Sunday, January 31, 2010

Comedy Showcase: Meet Joel Chasnoff -- Stand-up Comedy In English and Hebrew

Not too many stand-up comics can deliver a set of jokes on late-night television shows in English and in Hebrew, too.  Joel Chasnoff has shown that he can deliver on both counts.

Chasnoff interrupted his career as a comedian to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces for a year.  His new book describing his experiences, The 188th Crybaby Brigade, will be published on February 9.
The book is a hilarious coming-of-age tale in which Chasnoff takes readers into the barracks, across international borders, over, under, and through political fences, and face-to-face with the absurd reality of life in the Israeli Army.

The lone American in a platoon of 18-year-old Israelis, Chasnoff finds himself caught in a twilight zone-like world of baby-faced officers, diabolical sergeants, and teenage Israeli mama’s boys who feign injuries to get out of guard duty and claim diarrhea to avoid kitchen work. And all while Joel’s relationship with his tough-as-nails Israeli girlfriend (herself a former drill sergeant) crumbles before his very eyes.
You can see him in New York at the Yeshiva University Seforim Sale performing stand-up comedy on Wednesday, February 10 and reading from his new book on Saturday night, February 13.  He will also appear in Boca Raton on Wednesday, February 24 at the Hillel Day School.

Here are a few samples of Chasnoff's comic routines.  First, his experience getting his tefillin inspected at an airport (yes, this was a few years ago, before the tefillin incident last week aboard a Louisville-bound flight.) 

Friday, January 29, 2010

Tu B'Shvat Around The World: Groundhog Day Reflections, A Walk Through Mahane Yehuda Market, Belz Chasidim Apple Toss and Shoving Match (Where's Waldo?)

Chag Sameach!  Tonight and tomorrow we celebrate Tu B'Shvat.  As we commented earlier this week, this least known Jewish holiday is really fun.  No prohibitions that we know of, only eating, drinking, reciting a Tu B'Shvat Haggadah.  Seems like a great way to get ready for Purim, only one month away, and Pesach, only two months away.

Surfing the web, we found some fun ways that Tu B'Shvat is celebrated around the world and we'd like to share them with you.

Singer/songwriter Carol Boyd Leon reflects on the timing of Tu B'Shvat and Groundhog Day - on the hopes for spring expressed as Americans gather in Punxatawney, PA to see if the groundhog won't see its shadow, and hopes for new growth as Israelis plant seedlings.

Her song Groundhog Noses was recorded in 2004 on her Gan Shirim (A Garden of Songs) double album which includes 70 original songs that teach about Jewish holidays, values and more through fun.   
To get in the holiday spirit as we buy dates, figs, and nuts from our local supermarket, let's take a stroll through Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market and see what is probably the world's biggest display of Tu B'Shvat delicacies.

Last year, at Belz headquarters, what looks like thousands of chasidim gathered for a Tu B'Shvat tish with their rebbe.  The scene, posted on YouTube, shows the rebbe at a table in the center of the large hall.  Throngs of followers sit in the bleachers, grabbing apples and other food thrown at them from the floor below. (Where's Waldo?  He's really in the photo -- can you find him?)  

Check out the video below for some good apple catches and a shoving match (at 2:40 in the 6:18 minute video) between some of the participants.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Israelis Caught Posing As Maori Tribesmen To Entertain New Zealand Tourists

Israelis living in New Zealand, vacationing backpackers, and trained dancers have been impersonating Maori tribesmen and performing their war chants to entertain tourists on ships arriving in New Zealand.

Instead of employing Maori, the tour company Discovery Heritage Group, based in the North Island city of Tauranga, paid resident Israelis, backpackers visiting from Israel and France and trained Israeli dancers to dress up in feathered robes, draw tattoos in pen on their faces and go aboard cruise ships when they pulled into the North Island port of Tauranga.

The tour operator's deception was caught, and it has been banned from the Port of Tauranga after rival companies complained it hired foreign workers to wear traditional Maori dress.

Writing in the New Zealand Herald, Anna Rushworth says:
Company director Terina Puriri said she employed a range of nationalities, including French and Israelis, because local Maori were not willing to promote their heritage.
Port of Tauranga commercial manager Graeme Marshall said the group was removed because of a security breach. "The representation of who came through the gate into the port did not match up with their identification."
But, even with the correct paperwork, the group may not be allowed back.
The other issues ... to be taken into account would be the authenticity of what they're representing," said Marshall, who feared the port could receive "international condemnation" if non-Maori were representing Maori culture.  Using non-Maori posing as Maori was an insult to Maori nationwide, he said.
Maoris haven't been going to war for a long time, but their fierce chant and dance has found its way onto the rugby field, where the New Zealand team, called the All Blacks, perform it at their games.  Israeli rugby players have adopted the chant.  The All Blacks name comes from the all-black uniforms the team started wearing in 1905.

If you haven't seen the Maoris perform the Haka, their traditional war dance and chant, it's worth seeing.  Following is a video clip of a performance for tourists in New Zealand.   We don't know if any of these are Israelis, but just below is another clip of Israelis practicing the Haka to scare off their opponents on a rugby field in Eilat.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It's Time To Hug A Tree: Tu B'Shvat Starts Friday Night

Tu B'Shvat, the fifteenth day of the Jewish month of Shvat, falls on Shabbat, January 29-30 this year.  The holiday is known as Jewish Arbor Day and as the New Year for trees.

It is customary to eat fruits on this day, especially fruits from Israel.  This includes figs, dates, oranges, pomegranates, and persimmons (afarsimonim).  All are available at most supermarkets or gourmet groceries.

Trees have been very important to Israel from its earliest beginnings.  From the tree of knowledge of good and evil described in Genesis to the eucalyptus trees planted in the Huleh Valley to drain the swamps and make much of the land inhabitable early in the 20th century, trees have always been part of Jewish life.

Yaakov Kirschen, the political cartoonist whose daily Dry Bones comic strips have appeared in The Jerusalem Post since January 1973, is using his talents to highlight the value of trees to everyone, and especially to the Jewish people, throughout the millennia.

In addition to his cartoons, which are also published in his daily blog, Kirschen has written a book in comic book format, Trees...The Green Testament, that illustrates the history of the world as narrated by a tree.  The tree, from its days as a seed and a sapling, observes and comments on world events from its own perspective.

The book is out of print, but new and used copies are available through online booksellers including  It's really worth finding and reading.

Tu B'Shvat is a time for singing, feasting, and rejoicing.  So here's a video tribute to this least known but very enjoyable holiday.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Classic Joke To Start Your Day: The Butler

The Shapiros, a Jewish couple living in England, won twenty million pounds in the National Lottery. They  immediately set out to begin a life of luxury.

They bought a magnificent mansion in Knightsbridge and surrounded themselves with  all the material wealth imaginable.
Then they decided to hire a  butler.

They found the perfect butler through an agency, very proper and very British, and brought him back to their home. The day after his arrival, they instructed him to set up  the dining room table for four, as they were inviting the Cohens to  lunch. The couple then left the house to do some shopping.

When  they returned, they found the table set for  eight. They asked the butler why eight, when they had specifically instructed him to set the table for four.

The butler replied, "The Cohens telephoned and said they were bringing the Blintzes and the  Knishes."

A tip of the kippah to Linda Englander for bringing this joke to our attention.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Seinfeld's Blabbing Rabbi Suggested To NBC For Late Night Talk Show

Writing in Philadelphia's Jewish Exponent this week, Arts and Entertainment Editor Michael Elkin suggests that NBC can solve it's late-night talk show host problem by hiring Seinfeld's blabbing, lashon hara-speaking Rabbi Kirschbaum (or is his name really Rabbi Glickman?) to take over the contested TV spot.

Why pay so much money to Jay Leno or Conan O'Brien when you can have Seinfeld's rabbi?  

After all, he'd be just as good at spreading gossip and betraying confidences, and he has experience as star of a late-night cable TV advice show.  The rabbi who can't keep a secret was a highlight of episode 112 of Seinfeld, which aired on Sept. 28, 1995. 

As Elkin writes, 
Not since Bishop Fulton Sheen and his Life Is Worth Living, airing opposite Milton Berle in the '50s, has there been a man of the cloth whose ecumenical excellence could pulverize ratings from the proscenium/pulpit.
With his concern for Elaine's welfare and effort to put her at ease ("Can I offer you some kasha varnishkes?") after word gets out -- actually the rebbe is the one who leaked it -- that she was jealous of George getting married, it's easy to see how the affable if ineffectual chatterbox rebbe may just be the one to slip into those 11:35 p.m. slippers that seem suddenly too outsized for others.

Remember how Carson's comments could cause headlines the next day, his Tonight Show quips and cracks wickedly funny water-cooler fodder?

Just give Glickman a golf putter and watch him become the nation's new yenta.

H-e-r-e's -- Rebbe!

Check out the episode highlight below and decide if the rabbi is a contender for the Tonight Show!
A tip of the kippah to David Weitz for bringing this story to our attention.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Classic Joke To Start Your Day: Fornication

One day Jason comes home from school, goes straight to his father and asks, "Dad, what is fornication?".  Jason gets the same answer all Jewish fathers give: "Why don't you ask your mother, son?"

So Jason goes into the kitchen and asks his mother, "Mom, what is fornication? Dad said you would know."

His mother replies, "I'm busy right now Jason, why don't you go and ask your bubbe? She will tell you."

So Jason goes upstairs to his bubbe's room, knocks on her door and shouts, "Please, Bubbe, what is fornication? No one here seems to know. "

Bubbe says, "Come inside, tatteleh."

She then takes him to her closet, opens the door, takes out a beautiful full-length pink, beaded evening dress and says, "Now, this, tatteleh, is foranoccasion!"

A tip of the kippah to Marsha in Texas at for this one. 
Clip art copyright by www.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Israeli Army Under Attack - The Enemy? Rugelach and Bourekas

The Israel Defense Forces are actively engaged in a fierce battle against chubbiness.  Rugelach and bourekas served at army meetings are being blamed for attacks on the soldiers' health and fitness. 

In a report, Yossi Yehoshua writes:
Head of the IDF's Combat Fitness Division, Dr. Avi Moyal, said he wants to put an end to this problem; in recent days, Moyal distributed a special document among commanders where he  urged them to change things in the IDF by educating soldiers on healthy lifestyles and encouraging them to make changes to the refreshment menus being offered in military bureaus.
According to Moyal, the rugelach and other kinds of pastries – which have been traditionally served in the IDF for years – must be replaced with lighter items such as fresh fruit and vegetables. Moyal noted that the senior commanders at the General Staff should set an example to the lower military echelons.
Two weeks ago bourekas and pastries were removed from Israel's cabinet meetings and replaced with fresh fruits and granola.  The army decided to follow suit. 

We at Jewish Humor Central think it's a shame to deny Israeli soldiers rugelach, probably the greatest incentive to attend meetings in the first place.  Why couldn't they just ask them to limit their consumption?

If you agree, but haven't had the pleasure of making and eating fresh-made rugelach, we present a quick and easy recipe and technique in this video from the Culinary Institute of America.  Here's a link to the recipe.  

Click on the image below to watch rugelach being prepared by a graduate of the CIA.  No, not the Central Intelligence Agency, the Culinary Institute of America.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Carp In the Bathtub Updated: Gefilte Fish DNA Discovered In Lake Michigan

What a week!  First, the giant house-building spider discovered in Israel, and now, giant gefilte fish in Lake Michigan. 

One of our favorite children's books, especially around Passover, was Barbara Cohen's The Carp in the Bathtub.  The story, set in the 1930's or 1940's, revolved around two children who attempted to save a carp destined to become gefilte fish from its inevitable fate.  The book is a classic, and is still available in bookstores.

According to stories in the New York Times and newspapers around the country, DNA of the giant, leaping Asian carp has been found in a river less than a half-mile from Lake Michigan.  Conservationists and fishermen alike worry that the carp -- voracious eaters that grow to 100 pounds and 4 feet long -- could forever change the ecosystems of the Great Lakes if they take hold.

The Times reports:
Experts said the most recent findings, from Calumet Harbor and the Calumet River, could mean that the carp has found its way beyond an elaborate barrier system built at the cost of millions of dollars to prevent the fish’s access to the Great Lakes and its delicate ecosystem, where it has no natural competitors and would threaten the life of native fish populations.
Gefilte fish is made from a combination of carp, whitefish, and pike.  Sometimes only one or two of these species are used, but carp has been the traditional choice in recipes that came over here from Eastern Europe.  We're waiting for a report that giant whitefish and pike have also been sighted or their DNA identified.  Then we'll all have a zeesen Pesach.

The carp are so aggressive that they actually leap at fisherman and have given some of them black and blue marks from the impact when they attack.  If you don't believe this, take a look at this video:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Comedy Showcase: Meet Dan Ahdoot - He's Iranian, He's Jewish, and He's Funny

 Last month we introduced Comedy Showcase -- a feature that will periodically introduce you to a Jewish stand-up comedian, as a break from the funny real stories that are the basis for many of our posts.
A stand-up comic who is both Jewish and Iranian, Dan Ahdoot went to college at Johns Hopkins University and graduated with honors as a premed student. Shortly thereafter, he decided to take the secure route and ditch medicine for comedy.

Dan has been featured on The Jay Leno Show and Comedy Central’s Premium Blend and was a guest at the Comedy Central South Beach Comedy Festival. Dan was a finalist on Season 2 of NBCs Last Comic Standing.

He has written for MTV’s Short Circuits, Comedy Central’s Crank Yankers, and A&E’s Roast of Gene Simmons. He has opened for Lewis Black, Jay Mohr, and Patton Oswalt. He has been featured on ABCs 20/20, the 98.7 KISS FM Morning Comedy Special, and he is a regular on Jim Brueur’s radio show Unleashed, on Sirius Satellite.

In addition, Dan is one of the highest booked college acts in the country - performing at well over 300 colleges. He also performs at corporate events for a variety of companies and organizations.

Here's a video clip of Dan's recent appearance on the Jay Leno Show.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fiddler On The Roof Returns Home To Anatevka (Actually Riga, Latvia)

Last September, concertgoers in Riga, Latvia, were treated to a choral and orchestral performance that included a suite from Fiddler on the Roof, including Sunrise, Sunset, Anatevka, and If I Were a Rich Man.

Sung by soloists Zev Shulman and Gia Beshitaishvily with the Moscow Male Jewish Choir, Hasidic Cappella, and an orchestra conducted by Alexander Tsaliuk, the performance seems specially fitting because it was held so close to where pogroms took place all over Russia and Eastern Europe around 1905, the year in which the Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick play was set.  

Hasidic Cappella is Russia's leading Jewish a cappella choral ensemble. The choir’s singers are all professional musicians – students and teachers at Moscow Tchaikovsky State Conservatory and other leading musical institutes in the capital – who have performed in the city’s most acclaimed choral groups. 

They are united by their commitment to introducing listeners to the beauty of Jewish liturgical and cantorial music -- music that has been forgotten and remains unknown to even the most educated lovers of music. The choir’s extensive repertory includes Jewish liturgical music, songs in Yiddish and Hebrew, Russian folk songs, and classics of world music. The choir is one of the few recognized professional Jewish academic musical groups in the world and the only one in Russia. 

So click on the image below and enjoy the performance.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Kosher Cheerleader: A Truish, Jewish Love Story Now On Tour

Sandy Wolshin, a cheerleader for the NFL Raiders for five years, decided one day to trade her pom-poms and hot pants for long skirts and Orthodox Judaism.

She turned her life story into a hilarious two-act play, The Kosher Cheerleader, that takes theatergoers on a personal journey filled with wacky stories and lively song and dance. 

Sandy plays herself, and she plays a medley of characters from her colorful life story, revealing fond memories of her castanet-playing gypsy mother, her Jewish borscht-belt-entertainer father, her five siblings, and a childhood-dream-come-true of being an NFL Raiderette.

As Nathan Burstein reports in The Forward
The daughter of a Russian Orthodox mother and a “practicing Jewish atheist” father, Wolshin didn’t find her way to Orthodox Judaism until after her professional cheerleading career ended, but she says that her father’s religious background helped her bond with other Jewish cheerleaders during her time in the NFL.
“We would make jokes,” she recalled, “about our relatives saying, ‘Cheerleading, shmeerleading. The owner’s wife, that’s the job for a Jewish girl.’”
"I want to cheer for something bigger than football," she says. 

 Our readers in sunny Arizona and Florida can see this show before it makes its way up north, with plans in process for a staging in New York this summer.

Now playing through January 24 at the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company in Phoenix, the show moves to the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on April 20 for a six day run.

Here is a preview of the show.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

World Famous Cantors Go Neapolitan

Chaim Adler is the Chief Cantor at Jerusalem's Great Synagogue and formerly Chief Cantor at the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv.  Yitzchak Meir Helfgot is the Chief Cantor at the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan.  Colin Schachat, formerly a cantor in Johannesburg, is a baritone living in Israel with a vast repertoire of cantorial and operatic arias. 

Last summer, all three performed at a benefit cantorial concert entitled "Great Voices of the Jewish World" accompanied by the Tel Aviv Cantorial Institute Chorus under the direction of Marc Temerlis, with accompanist and musical arranger Raymond Goldstein.

So what happens when you put all three together?  Something surprising and beautiful, namely the most popular Neapolitan song in the world.  Enjoy!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bamba, Israel's Most Popular Snack For Kids, Goes After Adults With Halvah Version

Bamba, the ever-present packaged peanut butter flavored snack that is the most popular nosh for kids in Israel,  will start to appear in a few weeks in an adult version with a halvah filling.

The Osem company, which launched the original Bamba as a cheese-flavored snack in 1963, quickly changed the flavor to peanut butter in 1964 after a focus group of children in Holon expressed a strong preference for the peanut flavor.

Now, after becoming an integral part of Israeli culture, and nourishing two generations of Israelis, Osem is launching a halvah-filled version to appeal to adult tastes.  It will join a nougat version which debuted two years ago in honor of Israel's 60th birthday.

Bamba and the Bamba baby are so much a part of the Israeli culture that Osem created a tongue-in-cheek historical retrospective that places the Bamba baby at the center of all major events since the founding of the state in 1948.  Click below to see it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

In Israel, Even A Spider Has A Yiddishe Kop

Biologists at the University of Haifa have discovered a giant spider in the Negev desert. The spider, named Cervalus Aravensis, with a legspan of almost six inches, and about a foot long overall, is said to be the biggest spider in the Middle East.

But size is not the only thing that's unique about this nocturnal giant arachnid.  It seems to be expert in home construction.  It builds underground dens that are sealed off with a lifting door made of sand particles glued together to camouflage the living quarters.  Considering the state of technology in Israel, it wouldn't surprise us if it used nanotechnology and electronics to open and close the door with a remote control.  Now, if its yiddishe kop could be used to build settlements, things could get really interesting.

The spider lives in sand dunes at Samar in a one square mile area of the southern Arava desert.  Because of increased use of the once larger sand dunes for agriculture and mining, the spider's habitat is shrinking, making the newly discovered creature one of the newest endangered species.  So if it started building settlements, anyone who wanted to stop it would be interfering with the habitat of an endangered species.  Now, who would want to do that?   

Photo by Yael Olek/University of Haifa

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

At Last: A Kosher Varietal Wine That Tells It Like It Is

Ever since kosher wines started to appear in bottles with corks instead of screw caps, vintners have strived to present their offerings as the ultimate in sophistication and snob appeal.

Labels on the backs of bottles have mimicked the serving suggestions of the finest, most expensive wines from France.  Typical of these are:

Complements fish, veal, and chicken dishes.
 Pairs well with beef, duck, or chicken.
 Serve with cheese or light desserts.
Enjoy with poultry, veal, or sauteed dishes. 
 Perfect choice as an aperitif.
 Best served with full flavored beef, veal, or chicken dishes.

Now, along comes Byblos, an Argentinian product of the Abarbanel Wine Company, and tells it like it is:  Very nice with brisket, Hungarian stuffed cabbage and kugels.  

Kol HaKavod, Byblos.  We can hardly wait for a Riesling that's fit to serve with gefilte fish and a Pinot Noir that will pair well with chopped liver, kishke, chulent, and p'tcha.  L'Chayim!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Off-The-Wall Comedy Basement: How They Do Stand-up Comedy In Jerusalem

If you're visiting Israel and missing stand-up comedy, get yourself over to 34 Ben Yehuda Street in the city center for a night of laughter with Israeli and American comics.

According to the writeup at, it took an American to make Jerusalem to become the home of a comedy club.

David Kilimnick, an American from Rochester, New York quickly became the biggest star of English-language Jerusalem stand-up with a series of family-friendly stand-up routines touching on immigration from the West to Israel, the struggle to find a wife, and, of course, religion.

The material presented by Off the Wall's stable of comics is pretty safe; comics working blue, or those mining bleaker comedic veins, are more of a Tel Aviv sort of thing.

Off the Wall focuses mostly on English stand-up, with English open mic on Mondays, but on Thursday nights the microphone is handed off to the natives. Check their website for a complete listing of showtimes. The club is located underground; access is from the stairs in the plaza in front of the Ha'Mashbir mall.

In the video clips that follow, David Kilimnick does his stand-up routine about Jewish Holidays, Singles, and the Kotel, and ISRAEL21c reports on the Off the Wall experience.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Chabad Group in Australia Turns Fast Day Into Feast Day And Gets Excommunicated

Two weeks ago, on the Fast of the tenth day of Tevet, Asara b'Tevet, which we wrote about on December 28, a group of Chabad Chasidim in Melbourne, Australia, decided it was time to act on their belief that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, was indeed the Moshiach (Messiah).

According to tradition, when the Moshiach arrives, all fast days will be turned into holidays.  The rebbe, who died on June 12, 1994, never claimed to be the Moshiach,  and only encouraged his followers to do good deeds to bring on the Messianic Age and build the Third Temple.  But a hard core of followers maintained the belief that he himself was the Moshiach and launched a movement, known as the Meshichist movement, to convince the world of that fact.

Believing that Messianic times have arrived, the Melbourne group staged a feast complete with singing, dancing and special blessings on the very day that Jews all around the world, including most Chabad Chassidim, were fasting to commemorate the day that the walls of the First Temple were breached by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar in 588 B.C.E.

Yesterday Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Telsner, head of Chabad of Melbourne, placed the group in Cherem (excommunication).  As reported by Yeshiva World News, which printed the full text of Rabbi Telsner's letter, he wrote:
"I find it necessary to rule that until the perpetrators of these deeds stand before a Beis Din of three Rabbonim, and seek forgiveness and correction of that which they have done, they are to be ostracized by all members of the community. They cannot be counted as part of a minyan (for davening) or mezuman (for bentsching), and one may not answer Amen after their Brochos. They cannot be given an Aliyah to the Torah or honoured with any other Mitzvah (see Shulchan Oruch, Yoreh Deah Ch. 334 Para 2). Similarly, one should not speak to them or have any business dealings with them."
What seemed to anger the Melbourne Chabad leadership most was that the Meshichists publicized their festive celebration of the fast-turned-feast by broadcasting it on the Internet in a YouTube video, which you can see below, implying that such behavior is highly commendable and is connected with the coming of the Moshiach.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


As we begin a new year, we thought it would be a good time to restate our mission at Jewish Humor Central to our growing number of subscribers and regular readers.

We have been searching for Jewish humor on the Internet ever since the Internet began. You would think that with so many Jewish comedians doing stand-up, TV, and films, there would be an infinite number of web sites with high quality Jewish humor.  Well, there aren't.

Sure, you'll find some sites with old Jewish jokes, books of Jewish humor included in Amazon's collection, and some hilarious YouTube videos, but you're unlikely to find a single web site that reports regularly on lots of funny things that are happening now in the Jewish world, and also comments on a wide variety of things Jewish that bring a grin, smile, chuckle, laugh, or guffaw to readers.

That's our mission for Jewish Humor Central. We will be posting Jewish humor in the following categories: Jokes,  stories, parodies, satire, legends, books, films, Unbelievable But True, and In the News. Some will be new, and some will be classics. We'll include our own comments, but generally rely on the links to tell their own story.

Occasionally, a post won't be really funny, but thought provoking.  Tomorrow's post is an example of this -- watch for it.

We intend to include items from religious and secular sources representing all Jewish denominations, and we will try to keep the site family-friendly.  Any perceived slight to any group or subgroup will be unintentional, but we cannot guarantee that people without a sense of humor will not be offended by anything we post or link to.

It's our pleasure to help you start your day with a smile, or provoke a Jewish thought.  Please feel free to post your comments or send us an email at any time to let us know if you think we're living up to our stated mission or if you would like to see any changes to the site. 

Hummus War Expands: Team Of Jewish And Arab Israeli Chefs Demolish Previous Lebanese Guinness Record

Last October we wrote about a two-ton dish of hummus prepared by Lebanese chefs that captured the Guinness Book of World Records title of biggest hummus dish from the previous record holder, Israel.

This week, a team of Jewish and Arab Israeli chefs, working at the Hummus Restaurant in Abu Ghosh, a suburb of Jerusalem, trounced the previous record by creating a dish twice as big as the Lebanese dish.

Weighing in at over four tons -- the same as four average family cars -- the ingredients of this monster dip include 2.5 tons of chickpeas, 1.5 of techina (sesame paste), hundreds of freshly squeezed lemons, and a vat of crushed garlic.

There was so much hummus that the only "bowl" able to hold the ocean of dip was a satellite dish six meters in diameter, provided by a local telecommunications company.

A Guinness representative was on hand to present an official certificate to Jawdat Ibrahim, proprietor of Mis'adat Abu Gosh, his popular hummus restaurant in the town.

Ibrahim, a proud Israeli and proud son of Abu Gosh, has devoted his life and is investing his considerable fortune in the prospect of Jewish-Arab coexistence in Israel.  He became a millionaire by winning the Illinois State Lottery when he was living in the United States.

Abu Gosh is an Israeli Circassian town located 10 kilometers west of Jerusalem on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, 610-720 meters above sea level. Abu Gosh is named for a Circassian clan that imposed a toll on pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. The village of Suba was controlled by the Abu Gosh family. Its inhabitants are known for their friendly relations with their Jewish neighbors. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the residents of Abu Gosh maintained a neutral stance and did not participate in the fighting.

Here's a Jerusalem Post video interviewing observers and patrons of the restaurant in Abu Gosh.

Photos by AP and Xinhua/Yin Bogu

Friday, January 8, 2010

Myq Kaplan, Andrea Rosen and Other Comics To Perform at 92Y Tribeca

If you're anywhere in the New York area, you might want to be at 92Y Tribeca, 200 Hudson Street, at the intersection of Canal and Hudson Streets, next Thursday night, Jan. 14, to take in a performance of Comedy Below Canal

The cast will include familiar faces from standup comedy, late night TV, and popular commercials. 

Matt McCarthy (Front Page Films, everyone’s favorite Verizon commercial red-head) and Katina Corrao (The Late Show with David Letterman, Rejected) will host the latest installment of this acclaimed weekly comedy show. Joining them are special guests Myq Kaplan (The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central Presents), Andrea Rosen (Variety Shac, Michael and Michael Have Issues), DC Benny (Comedy Central) and more.

To get you in the mood, here are some video clips of these comedians.  First, here's a spoof that the 92YTribeca comedy team did of the constantly running New York Times commercial, The Week, The Weekend, and The Weekender.

Here's Andrea Rosen in the Yoplait commercial you've probably seen lots of times.

Here's Myq Kaplan at the Comedy Studio.

And here's a clip of DC Benny on the Late Late Show.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

It's Not Yiddish; It's Not Ladino; It's Yeshivish!

At Jewish Humor Central we try to cover the universe of Jewish activity, and sometimes that includes words, phrases, or sentences in languages other than English.  Hebrew and Yiddish expressions are typically woven into many of the blog posts because they are an integral part of many of the stories that we report from newspapers, websites, and blogs in America, Israel, and throughout the world.

We've noticed that a new dialect is emerging in stories from some of our most quotable sources -- a dialect that, while related to English, Hebrew, and Yiddish, has blossomed into a full-fledged language with all its grammatical and usage trappings.  The new dialect is Yeshivish.

While Yeshivish is not really new, until recently it stayed beneath the surface for everyone but the yeshiva students, their families, and their teachers.  As websites, blogs, and online newspapers and magazines cover more and more news from the haredi and yeshiva worlds, and some of the more interesting items emanate from these sources, we thought that it's time to give the dialect some attention.  It's only fair to let our readers know that some of the terms that we italicize are not Hebrew or Yiddish, but Yeshivish, and that's why you won't find them in Hebrew or Yiddish dictionaries.  But you will find them in Frumspeak -- the First Dictionary of Yeshivish, by Chaim M. Weiser.  A concise description of the dialect, its origins, basic grammar, and relation to other languages can be found in Wikipedia.

According to Weiser, 
Yeshivish is not a pidgin, creole, or an independent language, nor is it precisely a jargon. He refers to it instead, with tongue-in-cheek, as a shprach, a Yiddish word meaning "language" or "rapport".
In addition to the A-to-Z dictionary and rules of grammar, Weiser offers Yeshivish translations of some familiar documents.  What follows are the original English texts of the Pledge of Allegiance and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and their Yeshivish translations:


I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.
I am meshabed myself, b'li neder, to hold shtark to the siman of the United States of America and to the medina which is gufa its tachlis; one festa chevra, b'ezras Hashem, echad ve'yuchid, with simcha and erlichkeit for the gantza oilam.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. 

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. 
Be'erech a yoivel and a half ago, the meyasdim shtelled avek on this makom a naiya malchus with the kavana that no one should have bailus over their chaver, and on this yesoid that everyone has the zelba zchusim.
We're holding by a geferliche machloikes being machria if this medina, or an andere medina made in the same oifen and with the same machshovos, can have a kiyum. We are all mitztaref on the daled amos where a chalois of that machloikes happened in order to be mechabed the soldiers who dinged zich with each other. We are here to be koiveia chotsh a chelek of that karka as a kever for the bekavodike soldiers who were moiser nefesh and were niftar to give a chiyus to our nation. Yashrus is mechayev us to do this.
Lemaise, hagam the velt won't be goires or machshiv what we speak out here, it's zicher not shayach for them to forget what they tued uf here. We are mechuyav to be meshabed ourselves to the melocha in which these soldiers made a haschala--that vibalt they were moiser nefesh for this eisek, we must be mamash torud in it--that we are all mekabel on ourselves to be moisif on their peula so that their maisim should not be a bracha levatulla-- that Hashem should give the gantze oilam a naiya bren for cheirus-- that a nation that shtams by the oilam, by the oilam, by the oilam, will blaib fest ahd oilam.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Aaron Freeman, Modern Day Meturgeman: Torah Reading Like You've Never Heard It Before

In the time of the Talmud, the vernacular was Aramaic, not Hebrew.  Since the Torah is written in Hebrew, there was a need for a translator or interpreter, known as the meturgeman, to listen to the baal koreh, or reader, read from the Torah a sentence at a time, and then translate freely into the common language.  

The meturgeman was not limited to an exact translation.  Rather, he could embellish and gesture, bringing in aggadic stories, illustrations from history, and references to topics of the day -- all to make each sentence better understood by the public.

Most of us do not encounter a meturgeman in our synagogue attendance, but members of the Aitz Hayim Center for Jewish Living in Highland Park, Illinois, or Congregation Shir Hadash in Northbrook, Illinois, have had a modern meturgeman perform this ritual -- Aaron Freeman, a convert to Reform Judaism who is well known as a standup comedian, alum of the famous Second City Comedy Troupe, commentator for National Public Radio, and talk show host.

As the Chicago Jewish News writes,
His own inspiration comes from Amichai Lau-Levie, a nephew of one of Israel's chief rabbis and the founder and executive director of Storahtelling Ritual Jewish Theater, a popular form of Torah service that incorporates performance art, music, drama, dance and drumming.
"Storahtelling involved very big elaborate Torah services," Freeman says. "It got to be a bit much for congregations. It was too expensive to bring them in."
So Freeman - a longtime Jew-by-choice-studied with Lau-Levie to become a kind of one-man Storahteller. Now he plies his venerable trade at his synagogue, Aitz Hayim Center for Jewish Living in Highland Park, one Shabbat a month and hires out to other congregations across the country the rest of the time.
What he provides, he says, is basically a Torah reading that incorporates dramatic commentary, stagecraft and sometimes live music -- just as the historical mavens did.
 Freeman offers his services, at different price points, as a meturgeman, or Torah Maven for synagogues on Shabbat or weekdays, and also performs at Bar Mitzvahs and at Torah study classes.   

Click on the videos below to see Freeman perform as meturgeman of Parshat Lech Lecha at the Aitz Hayim Center for Jewish Living and Parshat Ki Tavo at Congregation Shir Hadash.