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ShalomBoston Trivia Archives

Question: What was the first Jewish congregation established in the Boston area?

Congregation Ohabei Shalom (Lovers of Peace) was formed in 1843. The founders dedicated their first synagogue building on Warren St. in Boston in 1852. Within a few years, one group split off and became Adath Israel (known today as Temple Israel) and a second group split off and formed Congregation Mishkan Tefila. All three congregations continue to thrive today. Ohabei Shalom is located in Brookline and Temple Israel is in Boston; both are reform congregations. Mishkan Tefila is a conservative congregation in Newton.

Answer: Which Olympian is considered one of the greatest Jewish athletes of all time? What was the event, how many medals were won, and what other memorable Olympic event occurred in this athlete's most successful year? "Mark Spitz, the Olympic swimmer, is the only athlete to win seven gold medals in
a single Olympiad. His victories, all world records, were in the 100- and 200-m
eter freestyle events, the 100- and 200-meter butterfly events, and all the relays. He accomplished this in 1972, the year terrorists infiltrated the Olympic Village in Munich and killed eleven Israeli Olympic team members.

Spitz is tied with three other Olympic athletes for the most Olympic gold medals won - nine. He and fellow swimmer Matt Biondi hold the record for the number of Olympic medals won by United States team members with eleven (Spitz has nine gold, one silver, and one bronze). During his career, Spitz also set 26 individual world records in the freestyle and butterfly and contributed to seven relay world records."

Question: Which two Jewish baseball players refused to play in key games that fell on Yom Kippur? What teams did they play on and what was the outcome of the games and the seasons?

Answer: In 1934 Hank Greenberg played first base for the Detroit Tigers, hitting .339, leading the league in homers, and batting in 139 runs. Although he played on Rosh Hashanah, he did not play on Yom Kippur, even though the Tigers were in a tight pennant race. The Tigers lost the game, but went on to win the pennant (but not the World Series). Greenberg was widely respected for holding fast to his religious practices. While he was a Detroit Tiger, Greenberg's team won four pennants and two World Series. He was a four-time champion in home runs and runs batted in and was voted the American League's Most Valuable Player twice. In 1938 Greenberg had hit 58 home runs with five games left in the season. According to Robert Slater (Great Jews in Sports, Jonathan David Publishers, 1983), Hank's mother offered to make him 61 baseball-shaped pieces of gefilte fish if he would break Babe Ruth's record of 60 homers in one season. Greenberg didn't hit another home run that season.

In October 1965, the Los Angeles Dodgers were playing the Minnesota Twins in the World Series. The opening game was on Yom Kippur and Sandy Koufax, who had won 26 games that season and struck out 382 batters to set a major league record, did not pitch for his team. Koufax was not treated with respect by the local press in St. Paul. He did pitch the second game and lost, but won the fifth and seventh games (both complete game shutouts), and the Dodgers won the World Series. Koufax won the Cy Young Award three times, as well as being voted the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1963. In 1965 he pitched a perfect game against the Chicago Cubs, the fourth no-hitter of his career. Koufax is considered by many to be one of the greatest pitchers of all time.

Question: What is the difference between dreidels in Israel and dreidels in the rest of the world?

Answer: All dreidels have a Hebrew letter on each side. In the Diaspora (the parts of the world in which Jews live outside of Israel), dreidels have the letters Nun, Gimel, Hey, and SHIN, standing for Nes Gadol Hayah SHAM, A Great Miracle Happened THERE. Israeli dreidels have the letters Nun, Gimel, Hey, and PEY, standing for Nes Gadol Hayah POH, A Great Miracle Happened HERE.

Question:  Which colleges and universities in Massachusetts have the largest numbers of Jewish students? Which have the highest percentages of Jewish students?

Answer: The following information comes from the Guide to Jewish Life on Campus on the national Hillel Foundation web site www.hillel.org. Harvard University has the largest number of Jewish students (4,500), followed by Boston University (4,000), University of Massachusetts -- Amherst (3,000), Tufts University (2,500), Brandeis University (2,350), Northeastern University (1,200), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (850), and Babson College (800). The highest percentages of Jewish students are found at Hebrew College (95%), Brandeis University (62%), Curry College (41%), Lesley College (40%), Tufts University (39%), Harvard University and Babson College (both at 26%), Emerson College (23%), Clark University (21%), and Boston University (20%).These figures include both undergraduate and graduate students.

Question:What political writer, China expert, and Pulitzer Prize winner from Boston was the author of a series of books called The Making of a President?

Answer: "Theodore White was born in Boston in 1915. He graduated from Boston Latin School and the Prozdor (high school division) of Hebrew Teachers
College, now known as Hebrew College. White earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University as well as a Bachelor of Jewish Education
degree from Hebrew Teachers College. He then began a successful career as a journalist in East Asia and Europe. White won a Pulitzer Prize for
general nonfiction for
The Making of the President, 1960. He also wrote books analyzing the presidential elections of 1964, 1968, and 1972. These
astute and entertaining accounts are considered classic histories of political campaigns. White also wrote the autobiographical
In Search of History: A
Personal Adventure and America in Search of Itself: The Making of the President, 1956-1980, as well as other books of history, politics, and fiction.
White died in New York in 1986.

Question: Who was the first Jew to win statewide elective office in Massachusetts?

Answer: George Feingold served three terms as Massachusetts' attorney general, from 1952 to 1958. He was the Republican nominee for governor when he died in 1958.

Question: What well-known African-American leader of the sixties paid a Passover visit to a Boston synagogue?

Answer: In 1965, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Boston and spoke at Passover services at Temple Israel (on the Riverway in Boston). Boston Jews were very active in the Civil Rights movement and many had been present when King made his famous speech "I Have a Dream" at the 1963 Civil Rights march on Washington, D.C. Several Boston rabbis joined King in 1965 at the clergy march for black voting rights in Selma, Alabama.

If you heard Reverend King speak that Passover at Temple Israel, or if you or your rabbi were present at either the march on Washington or the clergy march in Selma, please share your memories with us. You may post messages in our Community Forum http://www.shalomboston.com/phorum/list.php?f=6 or use the Contact Us form. Thank you!

Question: What Boston Jewish philanthropist became national president of the NAACP in the sixties?

Answer: In 1966, Kivie Kaplan, a Boston Jewish philanthropist and civil rights activist, and a member of Temple Israel of Boston, became the national president of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). He worked actively for the success of the organization, speaking nationally on its behalf and seeking financial contributions. Kaplan served as president until his death in 1975.

Question: What are the Maccabiah games?

Answer: The Maccabiah games are an international competition among Jewish athletes that takes place in Israel. They are sometimes referred to as the Jewish Olympics. The first games were in 1932 and since 1953 they have been held every four years. Great athletes who have participated in the Maccabiah games include Mark Spitz (swimming) and Kerri Strug (gymnastics).

The 16th Maccabiah games were scheduled to be held this summer from July 16 to July 26. Approximately 4,000 Jewish athletes, about 600 from the United States, had registered to compete in 31 different events. Given the security situation in Israel, many athletes and organizers around the world announced that they would not attend, thus endangering the opening of the games. But on June 14th, the American Maccabiah delegation decided to participate, so the competition will go ahead.

It is expected that 2,100 athletes will arrive in Israel in mid-July, competing in 20 different sporting events. The games will last one week.

Question: Which Jew was the conductor and musical director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1925 to 1950 and later established its summer home at his estate in the Berkshires, known as Tanglewood?

Answer: Serge Koussevitzky was an illustrious conductor born in Russia in 1874. He married into a wealthy family, established himself as a composer in Berlin, Russia, and later Paris, and moved to the United States in 1925 to become the musical director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Under his directorship, the BSO became one of the great orchestras of the world. Beginning in 1935, Koussevitsky conducted the BSO in summer concerts at his estate at Tanglewood in the Berkshires and in 1940 the Berkshire Music Center was established there. Koussevitzky championed new music, commissioned important works from contemporary composers, and was known for his masterful interpretations of late 19th and 20th century compositions.

Koussevitzky's protégé was Leonard Bernstein, who encouraged him to go to Israel to conduct the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in a series of concerts. The two conductors later directed the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's first American tour in 1950 and 1951. Koussevitzky donated his large collection of musical scores to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He died in Boston in 1951.

Question: Who was Lilith? According to Jewish folklore, Lilith was Adam's first wife, before Eve was created. The Alphabet of Ben Sira (verses 23a-b), a Midrash of the middle ages, states:

Answer: In the Garden of Eden, long before the eating of the apple, the Holy One created the first human beings - a man, Adam, and a woman, Lilith. Lilith said "We are equal because we are created from the same earth."

Legend has it that Lilith argued with Adam with regard to their sexual relations and, unwilling to forego her equality, flew off into the air in a rage. Eve is then created from Adam to be his helpmeet. Midrashic literature expands on this legend to fashion Lilith as a mystical demonic figure that seduces men in their sleep, endangers women in childbirth, and kills infants. Such a figure exists in later Semitic and Christian mythology as well, along with the development of customs and amulets to ward off these misfortunes.

According to Susan Weidman Schneider, author of
Jewish and Female (Simon and Schuster, 1984) and cofounder and editor of Lilith magazine, "The frequent retelling of the Lilith tale is one attempt to find spiritual antecedents for the present-day searchings and yearnings of Jewish women."

Question: Who is Doron Sheffer?

Answer: Doron Sheffer is thought to be the best basketball player in Israel's history. He left Israel in 1993 to play at the University of Connecticut, and averaged 13 points per game in three seasons as the Huskies' starting point guard. Sheffer (6 feet, 5 inches) became the first Israeli selected in the NBA draft when the Los Angeles Clippers took him at No. 36 in 1996. He never played in an NBA game, however, and returned home to play professionally until June 2000, when he retired at the ripe old age of 28.

On Monday, October 29, the Portland Trail Blazers traded center Will Perdue to the Los Angeles Clippers for the rights to Doron Sheffer. Perhaps we can look forward to another comeback this season by a national superstar (move over Michael Jordan). Keep your eyes on the NBA and the Trailblazers!

Question: When was Hebrew College founded and what was its original name? Hebrew College was founded in 1921 in Roxbury as Hebrew Teachers College, reflecting its primary mission of educating Hebrew teachers. In 1951, HTC moved to Hawes Street in Brookline and in 1955 it became accredited by the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. In the mid 1980s, as its educational programs expanded to serve the wider Jewish community, Hebrew Teachers College changed its name to Hebrew College. In December 2001, Hebrew College moved to a new campus in Newton Centre.

Answer: What Jewish National Football League player attended college in New England and is related to a beloved Boston cultural personality? "Jay Fiedler, quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, was a three-year starter (1991-1993) at Dartmouth College, leading the team to a composite record of 21-7-1. Although he was a member of the Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Minnesota, and Jacksonville teams, it was not until he joined Miami in 2000 that he became a starting quarterback. He led the Dolphins to the playoffs in both seasons with the team.

Fiedler is single and resides in New York State. He is related to the late Arthur Fiedler, long-time conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra (his grandfather was Arthur’s second cousin). Jay is involved in numerous charitable activities and has been the recipient of the Dick Steinberg Good Guy Award, given annually by the New York Jewish Sports Hall of Fame to a person in professional sports who best exemplifies the positive values of sports.

Question: What local Jewish athlete is participating in the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City?

Answer: Daniel Weinstein, who comes from Brookline and is a student at Harvard University, is competing in the speed skating event in this yea's Olympics. Daniel was the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic delegation when he first competed at age 17 in Nagano, Japan. He was a member of the Men's Gold Medal 5,000-Meter Relay Team at the 2001 World Short Track (speed skating) Championships. The final day of racing will be broadcast on NBC on February 23rd.

Question: What does the word 'afikoman' mean?

Answer: Most of us look forward to the "stealing"; of the afikoman by the children at the seder, and its subsequent return, by negotiation and reward, in time to conclude the meal. But what does the word afikoman really mean? The simple explanation is that it comes from a Greek word, epikomos, meaning dessert.

There is a more complicated and historically accurate explanation of the word afikoman, however. Its origin is in the customs associated with the Greek-Hellenistic symposium, or banquet, but there have been transformations over the years in the meaning of both the Greek word and its Jewish counterpart.

For a more detailed history of the term and the custom of afikoman, read the Afikoman Study Sheet disseminated by the Faculty of Jewish Studies and the Office of the Campus Rabbi of Bar-Ilan University.

Question Which major U.S. city has a Jewish mayor often likened to Governor Jesse Ventura of Minnesota for his personal independence and flamboyance?

Answer: The mayor of Las Vegas, the fastest growing U.S. city, is Oscar Goodman, an attorney originally from Philadelphia who specialized in defending notorious mobsters. He has been recognized as one of the best trial lawyers in America. Goodman claims to do everything to excess, including gambling, drinking, and eating. In an article in the April 12, 2002 issue of Forward, however, Goodman dismisses the comparison to Ventura, stating "He's the Body, I'm the Brain." When he was elected mayor in 1999, a race he decided to enter on a lark without even knowing where City Hall was located, he was photographed in People Magazine laying tefillin at a local Chabad House. Goodman was once the president of Las Vegas' first Jewish congregation and is active in Jewish causes. His primary goal as mayor is to revitalize the downtown area of the city. He says he is having so much fun as mayor, that he just may remain in the position for life.

Question: Which star of a Hollywood movie to be released May 16 is a local Jewish college student?

Answer: Natalie Portman, a 20-year-old junior at Harvard University, will appear once again as Queen Amidala in the newest Star Wars film, "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones." Born in Jerusalem to an Israeli father and an American Jewish mother, Portman moved with her family to the United States in 1988. She spent much of her childhood on Long Island, where she attended a Jewish day school. Portman has appeared in many movies and played the title role in "The Diary of Anne Franl" on Broadway.

Question: What is the Ner Tamid Society? "The Ner Tamid Society is the fraternal organization for Jewish fire personnel. Ner Tamid is Hebrew for Eternal Light, a light in Jewish sanctuaries that is always there, always a symbol of God’s protection. The 75-year-old organization had about 1,000 members after World War II; now its membership numbers about 300, half of whom are retired.

According to
Hadassah Magazine (Putting Themselves in the Line of Fire by Rahel Musleah, January 2002), there are approximately 150 Jewish firefighters among the 11,000 in the New York City Fire Department. Three Jewish firefighters died in the attacks on the World Trade Towers on September 11, 2001.

Question: What does the word "treif" mean and what is its origin?

The word "treif" is short for the Hebrew word "treifah"; which means "torn"; and is used in the Bible to refer to flesh that is torn from an animal and is therefore not kosher, or fit for Jews to eat. Although "treif"; refers to animal meat that cannot be made kosher, the term is sometimes used to refer to all non-kosher food products.
Israel's national airline is called El Al.

Question: What does El Al mean?

Answer: El Al is the Hebrew for "on high" or "up to the sky". El Al was established as the national airline of Israel in 1948. In September of 1948, its inaugural flight brought the country's first president, Chaim Weizman, home from Geneva.

Question: In the history of the World Series, three Jews have been named Most Valuable Player (MVP). Can you name them?

Answer: The three Jewish World Series MVP winners were all on the Los Angeles Dodgers: Larry Sherry (1959), Sandy Koufax (1963), and Steve Yeager (1981).

Question: Which well-known rock band, set to play Madison Square Garden this coming New Year's Eve, has a member who grew up in Sudbury and attended the Solomon Schechter Day School in Newton?

Answer: Mike Gordon is the bass player in the band Phish. He grew up in Sudbury, attended the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston, and went to the University of Vermont, where he joined fellow students to form the band. Their first official gig was in 1984 and they stayed together and toured for 17 years.

The band took a break for two years, but Mike has kept busy. During the hiatus, he wrote many songs and collaborated with acoustic guitar legend Leo Kottke on an album, Clone, and a concert tour. On the album, Mike plays piano, electric guitar, skull flute, and percussion, in addition to bass and vocals. He has also directed two films, including a documentary on the late bass player Allen Woody, which recently reached No. 7 on the Billboard DVD sales chart.

Phish will mark its return with a new album and concert tour. The album, called Round Room, will be released on December 10. The band will be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live on December 14 and will appear on David Letterman on December 19. The New Year's Eve concert at Madison Square Garden will be the first time the band has played together since October 7, 2000 – it has been sold out for months. Phish will begin a concert tour in February.

Question: Which Oscar nominee for Best Actor is Jewish?

Answer: Daniel Day-Lewis, nominated for a Best Actor award for his performance in Gangs of New York, considers himself Jewish. His maternal grandfather was Sir Michael Balcon, the Baltic Jewish film producer. Day-Lewis won a Best Actor Oscar for My Left Foot and also starred in The Last of the Mohicans, The Age of Innocence, In the Name of the Father, and The Boxer.

Adrien Brody, nominated as Best Actor for his role as a Polish-Jewish musician during the Holocaust in The Pianist, has Jewish ancestors on his father's side, but does not consider himself Jewish.