Jewish Celeb Harold Ramis on Groundhog Day’s Torah Metaphor

Sadly, Harold Ramis passed away yesterday at the early age of 69. Famous for so many great movies including Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Animal House, Analyze This, National Lampoon’s Vacation and Stripes. Ramis also acted and appeared in such films as Knocked Up, As Good As It Gets, Airheads and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (where he played L’chaim).
Harold Ramis - Groundhog Day and the Torah

Not a religious Jew, Harold Ramis did don a tallit and gave a terrific sermon on Rosh Hashanah at Aitz Hayim Center for Jewish Living a few years ago. Here are the videos of that presentation about Jewish creativity:



For many, Harold Ramis’ finest writing contribution was the 1993 classic Groundhog Day. In a talk at the Hudson Union Society in 2009, Ramis explained some of the allure behind Groundhog Day. While Zen Buddhists find it to be very Buddhist, Christians see the Christian metaphors in the film. The psychiatric community told Ramis that they thought the movie was a metaphor for psychoanalysis. At the 2:39 mark of this talk, Harold Ramis shares how there is a connection between Groundhog Day and the Torah. As a Jew, Ramis explains that Jews respond to the movie so well because the Torah is read anew every year and yet we see the same story with different meanings.

Death Obituary Philanthropy

Edgar M. Bronfman Sr. – Remembering a Jewish Philanthropist

I awoke in the middle of the night last night unable to sleep. It was a little before 4:00 AM. I know what time it was because I looked on my phone since the power was out from the winter storm. Shockingly, I noticed from a few email messages, tweets and Facebook postings that the world lost a giant in the field of Jewish philanthropy.

I only had the opportunity to meet Edgar Bronfman, Sr. twice and both were for only fleeting moments. At a Hillel staff conference in New Jersey he seemed to enjoy walking the hotel shmoozing with Hillel staffers and thanking us for our work on campus. It was he who should have been thanked. In the middle of the night I read his very lengthy obituary in the New York Times. As long as this tribute was it still failed to mention so many of the causes he championed and the philanthropic efforts he backed with his family’s fortune.

In October at The Conversation, Gary Rosenblatt’s annual convening of Jewish leaders at the Pearlstone Retreat Center in Maryland, I ate lunch with Dana Raucher, the executive director of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation. I listened to Dana share her fondness for Edgar Bronfman, Sr. and articulate how genuine and authentic is his love for the Jewish people and the many causes he supports through his foundation. Upon his passing at his home yesterday on Shabbat, Dana publicly shared the following about her boss:

“Edgar was deeply committed to making Judaism relevant to all those who were seeking it. He sought to build a big tent, open for vigorous debate, impassioned questioning, and full of joy. He loved the energy and exuberance of young people, and took them quite seriously because he recognized that they would be the ones shaping their own Jewish future.”

Death Detroit Obituary

Dr. Abraham Nemeth – Inventor and Mathematician

One of the highlights of attending Shabbat services at Adat Shalom Synagogue since I was a young child has been talking with Dr. Abe Nemeth. Dr. Nemeth, who passed away yesterday at 94, was a brilliant mathematician and inventor.

Dr. Nemeth was blind since birth, but he invented many technological devices to make his life easier. I recall a Friday night get together at Rabbi Efry Spectre’s home during high school when Dr. Nemeth was the guest speaker. He showed the 20 or so teens in the room how he developed a wrist watch that would tell him the time just by touching it. He also showed us the Braille siddur (prayerbook) that he uses.

Dr. Abraham Nemeth

Dr. Nemeth taught math for 3 decades at the University of Detroit and then started their Computer Science department. In terms of his lasting legacy, his entry in Wikipedia explains that Dr. Nemeth developed “the Braille code that would more effectively handle the kinds of math and science material he was tackling. Ultimately, he developed the Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Science Notation in 1952. The Nemeth Code has gone through 4 revisions since its initial development, and continues to be widely used today. Nemeth is also responsible for the rules of MathSpeak, a system for orally communicating mathematical text. In the course of his studies, Nemeth found that he needed to make use of sighted readers to read otherwise inaccessible math texts and other materials. Likewise, he needed a method for dictating his math work and other materials for transcription into print. The conventions Nemeth developed for efficiently reading mathematical text out loud have evolved into MathSpeak.