Weekly Quiz

Sweden & The Jews

Sweden is in the news, with President Trump’s false claim of a terrorist attack there recently. With a Jewish population of fewer than 20,000, there aren’t a lot of “Jewish/Swedish” stories. But which of the following is true?

AYiddish is one of the official languages of Sweden.

B. Benny Andersen first started performing in a Swedish pop-rock group, the Hep Stars in 1946. The band was successful in Sweden, mostly performing cover songs. Over time, Benny was interested in writing and performing original music, and he eventually teamed up with three other musicians that he had met, Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Björn Ulvaeus, to form a new band. They were writing and practicing, but had not yet decided upon a name for the band. One day Benny was in a coffee house in Stockholm when he overheard a young child at a table nearby, calling out to his father, who happened to be a tourist from Israel. “Abba, abba,” the child said. Benny liked the sound of the word “abba” and asked the gentleman what it meant. Told that it was Hebrew for “father,” Benny decided that it was fate that he should choose that name for his band, as he had only learned that morning that his wife was pregnant.

CThe first Jew to be offered Swedish citizenship was Aron Isak, in 1774. King Gustav, who granted him this privilege, then allowed Isak to bring in additional Jewish families to ensure there would be 10 men for a minyan.

D. One of the world’s most famous children’s books came out of Sweden, where author Astrid Lindgren, born in Vimmerby, wrote the Pippi Longstocking series. Lindgren, who was Jewish, purposefully did not make her most famous character a Jew, as she wanted Pippi to be seen as representing little girls world-wide. The one Jewish reference in the Pippi Longstocking books was Pippi’s father, the seafarer Ephraim Longstocking, named after Astrid’s father Ephraim, who emigrated to Sweden from Russia following the Kishinev pogrom in his hometown in 1903.

ETuvia Peretz was a peddler in Lithuania who used to blow a shofar as he pulled his cart through the streets of Vilnius, summoning the residents to come and buy his wares. He survived World War II and emigrated to Sweden, where he continued to sell small goods from a cart, eventually becoming successful enough to rent a storefront to sell home goods and furniture. As an homage to his roots in Lithuania, he named his store Tkea Furniture. However, he was told by a local customer that Tkea was very similar to the Swedish word for rubbish, so Peretz, not looking to spend money for a new sign above his front door, simply added a horizontal line at the bottom of the Letter T, making the new name Ikea, which has since grown to nearly 400 stores around the world.

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Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass was an African-American abolitionist and social reformer who was born into slavery in 1818. What Jewish connection did he have in his life?

Frederick Douglass by moosevlt is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

ADouglass was born on a plantation on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The plantation, which was owned by a Sephardic Jew named Moses Lindo, primarily grew tobacco.

BAfter Douglass escaped slavery, he moved to New York City where he became active in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, whose membership included Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. Douglass eventually became a licensed preacher, leading to the development of his oratorical skills. As he became known for his leadership in the abolitionist movement, he spoke primarily at African-American churches; however, in 1851, Douglass was invited to speak at Congregation Ansche Chesed on the Lower East Side of New York, the first time he had addressed a white audience on the subject of ending slavery.

CIn 1838, Douglass escaped slavery by boarding a train which took him to Havre de Grace in northeast Maryland. From there he made his way into Pennsylvania, where he made contact with abolitionists who were part of the Underground Railroad network. As he awaited assistance to travel to New York City, Douglass was temporarily housed by a Jewish couple, Anshel Bondi and his wife Henrietta, who were among the many white Jews and Christians who supported the movement of escaped slaves to safety in the North.

DDespite being married and the father of five children, Douglass carried on a 22-year affair with Ottilie Assing, a journalist from Germany whose mother was Lutheran but whose father was Jewish.

E. Following up on his recent statement that “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice,” President Trump recently announced that he will be inviting Douglass to come to the Passover seder at the home of his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Said Trump, “I was just talking to this Black reporter the other day, and I said to her, ‘I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting? Is Frederick Douglass a friend of yours? Set up a meeting. Invite him to my seder.’ Because Passover is a holiday about freedom, and we can all understand that freedom is big league good. My administration will have the most free Jews and Black people of any administration in the history of our country. We can do that because we got 306 Electoral College votes. That’s more than any Black or Jewish president got. Really. Just ask Bibi. I told him about that just last week. My Jewish daughter and son-in-law were sitting right there in the front row.”

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Chuck Schumer

What did Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York do recently that has stirred up controversy within the Jewish community?

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) by Center for American Progress Action Fund is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

ASenator Schumer announced his support for Keith Ellison, who is a candidate to be the next chair of the Democratic National Committee. Some Jews consider Ellison to be anti-Semitic and anti-Israel, based on his past connection to the Nation of Islam and some of his comments regarding the Israel/Palestinian issue.

B. Senator Schumer has been very critical of Donald Trump’s comments about banning Muslims, and his administration’s recent travel ban that is on hold through a court order. Recently Senator Schumer announced that if a Muslim registry is established, it is his intention to register as a Muslim (as have others in the Jewish community, including Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt). Schumer has been criticized for these comments by some in the Jewish community, including ZOA president Mort Klein and leaders of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

C. Speaking about the Trump administration appointments of former Goldman Sachs bankers (including Treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin) and his concern that Trump’s policies are designed to enrich his wealthy supporters (including Jews such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, investor Carl Icahn, and investment banker Boris Epshteyn), Schumer said “Donald Trump meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, his special interest friends and his donors.” Many in the Jewish community felt that Schumer’s comments were reminiscent of the canard of an international Jewish banking conspiracy.

DSenator Schumer has often been at odds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in particular when the Prime Minister went around normal diplomatic channels to address the United States Congress in 2015, a speech which Schumer boycotted. Schumer again criticized Netanyahu recently when the Prime Minister announced the building of the first new settlement on the West Bank in about 20 years. Schumer received much criticism for his comments from supporters of Israel, and in particular from AIPAC.

E. Senator Schumer’s meatloaf recipe was recently featured in a New York Times article. The meatloaf, which Schumer calls the Omnibus Loaf, includes not only beef, veal and chicken, but also pork. 

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Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots

The New England Patriots won a record fifth Super Bowl after overcoming a 25 point deficit, defeating the Atlanta Falcons 34-28. Robert Kraft, the Jewish owner of the Patriots, is a major philanthropic supporter of Jewish causes and Israel, including the building of the Kraft Family Stadium, Israel’s only American football stadium. The Kraft family has also brought many football players to Israel, including Tom Brady and Hall of Famers Andre Tippett, Jim Taylor, Jack Youngblood, and Raymond Berry. In 2005, what did Robert Kraft bring to Israel to show Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which got major scrutiny by Israeli security before being allowed in?

Tom Brady of the New England Patriots by Linda Seid Frembes is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

AA deflated pigskin, which was allowed in only after approval by the Chief Rabbi.

BThe three Super Bowl rings that Kraft won in Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII, and XXXIX (2002, 2004, and 2005).

CThe Vince Lombardi Trophy which the New England Patriots won in Superbowl XXXIX on Febuary 6, 2005.

D. A New England Patriots helmet that he had specially made for the Prime Minister, which featured a 6-pointed Star of David in place of the 5-pointed star that is part of the team’s logo.

E. Fashion model and Tom Brady’s wife Gisele Bündchen.

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