Bar Mitzvah Reflections for Drake on SNL

Yesterday morning in synagogues throughout the world the Jewish people read the portion of the Torah called Yitro. Named for the Medianite priest who became father-in-law to Moses, Yitro (or Jethro) was also a trusted adviser to the Israelite leader. While it doesn’t mention this in the Torah, it is possible that Yitro had black skin which likely meant that Moses was married to a Black woman thereby making them the first bi-racial marriage in the Torah. Today, the most famous rapper with bi-racial Jewish-Black heritage is Drake, who has a White Jewish mother and a Black father.

Last night Drake hosted the year’s first Saturday Night Live show and Jewish and Black stereotypes were getting tossed a mile a minute during his opening monologue. 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.

Drake hosting Saturday Night Live - SNL on NBC

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What Are the Best Hanukkah Videos of 2013?

Well it’s time for Hanukkah 2013 and we still haven’t come up with a consensus opinion on how to spell Hanukkah — is it Hanukkah, Chanukah, Hanukah, Chanukkah or Janukah? This year we’ve seem to have discovered an even bigger spelling problem as we’ve added Thanksgivukkah into the mix. Some are into this mash up of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah while others are ready to be done with all the buzz. Comedian Judy Gold, with whom I appeared on the Thanksgivukkah episode of HuffPost Live yesterday, tweeted her feelings on Thanksgivukkah: “‏@JewdyGold – The term ‘Thanksgivukkah’ is getting on my nervukkahs. #annoying.” Well, I guess you can’t please everyone!Here is this year’s installment of the best Hanukkah videos. Enjoy!

Benji Lovitt’s “Thanksgivukkah Pie”

Oil – Main Line Reform Temple

Maoz Tzur by Science Students at Technion University in Israel

One Direction Parody: Jew Direction’s “Chanukkah Makes You Jewtiful”

The 1st Hanukkah Thanksgiving by the Shepard Hill Elementary Players on Jimmy Kimmel Live

The Thanksgivukkah Song

Thanksgivukkah: The Movie (Trailer) by Yisrael Campbell

Julie Geller’s “I Believe in Miracles” Song

Maccabeats – “Burn”

Hanukkah Song – Adele Parody by Ash Soular
Technically, this is from Hanukkah 2012 but I missed it in last year’s list

Matthew Rissien’s “The Dreidel Song: Hanukkah Rap”

Duck Dynasty’s Hanukkah Album” on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Best Hanukkah Videos of 2012 – http://blog.rabbijason.com/2012/12/best-hanukkah-videos-of-2012.html

Best Hanukkah Videos of 2011 – http://blog.rabbijason.com/2011/12/best-hanukkah-videos-for-2011.html

Best Hanukkah Videos of 2010 – http://blog.rabbijason.com/2010/12/best-hanukkah-videos-for-2010.html

Thanksgivukkah Prayer 2013 for Thanksgiving and Hanukkah

The buzz surrounding the anomaly on the Jewish calendar this year when the first day of Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving is an oddity. As I told Sue Selasky of the Detroit Free Press when she interviewed me about Thanksgivukkah, I explained that the hype surrounding this day is palpable. It is truly a statistical oddity as it won’t coincide again until 75,000 years from now, according to Santa Fe, New Mexico physicist Jonathan Mizrahi’s calculations.

The last time the first full day of Hanukkah fell on Thanksgiving was in 1888, just weeks after the presidential election that pitted Grover Cleveland of New York, the incumbent president and a Democrat, against the Republican nominee Benjamin Harrison. As I explained to Sue during her research for the article in the Free Press, since Hanukkah is an eight day celebration, there have been years since when some nights have overlapped with Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving and Hanukkah won’t coincide again until 2070 and then again in 2165 when the first night of Hanukkah will fall on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgivukkah Sweet Potato Latke at Southern Nosh Vegetarian Soul (gluten free), which is a restaurant in Metro Detroit that is certified kosher by Kosher Michigan. More information and the recipe is on the Kosher Michigan website

Paul Raushenbush, the editor of Huffington Post Religion and an ordained American Baptist minister who happens to be the great-grandson of Louis Brandeis, asked me to write a prayer for Thanksgivukkah. The following is what I wrote for Huffington Post Religion:

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Pew Study and JDate’s Effect on Intermarriage

While many Jewish leaders have been bemoaning the results of the 200-plus page report from the Pew Research Center about the current state of Jewish Americans, I have been trying to extract some positive from the numbers. Of course, like any study, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Anecdotal information is a much better guide to measure the health of the Jewish community.Just looking at the numbers and the graphs of the recently released Pew Research study as it relates to intermarriage is alarming. However, the statistics really aren’t too surprising when put in the context of the ever-changing community in which we live. What is noteworthy, however, is that on the intermarriage grid within the study from 1999 going forward, the intermarriage rate actually tapered off. Iit’s interesting how that’s right around the time when JDate.com really caught on among Jewish singles.

Jdate and Pew Study

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Detroit Tigers Hire Brad Ausmus, a Jewish Manager

I’m a big Detroit Tigers fan and have always been interested in Jewish baseball players in the Major Leagues. Therefore, the soon-to-be made announcement that the Detroit Tigers will hire Brad Ausmus to be their next manager is exciting news. Ausmus, who is Jewish and once played for the Detroit Tigers, is currently the manager for Israel’s World Baseball Classic team.
Brad Ausmus played for the Detroit Tigers in 1996 and 1999-2000.

The hiring of Brad Ausmus marks the first time the Detroit Tigers will have a Jewish manager*. As soon as Jim Leyland made his resignation public last month, Brad Ausmus’ name immediately was mentioned on the short list of potential replacements for Leyland, who took the Tigers to the World Series twice during his eight years with the team. Last year, Ausmus interviewed with the Red Sox for their manager position and turned down an opportunity to interview with the Astros for their manager position.

Brad Ausmus wearing a yarmulke and tefillin at the Kotel in Jerusalem while manager of Israel’s World Baseball Classic team.

Ausmus spent 18 seasons in Major League Baseball as a catcher for the Padres, Tigers, Astros and Dodgers. He won the Gold Glove Award three times and made the All Star team in 1999. In 2007 Ausmus won the Darryl Kile Award “for integrity and courage.” Ausmus was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. Now that he’ll be back in Detroit, I will be certain to bring up his name as a candidate for the Michigan Jewish Sports Foundation’s Hall of Fame, of which I’m a voting member.

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Case of Mistaken Identity for Good

In the past decade Google’s email application Gmail has grown in popularity. With around half a billion active Gmail email accounts, it has become the free email provider of choice for most people. However, with such a popular email application like Gmail, one of the inherent problems is that of mistaken identity. That is, it is very easy to send an email to the wrong person and that can often have interesting results.

Such was the case recently with an invitation for a retreat for Jewish leaders. In 2005 Gary Rosenblatt, the editor and publisher of The Jewish Week, created an annual conference called The Conversation. Each year Gary invites some 50 participants (a cross-section of artists, rabbis, entrepreneurs, educators, philanthropists, activists and communal leaders) who converge on the Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center outside of Baltimore, to discuss the issues of day in an Open Space forum.

Rabbi David Ingber of Romemu

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Detroit Philanthropist Joel Tauber Inspired At Techonomy Detroit

I attended Techonomy Detroit again this year and my interview with Joel Tauber, one of the speakers at the conference, was published in this week’s Detroit Jewish News:‘TECHONOMY’ CONFAB INSPIRES JOEL TAUBER

The recent Techonomy conference on the campus of Wayne State University was not much different than last year’s event, the first of its kind here in the Motor City. Tech leaders and business icons from around the country converged on Detroit for a series of conversations and workshops discussing how technology and innovation can boost American economic growth, job creation and urban revival.

This year’s conference emphasized the national challenge of inadequate and inequitable education. Speakers discussed the role of entrepreneurs and industry, as well as how technology can be creatively applied to help revive America’s physical and social urban infrastructure, to reignite competitiveness and economic growth.

The majority of the speakers were under age 45 and so it is noteworthy that one of the Detroit Jewish community’s major philanthropists and a world-renowned business leader was one of the panelists. Among the prominent speakers at Techonomy, such as Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson, Quicken CEO Dan Gilbert and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (@onetoughnerd), was Joel Tauber.

Courtesy of Techonomy – (photo by Asa Mathat)

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Jewtopia the Movie: My Kvetch

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Right off the bat I feel the need for a disclosure: I’m not a movie reviewer. I took a film class in college, but that doesn’t count. I also love watching movies, but that doesn’t make me a credible reviewer.

I do have a lot of respect for professional film critics because it’s not an easy job. I recall being on jury duty in NYC about a dozen years ago and the film critic Jeffrey Lyons was in my group of potential jurors. It was right before the Oscars and we had a few hours to kill while we waited (before eventually being dismissed from a trial), so I had the opportunity to ask his opinion about some of the films up for Best Picture of the Year. I was amazed at how knowledgeable he was about each movie. Personally, I have a hard time remembering anything about a movie after I see it, let alone the names of the actors in the movie.

Now that I got that disclosure out of the way I feel much better. You see, after publishing <a href=”http://www.popjewish.com/2013/09/jewtopia-movie-seriously.html” target=”_blank”>a little blurb on my PopJewish.com blog about the Jewtopia movie</a> that opened this past weekend I was asked by the film’s public relations guy if I’d be interested in screening the movie and reviewing it. So I said sure. Which was a mistake. Because it was right before Yom Kippur and I was busy with a million things including writing sermons for said holiday and really didn’t have time to watch an hour-and-a-half movie. So after Yom Kippur was already a memory and the first couple days of Sukkot had passed I finally got around to screening it.

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<tr><td style=”text-align: center;”><a href=”http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-PH1heAju-es/UkD83dYls3I/AAAAAAAAJ8Y/2NpxjoOIqio/s1600/jewtopia_movie.jpg” imageanchor=”1″ style=”margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;”><img border=”0″ src=”http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-PH1heAju-es/UkD83dYls3I/AAAAAAAAJ8Y/2NpxjoOIqio/s400/jewtopia_movie.jpg” height=”247″ width=”400″ /></a></td></tr>
<tr><td class=”tr-caption” style=”text-align: center;”>Jewtopia</td></tr>
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<!–more–>I can probably sum up this movie in one Yiddish word: OY! It was horrible. I sort of feel bad saying that because I don’t think this movie will get a single positive review. It was that awful. While I enjoyed seeing Jewtopia off Broadway in NYC several years ago and found the non-stop Jewish satire to be pretty funny, the movie version was just… well… different. Despite a cast of well-known actors like Jamie Lynn Sigler, Jon Lovitz, Rita Wilson and Jennifer Love Hewitt, the movie is a broken record of Jewish stereotypes. It was insufferable.

A cross between the Naked Gun movies and the <a href=”http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0317640/” target=”_blank”>Hebrew Hammer</a>, this is a raunchy (unnecessarily so) story about a <i>nebbish </i>Jewish guy (Joel David Moore) who doesn’t want to marry his Jewish fiance (Jamie Lynn Sigler) and a very non-Jewish guy (Ivan Sergei) who only wants to get married to a Jewish girl even if that means undergoing a circumcision surgery (it’s only a procedure when its done on a baby!). The two childhood friends have to help each other in their pursuits of “the Other”.

Somehow on a stage Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson managed to deliver this pseudo-offensive stereotype laden humor in a fun, feel-good sort of way. The movie version fails. And fails badly. The caricature of the rabbi would be funny enough without resorting to toilet humor. Jews are picky when it comes to ordering in restaurants — okay, we chuckled at that joke the first time around but by the dozenth it was more than enough. The bridge tournament, vaginal rejuvenation surgery and multiple hunting trips with the gentiles was just filler in a movie that had me looking at my watch more than once to see when the painful experience would end.

The bottom line is that Fogel and Wolfson should have counted their lucky stars that their Jewtopia stage version and book by the same name were so successful. And then they should have stopped right there. This was just a mess. Oy!</div>

When Old Technology is What We Need

It’s unusual for me to write about old technology. In the tech field what’s new is what’s interesting and newsworthy. Yesterday’s technology quickly becomes obsolete.

Yet sometimes, old technology can be more interesting than the latest gadget or about-to-be-released mobile app. As is the case with Judaism, we can embrace change and still revere the Tradition. Perhaps as a way to pay homage to the technology innovations of yesteryear and to feel nostalgic I keep a collection of old tech gadgets on display in my office. Hanging on the wall in glass cases are a panoply of laptop computers, personal digital assistants and mobile phones from a much slower and much bulkier time. On the wall in the conference room hang several enlarged framed magazine advertisements for computers from the 1970s and early 1980s.

My grandmother, Adele Gudes, shows the old record album with birthday greetings from her childhood

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Jon Stewart and Other Activist Jews in the Egyptian Uprising

As we Americans celebrated our nation’s 237th year of independence and freedom yesterday on the 4th of July, we also kept a close eye on the precarious situation in Egypt. As the final hours of Mohammed Morsi’s presidency wound down, we continued to monitor the volatile situation there, constantly thinking of how the tense events in Egypt would affect Israel, its close neighbor to the North.Although many were concerned that the Egypt-Israel peace treaty would be broken under Morsi’s regime, that didn’t happen. However, now that the military is in charge of the country the peace treaty seems at risk and there could be a lapse in the protection of the Sinai from terror cells.

Unfortunately, I think we’ll have to wait a while longer to get a good sense of how the Egyptian uprising and protests will affect Israel and her relations with neighboring Egypt. One interesting story that I’ve been following during the continued unrest in Egypt has been the role of Jewish people in the situation.

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