Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The NASCAR Driver from Israel

I RECENTLY WROTE A BLOG POST ABOUT NASCAR DRIVER ALON DAY, who is both Jewish and Israeli. He's from Ashdod and since a recent article in Sports Illustrated, he's been the biggest story in NASCAR.

One really does a double take when you see Alon Day's racecar sporting the logos of the Anti-Defamation League, the Israel Football League and the Jewish Federation. An attorney named David Levin has been trying to raise funds to get a big name sponsor for his car (the main sponsor will pay a million dollars).

Alon Day led his team to its first-ever first place finish. While he didn't get to drive the team's car in the victory lap, he did manage to hold a top ten position and for a while even maintained second place.

It's great to see a NASCAR driver who is so proud of his Jewish and Israeli heritage. I hope he enjoys much success in his motorsports career. You can read my full blog post on the Rabbi With a Blog website.

Israeli Jewish Alon Day - NASCAR Driver

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Trevor Noah Had a Bar Mitzvah

From JTA.org

By Josefin Dolsten

It’s hard to imagine that “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah would have a problem getting people to come to his party. But that is precisely what happened to him as a 13 year old when his Jewish mom insisted he have a bar mitzvah.

In an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, Noah spoke of his mom’s Jewish identity (she converted to the religion when he was a child) and struggles as a mixed-race person under apartheid in South Africa, where interracial relationships were banned.

“I lived my life as a part-white, part-black but then sometimes Jewish kid, and I didn’t understand because she didn’t make me convert … When I turned 13, she threw me a bar mitzvah, but nobody came because nobody knew what the hell that was. I only had black friends — no one knows what the hell you’re doing. So it was just me and my mom and she’s celebrating and she’s reading things to me in Hebrew,” he said.

Despite the awkwardness, growing up with Jewish traditions seems to have been a positive experience for Noah, who called it “a gift.”

“That was the gift my mother gave me. I think that was part of her religious pursuits. My mother’s always looking for answers, she’s always searching for new information,” he said.

Noah’s sweet story about his Jewish experience may come as a surprise to some. Last year Jewish groups slammed the late-night host for postings on social media in which he criticized Israel and made jokes that some said relied on negative stereotypes about Jews.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wolf Blitzer Will Moderate Your Thanksgiving Dinner

Ellen DeGeneres had a funny idea to create an app that lets people invite Wolf Blitzer to Thanksgiving dinner to moderate family arguments. Check it out!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

WWE Jewish Wrestler Goldberg Makes Comeback

From the Jewish Daily Forward: The wrestler known as Goldberg shocked the wrestling world at his first WWE match in 12 years by defeating his longtime rival Brock Lesnar in a minute and 26 seconds.

The crowd at Toronto’s Air Canada Center chanted Goldberg’s name after the dominant win on Sunday night. Lesnar had not been defeated in over two years.

The Pro Wrestling Sheet reported that Goldberg, now 49, will also appear in the WWE Royal Rumble 2017 in January at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Bill Goldberg, the grandson of Romanian and Russian immigrants, had his bar mitzvah in his native Tulsa, Oklahoma. He originally wanted to go by the name Mossad — the name of Israel’s intelligence service — thinking that his own last name did not sound imposing enough.

After playing in the National Football League from 1990 to 1995, Goldberg — who stands 6-4 and weighs nearly 300 pounds — became one of the WWE’s biggest superstars, winning multiple heavyweight championship belts.

The Bleacher Report said, "The Royal Rumble is a wise way to use Goldberg following Survivor Series.

WWE could've had Goldberg wrestle at Roadblock: End of the Line in December, but it's rare for special attractions such as him and Lesnar to show up for the more minor pay-per-views. By waiting until the Rumble, WWE is saving Goldberg for a far bigger stage while also allowing him more time to train in the ring.

The Rumble match will also help cover up his deficiencies as a grappler. Even in his prime, Goldberg was never a ring technician, and there's little reason to expect anything different considering he turns 50 in a little over a month.

In the Rumble match, Goldberg can entertain fans without having to do too much heavy lifting.

More importantly, the Royal Rumble can provide a solid storytelling device to set up the inevitable third match between Goldberg and Lesnar.

Having now beaten Lesnar twice, Goldberg has little incentive to agree to another bout. However, his mindset would change if Lesnar costs him an opportunity to wrestle for the WWE Universal Championship at WrestleMania 33.

It would be a somewhat ironic turn of events, since Goldberg played a direct role in costing Lesnar the WWE Championship at No Way Out 2004, setting up their clash at WrestleMania XX.

Although Goldberg's first run with WWE underwhelmed a number of fans, the company has corrected course following his return."

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Beastie Boys Ad Rock Leads Protest at Adam Yauch Square in NYC

NO SLEEP 'TIL BROOKLYN WAS THE ANTHEM OF THE BEASTIE BOYS and now Adam Keefe Horovitz, AKA "Ad Rock" of the Beastie Boys, is fighting for his right... to make sure there's no more swastika graffiti in the Brooklyn Park named for his buddy and bandmate Adam Yauch.

Ad-Rock spoke at an anti-hate rally today after the park was defaced with swastikas last Friday. The playground at Adam Yauch Park (named for the Beastie Boys' MCA following his death in 2013) was spray-painted with swastikas along with the message "Go Trump."

Hundreds were at the event today. Adam Horovitz and community leaders spoke out against racism and intolerance.

Actor Ben Stiller was on hand also at the rally against hate. Still tweeted, "Standing with people of Brooklyn, my daughter, @adrock, @DanielSquadron, and many more in Adam Yauch Park. #MCA #NYC #StandUpAgainstHate." The overarching rally cry of the gathering was "No Sleep 'Til No Hate in Brooklyn.

Beastie Boys Ad Rock in Brooklyn Rally Against Hate
Photo by Naomi Less

Jezebel reported Horovitz saying, "This is real. It’s happening at a rapid rate. We gotta stand up against hate. Spray painting swastikas in a children’s playground is a messed up thing to do. This is more about someone in our community linking Nazi Germany to Donald Trump in a ‘hell yeah’ kind of way in a park where children play."

Beastie Boys - Nazi - Swastikas - Adam Yauch Park Brooklyn

"If you’re able to volunteer, volunteer,” Ad-Rock requested. "If you’re a musician, write that anthem. If you’re a writer, write. Take what you’re good at, and what you truly enjoy, and lend your services to the causes you care most about. ‘Cause we can’t, and we won’t, and we don’t stop."

Rabbi Jason Miller, co-founder of PopJewish.com, is a popular writer and speaker on the intersection of pop culture and Judaism. He is also a technology evangelist and blogger, who is President of Access Computer Technology in Detroit. Follow Rabbi Jason on Twitter at @RabbiJason.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Shaq Dances the Horah at a Jewish Wedding

FORTUNATELY FOR THE GUESTS AT THE JEWISH WEDDING, SHAQUILLE O'NEAL wasn't actually hoisted in a chair! At 7 foot 1 and over 350 pounds that could have ended badly.

TMZ reports that guests at the Blair Markowitz and Corey Salter wedding were unsuccessful in lifting the former NBA basketball star in a chair during the horah dance (the traditional Jewish circle dance at Jewish weddings and Bar Mitzvahs). "Which means we'll never know the answer to the question -- how many Jews does it take to lift Shaquille O'Neal?"

The groom’s father, Jamie Salter, works with Shaq through his Authentic Brands Group company, which owns and manages Shaq's intellectual property and branding, along with other former athletes like Dr. J and Muhammad Ali. Corey Salter also works for Authentic Brands.

As the band sings “Moshiach! Moshiach!” Shaq and other wedding guests dance in the Horah circle at the Miami wedding where, according to TMZ, guest were reported to still be dancing until 2:30 in the morning.

Shaquille O'Neal Dances at a Jewish Wedding in Miami

Having hung out with Shaq at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas the past three years I've gotten to know that he's a bit of a philo-Semite and is very interested in Hebrew. I'm always happy to teach Shaq a few new Hebrew words.

Rabbi Jason Miller, the co-founder of PopJewish.com, is a technology entrepreneur, educator and blogger. He is president of Access Computer Technology in Detroit and a popular speaker on the intersection of technology and Judaism. Follow him on Twitter at @RabbiJason.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah in Yiddish

Ever wonder what the late Leonard Cohen's iconic song "Hallelujah" sounds like in Yiddish?

Klezmer musician Daniel Kahn performs the moving song, which he translated with a little help from his friends. Check it out!

הללויה" פֿון לענאָרד כּהן אויף ייִדיש"

Friday, November 11, 2016

Jewish Former Navy Seal Becomes 1st Jewish Governor of Missouri

Eric Greitens, a former Navy Seal, defeated Chris Koster with 51% of the vote to become Missouri's first Jewish governor. Governor-Elect Greitens was a Navy SEAL in Iraq. According to JTA.org, Greitens won the Bronze Star.

“Tonight, we did more than win an election; we restored power to the people and we took our state back!” Greitens, a Republican, told supporters at a hotel in Chesterfield, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Jewish Governor Missouri Navy Seal Eric-Greitens

Greitens, 42, grew up in the Maryland Heights suburb of St. Louis and attended the town’s Reform synagogue. He attended Duke University, where he become a Rhodes scholar. After earning a degree at the University of Oxford, he joined the Navy SEALS and won seven military awards, including the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He later launched The Mission Continues, a nonprofit that offers veterans volunteer opportunities.

The Post-Dispatch reported that Greitens is likely to make Missouri a “right-to-work” state by decreasing the power of its unions. A key tenet of his campaign was promising to “clean up” corruption and “bad ethics” in Jefferson City, the state’s capital.

Tablet Magazine reported that "in some respects, Greitens is a refreshing counterpoint to some of Tuesday’s Trump-driven discouragement, someone who Americans can be proud to see in elected office. He’s a Rhodes Scholar and Bronze Star recipient with a decorated record of national service and civic engagement. Greitens is the founder of The Mission Continues, a widely respected organization that connects veterans to community service opportunities, partly to provide them with an ongoing source of purpose and motivation as they return to civilian life. The governor-elect is a subtle and original thinker as well." His 2015 book Resilience is structured as a letter to a fellow Navy SEAL struggling with his transition out of the military, and incorporates hundreds of literary, artistic, and philosophical references to trauma and warfare spanning nearly the full breadth of human civilization. As a Free Beacon profile noted, the principals of “The Great Jewish Hope” are “rooted in Seneca and Cato, rather than Buckley or Von Mises.”

But Greitens hasn’t been immune from the less savory aspects of Trump-era American politics. He positioned himself as a “conservative outsider,” repudiating a raft of previous liberal positions and masking the fact that he had been a democrat just a few years earlier—commonalities he shares with president-elect Donald Trump. In August, Greitens infamously aired a commercial in which he did little more than load and fire a machine gun, a blunt and—one would think, unnecessary—pitch coming from someone who had served four tours of duty in Iraq.

On November 7, Trump himself offered his endorsement of Greitens on Twitter. Greitens thanked Trump for his backing, and declared that his democratic opponent, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, was a “crooked career politician just like Hillary Clinton.” The embrace of Trump, who Greitens stuck with even through some of the ugliest controversies of the election, was a politically prudent decision, given that the New York businessman ended up winning Missouri by 19 percentage points. But such a trade-off seems all the more glaring and unseemly in light of the rest of Greitens’ background.

Even so, Greitens now ranks as one of the most intriguing elected officials in the nation—an author, scholar, SEAL, and advocate for veterans who successfully coped with the year’s rising political force, however ugly the results could sometimes be. And he’s only 42. It’s not out of the question that Greitens could eventually add “first Jewish president” to an already impressive resume, especially given the success of a certain other ideologically flexible political newcomer.

Music Legend Leonard Cohen Has Died

From the Jewish Daily Forward:

Rock-poet Leonard Cohen, the “master of erotic despair” and the writer of dozens of modern classics that have been performed and recorded by everyone from John Cale to Judy Collins, Willie Nelson, U2 and Rufus Wainwright, died on November 10 at age 82.

The Montreal-born poet, novelist, and folk-rock singer-songwriter is widely regarded as one of an elite few songwriters whose work transcends all the rest; in the wake of Bob Dylan’s recent Nobel Prize for Literature, Cohen’s name was most frequently mentioned as another perhaps deserving of the prize, along with Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon.

Cohen came to songwriting relatively late. He first made his mark as a poet and novelist in Canada in the early 1960s, with poetry volumes titled “The Spice-Box of Earth,” a reference to the ritual spice-box for the end of the Sabbath, the Havdala besamim, and “Flowers for Hitler,” which in poetry did for Adolf Eichmann what Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem” did in prose — made the Nazi official out to be a pathetic but ultimately banal cog in the wheel of destruction.

Frustrated by his lack of an audience beyond the Canadian literati, however, and inspired by the example of Dylan, Cohen saw a more efficient way to get his work across, and so he picked up his guitar and set his poems to music. One of his very first songs, “Suzanne,” was recorded by Judy Collins and included on an album of songs by Dylan, the Beatles and Randy Newman. In short order, Cohen found himself near the top of the rock-songwriter pecking order.

Leonard Cohen: Ambiguous Hallelujahs
Benjamin IvryFebruary 18, 2009
As I wrote in my essay, “Leonard Cohen’s Mystical Midrash” for Hadassah Magazine (April/May 2015), for the most part, Cohen has been seen, somewhat correctly, as the bard of gloom and doom. His recordings have even been called “music to slit your wrists to.” But there’s something much deeper than depression — from which Cohen suffered throughout his life — buried in his songs. He explores the human predicament, the brokenness or, in an allusion to the Creation story of Lurianic Kabbala, that the mystically inclined Cohen made in “Anthem,” a song on his critically acclaimed 1992 album, “The Future,”

There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Cohen’s priestly name offers merely a hint of his yikhes — on both sides of his family he is descended from rabbinic scholars, and his ancestors were integral to the founding of Montreal’s modern Jewish community. Like Dylan, Cohen grew up at the very center of his town’s Jewish communal life, with a strong Jewish home life that included a grandfather who studied Talmud every day and who, in Cohen’s case, quizzed him on the Book of Isaiah. Those lessons stuck with the budding poet, and the legacy of that youthful education in the Bible and the prophets infused his work, giving it the extra power and gravitas that comes from being immersed in the prophetic.

Cohen told an interviewer in the mid-1980s, “I think that I was touched as a child by the music and the kind of charged speech that I heard in the synagogue, where everything was important. The absence of the casual has always attracted me.” The “absence of the casual” may well be one of the singular characteristics setting Cohen’s work apart from his so-called contemporaries. There was, for example, no teenage petting or casual sex in his songs; there was only coupling of intense longing, amour, or betrayal.

On Top of Mount Zen With Leonard Cohen
Ira NadelNovember 10, 2016
Cohen’s songs drew deeply from the well of Torah for themes, symbols and inspiration — although much of this was likely lost on the majority of listeners. Cohen’s midrash-in-song worked in several ways: It paraphrases a Bible story, such as with “The Story of Isaac,” in which he sings, “You who build these altars now/ To sacrifice these children/ You must not do it anymore.” Or it could be a hymn-like recitation of key biblical lines, for example, “Whither thou goest I will go/ Whither thou lodgest I will lodge/ Thy people shall be, My people” from the song “Whither Thou Goest,” based on the Book of Ruth.

Cohen’s most famous song, “Hallelujah,” begins, “I’ve heard there was a secret chord/ That David played, and it pleased the Lord….” That song has been the subject of a BBC Radio documentary and a full-length book — one wit called it “the ‘White Christmas’ of dark and moody songs.” In some sense, Cohen’s entire career can be seen as a lifelong attempt to find that secret chord about which he sang.

Cohen was a restless seeker of that spiritual chord, and his journey included five years on a California mountaintop Zen retreat, where was ordained as a Buddhist monk. He also is said to have flirted with Scientology. According to the New Yorker, he once said, “Anything, Roman Catholicism, Buddhism, LSD, I’m for anything that works.”

Just a few weeks ago, Cohen released “You Want It Darker,” which in hindsight will undoubtedly be paired with the late David Bowie’s final album, “Blackstar,” which came out just two days before the rock star died last January. Bowie’s recording was a prescient if not planned meditation on imminent death and the afterlife; Cohen’s now seems to have been recorded in the same spirit.

“You Want It Darker” was also Cohen’s most Jewish album, replete with Hebrew lyrics; translated phrases from the Kaddish, the hymn of praise to God that appears throughout Jewish liturgy (most notably in the Mourner’s Kaddish); backup vocals by the all-male choir from the Montreal synagogue of his youth; and a cantor wailing an improvisational prayer, “Hineini” — “Here I am.”

Coming just a couple of days after Donald Trump was elected to be the next president of the United States, Cohen’s death will also inevitably be paired with that event — yet another seemingly prophetic measure on his part — in this case, an almost purposeful farewell, as if to say, “I’ve had enough. I’m outta here.” One that puts a listener in mind of some lyrics to his song, “Everybody Knows”:

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died.
Words spoken — and sung — like a true prophet.

A Song of Love and Memory for Leonard Cohen
Ezra GlinterSeptember 18, 2014
A contributing editor to the Forward, Seth Rogovoy won a 2016 Simon Rockower Award from the American Jewish Press Association for his article “Leonard Cohen’s Mystical Midrash,” published in the April/May 2015 issue of Hadassah Magazine, parts of which are repurposed above.'

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner at Grave of Chabad Rabbi

Donald Trump's Jewish daughter, Ivanka Trump, along with her husband Jared Kushner, visited the grave of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, reportedly to pray for help for her father in this past Tuesday’s general election.

After the end of Shabbat they went to visit the grave, reported Allison Kaplan Sommer in Haaretz. The Ohel, as it is known, is regarded by the Chabad sect as a holy site where praying at the graveside of the former leader can help supplicants.

Yeshiva World News speculated that a security scare in Nevada where reactions to a man carrying a “Republicans Against Trump” banner caused a Secret Service scare.