Monthly Archives: April 2009

Words Cannot Explain My Excitement

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Go visit your local college campus. Walk into the Hillel House and take a look at the different clubs that are offered. There are Talmud study groups, Israel Advocacy organizations, and for some reason, almost always, a Jewish a Capella group.

Jews love a Cappella. For some reason, the people who join think that it is an excuse to join choir and still somehow look cool (Sorry. You don’t). There is tons of Jewish music that groups can work with. More than that though, it’s much easier to get into a Jewish a Capella group than a generic one.

So why is it that if a Capella seems like a such a Jewish thing to do, joining the Glee Club is one of the more non-Jewish sounding things you can do. Let me prove this to you:

When I search “Jewish a Capella” on Google, I get 1,220 results. When I search “Jewish Glee Club,” I get nine. Why is this? Glee clubs normally only sing short songs. Maybe Jews like to ramble?

Be that as it may, I have to say that I don’t remember being more excited for a new show than I am for “Glee,” premiering on Fox in May.

It describes itself as a musical comedy and is made by the creator of Nip/Tuck. Not only do the jokes in the promos look hilarious, but supposedly, there will be more than one musical number per episode!

Breathe Jeremy. Just breathe.

Posted on April 22, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Jake & Amir: Funnier Than You

This entry was posted in General on by .

Amir Blumenfeld and Jake Hurwitz are two funny dudes. Writers for CollegeHumor.com, they also have their own online viral series, “Jake & Amir.” Along with the rest of the CollegeHumor crew, they just completed their first season for MTV’s “CollegeHumor Show.”

I can tell you, because I just know these things, that these guys are the next big thing. They have Lonely Island (Andy Samberg’s crew on SNL) written all over them. Lucky for me, they were willing to sit down with me while they are still D-list celebrities. Soon though, they’ll pretend they never met me…

Jeremy: How did you guys make your way to CollegeHumor?

Amir: I started writing for them in 2003 as a college sophomore. I just emailed Ricky (co-founder of CollegeHumor) some possible article ideas. He found them funny, so he posted them on the site. A couple years later, in 2005, right when I was graduating college, CollegeHumor had some money to hire people to write CollegeHumor’s Guide to College. So, he hired myself and Streeter (of Prank Wars fame) to work full time, and we’ve been there since.

Jake: In 2005, when the book was finishing up, I started writing a column for CollegeHumor from school. Later I transferred to Hunter College here in New York, and I started interning for CollegeHumor. Then I never left.

Jeremy: You guys have some pretty Jewish sounding names. Do you have much of a Jewish background?

Amir: I come from an Israeli family. My entire family, my parents and two older brothers, were born in the same hospital, in Afula, then we moved to America when I was two. Then I went to Jewish kindergarten, Jewish elementary school, Jewish high school, all at the same temple (Stephen S. Wise in Los Angeles). We’re a Reform family. I’m not too religious. I don’t go to Temple every Saturday. I celebrate the holidays with my family. But I don’t keep kosher or anything.

Jake: My dad is Jewish, my mom is Christian.

Amir: She’s Protestant?

Jake: Uh..yeah?

Amir: You have no clue, huh?

Jake: None. Yeah, well, I went to Hebrew school and was Bar Mitzvah’d, but I also celebrated Christmas and Easter. My whole family is a mix of, well, we don’t really know what religion we are. You know when you’re watching the Super Bowl and you don’t care who wins? It’s kinda like that.

Amir: That’s how he felt when he watched The Passion of the Christ.

Jeremy: Passover just happened. Got any cool Passover stories? Go to a good Seder?

Amir: I went to my cousin’s friend’s place for Seder. He is a great chef. So he made everything look nice. I brought some Kosher for Passover dessert, which was a mistake on my part.

Jeremy: They should just call those Trans Fat Cakes.

Amir: Oh my God, they were so dry and terrible. But it was a good time. I like Passover.

Jeremy: I hate it.

Amir: Not a lot of religious stuff going on. It’s more cultural.

Jeremy: Yeah, but it’s like bad cultural stuff.

Amir: I mean, some people have like six hour seders. So that could suck. (Ed. note: My seder was more like 4 and a half. But close enough.)

Jake: My Passover was kind of thrown together. Two things can illustrate the fact. Number one, when I got to the seder, I legitimately asked if there was any bread to eat, not knowing anything. Then, I was sent out to the front yard to find a stick that looked like a bone to put on the seder plate.

Jeremy: It was a vegetarian Seder?

Jake: Nah, we had some brisket. Is that a Passover thing?

Amir: Sure. It’s a Jewish thing.

Jake: Oh! You know what was good? Chocolate covered matzah.

Jeremy: Eww. That’s just matzah with dark chocolate on top.

Jake: Exactly. Chocolate covered matzah.

Jeremy: That’s gross. You’ve been tricked.

Amir: You have been tricked. We don’t like that.

Jeremy: When I tell people I work at MyJewishLearning, they don’t automatically think it is a cool job, when actually it is. When people hear of CollegeHumor, they think it must be the best job in the world. But, I’m wondering, in what way does you job suck? Continue reading

Posted on April 21, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

In Memory’s Kitchen: A Cookbook from a Concentration Camp

This entry was posted in Culture, History on by .

A few years ago I came across a book called In Memory’s Kitchen, edited by Cara De Silva. The book collects recipes and food memories written by women imprisoned at the Czechoslovakian concentration camp of Theresienstadt. Though they were undernourished and starving, a group gathered to write a book of recipes and food memories to pass down to another generation. The recipes they included were for rich national foods of Czechoslovakia, Germany, and Austria, like fried noodles topped with raisins, cinnamon and vanilla cream, and traditional caramels from Baden Baden. Food was constantly a topic of discussion, though there was little to go around, and certainly none of the luxurious ingredients a person would need to make many of the cakes and treats included in the books. Discussing and sometimes arguing about the best recipes and methods of preparation for various delicacies was comforting to the women who were starving, and they called this “mouth cooking.” coffee_cake.jpg

The book is mind-boggling, not only because of its history, but also because it reminded me of the unbelievable conveniences of modern day cooking. One recipe called for whipping egg whites for half an hour until they get light and fluffy. In my life, I have only ever whipped egg whites with a pair of electric beaters, and the process takes a few minutes. As I skimmed over these recipes I thought a lot about how lucky I am, not just to live in a time where I can be free as a Jew, but also because there is so much decadence in my life, from the amount of food in my cupboards, to the appliances stacked in my closet.

Most of the recipes in “In Memory’s Kitchen” aren’t suitable for use today because they use measurements and ingredients that are difficult to decipher, and often have incomplete directions. But reading it you’re likely to crave classic European dishes like Billige Echte Judische Bobe, Jewish Coffee Cake, and Gefulllte Eier, German Stuffed Eggs. Go ahead, make a cake, using real cream. Enjoy every morsel.

Posted on April 21, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Cater Waiter for Seder

This entry was posted in Culture, Holidays on by .

As MJL’s resident expert on Gossip Girl, it’s my obligation to report on last night’s episode “Seder Anything.” According to my last report, the acclaimed but under-watched CW-show had no Jewish characters.

So why would they be hosting a Passover Seder? Over the past season, Blair’s mother has married Cyrus Rose–a short, bald Jewish lawyer. Way to not be stereotypical.

And so the Waldorf-Rose celebration last night contained some of the most memorable seder moments ever heard on prime time TV:

Best Line Eleanor Waldorf: “I don’t even know how to say half the words in this prayer book named after Joe Lieberman’s wife.”
Dan: She’s Hadassah. This is a Haggadah.

Best nickname Dan is known as the “Cater Waiter for Seder” when takes a job at a catering company to help foot the bill for Yale and ends up serving his own parents.

Best Medieval History shout-out When Gabriel, a man Serena might have accidentally married on her recent vacation to Spain, arrives at seder, Gossip Girl tells us of the upcoming “Spanish Inquisition.”

Best Gratuitous Use of Hebrew The narrator signs out “Shalom, Gossip Girl.”

Best depiction of the truth Eleanor Waldorf is so confused that after 45 minutes, they haven’t eaten a thing.

Posted on April 21, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Yom HaShoah Roundup

This entry was posted in History, Holidays, Israel on by .

Today is Yom HaShoah, a day to remember and honor the lives of all those who were killed in the Holocaust. The day is being observed mainly in Israel and the United States (the rest of the world observes International Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27).

A Holocaust museum opened up in the Palestinian village of Na’alin. “If leaders on both sides know and remember what Hitler did, maybe we’ll have peace,” Ibrahim Amira, a Na’alin resident and one of the leaders of the fight against the fence told Ynet.

At Yad Vashem, seven candles were lit by survivors who were children during the Holocaust, and were left without any family. They include a pair of twins who were subjected to Dr. Mengele’s human experiments. (Ynet)

Survivor Elisabeth Mann says she doesn’t think victims of the Holocaust should be looking for revenge in their pursuit of Nazi war criminals. “I cannot imagine that that person has a soul or conscience or heart. … He simply wouldn’t feel it. … What kind of punishment could you give to a person like that?” (CNN)

The brand new Illinois Holocaust Museum opened on Sunday, focusing on stories of survivors who live in and around the Chicago suburb of Skokie. (NYTimes)

Yad Vashem opens a new exhibit focusing on killing fields where whole towns were massacred. The head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research said, “In many cases, locals played a key role in the murders, probably by a ratio of 10 locals to every one German. We are trying to understand the man who played soccer with his Jewish neighbor one day and turned to kill him the next. This provides material for research on genocide elsewhere, like in Africa.” (NYTimes)

Survivors weren’t supermen and superwomen, they survived because of intelligence, flexibility and courage, and went on to live lives of happiness and prosperity against the odds of trauma and depression stacked against them. (Huffington Post)

Posted on April 21, 2009

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Behind the Scenes at the Knesset

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

I learned most of what I know about the American government from The West Wing, which is probably why I knew next to nothing about the workings of the Israeli political system until recently. When there’s a TV show about that, I’ll watch it. Until then, I’ll hang out at the Knesset website learning random facts, like only 17 of the 120 people in the first Knesset were born in Israel, and studying the basics of Israeli government. It’s a great resource, since there isn’t yet an Israeli version of Schoolhouse Rock to explain to us how a bill becomes a law in Jerusalem.

I’m not the only one who was clueless when it comes to background of the Israeli government (thank God)–this week our Expert answers a question about the Knesset: How come it has 120 members, and not 100 or 150 or even more? Click here to find out.

Posted on April 20, 2009

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Yud-Aleph-Tett-Samech…Jets! Jets! Jets!

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

Yom Kippur. The Super Bowl of Fast Days. The day where Jewish guilt is not only encouraged, but demanded.

Feeling guilty about stealing your uncle’s girlfriend? Then Yom Kippur is the day for you. Nothing else should stand in it’s way. No one would ever dream of skipping Kol Nidre.

That is, unless football is involved.

The NFL this week, changed the start time of the New York Jets-Tennessee Titans game from 4:15 to 1:00 because it falls on Erev Yom Kippur. Worried that fans would choose synagogue over the game, the Jets requested the time change. They especially made the request because their home opener, the week prior, falls on Rosh Hashanah.

First off, I’m pissed too. High Holidays fall on the weekends this year? Damn! I’m working at a Jewish organization for nothing!

Second, think about what this means. Each year, there are eight home games per team. With two falling on the High Holidays, that would mean that I wouldn’t be able to go to 25% of the games. Factor in that the other six games go for $89 per seat, I’m going to go to zero percent of all Jets games next year. Too bad. I’m a big Joe Namath fan.

Posted on April 20, 2009

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Rejected Team Names for Israeli Baseball Teams

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

Betar Pogroms
Tel Aviv Gestapo
Jerusalem Crusaders
Beer Sheva Blood Libelersautograph.jpg
Modi’in Elders of Zion
Tevaria Terrorists
Ashkelon Arab Blood Drinkers
Kiryat Gat Ketyushas
Sderot Shell Shock
Ashdod Arsim
Jaffa Second Classers

Posted on April 20, 2009

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Feeling Sorry For Myself

This entry was posted in Life, Practices on by .

I am a champion whiner, but even I have to admit that there comes a time when we each need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, stop complaining, and get back to the business of living. I often find myself looking forward to that point in the midst of a crisis. Yes, there’s some appeal to wallowing in one’s sorrow, and allowing oneself to maintain a certain sense of misery when bad times seem to be the rule, and not the exception, but I find that I hit my threshold after about twelve hours, and then, ideally, I would like to go on to some task that I can focus on instead of my own shitty situation.
mirror_photo.jpg
This year has afforded me many more opportunities to wallow than I’m really comfortable with. It seems that every week or two there is some enormous issue that saps 90% of my mental energy, and gives me another reason to feel sorry for myself. My grandmother died a few weeks ago, shortly before that my sisters and I found out some news that upset us. Since then we’ve celebrated Pesach without my mother, and found out about a number of deaths and illnesses in our community, as well as upcoming simchas among our community and friends. Even good things are still tinged with this sense of strangeness, a foreign and empty feeling I’ve come to know as I go through life constantly thinking about how my mother would have reacted to a piece of news or a major historical event.

It’s not difficult to imagine what my mother would have said about most of these things. I knew her very well, of course, but these have tended to be events to which there isn’t likely to be a variety of responses. She would have been sad to hear that some of our friends are sick, and would have mourned my grandmother’s death. She would have grinned and hugged those who are engaged, married and expecting babies. But knowing what she would have thought and said is no consolation at all. The reason we have friends and the reason we cling to our families is not to hear the words we all expect at happy and sad occasions, it’s to feel, somehow, that both joy and pain are being shared by those we love. We want to see our own feelings mirrored in others because it lightens our load when we’re downtrodden, and increases our joy when we’re happy. When my mother died, I lost perhaps the biggest and most important mirror in my life. She was the person that so many of us went to when we wanted sympathy, pride, love, acceptance and even grief reflected back at us. And like all good mirrors, though she most often reflected back what you already knew or thought, she was unafraid to tell people when they were being unreasonable, and needed to shape up.

I think about this idea often as I say Kaddish at minyan, because I am not at all sure how my mother would have reacted to my frustrations and the theological confusion I now feel about saying this mourning prayer. I remember one or two conversations we had about her own experiences saying Kaddish for her father, but I was 14 at the time, and didn’t have any concept of what the experience would be like for an adult. I still don’t think I have a concept of what it’s like to say Kaddish when you’re in your forties and fifties. So I don’t know what she would have said if I would have told her that I find myself resenting going to shul, bored and angry during most services. Would she have shared my frustrations, or would she have reminded me of the history and significance of the Kaddish through centuries of Jewish life, and of her own commitment when her father died? I can see either. Or actually, neither.

I feel sorry for myself, again.

[The photo is of me and my mom when I was about eight years old. I chose it because I think we look so much like each other—mirror images, if you will.]

Cross-posted at Blogging the Kaddish.

Posted on April 20, 2009

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Streaming Yom Hashoah Lecture by Yehuda Bauer, April 21st

This entry was posted in General on by .

From Brandeis University:

Yom HaShoah/Holocaust Remembrance Day Program — A Brandeis University program in your home

Yehuda Bauer, a pioneer in the field of Holocaust studies, will speak on “Holocaust and Genocide: A Historian’s Viewpoint,” at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday evening April 21. This program will be available live and free to the public on the Brandeis University website.

To view it, go to: www.brandeis.edu/streaming

Bauer, a deep and dynamic speaker, serves on the faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem. He has been widely recognized for his work on the prevention of genocide. In 1998, Bauer was the recipient of the Israel Prize, the highest civilian award in Israel.

Professor Bauer’s talk will be archived at www.brandeis.edu following the conclusion of the program.
For more information, call (781) 736-2125, or visit http://www.brandeis.edu/tauberinstitute

Presented by the Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry and Sarnat Center for the Study of Anti-Jewishness with the support and cooperation of the Center for German and European Studies; the Holocaust Remembrance Committee, Brandeis Hillel; and the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences

Posted on April 19, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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