Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Indian Jewish Comedian Uses Logic To Prove There Are No Jews In This World

Samson Koletkar, son of a Jewish father and a converted Hindu mother, has developed a stand-up comedy routine to prove that there are no Jews in the world.  Using comedic logic, which isn't taught in college but probably should be, he turns the questions he usually gets about his ethnicity into a funny explanation of how he is more Jewish than Abraham's son Isaac.

Koletkar is the world's only Indian Jewish Stand-up Comedian.  Born and raised in Mumbai, and now living in San Francisco, his comedy is a unique perspective on life as an Indian Jew in the West. 

Listening to Koletkar, we were reminded of pilpul, the art of textual analysis used by yeshiva students to prove a point by citing sources, some obvious and some far-fetched.  We have used comedic pilpul, for example, using citations from the Torah and Talmud to "prove" that talking in shul during services is not only not prohibited, but actively encouraged.  How?  Let's save that story for another day.  In the meantime, we hope you enjoy Koletkar's humor.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Two Rabbis And A Beauty Queen Climb Into A Hot Air Balloon...

OK, OK, so it sounds like the start of a bad joke. But it's not.

Israel has been suffering from a lack of rainfall, and Israelis, both secular and religious, are pulling out all of the stops to bring about a reversal of fortune.  The rain, which usually falls this time of year, has not come, and forecasters predict no change in the weather through part of December.

The situation has caused an unusual unity in the country.  Rabbis and a beauty queen in a hot air balloon.  Jews, Muslims, and Christians in an interfaith prayer service.  It would take something like a severe drought to bring these diverse groups together.

Last week, Jews, Muslims, and Christians gathered in Al-Walajah, a Palestinian village between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in the West Bank, part of Israel's Jerusalem municipality, for an interfaith prayer service asking for rain to start falling.

As Ilana Curiel reported in ynetnews.com on Friday, 
Before dawn on Thursday, Rabbis Menashe Malka and Reuven Deri  boarded a hot air balloon and ascended 1,000 feet in the air in order to pray for timely rain.

The two were joined by Eshkol Regional Council Head Haim Yalin and Sdot Negev Regional Head Council Meir Yifrach, as well as beauty queen Shavit Wiesel and other worshippers.
The group, which took off from an open field near Kibbutz Ruhama in the Negev, was equipped with a prayer for rain drafted by late Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu.
With no precipitation in sight, farmers in northern Israel estimate crop damages would reach up to NIS 50 million (about $13 million.) 
Hot air balloon operator Moran Itzkovitz said that "a joint prayer, while looking down at the amazing scenary of the dry Negev fields, may open the gates of heavens and strengthen farmers across the country."
Also on Thursday, worshippers gathered in the northern town of Hatzor HaGlilit, at the tomb of Honi HaM'agel, who became famous for his ability to successfully pray for rain during a year of drought.
The prayer was attended by chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar, council heads, rabbis and yeshiva students from the surrounding areas. The worshippers blew the shofar and recited a special prayer authored by Rabbi Metzger.
On Wednesday, dozens of Rabbis and guests gathered for a mass prayer for rain on board the Ein Gev tourist vessel at the Sea of Galilee. 
We like to include a video clip in each of our blog posts, but we couldn't find a clip of the balloon launch. The best we can do is share a short clip of Shavit Wiesel introducing herself as Miss Israel 2010.  We hope you'll accept that in lieu of a balloon video.  May her merit and that of her rabbi co-passengers on the balloon persuade the Almighty to open the skies and bless Israel with much needed rainfall.

Photos by Hadar Bendet/Over Israel

Sunday, November 28, 2010

New Chanukah Parody Song By Yeshiva University's Maccabeats

Song parodies are especially popular around Chanukah time.  A Cappella singing has also increased in popularity over the years, especially on college campuses.  Yeshiva University's singing group, the Maccabeats, has brought these two phenomena together by releasing a new music video this week, called Candlelight.  It's a takeoff on a pop music video called Dynamite by singer, songwriter, and music producer Taio Cruz.

The Maccabeats have been singing a cappella at YU since 2007.  As they developed a repertoire, their music began to spread beyond the school and they have performed an eclectic array of Jewish, American, and Israeli songs for thousands all around the country. Their breakthrough piece, Lecha Dodi, combines some of the most beloved words of Jewish liturgy with Leonard Cohen's meaningful and melodic Hallelujah.  In 2010, the Maccabeats released their first album entitled Voices from the Heights.

We enjoyed listening to Candlelight and think it's a worthy addition to the growing collection of new songs for Chanukah.  But it's going to take a lot of views for it to reach the 52 million YouTube views that Dynamite has accumulated since its release earlier this year.  Will it reach anywhere near that number?  You be the judge.  Here's the video, followed by the original that it's based on.  We should mention that Candlelight shows a lot less skin than DynamiteEnjoy!

Friday, November 26, 2010

"Kosher Rachael Ray" Makes Eight Latke Recipes For Eight Nights of Hanukkah

Now that Thanksgiving is just a happy memory, it's time to get ready for Chanukah.  As Wayne Steele sang in yesterday's post, I Can't Believe It's Chanukah Again.

We're talking serious latke making time.  And who better to guide you through preparing real authentic crispy delicious latkes but Jamie Geller, "the bride who knew nothing," whose latest book Quick and Kosher: Meals in Minutes was just published on November 1.  (We highlighted the book in Tuesday's list of recommended books for Chanukah reading or giving.)

Geller, often called the kosher Rachael Ray, has just released a video showing the step-by-step preparation of Samosa latkes, one of eight recipes that she created for the eight nights of Chanukah.  Eight recipes!  Yikes!  Watch one in the video below and then we'll show you the others.


So what are the eight types of latkes?  Here they are from Geller's blog, blog.kosher.com, with links to the pages containing the recipes.  Start cooking up a storm and enjoy!

Night #1 – Cheddar and Potato Latkes – Mashing the potatoes first gives these savory latkes an amazing fluffy texture. The addition of cheddar cheese goes beautifully with the spiced applesauce for a latke that will surely be one of your new favorites.

Night #2 – Potato and Parsnip Latkes – Traditional potato latkes get an extra hint of earthiness with the addition of parsnips and thyme. If you have a food processor, try using the shredding attachment to cut down on prep time.

Night #3 – Zucchini Latkes – This healthier latke doesn’t use any potato at all but instead uses tasty vegetables and a great mix of Cajun spices.

Night #4 – Carrot and Apple Latkes – Carrots, apples and ginger are combined in this unique take on a latke for a slightly sweet twist.

Night #5 – South of the Border Latkes with Black Bean Topping – Spicy, hearty, and cheesy, these latkes are absolutely delicious packed with protein, carbs and veggies – it’s like a meal in one.

Night #6 – Steakhouse Latkes – Don’t worry this recipe is pareve but the name is inspired by the spinach and potato style sides commonly offered in steakhouses alongside, well, a steak!

Night #7 – Samosa Latkes – This recipe is from my new cookbook: Quick & Kosher: Meals in Minutes, From the Bride Who Knew Nothing. Use russet potatoes, they are the best for baking! The addition of curry powder, peas and the chutney is what gives this latke an Indian flavor (see video above.)

Night #8 – Baked Sweet Potato Latkes with Gingered Sour Cream – To satisfy any sweet tooth, these delicious latkes are baked, not fried, so they’re a lot healthier. Paired with easy to make gingered sour cream, and they are a delicious treat! (you can always just fry them up if you must!)

And, for the people in your life who are purists, Geller offers a couple of traditional potato latke recipes, including her Zaydie’s tried and true classic best ever potato latke recipes: Latkes, Crispy Potato Latkes, and Mashed Potato Pancakes.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I Can't Believe It's Chanukah Again: A New Soon-To-Be Classic Song

We wish all of our readers a Happy Thanksgiving, whether you're sitting down to a dinner of turkey, turducken, or tofurky.  

If Thanksgiving is here today, can Chanukah be far behind?  Actually, this year, it's only six days away!

Each year we look forward to celebrating Chanukah, but we've about had our fill of listening to I Have a Little Dreidel and Chanukah, Oh Chanukah, and yes, even Adam Sandler's The Hanukkah SongWe've been yearning for some new, meaningful, modern music and lyrics to sustain us through the eight day festival.

While searching the internet, we stumbled upon a song that we think has the potential to rise to classic status and to be replayed each year at this time.  It's called I Can't Believe It's Chanukah Again, by Wayne Steele.

Wayne has been singing since the age of four, entertaining at community engagements and at family gatherings. By the time he was in high school he was singing in several theatrical performances, most of which were musicals. 

In college Wayne was lead singer of the band "Sonics".  Soon Wayne and his band began booking gigs all over New York State and eventually Long Island hot spots. Wayne and the members of Sonics went their own way and Wayne formed the group AZIZ. Again, Wayne found himself rocking college towns around New York State. Their first album sold thousands on MP3.com in the late 90's and was named the "Best in Unsigned Rock-n-Roll" by WBAB. AZIZ got their music played on the radio and positive feedback was given by "The Voice" and "Island Ear." 

In 2005, Wayne put out a solo project called It's All About Chanukah.  The 4 track CD has the self titled song that tells the story of Chanukah in a catchy, fun, hooky style that is sure to get you to sing along.  The vocal performances are strong and the riffs will keep your head bobbing and toes tapping.  And now he's back with I Can't Believe It's Chanukah Again -- a song that's even more catchy and likely to stay in your head for awhile.  Give it a listen...and you will be hooked.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More Humorous, Cooking, And Other Books For Chanukah And Jewish Book Month

Well, it's still November and that means it's still Jewish Book Month. We had such a good response to our November 5th survey of 15 new books for Chanukah reading and giving that we're adding to the list of books you might want to consider this year.

A Short History of A Tall Jew by Dennis Danziger
Philip Lachman, a 39-year-old Los Angeles public high school teacher, is searching for a second wife to be a stepmom to his custody-battle scarred kids. As we follow him in his search, we meet a hilarious cast of characters who are part of Philip's life. He sets out on a quest to find any kind, caring, competent woman by next Valentine's Day who won't be terrified by his teenage son who is into Communism and designer shoes nor turned off by his teenage daughter who dreams of becoming the queen of an oil-rich country.

The problem is, Philip has no leads, no numbers. But minor details like these are not going to get in his way. Any kind, caring, competent woman will do. So long as she's not an actress. But this is glittery, glamorous, how-much-money-are-you-worth L.A. So Philip, who barely ekes out a living as a public high school teacher, and has to suffer the indignity of teaching students who come to school each day in cars far more luxurious than his, is in for the ride of his life.

Have a Good Laugh: Jewish Jokes for the Soul by Ron Isaacs
Throughout the centuries Jews have used humor to cope with their history of trauma and stress. In fact, they have been sharpening their wits for over two thousand years and have always used jokes and humorous characterizations as teaching aids and as a means to illustrate, enlighten and improve. Have a Good Laugh: Jewish Jokes for the Soul presents a vast array of Jewish jokes that will surely bring a smile to your face and tickle your fancy.

If you are a professional or even an amateur speaker, you can use the jokes (which are categorized by topic for easy access) to beguile your audiences at lectures, parties and presentations. And the good news is that there are no crude or offensive jokes in this book. Just good, clean fun. So enjoy this collection of Jewish humor, and hope you do have a good laugh.

Here's one example: The Unexpected Delivery
Moshe, the owner of a small Kosher New York deli, was being questioned by an IRS agent about his tax return. He had reported a net profit of $80,000 for the year. Why don t people leave me alone? the deli owner said. I work like a dog, everyone in my family helps out, the place is only closed for Jewish Holidays and Shabbat. And you want to know how I made $80,000? It s not your income that bothers us, the agent said. It s these travel deductions. You listed ten trips to Israel for you and your wife. Oh, that? the owner said smiling. Well... We also deliver.

Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America's Food Answers to a Higher Authority by Sue Fishkoff
Kosher? That means the rabbi blessed it, right? Not exactly. In this captivating account of a Bible-based practice that has grown into a multibillions-dollar industry, journalist Sue Fishkoff travels throughout America and to Shanghai, China, to find out who eats kosher food, who produces it, who is responsible for its certification, and how this fascinating world continues to evolve. She explains why 86 percent of the 11.2 million Americans who regularly buy kosher food are not observant Jews—they are Muslims, Seventh-day Adventists, vegetarians, people with food allergies, and consumers who pay top dollar for food they believe “answers to a higher authority.”

Fishkoff interviews food manufacturers, rabbinic supervisors, and ritual slaughterers; meets with eco-kosher adherents who go beyond traditional requirements to produce organic chicken and pasture-raised beef; sips boutique kosher wine in Napa Valley; talks to shoppers at an upscale kosher supermarket in Brooklyn; and marches with unemployed workers at the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant. She talks to Reform Jews who are rediscovering the spiritual benefits of kashrut, and to Conservative and Orthodox Jews who are demanding that kosher food production adhere to ethical and environmental values. And she chronicles the corruption, price-fixing, and strong arm tactics of early-twentieth-century kosher meat production, against which contemporary kashrut standards pale by comparison.

Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France by Joan Nathan
What is Jewish cooking in France? In a journey that was a labor of love, Joan Nathan traveled the country to discover the answer and, along the way, unearthed a treasure trove of recipes and the often moving stories behind them.
Nathan takes us into kitchens in Paris, Alsace, and the Loire Valley; she visits the bustling Belleville market in Little Tunis in Paris; she breaks bread with Jewish families around the observation of the Sabbath and the celebration of special holidays. All across France, she finds that Jewish cooking is more alive than ever: traditional dishes are honored, yet have acquired a certain French finesse. And completing the circle of influences: following Algerian independence, there has been a huge wave of Jewish immigrants from North Africa, whose stuffed brik and couscous, eggplant dishes and tagines—as well as their hot flavors and Sephardic elegance—have infiltrated contemporary French cooking.

Quick and Kosher: Meals in Minutes by Jamie Geller

The "bride who knew nothing" is back! Five years after her wedding, Jamie Geller is juggling a career and running a busy household - and she still has no time to cook.
As her family and career rapidly grew, Jamie set out to learn how to cook with children around, how to cook meals that kids would eat (while not boring adult family and guests) and how to do it all without losing her cool.
This innovative cookbook features over 215 new quick recipes, new fast takes on traditional holiday dishes, and expert interviews about wine and cheese. Best of all, the recipes in this book tell you how much total time to allow for "PCS" - that's to Prep, Cook & Serve - the full meal. You'll find out how much you can do in just 20, 40, or 60 minutes, and there's a special holiday chapter too! What's more, all the recipes are combined into full, balanced menus, so you'll know that you're serving your family and guests meals that are nourishing, as well as scrumptious and enticing.

Kosher by Design: Teens and 20-Somethings by Susie Fishbein
Susie Fishbein knows fun cooking; her best-selling Kosher by Design series has revolutionized kosher cuisine. Susie also listens; so when teens and young adults asked for a cookbook that fits their lifestyle - fun food that's delicious and quick to prepare - she responded. Kosher by Design: Teens and 20-Somethings is just for them - just for you.

Want to make amazing food at home instead of ordering another takeout meal? Thinking about surprising your mother with a superb full course dinner, but need help? Need creative ideas to plan a great party at home - even on short notice? Looking for simple-to-do recipes that don't require fancy kitchen gadgets? You're in luck! Here are 100 uncommonly delicious alternatives to common fast food!

Students, newlyweds, young people at home, in their own apartments, or in dorms - (and the older adults who often feed them) - will all welcome Kosher by Design: Teens and 20-Somethings, the newest and most anticipated member of the KBD family.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jerry Stiller And Anne Meara Start A Funny New Web Series

After 57 years in comedy, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara are taking their skills to a new medium.  Thanks to their son, actor Ben Stiller, who directs them, the comedy couple who were very popular in the 1960s and 1970s have started a show called Stiller and Meara:  A Show About Everything -- a series of short conversations (10 so far) that are posted to the web.

The segments, running less than three minutes each, cover a wide range of topics including basketball, marijuana, Valentine's Day, Justin Bieber, Veterans Day, Lady Gaga, and Jersey Shore.

As Susan King wrote in yesterday's Los Angeles Times,
The comedy of Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara was born out of loving differences.

Married in 1953, they became one of the most successful comedy teams around by joking about their respective ethnic groups (Jewish and Irish Catholic). They recorded comedy albums, played nightclubs and Las Vegas and were mainstays of variety hours on TV; in the 1960s they were on The Ed Sullivan Show three dozen times.

But with the demise of musical variety shows and Meara's reluctance to go on the road, they decided to split up the act. Stiller, 83, went on to even greater fame as a sitcom dad on Seinfeld and The King of Queens while appearing with his movie star son Ben in many films. Meara, 81, also worked with Ben in movies and became a playwright.
Taped in their living room, Stiller and Meara act like any couple married 57 years -- they interrupt and contradict each other constantly, but seem very happy doing it.  

Their style hasn't changed much over the years.  We found a clip of them appearing together on What's My Line? on CBS in 1968 and kvelled to see them as they were then and today, 42 years later.

We suggest that you watch the first one of their web segments below, and then scroll down to watch the 1968 clip.  If you're looking for more, you can find all ten episodes that they've recorded so far by following this link.  Enjoy!


Monday, November 22, 2010

Animated Neil Diamond Sings Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Song

Last year we posted a video of Adam Sandler singing his Chanukah Song. (Put on your yarmulke, it's time to celebrate Hanukkah...)  The song has become a standard and has been recorded by many other singers. 

We found an animated version that we think you'll enjoy watching as we get ready to light the first Chanukah candle on December 1, only ten days from today. 

In this version, Neil Diamond (yes, the same Neil Diamond who sang Hava Nagila in The Jazz Singer and in Keeping Up With the Steins, and Kol Nidre in The Jazz Singer), performs a cover of Sandler's song,  while all of the Jews (and some non-Jews) identified in the song appear as cartoon characters.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Jews And Baseball: An American Love Story - Now Showing At Film Festivals

On Friday we blogged about two words (Beatles, Shabbat) that are not often, if ever, seen in the same sentence.  Today we shift from the world of music to the world of sports and introduce you to a new film that brings together another unlikely pair.

The film is Jews and Baseball:  An American Love Story, and it's been playing around the country at Jewish Film Festivals from New York to San Francisco.  Festival screenings are scheduled from now through next April from California to Connecticut (here's the schedule.)

16,700 Major League baseball players.  160 of them have been Jews.  But they have had an impact far beyond their numbers.

Dustin Hoffman narrates this celebration of the impact Jewish major leaguers have had on America’s favorite pastime, and on the lives of American Jews. Featuring archival footage of unforgettable games, and interviews with star players Sandy Koufax, Al Rosen, and Kevin Youkilis, among others, and baseball personalities such as Commissioner Bud Selig, Mets owner Fred Wilpon, former sportscaster Larry King, and executives and fans like Charles Bronfman. 

You don’t have to love baseball to be moved by this story. It's a joy for male and female viewers, young and old.  We'll be on the lookout for release dates for the DVD and for its availability for rental on Netflix.  In the meantime, enjoy the trailer!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Shabbat in Liverpool: 25 Shabbat Classics With Beatles Melodies

Shabbat and the Beatles.  

Those are two words we never expected to see in the same sentence.  Well, Lenny Solomon and his Shlock Rock band have brought the two together in a new music album that may forever change the sounds of Shabbat.

The album has 21 tracks with 25 Beatles melodies, from the welcoming of the Sabbath with Shalom Aleichem through the Friday night and Saturday morning services, zemirot at the table, and Havdalah to end the day of rest.

Just in case you're not familiar with Shlock Rock, it's a Jewish Rock Band that teaches Jewish ideas through music using song parodies, original music in both English and Hebrew and children’s songs. 

Solomon started the band in 1986 and since then they have released more than 30 albums, many more than Allan Sherman and other parodists of pop music.  They see their mission as encouraging Jewish pride, identity and awareness and helping to promote Jewish continuity through music. Shlock Rock has performed over 2,000 shows in the United States , Canada , Australia , South Africa , Israel and England.

The album is available from the band's website for $12.99 as a CD or $10 as a download, with free shipping through the end of December.  The website has samples of all 21 tracks on the album.

Here's a trailer for the CD, with excerpts from some of the songs.  Enjoy, and Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Indiana Jones Film Parody: Searching For Lost Gefilte Fish Recipe In "Graters Of The Lost Carp"

No, it's not Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones.  But it's another nice Jewish archaeologist, a gastronomic archaeologist named Israel Stein.  He's searching for the species of carp that made the original skinless gefilte fish recipe famous, an ancient recipe thought to be hidden in the ruins of the lost city of Chelm.

Graters of the Lost Carp, a newly released comedy short, also touches on some serious topics such as the education of women in the ghetto and how present day Poland is attempting to bring back Jewish culture in a country with very few Jews.

The half-hour film incorporates elements of time travel, special effects, and liberal doses of schmaltz.

Here's a synopsis of the plot:  

Israel Stein, the world’s most intrepid Gastronomical Archeologist, embarks on his greatest adventure yet when a lucky clue points him toward the legendary lost city of Chelm, source of a gefilte fish recipe that reportedly was to die for.

Following a trail of clues to Poland, Israel learns that Rachel Liebner, a gastronomical geneticist has gotten there ahead of him. But when a third party tries to steal the recipe for himself, can the two scientists find a way to bring the recipe back for the good of all mankind?

Released in time for Chanukah, this short film should appeal to anyone who enjoys spoofs, satire, parody, and takeoffs on popular movies.

The DVD is available from the producer's web site for $15 with free shipping in the U.S. and Canada.

Watch the trailer below to get a taste of this very (gefilte) fishy story.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

National Museum Of American Jewish History Opens In Philadelphia

After years of planning and construction, the National Museum of American Jewish History held a gala opening ceremony last Sunday on Philadelphia's Independence Mall, just across from the Liberty Bell.

The ceremony attracted over 1,000 donors, politicians, and entertainers, including Vice-President Joe Biden and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Jerry Seinfeld, Barbra Streisand, and Bette Midler.  

Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg affixed a mezuzah to the doorpost of the building, which opens to the public on November 26.

Josh Perelman, Deputy Curator of the museum, explained that the museum's goal was to show visitors the lived experience of being a Jew throughout American history.

As David O'Reilly reported in philly.com, the website of The Philadelphia Inquirer, 
After entering on Market Street, visitors are invited to start their tour on the fourth floor, in the year 1654, and descend through time, floor by floor, to the present, inspecting more than a thousand artifacts along the way.
A great majority of the items are secular - immigration documents from Ellis Island, a sewing machine, the upright piano at which the Russian-born, agnostic, but ethnically Jewish Berlin penned such tunes as "White Christmas," "Easter Parade," and "God Bless America."
But here, too, are examples of the Torah scrolls, bibles, prayer books, menus, candlesticks, kiddush cups, bat mitzvah dresses, and yarmulkes that have helped sustain Judaism in America for three and a half centuries.
"I think we did a pretty good job," said Perelman.
The tour begins with artifacts of Jewish life in the colonies. Here, behind glass, is a 1737 Torah from Savannah, Georgia; a plain, bronze menorah, or liturgical candelabrum; a circumcision kit; the wooden top of a Torah ark from Lancaster County; the bible of the Gomez family - New York mill owners who had fled the Spanish Inquisition; and the handwritten "subscription list" of donors who, in 1728, created America's first synagogue, Shearith Israel, in New York City.
"And here's something I love," said Perelman, wiping the fingerprints from a glass case that had already attracted much attention.
"This," he said, pointing to the page within, "is the 'Richmond Prayer,' " composed in Hebrew by a Virginia congregation in 1789 in honor of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
"It's a prayer for our country," he said, gazing fondly at its uneven, hand-lettered lines resembling verse. The first Hebrew letter on the right of each line creates a vertical anagram spelling out the name "George Washington."
"It's really one of a kind," said Perelman. The prayer is part of the museum's permanent collection; about 45 percent of the items on display are on loan.
The next room, called "Building Traditions," visits American Judaism from the early 19th century to the Civil War. Again there are examples of the traditional Judaica from the period: leather tefillin, or prayer boxes; a long, hand-knit circumcision robe; a shofar, the ram's horn used to announce the high holidays; samples of ketubot, Jewish marriage documents; and the 1862 commission of Rabbi Jacob Frankel of Philadelphia, the first Jewish military chaplain. It is signed by Abraham Lincoln.
But, here, too, are the first signs of division in American Jewry's understanding of what it means to be religiously observant.
The displays tell the story of Congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston, S.C., where, in 1824, 47 members signed a petition demanding sermons and some prayers in English, shorter services, and an end to special deference to the wealthy and social elites.
When the leadership refused, the 47 broke away to start the Reformed Society of Israelites, precursor to the Reform movement that would become the nation's largest Jewish denomination.
The display features the community's ornate silver tzedekah (charity) box, along with the manuscript edition of its radically "reformed" prayer book in English and Hebrew.
An adjacent gallery tells the story of the deepening divisions within Jewry as some challenged traditions thousands of years old.
Readers of Jewish Humor Central will appreciate that the museum designers did not overlook Jewish contributions to humor.  Groucho Marx, Gilda Radner, Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, and The Three Stooges are among the many Jewish entertainers whose works are included in the collection. 

To get a feel for the museum, here's a video produced during its design phase, describing the goals of the architects and designers for this important new addition to the national museum scene.  And after November 26, head for Philadelphia and see for yourself.  After all, "It's Your Story." Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pigskins In Jerusalem: Tackle Football Finds A Home In Israel

While soccer is still the national sport, Israelis are showing a fondness for American sports.  Last year we blogged about a film that documented the formation of an Israeli Baseball League.  Now with the start of the football season, the Israeli Football League (IFL) is ready for action.

The league got its start in November 2007 in a partnership with the Kraft Family, owners of the New England Patriots in the U.S. National Football League.  The league's website details its origins and serves as a base for keeping track of team standings and statistics. It tells about its history and plans for the future.  Here are some excerpts:
It has now been four years since the dream of tackle football in Israel really took hold. What began as a group of 25 enthusiastic and energetic Sabra athletes playing without pads in the Tel Aviv Sportek has grown exponentially into a thriving community of more than 600 players country-wide, with the demand for and interest in our sport growing stronger every day.
From four initial teams, to five the next year to seven last season, the IFL has steadily and consistently grown with a big-picture eye on the future. This fall, the league will continue to mature and showcase the expansion of this great and exciting game to the Israeli market as we introduce two new teams to our senior league as well as kick off our brand-new high school developmental league, IFL High.

Creating pockets of football throughout the country at both the youth and senior levels will allow us to extend our reach and exposure through grassroots initiatives and higher media coverage. It is our dream that within the next 10 years, football will join soccer and basketball as a top-tier sport in Israel, to the extent that every child will consider it a viable option to play from a young age.
Last week CNN reported on a game between the Judean Rebels and the Jerusalem Big Blue Lions.  Let's join reporter Kevin Flower down on the field as he interviews players and coaches in this league now playing its fourth season.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Eight Days" - Chanukah In Israel - A New Musical Video By Nefesh B'Nefesh

Last year before Chanukah, Nefesh B'Nefesh, the organization that each year provides assistance to thousands of Jews making Aliyah to Israel, released a video of a flash mob of 150 people singing in organized spontaneity in the streets of Jerusalem.  We posted the video, and a week later, another video showing how the first video was made.

We wondered what they were going to do for an encore.  Yesterday, Nefesh B'Nefesh released a new Hanukkah video called Eight Days, a parody of the song One Day, by the Chassidic reggae singer Matisyahu.  Earlier this year NBC selected this song as the theme of their coverage of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and we profiled Matisyahu and One Day in a Jewish Humor Central blog post in February.  Enjoy!

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

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Jewnion Label Debuts Funny New Mythical Union Clothing For Hanukkah

Back in February we introduced you to the Jewnion Label line of T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, aprons, and other items emblazoned with funny mock union labels such as Union of Jewish Handymen and International Order of Challah Makers.

Now, just in time for Chanukah, the line has been expanded to 17 mock unions, guilds, associations and federations including the Loyal Order of the Latke and the International Association of Dreidel Spinners.
Each design is available on the clothing, aprons, mugs, buttons, water bottles, tote bags, and 12 of the unions are represented on a 2011 wall calendar.

The designs include:

Loyal Order of the Latke
International Association of Dreidel Spinners
International Order of Challah Makers
Amalgamated Menschen International
Union of Jewish Handymen
Union of Jewish Handywomen
Guild of Jewish Mothers
B.O.O.T.H.S. International:  Sukkah Builders
United Apple Dippers and Honey Drippers
International Federation of Shofar Blowers
Associated Jewish Outdoorsmen
Associated Jewish Outdoorswomen
Benevolent Brotherhood of the B'rit Milah
Allied Matzo Ball Makers League
Federated Gefilte Fish Grinders & Fressers Guild
International Assocation of B'nei Mitzvah
United Hamantaschen Makers and Fressers

Jewnion Label, launched in early 2010, is the brainchild of husband and wife Joshua and Stacey Abarbanel.  Joshua Abarbanel is a visual artist, curator, and a professor of art,specializing in new media. He is co-author/co-designer of the 2007 book A Field Guide to Household Bugs: It’s a Jungle in Here, and a member of the Jewish Artists Initiative of Southern California. 

Stacey Abarbanel is director of external affairs for a Los Angeles museum. She is author of the first and second editions of the Newcomer’s Handbook for Los Angeles.

Tracing the origins of the Jewnion Label, the Abarbanels say on their website:
Our logos owe a nod of appreciation to vintage trade emblems, which we admire for their graphic design.  But also, we note that in medieval times European Jews were often denied access to trade guilds and land ownership -- perhaps that's why so many of us "call the guy" -- so there's some poetic justice in Jewnion label "rising up" (See the logo for the International Order of Challah Makers) and celebrating our many quirks, customs, holidays, and traditions.
All of the Jewnion label products are available online at the Cafe Press website.  They are currently offering $3 off a $30 purchase by using the coupon code PRETG3 through Monday, November 15.

Friday, November 12, 2010

How Do You Say Shabbat Shalom?

It's been a busy week at Jewish Humor Central.  We started with a review of the Chanukah story, took a funny look at Israel Passport Control, joined 4500 Chabad rabbis at their international conference, made potato latkes with the Bubbe, and took a walk down memory lane with Allan Sherman and his song parody albums.  

Now we need a rest, and isn't that what Shabbat is for?  So we'll join in with all the men, women, boys, girls, and Elmo, who were invited by the National Jewish Outreach Program to participate in this video and wish you all a Shabbat Shalom or Good Shabbos, whichever you prefer.  On Sunday we'll be back with some more gift ideas for Chanukah as we count down to the first candle on December 1.