Weekly Quiz


Much attention is focused on deflated footballs this week, as the New England Patriots approach the Super Bowl under a cloud of scandal. What is the "Jewish" connection to the football?

AGerman Jewish immigrants Joseph Schwarzchild and Ferdinand Sulzberger were partners in the Schwarzchild & Sulzberger company, whose main business was meatpacking. They expanded by finding other uses for the by-products of their work, including tennis racket strings, surgical sutures, footballs and other products. The company eventually became the Thomas E. Wilson Company, now known as Wilson Sporting Goods, the supplier of footballs for the NFL (including the deflated footballs).

B. The Wilson Sporting Goods Company is the official supplier of footballs for the National Football League.  In 2003, the NFL complained to Wilson officials that they were not satisfied with the laces on the football, which had a tendency to open slightly on very hot days. In its effort to find a better product with which to make the laces, Wilson turned to Israeli company Para-Tec, which makes parachutes for the Israeli Defense Forces. Para-Tec provided a product based on the strings they used on military parachutes, and this product has been used on NFL footballs ever since (including the deflated footballs).

C. While footballs are referred to as pigskin, they are in fact made from leather. Originally, however, they were made of pigskin. In 1950, Brandeis University played its first football game, but the Board of Trustees was not happy with the use of the footballs made from pigs, given that the university operated under Jewish auspices. They contracted with the Spalding Company to design a football made of cow's leather rather than pigskin. The ball became so popular that over time other teams began using it, and now, all footballs are made of leather rather than pigskin (including the deflated footballs).

DWilson Sporting Goods, the official supplier of footballs for the NFL, was founded in 1915 by Thomas Wilson. This was a time of strong anti-immigrant feeling in America, and Wilson (like many employers at that time) refused to hire Jews to work in his company. In 1918, a lawsuit was filed by the recently established Anti-Defamation League on behalf of Harry Schild, a Jewish immigrant who was refused employment because of his religion. The case, Schild vs. Wilson, eventually reached the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Schild. The company hired Schild, but ironically he quit almost immediately after being assigned to work with the pig skins, a product he refused to touch because of his religious beliefs.

E. Football was invented in the shtetl of Pinsk in Belarus when a kosher butcher sewed together sections of cow hide, which he gave to the neighborhood children to play with. They began throwing it and kicking it around, eventually developing teams and rules. The ball was called the Pinsk-Skin, but over time, as the popularity of the game spread beyond the shtetl, the name morphed into Pigskin, which the non-Jews who played the game found easier to pronounce.

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El Capitan

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson just completed a free climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. In 2005, Israeli Felix Slamovics completed a partial ascent of El Capitan in a unique way. How did Slamovics climb El Capitan?

ASlamovics climbed El Capitan aided only by the use of his hands and arms, as he is paraplegic, unable to use his legs. While he did not successfully reach the summit of El Capitan, he set the record for the highest ascent of the peak by a paraplegic, a record which holds to this day.

B. Slamovics, a Chabad Lubavitch rabbi, climbed El Capitan on Yom Kippur, while observing a total fast, not even drinking any water. Though he did not reach the summit due to dehydration, he is credited with calling attention to the mitzvah of fasting among a large population of young Israelis for whom religious observance was not an important part of their lives.

C. Slamovics, an Orthodox Jew, carried a Torah Scroll with him on his climb. His goal was to read one Torah parsha (chapter) at each resting stop along his ascent. However, the climb proved so strenuous that during his frequent breaks, he completed the entire Torah before reaching the top of El Capitan, so he discontinued his effort after reading the final parsha, V'Zot Ha’Bracha.

DBecause Slamovics has ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), he ascended the mountain in a homemade device he dubbed the Harley Felixson, made of bicycle parts and mountain rescue equipment. Two years later he successfully climbed the 614-foot Azrieli Tower in Tel Aviv using this device.

ESlamovics was carrying his son, Isaac, whom he intended to sacrifice at the summit of El Capitan, to show his devotion to G-d. However, as he neared the summit, G-d stopped him and provided a ram to be sacrificed instead.

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Israel was represented by 12 high tech companies at the just ended Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. One of the Israeli companies, Silentium, offered what kind of product?

ASilentium was demonstrating a small noiseless drone known as the SilentCopter, with a high definition camera that can be controlled from a smartphone. The device is based on one which they originally developed for the Israeli military, but the consumer model does not contain a rocket launcher.

B. Silentium, founded in 1979, originally made white noise machines for use in therapist offices. They have since expanded to make a wide range of noise reducing and noise masking products. Their newest device, exhibited at CES 2015, is known as the SheketCell. Rather than masking noise, this device can be used in locations such as theaters and restaurants to block all cellular and wireless internet signals, thus silencing cell phones by eliminating their connection to the outside world.

C. Silentium invented the Quiet Bubble, which can reduce ambient noise in a zone around a person's head without the necessity of wearing noise-canceling headphones (sort of like your own personal Get Smart Cone of Silence).

DUsing high-tech technology, Silentium has invented the ultimate low-tech product–a noise canceling tallis. When placed over your head, the tallis completely blocks the noise of the two guys sitting behind you in shul who are constantly shmoozing about their aches and pains, even during the Silent Amidah. Because the “SilenTallis uses no electronics, it is acceptable for use in Orthodox synagogues.

E. The company is named after the newest atomic element, number 119, which is called Ununsilentium. The Israeli company has found a way to modify the Uzi submachine gun to fire a small burst of radiation instead of bullets. This nuclear “bullet” device is a type of portable x-ray machine that can be administered anywhere at a greatly reduced cost compared to traditional x-ray equipment.

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House Majority Whip Steve Scalise is taking heat for his 2002 address to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, a white supremacist group co-founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Duke has had much to say regarding the Jewish community. Which of the following is NOT a quote from David Duke?

AJewish hatred of Christ and Christianity can be seen in a never-ending parade of vicious Jewish attacks on Jesus and Christianity in the media. It is illustrated by Larry David’s HBO television program Curb Your Enthusiasm where this Jew urinates on a picture of Jesus.

B. [The Talmud] sets the entire course of law by which Jews must live, boasting that Jews themselves were the ones who executed Jesus, not the Romans. It also claims that Jewish priests in the afterworld have conjured up Jesus where they are boiling him in excrement for eternity.

C. No Jewish leader has to direct his minions to seek political control of Gentile nations; they do it as naturally as the Blue Jay appropriates another bird’s nest.

D. These Jews who run things, who are producing this mental illness - teenage suicide... all these Jewish sicknesses. That’s nothing new. The Talmud’s full of things like sex with boys and girls.

E. The only positive contribution ever made to the world by the Jewish people is the pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Deli. Oy. Such a mechaya!

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