Author Archives: Lex Rofes

Lex Rofes

About Lex Rofes

Lex Rofes grew up in Milwaukee, WI. He is a 2013-2014 ISJL Education Fellow.

Mensch Madness Game 4: Serpent vs. Donkey!


Today’s trash-talkin’ beasts!

The tension in the air is palpable as we prepare for today’s tip-off at the Manischewitz Arena. Mensch Madness Game 4 is going to involve some serious trash-talking!

Today’s match-up will pit a Serpent and a Donkey against one another, and in a fascinating twist, both of these animals are able to speak (no, the donkey is not related to Eddie Murphy’s character in Shrek)!

Also, it looks like the trash talking is on and off the court today, folks. As the snake came out for his pre-game warm-up, he encountered two fans who seemed to be drunk. One of them (due to privacy concerns, he will be referred to only by his first name, Adam) was shouting about some piece of fruit, and Adam’s companion, Eve, was yelling that the Serpent was a lying fraud. Based on this serious allegation, a test was administered on the Serpent for performance-enhancing drugs, but it came back negative. Adam and Eve were escorted out by security, and told they could never return – ever.

While the players wrapped their warm-ups, a man named Balaam gave a pretty poor rendition of the national anthem. He stumbled over the words, and some said that was because he was trying to sing about the “home of the cowardly” instead of “home of the brave.” Apparently the folks operating the sound system edited his words in real time.

As the game began, the Serpent immediately went on an 18-4 run. His ability to walk on two legs — that’s right, sports fans, a two-legged snake! — was immensely helpful, and the donkey just couldn’t hang with him as she tried to dribble with one of her four legs. Soon, the Donkey was called for travelling. She got in an argument with the ref. The Serpent ran over, demanding that the Donkey be called for a technical foul. Sure enough, the ref blew his whistle and made the call. Then Serpent began dancing around, taunting Donkey, trash-talking her and telling her to break another rule if she really wanted to win the game…

This would prove to be a turning point.

A voice on the loud-speaker boomed: “Serpent, because you have enticed the referee to make this excessive call and continue coaxing Donkey to break the rules, you will no longer be able to prance around the court on two legs. You will henceforth be required to attempt mid-range jump shots while slithering around on your belly.”[1]

We searched the entire NCAA rulebook, and we found no such provision, but that voice over the loudspeaker was pretty powerful. And so, just like that, the Serpent’s two-leg advantage slithered away.

Donkey took a massive lead, as the Serpent’s ability to play defense was almost completely eliminated. It was so bad that a benchwarmer named “Angel” was summoned to assist the serpent on defense. What was strange is that none of the fans could see this Angel character. His clothing blended in with the court. Only the Donkey could see him.[2] When she started dribbling frantically in circles to try and avoid Angel’s terrific defense, the fans thought she was just wasting time and milking the lead.

Anthem-garbling Balaam was incredibly upset, and threw his hot dog at the Donkey. Next came the Dippin’ Dots. Finally, after being pelted with an entire box of nachos, Donkey couldn’t take it anymore.

She yelled, “What have I done to you that you’ve launched these food items at me three times? This ‘Angel’ guy was going to confront you due to your horrendous national anthem rendition, but because I gave him the opportunity to play defense against me, I saved you from that thoroughly unpleasant interaction! And this is the thanks I get?!”[3]

Balaam, like Adam and Eve before him, was escorted out and banned for life from Manischewitz Arena. As the game drew to a close, the donkey coasted to a victory over the helpless serpent, who spent most of his time slithering around the three-point arc, air-balling desperation attempts from downtown. The final score was 83-68.

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[1] Genesis 3:14-15 [2] Numbers 22:22-25 [3] Numbers 22:26-33

Posted on March 27, 2015

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Mensch Madness 2015: Bringing out the Beasts!

Last year's Mensch Madness got real!

Last year’s Mensch Madness got real!

Last year, the ISJL  (a very sports-centric Southern and Jewish office) held a tournament of champions. The inaugural Mensch Madness matched up true heroes from the Tanakh in basketball match-ups for the ages!

Every game had fans cheering on both sides. Hillel took on Abraham in a thrilling contest, Deborah and Hannah sought to achieve eternal athletic glory, and in the end, the one and only Moses came through with the victory.

This year, we are proud to announce our 2nd annual Mensch Madness bracket. Over the coming weeks we will, similarly to last year, broadcast the results of an intense basketball showdown among some famous characters from the Jewish tradition. Each match-up included two characters, and using texts from Jewish history and the contemporary Jewish world, we determined who the winner would be, and they moved on to the next round.

But THIS season, there’s a twist!

Mensch Madness 2015

This Year: Build Your Bracket!

In this year’s edition, the mensches…well…they won’t be homo sapiens. Instead, we will be recognizing some of our most important non-human contributors to Jewish text over the years. Characters such as the Golem of Prague, Bilaam’s donkey, and the serpent from the Garden of Eden will battle one another on the hardwood, and we at the ISJL will be there every step of the way to describe the match-ups thoroughly and provide our professional analysis on the results.

Our competitors have been preparing for weeks, and they are ready for the Madness. Some might even call them ANIMALS.

Are you ready for Mensch Madness 2015?! GAME ON!

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Posted on March 16, 2015

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Yes, You Can Be In Two Places At Once

Recently, Southern Sunday School students did a program on Jewish heroes. The students were having a great time, collaborating, playing games—all while hundreds of miles apart.

Students in NC and SC bond over Jewish heroes

Students in NC and SC bond over Jewish heroes

For the Global Day of Jewish Learning, we gathered students and teachers in Pinehurst, North Carolina, for this program on Jewish heroes. More students than you’d usually find in the Pinehurst classroom showed up—because half of our participants weren’t in Pinehurst. They weren’t even in North Carolina. They were actually in Greenville, South Carolina, three and a half hours away!

Stop the presses. Has the ISJL figured out how to split Education Fellows like me into two pieces, so that we can be in two different cities at once? Have we discovered the secret to Hermione Granger’s famous time-turner from the Harry Potter books?

Unfortunately, we are still working on the time-turner. But what we have mastered is an important 21st century skill – the art of effective, engaging interactive video calling.

We use video calling technology almost every day from our office in Jackson, Mississippi. Whether communicating with staff members working in other cities or with Bar/Bat Mitzvah students located around our region, doing important Jewish work via Skype or Google Hangout is a regular part of day-to-day work at the ISJL. So, when Sandhills Jewish Congregation in Pinehurst and Congregation Beth Israel in Greenville expressed interest in setting up a program, where their students could meet (virtually), I was eager to make it happen.

Our program was entitled the “Jewish Olympics” and it was very similar to a Maccabiah experience that might occur at Jewish camp. There were a variety of games that we played with and against one another, from Jewpardy (Jewish-themed Jeopardy) to a Play-doh sculpture contest. The ruach (spirit) of all the teams, across both cities and through our screens, was quite impressive.

One of the highlights of the program was our Jewish Heroes scavenger hunt. For this scavenger hunt, there were images of 20 Jewish Heroes hidden in the two congregations, with short biographies of their achievements included so that the kids could learn a bit about them. Half of the images were hidden in Beth Israel (Greenville) and half were at SJC (Pinehurst). The blue team in Greenville, for example, had to find all ten of their heroes, while their teammates in Pinehurst, had to find all ten of theirs. On the back of each clue was a letter, and upon finding all the clues, in both cities the teams had to work with their teammates in the other city via Skype to put the letters together and decode a secret message.

The message? “We made new Jewish friends.”

We wrapped up with “Closing Ceremonies” and with students in Greenville performing “Wherever You Go, There’s Always Someone Jewish” for the students in Pinehurst.

In years to come, I think it is safe to say that technology will help us innovate entirely new ways of educating Jewish students. But we should not assume that such innovating can only occur in the future. We are already living in a time when it is possible to program across virtually any geographical boundary using applications available for free . What this means for the future of Jewish education is still an open-ended question. But with some imagination and experimentation, we just might find answers to that question that fundamentally re-shape and re-create our Jewish future.

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Posted on December 1, 2014

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