, it's been closer to every two months, but who's counting?  This week a new video appeared, and we couldn't wait to share it with you.  What are they making this time?  Start smacking your lips!  Strudel dough filled with chopped cabbage and caraway seeds.  Yum!

The video is fun to watch, not just for the playful interaction in Yiddish, but also for insights in how to roll out strudel dough and how to let out your anger by playing "Whack a Strudel" against the kitchen counter 100 times.  

There's also an explanation of why the @ sign in internet addresses is called a strudel in Israel, and that the Yiddish/Hebrew word for (internet) domain is melucha (literally, kingdom).  If you follow the recipe, please let us know in your comments how it turned out.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Funniest Israeli Commercials: Why Israel Didn't Get To The World Cup

If you were hoping that Israel would win, or even get to participate in the World Cup of Soccer competition, the Israel Ministry of Tourism has conceded defeat by airing a commercial that revealed the reason for their lack of success.

Despite the availability of beautiful beaches, where players practice all the time, there are natural obstacles that keep getting in the way of serious practice.  This commercial, produced by the Ministry of Tourism and the ad agency Keta Keta, tells the whole story.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Revisiting Some Of The 100 Best Jewish Songs Ever - Second Hand Rose

Last week we wrote about Tablet Magazine's listing of the 100 Best Jewish Songs Ever.  It's quite a list, and we've been reviewing it -- to savor some of the original performances, and to see if we could gain some more insights into the wonderful world of Jewish music and to share some details about the truly funny songs on the list.

When we got to entry number 92, we stopped short.  That selection, Second Hand Rose, was a song we always assumed was written for Barbara Streisand in Funny Girl, the story of legendary Jewish comedienne Fanny Brice.  Jody Rosen writes in her description of the song:
Funny Girl Fanny Brice brought down the house at the 1921 Ziegfeld Follies with this tale of a Lower East Side pawnshop owner’s daughter, sung in thick mock-Yiddish dialect.
So we did some Googling, and found that the song was indeed written for Fanny Brice and that she performed it in the 1921 Ziegfeld Follies.  We also found the original lyrics, which include a section not performed by Streisand, and an audio clip of Brice singing the original song.

Here is a clip of Fanny Brice singing the complete song, Barbra Streisand singing her version, and the complete lyrics.  Enjoy!


Father has a biz'ness, strictly second hand
Ev'rything from toothpicks to a baby grand
Stuff in our apartment came from father's store
Even things (clothes in the Streisand version) I'm wearing someone wore before
It's no wonder that I feel abused
I never get a thing that ain't been used

I'm wearing second hand hats, second hand clothes
That's why they call me second hand Rose
Even our piano in the parlor, Papa bought for ten cents on the dollar
Second hand pearls, I'm wearing second hand curls
I never get a single thing that's new
Even Jakie Cohen, (Jake the plumber in the Streisand version) he's the man I adore
He had the nerve to tell me he's been married before
Ev'ryone knows that I'm just second hand Rose
From Second Avenue

I'm wearing second hand shoes, second hand hose
All the girls hand me their second hand beaus
Even my pajamas when I don them, have somebody else's 'nitials on them
Second hand rings, I'm sick of second hand things
I never get what other girlies do
Once while strolling through the Ritz a woman got my goat
She nudged her friend and said, "Oh look, there goes my lamb skin coat."
Ev'ryone knows that I'm just second hand Rose
From Second Avenue
From Second Avenue

Monday, December 27, 2010

Best Jewish Video Of 2010: Back To The Catskills With Freddie Roman

It's back to the Catskills again as the Jewish Television Network has nominated a video clip of Freddie Roman doing his stand-up shtick as the best and most viewed of their videos for 2010.  We were surprised to realize that we hadn't seen it and suspect that many of you also haven't seen it.

Born Fred Kirschenbaum in Queens in 1937, Roman has delivered his humor in stand-up routines in most Borscht Belt hotels and has been a headliner in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.  He is still actively performing today.

As the year 2010 draws to a close, we think it's fitting to spend a few minutes with a master of Jewish comedy and raise our laugh total for the year.  Enjoy!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Quirkier Side Of Israel Revealed As Chelm-On-The-Med Announces Chelm Prizes

Squeeze Z Hummus, straight from the bottle.
Last August we introduced you to Chelm-on-the-Med Online, an Israeli Internet news outlet in English that features snippets of the lighter side of daily life in Israel.

This week, the web site announced its Chelm prizes, highlighting the best stories of the year.

As the site's founder, Daniella Ashkenazy, reported in JTA online news,
The following is a roundup of some of the best odd news stories from Chelm-on-the-Med Online, an Israeli Internet news outlet in English that features snippets of daily life gleaned from the Hebrew press, revealing the lighter side of Israeli life.

Take Israeli innovation. Blue-and-white advances ran the gamut from a gadget jury-rigged by army engineers that enables a religiously observant amputee to put on tefillin, single-handed, to naturally dehydrated tomatoes for spreading on bread like avocado that plant geneticists designed to end the bane of packing sandwiches garnished with lip-smacking tomatoes for lunch-soggy bread.
One of this year's most promising gizmos may finally convince 70,000 pelicans to stop feeding at kibbutz fish ponds when migrating between Europe and Africa: a lifelike motorized plastic Nile crocodile, a predator with a predilection for pelican meat. It works on the principle that even pelicans probably know it's better to miss lunch than to become lunch.

At the other end of the food chain, an Israeli in New York has debuted hummus in a plastic squeeze-it condiment bottle for the local market after his American-born wife told him "wiping up" hummus with a pita was disgusting.
Here's a video of the product, Squeeze Z Hummus, in action on the streets of New York and in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Arriving at IKEA Israel.  
A Chelm Prize did not go to IKEA, which was considered because its new branch in Rishon Lezion added falafel to the kosher lineup in the cafeteria.  We would agree that IKEA doesn't merit the prize after watching this video introducing the new store.  We saw a couple arrive with their son in tow and drop him off at the convenient play area, freeing them to spend the day shopping.  As night fell and they loaded their car with all the stuff they bought, the kid was nowhere in sight, and nobody seemed to mind.

Friday, December 24, 2010

36 Haredi Rabbis Ban Vos Iz Neias, Most Popular Jewish Web Site

Last December, we did an exhaustive post about Haredi rabbis in Israel banning Haredi web sites.  Since we started this blog more than a year ago, we've reported bans on clothing, billboards, perfume, music lessons,  even the female face.  But rabbis banning their own web sites?  That seemed a bit much.  

Well, yesterday, they went a step further.  The Jewish Channel News reported that 36 Haredi Rabbis issued a ban on visiting and advertising on the Most Visited Jewish web site, Vos Iz Neias (VIN).  VIN, which translates from Yiddish as What Is News, gets more traffic than JTA, The Jewish Daily Forward, and The Jewish Week, mostly from orthodox readers.

We've been reading VIN regularly to find sources of Jewish humor, just as we check Jewish and Israeli newspapers and other web sites.  We've always found VIN to be on the conservative side, for the most part aggregating and reprinting world and Jewish news from many sources such as daily newspapers and web sites, always giving credit to the source.

We suspect what's irking the rabbis is not the straight news reporting, but the comments that supposedly haredi orthodox readers are adding to the posted articles.  For controversial topics, these comments stir up emotions as they express contrary views, often in a broken, yeshivish English.  We find the comments and the fact of their existence often funny, and sometimes they point us in the direction of a funny story to blog about.

But however crude some of the comments may be, they are an expression of free speech, and often demonstrate original thinking.  This is probably what the haredi leaders see as dangerous.

So take a look at The Jewish Channel video report on the ban below, and remember our comment when the subject first came up here last year:

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.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Best 100 Jewish Songs Ever

Tablet Magazine picks the top 100 Jewish Songs
As we approach the end of the year 2010, we feel we have to count down something because this New Year's Eve we will be fast asleep after an early Shabbat dinner and the Times Square ball will have to descend on its pole without our help.

So what are we going to count down?  Fortunately, Jodi Rosen and Ari Y. Kelman, the musicologists at Tablet, the online Jewish magazine have given us a list of the 100 greatest Jewish songs ever.

But what makes a song Jewish?  Does it have to be sung in shul?  Do the composer, lyricist, and singer have to be Jewish?  Or is it a unique Jewish feeling that it exudes?

Rosen and Kelman have an answer, as expressed in their article:
What does Jewish music sound like? It’s been a vexing question for millennia—at least since the Israelites wept by the Babylonian riverbanks with harps in hand. A half-century ago, the great German-Jewish musicologist Curt Sachs came up with a litmus test. Jewish music, he wrote, is music created “by Jews, as Jews, for Jews.” You know the stuff: liturgical melodies, Yiddish folk songs, Zionist anthems, your Bubbe’s favorite lullaby.
But think of the music Sachs leaves out. What do we do with George Gershwin and Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, with the songs belted out by Fanny Brice in the Ziegfeld Follies or Lou Reed at Max’s Kansas City—the whole messy sprawl of 20th-century American pop music history, which, from I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues to I’ve Gotta Be Me to (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!) has been inflected by the Jewish genius for passing and pastiche? And where, for that matter, does it leave Serge Gainsbourg, Israeli techno, Jonathan Richman, Yo La Tengo, or Ofra Haza? Or Hanukkah in Santa Monica?
So what's on the list and what's off the list?  Readers are already commenting that their favorites have been overlooked.  It seems that Rosen and Kelman have chosen a very controversial topic.  We're going to revisit this subject and the list between now and year-end to comment on some of their choices and omissions.

But let's get started with the number one song on the list.  It's not Hava Nagila (#2), Kol Nidre (#4) or Hatikva (#5), all respectable showings, but not first place.  So what's the number 1 song?  It's Over the Rainbow.  Here is their rationale for choosing it:
In 1900, L. Frank Baum wrote a strange, 259-page novel about a Kansas farm girl who travels to a magical land. Critics couldn’t help reading it as a Gilded Age political allegory, but Baum insisted it was simply a children’s fairytale. Thirty-nine years later, a movie mogul hired a pair of Tin Pan Alley pros—a cantor’s son from Buffalo and a Lower East Side lefty—to write a theme song for the novel’s film adaptation. The result was a grandly orchestrated echt-Hollywood ballad, crooned by the movie’s 16-year-old starlet to a little black doggie on a barnyard set filled with clucking chickens.

And it was the most beautiful Jewish exilic prayer ever set to music.

In formal terms, Over the Rainbow is flawless, lit up by Harold Arlen’s luscious chromaticism and startling octave leaps. Yip Harburg’s lyrics are a triumph of artful artlessness: “Somewhere over the rainbow/ Way up high/ There’s a land that I heard of/ Once in a lullaby.” Call that land Oz, if you’d like. Or call it Israel. (For that matter, call it Miami Beach or Shaker Heights or the Upper West Side.) Anyway you slice it, the story Over the Rainbow tells is the oldest Jewish story of them all: There’s no place like home.
If you agree or disagree with their choices, you can join the many readers in posting a comment on the Tablet website, or right here at Jewish Humor Central.

Here's a video of Judy Garland singing Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

KlezKamp, Yiddish Brigadoon, Comes To Life In Catskills December 26-31

If you're a fan of the American musical theatre, you'll remember the 1947 Broadway show Brigadoon, the story of a mysterious Scottish village that appears for only one day every hundred years, though to the villagers, the passing of each century seems no longer than one night.

Well, there's a Jewish version.  Every year, in the last week of December, hundreds of people gather in what used to be the Granit Hotel in Kerhonkson, in New York's Catskill Mountains, to immerse themselves in Yiddish culture -- song, dance, language, but most important - klezmer.

Writing in The New York Times Arts section last month, Joseph Berger reported:
Not only were the evening music and dance programs a tribute to vigorous life, but those who took part in the courses — more than 50 were offered, with six sessions apiece — also seemed to revel in the chance to reacquaint themselves with the unmatched expressions they had heard from their bubbes (grandmothers) and zaydes (grandfathers) and the dance steps they had not done since a cousin’s bar mitzvah long ago.
Words tossed about during the week included not just those like kvetch and kibitz, which have entered American idiom, but also fresher candidates like shreklekh (terrible or frightening), naches (prideful joy), farblondget (mixed up) and luftmensch (an impractical person with no apparent income).
Henry Sapoznik, a Ukrainian cantor’s son who helped found KlezKamp in 1984, calls it a “Yiddish Brigadoon,” a gathering, like the Scottish village in that 1947 musical, that comes to life once in a long while after a lengthy snooze. His co-founder, Adrienne Cooper, calls it “a flying shtetl.” But both say that over 25 years the thousands who have taken part have knitted together into a group that stays in touch year round.
If I were to say to you we’re attempting to reactivate Yiddish culture in its full form, I’d be kidding you,” Mr. Sapoznik said. “But what we’re doing here is creating a parallel universe, our own free-standing reality.”
Those who attend — and they include families and singles, children and octogenarians — hail mostly from the East Coast, but some come from much farther afield, like Germany, Denmark, England, Russia and the Netherlands. Mr. Sapoznik estimated that 15 to 20 percent of participants were not Jewish. About half are musicians hankering to hone skills with human artifacts like Pete Sokolow, 69, who as a professional musician in the fading klezmer days of the 1950s played piano with legends like the four Epstein brothers and Dave Tarras.
Still others engage in anthropology, interviewing a handful of old-timers about the children’s games they played, the curses they uttered (“You should grow like an onion with your head in the ground!”) or homespun remedies (urinate on a cut finger and wrap it in a spider web). In one class Susan Leviton introduced a lesser-known song about a mother grieving for her daughter, killed in the Triangle Waist Company factory fire of 1911, who is “wearing shrouds instead of a wedding dress.”
The dance teacher, Steve Weintraub, 55, of Oak Park, Ill., has interviewed aging immigrant dancers and studied grainy films. At KlezKamp classes and parties he has re-enacted the flashtanz — performed with a bottle on the head, to entertain a bride and groom — the merry freylekhs and the sher, an 18th-century square dance.
Everyone seems on a mission to recapture and resurrect, but the work is not just about mining the past. The musicians, for example, are inventing new melodies with a klezmer lilt but flavored with jazz, rock and even salsa.
If you're interested in attending this week, there's still time to register and get in the mood.  The conference is strictly kosher and sounds like a lot of fun.  All the registration details, cost, schedules, and advice as to what to bring and what not to bring are at the Living Traditions website.

If you want to see what the conference looks like, here's a video clip of the dancing (Patch Tantz) from KlezKamp 2009.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Michael Feinstein Follows Irving Berlin Tradition In Making December Merrier

Michael Feinstein
This is the time of year when just about the only music you hear on the radio and piping through mall speakers is Christmas music, or if you will, winter holiday music.  Not many people know that many of the most popular of these songs were written by Jewish composers.  

It's pretty well known that Irving Berlin composed White Christmas.  But did you know that the composers or lyricists of Winter Wonderland, Sleigh Ride, The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire), Silver Bells, and Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer were also Jewish?  Nate Bloom documents the details and more in an article published online in 2007.

When it comes to public performances of holiday music, there is none to compare to Michael Feinstein.

As Gregory Beyer reported in The New York Times last Saturday about the people who attend his club,
Whatever their status or provenance, they are there on a musical pilgrimage, to see a boyish, middle-aged Jewish man sing Christmas carols. The club is Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency on the Upper East Side, and the man is Michael Feinstein, the singer and pianist who has become the chief spokesman for and preservationist of the Great American Songbook. For his devoted fans, his annual holiday series, which this year features a 12-piece band and is titled “Swing in the Holidays,” is as much a Christmas season ritual as catching the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall or visiting the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
But Feinstein's musical renderings are mostly secular.  As Stephen Holden wrote in his Times review earlier this month,
But for all the shows’ seasonal trimmings, the religious aspect of Christmas is conspicuously absent. Santa Claus, mistletoe, snowy wonderlands and hopes for peace on earth proliferate, but the Nativity remains backstage.
Mr. Feinstein, being Jewish, is a good-humored champion of Hanukkah. At last week’s opening night performance of his new show, “Swing In the Holidays,” he and the 12-piece Winter Wonderland Big Band (many of his usual musicians under the direction of John Oddo) took the popular children’s ditty “I Have a Little Dreidel,” a k a “Dreidel Song,” and conjured the sound and style of an imaginary Frank Sinatra Hanukkah album.
For a taste of Feinstein's music, here he is performing a Gershwin medley.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Shifra Lerer, Comedienne, Makes Mock Chopped Liver In Funny Yiddish Video

"What am I, chopped liver?"  According to Wikipedia, this Jewish-English expression signifies frustration or anger at being ignored on a social level because the mushy gray dish may not be appreciated by everyone.

An alternate explanation for the etymology of the expression is that chopped liver was traditionally served as a side dish rather than a main course. The phrase, therefore may have originally meant to express a feeling of being overlooked, as a "side dish."

Whether or not you like chopped liver, actress-comedienne Shifra Lerer has made a funny cooking video, No Shmaltz, with Khayim Wolfe, singing and joking through preparation of falshe gehakte leber (mock chopped liver, a vegetarian dish from The Low Fat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook by Debra Wasserman.

You may have seen Lerer in our blog post last July about Shvitz --the Yiddishe Workout Video.  She is the first Argentine-born Yiddish actress to star on the American stage. She is an international actress and comedienne who has appeared on the Yiddish and English stage, and in such films as Woody Allen's "Deconstructing Harry" and Barry Levinson's "Avalon", and in the Yiddish film, "God, Man and Devil". 

On the Yiddish stage, she has appeared in productions of New York's Folksbiene Theater, and in productions with Ida Kaminska, Jacob Ben-Ami, Sygmund Turkow, and in musical theater with A. Lebedeff, Shimon Dzigan and Ben Zion Witler. She was the winner of two "Goldies" awards for best actress in 1986, and was awarded the Zhitlovsky Prize in 1989 for her artisitic contribution to the Yiddish theater.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Gefilte Fish" - A New Short Comedy Film From Israel

At the most recent Tribeca and San Francisco Jewish Film Festivals, a short (10 minutes) comedy titled Gefilte Fish was screened.  The Israeli film by Shelly Kling-Yosef, in Hebrew with English subtitles, is about a bride trying to reconcile her family's tradition with her own feelings.

Gali's family has a long-lasting tradition. Every budding bride must prepare gefilte fish for the wedding party, to guarantee a successful marriage. When Gali's mother and grandmother give her a living carp to cook, Gali is torn between her need to follow tradition and her sympathy for the fish. 

This isn't the first time we've blogged about gefilte fish and live carp.  Back in January we reported on an influx of live carp in Lake Michigan and reflected on Barbara Cohen's classic children's book, The Carp in the Bathtub, which comes to mind in viewing this new film.  Then in August, we posted a video of a Montreal Bubby preparing gefilte fish from scratch while narrating the process in Yiddish.  And just last month we posted a review and trailer of Graters of the Lost Carp, an Indiana Jones parody about the search for a long lost gefilte fish recipe.

In the video below, we present the entire new film Gefilte Fish, not just the trailer.  So take a ten minute break, sit back, and laugh a little.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Jewish Faces in Unexpected Places: A Tiny Spark Flickers In Indonesia

Indonesia is one of the last places you'd expect to find a Jewish community.  But there is one, in Manado, one of the most remote cities in the far-flung country, and it's hanging on, but just barely.  

Last month The New York Times ran an article describing how a tiny spark of Judaism is flickering in Manado, a small city  that's always been more tolerant of minorities than Indonesia's more populated cities.  The article is worth reading because it shows how the efforts of a few dedicated people are changing attitudes in the country with the largest Muslim population in the world.  

How are a few families who embraced the faith of their Dutch Jewish ancestors making their presence felt in Indonesia?  By forming a very unusual coalition -- with a local legislator, tourism advocates, evangelical Christians, and a Chabad rabbi from Singapore, about 1500 miles away.

As Norimitsu Onishi reported last month in The New York Times,
A new, 62-foot-tall menorah, possibly the world’s largest, rises from a mountain overlooking this Indonesian city, courtesy of the local government. Flags of Israel can be spotted on motorcycle taxi stands, one near a six-year-old synagogue that has received a face-lift, including a ceiling with a large Star of David, paid for by local officials.

Long known as a Christian stronghold and more recently as home to evangelical and charismatic Christian groups, this area on the fringes of northern Indonesia has become the unlikely setting for increasingly public displays of pro-Jewish sentiments as some people have embraced the faith of their Dutch Jewish ancestors. With the local governments’ blessing, they are carving out a small space for themselves in the sometimes strangely shifting religious landscape of Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population. 
Jewish music has somehow found its way into this country, and we bring you an example in this video of Indonesians singing Hevenu Shalom Aleichem.  But that's only the first three minutes of the video.  Go any further and you'll find yourself in the middle of Christmas music.  Enjoy! 

(A tip of the kippah to Eita Latkin for calling this story to our attention.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

22-Year-Old Jasmine Einalhori Wins Title In Next Great Kosher Chef Competition

Kosher cooking.  Yum.  We all do it, and we think we're pretty good at it.  At Jewish Humor Central, we've featured Food-Network-Wannabe-Chefs including a few Bubbes and a Bride-Who-Knew-Nothing making meatballs, gefilte fish, and latkes.  Now it's time to get serious...and professional.

Last Sunday, The Jewish Daily Forward and The New York Times were among the press that covered the finals of The Next Great Kosher Chef competition, sponsored by The Center for Kosher Culinary Arts, a Brooklyn-based school for kosher cooking. 

Hundreds of applicants sent in videos and essays.  Ten were picked for interviews, and three made it to the finals on Sunday.  The grand prize, a scholarship for a 152-hour training course, worth $5,000, was won by 22-year-old Jasmine Einalhori, from Los Angeles.  

As Itta Werdiger-Roth reported in The Jewish Daily Forward
At 8 A.M. Sunday morning they began a written exam, with questions covering a variety of related topics such as “What temperature does water boil in Denver, Colorado? (answer; 203 F because of the different atmospheric pressure of a higher altitude.) A series of five surprise culinary challenges (julienne carrots, scale a fish and whip eggwhites to a stiff peak for example) followed. Then the competition culminated in a cook-off. 
Contestants were given a “surprise box” of chicken thighs, acorn squash, yellow summer squash and a selection of other produce and grains, and asked to create a main dish with two sides.
Each dish was tasted by the three “celebrity guest” judges: Elan Kornblum, editor and publisher of Great Kosher Restaurants Magazine, Jamie Geller, author of Quick and Kosher: Recipes from the Bride Who Knew Nothing, and Seth Warshaw, chef/owner of ETC Steakhouse in Teaneck, NJ.
For her prize-winning dish, Einalhori sprinkled her plate with tumeric and paprika, adding vibrant color before covering it with thyme roasted chicken, large thinly sliced pieces of acorn squash and a rice dish.
One of the questions on the written exam asked the contestants to pick the kosher animal from the following list:  zebra, hare, giraffe, camel. (The correct answer:  giraffe).

To see Jasmine Einalhori, the Next Great Kosher Chef, in action in her kitchen, take a look at the video that she submitted to the competition.  Contestants were asked to submit videos of egg dishes, and Einalhori's choice was a "fake bacon" (salami), egg and guacamole sandwich.  We're having it for lunch tomorrow.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Barney's Version": Mordecai Richler's Novel Hits The Big Screen With An All-Star Cast

Mordecai Richler was one of Canada's most beloved novelists.  He is best known in the USA as the author of the novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, which was made into a movie in 1974 starring Richard Dreyfuss. 

His last novel, Barney's Version, is the basis for a new film which is being released in January.  It played a limited week-long engagement earlier this month in New York and Los Angeles, probably to qualify for the Oscar nominations.

The role of Barney is played by Paul Giamatti, and the film also stars Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver, and Rosamund Pike.

As Charles McGrath reported in The New York Times last month,
For some unaccountable reason Richler, who died in 2001, was immensely popular in Italy, where was last novel, “Barney’s Version,”was a best seller. And in his native Canada he was a national institution, cherished because of the way he indiscriminately poked fun at Canadians in general, but especially the Jews, the French separatists and the Anglophile nationalists, who were locked in mutual antagonism.
The title character, Barney Panofsky, is in some ways an exaggeration of Richler himself: rumpled, opinionated, cigar puffing, Scotch sipping. And into the book, which is written in the first person, he poured all his passions and preoccupations: hockey, literature, Montreal bars, Canadian politics.
The novel has not one but two narrative spines. A murder mystery, involving the suspicious disappearance of Barney’s best friend, Boogie Moscovitch, is interwoven with a history of Barney’s three marriages: to a Bohemian painter in Paris, to a screeching Jewish princess from Montreal and to an almost idealized shiksa whom he falls in love with at his wedding to Wife No. 2. (Something like this really did happen to Richler himself.) 
The script, by Michael Konyves, inevitably compresses some parts of the novel and omits others, but it also expands on the text. His version of Barney’s second wedding — at which Barney’s father, Izzy, a retired Montreal cop, gets drunk and tells dirty stories to the rabbi’s wife — is longer and more elaborate than the original. And he fleshes out the character of Barney’s third wife, Miriam, who in the book is an almost ethereal, disembodied presence, so that she, or Barney’s affection for her, becomes the fulcrum of the whole story. 
Early reviews have been positive, so this is one you might want to see in January, or wait for its DVD release and availability on Netflix.  In the meantime, enjoy the trailer!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tefilin Again Cause Terrorist Scare, This Time On New Zealand Ferry

Last January, An airplane headed from LaGuardia Airport to Louisville made an emergency landing in Philadelphia International Airport because a 17-year-old student from White Plains was putting on his tefilin before saying his morning prayers on the plane.  The student was questioned by airline personnel, who thought that the black leather boxes and straps were a bomb that the student was strapping on.  

The incident got a lot of publicity, and probably made it easier for observant airline passengers to go about their business without a hassle.  But apparently the word didn't travel to New Zealand, where a "tefilin bomb" was spotted on Sunday aboard the inter-island ferry and caused a terror scare.

As Mary Longmore reported in the NZHerald,
A devout Israeli tourist aboard the Interisland ferry Kaitaki sparked a bomb scare and police armed offenders' alert today after the ship's captain spotted boxes and what looked like wires taped to the man.
"One individual had two boxes attached, one box taped to his leg and one box seemingly taped to his forehead," Kiwirail spokesman Kevin Ramshaw told NZPA.
Jewish websites describe a traditional prayer ritual where a small black leather box called a "tefillin" containing verses from the bible is taped to the arm and forehead.
"These may well have been part of religious observance, but to people who are involved in the travel business, there were what seemed to be wires attached to them."
Mr Ramshaw said the captain then followed normal procedure by notifying police of his suspicions, sparking an armed offenders' alert in Picton.  The crew then spent a nervous three hours closely observing the man as they sailed the Cook Strait, to avoid mass panic.
Here's a video report from New Zealand TV about the incident, followed by a video report from the Philadelphia incident earlier this year.  Note that in the Philadelphia interview, the Chief Inspector refers to the tefilin as an "olfactory."  Well, that smells about right.  The English term for tefilin is "phylactery."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Comedians Elon Gold And Mark Schiff To Perform In Englewood Saturday Night December 18

Elon Gold
Mark Schiff
If you're going to be in Bergen County, New Jersey this Saturday night, December 18, and want to spend the evening laughing  a lot, the place to be is Congregation Ahavat Torah in Englewood.  

Elon Gold and Mark Schiff, two of the funniest stand-up comics around, will put on a double header comedy show at 8:30 pm.  Tickets are available online or at the synagogue office at 240 Broad Avenue.

We've featured Elon Gold in previous posts.  He was the first comedian that we highlighted in our blog a year ago and again this past June in his role hosting the Chabad telethons.  Here's a video clip of his funny routine about accents.

Mark Schiff has headlined in all the major casinos and clubs across the country and has appeared many times on both The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with David Letterman. He has had both HBO and Showtime specials, and has been the featured act at the Montreal Comedy Festival.

Mark has also appeared live with Jay Leno and has been touring with Jerry Seinfeld for the last seven years.

Perhaps Mark's greatest gift besides being hysterical is his ability to stay current without resorting to foul language that is so rampant today. After each show, people always say to Mark "it's refreshing to see someone that does not have to resort to four letter words".

Here's a collection of funny moments with Mark Schiff.  If you can't be in Englewood to see Schiff and Gold live this weekend, then take a few minutes to enjoy these videos.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Meet Alla Axelrod, Pianist and Satirist, Singing Her "I Own A Deli" Song

Alla Axelrod is a New Jersey-based pianist who composed and performs a hilarious send-up of Barry Manilow's "I Write the Songs" called "I Own a Deli, I'm a Jew".  

The combination of her Russian-accented voice and the funny slides will have you watching over and over, and sharing the video with your friends.  And it will probably send you to your local deli to order some overstuffed corned beef and pastrami sandwiches with matzo ball soup.

Alla's talent extends beyond song parodies.  She performs at cocktail hours, corporate events, bar and bat mitzvahs and weddings. 

She holds an MA in Piano, Composition and Music Theory/History and has been entertaining on American stages for the past 30 years.

Her repertoire is vast and impressive, including over 1000 songs, varying from Classical, Jazz, Ragtime, American Standards, Broadway, Oldies, International Favorites, Blues, Rock, and Movie Tunes. 

Here is the video of "I Own a Deli," followed by a video of Alla introducing herself with a brief biographical sketch.

Just in case you don't remember Manilow's original version of "I Write the Songs" we found a clip of it on YouTube and here it is for you to enjoy again.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Animated Battle Of The Cliches: Texas Businessman Meets Orthodox Rabbi

One of the hottest new tools in online video technology is text-to-speech with animation.  The technique is being promoted by a company called xtranormal.  Their funny videos have gone viral on the internet.  On Decmber 1 we posted a dvar Torah with Sarah Palin and Larry King, using a YouTube video created with xtranormal.

Here's another one we found yesterday.  It depicts an encounter between a foul-mouthed Texas businessman and a kvetchy rabbi.  Both spout cliches common to their respective cultures.  Most of the fun comes from listening to the odd pronunciations of the Yiddish and Hebrew words that are most likely not in the dictionary, with the text-to-movie software having to guess how to pronounce words (usually incorrectly) like chutzpah, shlemiel, shmendrik, verklempt, mazel tov, schlub, and tuches.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Only In Israel: Bloopers, Misspellings, And Funny Pictures

A groom taking a cell phone call under the chuppah.
A parked camel in a row of parked cars.
A graphic sign for a boy's urinal.
A sign in Hebrew:  Piece of cake or Piss off kike?
A tallit bag embroidered with initials spelling Schmuck.
A street sign for Hardon Lane.
A yahrtzeit candle vending machine.
Six children in Santa Claus costumes in Mea Shearim.
Spiderman and Shtreimel-wearing Chassidim at the Western Wall.
Apple flavored Durex condoms with honey for Rosh Hashana.

What do these funny images have in common?  They were posted on YouTube yesterday as scenes making up a fast-moving two minute video showing some of the unexpected and hilarious signs and sights you'll encounter if you keep your eyes open for them when you travel in Israel.

These funny pictures and mistakes in English and Hebrew signs were taken by Mirjam Weiss and collected from Facebook by Zvi Levran.

Don't blink while watching this video or you'll miss some of the funniest moments.  This is one that you'll want to view a few times to catch all of the details.  Enjoy!