Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jewish Geography 2.0

I recently attempted to publish my greatest contribution to society on Wikipedia. They didn't find my post worthy, though.

They told me if I wanted to play around, I should "go play in a sandbox."

Rough, guys.

Because Wikipedia is really the pinnacle of academic integrity.

But even if it were... Jewish Geography has ventured across Shabbat tables around the United States, with many claiming that they themselves invented the phenomenon.

Which is quite a compliment, really. It's traveled far.

But let's be serious. We know where the game originated and has spread forth, in turn.

So here's the ice breaker of the decade, published here on a measly blog instead of Wikipedia. Enjoy it as we have.

Jewish Geography 2.0

It’s a common principle that when you assemble several Jews in the same location, they will have many acquaintances in common. “Oh, you know Rachel Schwartz? We went to camp together!” Particularly with first encounters, two people try and find the commonalities between them – who do we know in common? Around the Jewish world, that’s commonly known as “Jewish Geography.

During the fall of 2007, two friends staffed a Shabbaton for the Solomon Schechter High School in Westchester, New York. While there, they created an Ice Breaker which brought the joys of “Jewish Geography” to the form of a game that helps facilitate interactions. Since then, the game has traveled throughout the American Jewish world, often without a name attached to it, particularly around Shabbat tables.

The Game

Played with two people, or groups of pairs, each individual assigns him/herself either to say a common Jewish first name or a common last name.

For example, Zach is assigned to take the first name and Sarit assigned to take the last name. On the count of three, which is counted out loud with three hand claps, each person says the name in his/her head.

Thus, Zach might say Rachel and Sarit might say Shtern.

They then look around the room and say “Rachel Shtern, anyone know a Rachel Shtern?”

If you are playing with a large group, then the pair can subsequently move on to a different partner and continue the game.


1.     To make people loose around each other through laughter

2.     Find commonalities among a group

3.     Serve as a way to open up a program or discussion

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Author of Redwall Series Dies

My favorite author growing up was unquestionably Brian Jacques, author of the Redwall series. The fantasy books pitted mice against stoats, badgers against weasels, shrews against foxes, traditional tales of good versus evil, all through the lens of fantasy animals.

See here for the NYT obituary.

I have followed along with most of the books that Jacques has put out over the past ten years -- they still have a touch of the same magic that I encountered as a kid. I look forward to reading them to my own children.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hearing Israeli Music in the Indian Restaurant

After reading Rabbi Ethan Linden’s relatively-new blog on a daily basis, I have said several times that I should restart Magash Hakesef. If you aren’t checking in on the Chief Conservative Rabbi of Louisiana’s blog, then you should be. Add that one to your GoogleReader.

Tonight I went with my father and his friend and colleague Henry to Madras Mahal in the infamous “Curry Hill.” Southern Indian food – my favorite.

At a certain point I recognized the music playing in the restaurant. Because my Hindi is a bit rusty, I asked the waiter the name of the song. It turns out it’s a “nasha song,” a love song.

You might find it familiar:

Or maybe you don’t. But now listen to this one:

As far as I'm concerned, they are the exact same music. Do you agree?

Two love songs, same music and one or two Israelis make it over to India...

I plan to look into this parallel a bit more, but can only assume that the Indian song came first.

This same phenomenon happened to me several years ago, when I heard what I thought was a Yiddish folk song at a Japanese baseball game. It turns that the Japanese audio director for the Osaka Giants liked the title track for Dschingis Khan’s album and was not up on Mordechai Ben David’s “Yidden.” 

Or maybe he knew both. Who am I to judge?

And we’re back in business. More commentary to come on a more continuous basis.