Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Lego Purim - The Story of Purim Told With Lego Blocks on Purim Day

Today is the holiday of Purim!  Chag Sameach to all of our readers.

The story of Purim has been told in many ways -- including puppet shows, songs, dance, mime and animation.

Lego construction blocks have been used to create replicas of everything from Yankee Stadium to the New York Stock Exchange to neighborhoods like Greenwich Village.

Now these two concepts have come together in Lego Purim, a three minute video telling the story of Purim with all characters and backgrounds built with Lego blocks.

The project was sponsored by and the construction was done by Moshe Schlussel, a 10-year-old from Milwaukee.

We hope that you will enjoy it as you celebrate Purim today.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Stars of Broadway's Biggest Hit Shows to Perform at 6th Annual Purim Shpiel Monday Night

The National Entertainment Fund for the Cultural Arts (NEFCA) and event Co-Chair Michael Steinhardt are presenting  the 6th Annual Broadway Purim Shpiel at the Hudson Theatre at 141 West 44th Street in Manhattan on Monday, March 1st, 2010 at 7pm. Tickets are available at a 15% discount at

For one night only, stars from Broadway’s biggest hit shows will join together for the Broadway Purim Shpiel, a hilarious retelling of the Purim story. All proceeds from the NEFCA production will benefit The Birthright Israel Foundation, an organization dedicated to sending young Jews from across the world to Israel.  Full details about the event can be found at

As reported in NYBlueprint,  the Urban Jewish Event Guide, 
For the 6th consecutive year, Broadway''s biggest talents demonstrate their generosity by performing in our benefit,” said NEFCA founder and executive director Scott Kluge. “This year Richard Kind, one of our generation's funniest actors, will take the helm as host of the Shpiel.  This will be the most hilarious performance yet!
This year's shpiel will synchronize with Broadway''s latest trend - rock n roll. Our cast includes stars from Rock of Ages, American Idiot, Memphis, Jersey Boys and many other great shows - so prepare for a rockin' Shpiel on March 1st," he added.
The cast of this year's show will include:
Host: Richard Kind  (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
• Christian Hoff  (Jersey Boys - TONY Award Winner)
• Clarke Thorell  (Hairspray)
• Adam Kantor  (Rent)
• Alysha Umphress  (American Idiot)
• Alex Brightman  (Wicked)
• Gaelen Gilliand  (9 to 5)
• MODI  (Comedian)
• Chad Kimball  (Memphis)
• Eric Anderson  (South Pacific)
• Savannah Wise  (Ragtime)
• Jarrod Spector  (Jersey Boys)

To get an idea of what this year's performance will be like, check out the video clip below of the 4th Annual Broadway Purim Shpiel from March 2008.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Personal Mechitza: Is It Real Or Just a Purim Joke?

As collectors of Jewish humor and chroniclers of humorous situations involving Jews of all types, we thought we had a good handle on what's funny and what's not, and what's real and what's a spoof, parody, or satire.  Well, this week we have been stumped by an article that appeared in The Jerusalem Post and that has been referenced in other Jewish media.

Last Friday Adir Glick, writing in The Jerusalem Post, reported that Israel's Rabbinic Council for Public Transportation is advising Haredi airline passengers to hang a new type of mechitza – a halachic barrier to separate the sexes – around the top of their airplane seats, to shield their eyes from immodest neighbors and in-flight movies.

The Rabbinical Council for Public Transportation, which is also representing the Haredi community on the issue of gender-segregated mehadrin buses, is now placing advertisements in Haredi newspapers encouraging the community to purchase the traveler mehitzas.

On Monday, the Muqata blog picked up the story and embellished it with a photo that was supposedly an unauthorized copy of an ad smuggled out of EL AL's PR offices.  We strongly suspect that the photo, like another supposed EL AL ad showing that the airline knows how to distinguish between tefillin and a bomb, is a spoof.  But the basic story -- is it true or is it the equivalent of an April Fool's Day joke?

According to the Post article,
The new mehitzas, made of white nylon, stick onto the fabric of the airplane chair using Velcro and can be arranged to make a protective “shield.” The mehitza goes around the head and is mostly in front of the passenger’s face, protruding only a little to the sides. Its designer, who asked that his name not be published, declined to share pictures and his design details, but said the mehitzas were “airy” and did not bother anybody.

“They’re very nice,” said Rabbi Shimon Stern, spokesman for the Rabbinic Council for Public Transportation. “Very cute. It’s very practical.”

The mehitzas are designed to be portable and fit into a small box, which passengers can bring on the plane.

The airplane mehitzas come in the wake of other recent steps by the haredi community to avoid immodesty, such as the mehadrin bus lines and separate-sex sidewalks in Jerusalem’s Geula neighborhood.

Stern said the main reason for the latest recommendation was to enable haredi passengers to block out in-flight movies. Television sets are banned in haredi communities, and movies are forbidden. In aircraft with large movie screens, it is difficult to avoid watching the films.
As long-term Charles Schultz and Peanuts fans, it seems to us that Charlie Brown had a similar and less expensive solution when he was too embarrassed to make eye contact with the Little Red Haired Girl -- he put a paper grocery bag over his head.

So, after finding and sharing stories about rabbinic bans of perfume, music lessons, black and white cookies, and Haredi web sites, we're inclined to believe that the story (but not the photo) is true.  As we have often said, you just can't make this stuff up.  On the other hand, Purim is a mere two days away.  As they say on TV news, "We report.  You decide."

Happy Purim to everyone from Jewish Humor Central!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Oscars, Shmoscars! This Purim We've Got the Silver Gragger Movie Awards

(Happy Purim to all of our Jewish Humor Central readers.  We hope you enjoy this special Purim spoof from the Purim 2010 issue of The Kustanowitz Kronikle.  You can download the PDF by clicking HERE.  Print it and share it at your Purim Seudah.)

There are the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards (Oscars).  But who needs them when the best awards of all are the Silver Graggers.  Jewish Humor Central is only a few months old, but we have been giving movie awards in The Kustanowitz Kronikle since 1990, with the Silver Graggers making their first appearance in 2004.

The Silver Graggers are different from the Golden Globes and the Oscars in that there are multiple winners for Best Picture, the only award we give.

This year the Kustanowitz kids have been hard at work, deliberating which films released in 2009 merited consideration for this prestigious award.  Today we are proud to announce the winners of the competition.  Here are the best films of 2009, with a brief description of each one.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE:  A nanny bites off more than she can chew when she takes a job caring for a Charedi couple’s 17 children.

UP IN THE AIR:  A California transplant can't decide when to travel back east for her parents' seders.

UP:  An ingenious ba'al hagbah brings helium balloons to shul to help him get the job of lifting the Torah done.

AWAY WE GO:  A synagogue in an upscale neighborhood closes its doors when all of its members head for Israel, Florida, Arizona, and Puerto Rico for the Passover holiday.

AN EDUCATION:   The wacky adventures of a young couple attempting to make Pesach for the first time.

THE PROPOSAL:  A religious young man breaks his family’s all-time shidduch speed record when he shouts “Will you marry me?” on his way over to the table where his blind date awaits.

IT'S COMPLICATED:  A Conservadox man meets the woman of his dreams, but she’s egalitarian Modern Orthodox. Pressed to describe the difference between the two streams, the couple is rendered speechless.

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS:  A family wakes to overcast skies, trying to decide whether to make the trip to shul for a catered bar mitzvah kiddush.

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG: In this retelling of the book of Exodus, Pharaoh's daughter becomes romantically attached to the leader of the second of the Ten Plagues.

THE BLIND SIDE:  The women belonging to a local synagogue revolt when their mechitzah is raised an additional ten feet.

THE HANGOVER:  A seder goes terribly wrong when a new yeshiva student tells his parents that there are four plagues and ten cups of wine.

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123:  After outgrowing their communities in Williamsburg and Kiryas Joel, the Satmars take over the Young Israel synagogue and buy up all of the homes in the Bronx neighborhood of Pelham Parkway in the course of three days.

PUBLIC ENEMIES:  A community is shocked and appalled when the local rabbi decides tuition has gotten out of control and enrolls his son in public school.

ADAM and CHAVATAR:  A 3D-ChaiMAX retelling of the Garden of Eden story like you've never seen it before, with CGI special effects.  The first man and first woman feel very blue after they eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS?: Rumors spread in a Reform temple in Greenwich that the newest member family had moved in from Boro Park and changed their name from Morganstein.

PRECIOUS:  A feminist scholar deconstructs the poem Eishet Chayil (A Woman of Valor) to identify the components of rabbinic-era attraction.

NINE:  An angst-ridden musical about the nine men who show up for the morning minyan and exert frantic efforts to recruit a tenth so they can get to work on time.

THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS:   Which goat will be slaughtered and which will be driven off a cliff to symbolize the sins of Israel?  Go behind the scenes for an intimate reality-style portrait of the high priests who make these tough decisions.

THE LOVELY BONES:  A new kosher supermarket opens a week before Pesach and advertises an opening special on shankbones for the seder plate.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

CONGRESS VOTES STIMULUS FOR JEWISH COMMUNITY; NEW JOBS, MORE TAXES, SHUL MEMBERSHIP FOR ALL; Synagogue Dues, Building Funds Greater Than $1,000 Will Be Taxed; Positive Effect Seen on ‘Employment Change’; Universal Membership Assured Despite Pre-Existing Affiliation

(Happy Purim to all of our Jewish Humor Central readers.  We hope you enjoy this special Purim spoof from the Purim 2010 issue of The Kustanowitz Kronikle.  You can download the PDF by clicking HERE.  Print it and share it at your Purim Seudah.)
    FAIR LAWN, NJ, Feb. 28 -- Congress passed a massive omnibus bill today that will go a long way toward solving the most talked-about problems in the U.S. economy.
    As a result of the bill’s passage, employment change (formerly called unemployment) is likely to move in a positive direction, reversing the job losses that have dominated political discussion for the last two years.

    After months of discussion about totally overhauling the country’s economy, Congress implemented a pilot coverage program to focus on one community.  If successful, it will be expanded for the entire United States.

    The Jewish community was selected because of its relatively small size and cohesive nature.  Working through the Conference of Presidents of Major Conferences of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations (COPOMCOPOMJO), Congress will be able to direct funds to and collect taxes from a single source.

    Also, all Jews who are unaffiliated with a synagogue will be given subsidies to join a shul.  Membership will be mandatory.  Anyone who refuses to become a synagogue member will be fined or face imprisonment.

    Starting January 1, 2011, the U.S. Treasury will transfer $999 billion to COPOMCOPOMJO, which will then distribute the funds to the 3,727 synagogues that were identified in the latest census.  Orthodox houses of worship comprise 40 percent of the total, Conservative 23 percent, and Reform 26 percent. 

    Although the cost of the stimulus program appears large, Congress insists that it is deficit-neutral because the costs will be offset by new taxes and fees and from savings in improved productivity and efficiencies in all synagogues.  For example,  the government will mandate only supermarket brand scotch, instead of expensive single malt scotch at Kiddush.  Cantors will be required to speed up the prayer service and rabbis will be restricted to 15-minute sermons in the hope that shorter services will result in lower electric bills.  Hot kiddushes will be eliminated to reduce the use of gas and electricity to keep food warm. 

    The bill is more than 4,000 pages long.  Its main provisions include:

       New job creation to improve employment change.  Previous volunteer jobs including Shushers, Candy Men, Children Chasers, Pledge Card Collectors, and Mechitzah Adjusters will now command salaries. (A more complete list of the jobs is on page 2.)

    Mandatory synagogue membership for all Jews.  Each unaffiliated family will receive $500 toward synagogue membership.  If actual membership cost is greater, they will have to make up the difference.  If  it is less, they can keep the difference.

    Annual synagogue dues in excess of $1,000 will be taxed, as will all building fund payments. 

    There will be a public option — guaranteed membership for $500 —but the government will decide which denomination’s synagogue they attend.  If they refuse to affiliate with any denomination, they will have to pay a fine of $1,000 or go to jail for five years.

    Current members may keep their membership or change to a different denomination during the enrollment period from Rosh Hashanah to Chanukah.  All synagogues will be required to accept new members regardless of pre-existing affiliations.

    With more than one million unaffiliated families joining synagogues at the same time, there will be a shortage of seats for the High Holidays.  Because of differences in popularity of denominations, rationing may be required.  For example, if there are not enough seats in Conservative shuls, families will have to accept seats in Reform or Orthodox shuls.

Members will have access to free counseling from government panels that will suggest that they switch to an alternate denomination, based on the available seat counts.  Panel decisions will be final.

    Public response to this bill has been largely unfavorable.  Polling suggests that less than a third of Jews are pleased with this stimulus program.  Protests are taking place across the country.  Tea Room parties are planned at Passover resorts from the Catskills to the Caribbean, which will keep their tea rooms open 24 hours a day.  Most objections are to the increase in taxes, the mandatory membership requirement, and to government panels deciding which synagogue each family will attend.

    Pro-Choice groups such as Choose Your Own Adventure readers insist on having the right to choose their own denominations, whenever they want and as many times as they want. 

    Pro-Life groups such as Frum From Birth (FFB) maintain that no one has the right to terminate their affiliation with a denomination that they have been a member of for their whole life.


New Jewish community jobs created with stimulus money from Congress to move employment change in a positive direction:

CANDY MAN:  Every child's favorite go-to person in shul.  If he's away from his seat, children are authorized to peek into his tallit bag.
SHUSHER: Walks around the shul, constantly raising a finger to his mouth and urging talkers to keep their words to themselves.
CHILDREN CHASER: Run around shul, inside and out, to catch children who get out of control and return them to their parents.
(Note: This job requires experience in marathon running.)
MECHITZAH INSTALLER/REMOVER/ADJUSTER: Has to be available on short notice to install, take down, or adjust the height of the mechitzah, depending on which way the religious winds are blowing and whenever a new rabbi is appointed.
PLEDGE CARD COLLECTOR: Must be able to walk through every row in the synagogue and stare at each congregant until they pony up a pledge card with a folded-down tab.
GRAGGER TRAFFIC CONTROLLER:  Has to hold a red octagonal stop sign high above his head on Purim when noise to drown out Haman's name gets too loud.
SUKKAH BUILDER AND LULAV REPAIRMAN: Must be available a week before Sukkot to put up the sukkah, and during the week of Sukkot to add new palm rings to lulavim that have been shaken too much.
RABBI'S CONTRACT NEGOTIATOR:  Requires a high degree of legal and financial knowledge, and also much patience.

Monday, February 22, 2010

"One Day" by Matisyahu, Hasidic Reggae Singer, Selected as NBC Winter Olympics Theme Song

Matisyahu, the Hasidic reggae singer formerly known as Matthew Miller, has made a name for himself in the culture of pop music. Now his songs are reaching a much wider audience since NBC selected his song, One Day, as the theme of their coverage of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Known for blending traditional Jewish themes with Reggae, Rock, and Hip Hop sounds, Matisyahu's single King Without a Crown was a Top 40 hit. Since 2004, he has released three studio albums as well as one live album, two remix CDs and one DVD featuring a live concert.

During the Olympics, he has been giving concerts in and around Vancouver, to the delight of his fans who have been waiting in long lines to get in.

Here is an NBC promotional video for the games featuring the One Day theme song, followed by a live performance in Vancouver and an interview with, a sports news website.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Curious George's Jewish Roots on Display at The Jewish Museum in March

Anyone who was a child, a parent, or a grandparent between 1941 and today has fond memories of that mischievous litttle monkey, Curious George, and his friend, the Man with the Yellow Hat.  But how many of us knew that George's "parents" were Jewish?

Now, The Jewish Museum is launching an exhibition, Curious George Saves the Day: The Art of Margret and H. A. Rey, from March 14 through August 1, 2010.  The exhibit highlights the Jewish roots of the authors and the back story of the little monkey who became the star of books and a movie worldwide.

Illustrator H. A. Rey (Hans Augusto Reyersbach) (1898 - 1977) and his wife, author and artist Margret Rey (1906 - 1996) were both born in Hamburg, Germany, to Jewish families and lived together in Paris from 1936 to 1940. Hours before the Nazis marched into the city in June 1940, the Reys fled on bicycles carrying drawings for their children's stories including one about a mischievous monkey, then named Fifi.  During a tense inspection of their belongings by a border official, children’s illustrations were found and they were allowed to continue on their way, eventually reaching the United States.  This may explain why saving the day after a narrow escape became the premise of most of their Curious George stories. 

Featuring about sixty original drawings and preparatory dummies for Margret and H. A. Rey children’s books and documentation related to their escape from Nazi-occupied Europe, the exhibition will examine the parallels between the obstacles the Reys faced and the drawings that may have saved their lives.
After their fateful escape from Paris and a four-month journey across France, Spain, Portugal, and Brazil, the couple settled in New York in the fall of 1940. In all, the Reys authored and illustrated over thirty books, most of them for children, with seven of them starring Curious George. Seventy years after the arrival of Curious George in America, the monkey's antics have been translated into over a dozen languages including Hebrew and Yiddish, to the delight of readers, young and old, around the world.  George was also the star of a full-length film, titled (what else?) Curious George, released in 2006, featuring the voices of Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore, and Dick Van Dyke.

The exhibition at The Jewish Museum will offer visitors a rare opportunity to view the original drawings and vibrant watercolors of Curious George and other characters. Many of these works have never been on display before. Preparatory dummy books, vintage photographs, and documentation related to the Reys' escape from Nazi Europe, such as H. A. Rey's journals detailing the couple's perilous journey to freedom, are also included. One of the exhibition galleries will be transformed into a reading room for visitors of all ages inspired by the beloved monkey's escapades in Curious George Flies a Kite.

In addition, the exhibition features an interactive timeline, accessed via a touch-screen computer, about the Reys' life in France from the late 1930s through their fateful escape in the summer of 1940. Visitors will be able to view additional pages of H. A. Rey's journal detailing the couple's journey to safety, images of illustrations by H. A. Rey and photographs taken by Margret Rey in France, documentary photography related to early World War II in France, and historic video, as well as listen to an interview with the couple. This program will be also available at

Here's the trailer for Curious George, the feature film released in 2006 with the voices of Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore, and Dick VanDyke.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Orthodox Jewish Boxer and Bar Mitzvah Boy In Battle For Yankee Stadium Turf

A headline on the sports page of The New York Times yesterday read "Bar Mitzvah May Complicate Plans for a Bout in the Bronx."  It could just as easily have read "Bout May Complicate Plans for a Bar Mitzvah in the Bronx."  It all depends on your point of view.

Oy, what a mess.  Two trains on the same track are heading for a collision in Yankee Stadium on the night of June 5!  It seems that the lead bond lawyer for the financing of the new stadium reserved the stadium and use of the giant scoreboard in center field for that night, and the Yankees are also negotiating with boxing promoter Bob Arum for a big bout the same night.

The main event would feature Yuri Foreman, the World Boxing Association’s 154-pound champion, against Miguel Cotto.  That is, unless you're not a boxing fan and think that the real main event is the Bar Mitzvah reception for the son of lawyer Jonathan Ballan.

So what's the problem?  Foreman is an Orthodox Jew and rabbinical student and the bout is scheduled for Saturday night, after Shabbat.  Because Shabbat ends at a late hour in June, the promoters plan for the boxing match to start at 11:30 pm.  By then, the Bar Mitzvah should be in full swing, and a conflict could arise if the scoreboard flashes baby pictures of the Bar Mitzvah boy when the crowd expects boxing-related information.

Writing in the Times, Ken Belson reports:
Foreman, an observant Jew, has a large following in New York. His fight would not begin before 11:30 p.m., so the Foreman fans who are Orthodox could get to the stadium after the Sabbath ends at sunset.
The Yankees are negotiating with Ballan and expect to reach an agreement by the end of this week. The price of the bar mitzvah is at issue, Arum said.
To sweeten the deal, Arum offered everyone in the bar mitzvah party seats for the fight. Foreman has agreed to meet the bar mitzvah boy in his dressing room before the fight. Arum said the Yankees would give the bar mitzvah boy and his friends autographed baseballs. In effect, the most powerful team in professional sports and the country’s most prominent boxing promoter are negotiating with a bar mitzvah boy.
“The bar mitzvah saga continues,” Arum said.
And so does the boxing saga of Yuri Foreman as he fights his way to the welterweight title.
To get some insight into the world of Yuri Foreman, boxer and rabbinical student, check out the video below.

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

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Purim Parody At Its Best Is Coming To The 92Y Tribeca with The Shushan Channel Purim Show Feb. 28

The Shushan Channel, a comedy troupe of writers and actors who make an appearance once every year at Purim time, will be holding forth for their eighth smash season at Purim Party 2010 on the 92Y Tribeca main stage on Saturday night, February 27, at 8 pm.  The Y building is at 200 Hudson Street in downtown Manhattan.

This year's parodies will include Persia Shore, Flight of the Conquereds, Glee-vey!, Glenn Beck, Harry Potter, and Facebook - ancient Persian style!
This creative and funny team are the ones who gave us Jewno and Meshugene Men, parodies of the movie Juno and the TV series Mad Men.  This year's skewering of Purim and pop-culture is headlined by Lizz Winstead, (co-creator of The Daily Show and creator of Shoot the Messenger) and features a cast from Broadway, VH-1 and Comedy Central, plus all-new hilarity from the writers behind The Daily Show, The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien and 30 Rock.  Featuring a special appearance by 30 Rock’s Scott Adsit, a video presentation by Joel McHale and a surprise message from a star of The Tonight Show.  The show is directed by Mike Shapiro.

Please note, Scott Adsit will be appearing at the 10pm performance only.
Tickets $20 in advance, $30 at the door.

To get an idea of the quality of Shushan Channel parody, check out their shtick in the videos below:  First, their Wolfman, DDS -- parody of current hit movie The Wolfman -- a promo for this year's Purim Night festivities with Saturday Night Live's Will Forte in a supporting role, and then their previous skits, Jewno and Meshugene Men, both wild hits on YouTube with hundreds of thousands of viewings.  Enjoy!
Wolfman, DDS
Meshugene Men
(A tip of the kippah to Esther Kustanowitz's My Urban Kvetch for calling our attention to this show.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Joke To Start Your Day: Survival On a Lost Island

Sheldon and Marlene are flying to Australia for a two week vacation to celebrate their 40th anniversary.

Four hours into the flight the captain suddenly announces over the public address system:
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I am afraid I have some very bad news.  All of our engines have stopped and we have to attempt an emergency landing. Luckily, I see an uncharted island below us and we should be able to land on the beach. However, the odds are that we may never be rescued and will have to live on the island for the rest of our lives".

Thanks to the skill of the flight crew, the plane lands safely on the island. No one is injured. An hour later Sheldon turns to his wife and asks, "Marlene, did we pay our charity pledge check to Ohev Kessef Synagogue yet?"

"No, sweetheart," she responds "not yet".

Sheldon, still shaken from the crash landing, then asks, "Marlene, did we pay our United Jewish Appeal pledge?"

"Oy, no! I'm sorry. I forgot to send the check," she says.

"One last thing, Marlene, did you remember to send a check for the Synagogue Building Fund this month?" he asks.

"Oy, forgive me, Sheldon," begged Marlene. "I didn't send that one,

Sheldon grabs her and gives her the biggest hug and kiss in 40 years.
Marlene pulls away and asks him, " So, why did you kiss me?"
Sheldon answers ..... "They'll find us."

(A tip of the kippah to Burt Juda and the Jewish Jokes and Humor Yahoo Group)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rabbi Yosef Decries Glass Breaking and Shouts of Mazal Tov at Weddings

Israel's former Chief Sephardic Rabbi has come out against one of the most joyful moments in the lives of newly married couples and everyone who joins them in celebration of their wedding -- the traditional breaking of the glass by the chatan (bridegroom) under the chuppah at the end of the wedding ceremony.  

Why is Rabbi Ovadia Yosef so upset with this aspect of the wedding ceremony?  Writing in Arutz Sheva (,) David Lev reports:
Rabbi Yosef believes that the custom leads in many cases to "foolishness and lightheadedness," and does not elicit the proper reaction – and, if not for the weight of Jewish tradition, should be eliminated altogether.
The article continues:
Many less knowledgeable Jews, says Rabbi Yosef, are unaware of the roots of the custom. The breaking of the glass was originally instituted as a sign of mourning for the destroyed Holy Temple, and was meant to show that even at the times of our greatest joy, Jews did not forsake their homeland and heritage. But an article in Friday's edition of the Shas-affiliated Yom l'Yom newspaper analyzes Rabbi Yosef's viewpoint on the matter, and quotes him at length as being highly critical of the custom. 

Rabbi Yosef criticizes both guests, who cry out their good wishes for the happy couple right after the glass is broken – a most inappropriate reaction, given the reason for the custom – as well as the grooms, who often turn the glass-breaking ceremony into a contest of physical strength. "Many unknowledgeable people fill their mouths with laughter during the breaking of the glass, shouting 'mazal tov' and turning a beautiful custom meant to express our sorrow into an opportunity for lightheadedness."  
Most of the weddings that we've attended included an explanation of the glass breaking and someone singing Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim just before the breaking, with the guests joining in.  And none of these weddings were Sephardic.  Perhaps the custom that Rabbi Yosef  calls for has already been largely adopted, especially by Jews with a solid Jewish education and/or a connection with Israel.  

Here are a few glass breakings that we found on YouTube.   The first one does show a display of physical strength.  We suspect that Rabbi Yosef would approve of the second and third ones because they seem to meet all of his requirements.  Mazal Tov!!!
Clipart from Webweaver

Monday, February 15, 2010

How Do You Entertain Thousands of Satmar Chasidim? You Won't Believe This!

Last week in Williamsburg, thousands of Satmar chasidim attending the Sheva Brachot following the wedding of the grandson of the Satmar Rebbe were entertained by a pair of 20-year-old identical twins from France who are studying at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, headquarters of the Lubavitcher chassidic movement.

Juggling, performing tricks with a unicycle, playing with fire, and jumping over a table, the pair kept their huge audience entranced for a 15 minute performance, all of which is shown in the two video clips below.  Mazal tov to the chatan and kallah!  Be's Adar!!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Comedy Showcase: Meet Bernie Fursh and Sheba Mason, Stand-up Comedians Performing Next Week in Franklin Lakes, NJ

(Today is Rosh Chodesh Adar, and Adar is THE month for laughter and merriment.  As our sages say, Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B'Simcha -- When Adar arrives, we increase our joy.  And what better way to increase our joy than to get ready for Purim -- less than two weeks from today.  We'll be posting Purim parodies among our regular postings between now and the big day, February 28.) 

If you're anywhere near Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, next Saturday night, February 20th, and looking for an evening of hilarious comedy, you're in luck.

Stand-up Jewish comics Bernie Fursh and Sheba Mason will be on stage at Temple Emanuel of North Jersey, 558 High Mountain Road  in Franklin Lakes at 8 pm.

Bernie Fursh's refreshing comedic style makes audiences laugh at the clever twists and double entendres, known in his circles as  "Bernie-isms."  Bernie, aka Bernie Furshpan, was a finalist at the 2009 NYC Funniest Jewish Comedian Contest, and is a regular at Comic Strip Live, Caroline's Comedy Club and Gotham Comedy Club in New York City.

Joining Bernie on the comedy bill is Sheba Mason, yes, the daughter of legendary comedian Jackie Mason.  Sheba appears weekly at Stand Up New York, New York Comedy Club, Broadway Comedy Club, and Joe Franklin's Comedy Club.

Often compared to her father, the critics have said "her sardonic humor, reminiscent of Jackie Mason's sense of comedy, her impeccable timing and her inner ability to cause a roomful of people in a cabaret-style atmosphere to laugh at her shortcomings" was amazing.

Ticket prices are $30 in advance and $36 at the door.  For more information, call 201-560-0200.

For a preview of Sheba's stand-up routine, click on the video below.   Enjoy!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Did Coke Copy Its Super Bowl Ad From an Israeli Chocolate Milk Commercial?

One of the most popular TV commercials shown during last Sunday's Super Bowl game was Coca-Cola's depiction of a sleepwalker wandering through a desert landscape complete with wildlife, in search of a bottle of America's most popular drink.

Israelis watching the game couldn't help experiencing a strong sense of deja vu, because the ad was remarkably similar to one in Hebrew that has been running on Israeli TV for seven years.  But the Israeli version didn't advertise Coca-Cola.  It was a commercial for chocolate milk produced by Kibbutz Yotvata, which runs a very successful dairy business in Israel's Negev desert.

The whole affair could be attributed to coincidence, but the likelihood of two different commercials for two different products including a sleepwalker finding his way through a desert to reach a refrigerator containing the drink, while Ravel's Bolero is playing in the background, does stretch the imagination.

Reporting in The Jerusalem Post, Mark Rebacz writes:
According to Dr. Yaron Timmor, the head of the marketing communications program at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, ad copying is not a rare phenomenon. Many Israeli advertisements are partially or even overwhelmingly based on ideas from foreign ads, says Timmor.

But for an American ad from a company of the stature of Coca-Cola to be based on an Israeli ad would be “puzzling and strange,” he says.
“When a company is accused of copying ideas from an outside source, it attracts criticism from both the client and the public, who expect original and innovative ideas,” explains Timmor. “The need to copy usually stems from inferiority and a lack of creativity.”
Israel's Channel 2 covered this apparent copycat activity in a TV news story.  It's in Hebrew, but there are few English references and the content is pretty obvious even if your Hebrew is a little rusty.  Enjoy!
A tip of the kippa to Esther Kustanowitz for calling our attention to this story.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bono, Rock Star and Activist, Visits Park East Synagogue and Day School

Bono, the Irish rock star and activist, paid a visit to the Park East Synagogue and Day School in Manhattan on January 31.

He was invited by Rabbi Arthur Schneier, founder of the synagogue, who, like Bono, has been active in fighting for human rights around the world.

Writing in, a website for the global Irish community, Cahir O'Doherty reported:
The pair developed a friendship through the work of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, which was originally founded by Schneier in 1965. The foundation is an interfaith partnership of leaders from various worlds that is broadly similar to Bono's ONE organization, which has a wide variety of mandates related to international development and relief issues, including slowing the spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria. Bono was last seen with Rabbi Schneier when he attended the Appeal of Conscience Foundation’s Annual Gala Dinner in New York City last September.
“You know Bono as a great rock star,” remarked Rabbi Schneier in his introduction, “but he has made it his mission to fight poverty, hunger, injustice... wherever there is a cause requiring a humanitarian response, Bono is there.”
With a white kippa perched atop his head, Bono seemed overwhelmed by the jubilant welcome and said, looking at Schneier, "you've probably figured out who the real rock star is in this room."  He continued, "I'm so honored to be here.  My work as an activist is based on the idea that everybody is equal.  And this idea of equality -- you guys kind of invented it."

Bono is not the first non-Jewish celebrity to wear a white kippa at the Park East Synagogue.  In April 2008, Pope Benedict XVI made an appearance, also at the invitation of Rabbi Schneier.

After brief remarks reflecting on the Jewish people's flight from Pharaoh in Egypt, he sang a short a cappella version of I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, the U2 hit from the 1987 album, The Joshua Tree.  The audience enthusiastically joined in the chorus.

Here is a video showing Bono's welcome to the shul, remarks by the singer after being introduced by Rabbi Schneier, and the musical ending to the visit.
If the a cappella wasn't enough for you, here's a video of Bono and U2 singing the whole song at a concert in Milan in 2007.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Comedy Showcase: Meet Ari Teman, Stand-Up Comic, JCorps Founder, and "Hero of the Year"

Ari Teman has been doing stand-up comedy at clubs around the country and on TV. He is a frequent headliner and host at private benefits.

But that's not all.  Thousands of young Jewish adults have gotten into volunteering around the world thanks to Ari's leadership.  JCorps, which he founded two years ago and runs entirely as a volunteer, has fed over 21,000 meals to the hungry and visited hundreds of seniors and sick children in the USA, Israel, and Canada.

Last November Teman won the 'Hero of the Year' honor from the Jewish Community Heroes campaign at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America for his work with JCorps.

JCorps groups Jewish young adults of all denominations and from over 170 colleges and 450 companies together to help in hunger-relief, childrens hospitals, senior centers, and park and environmental projects. Events are on Sundays (Fridays in Israel) or week nights, are always free, and last for a few hours. It's a great way for kids to make friends while making a difference, and a great way for those excited after Birthright or college and seeking a way to connect to the Jewish community to do so in a safe, non-political, and non-denominational way.  JCorps is entirely independent of any organization. 

Here's a sample of Ari's stand-up comedy, as delivered recently at Yeshiva University.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ambassador at (Very) Large: Arab Countries Reject Ambassador Because His Name Is an Unintended Sexual Reference

The Media Line, a non-profit news organization established to enhance and balance media coverage in the Middle East, has reported that one of Pakistan's most senior diplomats was rejected by three Arab countries as Pakistani ambassador because his Urdu name, when pronounced in Arabic, became an unspeakable and unprintable reference to the size of male genitals.

Writing in yesterday's edition, Benjamin Joffe-Walt said: 
Up until just over a month ago, His Excellency Miangul Akbar Zeb had lived an esteemed life as one of Pakistan's most senior diplomats.
Mr. Zeb has served as the ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, India and South Africa, the director general of Pakistan's Foreign Ministry and most recently was Pakistan's High Commissioner Designate to Canada.
But Mr Zeb's impressive career hit a hick-up when Pakistan recently decided to send the 55-year-old veteran diplomat to the Arab world, seemingly ignorant to the Arabic translation of the senior diplomat's name: 'Biggest Dick'.
A relatively common Muslim name, Akbar means 'biggest' or 'greatest' in Arabic. While Zeb is a common Urdu name, in Arabic it is a slang reference to the male genitals and not used in polite conversation.
Faced with an uncomfortable conundrum, it seems the unfortunate diplomat's Arab hosts felt that local references to 'His Excellency Biggest Dick' would not go over well.
According to the Arab Times, the United Arab Emirates refused to accredit Mr Zeb as ambassador. Undeterred, Pakistan then tried to send Mr Zeb to neighboring Bahrain instead, where the emissary was rejected again. Then, most recently, Pakistan tried sending Mr Zeb to Saudi Arabia, only to be rebuffed a third time.
None of the Gulf States have made a statement as to why Mr Zeb was refused accreditation.
In an attempt to be fair and balanced, we have to say that Urdu and Arabic are not the only languages that can be caught up in this type of situation.  It can also happen with Hebrew and English.  

One of the Zionist leaders of Israel in he 1880's was a scholar named Yechiel Michel Pines.  We Americans would pronounce his last name as we would a tree.  However, the correct pronunciation, as anyone who speaks Yiddish or comes from an Eastern European background should know, is the same as the aforementioned male body part.  But this pronunciation never got in the way of Pines' fame.

Pines was more than a founder and a scholar.  He is singularly responsible for the Hebrew word for tomato, agvania.  As previously reported in The Jewish Daily Forward,
It’s like this: As Hebrew was being revived as a spoken tongue in the late 19th century, an argument broke out between two of its great champions and rival word-coiners, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda and Yechiel Michel Pines. Ben-Yehuda wanted to call the tomato a badura, from Arabic bandura, which itself is from Italian pomodoro. Pines rejected that as non-Hebraic and came back with tapu’ah agavim, “love apple,” which he then shortened to agvaniya. To this, Ben-Yehuda countered, correctly arguing that the Hebrew verb agav meant to lust, not to love, and suggesting ahaviya, from the verb ahav, which really does mean “to love.” For whatever reason (perhaps lust seemed more treyf than love), agvaniya won out, and generations of Israelis have eaten lust apples ever since. What this has done to sex in the Jewish state remains a topic for further research.
So why do we have a graphic image of a tomato at the top of this blog post?  Simple!  Remember the old joke about a mohel?

A woman is visiting in Israel and notices that her little travel alarm needs a battery. She looks for a watch repair shop and while she doesn't read Hebrew she finally sees a shop with clocks and watches in the window. She goes in and hands the man her clock. The man says, "Madam, I don't repair clocks. I am a Mohel. I do circumcisions." She says, "Why all the clocks in the window?"And he says, "And what should I have in my window?" 
Finally, the ambassadorial name problem brings to mind a similar situation that was documented in the Monty Python film, The Life of Brian.  If you're a Python fan, you'll know the scene very well.  If not, the clip below is worth seeing.

A tip of the kippah to Judi Felber for calling our attention to this story.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Look For the Jewnion Label: United Hamantaschen Makers and Fressers Clothing Line Arrives Just In Time For Purim

A new line of clothing with funny mythical union logos is making an appearance just in time for Purim, which this year falls on Sunday, February 28.

Stacey and Joshua Abarbanel have designed a series of "Jewnion" labels imprinted on T-shirts, tote bags, and other apparel, including United Hamantaschen Makers and Fressers, International Order of Challah Makers, Union of Jewish Handymen (and Handywomen), and Benevolent Brotherhood of the B'rit Milah.

The actual origins of the union label began with the guilds of the middle ages, which were the ancestors of modern-day unions. Some time in the 15th century, the goldsmith guilds in England conceived the idea of a stamped-in hallmark on the articles of gold and silver.  This mark meant purity, quality and fine workmanship by responsible craftsmen.

Historically, European Jews were often denied access to the trade guilds and associations and land ownership.  These new mythical "Jewnions" would not exist without Jewish members.

The idea for the product line started with the Handymen idea.  Joshua Abarbanel grew up working summers doing maintenance for his grandfather's property management company, and in the process gained a lot of "handy" skills and found himself in rare company.  In many Jewish houses changing a light bulb is the extent of our handiness and for anything else the next step is "Call the handyman!"

Thus was born the mythical Union of Jewish Handymen, with the refrains "rare are those who are able" and "Repairing the world one lightbulb at a time."  It's a point of pride for those who really are handy, and a funny joke for those who aren't. The other lines grew from there, and there are more in the works.

We don't know if these "Jewnions" have the clout to get Congress to agree to special deals with regard to exemptions from taxes on health care as other unions have done recently, but considering the extreme value of hamantaschen and challah to the American economy, we suspect that they will be successful.

For more information, go to

Sunday, February 7, 2010

From NFL Super Bowl Champ to Shlomo, Lubavitcher Chasid and Motivational Speaker

Whether or not you watch the Indianapolis Colts battle the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV at the Dolphin stadium in Miami today, here's a Super Bowl story that's sure to be interesting. 

Alan Veingrad, a non-observant Jewish football player from Miami who hadn't been to shul since his bar mitzvah a decade earlier, joined the Green Bay Packers in 1986 and played for them for five seasons, from 1986-1990, and two seasons for the Dallas Cowboys, 1991 and 1992, who won Super Bowl XXVII on January 31, 1993, playing in a total of 86 games.

Following the Super Bowl win, Veingrad retired from football back to Florida, where he rediscovered his Jewish roots and became an observant Jew affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. He now uses his Hebrew first name, Shlomo, and travels around the country giving inspirational talks about his spiritual transformation.  As a motivational speaker, Veingrad uses sports metaphors to characterize his journey, and vividly relates the discipline of being a professional football player, to success in life. 

As Samuel G. Freedman writes in Friday's New York Times,
The story Mr. Veingrad tells in about 40 speeches a year attests to a ferociously competitive spirit. He started playing high school football as a teenage beanpole in Miami, could get a scholarship only from a Division II school, East Texas State, and was cut by his first two N.F.L. teams.
A full year later, he caught on with the Packers, beginning a six-year career with Green Bay and Dallas. From high school through the pros, he defied the odds with a rigorous program of weight training and a relentless study of technique.
In retirement, Mr. Veingrad brought a comparable focus and intensity to his emerging religious life, which was nurtured by Moshe Gruenstein, an Orthodox rabbi in South Florida, with whom he studied the Torah for eight years, and then by several Chabad rabbis.
Here's a short sports video report about Veingrad's career and transformation.  Enjoy!
Photos by Chabad