Hanukah Hookup Caption Contest

Just because its Hanukah, it don’t mean we can’t have a bit of good natured fun. Give us your best caption for this picture of… we’re not sure what… Editorial Board will award the author of the funniest caption a CD, the height of music technology.

TBT: Blogging the Homer DOH!

Rabbi, I forgot what day of          the omer it isWaaaay back in 2003, Mobius posted about Counting the Homer, a Simpsons Omer counter. To see the brief post in its original formal, click here.  Good find Mobius… It was, and remains, a popular counter, but no matter which of those links you click, you may be disappointed. The original JVibe host has since gone belly up.  And so if you’d like to keep up with the count, click here.

For those counting, last night was a Baker’s Dozen and two Donuts, 15 Donuts of the Homer (add one for tonight’s number).  In addition to the proper Sefira bracha, you might also need to say a mezonos. Apparently you can also follow the Homer on twitter.


Deserving of a Chumra

Normally I wouldn’t step up to diss, ‘cuz all the haters and commentators will be quick to hiss-

But when these cheder dropouts came on the scene, I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or clutch my spleen.

The rhymes were ill, real sick- as in “the mind,” stereotypical sexism we should leave behind.

Not to mention the appropriation of a form most crude, and getting rap backwards, using thought for food.

Do we need to mock ourselves in these ridiculous ways? Does this help bring Moshiach, may it come soon, in our days?

Its little better than the minstrelsy of Two Live Jews and shouldn’t be surprising when it draws out boo’s.

Maybe I’ve lost my humor. Maybe I’ve lost my mind. Or perhaps I don’t appreciate hip hop of this kind.

TBT Pesach: Of Matzah and Marathons

In keeping with #ThrowbackThursday, we’re stepping into the Jewschool time machine to six years ago.  Given that this year, Pesach coincided with the First Anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing, I thought it appropriate to take a peak at BZ’s 2008 post about Matzah and Marathons, specifically preparations for the Boston Marathon. He was also interested about its relationship to 1 vs. 2 day yom tov observance.  A fun re-read, and a bit more uplifting than the more recent Boston Marathon coverage…

passOVER! Time for Matzobrau…

Each year before Passover, we search for and either destroy, sell ro donate our chametz. Bedikas Chametz we call it.  I often wondered why, after over a week of wading through and wearing matzah crumbs, we didn’t have a similar ritual for ridding ourselves of matzah. After this many centuries and all the kvetching, you’d think someone would have come up with a creative way to recycle remnant lachma anya.

Last spring, I learned of some clever folks who did; Portland’s Ambacht Brewery. They’ve created MatzoBrau, a beer made from leftover Matzo.  Yes, you read that right. No, not Kosher l’Pesach.

The season ale is produced directly following Passover, when leftover Matzo is collected at nearby Synagogues, who then get a keg of the brew in exchange. The Matzo is used as a primary grain component in the mash itself, not just as a flavor additive. So this is not a gimmick, this is adaptive reuse at its best and most refreshing!

I’ve yet to taste it and I understand that the batch sells out wicked quick, as Ambacht is a small craft house with a growing fanbase. I’ve made it my personal minhag to have a beer directly following Pesach. Beer was something the Egyptians invented and probably fed to their workers to sustain them cheaply and efficiently.

Knowing them, they probably denied it to our ancestors as slaves, who lively would have liked a cold frosty after a hard day toiling. In remembrance of their servitude, we refrain from beer for 8 days… or something like that… but after Passover, its time to have one.

A Matzobrau would be a great way to cap Pesach.  Or to count the Omer! Now if I could just get my hands on some in Chicago… I can’t wait.

Filed under Food, Passover


Say Kaddish for Bernie Madoff

I recall chatting with one of my favorite singer-songwriters, composer, musician and poet Alicia Jo Rabins in a Mexican joint in Chicago after a Golem show a few years back, right after the big market crash. I asked what else she was working on, and she started talking about a project revolving around Bernie Madoff. I (and I’m sure many others) suggested she apply to the 6 Points Fellowship, which happily saw the merit in her and her work.  The resulting project has finally reached its debut moment. Rabins’  new full-length song cycle, A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff, at Joe’s Pub in New York City on Thursday, November 8th and again on the 15th. Details after the jump. More »

Wake the f**k up!

In August, Jewish Council for Education and Research approached author Adam Mansbach (End of the Jews) with an idea for a pro-Obama spoof of his profane book for new parents, Go the f**k to sleep, the video of which had been later narrated by Samuel L. Jackson for audible inc.  It was quite the hit with those whose children would not hit the sack.

The Jewish Council for Education and Research was previously responsible for Sarah Silverman’s “The Great Schlep” and “Scissor Sheldon” videos (did you think she did that all herself?). Rather than give his permission, Mansbach offered to write it himself and as the project developed, reunited with Samuel “Snakes on a Plane” Jackson to narrate and star in the project.  

The result is Wake the f**k up, a new video reminding us to vote (for  Obama) that is getting a lot of attention and play on the youtubes.

I don’t personally feel it any great accomplishment of craft or cleverness, but is noteworthy in that JCER is now officially a Super PAC, has  funding from George Soros and is using its funding to offer campaigns rooted in Jewish culture as a counterpoint to the Adelson cash flooding the election. Its also noteworthy in that it is circulating virally (voluntarily) rather than mass-cast on the airwaves.  Its not Ezekial 25:17, but it has about the same amount of profanity (you have been warned) and is just as entertaining.Watch it here.

Asher Lopatin to head Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Rabbi Asher Loptatin, current spiritual leader of the modern Orthodox Congregation Anshe Sholom Bnai Israel in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, will assume leadership of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in Riverdale NY beginning in June 2013.  Yeshivat Chovevei Torah was founded in 2004 as a liberal Orthodox alternative Rabbinic training school to Yeshiva University’s RIETS by Rabbis Avi Weiss (Riverdale Hebrew Institute), champion of the notion of “Open Orthodoxy.”

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Make Tshuvah Early! Prepent with Storahtelling

Elul is a busy month for Storahtelling founder Amichai Lau Lavie. He’s returning from Israel, is knee deep in studies, and on Sunday he began his 3rd annual 40 day blog leading up to the High Holidays, Prepent!  It should be a good read.

This comes on the heels of an announcement from the decade-old Torah ritual theatre company that it is  restructuring and that Lavie alsos assume the Interim Executive Director role following Executive Director Isaac Shalev’s  departure after just 18 months.

“This transition comes at a time of important growth and transition for Storahtelling. Isaac, the Board and the Executive committee have all agreed that the best interests of the organization are to scale back, spend time rethinking our capacities, programs, operation and scope of mission and vision rather than continuing in the same model.”

Programs will continue and  High Holidays services will happen, but how the organization will  survive long term? Like other darlings of the emergent Jewish sector, the organization has faced difficulties during the economic downturn.

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You can farm if you want to

Love to farm? Get your hands dirty? Make things grow, or work with organizations that do?

A slew of  opportunities  from our friends in the Jewish farming and ecology world….

1.  TEVA Learning Alliance seeks an Educator at Isabella Freedman Center, Fairs Village, CT.

2. Adamah is looking for interns for their Jewish Urban Farming Fellowship in Berkeley, CA.

3. Wilderness Torah seeks a Festival Coordinator in Berkeley, CA.

4. Teva is also looking for a Program Coordinator!

Want to learn more about these positions? Click here!

Lollapolooza to hit Tel Aviv לולהפלוזה

On the heels of its flagship Chicago event, Lollapolooza Festival has announced it will expand to the streets of Tel Aviv next year as reported by Timeout ChicagoRolling Stone, the Wall Street Journal and Haaretz.  According to founder Perry Ferrell,  best known for fronting Jane’s Addiction and Porno for Pyros, it will take place August 20-22 2013.

Asked whether Tel Aviv had any “personal significance” to him as a choice of venue for Lollapalooza, Ferrell gazed as he struggled to give a non-committal response, “Let’s just say that I think that it’s a place that needs good music. It deserves it, it demands it, and so it shall be.”  Elsewhere he has cited Tel Aviv’s geography, lack of an international festival or a curfew… Very nice, but is that all?

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Eicha for North Lawndale

Many people with Chicago roots had a grandparent who attended this shul. Today it is a shambles, and following a public fight to save it this spring, the once magnificent synagogue where Martin Luther King Jr. later made a famous speech has been be torn down for good, another scar on the face of North Lawndale. Nobody cares, nobody can change it, we can only mourn it and the tragic history of the neighborhood that once was home to 175,000 Jews within a square mile on the west side of the city. And so, an eicha for North Lawndale and the Russische Shul, Anche Kenesses Israel:

Eicha for North Lawndale

The Russiche Shul looms large on Douglas, decades since it changed to a church.
The now falling ceiling covered three thousand souls who traversed the world to pray freely,
and those who once gathered to hear Reverend Dr. King preach on justice and and equality.
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Ms. Holocaust Survivor Crowned

“There she is… Ms. Holocaust Surviv- whoa.” The very sound of the phrase “Ms. Holocaust Survivor” grates the ears and sounds like part of some Sarah Silverman sketch. My own feelings about pageants is that they are ridiculous, sexist and generally degrade the participants. Still, this is one I might actually attend and that it had the opposite effect. The New York Times covers as does AP.  79 year old Hava Heskowitz won.

Hosted by Helping Hand, which aids survivors in Israel, the event drew hundreds of participants, a couple MK’s, a fair amount of criticism and a lot of press attention.  Given what we know about survivors, and what we in our worst nightmares can’t even begin to imagine about their experiences, it would seem that a “Ms. Holocaust Survivor” Pageant would be the ultimate in bad taste, the punchline to a gallows humor joke.

In spite of this, there is something sweet about the story of “Ms. Holocaust Survivor” that carries a redeeming quality, the championing of the human spirit over evil.  It seems to have been a celebration of these women in their 70′s and 80′s, and a positive one at that. No blazing lights and cameras broadcasting the affair, no lurid swimsuit segment, no Little Miss Sunshine moments.

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Babka vs. Baklava Battle of the Bands

 THIS looks awesome.  Finally, an event that appeals to Jews who speak Ladino, Jews who speak Yiddish and Jews who speak neither.  Its inclusive of all, and even caters to, literally, the kosher set with delicious dainties from the kitchen of Leah Koenig.

Yes, whether you like baklava or babka, this 1st Non-Annual Festival of Pan-Judeo Music and Pastries has something for you.  It features the three major streams of Jewish culture and geography-  the Mediterranean Sephardi, the Eastern European Ashkenazi and the ubiquitous New York Indie.

The Sephardic rock of Delon and the power pop of Yiddish Princess will be paired with pastries from those respective traditions by acclaimed food writer Leah Koenig. In a city rich with festivals, this is the one you can’t afford to miss.

Tickets are only $8 so get yours early.

Union Hall
702 Union St, Brooklyn, NY 11215
View Map · Get Directions

Sweet Jewish Genius

I’m a secret fan of Food Network’s Chopped, and recently between episodes discovered a weird sister show focused on dessert called Sweet Genius.  Its eponymous, singular judge and host is a weird and kooky cross between Willy Wonka and Dr. Evil.  Get it- Evil Genius, Sweet Genius?  Yeah well the show is filled with the same odd humor… Its pretty ridiculous, but I admit its better than watching Cupcake Boss, whose name doesn’t even have a pun… The show has its fans and deriders, but mostly I think it has addicts to its quirkiness.

There was always something odd about the Sweet Genius himself. His flamboyant style hinted at his being gay, but unless you knew his name is Ron Ben Israel, his Austrian accent never would have outed him as a Tel Aviv born-Jew.  Of course, his Viennese mother might have something to do with that, as well as giving him knowledge of delicate European style confections, which appeared in Martha Stewart, Vogue and many food pron books before the New York Times named him “the Manolo Blahnik of cakes.

New Yorkers and foodies may be more familiar with Ron Ben Israel, but for those less in the know, JTA profiles the Sweet Genius star:

In 1999 he opened Ron Ben-Israel Cakes in New York’s SoHo neighborhood with one oven and one mixer. As people fled downtown New York after the 9/11 tragedy, he was able to capitalize on lower rents and expand his operation.

Coming from a secular Israeli upbringing, Ben-Israel wasn’t ideologically interested in making his shop kosher, but for a caterer for some of New York City’s biggest hotels, it was a prudent business decision.

He chose OK Laboratories, the Chabad-affiliated kashrut organization headquartered in Brooklyn, which now certifies his shop’s pareve cakes.

After serving in the IDF in the 70′s , he studied dance and pursued a Ballet career that eventually brought him to NYC, where while working odd jobs to make rent he discovered baking.

Sounds like a sweet story. Only a sweet genius could have cooked it up. Check out the full profile here.

Noa-body puts Noa in a corner

In addition to her own distinguished career, Achinoam Nini (aka Noa) has a history of working on behalf of peace and reconciliation. Notably, she has partnered with Israeli-Arab singer Mira Awad, a Christian and resident of Haifa, on a concert tour and as the country’s entrants 2009 entrants into the Eurovision contest.  This  creative collaboration brought them wide attention around the world, mostly of the positive sort.

On Yom Hazikaron, the acclaimed international Israeli musical artist performed for a gathering of Combatants for Peace, an organization of former fighters and their families on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  This recent performance brought on attention of a much uglier, vile sort from extremist corners in Israeli and North American Jewish corners.

Calling her “Garbage” and “Rat” and far worse.  They’ve taken to facebook calling for a boycott of Noa’s performances, and Noa has responded.

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The future of New Jew Culture

Speakers' Lab

Jewschool founder Mobius aka Dan Sieradski is part of the panel at this very interesting event at the 14th Street Y on “The Future of  Jewish Culture.”  A full press kit is here.  A quick look at the panel shows it covers not only various sectors but geographies and aims to address a significant amount of ground in an evening:

“After a decade of flourishing Jewish creativity, major Jewish cultural enterprises are being forced to scale
back operations or close entirely. Using recent funding cuts as a springboard to examine the most pressing
issues facing new Jewish arts and culture, “Now What?” addresses:

  • New perspectives on American Jewish identity
  • Waning support for quality Jewish art and culture
  • Strategies for cultivating Jewish art and culture in the future”

May 15, 2012  7pm,  14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street (between 1st and 2nd Ave.), New York, NY 10003

If you’re in the area and are interested, sign up here.  Naturally, this is a subject that deserves and requires significantly more time than a single evening. The need to advocate for, plan and implement a national Jewish Cultural Policy could be the  focus of a week long conference with representatives from major communal institutions and umbrella organizations, local presenting arms and various elements from artists and performers to independent organizations.   It could also be a great panel to recreate at the General Assembly because the message points need to be heard by people who hold the purse strings and those who put the money in that purse

Michael Dorf has attempted similar efforts at International Jewish Presenters Association Schmooze conferences which tried to create a Jewish SXSW on the heels of the annual APAP Conference.  FJC did a bit of planning and even implementation with its New Jewish Culture Network.  All of these have been significant achievements but none go far enough.  We need buy-in from establishment organizations and entities, these efforts fall short.

As someone who runs a Jewish cultural initiative, I’m very interested in this and am excited that its taking place.  I’d be interested to know who’s attending and if any funders or folks from the institutional community will be within earshot.  And of course, as a non-New Yorker, I’m glad to see there’s three other regional centers represented on the panel.

Cultural folks- what are your thoughts?

Baruch Dayan MCA

Half Jewish Beastie Boy Adam Nathaniel Yauch (aka MCA, aka Nathaniel Hornblower) has passed away after a three year battle with cancer. He was 47. He was a practicing Bhuddist and active in many Tibetan causes. His passing comes a moth after the seminal hip hop act was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Share your Beastie Boys thoughts in the comments.