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Jewish Cartoon Spotlight: Kyle Broflovski from “South Park”

Kyle Broflovski photo courtesy: Comedy CentralOur first Jewish cartoon spotlight, Kyle Broflovski, is one of the four main characters from Comedy Central’s all-time most successful show, South Park.

Kyle has appeared in every episode since South Park first aired in August 1997.   He is distinguished from the other main characters by his green hat and orange winter coat.  Kyle is also modeled after the show’s co-creator Matt Stone who was raised Jew(ish) in Littleton, Colorado.  He sports a Jewfro similar to that of Stone before the stress of 237 episodes left him with a scaled-back do.

That Jewfro gets temporarily coiffed into a Pauly-D style in the show’s fourteenth season, when we learn that Kyle’s Jewish mother is originally from New Jersey.

Gerald Broflovski, Kyle’s father, is an attorney and is always seen wearing a kippah–at home, in the courtroom, and even in the hot tub.

Kyle also has a younger brother Ike, who was born in Canada and adopted into the family.

We get to meet Kyle’s cousin from New York that he can’t stand:  Kyle Schwartz.  Schwartz’ neuroses and raspy voice are likely modeled after Jewish filmmaker Woody Allen.

At all times during the year, a menorah can be seen displayed in the living room of the Broflovski home.

Kyle’s Jewish identity has been featured prominently in several episodes:

“Mr. Hankey” (S1E9)  In the winter of South Park’s first season, Kyle laments feeling ostracized by his town as he sings “It’s Hard to Be a Jew on Christmas”.

“Jewbilee” (S3E9):  Kyle takes his non-Jewish pal Kenny to a Jewish scouting camp.

“The Passion of the Jew” (S8E3):   Kyle confronts Mel Gibson about false depictions of Jewish people in his film, The Passion of the Christ.

“Jewpacabra” (S16E4):  Kyle experiences Passover as his malicious cohort, Eric Cartman claims that the eight-day festival is a threat to Easter egg hunts.

Cartman is Kyle’s primary nemesis on the show.  Often the voice of ignorance, Cartman taunts Kyle and is quick to use Kyle’s religion as a pejorative.  While Cartman’s outlandish and intentionally offensive characterizations of Kyle have become more gratuitous over the years, by the denouement of each episode, Cartman is duly punished for his anti-semetic school-yard slanders.

Kyle and his fellow South Park characters do not age on the show, although they did graduate from third grade to fourth grade in the fourth season.  It might be nice to see what happens when Kyle finally gets Bar Mitzvah-ed.

While there has been no indication of this, we will have to wait and see what adventures Kyle is up to with his buddies when South Park’s 17th season premiers on September 25.

Reruns of South Park are aired every day on Comedy Central.  Also, while it is not on Netflix, you can watch every episode of the show on their official website, www.southparkstudios.com.

Brian Fishbach is a writer and comedian.  You can read Brian’s weekly satire news articles at http://www.TheComedyNews.com, and enjoy his late-night jokes at http://www.BrianFishbach.com. Join The Comedy News’ Facebook page for updates.

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High Holidays 2013

Charlton-Heston-Moses-10-commandmentsIt’s that time of year again- do you know where you’re attending services?  To make it easier, we’re compiling High Holiday service options in one place.  Anything sold out has a strikethrough. If you know of a service we haven’t included, or see one on the list that is sold out, please email rachelg@gatherthejews.com. We’ll be continuing to update this page, so check back often.

Monday, August 26th:

Erev Rosh Hashana – Wednesday, September 4th:

Rosh Hashana (1st day) – Thursday September 5th:

Rosh Hashana (2nd day) – Friday, September 6th:

Kol Nidre – Friday, September 13th

Yom Kippur, Saturday, September 14th

Evening/Neilah, Saturday, September 14th

Looking for discounted tickets? The JCC can help!

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Moment Magazine

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Check Out the New Gather the Jews Bottle Opener Keychains!

These high quality bottle opener keychains are sure to (help) quench your thirst! Available for $2 each at tonight’s happy hour!

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Bring Smiles and Supplies to the Homeless with Midnight Mitzvahs

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 1.37.56 PMHave you ever walked past a homeless person and thought, “I’m too busy right now” or “I wish I knew how to help.”  Well look no further! Join Gather the Jews to kick off Midnight Mitzvahs on August 13th and we hit the streets to give out smiles and supplies to some of the 6,500 homeless people of DC.  We will start with a brief training and sandwich making session at GWU Hillel at 7:30 and will hit the streets by 8:15. Register here!

There is a $5 cost to participate. Your $5 will go towards purchasing the supplies we will hand out during the night.

Things we will be handing out (feel free to bring some to donate):

  • Cold Water
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Sunscreen
  • Socks (in the winter)
  • Feminine Hygiene Products
  • Homeless Resource Cards

Register Here!

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Alternatives to Celebrating the Royal Baby’s Birth This Week

WillKateBaby_1527748gThe yet-to-be-named Royal Baby is not even a week old, but is already featured in more photographs and news articles than most of Kings and Queens before him combined.  Even a Google search of “royal baby prince william kate middleton” turned up 561 Million results.

Still, roughly 124,657,534 people on this planet had a birthday this week that in some way or another, was overshadowed by news of the birth of the offspring of a British Monarch.

While many people rightfully appreciate the nachas beaming from the faces of new parents Prince William and Kate the Dutchess of Cambridge, many people are irked by the over-hyped spectacle—often citing that the three-day-old Prince will be living a life of nepotistic privilege.

Alas, if you are looking to celebrate the birthday of someone this week, here is a list of people, past and present, who deserve to have a piece of the celebratory cake.

And since this article is being composed for a a Jewish publication, every birthday guy and gal featured is Jewish.  Dayenu.

July 21st Birthday
1903:  Roy Neuberger – Some people bankroll elections, some people bankroll drug cartels.  This guy bankrolled modern art awareness from the 1930s until his death in 2010–yeah, he lived to be 107 years old.  http://www.royrneuberger.com/

July 22nd Birthday
1947:  Albert Brooks – This Academy Award-nominated voice-over actor has been featured in such prolific works as Finding Nemo  and The Simpsons.  Most recently, Brooks received over 20 nominations and awards from various film festivals for his performance in the film Drive.  http://www.albertbrooks.com/

July 23rd Birthdays
1971:  Joel Stein –  When he’s not writing a cover story for Time Magazine, you can find his weekly features in the back pages of the famed publication.  The curiously humorous writer also released his first book last year about his adventurous quest to become a more “manly” father:  http://www.thejoelstein.com/

1973:  Monica Lewinsky – You know the story.

1989:  Daniel Radcliffe – He IS Harry Potter.

July 24th Birthday

1965:  Doug Liman –  This film director has brought us an eclectic variety of features such as the comedy Swingers and the suspenseful thriller, The Bourne Identityhttp://nymag.com/news/features/42823/

July 25 Birthday
1923:  Estelle Getty – Before she became Sophia on The Golden Girls, the late Estelle Getty performed in Yiddish theater and comedy in the Borscht Belt.  http://www.estellegetty.com/main.html

July 26 Birthday
1965:  Jeremy Piven – In addition to playing the hot-headed super agent Ari Gold on the HBO hit series Entourage, Piven self-identifies as a “Jewish Buddhist”. https://twitter.com/jeremypiven

July 27 Birthday
1972:  Maya Rudolph – This Saturday Night Live was not only the the love interest in a popular Lonely Island digital short, she also got down and dirty in the streets in the 2011 comedy hit, Bridesmaids.

Brian Fishbach is a writer and comedian.  You can read Brian’s weekly satire news articles at http://www.TheComedyNews.com, and enjoy his late-night jokes at http://www.BrianFishbach.com. Join The Comedy News’ Facebook page for updates.

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GTJ Interviewed Jared Waks from the JewDate Web Series!

NOAHJEWDATE1

Noah. played by Jared Waks

How did you come up with the idea for JewDate? 

Aaron had the original idea: a guy hits rock bottom as a result of unrequited love but then finds a way to slowly drag himself back to the surface via the tumultuous world of online dating. It came from the realization, from past discussions, that so many of us had an experience where we became so obsessed with a “first love,” or, more accurately, the idea of that person, that we shut ourselves off to new people and, thus, were stunted. A lot of people have that experience and realize 5-10 years later that they wasted all that time; but what if someone intervened? Hence, we introduced Aaron’s character, Adam. If Kara is yin then Adam is yang.

Noah’s character is supposed to be relatable – we think a lot of people relate to Noah in many ways, though in many ways they wish they didn’t. Kara is obviously using him, pulling him back and making him inactive. Adam comes in at the other end of the spectrum and pushes Noah forward. In the end, we want Noah to reclaim his agency and become an active character. Adam is exactly the kind of over-the-top, stubborn and persuasive influence Noah needs in order to do this; however, we also don’t want Noah to become like Adam, whose ability to avoid leaches like Kara is a side effect of his inability to form any sort of real attachments.

The push and pull of Adam vs. Kara will, hopefully, propel Noah through his own journey towards self-awareness and, as a result, make him able to form a genuine, mutual romantic bond with the right girl. That’s the idea of the show: to explore how a person (male or female) who has become inert due to an unhealthy romantic obsession, can be propelled back into the journey which, though it has its unrelenting ups and downs, is the point of life.

So is the series based at all on personal experience?

Personally, I was never stuck on anybody for years and years, but I know (we know) lots of people that met someone in high school or college and got completely, utterly stuck on them. Then later they feel like they wasted their “golden years” waiting for a phone call from someone who didn’t reciprocate their feelings – it’s really depressing. While I can’t relate in a long term situation, I have experienced it on a smaller scale. I would be interested in a girl who would get out of a relationship with a guy who treated her poorly, and she would talk about how she was finally ready to be with a “good guy,” then I’d watch her go for the same kind of a*hole she broke up with and repeat the cycle. It sucked.

In terms of the dates: yes and no. When I graduated college and moved to a new town I tried some of the dating sites and did not have great success; however, I’m glad I did it. I was in a new place, wasn’t thrilled with my job or living situation, and was having a hard time meeting friends.  The dates were mostly disappointing, but the idea of having them kept me going: I was on a journey, like Noah. But, for better or for worse, none of my dates were as eventful as Noah’s. The dates are fiction but we do draw inspiration from a number of sources.

The ADHD date.

The ADHD date.

Years ago I launched a dating site with friends called DuoDater.com. We got a lot of press and were subsequently hired by the former CEO of Match.com to work on a mobile app … all of which led to me spending a lot of time on different dating websites for structural research. And some of the questions and categories on these sites are ripe material for comedy.

The generic-ness of these profile components makes me laugh out loud.  For example, JDate asks you how active you are but restricts you to a drop down menu of options, the top two being “active” and “very active.”  I’m a pretty active person. I play soccer and go to the gym, and snowboard, waterski, hike, etc. But there are some people who are in the gym 3 times a day and are doing extreme sports like skydiving and five-day mountain climbing camping trips.  So I’m like, “If I put ‘very active’ in my profile, will people think I want to spend a week camping out? Because I don’t. I really don’t.

When I used to see “very active” on a girl’s profile, I would wonder, “Does she do yoga every day or does she jump out of helicopters and practice krav maga?” So when we write we play with these ambiguities and always go for the extremes. The idea is that if Noah is going to go out with a “very active” girl, she’s going to be the one jumping out of the helicopter and scaling Everest. Same with the girl who is very ADHD.

And yet, we think it’s all still somewhat relatable. And the “somewhat” is what makes it funny. All of us who date have been on a date with someone who couldn’t get off their phone, who couldn’t disconnect, who is scattered; and it sucks. No one would want to watch a show that simply played back to them that horrible date. But, to portray a very extreme version of that, where the date is so disconnected they could accidentally sit down at the wrong table, I think that’s hilarious. Take something relatable and then take it to the extreme, so that somebody watching can say, “I was on a date like that … sort of.”

The girl who invites all her dates to fill-out her concert, that’s not based on anything. That was just one of those strokes of genius where we thought, “Hey, somebody COULD use online dating to do this, but probably never has.” Maybe we will inspire someone.

JewDate does not rely on tired Jewish stereotypes for its humor. When writing the series, were there things you tried to avoid?

Absolutely. I try to avoid all stereotypes, not just Jewish serotypes. For example, I don’t think Rob engenders black stereotypes, nor Kara female stereotypes. The ADHD girl could easily be an ADHD guy. Rob is narcissistic and egocentric but in a juvenile, oblivious manner, like he never grew up to realize that the world doesn’t actually revolve around him. That’s the character and we cast Willie because he’s hilarious.

He comes back in a big way in the next four episodes. There are jokes that will rely upon his ethnicity, but not as stereotypes. Just like we use Noah’s Jewishness to make jokes, but we don’t use Jewish stereotypes to make them. We write characters and we want those characters to be funny and interesting.

The jokes come from funny characters. Jews being cheap is a cheap laugh and too easy to do. Anyone can do that; it’s not impressive. Stereotypes are cliché. Everyone knows them so anyone can make those jokes. It takes talent to create a unique character that says unique things.

ROBJEWDATE-1

Willie as Rob

I think what is lacking from the first 4 episodes is a strong female protagonist. A female Noah, if you will, that most people watching can relate to. If we get to do a second season there will be a plot-centric, relatable female protagonist.

When will we see the next episodes?

Well, we’re filming them now. Part of it depends on funding; we’re running out of money. We’re going to start a Kickstarter soon to raise money for production, editing, and music. The short answer is that we’re aiming to release the episodes in October. With any luck it will be sooner.

What made you interested in film/web series/television?

Our entire fantastic team all grew up in LA around the industry. Stevee is the only non-Jewish Executive Producer (hence Some Jews and Stevee). Her family industry connections are huge for us as is her incredible talent with designing and making costumes. She also designs her own lingerie line called Drop Your Panties which is so awesome!All of us had been very exposed to the entertainment industry and I’ve personally been working in the film marketing industry since college.

I’ve worked for 20th Century Fox and I currently work for IMAX. While at Fox I was almost an extra on How I Met Your Mother because my office was actually part of the set. They are supposed to put caution tape on the back door of the office when they are filming, and one day they forgot to. I went outside and saw cars (which was unusual), people with briefcases walking with purpose, and then I saw Josh Radnor and Neil Patrick Harris coming right at me. Security starts miming at me that I need to act casual, like a normal person on the street, so I sorta stared up into the sky as they walked by me. They must have used a different take though, because I didn’t see myself in the episode. So that was the closest I had come to production; I had lots of entertainment marketing knowledge but no production experience. I simply try to stay open to new opportunities, so when Aaron and Jason came to me and said, “Do you wanna write this show with us?” I said, “Heck yeah,” and the rest became JewDate.

The opportunity was too good to pass up, even if I was in way over my head. I mean the idea for JewDate just seemed so brilliant because it fills a real void in thematic content. According to Reuters out of the 54 million single people in the US 40 million have tried online dating. That’s huge and there was no show about it! Everyone is having these new experiences and it’s so relatable. Lots of people are finding their spouses through online dating and many of them have told me, “I was about to give up on online dating when I messaged this one last person … and the rest is history.” That’s the idea of JewDate.

Noah has to go through the trials and tribulations of online dating, similar to but different from any other kind of dating, to get over Kara and finally find the right person. And it’s all a growing experience. Even the worst dates have something very important to teach Noah, something he needs to know or work on before he can be a ready to meet his “beshert” (which means soul-mate in Hebrew). So yeah, I really strayed from the question again…

Jason Mittleman works on various productions in different capacities and is currently a Writer’s Assistant on the MTV show “Ridiculousness.” Like I said, we all had experience in the industry, so we put all our experience together and said, “Screw it, let’s do it.” I thought it’d be like some other YouTube series I’d seen, but I think it’s much more quality. I had no idea how much time and effort it would require; but it’s a ton of fun and so rewarding.

Who is your Jewish celebrity crush?

Allison Brie. She was on “Mad Men” and played Trudy Campbell, Pete’s wife. Then she got big on “Community.” She’s also in tons of Funny or Die videos and is hilarious in every way. She can play everything and she’s adorable in everything she does.  She does this one Funny or Die video where there’s a government committee to patent sex positions. She comes in and she’s pitching various new positions to be patented. It’s one of the vilest 8 minutes you can watch, and you hear her say these things, and she is still adorable.

Is your Jewish mother proud?

Very. She’ll be an extra in the next 4 episodes – we needed a lot more extras for these. You’ll see members from all our families. Stevee’s family has been on the set helping us the entire time. Noah and Adam’s apartment is actually Stevee’s Mom’s house. She moved out for three days so we could use it. One of our Producers, Jason Ellefson, hooks us up with restaurants for filming the dates and also some amazing talent – including Willie James Warren Jr. who plays Rob – so we owe Jason huge thanks as well. The host from the ADHD episode wasn’t really in the script originally; we had a waiter written in for a very small part, pretty much just to seat them. Jason introduced us to Danny Gomez and, when we saw how funny he was, we made him keep popping in and it makes that date exponentially funnier.

Mrs. Webman (Aaron and Ethan’s mother) is proud, but she isn’t too happy about the dominatrix scene. She’s the most conflicted, due to the moral ambiguities of the Adam character; but, in all seriousness, she is super proud and we owe her a gigantic thanks for all of her help with all of the episodes and especially for letting us film a large part of the next four at their home. And, to be clear, we are NOT our characters. Aaron is not Adam. I actually had a friend tell me, “My friend watched the show and she wants to date Noah; are you single?” I said, “Yes, but I’m not Noah, so I hope she’s not disappointed.”

Jason’s Jewish mother is proud. Stevee’s gentile mother is very proud too. Our entire families are proud and incrediblely supportive, and we owe them all a huge deal of gratitude.

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Masa Israel Featured Internship: Digital Media Internship, Kahena Digital Marketing

Kahena is looking for people with a background in marketing. The intern will be exposed to what goes into building a marketing strategy by participating in company discussions, meetings, idea sessions and more. The intern will receive full training in SEO-related tasks, involvement in Kahena’s social media campaigns and the opportunity to develop a personal marketing portfolio.

Kahena Digital Marketing is a young, innovative, full-service digital marketing agency. Kahena specializes in SEO, paid search marketing, web analytics, reputation management and social media. Located in the JVP Media Quarter, the hub of the Jerusalem hi-tech startup scene, Kahena prides itself on being an integral part of Jerusalem’s web community, and also has close partnerships with companies in Tel Aviv, London, New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles. http://www.interninisrael.org/digital-media-internship-kahena/

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Don’t Judge Yourself: Let Others Do It For You – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 70)

gavelI’m a lawyer.  It’s true.  But I promise I’m not the typical one!

I guess you’ve noticed that I’m a vegetarian, but don’t worry – I won’t get upset if you order a steak in front of me.

Even though I have to get up early for work (at 5:15 AM), I swear that doesn’t mean I can’t stay up past 10 PM.

How many times have you seen lines like this in someone else’s profile?  Perhaps you even have one like this in yours.  The common theme here is that the author is compensating for (and judging) something in his or her own life that is assumed to be a turn-off.  Seemingly innocuous lines like these can actually be very off-putting for someone reading your profile because underlying the “but,” “don’t worry,” and “I swear” is a thinly veiled sense of insecurity.

Let’s take the first line, for example.  For context, let’s say that there is, in fact, a stigma towards someone who has an “Esq.” following his or her name.  (As a side note, this article is no commentary on how I feel about lawyers.  In fact, my dad’s a lawyer, and he’s the best dad around!)  In this example, the person writing this profile, let’s call her Shelby, assumes that her occupation could be a deal-breaker for her online dating soul mate and immediately tries to compensate for that fact.  But what she’s actually doing is buying into the (mostly untrue) stereotype that people dislike lawyers.  Shelby thinks that the second someone reads her profile, he will dismiss her because of this one thing.  But rather than being turned off by the fact that she’s a lawyer (and an impressive one at that!), many people will instead be turned off by the fact that she presumes to already know how they feel about it!

In addition, Shelby is calling more attention to something that may not play a large role, or any role, in someone’s decision-making process.  By saying, “I’m not a typical one,” she has not only called attention to her job, but she has also made it the focus of her profile.  Is that her sole defining factor?  She’s essentially saying, “My job defines me, but please don’t hold this against me!”

As most of us know, online dating can be pretty daunting, and writing the profile is perhaps the scariest part.  There’s so much uncertainty, and people are often very uncomfortable with uncertainty.

What if people assume I have no life outside of work?  What if they think I will always argue until they agree with me?  What if they decide I’m a total dork because I go to a weekly law discussion group called the “Legal Eagles,” and we all wear shirts with the scales of justice on them?  (Ok, maybe that one’s warranted.)

So, Shelby would prefer to assume that we already have these preconceived notions about lawyers rather than leave it up to chance that someone may not care or, and perhaps more likely, absolutely love the fact that she’s a successful lawyer!  What they won’t love is that she’s downplaying it.  So don’t judge yourself.  Own it, be confident, and then move on.

I’m a lawyer.

I’m a vegetarian.

I wake up at an ungodly hour every morning.

How did your potential future J-Mates react?  Who cares?  Don’t assume they feel a certain way.  All you did was state the truth.  Leave the rest up to the powers that be.

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

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Hezbollah, The EU & You

2_1On Monday morning, the United States awoke to the announcement that after decades of gruesome bombings and terror attacks worldwide, the European Union has voted to designate the “military branch” of Hezbollah a terrorist organization. This unanimous decision was voted on by foreign ministers representing the 28 EU member states and should hinder Hezbollah operations across Europe. Although the distinction between Hezbollah’s “political” and “military” wings is tenuous and should be dismissed, this designation must be viewed as a success for those who work to combat anti-Semitism and promote peace across the globe. As such, the American Jewish community should welcome the announcement.

For those of us as the American Jewish Committee (AJC), this designation came none too soon. Over the past several decades, Hezbollah has singled out Jewish institutions and communities worldwide while orchestrating their attacks. Last July, Hezbollah carried out a bloody terrorist attack on a bus in Burgas, Bulgaria in which five Israeli tourists and the Bulgarian bus driver were killed.  Hezbollah was responsible for the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and the AMIA (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) Building in 1994. These attacks, which both took place in Buenos Aires, together killed 114 civilians and injured numerous more. Furthermore, in 2006, Israel found itself under siege as Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets and missiles into the northern region of the country. Designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization serves to protect the state of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide.

For the past several years, AJC leaders across the globe have been working tirelessly towards this designation. We’ve engaged in direct diplomacy with senior officials of EU member states. We’ve published op-eds in major media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and El Pais. We’ve expressed the urgency of this initiative on the CBS radio network. And here in D.C., leaders of ACCESS, AJC’s young professionals’ arm, have participated in the diplomatic engagement that makes moments like this possible. From group meetings with leaders of European countries to substantive one-on-one conversations at our annual ACCESS SummitACCESS DC leaders contributed to the diplomatic advocacy that ultimately played a significant role in the European Union designating Hezbollah’s “military branch” a terrorist organization. As Nelson France, vice chair of ACCESS DC, remarked: “as an ACCESS leader, I have had the privilege of being in private meetings with several EU Ambassadors and Diplomats here in DC, and I can tell you, they are all familiar with AJC’s work on this issue.” This is global Jewish advocacy in action.

We encourage you to join ACCESS DC and become a part of the forefront of global Jewish advocacy. To learn more about AJC, please click here.

Alyssa Bogdanow serves as the Goldman Bridge Fellow for the Washington Regional Office of the American Jewish Committee (AJC). In this capacity, she works primarily with ACCESS DC, AJC’s young professionals’ initiative in the Greater Washington area.

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Program Coordinator, Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) – Provided by Tikkun Olam Tel Aviv-Jaffa

As the Program Coordinator at SACH, you will be given the opportunity to work directly with children and parents seeking medical care in Israel.  In addition, you will work with the administrative staff in the areas of fund-raising and public relations.

Save a Child’s Heart is an Israeli-based international humanitarian project, whose mission is to improve the quality of pediatric care for children from developing countries. SACH achieves this work by bringing children with life-threatening heart diseases from the developing world to undergo heart surgery in Israel, while also training doctors from those countries to perform such surgeries. http://www.interninisrael.org/program-coordinator-save-childs-heart-sach/

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GTJ Satirist Brian F. – Girl Singing Really Well at Services Just Showing Off

annoying singer liza minelli loud singerAUSTIN, TX – (@The Comedy News) – At around 7:45 PM this past Friday night, congregants sitting in the center pews of Congregation Beth Ra’ash noticed a distracting noise during the opening prayers: the awkwardly loud and polished singing voice of Jill Pearson trumping the mood.

“I knew it was Jill Pearson,” a congregant Jonathan Weinfeurter griped. “Every time I go to services, no matter where I am in the sanctuary, I can hear her staccato voice polluting the air.”

Other congregants note that Jill often chides the service leaders’ performance behind their backs following services. And in addition to looking around mid-song to see if anyone is marveling at her over-produced audible chanting from the pews, Jill also tweets her vocal pride:

“@DayenuDiva613: Adam Levine may got moves like Jagger, but I got a voice like Hachem.”

No congregant could confirm what Jill’s musical training has been—likely due to no decent soul being capable of tolerating her blatant narcissism.

However, a quick Google-search has shown that Jill has been classically trained singer since age 4, has auditioned for season 2 of The Voice, studied at the Julliard School in New York, and even sung the Star Spangled Banner at a Dallas Cowboys football game.

Still, after all of those accolades, Jill still can’t resist the urge to show off her self-proclaimed “voice that flows like wine”, even during modest opportunities such as Shabbat.

It was also reported that the only time during the entire service that Jill’s melodic caterwauling was not heard was during the reciting of the Shemah. It was later revealed that at that time, Jill Instagramming a selfie with her free hand over her eyes, one winking.

Brian Fishbach is a comedian, writer, political satirist, former GTJ JGOTW, and musician specializing in social and political commentary.  You can read Brian’s weekly satire news articles at www.TheComedyNews.com, and enjoy his late-night jokes at www.BrianFishbach.com.  Join The Comedy News’ Facebook page for updates.

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Mr. Yogato Owner and Former JGOTW, Steve Davis, Opens a Bar!

IMG_3965Steve Davis, owner of Mr. Yogato and former JGOTW, is opening a new lunch-spot and bar- Thomas Foolery.  We asked Steve a few questions about Thomas Foolery, but to learn about all the quirks (think Mr. Yogato, but instead of yogurt there’s adult drinks!) read the Washington City Paper article, “12 Craziest Things About Thomas Foolery, Opening Wednesday.”  Or follow Thomas Foolery on Facebook and check it out for yourself on July 17th!

Rachel: We heard Thomas Foolery features Mario Kart and an Etch-a-sketch wall.  What else can customers expect?
Steve: There is a cool “Throne” seat in the corner…whoever sits there has to wear a crown but also has direct Walkie Talkie access to the bar and to Table 4 (random table).  I also love the “Plinko your Smirnoff Ice price game”…there is no set price for Ice and whatever number the Plinko disc falls under is the price you pay.

Rachel: Where did you get the idea for so much coolness in one bar?
Steve: Not sure “coolness” is the right word…but thanks!

Rachel: Was the bar named with anyone in particular in mind?
Steve: It was either that, “Up Up Down Down Left Right,” or “Call Me Maybe.”  Easy decision.

Rachel: Any shout outs?
Steve: Our food truck vendors are awesome…Patrick from the Big Cheese and Kirk from Captain Cookie are providing most of the food.  Thus, we will be a lunch/dinner/late-night spot…and it just so happens that their products classify appropriately as “Little Kid food!”

CHECK OUT SUPER COOL PICTURES! (Photo credit to Washington City Paper)

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The soft launch!

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The Shomer Chronicles: Talking Honestly About Shomer Negiah

hands451This article originally appeared on Jewcy.  You can check out The Shomer Chronicles here.

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If I could choose my job title, I would be a Professional Conversation Starter. I want to start awkward conversations with Jews who are looking for an outlet to speak. I want to discuss the scary and judgment-filled topics that drive individuals in Jewish communities to silence. I want to talk … I want to talk about shomer negiah.

Shomer negiah literally means “guarding one’s touch.” It refers to the practice of refraining from physical contact with members of the opposite sex outside of marriage. It’s a choice reflecting the decision to reserve the intimacy of physical touch solely to be experienced with one’s spouse. The practice manifests itself in an incredible variety of ways for different people. Some individuals who define themselves as shomer negiah struggle with whether to shake the hand of an opposite-gendered professor or whether to give a friendly hug to an acquaintance at a party; others struggle with drawing the line between kissing and more intimate acts.

I have watched my fellow Jews navigate the delicate field of negiah observance throughout my life, but my interest in this institution and Jewish sexuality in general really started in college. I grew up attending Orthodox day schools, where the extent of my sex education was a single class in sixth grade during which a teacher told me that getting my period was my body’s way of practicing for childbirth. As a senior in high school, we girls were pulled aside for a week of classes about the laws of nidah while the boys had study hall. I entered Brandeis University a prototypical clueless, sheltered Jewish girl.

I applied to join an organization that provided counseling and educational programming about sexual health and sexuality. I was accepted and received a 70-hour crash course each fall on every aspect of sexuality, from birth control options to sex toys. The field quickly became my passion.

I taught educational programs to campus groups and first-year halls and held one-on-one counseling sessions in the office. My sophomore year, members of the Orthodox community began discussing relationships and sexuality with me when they learned that I’d grown up in an Orthodox community. I began holding workshops specifically geared toward Orthodox girls and answering their questions. These conversations and my workshops led me to realize that Orthodox girls wanted a venue where they could discuss negiah and how it impacts relationships, intimacy, and sexuality. Like me, they did not grow up with an outlet to discuss these topics in a safe, non-judgmental setting and clearly it was something they wanted to discuss.

Shomer negiah poses challenges for both women and men. Individuals interpret its exact boundaries differently, which can lead to judgment between friends about the legitimacy of others’ practices and choices. A friend once explained to me that she and her friend both wanted to discuss a change in how they practiced being shomer negiah, but neither one brought it up for fear that the other would judge them.

Inevitably, people’s shomer negiah statuses—the particular way they choose to practice, including how strict they are and from whom they permit touch—become known within their community. This means that, in addition to thinking about the personal implications of the practice, individuals must be prepared to respond to others’ assumptions about their level of general observance based on their shomer negiah status. A person can find his or herself judged for being “too” shomer, not shomer enough, or for making exceptions that are not to the judging party’s taste. Furthermore, members of an Orthodox community frequently keep tabs on one another’s shomer status as an important factor in choosing whom to date. Dating somebody who feels differently about the observance of negiah within a relationship can create questions and complications for otherwise-compatible couples.

All of these phenomena are evident just from sitting on the kosher side of Brandeis University’s dining hall. Upperclassmen scrutinize freshmen to ascertain their shomer negiah status. Opposite-sex friends give each other “shomer hugs” (a hugging motion that stops just short of contact). A table discusses whether the couple two tables over is “shomer” behind closed doors—the Orthodox equivalent, in some ways, of questioning whether a new couple is having sex, except that the judgment that accompanies it impacts a person’s social and religious status in the community.

The combination of my experiences as a student and a sex educator made me want to learn more. I floated the idea to friends of starting to collect people’s stories. I asked people who were shomer negiah if they thought it was a good idea, if they thought people would contribute, and if they thought it would be a helpful outlet to discuss these sensitive issues. The answer was a resounding yes.

So, I started The Shomer Chronicles. People either email stories to theshomerchronicles@gmail.com or submit them through an anonymous form on theshomerchronicles.com. I then post the stories on the website’s blog. I want to give people an outlet to speak to an audience that understands them. A contributing storyteller (who gave me permission to use her information), Jessica Kasmer-Jacobs, a master’s student in English Literature at NYU, explained the premise best when she said, “There has never before been an outlet where the readership understands the issues without having to preface the piece with, ‘Well, in Judaism we do this weird thing where we don’t touch each other until we’re married.’”

The stories have come from both girls and guys with ages ranging from 18 to 30. My biggest fear is that people will interpret my posting stories about people’s struggles as an effort to unilaterally discourage or bash the institution of shomer negiah. A friend, for example, asked me whether the site would be just a bunch of angry girls posting about how terrible shomer negiah is. That is not my goal. My goal is to give people an outlet to discuss their emotions openly and without judgment. I will not downplay people’s experiences or censor their stories to preserve a certain image of shomer negiah, or go out of my way to highlight negativity.

The stories illustrate the vulnerability and questions that come with being shomer negiah. One storyteller discussed the difficulty of explaining her decision to become shomer negiah, to her friends. “Almost instantly,” she wrote, “I noticed a change in our friendship—I was perceived as the naïve and innocent one. It was spread around, naturally, and while I was usually comfortable discussing it, I noticed that people began trying to talk me out of celibacy.”

Another wrote about the struggle to reconcile her beliefs with her desire for intimacy. She writes, “I lace my fingers through [your hair] until I reach the yarmulke at the top of your head and feel its threaded, circular edges. You wear it, like the others do, as a reminder of your duty to God. … Sinners, they call us? What kind of covenant am I breaking in loving a man of God?”

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GTJ Satirist Brian F. – Wedding Guests Can’t Agree on What Estimated Cost of Wedding Is

planning-your-weddingSANIBEL ISLAND, FLORIDA – (FACEBOOK The Comedy News)  Wedding guests at the nuptial ceremony of Joseph and Penny Goldmann were deadlocked last Saturday on estimating how much the entire production cost.

In a setting featuring rare flowers flown in from Guam, a 10-piece band featuring a Frank Sinatra impersonator, an open bar, and even souvenir folding chairs for each of the 300 friends and family in attendance, everyone seemed to be celebrating the occasion.  And as the frills kept coming throughout the night, guests could not help but estimate quietly amongst each other just how much their good friends had spent on celebrating the occasion.

“Look at this New York strip steak,” said Dylan Siebelson, a former roommate of the groom, as he fisted a shitake mushroom into his already-chewing mouth.  “This has got to be $80 a plate!  I say $105,000, tops!”

A pair of distant cousins of the bride offered their input.

“We always thought Penny was stingy, no offense, but she always has been,” Sara the cousin offered.  “Dinner was okay, and they only offered two choices for vegetarians.  I say $10,000, maybe $15 but that’s pushing it.”

The close family and friends began to dance to “Havah Nagila”, while the debate moved over to the whiskey-tasting bar, where the debating guests befriended Joe’s boss from work, Edward McCarty.

“Believe me, I’ve been to a lot of these weddings.  Tonight, there’s plenty of food, plenty of liquor, no herky-jerky DJ playing soft rock and hip hop— a real band.  This wedding costs $78,000,” McCarty estimated.

As the gaggle of debating guests continued to deduce a total cost by scrutinizing each and every detail of the wedding, the bride’s brother, George—visibly inebriated—approached the group.

“Hey, hey, hey my love buds!”  George blurted, hugging the debating guests.  “Guess who just got to base number deuce with one of the wedding planner’s assistants just now!”

The debate came to a halt.  McCarty then wrapped his arm around George’s shoulder.

“George my man, I will buy you a whiskey drink of your choice if you can ask that wedding planner’s assistant what the whole cost of the wedding is.”

Still trashed, George turned around and sauntered to the wedding planner.  Upon returning, George reported back to the cost-estimators, “the cake should be out in about 10 minutes.”

At that point, the four debating guests looked at each other, grabbed their souvenir chairs, and got on the shuttle bus back to the Hotel where the four of them proceeded to have a 30-minute makeout session.

The cost of the wedding remains a mystery to this day.

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