Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Mad Adventures Of Rabbi Jacob" Comedy Film Inspires Flash Mob in France

The wacky comedy film The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob made its debut in 1973.  It got some attention in the U. S. but was (and still is) a blockbuster hit in France. 

Wikipedia's entry for the film says:
The film is widely regarded as one of the great masterpieces of French comedy, and has become a cult film. It is also seen as one of the best socially-aware films, as the topic of the film (racism) is actually very serious. It contains funny (but clever) musings about a multicultural society and also delivers a powerful statement in favor of tolerance and understanding.
The plot is much too complex to explain in this post, but a one sentence version would be:
A bigoted Frenchman finds himself forced to impersonate a popular rabbi while on the run from a group of assassins - and the police.
You can read a full synopsis here.

There is a wild Chassidic dance scene in the film that has been the subject of many takeoffs and spoofs.  Last Thursday, at a Leroy Merlin home improvement and garden store in Villeneuve-d'Ascq, a city in northern France, shoppers were surprised to see a flash mob of employees suddenly break out into a dance inspired by Rabbi Jacob,and then, just as suddenly, disappear into the crowd.

Watch the original scene from the 37-year-old film, and just below it, the video from three days ago at the French "Home Depot."   If you want to see the whole "Rabbi Jacob" film, it's available for rental from Netflix.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 29, 2010

"I'm Not Budging Until There's Peace In The Middle East"

"I'm not budging from this spot until there is peace in the Middle East."  

That's what this peacenik is proclaiming and displaying on his sign in Hebrew.  

Well, in the very short video below, it looks like a bicyclist looking for a parking space has reached his own conclusion as to how long the sign carrier is likely to stay put, and also the likelihood of peace arriving any time soon. 

The bicyclist's parting words are "I'll be right back.  OK?"

Shabbat Shalom!


(A tip of the kippa to Dan Mosenkis for calling this gem to our attention.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Infidel, Funny Film About Jews And Muslims, Now Available On DVD And Netflix

Back in March, we told you about a new funny film called The Infidel.  The British film opened in the UK in April, and in the US in May.  The DVD was released on Tuesday and now it's also available as a Netflix rental.

The basic plot is that Mahmud Nasir (Djalili) may not be the most observant Muslim, but deep down he is a true believer. His life is turned upside down when he learns not only that he was adopted—but most scandalously, his birth mother was Jewish and his real name is Solly Shimshillewitz.  

As Mahmud tumbles into a full-scale identity crisis, a true comedy of religious errors unfolds.  This outrageous farce was written by British comedy legend David Baddiel and directed by Josh Appignanesi.

The film, starring Omid Djalili (an Iranian Baha'i comedian) and Richard Schiff (Toby Ziegler on The West Wing,) has received good reviews.  L.A. Weekly calls Djalili’s comic persona like Homer Simpson, but Muslim.
The two leads make a terrific comedy team, says The Hollywood Reporter, ―with Djalili’s deadpan style of physical humor perfectly complementing Schiff’s hilarious, fast-paced wisecracking.  Neil Genzlinger, writing in The New York Times, called it "an amusing little film."

The Daily Beast declares:
With Muslim jokes, Jewish jokes, liberal gay-friendly Imams, and fundamentalist Muslim characters with sunglasses and hooks, it’s hardly surprising that The Infidel, directed by Josh Appignanesi, has caused a sensation.
The single disc comes stuffed with irreverent bonus features, including a commentary with the director and cast, making-ofs, interviews and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

You can see the trailer in our March post.  In the video below, Baddiel and Schiff reminisce about studying the haftorahs for their own bar mitzvahs and Schiff explains how it helped him in his acting career by teaching him the importance of timing.  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

EXCLUSIVE On-Site Report! Best In Show New Products From Kosherfest 2010

Falafel filled with tehina, Popcorn in a box, watermelon juice, tequila in painted skull bottles, sangria in a box, squeezable hummus and a special cover for challah dough. 

These are some of the prize winning and unusual products on display yesterday and today for the thousands of visitors representing all aspects of the food industry at Kosherfest 2010 at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey.

More than 300 exhibitors lining both sides of seven aisles are vying  for the attention of visitors (trade only -- but kiddush ladies seem to be an accepted subset) who try to manage noshing and stuffing literature into the bags provided by some vendors.  And there's plenty to nosh and to stuff.  

Some of the samples are meat, some are dairy, and some are pareve.  But all three types are scattered around the show floor, so anyone trying to keep kosher has to make careful choices.

The vendors are hoping that visitors will make bulk purchases, and some of the newer, smaller, and foreign companies exhibiting for the first time are hoping to find distributors who will bring their wares to your local supermarket.

If you love kiddush, have a few hours to spare and don't mind walking half a mile to a parking lot, this is the place for you.  It's still open all day today, Wednesday, from 10 am to 4 pm.  The on-site registration fee is $60.

We interviewed a few of the exhibitors and got closeups of some of the more unusual delicacies in this video for you to savor.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"God Only Knows What I'd Be Without Jews"

The Beach Boys had a big hit in 1966 with God Only Knows.  It's the eighth track on their 11th album, Pet Sounds, and one of their most widely recognized songs. The song was composed and produced by Brian Wilson with lyrics by Tony Asher and lead vocal by Carl Wilson.
This week we got a note from Grant Woolard calling our attention to a parody that he produced of this classic, with a humorous nod to Jewish pride, called God Only Knows What I'd Do Without Jews.  We thought you'd like to see it. 

If any of our readers are too young to remember The Beach Boys, we're including a clip from a live concert in 1980 where they performed their original hit.  We hope you enjoy both videos.


Monday, October 25, 2010

A Reuben Sandwich By Any Other Name...

The Reuben sandwich, a mainstay of non-kosher "Jewish Style" delis, is as treif as treif can get.  Well, maybe it could be more treif by substituting ham for the corned beef that gets topped with melted swiss cheese.

But it's still treif, and we always wondered how it became synonymous with Jewish food.

Noble Savage Productions, a producer of short films, sent us a link to their latest work, A Reuben By Any Other Name, and we thought it was funny, thoughtful, and that you might enjoy watching it.

Here's their description of this 4 minute short comedy:
The film takes a humorous look at the differences between Orthodox and Reform Judaism played out in terms of the differences between the New York and Los Angeles versions of the Reuben sandwich. Brilliant performances are provided by an ensemble cast of familiar faces from film and television - Jasmine Anthony (Stephen King's 1408, Commander in Chief), Anita Barone (The War at Home, Daddio), Paul Ben-Victor (In Plain Sight, Entourage), Larry Cedar (The Crazies, Deadwood), Pamela Cedar, Alanna Ubach (Hung, Legally Blonde), and Matt Winston (John from Cincinnati, Little Miss Sunshine). Are you an Orthodox or Reform Reubenite? Watch the film and find out!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Israeli Chess Master Breaks Iranian Record, Playing 523 Simultaneous Matches

Israeli chess grand master Alik Gershon has set a new Guinness world record of playing 523 simultaneous chess games.  He started Thursday and finished overnight, winning 454 of the matches, losing 11 and drawing in 58. 

On Friday, Guinness World Records in London confirmed that the Israeli was the new record holder, replacing an Iranian chess champion who previously held the record of 500 simultaneous matches.

Reporting for the Associated Press, Matti Friedman writes,
The new record holder acknowledged the tensions between the countries. "Hopefully this is the only war we are going to have with this enemy, ever," Gershon said.
He also noted the game's ancient origins in Persia - now Iran.
"Taking the record from an Iranian in a game that was invented by Iran - it's going to be even sweeter," he said as his record attempt was getting under way Thursday.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency adds, 
Gershon began to learn chess at age 2 and by 5 was competing. He became an Israeli youth champion, won the world championship in 1994 for youth up to age 14, and became Israeli champion in 2000.
Many of Gershon's opponents, who are registered and ranked by the Israel Chess Federation, as per the requirements of the Guinness Book of Records, are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Gershon, 30, is a native of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, who immigrated to Israel in 1990.
Watch Gershon in action as the world's latest "pawn star", as he is being called in some media reports, in the video below.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Nice Jewish Guys Pose In New Pinup Calendar For 2011

With two successful selling seasons behind him, Adam Cohen is at it again, publishing the 2011 edition of The Nice Jewish Guys Calendar in time for Chanukah.  Cohen's day job is running a television company that produced The Simple Life for FOX and E!

The calendar, first conceived more than ten years ago, sold out quickly last year, its second year of publication.  It pictures 12 "Jewish Looking" young men in a variety of scenarios.  What are some characteristics of a Jewish look?  Non threatening, trustworthy, not necessarily the stud, but he has a nice job and he's good to his parents.

In the video below, Cohen was interviewed at the launch of the 2010 edition and introduces some of the Nice Jewish Guys who appeared as Mr. January, Mr. February, etc.

The calendar is starting to appear on internet shopping sites such as and  We think it's about time for a Nice Jewish Girls Calendar, too.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Remember Neil Sedaka? At 71, He's Still Singing, In Tel Aviv

Neil Sedaka, the Sephardi pop singing sensation of the 1950's and 1960's, hasn't stopped singing even though his career began to decline with the arrival of the Beatles.

Last Saturday night, the 71-year-old Brooklyn native sang in concert at the Nokia Auditorium in Tel Aviv, his first appearance in Israel in 46 years.  A musical based on his life and songs opened in London a few months ago, and may find its way to Broadway.  Sedaka (the name is a variant of the Hebrew word Tzedaka - charity) is a cousin of singer Eydie Gorme.

David Brinn reviewed Sedaka's performance in the Jerusalem Post, writing:
He could do no wrong with the audience, and when, late in the show, he performed solo renditions of My Yiddishe Mama and Vi Ahin Zol Ikh Geyn with its lines about the Promised Land, “for at least I’m free, no more wander for me,” they responded with a standing ovation.

Entertainer became a dirty word somewhere along the line in the rock era, but there’s something to be said for sheer, unadulterated entertainment, when it’s performed as impeccably and professionally as Neil Sedaka does it.
To get an updated view of this 60 million record seller, here's a video of him performing My Yiddishe Mama on the Chabad telethon last year.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hevenu Shalom Aleichem Around The World: A Korean Version

We've been bringing you international interpretations of Hava Nagila, Adon Olam, and Abanibi during the past year.  Now we're starting a new series of versions of the popular Hebrew song, Hevenu Shalom Aleichem, as they are being sung in unexpected locations.

Hevenu Shalom Aleichem may be catching on because of its message of bringing peace, or maybe it's just appealing as a catchy tune, but nevertheless we were surprised to see how performers in so many countries are taking to it.

In this video, a Korean ensemble really gets into the spirit with singing and dancing, and, if you watch past the 3 minute mark, you will see and hear the most popular YouTubed Hebrew song sung once again in yet another country.  Enjoy!

(A tip of the kippah to Marshall Hurwitz for bringing this video to our attention.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Got Tefilin

Some songs have a knack for inspiring parodies, and I've Gotta Feeling, the multimillion album seller by the Black Eyed Peas is a prime example of this genre.  Last month we shared a video takeoff on this song by the National Jewish Outreach Program called I've Got a Feeling that Shabbat's Gonna be a Good Night.

Since then we found another takeoff on the same song, but set to the lyrics and a cappella singing of Six13, an award winning group of six young men who create the sound of a full band with just their voices.  It's called I Got Tefilin, and you can guess what it's about.

The audio is taken from one of their recordings, but the photos were added by an unidentified YouTube uploader.  All together, it's a fun way to start a new day.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Best Reason To Visit Israel

In 2008, in celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary, the Israel Government Tourist Office for the Midwest Region sponsored a contest for original video commercials about travel to Israel. Participants in the contest were asked to produce a short video commercial depicting what they believed is “the best reason to visit Israel.” Participants uploaded their videos to YouTube or Google Video.

The grand prize winner received two free roundtrip flight tickets from Chicago to Tel Aviv, courtesy of El Al Israel Airlines.

The contest was conceived as part of a larger initiative by the Israel Ministry of Tourism to increase positive imagery of Israel on the internet. The Midwest Office’s director, Tourism Consul Uri Steinberg, explained: “Not only do we want to encourage the posting of positive images of Israel to video-sharing sites, but we also hope that the contest will motivate individuals to share their favorite aspects of Israel with the rest of the world in a fun and creative way.” 

And the winner is.....

Here's the video that won first prize.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fyvush Finkel Starts 3-Week Engagement Today At Folksbiene Theater

Starting today and running through November 7, the Folksbiene Theater will be presenting Fyvush Finkel Live!, a show highlighting the 88-year-old Finkel's incredible career spanning English and Yiddish roles from Second Avenue to modern-day television stardom.

The show is a musical celebration of a life on stage, starring Finkel and his sons Ian Finkel and Elliot Finkel.

Filled with songs, stories, jokes and ample evidence of Finkel's undiminished mastery of showbusiness razzle dazzle, "
Fyvush Finkel Live!" brings us this close to one of the last living links to the Yiddish theatre's rich heyday on Second Avenue. But it also introduces us to one of a very select group of actors who are active and successful in both the Yiddish and mainstream worlds. Very few indeed have straddled the traditions of Second Avenue and mainstream entertainment as convincingly as Finkel, "the face that launched a thousand shticks."

All performances will be at the Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue in New York City. For tickets, which are $55, call (646) 312-5073 or visit

Born in Brooklyn, Finkel began his career in the Yiddish theatre as a teenager. After a long stint touring in "Fiddler on the Roof,"
he starred in the Off-Broadway hit Little Shop of Horrors for five years, earned an OBIE in Café Crown (which moved to Broadway), and teamed up with his sons Ian and Elliot, and grandson Abbot in two musical revues -- Finkel's Follies and From Second Avenue to Broadway.

A beloved television star, Finkel earned an Emmy Award in 1994 for Picket Fences and he starred in the acclaimed series Boston Public, which ran from 2000 to 2004. His most recent appearance was in the opening sequence of the Coen brothers' film A Serious Man, in a Yiddish-language dramatization of an erzatz folk tale about a tzaddik who may or may not be a dybbuk.

Here's a trailer for the show at the Folksbiene, followed by a video clip of Finkel singing a Yiddish classic, I am a Boarder by my Wife. Enjoy!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Classic Moments From 30 Years Of Chabad Telethons

Chabad has been running fund-raising telethons for the last 30 years.  A few weeks ago we blogged about this year's 30th anniversary special and a included a selection of doubletalk clips by the great Sid Caesar. 

We promised more to come, and here comes one.  It's a collection of some of the best moments from the 30 years of entertaining and raising lots of money for good causes.  The celebrities in this short clip include Red Buttons, Whoopi Goldberg, John Voight, and Leonard Nimoy.  How many others can you name?  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cooking In Yiddish: Drink L'Chayim! Horseradish and Jalapeno Vodka With Nut Cake

The Yiddish cooking ladies are back with a new segment, courtesy of, the Yiddish-language web version of the venerable Yiddish newspaper, Forverts.  

This time they're cooking up a L'Chayim to celebrate their biweekly internet show.  How do you cook a L'Chayim?  By making flavored vodkas infused with (we're not kidding) horseradish and jalapeno peppers.  There's also a vanilla infused vodka for anyone who can't take the heat.  Top it off with a baked-from-scratch nut cake and you've got what it takes to celebrate.  And English subtitles are provided so everyone can follow along.

We introduced you to the cooks, Rukhl Shaechter and Eve Jochnowitz, when they started the series Est Gesunterheit, in a blog post last May.  They have a lot of experience in cooking and in speaking Yiddish.  So you can learn how to plan for a real celebration and pick up some Yiddish expressions at no extra cost.  L'Chayim!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Israeli Comedian Explains Being Jewish To Foreign Workers

Israel has more than 200,000 foreign workers and most have had little or no previous contact with Jews.  Yair Nitzani, an Israeli comedian and TV news host has been trying to bridge this cultural gap by explaining Jews and Jewish life to three workers in the TV studio and the many others watching at home.  

He did a series of short explanations on a show called Behind the News:  We Explain to Foreign Workers.  

Nitzani's translations from Hebrew to English leave something to be desired.  As a result we get some unintentionally funny translations in addition to the funny explanations.  For example, the Hebrew word zarim can be translated as foreign, but also as strange.  Nitzani uses strange, which sounds strange, but maybe that's the point.  Anyway, we hope you enjoy him explaining to three "strange workers" about the "three types of Jewish" (meaning three types of Jews) living in Israel, how to tell them apart, and what it takes to become Jewish.  Ouch!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fred Flintstone: A Stone Age Star With A Jewish Voice

Fred Flintstone, the stone age cartoon character who turned 50 on September 30, spoke with the voice of a New York Jew, Alan Reed.  Reed based his accent on the intonations of his Galitzianer grandfather, of Ukrainian descent, who frequently quarreled with Reed's father, a Litvak who hailed from Lithuania.

Reed portrayed Fred Flintstone, whose original name was Fred Flagstone, from 1960 until his death in 1977, when the cartoon caveman was voiced by Henry Corden and Jeff Bergman.

As Liel Liebovitz wrote in Tablet Magazine last week in an article titled Yabba Dabba Jew,
It was the early 1920s, and radio, a new invention, was penetrating American living rooms at an alarming rate. With hours each day to fill with content, producers were looking for young men and women who were willing to work long hours and enjoy little of the glamour associated with the theater. Reed was just this man: He showed up at the office of a big-time producer and asked to audition for a part. The producer’s secretary looked at the pudgy 19-year-old and laughed; the only role they had was that of a mobster, she said, and there was no way a kid could convincingly play a mafia don. Undeterred, Reed waited for the secretary to leave for lunch then picked up her telephone and dialed her boss, the producer. The man picked up, and Reed, channeling every Italian neighbor he’d ever known, put on the thick accent he thought was needed for the part.
“I’m just gonna tell you somethin’,” he told the shocked producer. “I’m comin’ into your office in a couple of minutes. You’re gonna give me a job, or you’re goin’ for a ride.” Then, he hung up and marched over to the producer’s office. He was hired on the spot.
Within months, Reed became one of radio’s most sought-after actors. The new medium, as comedian Steve Allen famously put it, was the theater of the mind, and it needed performers who could invoke an entire world with a slight shift in tone or a subtle change of diction. A master of mimicry, Reed gave his voice to one ludicrous character after another.
On The Fred Allen Show he played Falstaff Openshaw, an effete Irish poet specializing in hackneyed ditties like “Said the little bear to the big giraffe/ Let’s eat a hyena, just for a laugh.” On NBC’s popular Abie’s Irish Rose —a comedy show about a nice Jewish boy and his Irish Catholic sweetheart—he played Solomon Levy, Abie Levy’s censorious father. And on CBS’s Life With Luigi, a howler about Italian immigrants in Chicago, he was Pasquale, a restaurateur hell-bent on marrying off his obese daughter.
These characters all sounded different, but they had one thing in common: They all had a touch of Abraham Greenberg, Reed’s grandfather. For all the broad comedy and exaggerated accents, Reed realized that at the heart of every immigrant’s story was buried a deep uncertainty, a throbbing anxiety, a certain confusion about preserving the old world’s values in the new one. As a child, Reed had witnessed these emotions overwhelm his grandfather, and he resented the old man and his ways. As an adult, however, he could turn the maddening into the sublime, recreating one Abraham Greenberg after another and giving his creations the gift of warmth and humor.
It was a gift that only came through on radio, however; whenever he pranced on stage or appeared on screen, Alan Reed was just another burly comic whose large frame allowed little subtlety to seep through. As the 1940s gave way to the 1950s, Reed was scantily employed. Barbera’s call, then, was a thrill. Working in animation, Reed realized, he would once again be just a voice.
When he walked into the studio to audition for the part, he read as if Fred Flintstone was just another Pasquale or Solomon or Falstaff, ambitious and anxious and a little bit perplexed. Herein lies the true genius of Fred Flintstone, which is to say, the true genius of Alan Reed—although the character and its exploits are taken directly from the Gleason canon, Reed made no effort to imitate Gleason’s flat, clipped cadence, that all-American voice crafted by screenwriters eager to cram as many punch lines into a sentence as they could.
Instead, Reed’s Fred spoke in a soulful voice, with a note of hurt quivering beneath each cheerful statement and a touch of insecurity making even the most straightforward lines tremble just a bit. It was a voice that sounded like it belonged to someone living in the outskirts of society and doing his best to pass for one of the guys, a voice Reed had heard so often growing up from immigrants veteran and new. It was, in other words, the perfect voice for Fred Flintstone.
Reed was hired on the spot.
Here is a video clip of Alan Reed  as a character actor in The Beverly Hillbillies.  Close your eyes, and you can visualize Fred Flintstone.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wanna Buy Bob Dylan's Bar Mitzvah Shul? It's Only $119,000

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported yesterday that the shul where Bob Dylan had his Bar Mitzvah is for sale.

According to JTA, 
The former home of Agudath Achim Synagogue in Hibbing, Minn., where the former Bobby Zimmerman became a man in 1963, has belonged to Eric and Brenda Shafer-Pellinen since 2001. Their hopes to turn the building into a bed-and-breakfast failed to materialize.

The building is listed on Craigslist for $119,000. Shafer-Pellinen told the Duluth News Tribune that she is also reaching out to Dylan fans via websites such as and

Item No. 8 on Hibbing's official Bob Dylan Walk, the building still has its original stained-glass windows, one boasting a Star of David, and two kitchens, indicating the congregation prepared separate meat and milk dishes.
Bob Dylan has been a supporter of Jewish causes, notably Chabad, which he says is his favorite organization in the whole world.

Here's a video of Dylan playing Hava Nagila on the harmonica on a Chabad telethon in 1989.  Singing along with him is his son-in-law, Peter Himmelman, a singer in his own right and an observant Jew.  And who's the guy in the white suit?  You may recognize him.  He's Harry Dean Stanton, who's been playing the role of Roman Grant, the manipulative leader/prophet of a polygamous sect in the HBO series Big Love.  

The first two and a half minutes of this clip is a performance by Sammy Davis Jr., and then Dylan appears.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rabbi Comedian Leads Stand-up Humor Workshop For Interfaith Clergy

Last year we introduced you to Rabbi Bob Alper, a Reform rabbi who went from the pulpit to the comedy stage, and who still leads High Holiday services in Philadelphia.  He bills himself as "the only practicing rabbi in the world doing stand-up comedy intentionally."  Last Friday he was on hand at an interfaith workshop to teach clergy and divinity students how to inject humor into their sermons.

Yesterday's New York Times had a feature story about the session, Humor in Ministry, led by the Rev. Susan Sparks, pastor of the Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York, who also moonlights as a nightclub comedian and who sometimes works with Rabbi Alper.

Reporting in the Times, Paul Vitello wrote:
Ms. Sparks and Rabbi Alper, invited as part of the seminary’s “field-based” program to teach some of the intangibles of ministry not covered in the divinity curriculum, surveyed the arc of potentially humorous situations — including weddings, funerals and long, hot summer days when even the sermonizer can lose the thread of a sermon.
They discussed the often-overlooked humor in some passages of the Bible, including Jesus’ use of irony and exaggeration, and the ribaldry in the Book of Esther. They reviewed the basic etiquette of being funny at a funeral. (“It has to be very carefully done,” Rabbi Alper said.) They talked technique — how it helps to edit sermons, to stay topical and to use small words.
But both Ms. Sparks and Rabbi Alper took pains to assert — as almost all comedians who talk about comedy do — that being funny is a serious business.
“Being a comedian and being a minister are basically about the same thing, which is making people feel less alone,” Ms. Sparks said. “I think of it as a rhetorical tool that can reach people in a way that no other rhetorical tool can reach them.”
Ms. Sparks, 48, has made double careers a trademark of her life. Before entering divinity school in 1999, she worked for 15 years as a corporate lawyer while moonlighting as a country singer and comedian. (When she gave up her legal practice, she gave up country singing.)
During their class, she and Rabbi Alper, 65, swerved between riffing on a sampling of their funniest material and exploring what they called “the theological underpinnings of religion and humor”: using humor in interfaith bridge-building, making jokes during hard times, and the rhetoric of being funny.
To get a taste of Rabbi Alper's rabbinical humor, here are five minutes of highlights from his 70 minute show.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Comedy Showcase: Meet Robert Weil, aka Rabbi Mordy Katz

Australian businessman Robert Weil has them laughing all over the world, doing standup comedy in the US and Israel as well as his native country.

As Rabbi Mordy Katz, Weil is in demand at weddings and other special occasions.  His shtick is posing as a rabbi from Borough Park, and his jokes cover many traditional Jewish bases -- mothers-in-law, weddings, funerals, missionaries, and more.

"Rabbi Mordy" is at his best delivering his deadpan humor for the bride and groom and their guests, as you can see in this video from a wedding in Melbourne.  He is looking for bookings, but you'll have to contact him in Australia at +61-419-536-238 or Enjoy!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Who Writes Chabad Shpy Comics? Mad Artist Al Jaffee

Al Jaffee, the brilliant artist who was responsible for much of the success of MAD magazine from 1955 to today, has had a largely unknown second job during 25 of his 55 MAD years -- creating the Shpy, the adventurous cartoon hero of the Chabad publication Moshiach Times.

Reporting in Monday's New York Times, Alison Leigh Cowan writes:
Young fans of the Shpy can be forgiven for skipping over the credits on Page 2 of the magazine. It is hard to fathom, though, how the rest of New York has barely noticed that the artist responsible for making the Shpy such a mensch is Al Jaffee. Yes, that Al Jaffee. The same 89-year-old bad boy whose work has been appearing for more than half a century in the occasionally rude, irreverent, and bawdy pages of Mad magazine.
Al Jaffee’s Mad Life,” the new biography of Mr. Jaffee just published by HarperCollins, flags the connection but even it quickly moves on without exploring how Mr. Jaffee came to work for the magazine or how the odd pairing has worked out.
Stuffed into a tiny office above a children’s museum on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, the staff of The Moshiach Times seems unruffled by Mr. Jaffee’s other pursuits and notes that the Shpy is easily the magazine’s most popular feature. The magazine has roughly 10,000 subscribers who pay $15 a year, according to the staff. Money, however, is not the point. The magazine, whose title refers to the Hebrew word for Messiah, was started in 1980 by Chabad-Lubavitch’s Tzivos Hashem arm as a way to promote Jewish values among the young. Embedded in the cover design is the proclamation, “We want Moshiach now.”
Jaffee is best known for the MAD fold-in pages he created in response to the fold-outs that became popular when he was getting started with MAD.  The Times has an interactive feature on their website that lets you manipulate some of his classic fold-ins with your cursor.  

In the video below, Jaffee reflects on how the inspiration for his art came from his recollections of life in a small Lithuanian village, his new biography, and the process he uses in creating the fold-ins.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Apple Throwing Rabbis Say Farewell To A Month Of Holidays

Well, it's over.  A month of holidays, that is.  When Simchat Torah was over last weekend all we wanted to do was watch some funny movies and catch up on the latest news. 

But there are other ways of celebrating the end of a long holiday season.  In the Chassidic world there seems to be a tradition among some sects of gathering around the rebbe's tish (table) and trying to catch apples thrown by the rebbe at his Chassidim.

Here's a video of the Sanz-Klausenberg rebbe tossing apples at hundreds of shtreimel-wearing Chassidim.  Apparently the rebbe made another appearance at a smaller tish where just throwing apples wasn't enough, so in the next video he climbed onto the table and danced back and forth while juggling the apples to the approval of his followers, this time wearing black hats.  

The Sanz-Klausenberg sect has two headquarters locations led by two brothers, in Borough Park, Brooklyn and Netanya, Israel.  It's possible that these two clips are from separate parties in both locations, as they were posted on Sunday and Monday, but it's hard to tell from the limited information available on the internet.  Either way, we're happy that they're apple-y having a good time.


But wait!  There's more!  We came across a video of the rebbe of Belz tossing apples to a line of young men eight months ago in what may be a test of who is a "good catch."  Here's the video.  If any of our readers are Chassidim who can explain the origin of these apple tossing sessions, please submit your comments to share with our readers.  In the meantime, we're going to suggest to the rabbi of our synagogue that this might be a fun activity to coincide with apple picking time in October.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Top Ten Videos To Celebrate Our First Anniversary!

Jewish Humor Central is one year old today!  When we started this blog on October 5, 2009, we weren't sure that we could keep posting a funny Jewish happening every day (except Shabbat and Jewish holidays) but our brethren (and sistren) rose to the occasion and kept doing funny, silly, and sometimes outrageous things for us to share with our growing readership. 

Now we have readers in 127 countries who have viewed our 338 blog posts more than 60,000 times.  And like the Energizer Bunny, we plan to keep going...and going.

To celebrate this occasion, we're linking to the ten most viewed videos in the past year.  They span a wide range of subjects, from cartoons to holidays to flash mobs to Yiddish cooking to song parodies.  There's even some serious stuff in the mix.  Here are the videos, in traditional countdown format.

In an episode of The Simpsons that has been eagerly anticipated for months, Homer Simpson and his dysfunctional family fly to Israel with nerdy neighbor Ned Flanders and his Bible study group.  When Homer visits the Western Wall and many of the popular tourist sites in the Holy Land, you can imagine what might happen.  Well, it does, and Bart, Marge, and company all live up to our highest (or lowest) expectations.  

Shoppers and diners at the food court in the Dizengoff Mall in Tel Aviv were caught by surprise one day last month when 30 of their fellow shoppers and diners, and also shopkeepers and food servers, suddenly started to sing the Anvil Chorus from Giuseppi Verdi's opera, Il Trovatore, accompanied by a recorded full symphony orchestra.

8. More Pesach Parody:  The Passover Seder Symbols Song
Thanks to some deft lyrics writing by Barry Levy, video editing by Iftach Shavit, and piano accompaniment by Brad Ross, we're happy to share some pre-seder fun, and also some contemplation of the significance of the symbolic foods that we'll put on the seder table next week.  We couldn't determine the identity of the singer, but his singing style reminds us of Tom Lehrer.

For any of our readers who may have not seen the 1935 film 
Top Hat, the parody is based on Cheek to Cheek, the classic song from that movie, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin.  Enjoy!

7. Hava Nagila Around The World: Thailand Burlesque
We've posted ten eclectic versions of Hava Nagila from all over the world, but none has been viewed as many times as this one from Thailand.
The singer starts out with a few bars of the title song from the film Exodus, and then launches into Hava Nagila.  So sit back, watch, enjoy, and have some laughs.  It's OK to laugh out loud (LOL).  We did!

6. Echoes Of A Shofar:  Illegal Under British Mandate, Now Blown With Pride
Under a British law in Palestine passed in 1930, Jews were forbidden to blow the shofar at the Kotel, pray loudly there, or bring Torah scrolls, so as not to offend the Arab population.

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

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

5. A Musical Review Of Jewish History In Four Minutes
In 1989, Billy Joel's hit song, We Didn't Start The Fire, chronicled the events and leading figures over a 50 year period, from 1949 to 1989.  

Earlier this year, for Israel Independence Day, Adam Drucker took the Shlock Rock parody of the song written by Lenny Solomon in 1991 and added Googled images for each of the events and individuals mentioned in this four minute sweep of Jewish History.  Drucker is the Youth Director of the Stanmore synagogue in northwest London.

We thought it was a good summary of Jewish history, so we're sharing it with you. But don't blink.  If you do, you'll miss a few of the images.  Drucker chose interesting but unconventional ones to illustrate personalities and events in our history.  Some of them may surprise you.  Enjoy!

Earlier this year, Bubby Chanele Gonshor of Montreal visited her granddaughter, Frayda Gonshor Cohen of Berkeley, California, and showed her how to prepare gefilte fish from scratch -- from buying the fish in a store to serving it.  

In this video, Bubby Chanele shows every step along the way, narrating in Yiddish, while English subtitles make it easy to follow even for anyone who doesn't understand the mamaloshen (mother tongue).

International opera star Yevgeni Shapovalov – called “the Israeli Pavarotti” by the media in Israel – formed the THREE TENORS FROM ISRAEL in 2005 with his acclaimed operatic colleagues Felix Livshitz and Vladislav Goray. All originally from the former Soviet Union, Shapovalov and Livshitz now make their homes in Israel, while Goray remains a Ukrainian citizen. Since their 2005 debut, they have given over 100 sold-out concerts in Israel and Europe, delighting audiences with their breathtaking performances, tinged with humor and nostalgia.

2. How To Break A Matzah Exactly In Half
A couple of years ago, the minds at Mantis, an Israeli design company, came up with a foolproof way of using a Japanese tip to break a matzah exactly in half.  If you haven't seen it, it should give you some pre-Pesach laughs and good advice for Yachatz, the breaking of the matzah.  If you have seen it, it's a good refresher course.  But we don't usually put chocolate spread on the broken matzah.  Enjoy!


1.  Passover Time Again In Manischewitzville - A Parody You'll Like
A New Jersey satirist who calls himself Billy Ray Sheet has created a funny Pesach adaptation of Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville that we think you'll like.  It meets our high standards in all respects, so we're bringing it to you for your enjoyment as you go through all of the preparations for Passover.  Enjoy!

We hope you've enjoyed this first year of Jewish Humor Central as much as we've enjoyed writing it for you.  Tomorrow we start our second year of bringing you a post each morning to help you start your day with a smile.  We'd appreciate your letting your friends know and inviting them to join our growing community.