“Observant” Jews

Shabbat Inspiration by Rabbi Yocheved Mintz,

Congregation P’nai Tikvah, 2 January 2015

 

Shabbat Shalom and a Happy Secular New Year….and, surprise, Pop Quiz![1]

So you think you’re pretty savvy?  Would you consider yourself an “observant” Jew?  (Observant, with the meaning that you are aware of what’s happening in the world, keep up with what’s what and who’s who?  Well, how’s your knowledge of Jewish news of the past twelve months?  Let’s see who’s a maven of what happened in 2014

We’ll ask you to arrange yourselves in groups of four or five (you can move your seats so you can discuss with one another) and give your 60 seconds to decide on a team name and a team leader.  Then, we’ll pass out a quiz of twenty questions, each with multiple choice answers.  We’ll give you about five minutes, so you’ll need to quickly pick your best guess answers.  Each team has twenty dot stickers, so you can mark each answer with a dot, as your group reaches consensus.  I’ll let you know when time is up and ask that you choose one person from each group to offer your answers.  (Now while there’s no prize for the winning team, but the team that gets the most right answers will have bragging rights, for sure.)

Ready? Go.

2014:  Test Your Knowledge of Jewish News[1]

Question 1:  Palestinian officials apologized to Czech authorities after the Palestinian envoy to Prague, Jamal Al-Jamal, was killed in an explosion in his home because?

a)      A cache of illegal weapons was discovered there.

b)      The explosion damaged a historic Czech cemetery

c)      The ambassador’s residence was being used by Palestinian militants as a safe house.

d)      Yasser Arafat’s widow, Suha, blamed the explosion on the Czech government.

Question 2:  SAR, an Orthodox Jewish high school in New York, stirred controversy in January with a new policy that:

a)       Yarmulkes to be at least four inches in diameter.

b)      Omitted some of the racier parts of the Bible from Torah classes.

c)      Permitted girls to wear tefillin during morning prayer services.

d)      Required girls’ dance performances to take place in the dark, under ultraviolet light.

Question 3:  Casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson, speaking in November at the Israeli-American Council Conference in Washington, surprised audience members when he:

a)      Called his wife, Miriam, to the stage to wish her a happy anniversary.

b)      He suggested that Israel need not be a democracy.

c)      Detailed a recent 30-minute call with President Obama.

d)      Admitted to coloring his hair.

Question 4:  Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reported what about Israeli eating habits this year?

a)      Shwarma had overtaken falafel as the nation’s most popular fast food

b)      Per capita annual hummus consumption had reached a record 19.3 kilograms—more than 42 pounds

c)      The number of vegetarians and vegans had more than doubled over the previous four years.

d)      The average Israeli daily caloric intake had grown by a startling 7% over the previous decade.

Question 5:  Which of the following did NOT occur in 2014?

a)      Jordanian teen named Yitzchak Rabin was granted Israeli citizenship and became eligible to enlist in the Israel Defense Force

b)      The Yesha Council, the umbrella body for the West Bank settlement movement, launched a website satirizing attempts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

c)      A flight carrying 20 Israeli passengers made an emergency landing in Tehran.

d)      Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, after being convicted of criminal charges and sentenced to prison, was caught trying to flee Israel for New York.

Question 6:  Actress Gwyneth Paltrow set the Internet abuzz in December when she…

a)      Shared her recipes for pistachio macaroons on her popular life-style website, Goop.

b)      Showed up at the White House Chanukah party.

c)      Took her daughter, Apple, to a public Chanukah candle-lighting ceremony in London’s Trafalgar Square

d)      Told ABC News that she was studying Hebrew with a private tutor.

Question 7:  California’s Rialto Unified School District came under fire this spring when it asked eighth-graders studying Anne Frank’s diary to write an essay arguing:

a)      Whether or not the diary was written by Anne or by her father Otto.

b)      Whether illness or Nazi brutality was responsible for Anne’s death.

c)      Whether the Holocaust was an actual historical event or merely a political scheme created to influence public opinion and gain wealth.

d)      Whether or not Americans should shelter Mexicaan immigrants in America.

Question 8:  In May, Urban Adamah’s planned workshop on Jewish ritual slaughter in Berkeley, California, involving 15 hens was canceled because

a)      A planned protest from animal rights groups would have caused undue stress to the chickens and program participants.

b)      A planned anti-Israel protest had booked the space Urban Adamah had been planning to use.

c)      No farm in the area was willing to sell the hens to Urban Adamah

d)      Turkeys were mistakenly delivered.

Question 9:  The late Cardinal John O’Connor, who died in 2000, made news in 2014 when it turned out that:

a)      He technically was Jewish, according to halachah.

b)      He served a stint in the Hitler Youth.

c)      He told President Clinton, in 1993, that Yasser Arafat could not be trusted.

d)      He urged the Catholic Church to sell off its property in the Galilee.

Question 10:  Which of the following was NOT among the findings of the Anti-Defamation League’s first global anti-Semitism survey, released in May?

a)      The least anti-Semitic country overall is Laos

b)      The least anti-Semitic country in the middle East is Iran

c)      One of the ADL’s measures of anti-Semitism was if respondents agreed that Jews talk too much about what happened to them during the Holocaust

d)      Britain is the most anti-Semitic country in Europe.

Question 11:  Rabbi Brant Rosen made news this summer when he announced he would be leaving his pulpit position at the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, after 17 years, because:

a)      He wanted to focus on nonsectarian work helping the poor

b)      His outspoken criticism of Israel had become too divisive in his congregation.

c)      His support for interfaith marriage had become problematic.

d)      He was offered a job at Google.

Question 12:  Rabbi Marc Schneier of The Hampton Synagogue announced an initiative challenging U.S. Jews to increase their commitment to Israel by:

a)      Making Israel their next vacation destination

b)      Attending the synagogue’s annual white-tie gala, proceeds from which benefit medical equipment in Israel.

c)      Buying a luxury condo in a Tel Aviv suburb.

d)      Subscribing to an Israeli newspaper.

Question 13:  Rabbi Jeffrey Fox, the head of Yeshivat Maharat, an Orthodox yeshiva for women in New York, made headlines when he argued that:

a)      Women should be able to read from the Torah at the Western Wall

b)      Male rabbis shouldn’t be in the mikvah room for female converts’ ritual immersions.

c)      Israel should recognize conversions performed by Conservative rabbis.

d)      Mechitzeh barriers need only be chest high.

Question 14:  In his speech in September to the U.N. General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “To say that Iran doesn’t practice terrorism is like saying…”

a)      Jay Leno has a small chin.

b)      Beyonce doesn’t know how to sing.

c)      Kim Kardashian is shy in front of a camera.

d)      Derek Jeter never played shortstop for the New York Yankees.

Question 15:  Radu Mazare, mayor of the Romanian resort town of Constanta, was sued in November by a Jewish group for:

a)      Saying that Israel is worse than the Nazis.

b)      Inciting hatred by celebrating his Hitler-style hairdo.

c)      Prohibiting Jewish ritual circumcision in the town.

d)      Allowing copies of Mein Kampf to be sold at the town’s summer book fair.

Question 16:  Two Israeli Air Force combat pilots were sentenced to jail and 12 others were disciplined in February for using their smartphones to:  #

a)      Post selfies from the cockpit of their F-16

b)      Check their e-mail during flight missions.

c)      Use their phones to store classified information.

d)      Check Google Earth to make sure they weren’t straying into enemy territory

Question 17:  New York’s Senator Charles Schumer wants Israel to lower the tariff on:

a)      Hummus

b)      Bamba

c)      Grape juice

d)      Chocolate

Question 18:  Which of the following statements about David Schwezoff, the newly elected CEO of Budapest’s Jewish community, is true?

a)      He filed a police complaint alleging that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been embezzled from Budapest’s historic Dohany Street Synagogue.

b)      He used to be a cross-dresser who performed at nightclubs under the stage name of Carol Hore Mohn

c)      He is a convert to Judaism

d)      All of the above

Question 19:  Which of the following pejoratives were NOT reportedly exchanged between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu government officials in 2014?

a)      Chickenshit

b)      Goyeshe kopf

c)      Messianic

d)      Terrorist

Question 20:  Lee Zeldin, the only Jewish Republican in the incoming Congress, defeated incumbent Representative Tim Bishop in part by hammering away at an ethic charge.  What did Bishop, whose district covers eastern Long Island, allegedly do?

a)      Used his clout to pay off-peak fares during peak hours on the Long Island Railroad.

b)      Under the pseudonym, Charlie Golightly, was a paid consultant.

c)      Helped closed Entenmanns’ Long Island factory with constant demands for batches of original recipe chocolate chip cookies.

d)      Brokered a permit for a fireworks display at a constituent’s bar mitzvah in exchange for a $5,000 donation to his campaign.

 



[1] Jewish Telegraphic Association, Chicago Jewish News, December 28, 2014 issue.

O.K.  Let’s see who are our CPT-most-knowledgeable-Newsies:

Question 1:  Palestinian officials apologized to Czech authorities after the Palestinian envoy to Prague, Jamal Al-Jamal, was killed in an explosion in his home because?  #a:  A cache of illegal weapons was discovered there.

Question 2:  SAR, an Orthodox Jewish high school in New York, stirred controversy in January with a new policy that: #c) permitted girls to wear tefillin during morning prayer services.

Question 3:  Casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson, speaking in November at the Israeli-American Council Conference in Washington, surprised audience members when he:  #b:  He suggested that Israel need not be a democracy.

Question 4:  Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reported what about Israeli eating habits this year?  #c) The number of vegetarians and vegans had more than doubled over the previous four years.

Question 5:  Which of the following did NOT occur in 2014?  #d:  Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, after being convicted of criminal charges and sentenced to prison, was caught trying to flee Israel for New York.

Question 6:  Actress Gwyneth Paltrow set the Internet abuzz in December when she…#b) showed up at the White House Chanukah party.  (On April 1, 2011, on the NBC TV genealogy program Who do you think you are?, Paltrow went on a journey of discovery, delving into her roots with the help of researchers and academics. Sitting in the sanctuary of the Eldridge Street Synagogue on New York’s Lower East Side, she glanced at old census records and marriage documents, learning that her great-great grandfather, Simcha Paltrovich, was a rabbi and author of a religious work named “Keter Tzvi.” And his father, Tzvi Hirsh – Paltrow’s great-great-great grandfather – was a prominent rabbi and kabbalist in Novogrod, Poland, who is also said to have been a miracle-worker who saved his community by putting out a fire through mystical means.)

Question 7:  California’s Rialto Unified School District came under fire this spring when it asked eighth-graders studying Anne Frank’s diary to write an essay arguing:  #c:  whether the Holocaust was an actual historical event or merely a political scheme created to influence public opinion and gain wealth.

Question 8:  In May, Urban Adamah’s planned workshop on Jewish ritual slaughter in Berkeley, California, involving 15 hens was canceled because: #a:  a planned protest from animal rights groups would have caused undue stress to the chickens and program participants.

Question 9:  The late Cardinal John O’Connor, who died in 2000, made news in 2014 when it turned out that:  #a:  he technically was Jewish, according to halachah.  (His sister Mary O’Connor Ward discovered that their mother had been born Jewish, but never shared that with the family.)

Question 10:  Which of the following was NOT among the findings of the Anti-Defamation League’s first global anti-Semitism survey, released in May?  #d)  Britain is the most anti-Semitic country in Europe.

Question 11:  Rabbi Brant Rosen made news this summer when he announced he would be leaving his pulpit position at the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, after 17 years, because:  #b)  his outspoken criticism of Israel had become too divisive in his congregation.

Question 12:  Rabbi Marc Schneier of The Hampton Synagogue announced an initiative challenging U.S. Jews to increase their commitment to Israel by: #c) buying a luxury condo in a Tel Aviv suburb.

Question 13:  Rabbi Jeffrey Fox, the head of Yeshivat Maharat, an Orthodox yeshiva for women in New York, made headlines when he argued that:  #b) male rabbis shouldn’t be in the mikvah room for female converts’ ritual immersions

Question 14:  In his speech in September to the U.N. General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “To say that Iran doesn’t practice terrorism is like saying…” #d) Derek Jeter never played shortstop for the New York Yankees.

Question 15:  Radu Mazare, mayor of the Romanian resort town of Constanta, was sued in November by a Jewish group for:  #b) inciting hatred by celebrating his Hitler-style hairdo.

Question 16:  Two Israeli Air Force combat pilots were sentenced to jail and 12 others were disciplined in February for using their smartphones to:  #c) use their phones to store classified information.

Question 17:  New York’s Senator Charles Schumer wants Israel to lower the tariff on:  #c) grape juice  (Israel National News (http://bit.ly/1tUiMax ) reports Schumer states Israel is “not being fair,” considering that the United States allows Israeli grape juice to be exported into the U.S. tax-free.Presently, Israel  imposes a 22 percent tariff on grape juice, and restricts bottled grape juice imports to 100,000 liters a year.  Schumer believes that if Israel lifts the restrictions or lowers the tariff, Kedem could double its export to Israel.)

Question 18:  Which of the following statements about David Schwezoff, the newly elected CEO of Budapest’s Jewish community, is true?  #d)  all of the above

Question 19:  Which of the following perjoratives were NOT reportedly exchanged between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu government officials in 2014?  #b) goyeshe kopf

 

Question 20:  Lee Zeldin, the only Jewish Republican in the incoming Congress, defeated incumbent Representative Tim Bishop in part by hammering away at an ethic charge.  What did Bishop, whose district covers eastern Long Island, allegedly do?  #d) brokered a permit for a fireworks display at a constituent’s bar mitzvah in exchange for a $5,000 donation to his campaign.

Chevreh, this has been fun, but one might ask, why should I take valuable time this Shabbat, for a pop-quiz?

This past week, I spent a wonderful, relaxing, few days with one of my sons, his wife, four kids, and his dog…and my dog.  (Well, the dog part was not all that relaxing, but the time with family was.)  It was a chance to refresh and enjoy family time together.  It was a chance to interact and to enjoy each other’s company.  It was a chance for me to do some reading and learning, without the phone ringing.  While I was able to do that over a week’s time, that was, in essence what we just did in a few minutes.  Interacting, enjoying, relaxing, even learning…that’s the essence of Shabbat, of course.

There’s another element of why we used the pop quiz that ties into this particular moment.  This Shabbat we complete the book of B’reishit, and end with Par’shat VaY’chi, the final chapter of the story of Joseph…a dramatic narrative of the history that led up to one of the most important paradigm shifts of our people’s lives…the Exodus.  But careful readings of this narrative show us a series of opportunities and second chances, Joseph starts out as a dreamer and a braggard; his brothers as jealous and vindictive; he ultimately becomes his brother’s redeemer, and they go on to become the leaders of the 12 tribes that become the peoplehood.

There are clues in the final chapters of the Joseph story that lay the groundwork for the famous beginning in Sh’mot,  “There arose a Pharoah who knew not Joseph” and, while we’ll discuss them in Torah Study tomorrow morning, I point that out, because some of the trivia we encountered in our pop quiz may help us understand future happenings.  Did the Hebrews in Joseph’s time take note of what was happening around them; if they did, might they have escaped the impending 400 years of enslavement?  We need not even go back that far to recall the events of the 30’s that, had we paid attention, might have alerted us to the impending disaster.  The point is that we need to pay attention to warning signs and challenges, we need to alert ourselves to what is happening in our homes and beyond our borders, we need to learn from the past and remain vigilant….and use every opportunity to be good observers… and faces of hope –P’nai Tikvah.

Shabbat Shalom

 



[1] Jewish Telegraphic Agency, as printed in the January 1st issue of the Chicago Jewish News.