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 blog, is a blogger, entrepreneur and technologist. Follow him on his blog at 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.