Seder Sidekick

The guys at Bangitout.com (Seth and Isaac Galena) have published a Passover Seder Sidekick. It is 46 pages, contains many song parodies, and is available online at the Bangitout website.

One of my favorite Passover related videos on YouTube is an instructional video in Japanese teaching how to cut a matzah perfectly in half. Check it out:

Of course, there’s also the creative JibJab “Matzah” video created by Smooth-E (Eric Schwartz). And I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend the cute video of Rabbi Paul Freedman and his wife Nina rapping from their Jerusalem apartment about Passover to the tune of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin ‘n Juice”.

Wishing everyone a chag sameach – a joyous Passover holiday!

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Top Rabbis & Ketuba Witnesses

Newsweek’s second annual ranking of the top rabbis in the country has been posted to the Newsweek website. This year, the list is called “Top fifty influential rabbis in America” and the creators (media execs Michael Lynton, Gary Ginsberg, and Jay Sanderson) explain their point system (20 points for being “known,” 10 points for communal leadership, and so on). They also have created a second listing of the top pulpit (congregational) rabbis in the country.

I was thrilled to see my extremely talented classmate, Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum, make that list. She is the founder and rabbi of Kavana in Seattle. It is also wonderful to see that my colleague, Rabbi Sharon Brous, made both lists. She is the founding rabbi of Ikar in Los Angeles.

Of course, Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in LA was ranked the #1 pulpit rabbi in the country and deservingly so. Rabbi Jack Moline, a Conservative rabbi in Alexandria, Virginia, was listed at #3. I’ve always admired Jack and am happy that he was recognized by being ranked so high on the list. I first met Jack in 1999 when I spoke at his congregation, Agudas Achim, for a Seminary Shabbat.

I recall a funny story Jack Moline told me about his first experience meeting President Bill Clinton. Jack visited the White House weekly to study Torah with his friend and congregant Rahm Emanuel (left), the Illinois Congressman. Emanuel, then senior advisor to President Clinton, had an office in the West Wing. Jack always went to the White House with Kosher corned beef sandwiches for Emanuel and him to enjoy. He was also always prepared to stand at a moment’s notice and greet the President with the traditional Jewish blessing one says upon meeting a head of state. One day during a Moline-Emanuel chavruta session, the President walked into Rahm Emanuel’s office to chat about a basketball game when Jack jumped up with a mouth full of corned beef trying to utter the blessing.

That story came to mind the other day when I read an article about Rep. Rahm Emanuel in Newsweek magazine. The article theorized that Emanuel (“Rahmbo”) might be the most likely Democratic Party leader to be the one to encourage Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race should Barack Obama continue to be the front runner. Why Emanuel? Because, the article explains, he is close to the Clintons from his years campaining for them and serving in the Clinton White House. And he is close to the Obama campaign as well based on his long standing friendship with Obama’s campaign strategist, David Axelrod.

How close is Emanuel with Axelrod? “So close,” Newsweek states, “that Axelrod signed the ketuba, a Jewish marriage contract, at Emanuel’s wedding, an honor that usually goes to a best friend.”

So there you have it: Newsweek magazine… ranking rabbis and outing politicos as ketuba witnesses!
(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Kippah Krazy

Lisa Flam, an Associated Press Writer, has brought fashionable kippah wearing to the fore with her recent article “Yarmulkes for the Fashionable Faithful”.

In an article that could appear in a fashion magazine as much as it could in a religious publication, Flam explains that more stylish and offbeat options abound in addition to your grandfather’s black satin yarmulke.

The yarmulke as it’s known in Yiddish, or kippa in Hebrew, is a headcovering “worn as a sign of respect to remind one always that God’s presence is over us and as a sign of respect whenever we say a blessing,” says Rabbi Joel Meyers, a leader of the Rabbinical Assembly, which represents rabbis in the Conservative Jewish movement.

While the skullcap is among the most recognizable Jewish symbols, it is not sacred, which makes it acceptable to adorn it with sports logos or TV characters, says Meyers, who usually wears a knitted yarmulke.

“The important thing is the wearing of the kippa, not what’s on the kippa,” Meyers said, recalling one given to him with a propeller he thinks signifies “spiritual uplift.”


Proving that there has been a move to more stylish Jewish headcoverings, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain last week sported a knit kippah at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem. Compared to President Bush’s choice of skullcaps, McCain’s choice seems more modern and stylish. Perhaps that is attibutable to his loyal advisor and supporter (and Vice Presidential hopeful?) Senator Joe Lieberman.

I have always enjoyed seeing celebrities don a yarmulke (especially non-Jewish celebrities like athletes and politicians). The first yarmulke I ever gave to a celebrity was in 1999 on the set of his movie “Little Nicky” when I presented Adam Sandler with a blue suede kippah with the Jewish Theological Seminary logo printed on it.

I know I’m not the only one who enjoys seeing celebrities wearing yarmulkes, since, on their BangItOut website, brothers Seth and Isaac Galena have created an entire category of photographs called “Celebrity Kippah”.

The AP article described kippot featuring Dora the Explorer, the Miami Heat logo, and guitars. It also reported about a Jewish man who “has a blue seersucker yarmulke to match a blazer he likes to wear to Friday services.” Of course, no matter how fun and creative yarmulkes get, there will always be those who prefer the “retro kippah” from a bygone era.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller