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WouldJew Believe #6

WouldJew Believe #6

Outrageous, odd and fascinating Jewish facts including… craters on the moon named after rabbis.



Lox, whitefish, and gefilte aren't the only major Yiddish fish. The animated hit, "Finding Nemo," is swimming in Jewish waters! Jewish actor, Brad Garrett, is the voice of Bloat (who else?), while Albert Brooks plays the nervous (what else?) Marlin, who overcomes his fears (of course) to find his captured son Nemo. The title role belonged to then nine-year-old Alexander Gould. The Jewish California native is a second generation show biz vet as his mom was a child actress. Both Alexander and his two sisters have followed suit. The young man told the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent that he "guessed Nemo was Jewish."Oh ... and he doesn't eat fish! Can you blame him?


Rabbis, rabbis, everywhere -- yes even on the moon. Or at least there are Jewish craters on the moon named for rabbis. One, "Rabbi Levi," was no doubt dubbed so to honor the 14th century Rabbi Levi ben Gershom known for his important contributions in mathematics, astronomy, and navigation. But crater-Levi is not a lone Moon Jew! Another crater was also named for a Jewish sage, 12th century Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra. The Spanish scholar was known for his astrological explanations for Scriptural passages. Now, all we need do is figure out how to fix a mezuzah to the entrance of these craters. Hmmm. Better call my friend Hadassah who works at NASA.

Now, all we need do is figure out how to fix a mezuzah to the entrance of these craters. Better call my friend Hadassah who works at NASA

A JEW, WHO NU? ...

Who among us hasn't known, heard of, or read about someone raised gentile, later learning they were actually "one of the tribe"? Most famous, perhaps, is former Secretary of State Madeline Albright who was said to have learned she was Jewish in 1997. As a writer, I've researched many such "revelations" -- from Conversos who were often told the truth on their bubbes' deathbed, to an entire village with oddly unquestioned Jewish traditions (Venhaver, Portugal). So imagine my surprise when John Stossel, anchor of ABC's "20/20," specials, and author of books exposing myths and lies, told me a life story which just may have contributed to his passion for the truth. Stossel didn't know he was Jewish until he was a teen! Raised in the Congregational Church, he said, "One day I made a remark about a Jewish boy picking his nose – and my brother said ‘what the heck do you thing you are?'" Although his mother claimed she told him of their heritage, he doesn't recall hearing this information. He embraced Judaism at about age 30. His wife is Jewish, and his brother-in-law is a Jewish activist. The Stossel family even observes the Sabbath! Whew! Another "myth" uncovered. Hey John, got a job for me over at 20/20? John??


Most of us know (and tell our children) that Albert Einstein was no prize in school and was backward in speech and in math. Naturally, Albert, born in Ulm Donnau, Germany in 1879, worried his parents, Hermann and Pauline. The Einstein family pow-wowed and pondered the reason. And so, the interest in Albert's head began – first to explain his deficiencies, then later, to explain his genius. Little Al's grandmother thought her grandson's head was much too fat, while Mama Pauline, worried that her child's head was lopsided. "Alright, OK, so he'll take violin lessons," must have run through her head when she insisted her child, the nebekhl, study the instrument. When Einstein died, his brain was removed without permission and in contravention of Jewish law by Dr. Thomas Harvey in 1955. Einstein, one of the greatest minds of the 20th century and creator of the Theory of Relativity, was found to have a brain that looked much like any other -- gray, crinkly, and, if anything, a trifle smaller than average.


With the Olympics in full swing, I'm reminded of a conversation I had with Melanie Strug, mother of gold medalist, Kerri Strug. In 1996, the tiny 17-year-old Jewish athlete became a hero. At the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, the only way the United States' Women's Gymnastics team could win their first-ever gold medal, depended upon Kerri's final vault. In her first vault, she fell, tearing ligaments, and spraining her left ankle. Barely able to walk, Kerri readied ... then nailed an almost perfect landing, and the gold for the Team. For most moms, this would be enough, no? But to Jewish mom Melanie, "School was most important. I thought you can't make a career out of gymnastics." And she made sure her daughter was prepared. "When she moved away from home [Arizona] to study gymnastics in Houston (with famed coach Bela Karoly],at age 13, we were devastated. Before we made the decision to let her go, we went to Houston to check this out." Mrs. Strug wasn't thrilled. "A lot of the kids let school slide. School was always number one with us. Gymnastics was not going to be her future." Mom's planning paid off. In addition to Olympic Gold, Kerri holds a B.A. in Communications and a Masters Degree from Stanford. When I spoke with Kerri, she was with the Justice department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The lesson? Gold may tarnish, but learning lasts a lifetime. Now, that's what I call a "Golden Rule!"

August 16, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 12

(12) P. PELTZ, September 8, 2008 8:27 PM

You are not only funny, but also reliable.

Thank you for the quick reply. Keep them coming!!!!

(11) Anonymous, September 1, 2008 5:52 PM

inaccurate Einstein article:

Einstein's poor performance in math and science as a child is untrue and an old wives' tale often retold, apparently, to encourage underachieving children. Although he did have some problems as a child, he was always a top student in school, and never failed or did poorly in math, as is often repeated. Also, I am probably the only one on this planet who considers him more an idiot-savant than a genius. despite his admittedly incredible theories and discoveries in math and physics, unmatched to this day, as he grew into adulthood, his studies led him first to believe in a limited version of G-d, and later became and, in fact, described himself as an agnostic. In my humble opinion, no matter how accomplished and/or superior in any discipline or multiple disciplines, a person who does not acknowledge the awesomeness, let alone the existence of G-d, ESPECIALLY after learning and understanding so much about the universe, may be a mathematical "genius", but is an idiot about much more important things, and not much of a role model. I would be interested in hearing your opinion after you do some investigation. You can find multiple sources for this information in wikipedia, as a start.

(10) Mary Rothschild, August 30, 2008 6:09 PM


Would Jew Believe is the first thing my family and friends read on your site! This one is the best, as I like the author's personal references. It is a gem of a column and we would like to see it more often. Not only is it informative and entertaining, but it contributes to Jewish pride in our people and our heritage. It's been a wonderful way of sharing this with our children. Thank you and Ms. Macauley! M. Rothschild

(9) marnie-the author, August 29, 2008 7:27 PM

Re: permissions

To P.Peltz: I get the material from research, research, research -- and even then, there may be some errors, which is virtually unavoidable. Re: Stossel: I interviewed him for my book, "Yiddishe Mamas: The Truth About the Jewish Mother," where he revealed the information above, also discussed in the book.

(8) marnie-the author, August 29, 2008 7:21 PM


Re: Einstein's brain, thanks for the comment, Ruthaviva! According to AIP, When Einstein died in 1955, pathologist Thomas Harvey made samples and sections but reported nothing beyond the usual variations between brains. But, in 1999, using the same samples, Sandra F. Witelson and team noted Einstein's brain was missing a small wrinkle (the parietal operculum). The inferior parietal lobes (related to visual imagery and mathematical thinking), perhaps in compensation, were a bit larger. "Yet," reported the article, " others of his day were probably at least as well equipped—Henri Poincaré and David Hilbert, for example, were formidable visual and mathematical thinkers, both were on the trail of relativity, yet Einstein got far ahead of them. What he did with his brain depended on the nurturing of family and friends, a solid German and Swiss education, and his own bold personality."

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