Monday, January 21, 2019

Today is Tu B'Shvat - Plant a Tree and Eat Fruits and Nuts from israel

Today is the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, also known as Tu B'Shvat.  No, it's not another fast day.  It's a real holiday, but one without any restrictions.  The holiday is known as Jewish Arbor Day and the New Year for trees.  It's a day to feel good about the bounty of nature, including trees, fruits and nuts.

It is customary to eat fruits on this day, especially fruits from Israel.  This includes figs, dates, oranges, pomegranates, and persimmons or Sharon fruit (afarsimonim).  All are available at most supermarkets or gourmet groceries.

Trees have been very important to Israel from its earliest beginnings.  From the tree of knowledge of good and evil described in Genesis to the eucalyptus trees planted in the Huleh Valley to drain the swamps and make much of the land inhabitable early in the 20th century, trees have always been part of Jewish life.

Yaakov Kirschen, the political cartoonist whose daily Dry Bones comic strips have appeared in The Jerusalem Post since January 1973, is using his talents to highlight the value of trees to everyone, and especially to the Jewish people, throughout the millennia.
In addition to his cartoons, which are also published in his daily blog, Kirschen has written a book in comic book format, Trees...The Green Testament, that illustrates the history of the world as narrated by a tree.  The tree, from its days as a seed and a sapling, observes and comments on world events from its own perspective.

The book is now in its second edition and available on Amazon.com.

Here's a Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael (Jewish National Fund) video tribute to the tree planting that's going on today all over Israel by students, soldiers, seniors, Knesset members, visitors, immigrants, and local residents. Enjoy!



Sunday, January 20, 2019

Tumbalalaika Around the World - An Interpretation by the Female Choir of Ferrara, Italy



The Yiddish folk love song Tumbalalaika originated in Eastern Europe in the 19th century, but its exact origin is hard to pinpoint. That hasn't prevented it from being sung and played over and over, not only in places where Yiddish songs are sung, but just about everywhere in the world, in vocal and instrumental versions, in cabarets and in the movies.

Just as we have followed the songs Hava Nagila, Adon Olam, Hevenu Shalom Aleichem, and Abanibi as they took different forms as interpreted by a wide variety of singers, musicians, and dancers, we're continuing the series today that we started back in 2012, bringing you many interpretations of this universal courting and love song. It seems to be especially popular in Italy.

This rendition of Tumbalalaika was recorded by the SonArte Female Choir, a musical and artistic project of the SonArte musical and cultural association of Ferrara, a city in northern Italy between Venice and Bologna. It started in October 2010 and includes a large group of women engaged in different professional and social fields, moved by the desire to sing together.

The choir offers a musical space to all women who have the desire to sing together and perform a predominantly popular repertoire. They are all songs from different cultures: Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, United States, Senegal, South Africa, Italy, etc. From its creation the choir has performed in different events and cultural and solidarity events organized by public bodies and cultural associations of Ferrara and other Italian cities.


The English translation appears under the video on this page.

Enjoy!


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Tumbalalaika - English Translation


A young lad stands, and he thinks
Thinks and thinks the whole night through

Whom to take and not to shame
Whom to take and not to shame

Tumbala, Tumbala, Tumbalalaika
Tumbala, Tumbala, Tumbalalaika
Tumbalalaika, strum balalaika
Tumbalalaika, may we be happy

Girl, girl, I want to ask of you
What can grow, grow without rain?
What can burn and never end?
What can yearn, cry without tears?

Foolish lad, why do you have to ask?
A stone can grow, grow without rain
Love can burn and never end
A heart can yearn, cry without tears














Friday, January 18, 2019

Welcoming Shabbat with Adon Olam at Har-El Reform Synagogue in Jerusalem


Not every synagogue in Jerusalem is Orthodox. In fact, Kehilat Har-El, a reform shul, just celebrated its 61st anniversary at its home in central Jerusalem.

Kehilat Har-El, established in 1958, is the founding congregation of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism. 

Located in a classic pre-state style building (next to the Artists’ House), it serves as a home for Jewish Renewal through prayer, study, social justice, culture, and art.  
 
Last week, the Har-El choir, conducted by Cantor Evan Cohen and accompanied by harpist Gittit Boasson. sang Adon Olam, arranged by Bonia Shur as part of the Shabbat evening service in honor of the anniversary.

Enjoy, and Shabbat shalom!

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Throwback Thursday Comedy Special: Sid Caesar and Nanette Fabray in "The Commuters - Nan's Birthday"


When Your Show of Shows was canceled in 1954, Sid Caesar started a new show called Caesar's Hour. The popular series of sketches called The Hickenloopers, about a bickering married couple, was recast as The Commuters, with Nanette Fabray playing Sid's wife as Imogene Coca had played in The Hickenloopers.

In this episode of The Commuters, "Nan's Birthday", Sid writes a song for Nan's birthday, but when his friends bring her wrapped gifts, Sid gets embarrassed into an expensive evening at a posh nightclub. Sid's sidekicks Carl Reiner and Howard Morris are also in the sketch, and Henny Youngman makes a surprise appearance.

This episode is from Caesar's Hour in 1955. Sid Caesar died in 2014 at 91. Nanette Fabray died last year at the age of 98. We plan to share some of their other sketches with you in the coming months.

Enjoy!

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#Throwback Thursday    #TBT

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Shtisel, Ultra Orthodox Israeli TV Series, Now Available with English Titles on Netflix


Shtisel, the award winning Israeli TV series, is now playing on Netflix in Hebrew with English subtitles. We're hooked on it and are watching the 18th of the 24 episodes. We want to recommend it highly to all Jewish Humor Central readers.

Although the series is not billed as a comedy, it contains many comic moments -- moments that you may recognize as snapshots or sequences that remind you of similar events in the lives of your family or acquaintances. We found many familiar situations even though we don't dress in the black and white clothing that is ever present in the homes and streets of the Ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem.

Shtisel follows Akiva, a young ultra-orthodox (Haredi) bachelor, and his widowed father who share an apartment while searching for love within the strict rules of religious observance. The drama is said to allow a window into the world of ultra-orthodox Jews while introducing audiences to the story of the multi-generational Shtisel family as they deal with grief, companionship and every day struggles.

As Esther Kustanowitz wrote in J, The Jewish News of Northern California,
The drama also contains a lot of comedy, if you know where to look. Akiva is charming in a stammering, funny, artistic way that endears him to the ladies and frustrates his father. Yiddish curses — “may you swallow an umbrella that will open in your gut” — make cameo appearances. Shulem’s mother, living in a senior center, falls in love with television, which is off-limits to the haredi community. And one narcoleptic local is named Farshluffen, which translates as “Sleepy.”
In this video clip from Israeli TV channel JN1, Ron Jacobsohn attends the Shtisel premiere in Tel Aviv and interviews cast members and the show's producer. Just below the clip you'll find the trailer for the series.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

"The Jews Are Coming" - Israeli TV's Satiric Look at The Dreyfus Affair


In 2014 Israeli satire on TV took a bold step forward with the airing of a new series of sketches called HaYehudim Ba'im (The Jews Are Coming).

Written by Natalie Marcus and Asaf Beiser, the show asks questions about everything, from the Bible to Ben Gurion to the Ashkenazi leadership. Their approach is to  go into the texts and make you think. They say that they give all their subjects a critical look, but they're not attacking, just giving the story a fresh, modern look.

The series ran for three seasons on Israeli TV, all in Hebrew. Some of the half-hour episodes were divided into video clips and published on YouTube with English subtitles.  

Not all of the situations are Biblical.  Some, like today's video about the Dreyfus Affair in France, take a satiric look at events in Jewish history.

Alfred Dreyfus was a Jewish officer in the French Army in the late 19th century when he was accused of a treasonous crime: selling military secrets to Germany.

After his highly publicized trial, authorities sentenced him to life imprisonment on Devils Island, and anti-Semitic groups used him as an example of unpatriotic Jews. However, suspicions arose that the incriminating letters were in fact forged and that a Maj. Esterhazy was the real culprit. When French authorities suppressed these accusations, the novelist Emile Zola stepped up to accuse the army of a vast cover-up.


The scandal exploded into a fight between so-called Dreyfusards, who wanted to see the case reopened, and anti-Dreyfusards, who didn't. On both sides, the debate became less about Dreyfus' innocence and more about the principle. During the dramatic 12-year controversy, many violent anti-Semitic riots broke out and political allegiances shifted as Dreyfusards called for reform.

After Maj. Hubert Joseph Henry admitted to forging key documents and committed suicide, a newly elected Cabinet finally reopened the case. The court found Dreyfus guilty again; however, he soon received a pardon from the president. A few years later, a civilian court of appeals found Dreyfus innocent, and he went on to have a distinguished army career and fought with honor in World War I. Meanwhile, the scandal had changed the face of politics in France.

This video clip, like all the others in the series, may offend some readers who are not open to satirical interpretations of the scriptures and satirical views of Jewish life through the ages, but we believe that there's a place for humor everywhere and we hope you'll find the satire amusing.

Enjoy!

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This video was uploaded with English subtitles for educational purposes only.
All rights reserved to Yoav gros productions and the IBA. 
 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Jokes to Start the Winter: Old Jews Telling Jokes Coming to Boca Raton Theatre


There are lots of jokes to start this week and the coming weeks if you're going to be in South Florida, anywhere near the Mizner Park Cultural Center in Boca Raton. 

Now through February 9, the $65 tickets are available for Old Jews Telling Jokes at discount prices from Groupon or TravelZoo.

Old Jews Telling Jokes, the hilarious 90-minute show that was an off-Broadway hit on 43rd Street in New York a few years ago, has been traveling around the USA and is now on stage in Boca Raton. 

The show celebrates classic Jewish comedy, from jokes to legendary comedians. There is no plot, just five actors delivering zingers, punch lines, musical numbers and monologues to keep the audience in stitches. The New Yorker said the "laughs-per-minute average is as high as anything you’ll find onstage."

The cast isn't the same as the original New York cast, but the jokes and skits are. Here is a video interview with members of the original cast, with some jokes included.

We'll be attending one of the Boca shows as we get ready for our own show, The Great Jewish Comedians: From Burlesque and Vaudeville to the Borscht Belt and YouTube
at Florida Atlantic University's Osher Lifelong Learning Center, also in Boca Raton, on Wednesday March 6 from 3:30 to 5 pm. Tickets are going fast, with 454 already sold as the 540 seat auditorium fills up. For tickets, fill out the ticket request form and mail it to FAU. We hope to see you there.

Enjoy!

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Sunday, January 13, 2019

From "City of New Orleans" to "Eretz Nehederet" - A Jewish Journey to Musical Fame


We've always enjoyed Arlo Guthrie's song City of New Orleans which brought attention to the rail lines that were vanishing across America.

The song was written by Chicago singer-songwriter Steve Goodman in 1970. Goodman started his singing career by leading the junior choir at Temple Beth Israel in Albany Park, a Chicago neighborhood.

Goodman wrote the lyrics on a sketch pad after his wife fell asleep on the Illinois Central train, where they were going to visit his wife's grandmother. Goodman wrote about what he saw looking out the windows of the train and playing cards in the club car. Everything in the song actually happened on the ride.

After he returned home, Goodman heard that the train was scheduled to be decommissioned due to lack of passengers. He was encouraged to use this song to save the train, so he retouched the lyrics and released it on his first album in 1971.


The jubilant chorus line, "Good morning America, how are ya?" became a cultural touchstone in the United States. When ABC launched a new morning show in 1975, they named it: Good Morning America

The song was also covered by Johnny Cash, Judy Collins, and Willie Nelson, whose recorded version earned Goodman a posthumous Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1985.

French and Dutch versions were recorded in 1973 and became classics in France and Holland.

A Hebrew version of the song, Shalom Lach Eretz Nehederet, was sung by famous Israeli singer Yehoram Gaon in 1977 and became an immediate hit. The lyrics are a love song to the beauty of the land of Israel.

The latest cover of the song in Hebrew was posted just yesterday on YouTube by Israeli singers Shaul and Julia Ben-Har. You can see it below, followed by the Steve Goodman original.

Enjoy!

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Welcoming Shabbat in Los Angeles with Lechu Neranena by the Nashuva Band



The interfaith Nashuva Band was formed in Los Angeles 14 years ago by Rabbi Naomi Levy as part of a spiritual community with a goal of "infusing joy and meaning into Jewish prayer and practice," and, according to Levy, "to reach out to Jews who have walked away from Judaism or who have never had a meaningful or spiritual Jewish experience." 

The band’s music is full of big, catchy melodies, which Levy said is part of the congregation’s larger goal of attracting unaffiliated Jews who don’t realize they are yearning for spiritual fulfillment. When Levy worked previously as a rabbi at a Conservative synagogue in Venice Beach, she’d see many stragglers poke their heads in to Saturday morning services but leave after a few minutes.

The band's latest album, Heaven on Earth: Songs of the Soul puts 13 Jewish prayers to a mix of African-inspired world music beats and calming folk melodies. It includes Lechu Neranena, the Kabbalat Shabbat melody that we're sharing today.

We're still trying to figure out why they use the Shabbat-ending Havdalah candle to start Shabbat, but hey, it's California! Enjoy, and Shabbat shalom!

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Throwback Thursday TV Comedy: Harvey Korman and Tim Conway in Airline Security Skit


Here's a Throwback Thursday treat. We're going back to 1974 and a hilarious episode on the Carol Burnett show with Harvey Korman as a passenger and Tim Conway as the gate agent for the no-frills Speedo Airlines.

Harvey Herschel Korman (1927-2008) played second banana to Burnett in many skits during the show's long run on TV. He was a favorite of Mel Brooks, who cast him in four films, including his memorable role as Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles.

Laugh with us as Korman's character tries to get a boarding pass on Speedo Airlines from gate agent Conway.

Enjoy!

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#Throwback Thursday    #TBT

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Comedian Modi Rosenfeld Performs at Roast of Senator Joe Lieiberman


Last October Commentary Magazine hosted a fundraiser and roast of Senator Joe Lieberman at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.  

One of the speakers at the roast was comedian Modi Rosenfeld who delighted the audience and the senator with some political humor and funny references to Lieberman's  Shabbat observance.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Plane Full of Hasidim Gets Flight Safety Instructions -- in Yiddish!


What happens when a plane is filled with Hasidim from the Ultra-Orthodox community of Monsey, New York and it's time for the flight attendants to explain the safety instructions in a language that the passengers don't fully understand (English)?

Time for a bilingual member of the group to step in and try to do a play-by-play translation in their everyday language (Yiddish).

Our understanding of Yiddish is good enough to pick up some of the translation, but not all of it. From the constant laughter of the passengers, we suspect that the translator is going beyond a word for word translation and is providing some witty additions to what the attendants are saying.

If your Yiddish is better than ours, please feel free to share some of the funny observations in the comments field below.

Enjoy!

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Monday, January 7, 2019

A Joke to Start the Week: Jerry Seinfeld Retells 3 Gentile Jokes to Norm Macdonald


Jewish Humor Central readers may remember the three Gentile jokes delivered by Rabbi Bob Alper that we featured on May 15, 2017. 

Well, they popped up again in a YouTube video with Jerry Seinfeld doing the delivery of one of the jokes and explaining it to Canadian stand-up comedian, writer, and actor Norm Macdonald. The video included the set of three jokes as we showed them on Jewish Humor Central.

Macdonald was a cast member for five seasons on Saturday Night Live, which included anchoring Weekend Update for three years.

So what makes them Gentile jokes, as differentiated from Jewish jokes? If you've been telling and hearing Jewish jokes for as long as we have, the answer is obvious. But just in case you don't get it immediately, we'll point out that these jokes by themselves are not funny. In fact, they're not even jokes. They're just simple narratives. What makes them funny is imagining how different they would be if the protagonists were Members of the Tribe.

The Jewish version of each would be filled with angst. The mother would not accept her son's excuse without pushback.  The shopper for a new sportcoat would have plenty to say about the price quoted by the salesman. And he new business owner would regale his friend with tales of woe.

Enjoy!

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