Monday, December 29, 2008

What's So Funny?

Henny Youngman, Jerry Seinfeld, Jerry Lewis, Jackie Mason, Adam Sandler, Fran Drescher, Howard Stern, Joan Rivers, Bert Lahr, Soupy Sales, Lenny Bruce, Sandra Bernhard, Pee Wee Herman, Jack Benny, Fanny Brice, Sid Caesar, Roseanne, Shelley Berman, Woody Allen, George Burns, The Three Stooges, Richard Lewis, Milton Berle, The Marx Brothers, Larry David, Rodney Dangerfield...the list is endless. Jewish comedians are ubiquitous.

Jews comprise less than one quarter of one percent of the world's population, yet it has been estimated that fully 70% of comedians are Jewish. Why? Who knows? There are many theories, but what is known for sure is that Jews have a special relationship to comedy.

We invite you to comment here on why YOU think Jews are so connected to comedy, or just share a joke with us. I'll start:

Manny and Isaac found themselves sitting next to each other in a New York bar. After a while, Manny looks at Isaac and says, "I can't help but think, from listening to you, that you're from Israel." Isaac responds proudly, "I am!" Manny says, "So am I! And where might you be from?" Isaac answers, "I'm from Jerusalem." Manny responds, "So am I! And where did you live?" Isaac says, "A lovely little area two miles east of King David's Hotel. Not too far from the old city" Manny says, "Unbelievable! What school did you attend?" Isaac answers, "Well, I attended Yeshiva University." Manny gets really excited, and says, "And so did I. Tell me, what year did you graduate?" Isaac answers, "I graduated in 1984." Manny exclaims, "Amazing! This is Berschert. Hashem wanted us to meet! I can hardly believe our good luck at winding up in the same bar tonight. Can you believe it, I graduated from Yeshiva University in 1984 also." About this time, Moishe enters the bar, sits down, and orders a beer. The bartender walks over to him shaking his head & mutters, "It's going to be a long night tonight, the Goldberg twins are drunk again."

January 30, Temple Beth El celebrates and explores the connection between Jews and comedy at our Synaplex Shabbat. We will feature a choice of services, catered dinner, improv workshop and more. Stay tuned to this blog for details, or call the Temple for more information: 253-564-7101.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

SNOW DAY! defines miracle as: "an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause."

Maybe we can call our recent extraordinary weather a miracle. All I know is, I have never lost my childhood love for and wonder at snow. I still can't resist going out and playing in it, making snowballs, snow seraphim and generally acting silly.

I hope you are enjoying the snow, too, despite some inconveniences it brings. Let's view it as a reminder that we are about to celebrate Chanukah, which commemorates another miracle.

In the Talmud, the rabbis ask "What is Chanukah?" and then recount the tale of the military victory of the Hasmoneans over the Greeks which resulted in the reclamation of the Temple. The Hasmoneans (of which the Maccabees were part) cleaned out and rededicated the Temple. Chanukah means dedication. Because the Temple had been under the control of the Greeks, the Jews did not have a chance to celebrate Sukkot that year. So they choose to celebrate the rededication of the Temple for eight days because Sukkot is eight days long. The miracle comes when there is only enough oil to light the Menorah for one night. Miraculously, the Talmud tells us, the oil burned for eight nights.

So don't forget to get your Chanukkiah out, get the candles, queue up Adam Sandler and start lighting on Sunday night, December 21st. For more information, visit the Temple website, or call us! Happy Chanukah.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Film Festival December 13th: Hester Street

Temple Beth El's film festival continues with the December screening of "Hester Street". The New York Times called this film by Joan Micklin Silver "an unconditionally happy achievement" and called star Carol Kane a "triumphant bonfire", "magnificent" and "extraordinary". Not a typically commercial film, director Silver described "Hester Street" as "a classic example of something Hollywood would run from as rapidly as possible." After many struggles to get the film made, it emerged as both a critical and commercial success, and also served to re-open the Hollywood door to women filmmakers.

It is no accident that our screening takes place just eight days before Chanukah begins. Among other things, Chanukah commemorates the triumph of the Hasmoneans over the forces of Greek assimilation. "Hester Street" explores the choices Jewish immigrants made at the turn of the last century on the Lower East Side of New York City. The struggle to maintain a Jewish identity, and the lure of assimilation are still with us today, as they were 100 years ago and long ago in the time of Alexander the Great.

Please join us for this poignant and funny film. Refreshments and discussion to follow. Free and open to the public.