Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Jewish Traces in Unexpected Places: The Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan

During the past two years we have profiled Jewish life in unexpected places in the world:  Uganda, Indonesia, Guatemala, Beijing, Vietnam, and Japan.  Now we have come across a community of Jews living in the mountainous regions of Azerbaijan and Dagestan.

As Kevin Gould reported in the London Jewish Chronicle,
Gyrmyzy Gasaba (in Russian, Krasnaya Sloboda or "Red Roofs") is perhaps the world's only all-Jewish town outside Israel. It sits across the Gudialcay river from the Muslim town of Guba.  Where Guba seems poor and perhaps a little care-worn, Gyrmyzy Gasaba appears to be prosperous and thriving - 3,600 mountain Jews live here, wearing their Judaism with pride, and without fear. Boys wearing kippot on their heads bustle about, and each house displays at least one large Magen David.
Azerbaijan is proud of its tolerance towards minorities. The national religion is Shia Islam, but Azerbaijanis are scorned by their Iranian neighbors to the south as bad, lax Muslims. That Azerbaijan enjoys friendly relations with Israel seems only to prove the Iranian point.
The Jews of Azerbaijan speak Juwuro-Tat, a language based on ancient Persian, then seasoned with Aramaic, Arabic and Hebrew.
There are many theories as to who the mountain Jews are, and how they came to be here. One suggests that they are descended from the Khazars (unlikely - the Khazars came later), another that they are ethnic Persian Tats converted to Judaism; some ethnologists regard Tats as mountain Jews converted to Islam.
Outside the yeshiva, Rav Adam subscribes to none of these schools. "Our people came here from southern Persia around 720 BCE," he says, slowly. "It seems there were some upheavals in what is now southern Iran and Iraq . We were Jewish military colonists loyal to Parthian and Sassanid rulers, sent here to the Caucasus to guard against Mongol invasions from the Pontic steppe."
Mountain Jews settled the eastern Caucasus in towns all over Dagestan, Chechniya and Azerbaijan . "There were times we were persecuted, and times of peace," says Rav Adam. "Arabs came in the 8th century, and there were forced conversions…" The Safavid ruler Nadir Shah was especially cruel, but following medical intervention by a Jewish doctor who saved his son's life, Fatali, the Khan of Guba, granted the mountain Jews sanctuary in his lands. Thus, in 1742 ,was Gyrmyzy Gasaba formally established. "It was known then - and now - as 'Little Jerusalem ' and as a centre for Torah learning," explains Rav Adam.
In 1917 there were 18,000 Jews in Azerbaijan, but Soviet persecution and attendant famines caused many thousands to flee to Baku, Azerbaijan 's capital, and beyond. Between 1979 and 1990 many of these moved to Israel , and some to Russia and the United States . Prosperity followed, and in recent times mountain Jew oligarchs Telman Ismailov and Irmik Abayev have been energetically supporting the rebirth and growth of Gyrmyzy Gasaba. As well as owning local property, retail businesses and agricultural land, mountain Jews are also instrumental in the financial and oil services industries in Baku . Rabbi Elezar is proud to relate that his community now has two shuls, 30 boys and 20 girls studying at the yeshiva, and a mikvah.
Oligarchical and community support is especially evident a five-minute drive away, where finishing touches are being put to the Bet Knesset synagogue, which has air conditioning, and a lighthouse-like roof light from which a huge menorah beams out in all directions. The Azerbaijani taste is for ornamented zinc roofs, and in Gyrmyzy Gasaba this takes the form of metal Magen Davids that sprout everywhere above downpipes, on ceiling overhangs, and in the eaves of the well-kept houses, shops and banqueting suites.
In this video report from Jerusalem Online, you can get a closer look at the mountain Jews as they go about their daily life.  Enjoy!

(A tip of the kippah to Sheila Zucker for bringing this story to our attention.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shmulkey Gebrachts Shows How Not to Do Jewish Outreach

The Afikim Foundation, a Jewish non-profit organization that uses the internet to promote Jewish education, has created a funny video purporting to show how to reach out to unaffiliated Jews and bring them closer to their traditions. 

Outreach, or kiruv in Hebrew, is widely and successfully practiced by many Jewish organizations including Chabad Lubavitch and NCSY, the Orthodox Union's youth program.

But like any activity, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it.  This video had us laughing after we realized it was meant to be a spoof of kiruv methods.  It's the second time the Shmulkey Gebrachts character has been used to parody the methods of some outreach professionals, most of whom go about their business in a dignified, respectful manner.  But not Shmulkey!  

Here is the outreach parody sponsored by Afikim, followed by an earlier version posted a few years ago by NCSY.  We'll let you decide which one is funnier and which one is better at illustrating the ways not to do outreach.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Top Ten Things to Say to End the Shidduch

Ben Czeladnicki, who calls himself The Wondering Jew, has been posting a weekly video, looking at the world through the lens of the Torah. Most of the posts are about the weekly Torah portion, explanations of some of the Jewish holidays and fasts, observations on Jewish life, and comments on events in the news.

This week The Wondering Jew steps into the world of shidduchim and offers a funny top ten list of how to say the wrong thing and put an end to a shidduch.

If you're not familiar with the word, shidduch is a Hebrew and Yiddish term for a match, or arranged introduction to lead to marriage.  These ten show-stoppers will almost surely put an end to the match.  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Yiddish Cooking Ladies Go Vegetarian: Rice Dumplings With Mushrooms

They're back again. We introduced you to them when the Forward's Est Gezunterheit cooking video series started last year.  This time the Yiddish-speaking cooking ladies venture into vegetarian territory in a video just posted on YouTube.

Using a cookbook printed in Vilna, Lithuania, in 1938, Rukhl Schaecter and Eve Yochnowitz take us through the steps to prepare rice kneidlach (dumplings) filled with mushrooms and onions and served in a mushroom sauce. 

We like these videos because you get a cooking lesson combined with a Yiddish lesson, just by listening to the light conversation between the chefs and reading the English subtitles. 

From this video, we learned some Yiddish words that we didn't know before.  Here they are:

Mushrooms = Shvemlach
Frying = Pregelen
Broth = Yoich
Onions = Tzibelach (we knew this one already, from the old Yiddish curse, "Zolst vaksen vi a tsibeleh mit'n kop in dr'erd - You should grow like an onion with your head in the ground").
Parsley = Petrushke
Dill = Krip
Rice = Rice
Sauce = Sauce

The recipe appears at the end of the video.  So check your pantry and refrigerator, and be sure you have plenty of butter.  Enjoy!

Friday, August 26, 2011

"Hava Nagila the Movie" is Coming -- in 2012

Producer and director Roberta Grossman has been working for two years to capture the essence of the song Hava Nagila, arguably the most covered song in the Jewish music repertory.  She has been meeting with potential donors, encouraging them to contrbute to the cause of creating the documentary, called Hava Nagila -- What is it?

The film is a documentary romp through the history, mystery, and meaning of the great Jewish standard. Funny, deep and unexpected, it film will celebrate 100 years of Jewish history, culture and spirituality. It will also reveal the power of music to bridge cultural divides and bring us together as human beings.

After doing preliminary work and soliciting donations for the film's completion, Grossman has the film in post-production and scheduled for release in the summer of 2012.  Now is the time to start antcipating the film's arrival next year by viewing the trailer below.

In the meantime, sit back and enjoy all nine minutes of this warm and funny preview.  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Israeli Soldier Turns His Tank Into a Musical Instrument

We've heard of turning swords into plowshares, but turning a tank into a musical instrument?  That's what an Israeli soldier is doing.

The Bible says a time of universal peace will come when swords will be turned into plowshares. For Israeli reservist Dror Gomel, that time is now. The 36-year-old has transformed his military tank into a melodic percussion instrument.

Gomel, a professional percussionist and special education teacher, can be seen in the video, which was shot in southern Israel, playing the front end of his tank to the delight of his infantry. The words he recites: “No more war, no more bloodshed”, were famously uttered by the late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at the 1978 signing of the peace accords with Egypt.  
France24 International News reported last week:
Dror Gomel, 36, is a percussionist and special education teacher, who lives in the Beit Kama Kibbutz in Israel’s northern Negev Desert. He, like most other Israeli citizens, did his compulsary military service as a young man, and is now a reservist. Reservists in Israel are required to undergo training and active duty for a few weeks every year.
Ever since I became familiar with this army vehicle, I have been playing it. It just so happens that now my friends decided to film it. The main message is that although we excel at fighting with this vehicle, we prefer to transform it into a musical instrument. If only all the instruments of war would turn into musical instruments.
Before publishing this, I thought a lot and consulted with friends about the responses I might get: Am I hurting the image of the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces]? Does the IDF come across looking weak? Do the Israeli soldiers look unserious? Will the message of universal peace translate?
In the end, I decided to publish it because I believe the video sheds light on the positive and human side of the Israeli soldier. If only all the instruments of war would turn into musical instruments.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Feed Me Bubbe: First, Webcasts and Recipes; Now, the Book!

Last summer we introduced our readers to Bubbe, an 83-year-old grandmother from Massachusetts, who stars in Feed Me Bubbe, a series of 20 web videos, preparing traditional Jewish recipes for a new generation.

This week, a book based on the series, called Feed Me Bubbe: Recipes and Wisdom from America's Favorite Online Grandmother, is making its appearance wherever books are sold, including the online sites and

Here's an episode from the Feed Me Bubbe series, where Bubbe demonstrates the art of preparing stuffed cabbage.  A link to the recipe is posted below the video.  Enjoy!

Here's the recipe if you want to print it: 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Israeli Comedy Classic: Group Therapy

Israeli humor isn't quite the same as American humor.  For one thing, political and cultural correctness doesn't get top priority when it comes to entertainment in Israel.  There's a popular TV show called Ktzarim, which literally means shorts, as in short films or sketches.  It's actually based on a British show called "The Sketch Show."  While the sketches have some of the sharp humor of Saturday Night Live, they tend to be much shorter and sharper edged.

Here's a short sketch with English subtitles that we hope you'll enjoy.  It moves so fast that you'll probably have to watch it a few times to let all of the humor sink in.

Participants in a group therapy session on conquering fears announce their fear to the group, and almost everything that happens next is a direct hit on someone's fear, causing them to react, and the reaction causes a chain reaction until everything goes over the top.  The fears expressed are:
- Fear of shouting
- Fear of apologies
- Fear of things that repeat themselves
- Fear of quiet embarrasing moments
And the last participant, a latecomer, barks when he hears other people's fears

Put them all together and you get a few hilarious moments.  Enjoy!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Chutzpah is On Track To Be Word of the Year

If Time Magazine had an issue featuring Word of the Year instead of Person of the Year, a leading candidate would be the word Chutzpah, which really has come into popular use during the past few months.

Last week Tablet magazine published an article by Yiddish expert Michael Wex on the re-emergence of chutzpah as a popular word. Chutzpah has been in the public eye this month because of its use by columnists to characterize Standard and Poors' downgrading of the U.S. credit rating and mispronunciation of the word by Congresswoman Michelle Bachman (see video below.)

Wex writes:
The root meaning of “chutzpah” is “to be insolent or impudent,” and “chutzpah” has come into Yiddish with the same meaning as it has in Hebrew: “impudence, insolence, nerve,” to quote Uriel Weinreich’s Modern English-Yiddish Yiddish-English Dictionary. There’s nothing good about chutzpah in Yiddish; it’s an unambiguously negative quality characterized by a disregard for manners, social conventions, and the feelings and opinions of others.
The chutzpahnik’s self-regard and sense of entitlement are so total that he’s unable to see that other people are just as real as he is. (If he’s a she, the chutzpahnik is called a chutzpahnitseh.) Chutzpah comes to your house for dinner and takes a dump in your potted plant; if it goes to its best friend’s funeral and then propositions the bereaved spouse during the shiva, it’s only because there was no chance to do so at the graveside.
The classic definition of chutzpah is used by the Yiddish and Danish team at Shtetl (formerly known as Shtetl Montreal, the Canadian alternative magazine that maintains a video dictionary of Yiddish words and phrases that we've blogged about a few times.

The use of chutzpah on TV is nothing new. We found the video of Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett performing the classic "Chutzpah" sketch on the CBS show Carol + 2 on January 15, 1967. The two comediennes portray cleaning women in the offices of a theatrical agency who fancy themselves big deal makers in the world of show business. The first five minutes set up the background situation for the song, which they launch into after a brief introduction.

They use the word in a positive context, which connotes courage, boldness, or braveness. So which is it, positive or negative? Don't forget that shalom means both hello and goodbye, so why not let chutzpah also have two opposite meanings?  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Looking For a Date With a Mensch? Find His Grandmother First

Adina Kalish was sent by a Jewish television network to report on the interior workings of an adult retirement community in Florida, and to observe Jewish grandparents from across the nation.  But she had an ulterior motive -- to find herself a man. 

Adina tried to get dates by interviewing Century Village grandparents and asking about their grandsons.  She knew that it wouldn't take long for the grandmothers to try to set her up. As the saying goes, If you want to find a mensch, find his grandma first.

One grandma gave her the name of her grandson. After calling a few wrong numbers, Adina found the right Scott and they agreed to a date in New York City. They met in a restaurant in Columbus Circle and Adina brought along a hidden camera crew.

So did it work out? Did Adina find her mensch? You'll have to watch the video to find out.  Enjoy!

(A tip of the kippah to Sheila Zucker for bringing this video to our attention.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Senator Joe Lieberman Celebrates Shabbat in His New Book, "The Gift of Rest"

Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman's observance of Shabbat has become universally known since he ran for Vice President on the Democratic ticket with Al Gore in 2000. 

This week marks the publication of his seventh book, a nonpolitical tribute to Shabbat and how the Jewish day of rest has been a central part of his life.  The book, The Gift of Rest, describes the benefits of Sabbath observance for Jews, and suggests ways for people of other religious faiths and those who are secular to gain similar benefits from observing a day away from email, texting, and electronic devices.

Lieberman writes about Shabbat as a gift that he received from his parents who, in turn, received it from their parents, who received it from generations of Jews before them. According to ancient tradition, the line of transmission extends back to Moses at Mt. Sinai, who received the Sabbath as the fourth of the Ten Commandments. In this book, Lieberman offers the gift of Sabbath observance—a gift that has anchored, ordered, and inspired his life—to readers of all faiths. 

In the following video, Lieberman explains how he came to write the book.

In the next video, Lieberman give us a peek at the Shabbat table in his home and the preparations that he and his wife Hadassah make each week for the seventh day. Enjoy, and Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hava Nagila Emerges as Popular Theme for Performing Gymnasts

Since we started this blog almost two years ago, we've had a special fascination with the many ways that different cultures have adopted Hava Nagila as their very own.

While we haven't found anything more bizarre than the burlesque dancer in Thailand, one of the more popular posts on Jewish Humor Central, we have shared videos of the song performed in India, Italy, the Shetland Islands, Peru, Russia, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Cuba, and as Texas country music.

On Tuesday, Dvora Meyers of JTA reported that the song, originally a Ukrainian folk dance, has become a preferred background piece for gymnasts performing at championship events.

In he JTA piece, Meyers wrote:
Alexandra Raisman, 17, one of the top elite gymnasts in the United States and a member of the 2010 U.S. World Championships team that took the silver medal last year in Rotterdam, will perform her floor exercise routine this weekend to a string-heavy version of the classic Chasidic niggun, or wordless melody. And if she succeeds in making it to London for the Olympic Games in 2012, she plans to perform the routine on the sport's biggest stage.
Raisman, of Needham, Mass., is trained by the Romanian couple, Mihai and Sylvia Brestyan, who coached the Israeli national team in the early 1990s and also is training world vault champion Alicia Sacramone. The coaches and Raisman's mother selected "Hava Nagila" after several exhaustive late-night online searches.
Reisman, a recipient of the Pearl D. Mazor Outstanding Female Jewish High School Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award given out by the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in New York, says she is proud to be using the Jewish song "because there aren’t too many Jewish elites out there.”
Even more important to Raisman than the tune’s Jewish connotations, however, is the quality it shares with similar folk tunes -- it inspires audience participation.
“I like how the crowd can clap to it,” she says.
It's time to clap along to Reisman's routine in the video below. If you really like gymnastics and want to see more, we're also posting videos that Meyers found of four other gymnasts performing to the same tune. Hava Nagila v'nismecha!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Comedy Showcase: Meet Deb Filler, New Zealand's Only Jewish Comic

Deb Filler, New Zealand's only Jewish comic, has toured the world in her funny one-woman shows that are filled with cheeky Jewish humor.

Truly multi-talented, she has worked variously as a comic, a broadcaster, a writer, singer and entertainer. Think of Flight of the Conchords’ only Jewish cousin. Passionate and witty, armed only with her material, Deb has been performing with her keen wit and sensibility for 25 years. 

Deb’s characters’, dynamic presence and engagingly sharp observations have made her an extremely popular performer both live and on television, in Canada (where she lives now) and worldwide. Her solo show, Punch Me In the Stomach sold out throughout the world.

After sold out shows in New York, London, Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Montreal, Berlin, Los Angeles, Nelson, Taranaki, Hamilton, Philadelphia, Edinburgh, Toronto, Sao Paulo etcetera, Deb Filler will bring her new show, Well I’ll Tell Ya… to Wellington, New Zealand, for 3 shows only. 

This is a feel-good, full of laughs, character filled, surprise-stuffed gala of joy from one of the world’s greatest storytellers. The show is filled with characters, stories and some of the best Jewish jokes this side of the legendary New York Catskills.

So if you happen to be in New Zealand this weekend (yes, we have readers in New Zealand and 156 other countries) you can get tickets to this show.  Otherwise, you can see some excerpts from the show in the video below.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Shot Heard 'Round the World and Ralph Branca -- the Jewish Catholic Pitcher

Almost every year we hear of a famous person who suddenly discovered or revealed that they had Jewish roots. The list includes Madeline Albright, champion ice skater Oksana Baiul, John Kerry, Richard Holbrooke, and Wesley Clark.

Yesterday, in an article on the New York Times sports pages, Joshua Prager reported that Ralph Branca, the Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher who served up the fastball that Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants turned into the "shot heard 'round the world" in 1951, was also a member of the tribe. The resulting home run gave the pennant to the Giants, who then lost the World Series to the New York Yankees.

It turns out that Branca's mother, a practicing Catholic who had baby Ralph baptized, was herself the daughter of Jewish parents in Hungary. She never told the boy about his Jewish heritage. It was discovered only because Prager, in writing a book about the home run, mentioned that Branca's mother's maiden name was Berger. With the help of genealogists in Hungary, Prager found the documents that provided the proof that she was indeed Jewish.

You can read the whole story in this lengthy article from the Times. We'll share with you just one vignette, as reported by Prager after meeting Branca for lunch at a Westchester country club:
Our Friday lunch at the club ended. I mentioned to Branca the approaching Sabbath.
“I have to get my money from Mrs. Lichtenfeld,” Branca said.
What? I asked. Branca explained. He told me that as a boy in Mount Vernon, he had lighted the stove for a Jewish neighbor every Friday night. He had been a Shabbos goy, doing something that was forbidden for Jews to do on the Sabbath.
Here was a memory that elevated experience over genes, that affirmed Branca’s sense of self. He was a Catholic, not a Jew.
"If I was Jewish, I couldn’t have done it,” he said. He added, “I’m not going to sell my soul for a penny.”
Here's a look back at that memorable day when Branca and Thomson made baseball history -- "The Giants Win the Pennant! The Giants Win the Pennant!"  Enjoy.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Comedy Classic: Shabbat Dinner With Archie and Edith Bunker

Every now and then we come across an unexpected gem while surfing for funny blog posts. Today we found a complete Jewish-themed episode of "Archie Bunker's Place," a spin-off from the long running "All in the Family," that we don't remember seeing when the sitcom series was in its heyday from 1971 to 1983.

Let's set the scene:  Archie's Jewish niece Stephanie (daughter of Edith's nephew and his Jewish wife who died in a car crash) is living with the Bunkers. Archie's Jewish partner Murray (played by veteran actor Martin Balsam) is bringing his girlfriend Ruth to the Friday night dinner that Edith is cooking up with Murray's mother's recipe for matzo ball soup. When Murray's mother finds out that Murray is bringing the girl, she eagerly accepts Edith's invitation to join them for Shabbat dinner.

When it's revealed that Ruth isn't Jewish, it doesn't take long for the politically incorrect comments to fly. During the course of the evening, Edith learns the meaning of Shabbat, Oy Vey, and Schnapps, and is exposed to other Yiddish and Hebrew expressions.

We hope you'll like this one, so get comfortable (it's 23 minutes long) and enjoy!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Kosher Cell Phones in Israel Get Yiddish Commands and Ringtones

"Kosher" cell phones have been used by Haredi Jews in Israel for years, but this year they got a new feature that they have been clamoring for -- all commands and ringtones in Yiddish.

So what could be kosher about a cell phone?

As Maayan Lubell wrote in a Reuters dispatch in May,
Israel's kosher cellular phone market has a new model, a device with a Yiddish interface to help devout Jews combine tradition with modern technology.
Hundreds of thousands of mobile phones, popularly dubbed kosher because they block access to services frowned upon by ultra-Orthodox rabbis, have been operating in the Jewish state for years.
Last month, Israel's second largest mobile provider, Partner introduced what it hailed as the world's first Yiddish cell phone, manufactured by Alcatel-Lucent.
Marc Seelenfreund, CEO of Israeli Accel Telecom which imports and distributes mobile phones to all Israeli operators, had a special team of translators work for months to develop an interface entirely in Yiddish.
Yiddish, a mixture of medieval German and Hebrew, was the spoken language of millions of European Jews for centuries, but it is now spoken mostly by elderly Jews and in ultra-Orthodox communities.
Yiddish words such as chutzpah, schmaltz or schlep, may have entered the English language, but Seelenfreund said ultra-Orthodox Jews would appreciate terms like "outgoing call," "ringtone" and "vibrate" translated into Yiddish.
Seelenfreund said the market for Kosher phones was substantial, estimating there are up to 400,000 users in Israel and another 500,000 in the United States.

While handsets have become ever more sophisticated, offering increasingly high-tech features, kosher cell phones have no text messaging capabilities, Internet access or camera and block calls to sex lines.
Concerns about erotic phone services and forbidden text messaging between members of the opposite sex prompted leaders of Israel's ultra-Orthodox community to set up a rabbinical committee on Internet and cell phone use several years ago.
The words "kosher" and "approved by the rabbinical committee for telecommunications" appear on the screen when a kosher cell phone is turned on.
"There are many problems with today's phones, many temptations," said Rabbi Baruch Shraga, a member of the committee.
"One can reach very immodest places on the Internet and people will write in a text message lewd things which they would not dare say aloud. Some laws prohibit hearing a woman sing, so ringtones are also restricted," Shraga said.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews are believed to make up about 8 to 10 percent of the population of 7.7 million in Israel.
"We sell thousands of Kosher cell phones a month which also offer special features like a Jewish holiday calendar and Hassidic ringtones," said Estie Rozen, a spokeswoman for Cellcom, Israel's largest mobile operator.
Check out the full story in the CNN video below. 


(A tip of the kippah to Dan Mosenkis for bringing this video to our attention.)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin Speaks on Jewish Humor and Jewish Culture

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin knows something about Jewish Humor. In fact, he knows a lot about Jewish Humor. His book, Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes Say About the Jews, sits in our bookcase next to his books on Biblical Literacy, Jewish Literacy, Jewish Values, and Jewish Ethics.

Thanks to the speakers bureau that books his speeches to a wide range of audiences, we now can have a brief look at one of his speeches on Jewish Humor, without having to pay his speaking fee of more than $10,000.  

Okay, so it's only four minutes long, but we'll take what we can get.  In this clip, Rabbi Telushkin retells a few jokes as part of an entertaining and amusing presentation explaining how humor in the Jewish culture has shaped the language and other aspects of Jewish life.  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Meet Ronnie Reckseit - Keeping Catskills Humor Alive

Ronnie Reckseit is a traditional Borscht Belt comedian who skillfully weaves in a sprinkling of comedy magic to create an outstanding program of entertainment. Ronnie's special blend of stand-up comedy and audience interaction has captivated audiences throughout the USA, the Far East and the Caribbean. Performances on cruise ships, hotel venues and adult communities round out his busy schedule.

If you're interested in more information about Reckseit, he suggests that you call Leonard Talent Associates at 1-800-517-6500 or visit

Here's a clip of his act to help you start today with a few laughs. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It's Time For Cholent! No, Not the Dish -- The Card Game

There's a new card game in town, just right for the whole family to play on a long Shabbat afternoon. After getting up from the dining room table after putting away a pot full of cholent, what could be better than playing the game of Cholent!

Just in case you haven't had the pleasure of eating a bowl of this heavyweight traditional dish, cholent is a delicious, piping-hot stew eaten by Jewish people all over the world, typically on Shabbat. The tradition has produced thousands of unique cholent recipes, many of them going back generations.

Cholent, the Game! is not a video game that you play on your computer, iPhone, or iPad. It's a non-electronic, old-fashioned card game that is likely to take its place on your shelf next to Uno, Milles Bornes, and Go Fish.

Players are dealt a secret recipe card and venture out into the shuk--or market--to collect the ingredients they need, like meat, potatoes, eggs and spices. Using their gelt--or money--, players outbid each other for the ingredients. But don't forget your chevra! The other characters you meet in the market, like The Rebbe, The Bubby, the Prophet and more--will help you get your ingredients before anyone else.

The game, created last year by three 27-year-olds from Elizabeth, New Jersey, is available from for $19.95. Here's a video describing the game.  Enjoy!

Jewish Humor Central Goes on the Lecture Circuit

 Jewish Humor Central is now also a lecture series available for presentation at your Jewish Community Center (JCC), Y, synagogue, or organization. After two years of 600 blog posts on the internet, Blogger-in-Chief Al Kustanowitz is now presenting the best of Jewish Humor Central in a series of talks illustrated with video clips.

Each presentation is approximately one hour long and includes about 30 minutes of funny video clips and 30 minutes of commentary. Presentation length can be adjusted to meet the needs of your organization. 

To book a date for 2011-2012, contact Al at 201-796-9273 or

Jewish Humor on Your Desktop: A Whole Lot More than Catskills Comedy
        A survey of Jewish humor on the internet: Classic Jewish comedy, unbelievable but true news items, Jewish wedding fun, Jewish food fun, Israeli humor, funny Israeli commercials, Jewish holiday humor, Jewish film, music, dance, and flash mobs, unusual renditions of Hava Nagila, and Yiddishe nachas (Jewish pride).
Jewish Internet News: You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up
          Jewish life encounters the world, Haredi high jinks, and stories that could happen only in Israel.
Jewish Traces in Unexpected Places
       Slices of Jewish Life and Jewish music in Uganda, Indonesia, Guatemala, Beijing, Lithuania, Ukraine,Vietnam, Singapore, and Japan.
Yiddish Fun on Your Desktop
      Yiddish jokes, cooking in Yiddish, funny translations of Yiddish words and phrases, and Yiddish Gilbert and Sullivan operas.
Rosh Hashanah on Your Desktop
      Satire, parody, cartoons, song and dance, and inspirational videos just for Rosh Hashanah.
 Chanukah on Your Desktop
      Satire, parody, cartoons, song and dance, and inspirational videos just for Chanukah.
 Purim on Your Desktop
      Satire, parody, cartoons, song and dance, and inspirational videos just for Purim.
 Passover on Your Desktop
      Satire, parody, cartoons, song and dance, and inspirational videos just for Passover.