Jewish? Relocate and be paid way more than peanuts! The catch? Your new hometown must be Dothan, Alabama, the Peanut Capital of the World. Population: a mere 58,000 of mostly faithful Christians. To keep Judaism alive in Dothan, Larry Blumberg has been spearheading a drive since September, ‘08, to attract Jewish families. The lure? Gelt (no, not the chocolate kind). New Jewish "Dothaners" who join their synagogue and stay at least five years will receive an incentive of to $50,000! And that ain't peanuts.
A JEWISH JIGGLE
It will be all giggles and jiggles at the end of the month at Beyond the Borscht Belt, a Jewish theater festival in Columbus, Ohio. As if a play wasn't enough, the organizers are getting "interactive" by holding a competition to bring a plot point to wiggling life. The play, "The Snowflake Theory," by Nancy Gall-Clayton, features a Jewish mama trying to come to terms with her children. She seeks guidance from a new rabbi, whom she impresses with a truly astonishing, gravity-defying sculpture – of gelatin. And here's where the "fun" starts. Locals are competing to create the jiggly prop like our moms made in the fifties and sixties: festive tiers of wobbly color with fruits and veggies suspended at angles that would amaze physics experts at NASA. Ah ... but here's the rub. Kosher gelatin won't hold a shape because its made out of vegetables as opposed to animal bones). So organizers were looking for Kashrut advice, or Mama can always impress the rabbi with cling peaches floating in a cherry red sea!
AFGHANISTAN'S LAST JEW
His home? A small room off the synagogue in Kabul. His bed? A thin mattress. His furnishings?
A small table with dusty prayer books, some folding chairs, a crumbling carpet, a few photos, one of a Hassidic Jew, and a blackboard with his name – "Zebulon Simantov." For reporters. Where over the centuries there were tens of thousands of Jews in Afghanistan, about 5,000 Jews left in 1948 for Israel, and the rest, after the 1979 Soviet invasion. When Isaac Levy, who occupied another room in the synagogue died three years ago ... Simantov became the very last Jew in Afghanistan. A courageous man, a pious man, a determined man, one would think. Sadly, uh uh. About Levy? Simantov said they didn't speak for years. About missing his family in Israel? No! A mention of a friend. He owed him money! Forget fervor. Fury best describes this holdout. And hand-outs. The 45-year-old was more passionate about demanding gelt and Black Label than telling a pious tale. Then again, perhaps this lone man is no different from his countryman – or maybe, just maybe, he knows he's a paskudnyak (a revolting, corrupt person) who's better off being the last in Afghanistan, then being a mensch among men -- anywhere.
GIVE ‘EM SOME CHICKEN SOUP!
Nebuch. When two three-year-olds were tired, and stressed out from running around, what did the trick? "Jewish penicillin" of course: Chicken soup! So big deal, you're thinking? It is, when the "toddlers" are pandas! In addition to their regular diet of bamboo, the Wuhan Zoo in China has been feeding its two pandas, Xiwang and Weiwei, home-cooked chicken soup (OK, rooster soup), to fortify them for dealing with gawking crowds, and to warm them for winter. It's been a hit, according to zoo officials. Ah, but the question remains ... is bamboo kosher?
Ah, but the question remains ... is bamboo kosher?
OSCAR FOR PRESIDENT?
What happens in Las Vegas doesn't always stay in Las Vegas. Oscar Goodman (D), the tell-it-like-it-is flamboyant mayor, the exe mob lawyer who defended the likes of Meyer Lansky and Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilatro, has enjoyed immense notoriety nationwide. He appeared in the film Casino, was the subject of a book, Of Rats and Men, in 2005, and is known for his love of spirits (the kind with alcohol). Lately, there's been talk of Oscar occupying the highest office in the Land.
And who knows? Oscar's wildly popular. Where does this Jewish boy from Philly get his chutzpah? His mother, he told me. "She was perfect." Laura Goodman, who died in 2004, was an artist. Although she wasn't a milk and cookies Mama, she was always there, encouraging. "You're the handsomest, smartest person in the world. You can do no wrong. If anything bad happens, make it good" were her mantras. Despite her constant support, Mama took a hand to Oscar once. "I got an unsatisfactory grade in music ... so I tried to commit suicide – by swallowing a mothball." The Mayor-to-be was eight at the time.
While she used unconditional encouragement with the family, this was not always the case with others. "Oh, she was opinionated and critical, but never about her family. When she finally moved to Las Vegas at age 91, instead of living with us, she insisted on her own apartment. We got a call from the manager. They wanted her out." It seemed the elder Mrs. Goodman was a rabble-rouser. Her objection? "No live food." It all came from cans and boxes. "I hate it!" she complained. So, she took action – and got real potatoes. Strong and fiercely independent, she expected the same from her children. And without question, her son is also a "do-er." You never can tell. An Oscar in the White House, might have a 6-1 odds of flushing out, and sending terrorists to our cells!