Friday, March 30, 2012

Your Pesach Kit

Why is this week's blog different from all other weeks?

Because this year I am happy to announce the all-new completely-revised and updated and totally awesome Art of Amazement Haggada and Passover Kit.

If you saw this last year or any previous years, there is no comparison.

There are two options:

1. The Art of Amazement Haggada - Leader's Edition

Finally, a truly revolutionary Passover Haggada that will give your family and guests a fresh, connected, inspiring connection to the Seder!

If you are leading a Seder, use this in conjunction with any other Haggadas. It is designed to work regardless of which haggadas the others are using.

How is the Art of Amazement Haggada different?
1. Simple
2. We added transliterations and translations of all the stuff you want to say in Hebrew
3. We cut out the boring stuff.

How is the Leader's Edition different?
1. Peppered with questions to throw out, like a Teacher's Edition of a textbook
2. An incredibly detailed script based on the classic MIdrash that will turn you into an amazing storyteller and keep everyone spellbound
3. A list of 8 tips and tricks to keep everyone of all ages engaged

Click here to download a sample of the leader's edition.
Click here to get the full leader's edition.

2. The 2012 JSL Passover Kit

Full kit includes:
Leader’s Haggada, General Haggada, Pesach Supplement, Pesach Charades, Pesach Cards, Pesach Bingo, Article on “Jews and Food”, Coloring Page

Click here to get the full 2012 Passover Kit.

Finally, if you're looking for the easiest way to get matzah, plague-kits, Pesach treats, Pesach books, etc., we've selected the best for you here:

There is a chance that the Pesach rush next week will prevent me from sending another message then. In case you don't hear from me, here's wishing you and yours a happy and meaningful Passover.

In the meantime,

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Are You a Racialist?

Announcement: My app, the Amazing Jewish Fact-a-Day Calendar, was named one of the top 5 in its class by the Jerusalem Post. Here's the link.

You may have heard of Michele Norris, an afternoon host on NPR's "All Things Considered". As you can see from this image, she is a black woman.... ? Well, that's how I heard her describe herself once. But she looks whiter than I do.

She was on "Talk of the Nation" yesterday for a discussion on racism, fueled by the shooting in Florida.

What I would like to report to you is her closing line:

"I've learned that all over the world, they may not call it racism, maybe it's bias, maybe it's tribalism."

My question for your table is going to be: Is tribalism the same as racism?

But before I ask the question, let's ask a more personal question for most of the readers of this blog.

Question 1 - What does the phrase "being Jewish" mean to you?

Some will say that being Jewish means that you are always a potential target for someone.

Not a random target.

A premeditated, cold-blooded target.

Here is a photo of 3 of the victims of this week's assassination in Toulouse, with their now-widowed wife/mother.

Others will say that being Jewish means reaching out to the Jewish community of Toulouse. If you would like to do so, here is their info:

Collège et Lycée Ozar Hatorah
33 rue Jules Dalou
31500 Toulouse, France
Email: ozar31  @
  (remove spaces)

Michele Norris has an online project cleverly called "The Race Card" - the idea is to invite the public to submit 6-word statements about race. Here's the link.

Question 2 for your table: What 6 words would you submit?

Here are mine:

Racism is false, but racialism true.

OK, your turn again. As promised, here's the 3rd question for your table: Is tribalism the same as racism?

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, of Marvel Comics, created the dual-identity heroes Spider Man, The Hulk, and the X-Men, as well as Dr. Strange, Black Panther, the Falcon, Luke Cage and the Silver Surfer.

Holy transformation, Batman.... Lee and Kirby themselves were living as alter-egos.

Their given names were Stanley Lieberman and Jacob Kurtzberg.

Three book links:
Marvel EncyclopediaBook on the relationship between Jewish identity and classic comic book heroes
History of Marvel Comics

Question for your table: Why have so many Jewish Americans anglicized their names? I mean, what's wrong with "Lieberman"? What's the problem with "Kurtzberg"?

From the Amazing Jewish Fact-a-Day Calendar for March 16, 2012
Android version:
Iphone/ipod/ipad version:

PS - Last week I invited submissions to complete the joke, "How many rabbis does it take to change a lightbulb?"

Here are the best answers, in ascending order:

Ann from New Orleans:
"Three: 1 to report that the light has burned out, 1 to research when the Talmud says it is allowed to make lighting alterations and 1 to supervise that only Koshered tools are used in the changing of the light"
William from Brookline:"It takes five. First, a beit din (rabbinic court) needs to rule that the lightbulb needs to be changed.  Then, a mashgiach (kosher supervisor) needs to certify that the new bulb is kosher, and he needs to supervise the person changing it.  While it used to be that any good bochur (yeshiva student) could change a lightbulb under proper supervision, we have the custom to be machmir (stringent) and mandate that a rav do it.  Finally, the beit din needs to inspect the changed light and the rav who changed the bulb may flip the switch, at which point the beit din declares, "Vayehi or!" (let there be light). And that's assuming nobody presents and dissenting views..."
Nechama from DC says:
"It takes 11 Rabbis, of course! 10 to argue the reasons for changing the light bulb (a really good argument needs a minyan) and 1 to call the custodian who will actually change the light bulb, and change it to an energy efficient bulb!"
Mordechai from Monsey:"Some say two, some say three."

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

If You Eat Hamantashen, are You a Cannibal?

Did you ever eat a hamantashen?

To remind you, here’s a mouthwatering photo:

Why are they shaped like that, and what does hamantashen mean, anyhow?

When I was a kid, we used to call them “Haman’s hat”. But that’s because we didn’t spreken Yiddish. Then I went to Israel where they call them “Oznay Haman” - Haman’s ears.

So I thought that tashen meant ears.

(Do Israelis imagine themselves as cannibals when they munch on their hamantashen?)

In fact, if you look in your Yiddish dictionary or talk to your Bubbe, you will learn that a tasch is a purse or bag.

There you have it. Hamantashen = Haman-bags.

Maybe they’re called “bags” because they are folded over with fruit inside, and “Haman” because they do look like Haman’s hat.

Or maybe he carried a triangular handbag.

Or maybe he did have triangular ears.

At this stage of my investigation I stumbled upon hard evidence that the ear theory is correct:

So what are supposed to do – defeat our enemies by mocking them? Sounds like a Monty Python line:

“We spit on you, you silly Persian. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries. Now go away or we will taunt you a second time!” (say with French accent)

Sometimes they make it so easy, by making themselves into clowns:


Sometimes we should also laugh at ourselves.... Here's an oldy-but-goody:

A rabbi approaches a guest in the Shul and says, "I want to give you an Aliyah. What is your Hebrew name?"
 The man says "Sara bat Moshe."
 The rabbi says "No I need your name."
 The man repeats "It is Sara bat Moshe."
 The rabbi asks "How can that be your name?"
 The man answers "I've been having serious financial problems so everything is in my wife's name.”


Question for your table: How many rabbis does it take to change a lightbulb?

Remember, every Haman has his hour, and his downfall.

Happy Purim, and Shabbat Shalom

PS - Here's a recipe for low-call, no-gluten, no-cane-sugar hamantaschen.

PPS - If you don't have my iphone/android app, you're missing out on today's amazing Jewish fact! But you can read it online here.

PPPS - Here's a link to my newest Purim class: Click here.

In that class, I play a video. Here's the great video....

(Hebrew version)

Here's one more cute Purim-friendly video.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Stop Me If You've Heard This One

Published February 22, 2012 in the Journal of Medical Ethics:

"After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?"

Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.

Full article here.


Alberto Giubilini
Department of Philosophy, Univ. of Milan, Milan, Italy
Centre for Human Bioethics, Monash Univ., Melbourne,

Francesca Minerva
Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Univ. of Melbourne
Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Oxford Univ.

Dr. Minerva invites your comments here:

Question for your table: Are these professors right, wrong, or is it just a matter of opinion?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - if you are looking for something new for Purim (next Thursday!) try our customized search portal: Best Jewish Kids Books.