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WouldJew Believe #3

WouldJew Believe #3

Outrageous, odd, fascinating Jewish facts and figures.


The King of Jewish food, the bagel, has become universal. But who knew how universal? While many scientists believe that the universe is expanding spherically, some are starting to wonder if the universe is bagel-shaped, according to Tony Rothman, professor at Illinois Wesleyan University, which he discusses in detail in his book, Doubt and Certainty. Oy. If it becomes a "certainty," the Talmudic debate over whether the universe is poppy seed or onion alone, will take another 3,000 years!

Can a brilliant Jewish athlete and a pair of tefillin affect the World Series? Just ask Rabbi Moshe Feller, director of the Upper Midwest Merkos-Lubavitch House. What Jew didn't kvell when, Sandy Koufax, the Dodger's ace pitcher, refused to play on Yom Kippur during the 1965 World Series. (The Dodgers lost that opening game to the Minnesota Twins.) Ah ... but there's more. Rabbi Feller, an avid baseball fan, met Koufax at his hotel, saying: "... Because of you, more Jews knew about when Yom Kippur was going to be this year than they do with a calendar. ..." And, he presented Koufax with a set of tefillin. The Dodgers won the series, and Koufax became the Most Valuable Player. Since then, Rabbi Feller started the first "tefillin mission," putting them on baseballers like Mike Epstein and Ken Holtzman. So for you future athletes: you better eat your Wheaties...and put on your tefillin.

For you future athletes: you better eat your Wheaties...and put on your tefillin.

During the 1930s, Germans –including Hitler -- were into the occult. Erik Jan Hanussen, the European Houdini, was a Jew, a fact Hitler didn't know when he made Hanussen his psychic advisor. In 1933, in despair over his political future, Hitler recalled Hanussen's prophecy that he would become Fuhrer within a year and the two had over a dozen meetings. More disturbingly, Hanussen loaned large sums to Nazi leaders. After the burning of the Reichstag in February, 1933, German communists were blamed, but speculation "leaked" of Hanussen's involvement. Top Nazis hated the Jew who held their IOU's, and knew ugly secrets about them – and Hitler. On March 1933, Hanussen was executed. His heinous role in Hitler's ascent has been largely unknown to this day.

Can it be? It can, and is. Grammy award-winning Israeli violinist Miri Ben-Ari and Israeli rapper Kobi "Subliminal" Shimoni, co-produced a hip-hop music video that expresses their feelings about the Holocaust, titled "God Almighty When Will It End?" in English, and "Adon Olam Ad Matai?" in Hebrew. Oy? True, some rebbes and cantors feel "hipping" and "hopping" is a long way from the hora. But many others feel this "unorthodox" music by young Israelis, part of the Gedenk (Remember) Movement, are inspiring and informing youth about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. Who knows? Maybe Madness is one method to teach ... madness.

You bet. The long-necked animal chews its cud and has cloven hooves. So why aren't we buying happy meals from Giraffe King? Well for some reason, Giraffe burgers just never really caught on in Ancient Israel, which means we don't have a continuous tradition for eating giraffe, and you know how we Jews feel about tradition (see: Tevye). But even if Bubbies around the world somehow banded together to bring giraffe back, to produce a deli sandwich would cost over $100 a pound! Now that can't be kosher!

$100 a pound! Now that can't be kosher!

As kids, American Joomers (Jewish Boomers) chuckled over the adventures of goyishe comic characters such as Little Lulu and Dagwood. Even if many of comic strip writers were Jewish, actual Jewish comics were underground or not specifically Jewish. Things have changed. In 1986, Art Spiegelman's adult comic-book history of the Holocaust, "Maus" was not only a best-seller but won a Pulitzer Prize. And, our kinder can now identify and root for comic Jewish superheroes, such as Sabra, Seraph, Rambam, and Ragman.

But for those of us who missed the boat on those new Jewish comics, we can take solace in the fact that many of the superheroes of yesteryear had Jewish roots. For example, if Superman were created today, his creators, tribesmen Joe Schuster and Jerry Siegel, might have given a Hebrew name on his home planet of Krypton – Kal-El ben Jor-El!

Interestingly, some goyim have been swept up by the Jewish-inspired toon craze. Witness: Kal-El Coppola Cage, born in 2005 to Nicolas Cage (Coppola) and wife, Kim who saddled their son with Superman's Kryptonian name. True, Cage had been up for the lead in a Superman flick. But to paraphrase another comic character, "Holy Chutzpah, Batman!"

Everyone knows that Chanukah occurs but once a year, right? Wrong. Over a thousand years from now, in the year 3031 of the Gregorian calendar, there will be no Chanukah! Ah, but the following year, 3032, there will be two -- one in January, and the other in December. That's, count 'em 16 gifts per! (And don't forget the latkes.) Tip: Leave a time capsule to be opened in 3000, with instructions to your loved ones to start saving their shekels – and potatoes.

To purchase Marnie's book Yiddishe Mammas just in time for Mother's Day click here (Yiddishe Mammas).

March 29, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 10

(10) marnie winston-macauley, April 4, 2008 12:55 PM


Good add-on. Thanks Batsheva (my late mother's name!) Also, the first English language bio was published in 2002:
"Erik Jan Hanussen: Hitler's Jewish Clairvoyant," by Mel Gordon.

So ... for all who are interested, you can get details. (Along, of course, with "Yiddishe Mamas: The Truth About the Jewish Mother" by yours truly for Mother's Day -- shameful promotion here. Bad Marnie, Bad Marnie!:))


Love comments and feel free to E-mail me at

(9) Batsheva, April 4, 2008 12:56 AM


Just wanted to let people know that there is a movie called "Invincible" directed by Werner Herzog, with Tim Roth playing Erik Van Hanussen. The movie is mostly based on a true story about the rivalry of Hanussen (whose real name was Steinschneider) who was a charleton and Zishe Breitbart, a world-renowned Jewish strongman.

(8) Anonymous, April 3, 2008 7:10 PM


As a "trivia" expert (who's also Jewish), a friend alerted me to this site, which is now a regular "stop" on my quest for information. I'm keeping WYB on file, as it's unusually interesting, well-written, and detailed. Actually, I've found nothing quite like it, anywhere on the Net. Thank you, Ms. Winston-Macauley, and keep it going!

Mark L.

(7) marnie winston-macauley, April 3, 2008 10:58 AM

To: Joseph Levy et al

:) Thanks for adding that information re: Drysdale. I'd heard it and thought it was hysterical. It broadens the entry!


P.S. If any readers have fascinating facts, feel free to send them to me at Natch, I'll verify, and write them up. If it's used, I'll certainly attribute the item to you.

Criteria: 1.Oddly, fact vs. "trivia." The difference is subtle. I ask myself ... "do I care?" (not necessarily in those words:)) For example, would about an entry that tells us exactly how many songs Irving Berlin wrote? Feh! But that fact that he only composed in F-sharp and used a piano that transposed, is interesting. 2.) Facts that would appeal to a broad audience. 3.) Facts that the average (if there is such a thing) Jewish person very well might not know, that's both informational and has a bit of a "wow"/water cooler factor. The number of mitzvahs in Judaism, for example, can be easily found, but why G-d can be written full-out on a computer, is interesting. (Answer: computers use electronic impulses which brings into question whether this is "writing" that can be "erased." The concensus is no.)

And of course, accuracy is primo.

Keep up the comments!

(6) HawaiianKane, April 2, 2008 4:14 PM

Humorous Judaic references important to Maintaining Jewish Relevance

Again Marnie Winston-Macauley has scored a subtly intriguing coup d'tate regarding Judaism's pertinence to our modern world, while emphasizing the unchanging Hebraic permanence within the world's scenario.

Her facts and research stand unchallenged, while her sense of relevance is uncanny and very relevant. This keeps our values, while showing how flexible and suitable they have become for all aspects of human endeavor.

Marnie, please keep up this form of education. I can't say how much I learned, because I was chuckling too much.

It makes you glad to be Jewish, again..

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