Sunday, December 14, 2014

Former New England Patriots' Star Andre Tippett Loves Latkes on Hanukkah

SHOULD ADAM SANDLER EVER DECIDE to write a new version of his famous Hanukkah Song, he should definitely include that NFL Hall of Famer Andre Tippett enjoys eating his potato latkes on Hanukkah with apple sauce. That's right, the former New England Patriots' star Andre Tippett is Jewish after converting several years ago.

While he didn't play in the NFL while he was an official member of the Jewish tribe, Tippett, along with former NFL greats Ron Mix and Sid Luckman, are the only three Jews in the NFL's Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

The Boston Globe's Steven A. Rosenberg recently interviewed Tippett, who spoke fondly of his Baptist upbringing and his beautiful Jewish family. When he began to discuss his family's Hanukkah holiday rituals, "his voice grows even softer" than it normally is.

“Hanukkah means dedication and is about miracles. I’m probably more excited than most of the family because I look forward to any type of celebration when it comes to holidays,” the 55-year-old Tippett told the Boston Globe reporter.

Married to the Jewish Rhonda Kenney, the couple has a daughter Madison and a son Coby. They were married by a rabbi in 1993 and Tippett began taking Judaism classes that led to his conversion in 1997.

Andre Tippett at the New England Patriots vs St Louis Rams game in 2008. (Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Jon Stewart Offers to Have a Talmud Discussion with Stephen Colbert

ON LAST NIGHT'S EPISODE OF The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert finally had his good friend and former boss Jon Stewart as a guest on the successful Comedy Central show.

Jon Stewart (née Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz) came on Colbert's show to promote his new movie, Rosewater, and explained that behind closed doors he only quotes rabbinical texts.

"I am merely an arbiter of biblical law," he said. And then he offered to have a Talmudic discussion with his friend Stephen Colbert.

Although Jon Stewart is a producer of The Colbert Report and helped launch the pseudo spin off of his own The Daily Show, he had never been a formal guest on the Colbert Report until last night. (Stewart had made cameo appearances in the past.)

Stephen Colbert, who is not Jewish, has been tapped to take over hosting duties on The Late Show when David Letterman retires at the end of the year. Colbert only has 12 more episodes of the Report remaining this year.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert
Before Colbert gave Stewart a chance to pitch Rosewater -- the story based on the memoir Then They Came for Me by Maziar Bahari -- the two demonstrated their special chemistry, which has been called a loving bromance. At the end of the interview, each man kissed the other on the cheek.

Here's the video of the exchange:




Rabbi Jason Miller is the co-founder of PopJewish.com blog. Rabbi Jason's an entrepreneur, educator, technologist and blogger. He is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post and Time.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RabbiJason.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rabbi Barry Freundel and Personal Safeguards

CHEATING ON A SPOUSE IS USUALLY considered an unforgivable sin and often ends in divorce. It is also socially reprehensible, though regrettably, we have become numb to its frequent occurrence. I was surprised to learn that research indicates that oftentimes cheating spouses are not necessarily unhappy in their marriage, or are looking to cheat as a way of satisfying their ego, and do not always engage in this act impulsively. The way a psychologist explained it to me is that, oftentimes, it’s the outcome of a fantasy that festers and festers in his or her mind for days, months, and maybe even years. Psychologically speaking, if a spouse has multiple affairs, we can chalk it up to the idea that has been around since Talmudic times, that once you have tasted the forbidden fruit, it’s too difficult to go back.

I don’t know Rabbi Barry Freundel or the particulars of his character, other than what I have heard and read recently. But it might very well be that his sick and perverted behavior stemmed from a fantasy that festered within him for a very long time. Perhaps after a particularly frustrating day he did some research about cameras. A few months later, after an unfulfilling day in the office, he bought one, and a few months after that he installed it. Once he recorded his first victim, it was too difficult to turn back.

Whether my psychological analysis of Rabbi Freundel is correct is not the point. What is important to recognize is that even the most moral, ethical and family oriented person can succumb to a desire that is the product of a far-fetched fantasy he or she never dreamed would actually come to fruition. The unfortunate truth is that we can destroy many lives by turning a fantasy into a reality that we never really wanted in the first place. We need to protect ourselves from ourselves, but how? Just as important as creating communal safeguards to prevent society from acting on its basest instincts, is the need to create personal safeguards to prevent ourselves from yielding to the unholy and unhealthy temptations we face on a daily basis. Is there anything we can do to ward off the “impure,” “evil” or inappropriate thoughts that enter our minds? Are there strategies we can adopt to protect ourselves from allowing an idea to fester to the point that we make the biggest mistake of our lives? Can we be programmed to flip an “off” switch to shut out these thoughts? Is it possible to diffuse or at least control them?

Orthodox Rabbi Barry Freundel Arrested for Voyeurism; Abuse


Jewish tradition provides a number of what has currently come to be called “cognitive behavioral techniques” to protect someone from succumbing to their base desires. The advice is remarkably prescient and remains relevant today.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rabbi Tom Hanks Dances at Scooter Braun's Jewish Wedding

RABBI TOM HANKS? No, Tom Hanks is not playing a rabbi in his next movie. However, video and photos of Tom Hanks wearing a white kippah (yarmulke) and a fake tallit (Jewish prayer shawl) are all over the Internet thanks to Justin Bieber.

Bieber was at the Jewish wedding of his long-time manager Scooter Braun in Whistler over the weekend. It looked like quite the party and Justin Bieber uploaded video of Tom Hanks dancing to the classic ‘90s song "This is How We Do It". From Bieber's Instagram account the video quickly went viral and was reported on by several entertainment television shows and celebrity websites.

Bieber has more than 17 million followers on Instagram. He captioned the video: "Haha Tom Hanks singing 'This Is How we do it' dressed like a Rabbi lol #thatdancetho".

Scooter Braun is 33 and his new wife is 27. Yael is the CEO of F--- Cancer, an organization she founded after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2009.

Other celebrities in attendance at Scooter Braun's wedding to cancer activist Yael Cohen in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, over the Fourth of July weekend included Tom Hanks, his wife Rita Wilson, Sophia Bush, Carly Rae Jepsen and Ed Sheeran.

Rabbi Tom Hanks in a kippah and tallit dances at Scooter Braun's wedding
Tom Hanks in a kippah and tallit dances at Scooter Braun's wedding


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mike Myers Introduces New Generation to Shep Gordon

A FEW MONTHS AGO I GOT a voicemail from a publicist in Los Angeles. She told me that she stumbled upon my PopJewish.com blog on the web, read some of my posts, and thought I'd enjoy watching a movie she was promoting. I returned the call and we talked a little about Hollywood icon Shep Gordon and the film about him that Mike Myers directed.

I quickly agreed to screen an advance of the movie and within a week I received a copy of "Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon". I put the film on one of my monitors and continued to do some work on the other. Well that lasted for about 30 seconds until my full attention was directed to the very Jewish looking guy on the screen who sounded a little like Larry David with a nasal infection.

I was hooked. The film has interviews from some of Hollywood's biggest celebrities talking about why Shep Gordon is such a great guy (read: mensch). This biography documentary could easily have felt like a bar mitzvah tribute video, albeit to a seventy-year-old Hollywood agent, but Myers succeeded in making this a truly touching film that shows the best parts of Hollywood.

For several decades Shep Gordon was a Hollywood agent to the likes of Alice Cooper, Anne Murray, Groucho Marx, Luther Vandross, Blondie, Raquel Welch and even Pink Floyd (for only 9 days).

Shep Gordon

Later in his career he developed the concept of the "Celebrity Chef" with his client Emeril Lagasse. But more than a name-dropping history lesson in how a trumpanick of a kid becomes a successful agent in Hollywood, this film is a warm, touching story of a guy who really was a mensch.

Throughout his diverse career Shep Gordon gave out "coupons" to help people out. These were favors or loans that he'd float to help out his friends in difficult times. When the great Groucho Marx was struggling after his career was over, Shep cashed in some of these coupons to help out the legendary comedian.

Continue reading on Blog.RabbiJason.com


Rabbi Jason Miller, a co-founder of PopJewish.com, is an educator, entrepreneur and blogger. He also writes the Jewish Techs blog. He is president of Access Computer Technology. Follow him on Twitter at @RabbiJason.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Mick Jagger Knows Some Hebrew (Apparently)

MICK JAGGER, KEITH RICHARDS AND THE REST of the Rolling Stones gave Israelis a real treat the other night in Tel Aviv when they performed a sold out concert at Hayarkon Park.

David Horovitz of the Times of Israel put together a list of Mick Jagger's Hebrew expressions throughout the night. (To be fair, some of the words are Arabic.) Based on what most attendees have told me, his pronunciation was near perfect revealing that he must have had some good coaching and practiced the phrases before taking the stage right after the conclusion of the Shavuot holiday.

Here's Horovitz's list (in order of appearance):

1. Erev Tov Tel Aviv (Good evening Tel Aviv). A modest opening foray, delivered two songs in. Quickly followed by…

2. Chag Shavuot Sameach, Yisrael (Happy Shavuot, Israel). Already impressive. A festive greeting. A mention of Israel. And those awkward guttural sounds mastered on CHag and SameaCH.

3. Anachnu HaAvanim Hamitgalgalot (Literally: We are the Rolling Stones). Yup, we knew that. We just didn’t know he knew how to say it in our language.

4. Todah. Shukran (Thank you, in Hebrew and Arabic). Delivered after an aching “Angie.” We were the thankful ones.
Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones perform in Tel Aviv [Photo: EPA]

5. Hakol Sababa? (All good?). Excellent Arabic slang, invoked anxiously after “Paint It Black.” Reassured by a huge cheer that everything was indeed sababa, Jagger gave us a rich cockney “ohhhh kayy!”

The Rolling Stones guitarist, Ronnie Wood, during the band's concert in Tel Aviv, Israel, on June 4, 2014. (Photo credit: Flash 90)
The Rolling Stones guitarist, Ronnie Wood, during the band’s concert in Tel Aviv, Israel, on June 4, 2014. (Photo credit: Flash 90)

6. Kanita Na’alayim Bashuk? (Did you buy shoes in the market?) The evening’s undoubted Hebrew highlight, asked of a presumably uncomprehending Ronnie Wood, who was wearing nifty orange sneakers. There was no audible reply, in Hebrew or any other language.

7. Lisa Fischer maksima (The lovely Lisa Fischer). Backing vocalist extraordinaire. One of only two musicians to merit a Jagger Hebrew introduction, the other being…

8. Al Hatupim (On the drums) Charlie Watts. Special treatment because, two days earlier, Jagger told us, it had been Charlie’s…

9. Yom Huledet (Birthday)! The audience responded with a raucous Hebrew rendition of “Happy Birthday” and the usually inscrutable drummer smiled, very broadly, like a bashful school kid. He’s 73, by the way.

10. Atem Nehenim? (Are you having a good time?) After a rousing “Gimme Shelter,” you betcha!

11. Atem Kahal Meturaf (You’re a Crazy Audience). A compliment as we neared the end, between “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Brown Sugar.”

12. Layla Tov, Ve’Shalom Tel Aviv (Goodnight and goodbye Tel Aviv). Mick’s final Hebrew utterances as the band disappeared. They reappeared for two encore songs, but the Jagger Hebrew vocabulary had been exhausted, leaving only the eternal question, Did Ronnie Wood buy his sneakers in the market?

David Horovitz is the founding editor of The Times of Israel. He previously edited The Jerusalem Post (2004-2011) and The Jerusalem Report (1998-2004). He is the author of "Still Life with Bombers" (2004) and "A Little Too Close to God" (2000), and co-author of "Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin (1996).

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Israeli Couple Gets Engaged with Justin Timberlake; Revealed They're Already Married

TURNS OUT THAT THE ISRAELI COUPLE that got engaged to be married after having Justin Timberlake take a selfie photo with them was already married.

Last night at the Justin Timberlake's Israel concert at Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv, Israeli couple Eliran and Ilana Elgozi got Justin Timberlake to pose for a selfie. How did they do it? Eliran Elgozi held up a sign saying he'd propose to his girlfriend if Justin got off stage and posed for a photo with the couple. So Justin Timberlake jumped off the concert stage and took the selfie with the couple's camera. Then Timberlake said, "Now you gotta do it."

With that, Eliran took out a ring and proposed marriage to Ilana. Of course, it was a highlight at the outdoor concert in Tel Aviv attended by over 40,000. Turns out that Eliran Elgozi has already been married to Ilana Elgozi for a couple months.

Was it just a way to get a celeb selfie with Justin Timberlake? Eliran Elgozi explained in a post on Facebook, retold in an article in The Times of Israel, that it was not simply a ploy to get attention and a picture, but a much-deserved romantic gesture to his wife.

Justin Timberlake on stage in Tel Aviv, Israel 2014
Elgozi said, “Anybody who knows us knows that we have traveled a path that hasn’t been so short or easy,” he wrote. “Our first marriages were not so great (to say the least), and our wedding — how shall we say, everything that could have gone wrong did. We were not sad. Anybody who knows us knows that we always try to make the best out of what we have. And thank to our amazing friends we managed to have something modest, [albeit] far from the dream wedding of the bride. There was a feeling of loss in the air.”

Here's the video of Justin Timberlake taking the selfie with the Israeli couple at the Tel Aviv concert:



He recounted that after the wedding, he promised himself that he would make up for the less-than-spectacular nuptials and show his wife, who had stood beside him when he “slept on a mattress, didn’t have a shekel for a cucumber and didn’t leave him when he was alone and had no family,” how much she meant to him. Eliran began to formulate the plan after his wife bought the tickets for right in front of the stage.

"Luckily Justin is an amazing guy… and helped me do it the right way this time,” Eliran wrote. “It was even more than I could have imagined."

Even though it wasn't a legitimate marriage proposal, it made for a great moment at the Justin Timberlake Tel Aviv concert and Justin will probably never know the difference.

Rabbi Jason Miller, a co-founder of PopJewish.com, is an educator, entrepreneur and blogger. He also writes the Jewish Techs blog. Follow him on Twitter at @RabbiJason.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sarah Silverman Talks About Brother-in-Law Yossi Abramowitz's Run for Israel's President on the View

ON A RECENT EPISODE of The View, Sarah Silverman came out and discussed her role in the new movie "A Million Ways to Die in the West."

Not only did she discuss her boyfriend, the Welsh actor Michael Sheen, but she also talked about her brother-in-law Yossi Abramowitz's run for President of Israel.

Yossi Abramowitz is married to Sarah Silverman's sister Susan, who is a Reform rabbi. The Abramowitz-Silverman family lives in Israel.When guest host Margaret Hoover mentioned that Sarah Silverman's sister is an Orthodox rabbi, Sarah didn't correct her.

According to an article in JTA, "American-born solar energy entrepreneur Yosef Abramowitz is running for president of Israel.
Abramowitz, 50, the CEO of Energiya Global Capital, a Jerusalem-based solar developer, announced his candidacy in a column published Thursday in the Jerusalem Post.

Sarah Silverman with ex-boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel and her sister Rabbi Susan Silverman and brother-in-law Yossi Abramowitz
Sarah Silverman with ex-boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel and
her sister Rabbi Susan Silverman and brother-in-law Yossi Abramowitz


“President Shimon Peres has done great things. To continue this momentum, Israel must field a President who embodies innovation and the ‘Start-Up Nation,’ a president who will foster hope and a bright future for the younger generations who are desperately seeking social and economic stability,” Abramowitz said in a statement. “I would lead government development to promote an investment-friendly climate.  I would strive to improve Israel’s standing in the global arena and embrace the strengthening of pluralism among all Israelis.”

Abramowitz is credited with co-founding the Israeli solar industry. He made aliyah in 2006.
Other candidates include Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Silvan Shalom of the Likud party; Binyamin Ben-Eliezer of the Labor party; Nobel Prize laureate Dan Shechtman; Meir Sheetrit of Hatnua; and former Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner.

A candidate must have 10 nominations from Knesset members to run for the position. The president is elected in a secret ballot by the Knesset and must have an absolute majority of the votes.

Here's the clip of Sarah Silverman on The View:

Friday, May 2, 2014

Seth Meyers Isn't Jewish But Gets a Yarmulke

SETH MEYERS TOOK A COUPLE MINUTES of his late night television show, Late Night with Seth Meyers, to explain that Seth Meyers is not Jewish. Why did he do this? Well, it turns out that a guest on the show the night before presented Meyers with a Montreal Expos kippah (yarmulke) thinking that the talk show host and former Saturday Night Live star was Jewish (video below).

So, Meyers had an intimate 2-minute monologue while seated behind his desk in which he explained that while his paternal grandfather was Jewish (hence the Jewish surname), he is not Jewish. Meyers then went on to say that every Jewish person thinks that he's Jewish because of the last name, the face and basically everything about him.

Meyers talked personally about his Jewish wife, Alexi Ashe, whom he married under a chuppah last year and his Jewish in-laws who were initially disappointed to learn he wasn't Jewish when he was dating their daughter. Today, Meyers says he observes Passover with his wife's family and considers himself Jew-ish ("it's the only religion that has 'ish' at the end of its name!). He jokingly explained that he doesn't like to tell Jewish people that he's not Jewish because that sounds like something you'd say to get membership into a 1950s country club.

Seth Meyers and his Jewish wife Alexi Ashe (Wiki Commons)

Meyers promised to wear the Montreal Expos kippah at next year's Passover seder... until his wife tells him to take that off because it looks ridiculous.





Rabbi Jason Miller is the co-founder of the PopJewish.com blog and a rabbi, educator and blogger who lives in Detroit, Michigan with his wife and three children. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @RabbiJason.

Donald Sterling and Adam Silver - Jew vs. Jew

BY NOW THE ENTIRE WORLD knows that Donald Sterling, a Jew, and owner of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, holds racist opinions of African-Americans. What you might not know is that the commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, is also Jewish. Following Silver’s prepared statements in which he announced that Sterling was banned for life from any association with the NBA, I heard this question from one of the journalists:

POPJEWISH-Rabbi Josh Hess (Orthodox)
"I'm curious -- you spoke about your personal response to this. In terms of Donald Sterling self-identifying as Jewish and you doing the same, as well, I'm wondering whether there was a specific kind of pain associated with that for you and if you felt a certain responsibility within the Jewish community to be responding to this in this way?"

I was taken aback. Why did the journalist feel the need to turn this into a Jewish issue?  Leave us out if for once! We've got enough problems to deal with. On the other hand, I felt a sense a pride knowing that at this seminal moment in NBA and American history, a Jewish commissioner was responsible for reprimanding a Jewish owner for his discriminatory views. Perhaps the listening audience was unaware of this. Turns out that the journalist who asked the question, Howard Megdal, is also Jewish. Silver responded beautifully:

"I think my response was as a human being, and I used the word distraught before. I spoke on Saturday morning directly to Chris Paul, to Doc Rivers, and it wasn't even anger at that point. I mean, there was a certain somberness, and frankly, I felt sort of most strongly and personally for that team. While this affects every player and anyone associated with the NBA family, for those players and those coaches to go out and do what they need to do and play at the highest level in the world and have this hanging over themI think caused me to have a certain sadness, I would say, about the entire situation. I think this is regardless of anyone's religion, ethnicity, nationality. I think this is incredibly hurtful."

LA Clippers Owner Donald Sterling and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Together
LA Clippers Owner Donald Sterling and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

Monday, April 28, 2014

Hollywood Celeb's Wedding Ketubah Stolen

AS I REFLECT ON MY FIRST first ten years of being a rabbi (it's amazing how time flies), I have to put wedding officiation at the top of my list of favorite things to do. In fact, I consider wedding officiation as more of a perk of being a rabbi rather than a task. Standing with couples under their wedding chuppah as they begin their married life together is truly a highlight of my rabbinate.

As an art lover I also enjoy seeing the beautiful ketubah (wedding contract) that a couple selects. These ketubahs are usually the first major art purchase a young couple makes and they hang with pride in the couple's home. Before affixing my signature to the ketubah I always take a few moments to look at the creative design, which tells me quite a bit about the couple.

Last week the ketubah went mainstream with more than just a passing mention on national TV in a video clip that is going viral. Ginnifer Goodwin, the actress known mostly for her role on HBO's former series "Big Love," appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" on Wednesday night. Goodwin, the Jewish actress from Memphis who was a member of the Jewish teen youth groups BBYO and NFTY, was asked by Jimmy Kimmel if she's Jewish.

Goodwin, who last year explained that she only recently reconnected with her Jewish faith, explained that she is Jewish (her mother's Jewish, but not her father) and that her husband Josh Dallas is not Jewish. The couple stars together in the movie "Once Upon a Time." The pregnant Goodwin told a very funny story about how her wedding ketubah went missing the day of the couple's wedding two weeks earlier on April 12, 2014.


CONTINUE READING AT BLOG.RABBIJASON.COM

Rabbi Jason Miller is the founder of the PopJewish.com blog and a blogger for Huffington Post. He lives in Detroit, Michigan with his wife and three children. Follow him on Twitter at @RabbiJason.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jason Bateman Teaches Jon Stewart Yiddish

THE GREAT YIDDISHIST LEO ROSTEN was hopefully rolling (with laughter) in his grave last night. The late author of the book "The Joy of Yiddish" worked very hard during his lifetime to bring the dying Yiddish language into the mainstream.

Last night's five minute dialogue between actor Jason Bateman and Jon Stewart included more Yiddish words than we typically hear on television. It was as if Bateman wanted to drop some of his well-rehearsed Yiddishisms during his interview on The Daily Show.

As soon as Jason Bateman sat down he told Jon Stewart that his "It's nice when nice happens to nice" opening comment sounded very Yiddish. And from there it became a Yiddish word competition between the two men.

Jon Stewart speaks Yiddish with Jason Bateman of Arrested Development

Continue reading at Blog.RabbiJason.com

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Drake On Saturday Night Live Reflects On His Bar Mitzvah

LAST NIGHT DRAKE HOSTED Saturday Night Live's season premier. On the first SNL show of the year Jewish and Black stereotypes were offered a plenty. The famous rapper opened the show by explaining that he's from Canada, was in the TV show Degrassi Junior High, and that his mother is Jewish and his father is Black.

He then had a flashback to his bar mitzvah in 1999 when both sides of his family met for the very first time.

Wearing a big white kippah (yarmulke), Drizzy gave his bar mitzvah speech in which he sang a rap to the tune of Hava Nagila.

Yes there were quite a few stereotypes about both Jews and African Americans, like when his Jewish uncle gave him a check for $18 (chai) and his Black uncle gave him a check for a $1,000 but told him to wait 90 days to cash it, but these were all in jest and it's Saturday Night Live after all... CONTINUE READING AND WATCH THE SNL VIDEO



Rabbi Jason Miller, the co-founder of the PopJewish.com blog, is a blogger, entrepreneur and technologist. Follow him on his blog at http://blog.rabbijason.com and on Twitter at @RabbiJason.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Scarlett Johansson Brings Fizz to SodaStream

YESTERDAY WAS ONE OF THE FOUR New Years set forth in the Mishna. Tu Bishvat, or Jewish Arbor Day, occurs on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Sh'vat. In addition to being a birthday for trees, the holiday is deeply connected to the agricultural cycle of the Land of Israel and in modern days has become a day for celebrating the environment and reminding us of our responsibility as good stewards of the land.

At the core of this ethic for environmental stewardship is the concept of bal tashchit -- the ban on wonton destruction of the earth's resources. This environmental principle, which includes waste reduction, should be a focus on the holiday of Tu Bishvat.

Last year on Tu Bishvat I published an article on the Huffington Post's website about a presentation I had heard the month before while I was visiting Israel with a group of Conservative/Masorti rabbinic colleagues. Together with a dozen other rabbis, we toured the headquarters of the West Bank-based Israeli company SodaStream, the makers of consumer home carbonated water products.

Daniel Birnbaum, the CEO of publicly traded SodaStream, explained to our group the positive environmental impact of his products. "This is the new way to do soda. We're revolutionizing it with a smarter way to enjoy soft drinks." He even told us that his company had a great Super Bowl ad coming up that was sure to spark controversy. Well, this year Daniel Birnbaum's SodaStream company has another Super Bowl commercial in the works and Jewish actress Scarlett Johansson will star in it.

As reported in the Forward, "Scarlett Johansson signed on this week as the new “global ambassador” for SodaStream and will be featured in the company’s 2014 Super Bowl advertisement. For SodaStream, this deal makes sense: Johansson is remarkably sexy, eco-friendly, loves the product, and happens to be Jewish. It makes particular sense since the company’s stock recently took a hit and its image has been tarnished by the fact that its factory is located in the Mishor Adumim industrial park in Israel’s occupied territories."

Daniel Birnbaum of SodaStream unveils Scarlett Johansson as its Global Brand Ambassador 

Academy Awards Best Picture Nominees and the Ten Commandments

EVER SINCE THE ACADEMY AWARDS expanded to include up to ten nominees for best picture, it has become an annual tradition for me to try to match each selected film to the theme one of the Ten Commandments. This year, with the Jewish calendar running so early the revelation of the ten movies for 2014 comes just in time for the reading of the Ten Commandments. So here are the (almost) ten nominees written in stone.

There is, of course, no comparison between the transformative moment at Sinai and the artificial pomp and circumstance attending the giving of the Oscars. However, as incomparable as receiving the Torah was, the content of the Torah and its Commandments were not meant for a singular moment of awe, but to inspire us day in and day out. Their lessons are not only found etched in stone, but even imprinted on celluloid.

So, the nominees for Best Commandments are:


X You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug The second installment of Peter Jackson's take on JRR Tolkien's classic the Hobbit is not actually up for an Academy Award like the other nine on this list. Still,I couldn't resist including it for several reasons, not the least of which that its one of the few movies I have actually had a chance to see! Also, however, while its larger than life version of Tolkien's children's tale runs the gamut from murder to honoring one's father to worshipping idols of gold, the story is driven by coveting, for good or for ill. The dwarves covet the return to their home, the humans covet the wealth under the mountain, and even the elves allow their nobility to corrupted by what they covet. Only the title character, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins manages to be driven not by what he desires from others, but by a sense of responsibility to them. Tolkien understood the o ability to avoid coveting to be far from human nature and yet something very valuable for which a human should strive.




Monday, January 6, 2014

Wearing a Yarmulke in the Big Ten

THE YARMULKE DIDN'T HELP NORTHWESTERN'S Aaron Liberman's team against the University of Michigan in yesterday's basketball game, but it did help the Jewish college player make history.

Before Liberman's one minute of play no Big Ten conference player had ever worn a kippah in a game. Yahoo reported the one minute of yarmulke fame by this Yid in a lid:

Kyle Ringo of the Dagger filed the story:

Northwestern forward Aaron Liberman played 1 minute Sunday in a 74-51 loss at Michigan and didn't record a single statistic, but he still made a bit of Big Ten Conference history.



Liberman, a 6-foot-10 freshman walk-on from Valley Torah High School in Los Angeles became the first player in Big Ten history to wear a yarmulke in a game. A yarmulke is a skullcap worn by Orthodox Jews and by other Jewish men during prayer.

Liberman is believed to be the only Orthodox Jew playing major college basketball, but he is not the first player to wear a yarmulke in a Division I game. The other player to do so was former Towson guard Tamir Goodman, who played in 2000 and 2001 and was nicknamed the “Jewish Jordan.”

Liberman observes the sabbath. Part of doing so means he doesn't use electricity from sundown Friday to sundown Saturdays. So on Fridays last season he sometimes walked 8 miles to practices.

Liberman was invited to speak after a home game last month about what it's like for him to be an Orthodox Jew playing major college hoops. The school handed approximately 200 purple yarmulkes with an N printed on them to people who attended.