Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Nachas, Mensch, Nudnik, and 60 More: Jewish Pride Expressed In Vanity License Plates



As you drive on the highway or pass parked cars, do you ever notice license plates with Jewish, Hebrew, or Yiddish words and themes?  Don't we all, at one time or another?

Well, some people make a hobby of it.  Melanie Rubin of San Diego, California, has accumulated a collection of photos of plates that make a decidedly Jewish statement.

Rubin, a writer for the San Diego Jewish World, works at the Jewish Community Center and participates in Jewish events at other venues throughout San Diego County.  That makes her well-positioned to spot and photograph Jewish-themed license plates wherever she goes. 

The San Diego Jewish World maintains the photo collection on their web site where you can see all 63 plates.  Misha Marmar, a Russian singer of Yiddish songs, has recorded a video, singing Vi bist du gevein to accompany a slide presentation of many of these license plates.  Enjoy!
 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"A Matter Of Size," Israeli Sumo Comedy, Opens In Washington

A Matter of Size, the Israeli comedy film that we previewed in February in our post about Jewish film festivals, is opening in Washington, DC this week.  It's already playing in the Boston area and in Reading, PA.

A Matter of Size is an Israeli comedy like nothing you've seen before, a hilarious and heart-warming tale about four overweight guys who learn to love themselves through the Japanese sport of sumo wrestling! The film was awarded 3 Israeli Oscars, and has won 7 Audience Awards at film festivals all over the world.
 
Opens July 2nd in DC!
Avalon Theatre

5612 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20015
202-966-6000 - Website

Now Playing in Reading, PA!
GoggleWorks Center for the Arts Film Theatre

201 Washington Street, Reading, PA 19601
610-374-4600 - Website

Now Playing in Boston!
West Newton Cinema
1269 Washington Street, West Newton, MA 02465
617-964-8074 - Website

Here's a funny scene from the movie: Enjoy!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Laughing With The Enemy: Four Comedians Walk Into A War

What do you get when four comedians walk into a war? Answer: The Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour. 

Palestinian comic Ray Hanania, Israeli stand-ups Charley Warady and Yisrael Campbell, and Jewish African-American jokester Aaron Freeman have performed for audiences all over Israel.

It's the first time Palestinian and Israeli comedians have performed on stage together in Israel - and not a single shot was fired.

The quartet has been touring the U. S. for the last few years and has achieved quite a following.

Are four comedians (one Arab and three Jewish) going to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by making them laugh together?  Probably not, but that's not stopping them from trying.

RAY HANANIA is a Palestinian-American Ray 
Hanania, Palestinian Comedianstandup comedian and an award-winning columnist for The Jerusalem Post and PalsestineNote.com. One of the most-written and talked about Arab Palestinian comedians in America today, Hanania has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Chicago Tribune, ABC News, The Today Show, CNN, and more. He is a Chicago Radio Talk Show Host and activist for peace Hanania, a former PLO spokesman who grew up in Chicago, is the first Palestinian to share a stage with Jewish and Israeli comedians.  

 YISRAEL CAMPBELL is an Orthodox Jew Yisrael 
Campbellwith a twist. His one-man shows, "It's Not In Heaven" and "Circumcise Me"are works of pure humor. After starting out in this world as a Catholic, he charts his course to where he is today and having made aliyah six years ago. He performs his show all over the world, appearing recently in London, and toured the United States, with regular performances in Israel. The Philadelphia Inquirer described his show as "fits of laughter".

AARON FREEMAN is a standup Aaron Freeman, 
Jewish American Comediancomedian, popular columnist, and radio commentator. His views on being a Black, Jewish convert, have made him a hit all across America from colleges to Jewish groups. A veteran of Second City, Freeman often offers his insights on NPR's flagship program "All Things Considered."  Freeman, also from Chicago, and Campbell, from Philadelphia, were the subjects of Jewish Humor Central blog posts in January and last October.

CHARLEY WARADY headlined Charley Waradycomedy clubs and colleges all across the US, appearing on both NBC and Comedy Central, before emigrating to Israel ten years ago. He has continued his career in Israel, performing in English as part of the Off The Wall Comedy series, targeting every aspect of life and politics in Israel.

Here's an update on their unique approach to comedy, as reported on the Jewish Television Network:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

New York Times Gives Journalist A Pain In Tuches


A few weeks ago, Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent of The Atlantic magazine, was interviewed by Helene Cooper of the New York Times as part of a story she wrote in the Week in Review section.

Here is the quote:
"I don't necessarily believe you solve all of America's problems in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen by freezing settlement growth. On the other hand, there's no particular reason for Israel to make itself a pain in the tush either."
But Goldberg didn't say "tush."  He said "tuches." (also spelled tuchis and tukhis).  And therein lies the predicament.  It seems the Times has a problem with printing Yiddish words that, while not exactly dirty, could offend some of its readers.  Witness the angst another Times writer experienced earlier this month when wrestling with how and how many times the "newspaper of record" would permit him to use the title of an upcoming movie, "Dinner for Schmucks."

A few days later, Goldberg explained the censorship to readers of his Atlantic blog this way:
When Helene first interviewed me, I actually used the word "tuchus," rather than "tush," but she phoned back a couple of hours later to tell me that the newspaper's Special Committee for the Proper Deployment of Yiddishisms ruled that "tuchus" is insufficiently elegant, and so could I please offer a substitute. I asked Helene for a suggestion, and she came up with "tushie." I responded by questioning whether the word "tushie" could be considered more elegant than the word "tuchus." I also told her that I could not allow myself to be quoted using the word "tushie" because I am no longer four years old. 

But because I am prone to compromise (witness my position on the issue of the two-state solution, as well as on the theoretical idea of sharing Jerusalem), I agreed to substitute "tush" for "tuchus," which I came to regret when Helene's colleague, and our mutual friend, Mark Leibovich, used a non-Yiddish vulgarity, namely, "pussy," by way of denouncing me for my use of the word "tush" in a sentence.
Commenting on this verbal contretemps, Philologos, the erudite language columnist at the Jewish Daily Forward, offers what would seem to be the definitive explanation of the word in question and its origins:
One may be permitted to doubt whether the Times actually has a Committee for the Proper Deployment of Yiddishisms (although if anyone did have one, it would be the Times), but otherwise, Goldberg’s account rings true. Which leads one to ask: How “inelegant” would “tuchus” have been? Is this Yiddish word really, as the editors of the Times think, the semantic and connotative equivalent of the English word “ass,” which the Times deems too vulgar to print?
Michael Wex, the highly knowledgeable and always entertaining author of three books on Yiddish usage, seems to think that it is. In his “Just Say Nu,” Wex, who doesn’t have a censorial bone in his body, has a boxed section titled “A Bar Mitzvah of Behinds,” in which he presents us with “Thirteen [Yiddish] designations for the human rear (in declining order of politeness.)” These are, with Wex’s English translations and transliterations (which follow the Polish rather than the more standard Lithuanian pronunciation of Yiddish): 1) Hintn, rear; 2) Hinterkhaylek, hindpart; 3) Interkhaylek, underpart; 4) Gezess, seat, buttocks; 5) Zitser, sitter, seat; 6) Zitsflaysh, seat-meat. 7) Di mekheeleh, The I-beg-your-pardon; 8) Der Vee-hayst-men-es, The whatchamacallit. 9) Der vee-dee-yeedn-hobm-gereet; The where-the-Jews-rested. 10) Ookher, rear, behind; 11) Akhoreiyim, hindparts; 12) Morsh, ass; 13) Tukhes, ass.
This is followed by a page of commentary, in which, among other things, Wex points out that Expression 9, Vu-di-yidn-hobn-gerut (to use standard Yiddish transliteration), is a witty allusion to the Bible. There, in Chapter 33 of the Book of Numbers, in an account of the Children of Israel’s wanderings in the desert, we find the verse, “And they departed from Makhelot and encamped at Tahat.” The place-name Tahat, which occurs nowhere else in Scripture, is spelled and pronounced the same as the Hebrew word taḥat, which means both “under” and, in modern Hebrew, the rear end.  It is from taḥat that Yiddish gets tukhis, and from tukhis that American Jewish English gets “tush” and “tushie.”
What more can we add, other than we've observed the use of the word in business situations, as in "tuches af'n tish," (literally "rear end on the table") meaning "put up or shut up" or "let's get down to brass tacks."

Our conclusion?  The New York Times is definitely Yiddishly-challenged.  Since they appoint special editors like the Public Editor (ombudsman) to comment on journalistic issues, we'd like to suggest that they hire Philologos or Michael Wex (or if they're busy, Jewish Humor Central) to clue them in on the true meanings of any Yiddish words their writers slip into their columns.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Welcoming Shabbat With Adon Olam: Second Of A Series - From Brazil


Last week we inaugurated a new series, bringing you videos of how Jews around the world welcome Shabbat with the singing of Adon Olam, starting with a klezmer troupe in Budapest, Hungary.

With Jewish Humor Central now reaching readers in 109 countries, we're continuing the series this week with a special shout-out to our readers in Brazil -- Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo, Brasilia, and Recife.

The Hebraica Club is the center of Jewish social life in Rio, and offers sports activities, theater, and special events year-round.  Last month they held a Jewish Cultural Festival, with song and dance performances. 

Here's how they sing Adon Olam in Rio, as sung by the Hebraica Chorus - Coral Kol Haneshama.
Wishing our readers worldwide a Shabbat Shalom -  It's the same in any language!  

Thursday, June 24, 2010

eBay Pulls Ad for "Yiddishe Momma" As Man Tries To Sell His 63 Year Old Mother

A management consultant living in London tried to auction his 63 year-old mother on eBay this week after "having enough of her exploits in trying to find love."

It didn't stay up for long.  eBay pulled the ad on Monday becaused it breached its policy on selling "human body parts and remains."

As Robyn Rosen reported last Friday in The Jewish Chronicle,
When 63-year-old grandmother Sandi Firth asked her son to put her dining room table on eBay for her, she had no idea it was not the only thing he was planning to sell.
The next day he called to tell her that he had placed another item in the Collectibles category on the auction website - his very own "Yiddishe Momma".
James Doyan, a 38-year-old management consultant, said he decided to auction his mother, who lives in Leeds, after "having enough of her exploits in trying to find love".
He said: "My twin nieces have just had their b'not chayil and she was getting so over-involved, she's been driving me crazy - so I decided to do something about it."
On Monday, the father-of-two from Crouch End, North London, posted a photograph of his mother alongside the title: "My Yiddishe Momma for sale. Beautiful, great cook, educated, articulate, family focused, caring - priceless."
The description reads: "After investing in date sites and not having much luck on the friends' referral scene, I have resorted to try and generate interest by selling my Yiddishe Momma on eBay.
"My mum is a fantastic woman who is a prized friend and nobody can quite understand why she can't find companionship."
He also writes she is in "pretty good working order. No real defects or signs of wear and tear to note".
Her demands in a man are simple: "You will need to be strong, committed, honest and loyal - over 5ft 10" tall and meet her criteria on table manners, being a gentleman, general knowledge, sense of humour, global awareness, travel destinations, art, theatre."
The starting bid begins at £1, but so far there have been no offers. Bidding closes at 11.15am on Tuesday.
"I'm a bit impulsive and just decided eBay is the best way to generate interest in something," he said.
"She has her own friends in the Leeds Jewish community, but this could reach out to people she might not have links with."
Mr Doyan said his mother, a member of Beth Hamidrash Hagadol Synagogue, had been "unlucky in love".
Ms Firth, who runs her own market research company and has been married twice before, said she was "shocked" by her son's action, but later, after giving it some thought, admitted that she found it "hilarious".
"I've been on JDate and answered ads in the JC but it's all been a bit of a disaster," she said.
"One person only spoke about his family and another said he was 5ft 6 in when he was 5ft 2in.
"My son is very innovative and has a wonderful way with words. I have had some rotten times and he has been through them with me.
"At the end of the day, it's a cattle market out there.
"It would be nice to meet someone normal and trustworthy - which they haven't been so far.
The Jewish Chronicle printed an update on Tuesday, reporting on eBay's removal of the listing:
On Monday, eBay had pulled the page with the explanation from the Trust and Safety team that it does not allow “live or dead people or human body parts” to be listed. Prohibited body parts include organs, bones and blood but human hair is allowed.
It also said Mr Doyan may be required to take a tutorial before being allowed to sell again.
According to Mr Doyan, about 400 people had looked at the site and the highest bid placed was £1.60 (US$2.30)
“I thought it was hilarious that they thought I was trying to traffic my mother,” he said. “I could have put her on eBay and offered the bidder a locket of hair because that’s the only thing you can sell.
“I’m done with it now. It’s taken up so much of my time. I got quite a few emails, some were perverted but other had lovely messages.”

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More Than a Hora: Israeli Teenage Ballroom Dance Champs Perform to Hebrew and Yiddish Medley


If you thought Israeli dancing meant doing the hora or a mitzvah tantz, it's time to update your knowledge of Israel and what Israelis are doing at home and on the world scene.

Teen Dancers Michael Lerner and Marika Odikadze recently won the Israeli Junior Championship in Ballroom Dancing in the 16 to 18 age group, and represented Israel in international competitions sponsored by the International DanceSport Federation in Linz, Austria.  

We caught a glimpse of Michael and Marika dancing to a medley of familiar Hebrew and Yiddish songs, including Hava Nagila, L'Chayim, Papirossen, Chiribim, Bublichki, Tumbalalaika, Where Do I Begin (Love Story), Cabaret, and Hevenu Shalom Aleichem, as sung by The Barry Sisters and other singers.  We thought you'd like to share the experience.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Funniest Israeli Commercials - Fifth of a Series: Piraeus Feta Cheese and Zorba's Dance


Continuing our series of funny Israeli commercials, check out this one by Tnuva, the Israeli dairy company.  Tnuva's product line includes Piraeus Feta Cheese, "With the taste of Mediterranean love."

In this commercial a flirtatious young man shows off in a restaurant by tossing an olive into the air.  As he swallows it, it lodges in his throat.  Going into a choking fit, he drops a plate.  Thinking he's starting a dance, others in the restaurant break plates, shout "Yassou!" and launch into an episode of wild Greek dancing to Zorba's Dance.  Have a laugh and enjoy!

And if you don't remember the dancing scene in Zorba the Greek (1964) with Anthony Quinn, just scroll down and watch it with us.






Monday, June 21, 2010

Yiddishology: How Good Is Your Yiddish? "Halevai": Seventh of a Series


Last week we returned to the Tampa Jewish Community and their person-in-the street interviews to test for knowledge of yiddish expressions.  We added tchotchke to the list that already included shtupper, kenahora, ungapatchka, shlimazel, and shmegegge.  Now it's time to see how many know the meaning of halevai.

Of course we know it means "if only" or "it should only be so".  Let's see how close the Tampanese come.



Halevai is the title of a song composed by Moishe Oysher and recorded by him and The Barry Sisters in the 1950s.
 

Strictly speaking, Halevai is a Hebrew word that, along with many others, found its way into the Yiddish language.  There's another version of Halevai, born in Israel, with a new melody, new lyrics, and a hip-hop beat as sung by Israeli singers Subliminal and Sivan.  The melody and the words may change, but the hope remains:  It should only be.  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Israeli Scientists Develop Potato Batteries - What Will They Do With Potato Kugel?


Last Thursday, Haaretz reported that Israeli scientists have developed a battery based on boiled potatoes that could bring cheap electricity to developing countries.

According to the article,
An electric battery based on boiled potatoes could provide a cheap source of electricity in the developing world, according to the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 
The treated potato battery generates energy that is five to 50 times cheaper than commercially available batteries, Yissum Research Development Co. said on Thursday. A light powered by the battery is at least six times more economical than kerosene lamps often used in the developing world.
This doesn't exactly sound like rocket science.  After all, in elementary schools everywhere, children are sticking nails and copper wires into potatoes to produce electricity as science fair projects.  So what's the big deal?

Apparently the innovation here is the use of BOILED potatoes.  Boiling the potato prior to use in electrolysis increased electric power up to 10-fold over the untreated potato and enabled the battery to work for days and even weeks. 

This news has been picked up by many Jewish news outlets, including Vos Iz Neias, an Orthodox Jewish blog with lots of comments from its readers.  References to the potential in using potato kugel as the source for electricity were certainly expected, but the outpouring of suggestions deserves to be reproduced here for your enjoyment.  Here are some of them:
C'mon! We did this in tenth grade. Take a strip of copper and a strip of zinc. Stick them in a potato (or an orange, or a squash, or a tomato, you get the idea) and, voila! about a 1/4 volt battery. Put 50 potatoes in series and you have a twelve volt battery. Won't start your car, though. Not enough current capacity. This is the cutting edge of Israeli technology?
Who wants to drive an automobile with a trunk full of potatoes ?
This is one of the oldest high school science experiments around. The only difference is that in high school we used a raw potato and these geniuses figured out that cooking it is better. I bet you that the amount of energy used to cook the potato far outweighs the energy you get back from the potato.
Big deal. I've been running all the appliances in my house for years from electricity I generate from Shabbes leftovers.
I always knew that the Cholent with all those potatoes were causing an electrical disturbance inside of me!
No wonder I get heartburn from potato kugel....
Now Rabanim will ban potatoes on Shabbos. I knew these things produced gas on weekends but electricity?
Now the price of potatoes will quadruple just like the price of corn, when they discovered that you could use it to make ethanol. Chulent and potato Kugel may become a luxury.
This has nothing on my spicy bean cholent gas powered turbine engine !!! It generates enough gas to power a F-15 from NY to LA in 3 hours !!!
And everyone can use them because they contain no gebrokts.
(Photo by Business Wire) 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Welcoming Shabbat With Adon Olam: Starting A New Series


If your synagogue is anything like ours, the Shabbat service ends with Adon Olam.  This is usually led by a prepubescent boy with questionable pitch, key, and general singing ability.  This is good for the kid educationally, and should be encouraged.  Musically, however, it's not the best way to lift spirits for the rest of Shabbat and the week ahead.

But it's not that way around the world.  Adon Olam has become a staple of many singers, choruses, bands, and other musical troupes, both in synagogue and on the concert stage.

Today we're starting a new series, presenting renditions of Adon Olam from performers worldwide, including traditional and eclectic versions.  We will try to insure that they are sung on key, with reasonable pitch, and provide you with a fun way to start Shabbat.  If we keep the series going too long, we hope you'll tell us "Enough, already!" by your comments and feedback and not by canceling your subscription.

The first of the series is by a Budapest Klezmer group called SabbathSong, with a unique history. As their leader, Thomas Masa, explains on their website, 
In 1998 during the Hebrew language course closing ceremony held in a small synagogue of Budapest we interpreted with my pianist friend, Bence Oromszegi some of our favourite Jewish songs, out of gratitude. The event was recorded by an amateur. By sheer luck, the chief rabbi, Mr. Thomas Raj, listened to the tape and encouraged us to continue more seriously. So we gathered regularly and enlarged the band by new instruments (clarinet, violin, trombone, trumpet, contrabass, accordion, flute).
I sing the songs in original Hebrew and Yiddish language together with my wife, whose beautiful skilled voice gives a very personal and special interpretation of them. Today I can work with 9 wonderful friend musicians, who are mainly symphonic orchestra members.
We hope you find their interpretation as delightful as we did.  Enjoy and Shabbat Shalom!



Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Bobover Wedding And The Mitzvah Tantz

We love weddings!  And especially Chassidishe weddings.  Of course, there's no chance that we would ever be invited to one.  But thanks to the internet, we can be a fly on the wall at some of the grandest weddings ever produced.  

Last November we reported on the huge Klausenberger-Sanz wedding in Israel, with 10,000 guests, and lots of food including 1.2 tons of carp.

Just two days ago the daughter of the Bobover Rebbe was married at a wedding in Brooklyn.  Thousands of Chassidim attended, and a few of them were thoughtful enough to carry a video camera.  Yesterday excerpts from the wedding appeared on the internet, on YouTube and some of the Chassidic web sites.

A highlight of a Chassidic wedding is the Mitzvah Tantz, a slow dance with male relatives of the bride dancing around the bride, standing like a statue in the middle of the room, connected only by a long white gartel.   
So what's the Mitzvah Tantz all about?  As Varda Branfman reminisces in an article in Jewishmag.com,
Why all of a sudden was I allowed to dance in front of the men? What kind of mitzvah could I get at the expense of doing something that is usually forbidden? I didn't understand, but I trusted the Rebbe.
The reason is that it is not a dance like any other dance. For one thing, the bride hardly moves. She just holds the gartel while the other end of the gartel is held by the one designated to dance with her. Her face is usually veiled. She stands in her veil and wedding gown like a luminous white vision. She knows that this is a good time for prayer like the time of Neilah on Yom Kippur, and her lips move behind the veil as she asks for a happy marriage, for children, a good life, and all the deepest prayers that are hidden in her heart.
The order of the dancers is significant: the uncles and brothers, the father-in-law, the father, and then last of all, the groom. A pathway to her new life is carefully laid as she dances with her father-in-law which gives way to the dance with the father who gives ultimate precedence to the groom who is the other half of her soul.
Here is the father taking his daughter's hands in his own and dancing with her, without the gartel in between them. They are allowed. This is after all his daughter. This is after all her father. The other dancers were close relations, but her father is much more. One's own child, one's own daughter. How to express the love they feel for each other now at the time when the nature of love becomes revealed?
This was a big wedding, and we'll be watching for more.  But there are still two mysteries we haven't been able to solve.  What's with the soldiers marching in 18th century costumes, and where are the women hiding?  If you know, please share with our readers by making a comment.  In the meantime, sing a little, dance a little, and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mike Burstyn, Larry King, Elon Gold, and Jon Voight at Chabad Telethon


Yesterday, the third day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, marked the 15th yahrzeit (anniversary of the passing) of Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the 7th Lubavitcher rebbe and leader of the Chabad movement.  Around the world, from Australia to America, Chabad communities commemorated the date with music, dance, movies, and speeches.

Every year we wait for the night of fun, music, and good feelings that come with the annual Chabad Telethon.  A big fundraiser for the worldwide organization, it always features top names in the entertainment field, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

As we eagerly await this year's show in the fall, let's take a look at some of the top acts that appeared in the fall of 2009.

First, Larry King's opening monologue.

Next, comedian Elon Gold kicked off the show with his set of jokes.

We included a clip of Elon Gold parodying Vince the ShamWow guy in a blog post from this telethon last December, so it's only one click away.

On with the show!  A comic turn with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog as voiced by Robert Smigel.

And what Jewish show would be complete without a star turn by Mike Burstyn?  In this clip he shows his Second Avenue heritage with a comic routine, during which (if you count carefully) he rattles off eight old jokes while singing a classic Yiddish vaudeville tune, Hu Tza Tza.



We'll end this post with a few good words from actor Jon Voight, one of the few in Hollywood who remain outspoken supporters of Israel  That's not the end of the show, which went on for six hours, but a good sample to get psyched for the next telethon.  If it's not playing on your cable channels, it's a good bet that you'll see it here at Jewish Humor Central.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Julie Andrews: The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Yiddish


Julie Andrews (no, she's not Jewish), has made a lot of movies, and The Sound of Music is probably the one she's most associated with.  Thoroughly Modern Millie probably doesn't ring a bell for most of our readers.  After all, it was released in 1967. 

Millie is a small-town girl who comes to New York during the "roaring twenties" in search of a secretarial job and an unattached boss. Before you can say "23 skidoo," Millie befriends fellow single girl Mary Tyler Moore and comes across a white slavery plot run by a hysterically funny Beatrice Lillie. Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen contributed to the tuneful score.

Netflix calls it a feel-good, goofy romantic comedy.  So what's it doing in Jewish Humor Central?

It's all about seeing something familiar in unexpected surroundings.  

Just yesterday we posted a video of Daniel Ahaviel, dressed like the Chasid he is, fiddling a lively medley of Irish tunes in a performance worthy of Riverdance.   In today's post the roles are reversed.  Millie is noteworthy to us for a segment that takes place at a wedding, where Andrews, as a guest, suddenly starts singing in Yiddish.  We hope you'll laugh as much as we did.  Enjoy!



Monday, June 14, 2010

Look Out, Riverdance Fiddlers. You've Got Irish Chassidic Competition!


Daniel Ahaviel is a British klezmer violinist who made aliyah to Israel in 1988. His violin playing covers an amazing range of musical styles, including chassidic, klezmer, and Irish. 

Born in London, with a Bachelor's Degree with honors from the University of York, Ahaviel has been playing the violin for 36 years, and also plays piano and percussion.  He has appeared in concerts and music festivals around the world. 

Ahaviel has released four albums, combining violin, vocals, and stories.  He speaks English, French, Hebrew, German, and Italian.

We came across this video on YouTube that had us transfixed. We just had to share Ahaviel's fiddling and dancing. The last time we heard and saw such fiddling talent was watching Mairead Nesbitt performing in Lord of the Dance and Celtic Woman. We invite you to experience Ahaviel's Irish medley, followed by Nesbitt's performance with Celtic Woman at Slane Castle in Ireland . Enjoy!
   

                                                                          
  video

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Yiddishology: How Good Is Your Yiddish? "Tchotchke": Sixth of a Series


After seeing how the Jews of Tampa translate the Yiddish words shtupper, kenahora, ungapatchka, shlimazel, and shmegegge, we're going back to the Tampa Jewish Community to check out their explanations of tchotchke.

We have some tchotchkes around the house, mostly from trade shows, conventions, conferences, and seminars spanning four decades.  The word has made it into the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and many other online dictionaries.  Let's see how the Floridians react in the man-in-the-street interviews in today's video.  How many tchotchkes do you have in your house?   Maybe it's time to get rid of them.

P. S.  Don't confuse tchotchke with tsatskele.  Although the words come from the same root, their usage conveys entirely different meanings.  Tchotchke usually means a worthless trinket or souvenir.  A tsatskele is usually a young woman or teenage girl who is a handful, very demanding, or "a piece of work."  But it can also mean bimbo or dear little child.  It all depends on inflection, how the word is expressed.  Go figure!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Meet Lt. Colonel Dave Rosner - The Marine Corps' Only Stand-up Jewish Comedian

Lieutenant Colonel Dave Rosner is the only Jewish stand-up comic in the United States Marine Corps.  He is also a political and military commentator, spokesman, speaker, producer, writer, and actor.

Rosner’s seeming contradictions - Jewish-Marine, Marine-Comedian, Observant Jew in the Marines, and right leaning politics as a Jew have been written about in The Wall Street Journal, The Jewish Week, The New York Sun, The Forward, TimeOut New York, and Mann About Town. 

He has performed comedy in clubs, synagogues, veteran’s hospitals, and military bases in the United States, Australia, Canada, Kuwait, and Iraq.  

As a political and military commentator Dave offers a distinctive take on world events. His life experiences as a U. S. Marine with specialties in Public Affairs (Media), Marine Air Ground Task Force Intelligence, and Ground Supply (Logistics) combined with having lived in Israel and Australia, a veteran of two wars, Desert Storm (Gulf War One) and Iraq, and being raised in a non observant Jewish family and then becoming observant gives Dave a very unique insight. He has appeared on Fox News “The Strategy Room,” and The Comcast Network's “It's Your Call with Lynn Doyle.”

Last week, Rosner was interviewed on the FOX Business Network, where he talked about life in the Marines as a Jew and a comedian, and how he was referred to as "Mazel Tov Cocktail" and "Full Metal Foreskin."  Here's the video of the interview, followed by Rosner delivering his stand-up shtick in front of a Jewish audience.  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

We Have Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, But Israel Has Eretz Nehederet

In the U.S. we get our political satire from Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show.  Israelis, who have a lot of politics to parody, have their own outlet for making fun of the daily comings and goings of politicians and celebrities.  It's a weekly TV show called Eretz Nehederet (Hebrew: ארץ נהדרת‎, literally "Wonderful Country.")

It's pure satire, featuring references to current affairs of the past week through parodies of the people involved, as well as the thoughts of recurring characters. The program is one of the most watched and influential shows on Israeli television.  It was first filmed in Tel Aviv in 2003, and in later seasons, was filmed in the neighboring Herzliya.

According to an article in Wikipedia, Eretz Nehederet won the Israeli Television Academy's "Best Entertainment Program" in 2004 and again in 2006, and attracts millions of viewers every season. In a May 2008 poll, web surfers selected all the Season 5 Eretz Nehederet actors from into the top 60 Israeli comedians list. The top 7 spots were all taken by Eretz Nehederet, as well as #9 and #20.

Last month CNN profiled the show.  Here is their report, followed by a typical skit from the actual show.  This one has an interview with Shimon Peres and George W. Bush, with a little help from Bush's translator, Dora the Explorer.  Enjoy!



Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hatikvah - Hip-Hop Version by Francky Perez and Broadway

Hip-Hop Hatikvah?  That's what French singer Francky Perez has written and recorded, first in French and now in English. The new version is performed with a group of singers who call themselves Broadway. It's Hatikvah like you've never heard it before.

Perez has written new words to accompany the traditional lyrics, and sings them in a rap style while the familiar Hatikvah melody plays in the background.

At a time when supporters of Israel are rallying in cities all over the world, let's focus on the words, old and new, of this beloved song and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  The words sung by Perez are displayed just below the video clip.  Enjoy!
If you knew how I love her, you'd see how I feel
If you know where I'm from then you know what Is-real
If you've bled like we've bled, died like we've died
Seen what we've seen and cried like we cried.

You know how we love her, treat her like a son does his mother

Or a father does his son, and the brothers do each other
For every stone we move, and all the land we lose
As life get hot like the desert sands in June

And everywhere is the same, and the only real change is

Everyday new faces that feel the same hatred
It's like we're caught in the Matrix, we need The One to save us
The can bomb us, the can kill us, but they will never break us

The beach air is so clear, and the sand is like cotton

In a land that's been forsaken but has never been forgotten and
I turn to the East and pray as the sun warms my skin
The voices of my elders and the places they have been

We have overcome the wait, overcome our fate

Underestimated and overcome the pain
5000 years of history, whether you know it or not
That's why we defend the Land like it's all that we've got

'Cause it's the only safe place to raise my kids

The family how can it be so hard to let us live
They welcome me with open arms, even though times are hard
As peace is like a memory that drifts between the songs

We built this city out of blood, made buildings out of mud

That's why I wrote this song -- for respect and out of love
For my descendants, every like every sentence
It's time for us to celebrate our independence

This is God's city, Jerusalem -- Yerushalayim

The only place where we live without the fear of dying
Doctor, mothers, sons, prophets and teachers
Believe is what we do -- od lo avda tikvateinu

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Old Jews Telling Jokes; First the Videos, Then the DVD, Now the Book


Old Jews Telling Jokes, the website that we highlighted the first week that we started blogging, has come a long way since it first appeared in January 2009.  Now in its second season, and with a DVD compilation of the first season's collection of jokes available, Sam Hoffman and Eric Spiegelman, the creators, have collected many of the jokes into a new book that's being released in August.

The book is as funny and as irreverent as the stand-up video bits that started running twice a week on the web and now are posted on a daily basis.

The book's publisher, Random House, gives the following description of the forthcoming volume:
A grasshopper walked into a bar and ordered a drink.
The bartender looked at him and said, “You know we have a drink named after you?”
The grasshopper replied, “You have a drink named Stanley?”

Schtick happens. For five thousand years, God’s chosen people have cornered the market on knee-slappers, zingers, and knock-knock jokes. Now Old Jews Telling Jokes mines mothers, fathers, bubbies, and zaydes for comic gelt. What we get are jokes that are funnier than a pie in the punim: Abie and Becky jokes; hilarious rabbi, doctor, and mohel tales; and those bits just for Mom (Q: What’s the difference between a Jewish mother and a Rottweiler? A: Eventually a Rottweiler will let go!).
Some are just naughty and some are downright bawdy—but either way you’ll laugh till you plotz. With Borscht Belt gags from Brooklyn to Bel Air to Boca, Old Jews Telling Jokes is like chicken soup for your funny bone. I mean, would it kill you to laugh a little?
Spiegelman recently was interviewed by Peter Kafka at All Things Digital about the web site and the DVD and book spin-offs.  Here's the video of the interview:
 

Filming for the next season is starting on June 18 in New York City.  Here's an opportunity for any of our readers who have a joke to share.  If you're 60 or older and interested in appearing on camera telling a joke, email Eric Spiegelman: espiegelman@gstreet.com.

If you aren't getting your daily dose from this really funny website, here's a recent joke to get you started.  It's not the best, but it's clean, which is not exactly typical.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Is "Schmuck" Ever Fit to Print? New York Times Agonizes Over New Film Title


Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks may not have realized what they were getting into when they announced the title of their new movie starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd.

The film, Dinner for Schmucks, directed by Jay Roach, arrives in theaters on July 23.  The plot involves a competition among businessmen for who can invite the biggest idiot to a monthly dinner.  

As word spread about its title and subject matter, film critics and Yiddishologists went to the sources -- Yiddish language dictionaries, language experts, and Jewish parents and grandparents -- to clarify whether the word is being used correctly in the film, and to what extent the media, and especially the New York Times, will print the potentially offensive word.

The Times, of course, with the bold declaration on its masthead, "All the News That's Fit to Print," has been agonizing over how many times they can legitimately use the "S-word."

As Michael Cieply writes in the Times' Movie section,
At The New York Times, where the word is still considered potentially offensive, the title of Mr. Roach’s film may be mentioned only sparingly. Still, advertisements for the movie would probably pass muster, said Steph Jespersen, director of advertising acceptability for The Times, though a final decision will be subject to review by a standards editor and possibly a “rabbi or two.” 
Anyone who knows even a little bit of Yiddish is likely to have an opinion about the correct use of the word.  The director and writers seem to think that the oddballs invited to the dinner are the schmucks, but the consensus among knowledgable Yiddish mavens is that the real schmuck is the jerk who is doing the inviting.  The invitees are more likely schlemiels, schlimazels, schmegegges, or schmendriks.

As Philologos writes in The Forward,
Anyone familiar with these words knows that a schmuck is very different. In Yiddish and Judeo-English parlance, a schmuck is not haplessly inept like a schlemiel, an inveterate blunderer like a schlimazel or a pathetic sad sack like a schmendrik — all types one feels sorry for without being tempted to help them, since un-helpability is one of their salient traits. Nor is a schmuck quite the same as a jerk, because while the two have much in common, a schmuck is more dangerous and can cause serious damage, while a jerk is too ineffectual to do much harm. This makes “schmuck” a stronger term of opprobrium.
And yet we still have not said what a schmuck is commonly thought to be.  Is he, as my American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language states, someone “regarded as clumsy or stupid; an oaf”? Not at all. The American Heritage is defining a schlemiel, schlimazel or schmendrik. A schmuck can just as well be brainy, graceful and charming. He can be first in his college class, win a prize for ballroom dancing and break hearts as easily as dishes.
We agree with Philologos' assessment.  As we noted in our series on Yiddishology, a schmendrik is the guy who cleans up the soup that the schlemiel dropped on the schlimazel.  But none of these poor souls qualifies as a schmuck.  If we had to include a schmuck in this scenario, we would nominate the guy who trips the schlemiel, causing him to drop the soup into the lap of the schlimazel.

What do you think?  Weigh in with your comments after you watch the trailer below, and keep an eye open for the movie debut on July 23.