Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Classic Jokes Translated From Yiddish On Jewish Heritage Tour

There's nothing like an old Jewish joke told in Yiddish by a veteran Yiddish speaker for whom these jokes are part of his vocabulary.  Such storytellers in the original Yiddish are getting harder and harder to find.  Interest in old Jewish jokes told by old Jews has grown in the last few years, as we have seen with the popularity of the website Old Jews Telling Jokes and the recent publication of many of these jokes in book form.

In 2007, a Jewish Heritage tour of Ukraine featured Klezmer musicians and other entertainment while cruising along the Dnieper river.  The participants in the cruise, called Dnieper Shleppers, were treated to a virtuoso stream of Yiddish joke telling by Abe Bartel, an elderly Yiddish speaker from Paris.  The audience howled with laughter as the jokes, some of them off-color, were translated in deadpan style by Professor Eugene Orenstein of McGill University.  Here is a video of the joke session.  Listen carefully and enjoy!


We're taking a few days off from posting as we celebrate Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah, and Shabbat.  We'll be back posting our usual mix of funny stuff on Sunday.  Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chabad Telethon 2010: A Jewish Show Of Shows

Every year for the last 30 years Chabad has had a fund-raising telethon.  This year's edition was hosted by Larry King, and was broadcast live from Los Angeles.  Usually it's in November, but this year they did it on August 30.  We found some of the best clips from this telethon and we'll share them with you in the coming weeks.

King celebrated the 30th anniversary by introducing some of the classic moments from previous shows.  Today we're sharing a series of doubletalk language bits by veteran comedian Sid Caesar in French, German, Italian, and Japanese from Chabad telethons in 1991, 1993, and 1995.  In these skits, Caesar, now 88, was interviewed by Jan Murray, one of television's first stand-up comics, who died in 2006.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bubbe Is Back Again, This Time With Tzimmes For Simchat Torah

Last July, we introduced you to the Bubbe of, an 85-year-old Massachusetts grandmother who doesn't disclose her name but who gets her kicks from cooking on her grandson's webcasts.

Now that we're almost at the end of a month of Jewish holidays, we're bringing her back to show you how to make a side dish of tzimmes for the last days of Sukkot and Simchat Torah.

This video of Bubbe is not from her regular series on her website, but from The Food Network's show, In Search of Real Food with Dave Lieberman.  So learn a few tips, and laugh with Bubbe as she makes cooking look easy.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Another Hava Nagila With An Indescribable Cast

After bringing you renditions of Hava Nagila from India, Thailand, Israel, Russia, Texas, the UK, Cuba, Estonia, and a Beatles tribute band, we still haven't run out of new and unusual versions.  This one is by Brandon Stone.

Stone has been very popular as a songwriter, producer and composer in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltics, and in almost all former Soviet republics, but it is especially in his native Georgia where he is revered as a singer, artist, and a folk hero.

For this version of Hava Nagila, he has assembled a cast that looks like it was recruited at a costume party, but they really can dance and sing.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New York Mayor Bloomberg Announces Winner Of Sukkah City Design Competition

On Monday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg stood at a lectern in New York's Union Square Park and announced the winnner of a sukkah design competition that's been in progress since it was announced in May.

The winning design was titled "Fractured Bubble," and it beat out eleven other finalists.

Reporting in The New York Times a few days before the judging, Fred A. Bernstein wrote:
On Sunday a dozen innovative sukkahs will go on display for two days in the south plaza of Union Square. Sukkah City will include one shelter made from a single 5,400-foot-long steel cable; another that resembles an inflatable pool toy; yet another made of cardboard signs printed by homeless people — a dozen structures ripe with metaphoric possibilities.
None of them look anything like the traditional booths erected outside Jewish homes during Sukkot, the weeklong festival that starts on Wednesday evening. Still, the architects had to follow halacha, or Jewish law, which requires a sukkah to have at least three walls (two full and one partial) that can resist strong winds. By day the roof must provide more shade than sunshine. By custom it must also allow views of the stars at night.
Most interesting for architects exploring new materials, the roof must be made of something that once grew in the ground but is no longer attached to the ground.
The 12 designs were selected by judges from a pool of more than 600 entries and vetted by Dani Passow, an orthodox rabbinical student who also has an engineering degree from Cooper Union. “It’s the first kosher thing I’ve ever done,” joked Henry Grosman, an architect based in Queens who is Jewish, when he learned that his sukkah — a wooden sphere covered in phragmites (an invasive reed taking over New York wetlands) — had passed rabbinic muster. He and his design partner, Babak Bryan, spent Wednesday collecting the phragmites from Flushing Meadows Corona Park. 
Of the 12 winning teams four are from Brooklyn. That isn’t because of Brooklyn’s historic association with all things Jewish, but its more recent association with all things hip. (None of the winners from Brooklyn is a Jew.)
Here's the video of the mayor announcing the winner, followed by a video showing many of the designs being enjoyed by visitors to the exhibit.  We hope you enjoy them and that you have a happy Sukkot holiday.  We'll be celebrating with family and we will be back posting on Sunday.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Funniest Israeli Commercials: The Energizer Bunny? Nope, It's The Duracell Chasid

You've probably seen the Energizer Bunny commercials. You know, it keeps going, and going, and going.  Well, it turns out that Duracell, Energizer's competitor, was the original user of bunnies in battery commercials and the Energizer Bunny was created during a parody of the Duracell ads.  You can read all about the competing campaigns in a web site devoted to the recurring rabbit.

Last year the Duracell company ran a commercial on Israeli TV that portrayed a Chasid outlasting his colleagues in dancing to the "Moshiach" song.  What was the secret of his endurance?  Watch the video and find out!

Monday, September 20, 2010

JEM Walking: What Do You Do With An Etrog?

Jay Leno started it with Jay Walking -- funny person-in-the-street interviews to test random passers-bys' knowledge of various subjects.  

Then it took on a Jewish twist with Jew Walking when the National Jewish Outreach Program had comedian/writer Simmy Kay interview Jews about Judaism in front of Zabar's on Manhattan's West Side. 

Rabbi Zvi Drizin of Dallas Chabad followed with a Texas version of Jew Walking last Chanukah.

With the eight-day holiday of Sukkot starting this Wednesday night, we were looking for some funny Sukkot videos to post, and were lucky to come across this gem from the Jewish Experience of Madison, Wisconsin (JEM.)  JEM is an independent organization dedicated to heighten Jewish awareness among students on the University of Wisconsin campus.

Naturally, they call their street interviews JEM Walking.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Williamsburg Jews Find Solution To Yom Kippur Headache: Caffeine Suppositories

One of the biggest concerns of Jews fasting on Yom Kippur is how to avoid headaches from caffeine withdrawal.  The advice most often given is to slowly reduce coffee consumption starting on Rosh Hashana and drink no coffee for a few days before Yom Kippur.  This advice has been generally heeded and works for most people.

According to a report in Friday's Vos Iz Neias  (The Voice of the Orthodox Jewish Community), a Haredi online newspaper, Jews in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, have found a new way to prevent caffeine withdrawal headaches:  caffeine suppositories.  No, we're not kidding.  Vos Iz Neias reprinted a story by Andy Campbell in The Brooklyn Paper, a local neighborhood daily.
In his article, Bump in the trunk! Jews rushing to get caffeine suppositories, Campbell writes:
These huge, rectally inserted pills are popular. Pharmacists at Rafieh — one of many distributors in south Williamsburg on Lee Avenue — sold nearly 150 suppositories today.
“We have caffeine suppositories!” the store’s handwritten sign heralded. “Be ready!”
But is it kosher?  There’s some controversy over whether Jews observing the Biblical fast should be taking an easy out (or, more accurately, in).

Some Jewish leaders said that consuming anything — through the body’s traditional entrance or its exit — is against the spirit of the ritualistic fast.
“We’re supposed to do it the old fashioned way — I wouldn’t advise [suppositories],” said Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, a Hasidic leader. “We wanna keep Jews in the synagogue and not in the bathroom.”
(Photo by Community Neighborhood Group/Andy Campbell)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yom Kippur: Practical Tips For An Easy Fast

 Tonight's the night for the start of Yom Kippur and a 25-hour fast. presented some tips on food choices to make the fast as easy as possible, so we're sharing them with you today.

We wish you an easy fast, Shabbat Shalom, and a G'mar Chatima Tova!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kol Nidre: An Ancient Prayer With Old And New Musical Variations

Tomorrow night, Jews all over the world will congregate toward sunset to mark the start of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  The most universally recognized part of the Yom Kippur liturgy is the chanting of Kol Nidrei, a medieval annulment of vows set to a melody composed as Opus 47 for cello and orchestra by a German protestant named Max Bruch in 1881. 

Tablet magazine featured an article yesterday by Ari Y. Kelman called Sacred Remake, a history and chronology of the development of this prayer (actually a legal formula) and the music to which it has been set over the centuries.

Kelman writes,
Bruch, for his part, never claimed to have written sacred or liturgical music, and Jewish musicologist Abraham Idelson agreed, writing, “[Bruch's] melody was an interesting theme for a brilliant secular concerto. In his presentation, the melody entirely lost its original character. Bruch displayed a fine art, masterly technique and fantasy, but not Jewish sentiments. It is not a Jewish Kol-Nidre which Bruch composed.”

Although Bruch’s Kol Nidre has been adopted by congregations across North America, not everyone thought his orchestral setting suited the meditation. None other than Arnold Schoenberg set out to “obliterate the excessive sentimentality of Bruch’s cello.” In appropriately Schoenbergian style, his Opus 39 steamrolls Bruch’s romanticism in favor of a prickly sonic modernity expressed powerfully by brass and woodwinds, supported by strings that color fragmentary snatches of melody. Lest the arrangement not be anti-romantic enough, Schoenberg composed his as an oratorio, and the entire last half rests on the stentorian delivery of a story from the Kabbalah and an adaptation of the Kol Nidre text, in English, both backed by a soaring choir.
Kol Nidre has been sung by a long list of artists, Jewish and non-Jewish, in recording studios, on stage and on movie screens.  These singers included Yossele Rosenblatt, Richard Tucker, Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, Al Jolson, Neil Diamond, and Jerry Lewis.  Jolson, Diamond, and Lewis all sang the song as part of their portrayal of a cantor's son in The Jazz Singer, through three versions of the film.

We are including two videos to get you into the Yom Kippur mood.  First, a performance of Bruck's piece for cello and orchestra, and then the final minutes of the Neil Diamond version of The Jazz Singer.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Yom Kippur Special: Overboard (Jonah's Song) By G-dcast And The Josh Nelson Project

Those folks who brought us G-dcast, the animated weekly Torah portions and specials for the holidays, have done it again with a musical cartoon for Yom Kippur.  Musician Josh Nelson and the Josh Nelson Project, in collaboration with animator Liesje Kraai, editorial director Matthue Roth, and producer Sarah Lefton, give us the story of Jonah and the whale set to high-octane Jewish rock music, with lessons we can learn from it as we prepare for the Day of Atonement. 

(A tip of the kippah to Esther Kustanowitz for calling our attention to this one.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Echoes Of A Shofar - Illegal Under British Mandate, Now Blown With Pride

Under a British law in Palestine passed in 1930, Jews were forbidden to blow the shofar at the Kotel, pray loudly there, or bring Torah scrolls, so as not to offend the Arab population.

Despite this restriction, for the next seventeen years, the shofar was sounded at the Kotel every Yom Kippur. Shofars were smuggled in to the Kotel where brave teenagers defiantly blew them at the conclusion of the fast. Some managed to get away - others were captured and sent to jail for up to six months.

Six of these men are still alive.

Last month, these six men returned to the scene of their "crime". Armed with shofars, they recounted their individual stories and blew shofar again at the Kotel.

Echoes of a Shofar is their powerful and inspiring story.  The short film is a joint project of Toldot Yisrael and The History Channel.  It's more nostalgic and poignant than humorous, but you can find humor in the way these teens took advantage of the British police who, not understanding Hebrew, thought the chanting of those assembled at the wall were prayers.  Actually, they were chanted warnings to the crowd about police spies in their midst and plans for keeping out of their way.  Enjoy!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Looking For A Jewish Husband In Sexy Beijing

Anna Sophie Loewenberg has traveled very far in her quest to find a husband, preferably Jewish.   The Los Angeles born Loewenberg, 36, lives and works in Beijing, China, and has been producing, writing and starring in an internet program, Sexy Beijing, depicting her adventures as she looks for love in China's capital city.

As Sharon Usadin wrote last year in The Jewish Week,
Loewenberg goes by the more pronounceable Chinese name of “Su Fei,” despite its double meaning as a brand of Chinese maxi-pads. Her shtick — with nearly 3.6 million YouTube hits — has landed her in English-language Chinese papers, on the Today Show and even in a Q&A on The New Yorker’s Web site.
After growing up in California hearing stories about her grandparents’ and father’s escape from Nazi Europe to Shanghai, Loewenberg finally decided to move to China herself in 1996 with a teaching program, where she also learned to speak fluent Mandarin and eventually began working as a journalist.

“It was always just part of the story of my family growing up,” Loewenberg said. “There were always these books of photographs there in our living room. But I never got to meet my grandparents, so it didn’t seem real almost.”

She left China in 2001 to attend Columbia University’s School of Journalism in New York, but found herself back in Beijing by 2006, working on a documentary film business called Danwei TV with two of her friends, Luke Mines and Jeremy Goldkorn. Only after she resettled in the city, Loewenberg said, did the concept for “Sexy Beijing” materialize.

The show opens very similarly to HBO’s “Sex And The City,” with the camera spinning over tower cranes atop half-built Beijing high-rises, rather than Manhattan’s glamorous Empire State building. Instead of getting splashed by a New York City bus a la Carrie, Su Fei falls victim to a bombardment of bikers, a rolling dumpster and a stray watering hose. Wearing her signature horn-rimmed glasses, Su Fei types stories on her Macbook in between scenes, interjecting voiceover words of wisdom.
In this episode, Su Fei attends the opening of the new mikveh at Beijing's Chabad House, gets a lesson in family purity from the local Chabadniks, and learns why she can't take advantage of the luxurious facilities.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Israel National Lottery Launches Flash Mob (or is it Flesh Mob?) at Rishon LeZion Beach

Rishon LeZion is Israel's fourth largest city.  Just seven miles south of Tel Aviv, it was founded in 1882 by Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, four years after the establishment of Petach Tikva, the first Jewish agricultural settlement.

The founders would be surprised to see how the beach just west of the city center was used last week by Israel's national lottery, Mifal HaPayis, to promote their new campaign, “Let the numbers organize your life.” 

As onlookers with cameras snapped away, giant inflated versions of the popping balls that bounce through the lottery machine set the stage for 400 professional dancers, who erupted into a wild five minute dance to a medley of Abba songs.

We observed the video of this event very closely, (only to marvel at the magnificent camera work) and wondered if the Israeli pronunciation of flash mob (flesh mob) is a more accurate description of this performance.  Enjoy!

(A tip of the kippah to Esther Kustanowitz for calling this video to our attention.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shana Tova To All Of Our Readers

Thanks to our loyal subscribers and casual readers in 124 countries who have joined us during the year.  We started this blog on October 5, 2009 and it's been going strong with 320 blog entries over the last 11 months.  We appreciate your loyalty and we hope to keep bringing you a daily mix of Jewish humor in all of its forms -- traditional, eclectic, unbelievable but true, and just funny. 
We'll be attending Rosh Hashana and Shabbat services for the next three days, and we'll be back posting again on Sunday.  Here's wishing you and your families a happy, healthy, joyous, prosperous and funny New Year! 
The Kustanowitz Kronikle is our Rosh Hashana Greeting Card. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Jewish Humor Central Now Available On Amazon's Kindle eReader

Jewish Humor Central has just been released in an edition for Amazon's Kindle eReader.

Digital books are challenging paper books for market share as never before, and books, magazines, and blogs that can be downloaded and read on these compact electronic readers are expected to be very popular this holiday season. So we joined the many blogs that are making versions available for this new medium.

We still think the best way to read Jewish Humor Central is on your desktop or laptop computer.  You get the full blog post in color, and with the video that accompanies most of our posts.  And, it's free!  

But if you're on the road and want to view the daily blog on a Kindle reader, you can order it from the Amazon Kindle Store for $1.99 a month, with a free 14 day trial.  As of now, Kindles do not support color or video, but you can see the full text and all images in black and white. 

And while you're shopping at the Kindle Store, take a look at the also newly released Kindle edition of Murder at the Minyan, the humorous mystery by our favorite writer, Shulamit E. Kustanowitz.  It's about a congregant at a Conservative synagogue in suburban New Jersey who needs a minyan to say kaddish for his mother, and who would do ANYTHING to get one.  It's also available in the original paperback edition.

This is an extra post for today.  Watch for today's regular daily post, "The Power of the Shofar."

Classic Rosh Hashanah Videos: The Power Of The Shofar

Not only is the sound of the shofar a wake-up call, it can be a life saver in emergency situations.  We hope you enjoy this classic video from a few years ago.

This very short film was produced by the Jewish Impact Films Fellowship, an organization that was established by leading Hollywood producers to empower the next generation of young Jewish thinkers to use creative media, specifically short internet-based films, to effectively communicate new messaging about Judaism and Israel.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Classic Rosh Hashanah Videos: The Rabbi, The Shofar, And The Dog

Here's a video that became an instant classic last year just before Rosh Hashanah.  But who is the rabbi, where was he blowing the shofar, and where did the dog come from?  Now you can know the rest of the story.

As Lindsay Barnett reported in the Los Angeles Times,
The Times' Technology blog shared this gem of a video this morning, and we couldn't resist, well, re-sharing. Our colleague David Colker explains that Rabbi Benny Zippel of Chabad Lubavitch in Utah was demonstrating the shofar, an animal horn that figures prominently in the celebrations of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, when the performance unexpectedly became a duet.
The rabbi's duet partner, identified only as a family dog named Chewy, seemed overwhelmed with the spirit of Rosh Hashana -- either that or he mistook the sound of the ram's horn for something very different.  Either way, the results are priceless  -- the gathered congregation seemed to enjoy it, as well.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Classic Rosh Hashanah Videos: I Gotta Love You, Rosh Hashanah

Three years ago, Taglit-Birthright Israel commissioned a video production for Rosh Hashanah by William Levin, also known as The Jewish Robot.  The video featured Michelle Citrin, the Rosh Hashanah girl, who is an accomplished musician and singer/songwriter in her own right.  

Michelle is currently busy writing the music and lyrics for a musical adaptation of the 1993 Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan film, Sleepless in Seattle, which has a planned Broadway opening in February 2011.

The Levin-Citrin collaboration, I Gotta Love You, Rosh Hashanah, achieved more than 600,000 views on YouTube, and is just as relevant today as it was in 2007.  With Rosh Hashanah beginning this Wednesday evening, we're posting it as a classic video to get you in the mood for the beginning of the holiday season.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 3, 2010

I Got A Feeling That Shabbat's Gonna Be A Good Night

As we head into the last Shabbat of the year 5770, we're bringing back the crew from the National Jewish Outreach Program that performed Soul Bigger (the parody of Gold Digger) last week on Jewish Humor Central.

They're singing I Got a Feeling (that Shabbat's gonna be a good night,) a Jewish version of the hit song of the same name by the Black Eyed  Peas.  We'd call it an encore, but it's really a precursor to Soul Bigger.  It was done a few months earlier for the NJOP's Shabbat Across America program.  Enjoy and Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Classic Rosh Hashana Videos: Benji Lovitt Conducts Street Interviews In Tel Aviv

Sheinkin Street is known as the trendiest street in Tel Aviv, where colorful people stroll about.  It teems with stylish clothing stores, bars, restaurants, and fruit juice stands, and attracts artists, musicians, and entertainers.  

Last year just before Rosh Hashana, American/Israeli comedian and writer Benji Lovitt took his microphone to this Tel Aviv location to ask people in the street how they are getting ready for the approaching holiday.  The answers and reactions are just as relevant (and funny) as they were a year ago.

Lovitt has been doing stand-up comedy for years and will be in North America this fall, between October 24 and November 10.  He's looking for bookings at synagogues and Hillels, and can be reached via his website,  He does a hilarious show about life in Israel that can be a great introduction for anyone planning a visit to Israel.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Funniest Israeli Commercials: "A Dangerous Place" - Ninth Of A Series

Most people who have visited Israel know that, despite State Department warnings and some impressions conveyed by the media, Israel is in many ways safer than New York.  

But what's the best way to communicate this to the world?

An Israeli reality TV show, The Ambassador, similar to Donald Trump's The Apprentice, had teams competing in various tasks to portray Israel in a positive light, leading to selection of one of the participants as an "ambassador" of Israeli public relations.
One of the tasks was to film an upbeat, funny TV spot showing Israel's light side.  The video below is the result.  Enjoy!