The Jewish Mysticism of The Big Lebowski

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The Jewish Mysticism of The Big Lebowski

Yeah, man, it's more than just not rolling on Shabbes

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“This is not ‘Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.” — Walter Sobchak

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The Big Lebowski, apparently, is a good film for Jews to watch during Coronavirus lockdown.

 That’s right – The Times of Israel recently made the suggestion, pointing to John Goodman’s portrayal of an observant Jew in the film.

But there is so much more. Oh so much more. 

It all began March 6, 1998, when The Big Lebowski hit the silver screen, and with it, a cult classic was stamped onto North American pop culture.

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Based incredibly loosely on a composite of real characters, it’s mostly the story of a laid-back stoner named Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, a kidnapping, a soiled rug that tied the room together, an identity mix-up, and of course oddball bowling buddies.

The film has spawned an annual celebration of all things Lebowski called Lebowski Fest, and a religion was created called Dudeism – or the Church of the Latter-Day Dudes. Nearly half a million people are now Dudeist priests, worldwide.

It’s not the only time faith has been associated with the film. There is, after all, a character named Jesus (which nobody fugs with), and Lebowski’s pal Walter Sobchak is a practicing Jew who “doesn’t roll on Shabbes”.

More poignantly, the film is an allegory for the Exodus from Egypt. Ready for this?

As an interesting mix of faith and film, perhaps there’s a way to mix devotion to Judaism, with being a devotee to Lebowski-ism, and make a “Sobchak Seder”.

The festive meal, of course, takes place in a bowling alley. 10-pin, to be precise – each pin representing a plague in Egypt.

In the spirit of Sobchak, participants will retell the stories of each plague, but as the personal experiences during his tour of duty in Vietnam: a river turned to blood, swarms of biting insects, pestilence, days of darkness, and so forth.

The last plague, the death of the firstborn Egyptian male, is symbolized by a tin of Folger’s coffee, once-used to hold their friend Donny’s ashes. This is complemented by the use of Maxwell House Hagadahs (a version of the Seder prayer book published by the coffee company).

Symbolizing the Jewish people’s sorrow in slavery, horseradish is eaten at the Seder, but don’t think about getting it from the jar. Grate those bitter herbs by hand; if you want to enter a world of pain, you ought to do it right.

Instead of saying “Let My People Go”, the chant will be “This Aggression Will Not Stand, Man!” The celebratory songs will be sung to Creedence tunes (but not the Eagles, especially if the Dude is invited.)

Sobchak, naturally, is a Republican supporter. Because: Jerusalem. Plus, he loves his guns. The Second Amendment, man, shall not be infringed. And Sobchak was saying “believe me” long before The Donald.

Therefore, it would stand to reason that he would introduce Trump parallels in the Exodus story. To keep the nieces and nephews (and his ex-wife Cynthia’s kids) entertained during the long, drawn-out ritual, he’ll tell how Pharaoh made slaves build the pyramids – and made the Jews pay for it.

He’ll talk about how Moses was quoted as saying “Make Sinai Great Again.” And he’ll explain how the Golden Calf was a “disaster” that never should have happened (and anything golden should have been in Trump’s abode, anyhow.)

And finally, no Sobchak Seder would be complete without doling out the matzah straight from a bowling ball bag. 

If you’ve ever wondered how Joel and Ethan Coen’s masterpiece, The Big Lebowski, could fit into the story of the Exodus (surely, you have), now you know.

Dave Gordon is the managing editor of TheJ.ca. His work has appeared in more than a hundred media around the world, including all of the Toronto dailies, BBC, Washington Times, and UK Guardian.

 
 
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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

cOMING SOON…….

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Interview: Defending Israel Inside The UN Mission

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Defending Israel Inside The UN Mission

Ambassador Prosor felt it was very important to be heard, and to be heard you have to be different.

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Aviva Klompas

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At the United Nations, Israel has few friends – the US being one of them – as it is constantly being barraged by one-sided condemnations, biased resolutions, decades-long enmity and global indifference. 

One thing that Israel cannot do is stand quietly, as that would be accepting the false narrative from its enemies. On the world stage, Israel protests, speaks out and exclaims to the nations that it is being treated unjustly. But what occurs with regard to their responses, in the lead-up to the podium, is largely unknown. Until now.

Aviva Klompas has the inside story, having served as the Director of Speechwriting for Israel’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York City. Klompas crafted highly acclaimed speeches for Ambassador Ron Prosor, that advanced Israel’s policies and informed public opinion.

During Klompas’ time at the UN, several major events occurred, including the collapse of four Middle Eastern states, the international “Iran deal” that gave the Islamic state $150 billion, countless anti-Israel resolutions, the Palestinians’ bid to join the International Criminal Court, the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, and fifty days of war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and on and on.

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Her just-released book, Speaking for Israel: a speechwriter battles anti-Israel opinions in the United Nations, is a memoir about her time as speechwriter for Israel at the United Nations.

It is a fascinating look inside the inner workings of the UN, as only a speechwriter could describe, a candid and surprising examination of how the Israeli delegation—and Israel as a whole—is perceived, and treated, in the international body.

The book includes a preface by Alan Dershowitz, one of America’s most famous lawyers, authors and Israel defenders. 

Klompas, a Toronto native, is currently the Associate Vice President of Israel & Global Jewish Citizenship at Combined Jewish Philanthropies in Boston, and previous to her speechwriting for the UN, had worked for the Ontario government.

TheJ.ca asked Klompas to talk about the trials and tribulations of her speechwriting  job, and Israel’s struggles in the UN.

Aviva Klompas

Why did you decide to write the book?

Aviva: I wrote this book, partially, to tell my story – the current events of what was happening in the Middle East while I was doing this job were pretty interesting. 

The other reason I wrote this book is that there are so many people working in the Israeli Foreign Ministry or representing Israel and Embassies or Missions around the world and it’s tireless and thankless work. These are not well-paying jobs. 

It’s hard to be relocated to a new country – especially to a place like the UN. This is stressful work, where you always feel like you are reacting to something in the world. It’s long hours. It always feels like it is an uphill battle by the nature of the bias at the UN. They came to work and did the job. I think, it’s a little bit my story, but it’s really our story. I guess I wanted to tell that story of the people doing this. It’s very few people that make the headlines – the ambassador, maybe the deputy ambassador, maybe the foreign minister – but what about everyone else that is doing it day in and day out? 

What was the office culture like? 

Aviva: I recall that if I wanted to get a speech reviewed, it’s not like you could book time to come at this time. It was, sort of, come to the office and see if you could squeeze yourself in. 

Certainly, Israelis are much more direct in their feedback which is, for better or for worse. At first it is startling, but then you get to understand that it’s not personal, this is just what I think. There is a certain freedom once you can understand that. But it certainly took some getting used to. 

Could you give me a specific example on a time where you locked horns with your Israeli counterparts. 

Aviva: There is an example that I write about in the book where we were giving a speech for an event that was to raise awareness in of efforts in Israel by a particular NGO to support children with autism. There was an exhibit of paintings by children set up by the UN. I was writing remarks for a reception that the ambassador would be attending. It happened to also be when there were elections for Israel’s president. 

Our spokesperson had been interested in revising the remarks wanted to add a more political note to it. I felt it wasn’t the right thing to do. We don’t have to always politicize everything Israel does. There is plenty of good news stories and apolitical situations and this could be an opportunity for that. 

On the other hand, the spokesperson thought that nice stories don’t always make news, and if there is an opportunity to garner attention for our work, then take the opportunity. So, we were coming at it from two different perspectives. I remember we were totally at odds about which way it should go. The chief of staff happened to come by and say, ‘Here’s a compromise. Why don’t we say we will invite the President of Israel to come to the UN, and be able to see the amazing work that is going on.’ So, it was halfway in between having this political note, and not making it all about sensationalizing the politics of it all. 

Aviva Klompas

 

What would you say is the toughest part of the job? 

Aviva: Learning to write in someone else’s voice, and to learn the things they wanted to say and didn’t want to say. If it was me speaking, I’d want to say it one way. As a speech writer, you have to learn to appreciate that’s the person that is going to be live and on the record. That’s the person that is going to be archived and be on the news. That is the person who has to be able to stand by what they are saying. So, your own opinions or personal style has to take a back seat to the person you are writing for. It’s not always easy. It took me a long time to be able to write well for Ambassador Ron Prosor – he has a very distinct style. He is, by his own rights, extremely articulate, funny, charming, and intelligent. To be able to write for somebody like that takes time. 

Tell me about a backfire, something you thought would go one way but really did not. 

Aviva: Lots. One example was very early on, as I’m learning to write his style, I kept being told, ‘Be more direct. Be more assertive about things.’ I couldn’t really figure out when, where, or how. There was one instance where there had been an incident in Israel with its neighbor where Syria had fired on an Israeli post. It wasn’t the first time. It has happened before. The natural course of events is that Syria will write an outrage letter to the UN telling their side of the story, and Israel will do the same thing. I took it to the ambassador to review. He read it quietly to himself and said, ‘I believe that you have declared war on Syria in this letter.’ Then, he continued, ‘To be clear, you don’t have any authority to declare war.’ All the time, I didn’t get it quite right. 

What was most unexpected?

 Aviva: My boss. He, certainly, took an unexpected approach to diplomacy. One example is that I nicknamed him ‘The Singing Diplomat’. He’d be all too happy to break out into song in the middle of a speech, whether it be a song about African nations –which got him a standing ovation from some of the African nations in the General Assembly. That was an unexpected way to see someone approach diplomacy. His perspective was that there were so many countries at the UN, speeches given. Most countries don’t have a full time speech writer on staff, so they are written by a technical expert. They can be dry and not entirely lively. Ambassador Prosor felt it was very important to be heard, and to be heard you have to be different. He really leaned into it because he wanted people to listen to what he was saying. He knew he had to capture attention to get people to listen. 

With all these dictatorships in all these countries –could you, in theory, have a congenial relationship with the staff of Saudi Arabia? 

 Aviva: It is important to know that at the United Nations, there is what you see on the surface and then what’s going on behind closed doors. Certainly, diplomats had relationships would countries that don’t have formal political or diplomatic ties with Israel. Now, would they want to be photographed on the front of the New York Times? Absolutely not. But did that preclude them from getting together to have discussions? No. 

 Could you, as speechwriter, hang out with an ‘enemy state’ in the lunchroom? 

 Aviva: The first mistake in that question is the premise that I actually have time to sit for lunch. We’ll never know because I was far too overworked. 

 Tell me about an emergency session for you and how you coped with it. 

 Aviva: You can get a phone call any time of day or night, weekend and be told the Security Council is convening a special session, come down to the office we have to get writing. On the one hand, it didn’t happen very early on in my job. It happened when I had a little more experience. And it got to the point that I could write pretty fast. So, it wasn’t an absolute disaster. But still, you realize that you only have a few hours to pen what is going to be said, and emergency sessions tend to get a lot of publicity. So, it’s more than likely going to be live broadcast somewhere – certainly in Israeli media. 

Did any of your views of Israel change based on your newfound knowledge? 

 Aviva: I wouldn’t say my views changed. I’d say that my experience gave me a greater sense of what happens behind the scenes in international diplomacy and the ways in which Israel is working to find equality in the family of nations.

Is speech-writing for Israel a job you’d recommend to others? 

 Aviva: I write in my book that there is a certain mindset needed to work for Israel at the UN. You can’t be easily deterred by situations that seem unfair or unreasonable. You need a courage of conviction to deflect the constant attacks and brush aside the fact that systems and processes aren’t as simple as one might hope. It’s chaotic and haphazard. It’s hard work, long hours, and considerable stress. And you’re going to need to learn to write an endless number of quasi-funny one liners. 

Dave Gordon is the managing editor of TheJ.ca. His work has appeared in more than a hundred media around the world, including all of the Toronto dailies, BBC, Washington Times, and UK Guardian.

 
 
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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

cOMING SOON…….

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Dan Aykroyd’s Love of Vodka and Israel

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A new era for Jewish Journalism in Canada

I welcome everyone to our improved and expanded web platform with TheJ.ca. Our coverage brings Jews in Canada who share important values to a place they can get reliable reporting, entertaining topics, and thought-provoking columns

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Dan Aykroyd’s Love of Vodka and Israel

The Hollywood A-lister is as much battling spirits as bottling spirits

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Ottawa-born and bred Dan Aykroyd

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I was almost eight years old when I first saw the Blues Brothers film poster, and my initial reaction was “look at that, two guys in black suits and black fedoras – must be a movie about a couple of frum guys.”

 That was June, 16 1980 – almost forty years ago to the day.

Since that time, Ottawa-born and bred Dan Aykroyd has become one of Hollywood’s A-listers, with a string of hits as My GirlTrading Places, and probably his most famous role as Ray Stantz in Ghostbusters, with a reboot due out next March.

 In other ventures, he’s gone from battling spirits to bottling spirits – as the public face and driving force behind Crystal Head vodka.

 Thirteen years ago, he saw an opportunity to enter the market after an already successful launch with Patreon tequila.

 “I began to research vodkas. I began to taste them, smell them – all of them. You know what? In the end, I didn’t like what I was smelling and tasting,” he told TheJ.ca.

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His complaint was that, as a rule, vodkas “smell like perfume – offensive – or they smell like nothing.” Worse, he saw many of them had an oily consistency, later discovering that companies often add glycerides or sugar for sweetness, to disguise the scent of the alcohol.

He sought a “pure spirit” without flavour packages, oils or impurities. To this end, the water is schlepped from the Great Wisconsin Glacier Well, which sits under Newfoundland. For an added touch, the vodka is poured over semi-precious stones “for that last satin finish.”

“Nobody goes through the trouble to make cleaner vodka that I do,” he boasted.

Now, several international awards later, and in this, the brand’s Bar-mitzvah year, he says he’s ready to ramp up distribution in Israel bigger than before.

Dan is the public face and driving force behind Crystal Head vodka

Pre-pandemic, the vodka had quite the following at bars and restaurants, he said.

“We have a big constituency in Israel, the nightclubs. There is a huge Russian community that gobbles it up there. LGBTQ Russians like that we are a Canadian vodka,” he says. “Because the treatment of LGBTQ people in Russia is really harsh. It’s the fact that we come from a tolerant country and embrace those communities.”

“From the biker bars, to the goth bars, to the LGBTQ bars, to the fine steakhouses, Crystal Head is there.”

But it’s not just the parties and bars… Crystal Head is a great Kiddush beverage, too, he insisted.

“It goes good with chopped liver and gefilte fish and all the Jewish food. The vodka – cold shot of vodka – goes down good with the food,” he said. “Seders too, yeah.”  

And it turns out that the Blues Brothers looking like yeshiva bochurs, and Crystal Head vodka’s popularity in Israel, are the least of Dan Aykroyd’s Jewish connections.

The author with Mr Aykroyd

In 2008, he traveled to Israel with a friend involved with the HESEG Foundation. As he explained, the organization “encourages [IDF enlistees] to stay and have kids in Israel, instead of going back to wherever they came from. So, they have housing projects, subsidies, et cetera. So, if a Polish or South African officer is serving in the IDF, and he wants to stay in Israel, and wants to have his family there, they make it happen.”

His tour also took him “right on the Galilee and near the Golan Heights” in addition to Tel Aviv, where the air force “scrambled a couple of jets for me.”

“A man and a woman about 19 or 20, got into these F-18s and took off. It was so impressive. It was really just great. The rest of the region there has no air power that can compare to Israel – thank God. Just to see those professionals doing a good job such a young age, is really cool.”

 “As a Christian going there, I really enjoyed it. I want to go back.”

That probably goes for the rest of us too; but until things go back to normal, let us clink a l’chaim with Crystal Head and celebrate its Bar-mitzvah, until we can begin celebrating actual Bar-mitzvahs again!

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

cOMING SOON…….

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