Monday, May 31, 2010

Flash Mob Experience Takes Hold in Jerusalem with Spontaneous Song, Dance, and Parody

The flash mob phenomenon has taken hold in Jerusalem, starting with the Hanukkah flash mob that we blogged about last December.

Now spreading to cities worldwide, Israel has become a favorite location for large numbers of young people appearing to be walking randomly and not knowing one another, suddenly coming together and performing a choreographed song and dance routine.

The latest of these phenomena took place at the Mamilla mall Jerusalem on a Saturday night in January, when Mayanot, one of Taglit-Birthright Israel's largest providers, brought more than 300 participants out for a takeoff on the hit song My Sharona, retitled My Schwarma

The song My Sharona was written by Doug Fieger, lead singer of The Knack, in 1979, for his then 17-year-old Jewish girlfriend, Sharona Alperin.  This information came to light in February, when Fieger died of cancer at 57.

As JTA reported in Fieger's obituary,
The Knack, an all-Jewish, Los Angeles-based group fronted by Fieger, earned plaudits and comparisons to the Beatles for their debut 1979 album, "Get the Knack." Its straightforward, hook-driven songs were seen as a breath of fresh air in the age of endless disco numbers and nihilistic punk.
Click on the video below to get caught up in the fun.  Enjoy!

Now that you've seen the parody, if you want to see the original My Sharona, here it is:

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Celebrating Classic Jewish Music Then, Now, and Forever: Chiribim

Music has always been an important part of Jewish life, and it has thrived in the shetel in Europe, on the Lower East Side of New York, the Yiddish theater, on Broadway, in concert halls worldwide, and in schools, Jewish and non-Jewish, everywhere.

Some of the classic melodies, once thought to be headed for extinctiion, have experienced a revival.  One of the most popular, Chiribim Chiribom, has been showing up in performances around the world in recent days.  The song was first recorded by Moishe Oysher in 1931 and became popular in the late 1950s when the Barry Sisters recorded a lively, schmaltzy version.

The videos below show the wide range of interpretation of this classic melody.
First, the Guilboa dance troup performing in Cartagena, Spain, earlier this month.
Next, a performance by Efim Aleksandrov in Moscow.  As Kim Murphy wrote in the Los Angeles Times,
The distance Russia has traveled since the Communist years, with their official bans on public worship and discrimination in jobs and education — the latter hardship facilitated by the hated designation of Jews' ethnicity on Soviet internal passports — was apparent last month, when Jewish pop artist Efim Alexandrov-Zitzerman sang a concert of Yiddish songs to a sold-out hall in the prestigious Rossiya Hotel, in the shadow of the Kremlin.

"We are the link whose mission is to reconnect the broken tradition. The songs of our grandmothers and grandfathers must be heard by our children, and then by the children of our children," Alexandrov-Zitzerman told a hall of emotional concertgoers.

We could include many more performances, but we'll end this post with Barbarella Halliwell and Editta Chal Bacio reinterpeting the Barry Sisters' act.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 28, 2010

A New Yiddish Cooking Show! Every Other Week! Est Gesunterheit!

Look out, Emeril Lagasse and Rachael Ray.  You've got competition from Rukhl and Eve.  And in Yiddish, no less.

The Forverts, the original Yiddish daily newspaper, is embracing new programming and new technology to present a bi-weekly series of cooking shows on YouTube.

The video episodes, running under ten minutes, are being posted under the title "Eat in Good Health," or Est Gesunterheit.  The hosts are Rukhl Schaechter and Eve Jochnowitz.

Schaechter is a writer for the Forward.  Jochnowitz a Yiddish instructor at the Congress for Jewish Culture, is cooking and foodways teacher at Living Traditions Klezkamp and instructor in Jewish Culinary History at The New School University. 

She worked for several years as a cook and baker in New York and is currently completing her dissertation, a culinary ethnography of Russian Jewish immigrants in New York City, in the Department of Performance Studies, New York University . She is the author of, “Holy Rolling: Making Sense of Baking Matzo,”in Jews of Brooklyn; “Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army,” in Remembering the Lower East Side; and “Flavors of Memory: Jewish Food as Culinary Tourism in Poland,”in Culinary Tourism. Eve is the Chocolate Lady.

In the first show, Schaechter and Jochnowitz talk their way in Yiddish through the preparation of varenikes mit vanschel, or sour cherry dumplings.  English subtitles translate their folksy patter as they work their way through preparing the dough and the sour cherry sauce, singing Yiddish songs about varenikes (no kidding!) as they go.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Salute to Israel Parade 2010: 4 Hours in 4 Minutes

The annual Salute to Israel parade was held in Manhattan on Sunday, and this parade had it all.

Marching bands, police on horseback and walking, kids, Jewish War Veterans, lots of floats, marching children from schools and JCCs, Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and Dr. Ruth Westheimer.  Jewish Russian boxer Yuri Foreman was the grand marshal.

We looked at lots of clips of the parade, but the quality and content of most didn't meet our standards until we found this one, which captures the spirit of the four hour parade in four minutes.  So if you were on Fifth Avenue last Sunday, consider this a memento of the day.  If you couldn't get into the city Sunday, here's a nice summary of the event so you can enjoy it and resolve to attend in person next year.
(A tip of the kippa to Alexandr Belikov for posting this video on YouTube.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another Hava Nagila, This One For British Teenyboppers

We've brought you renditions of Hava Nagila from India, Thailand, Israel, Russia, and Texas.  Here's one from the UK.

A couple of years ago British pop singer Lauren Rose recorded an English version of Hava Nagila as a Chanukah present for her grandfather.  Little did she expect that the sexy, slightly racy version would electrify her teeny-bopper fan base and become the Number One Christmas song of 2007.

As Jordan wrote in Jewish Women's Archive's Jewesses With Attitude blog,
Who knew that "Hava Nagila" could be "sexy" ... or "racy"...?  Lauren Rose (formerly Lauren Goldberg), a Jewess from the UK, has given this familiar (and perhaps tiresome) traditional Hebrew folk song a somewhat dirty, teeny-bopper twist. 
Her new top-of-the-charts hit "Hava Nagila (Baby Let's Dance)" -- the anticipated No. 1 Christmas song in the UK... huh? -- is creating a stir in the blogosphere and on YouTube, sparking many reactions, from pride and awe-struck praise, to disgust and outrage.  Performed in a ruffley mini-skirt and seductive, pouty expressions, Rose's lyrics fuse the original Hebrew words of "Hava Nagila" with: "Hold me, hold me... move our bodies, baby let's dance" and "it's ok to let go, it's ok if you wanna show... lose it... just jump, just jump... close your eyes and breathe."
It's a lively version, and we think it's one you'll enjoy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Popular Israeli Sitcom "Ramzor" is Bought by FOX for Showing On U.S.TV in Fall

The popular Israeli sitcom Ramzor (Traffic Light), adapted for an American audience, will be shown in English on the FOX TV network in the U.S. this fall.

The show, renamed Mixed Signals, is based on a successful comedy series on Israeli TV, written by Adir Miller, who is also the lead actor.

It will air in midseason 2010-11, a few months after the start of the fall season, on Tuesdays at 9:30 pm.

According to
The US version will be written by Bob Fisher, who served as executive story editor for the "Married with Children" sitcom. The lead role will be played by Nelson Franklin, who participated in "The Office" and "Dollhouse".
"Ramzor", created by Miller and Ran Sarig, was aired on Channel 2's Keshet TV for two seasons and is considered one of the most successful Israeli sitcoms.
Keshet CEO Avi Nir was informed last week that the series would be included on the American network's broadcasting schedule as early as this year.
"This is a huge achievement," said a source in the industry. "'In Treatment' was also sold, but to HBO which is a cable network and not to a broadcast like Fox."
"I am proud and excited," Miller told Ynet. "In my wildest dreams I never believed that this small series which we created in a small apartment in Givatayim would be aired on the most successful network in the United States. I am excited and thank God every day for this honor. 
As reported by the TV-focused website TV Over Mind
MIXED SIGNALS is a new comedy series about three longtime friends and their attempts to reconcile the irreconcilable: to balance their relationships with their need for freedom. The series reveals how friendships and romances enhance – and further complicate – the lives of men and the women who love them.
ETHAN (Kris Marshall, HUMAN TARGET, "My Family") is the perpetual bachelor. He loves women, and when he's in, he's all in – at least for three weeks. Charming, genuine and hopelessly independent, Ethan is finding out that as he gets older, the pool of women who are willing to take things day by day is rapidly evaporating.
ADAM (Nelson Franklin, "The Office," "I Love You Man") recently moved in with his girlfriend, CALLIE (Alexandra Breckenridge, FAMILY GUY), and is learning how vastly different "she comes over a lot" and "she lives with me" really are. Adam is discovering there isn't much "me" time any more, there's only "us" time.
MIKE (David Denman, "The Office") is a married lawyer still trying to figure out the male-female dynamic. He wants nothing more than to be a good family man to his wife, LISA (Liza Lapira, "Dexter," "Dollhouse"), and his infant son, but he's also trying to carve out a little space for himself. Currently that space is in his car, where he watches action movies in 15-minute chunks while telling his wife he's stuck in traffic.
MIXED SIGNALS is produced by 20th Century Fox Television and Keshet Broadcasting Ltd. Bob Fisher ("Wedding Crashers"), David Hemingson ("Kitchen Confidential"), Avi Nir ("Frontline," "Phenomenon"), Ran Sarig ("Ramzor"), Adir Miller ("Ramzor") and Elad Kuperman ("Phenomenon") serve as executive producers. The series is written by Fisher, and is based on the original Israeli series by Miller. Chris Koch ("Modern Family," "Scrubs") directed the pilot.
Here's a preview of Mixed Signals, taken from the just-released promo video, followed by a 30 second Israeli TV ad for the original version, Ramzor, in Hebrew with Hebrew titles.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Comedy Classics: Mal Z. Lawrence in Florida

The Catskill mountain resorts in New York were the original "Comedy Central," nurturing the stand-up comedy genre and so many Jewish comedians who used the nightly shows to sharpen up their performances.

Sadly, many of the resort hotels and the comedians are no longer with us, but some of the comedians are still doing their thing, in Florida, on cruise ships, and on cable TV.

One of the best and most polished of the Catskill comics, Mal Z. Lawrence, has been touring the country during recent months, as a solo act and with other performers such as Mike Burstyn.

Here is a video clip of Lawrence at his best, with an adoring audience in Florida.  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Funniest Israeli Commercials (Third of a Series): Flirting in the Bookstore

Jews are known as People of the Book and the Steimatzky book stores have had a virtual monopoly on book selling in Israel since Yechezkel Steimatzky, a Russian-born immigrant from Germany, opened his first store on Jaffa Road in 1925.  The company now runs 150 stores in 68 cities in Israel, London, and Los Angeles.

Steimatzky has been running a series of funny TV commercials on Israeli television.  Here's one that shows just how unnecessary words are in conducting a conversation, or in flirting.  Why not just use book covers and let the titles speak for you?  (Note to slow Hebrew readers:  Be sure to watch the subtitles every time a book cover flashes on the screen.)

If the background music seems familiar, it's Carlos Gardel's Por Una Cabeza, the same song used to accompany the tango scene in Al Pacino's Oscar-winning performance in Scent of a Woman.  If you liked the movie or just the music in the commercial, here's a video clip from the movie with the whole song being played.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Yiddishology: How Good Is Your Yiddish? "Shlimazel": Fourth of a Series

It's time for another Yiddish exercise.  Let's return to the Tampa Jewish Community Center where the yiddishologists continue their man-in-the-street interviews with community members on the meaning of selected Yiddish words.

Today's word is shlimazel.

The best example we've heard of a shlimazel (probably an amalgam of shlecht mazel or bad luck) and its differentiation from a shlemiel is that the shlemiel is the one who spills the soup, and the shlimazel (or shlemazel) is the one who has the soup spilled on him.

More Yiddishology is coming in the next few weeks, so stay tuned to Jewish Humor Central.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Happy Shavuot: Commemorating the Giving of the Fifteen (Oops! Ten) Commandments

Tonight, tomorrow, and Thursday we celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, commemorating the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai. 

Unlike Pesach and Sukkot, Shavuot does not have any visually rich rituals or symbols associated with it, so it doesn't get the attention and press that the other holidays get.

On Shavuot, besides eating lots of cheesecake, we engage in Torah study and reflect upon the way in which its laws were presented to the Jewish people.

On Jewish Humor Central, we can't do this without recalling the scene from Mel Brooks' History of the World, Part I, revealing why we only got ten commandments, and not fifteen.  Here's the clip.  Enjoy, and we'll see you on Friday when we return with more Jewish humor.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Jewish Federations' "What's Your #ish" Campaign Runs Into Confusion With Street Slang

Last week the Jewish Federations of North America launched a major new marketing and advertising campaign called "What's Your #ish?"  The idea was to get young Jews who use social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to proclaim their Jewishness in unique ways, and to collect all of these interpretations of what it means to be Jewish into a comprehensive list.

But a funny thing happened along the way.  As Jacob Berkman, chief philanthropic editor of JTA's Fundermentalist blog writes,
The campaign asks Jews aged 19 to 36, to express what makes them Jew-“ish” via Twitter, Facebook or YouTube in an attempt to raise their awareness about Jewish federations. When they do so, they are asked to use the hashtag “#ish,” which automatically puts their submission in a Twitter trending feed that puts all submissions with the hashtag in one stream, and automatically puts their submissions on a Website the JFNA set up,
Here’s the problem, as was first pointed out by a commenter on “Ish” is also urban for the word [s--t].
According to the online Urban Dictionary, that is because many rappers started using the term “ish” instead of the more well-known four letter word in order to get around censorship regulations for radio play. Given the urban meaning, the hashtag #ish has been until now used as something of a dumping ground for random #ish.
The JFNA says they were aware of the problem, or as I wrote on Jewcy: “They say they were aware of the No. 2 meaning of ish, and that their consultants told them that only about 7 or so folks hashtag #ish per day under the potty usage.
The consultants felt that the JFNA's #ish should soon far outpace the other #ish, thereby essentially flushing it down the toilet.”
Well. Watching the first week of the Twitter feed, it seems that the JFNA might have underestimated how territorial the original #ish-ers are of their hashtag.
JFNA Tweeters during the first couple of days of the campaign actually seemed to overwhelm the original #ish-ers. But in recent days it seems the originals have mobilized. While JFNA seems to have weeded out non-Jew-#ish posts on the site, on Twitter there seems to be just about a one-to-one ratio of those using the JFNA’s #ish vs those using the Urban Dictionary #ish.
As we got this story ready for posting, we did a quick check on Twitter, and found that of the twenty most recent tweets that include #ish, only one relates to the Federation campaign, and all of the others use the term as street slang as in "gotta get my ish together" or "don't gimme any of that ish" or "it's so dark I can't see ish."

This isn't the first time a company or organization made a naming choice that should have been more thoroughly researched before going public with it.  There is an undocumented urban legend that Procter and Gamble found out when they test marketed their detergent named Dreck that it would have been a disaster because of the Yiddish meaning of the word and so they renamed it Dreft.  And there really is a laundry detergent named Barf that's sold in Iran and throughout the Middle East.  It turns out that Barf means snow in Farsi, the primary language in Iran.

So is there anything we can do to help the Federations out and turn this gaffe into a success story?  There sure is.  Just come up with a way to express your Jew-ish-ness and either post a Facebook note, a tweet, or upload a YouTube video to add your slant to this national campaign.  Our tweet is going to be that we feel that part of being Jewish is having a sense of humor, or being humor-ish.

To get you started, here's one of the first YouTube videos that the Federations posted.  It's by the Sklar Brothers, feeling responsible-ish for everybody else-ish, and for the transgressions of every Jew, including Elliot Spitzer.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Carlebach Accordionist Looks Back With Humor 25 Years After His Aliyah to Israel

Howie Kahn, an accordionist for Shlomo Carlebach in the 1970's, made aliyah to Israel about 25 years ago.  Last month he looked back at some of the funny immigrant experiences he had with Israeli bureaucracy.  In an almost hour-long talk, he recalled funny anecdotes that deal with language, cultural differences, and the red tape that anyone who has had contact with Israeli government offices, banks, or post offices would easily recognize.

Kahn appeared in concert with the famous "Singing Rabbi" both in North America and Israel. These performances took place in venues such as Carnegie Hall in New York City as well as the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.

Today we're sharing two Kahn videos, the first of Howie telling a story about his wife's encounter with an Israeli bank clerk and the second a Carlebach song, reinterpreted for today.  Enjoy!


Friday, May 14, 2010

Hava Nagila (or is it Ave Maria?) by Hahamishia Hakamerit

Here's yet another version of Hava Nagila, this one by the satirical Israeli group Hahamishia Hakamerit, which they performed in a weekly sketch comedy TV show that ran from 1993 to 1997.  Funny, that melody's familiar, but it sure doesn't sound like the traditional Hava Nagila.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Funniest Israeli Commercials (Second of a Series): Make Love, Not Terror

Last week we started a series of the funniest Israeli commercials.  Today we continue with a viral ad produced by Keta Keta, the advertising agency that also produced the animated history of the Jews and Israel that we posted on May 3.

This commercial, Make Love, Not Terror, was the first viral ad that Keta Keta produced as a self-promotion in 2003.  Since then, they have delivered more than 100 campaigns for a diverse set of clients.  The Keta Keta team recently added animation to their arsenal of advertising tools, and judging from the reception given the four minute summary of Jewish history, it's likely that we'll see more animation from them.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Are the Japanese the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel? Language and Ritual Similiarities Are Clues

Sometimes it seems like everyone is looking for the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.  Every few years a story pops up of the exiled ten northern tribes actually being in India, Myanmar, China, or Korea.  

The idea that somehow the missing tribes found their way along the Silk Road to Japan has been proposed more than a few times, and teams of scholars and archaelogists have studied the possibility over the years.

Lately there has been a proliferation of videos on the internet which claim to provide evidence that these stories are not myths, but realities.  The evidence offered includes similarities in ways that festivals and prayer are observed, in symbols that seem identical or close approximations, and in words and phrases in Hebrew and Japanese that are remarkably alike.

We'll share two of the most interesting videos with you and let you be the judge. The first focuses on similarity of rituals and festivals including "Japanese tefilin" and a Rosh Chodesh festival.  The second video, with something for everyone, including Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark, goes into detail about alphabet and language similarities.

Is this Jewish-Japanese connection a real possibility or just a fantasy?  Let us know what you think by commenting on this blog post.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wishing Israel, Israelis, and Lovers of Jerusalem Worldwide a Happy Yom Yerushalayim

Tonight at sundown Israel starts celebrating Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, a national holiday.

Forty-three years ago, in 1967, the Israel Defense Forces broke through the Jordanian defenses and captured the Old City of Jerusalem, marking the reunification of the city under Israeli control.

The Midrash states "There are seventy names for Jerusalem." Seventy names, each reflecting a different aspect of this city and its residents, today and throughout history. 

We found a new slide show with a haunting musical score that brings the multifaceted face of Jerusalem home to anyone who watches it.  We're usually not big on slide shows, but this one is well done and the photos are current ones.  So adjust your computer to full screen, sit back and enjoy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Yiddishology: How Good Is Your Yiddish? "Ungapatchka/Ungepatchket" - Third of a Series

We're heading back to Tampa today to see how the members of the Jewish community there explain the meaning of the yiddish verb ungapatchka, also pronounced ungepatchke. (The adjective is ungepatchket.)

In the last couple of weeks we've visited the Tampa yiddishologists to give us the final word on kenahorah/kanahora and shtipper/shtupper.

Can't wait to see what's coming in the next few weeks?  OK, we'll be defining shlimazel, shmiggege, tchotchkes, halevai, and balabusta.  

In the meantime, try to think of someone or something that's really ungepatchket!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Popular Israeli Singers Unite In "Ani Yehudi" -- A "We Are the World" For Jewish Unity

Every day we hear expressions of disunity in the Jewish world.  Religious vs. Secular, Chasidic vs. Misnagdic, Ashkenazi vs. Sephardi, right wing vs. left wing, Orthodox vs. Conservative vs. Reform, Litvak vs. Galitzianer vs. Yekki, and so it goes.

Now an attempt has been made to bridge these gaps through music, which is something that all of these groups share.  As the Jewlarious staff at writes,
Linda Allen, a Professor of Finance at New York University realized that there was one common bond that unites us that cannot be broken: we are all Jews. Further, Allen wanted to connect with people using a vehicle that speaks to everyone: music.

She knew that she found the right song when she heard Schlock Rock’s Lenny Solomon (interviewed on Jewlarious here) perform his original song Ani Yehudi (I am a Jew) as she said it was the “best Jewish unity song ever written.” So Allen along with her husband, Elliot, and her brother and sister-in-law, Dr. Alan and Karen Mazurek got the idea to make a song that adapted Solomon’s lyrics and drew from a large cross section of Israeli recording artists in a “We Are the World” style collaboration, and they agreed to bankroll the production.
The resulting song fuses the styles of popular Israeli artists Kobi Oz, Yirmi Kaplan, Lior Almaliach, Yehuda Katz, and Gadi Altman, as well as hip-hop artists Fishi HaGadol and Aksom.

We think they've got a winner.  How about you?  Enjoy!

Friday, May 7, 2010

It's Hava Nagila Time Again, This Time With the King of Russian Pop Music

In our series of Hava Nagila renditions around the world, we've been to Texas, Thailand and Bombay.

Now join us as we journey to Russia to listen to Philip Kirkorov, celebrated Bulgarian singer and king of Russian pop, bring his energy to this Jewish classic in a staging that has a troupe of singers, dancers, musicians and (well, see for yourself.)  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Funniest Israeli Commercials (First of a Series): Chassidim Protest HDTV

Today we're starting another new series at Jewish Humor Central called The Funniest Israeli TV Commercials.  Most of these commercials have been aired before we started blogging last October, but after seeing some of them we just couldn't resist sharing them with you.

We'll be posting them from time to time, alternating with our other series:  Funny Renditions of Hava Nagila, Yiddishology, and Jewish Standup Comics.  All of these together with our usual reporting of funny things that happen to Jews or are done by Jews in the news.

The first commercial we're posting is an ad for the introduction of HDTV by YES, Israel's satellite television provider.   The lyrics are funny in Hebrew, but even if you're fluent, it may take a few viewings to understand all of the references.  So we picked a version that has English subtitles.  Remember, it is satire, so we hope nobody is offended by the portrayals.  After all, it did run on Israeli television.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Jewish Black Comedian Victorious in Mother-in-Law Suit

Last October we profiled Jewish Black comedian Sunda Croonquist, who was
performing at a fund raiser for Gilda's Club in Hackensack.  

She was in the news because her Jewish mother-in-law sued her for defamation.  In that October post, we wrote:
Croonquist gained national attention in August when her mother-in-law filed a lawsuit accusing her of defaming her and her family, using false and racist lies in her routine on television and in nightclubs.
Croonquist, who keeps a kosher home, is half-black, half-Swedish, and was raised Roman Catholic before marrying into a Jewish family. She sees nothing wrong in using her family as source material.
Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that a federal judge has thrown the case out of court.

Writing for the AP, John Rogers said:
In a 21-page ruling issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Mary L. Cooper of New Jersey concluded that the examples they cited - including one in which Croonquist says her sister-in-law's voice sounds like a cat in heat - fell under the category of protected speech.

Many of the jokes, Cooper said, were clearly statements of opinion and not fact and therefore protected by the First Amendment. The cat-in-heat joke, the judge said, quoting from a previous court decision, was "colorful, figurative rhetoric that reasonable minds would not take to be factual."
Croonquist hasn't stopped telling her family stories.  For our Los Angeles readers, she will be appearing at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood this Saturday night.  Here's another glimpse of her shtick.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lag B'Omer Celebrated Worldwide With Bonfires and Bows and Arrows

This past Sunday, Lag B'Omer, the 33rd day of the period between Pesach and Shavuot, was celebrated around the world.

On Lag B'Omer, it's a custom for children to go out into the fields and play with toy bows and arrows. This commemorates the midrashic tradition that no rainbow was seen during Rabbi Shimon's lifetime. Rainbows first appeared after Noah's flood, when God promised to never again devastate the world. When the world is deserving of punishment, God sends a rainbow instead. Rabbi Shimon's merit protected the world, rendering the rainbow superfluous.

So why bows and arrows?  The Hebrew word keshet can mean both a rainbow and an archery bow.   It's easier to buy a bow and arrow than create a rainbow so that's probably why the bows and arrows are used, and not only by children.

In Golders Green, London, the followers of the Rademishler Rebbe, who call him the Admor -- Adoneinu, Moreinu, v'Rabbeinu (our master, teacher, and rabbi) gave him a quick tutorial in shooting a toy bow and arrow and let out a cheer when he let the arrow fly.

In Meron, in northern Israel, about 500,000 chasidim made a pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi) to sing, dance, and light bonfires.  Rashbi's tomb is the epicenter of the Lag B'Omer celebrations because he was one of the students of Rabbi Akiva who survived a terrible plague that killed thousands of them, and he went on to write the Zohar, the book of Kabbalah.

The bonfires are meant to commemorate the immense light that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai introduced into the world via his mystical teachings.  Here are glimpses of some of the celebrations in Meron.

Monday, May 3, 2010

An Animated History of the Jews and Israel: 4000 Years in Four Minutes

A new animated cartoon showed up on YouTube a few days ago.  We thoroughly enjoyed it and found it a refreshing approach to relating history. It's called 4,000 Years in Four Minutes - A History of the Jews and Israel.  

The author isn't identified except as israelmaven1.  When he or she takes credit for this clever piece of work, we'll pass the information along.  But in the meantime, watch and enjoy.  

But watch carefully because it moves very fast and you'll miss some of the funniest parts if you see it only once.  It's worth watching again.  If you do, you may notice, as we did, that some of the characters look like Bart Simpson, the family tree includes a character that bears a strong resemblance to Bert of Sesame Street, and there's a brief reference to Gollum, or Smeagol, from Lord of the Rings.  But blink, and you'll miss it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Yiddishology: How Good Is Your Yiddish? "Kenahora (Kanahora)" - Second of a Series

Today we return to The Tampa Jewish Community Center and Federation which has been testing the Yiddish vocabulary of its members on a weekly basis by videotaping "person in the street" interviews, similar to the "Jaywalking" sketches that Jay Leno has been doing for years and the "Jew Walking" video that we blogged about last October.

Random members of the community are asked the meaning of a common, usually funny sounding, Yiddish word, and their spontaneous reactions are videotaped for us to enjoy.

Last week we used their video to explain the meaning of the word shtipper, also pronounced shtupper.
  Today we return to uncover the meaning of kenahora, also spelled kanahora or kinahora.

Coming soon:  shlimazel, ungepatchket, shmiggege, tchotchkes, halevai, and balabusta.

Watch, laugh, and enjoy!