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Around the Jewish World

Around the Jewish World

From bungalow baseball to the yeshiva basketball league, there are plenty of all-Jewish sports teams around, but it’s hard to imagine taking MOT-only to the extreme of London’s Maccabi Southern Football League, who actually went on a hunt to root out the goyim when one team snuck in a few ringers.

The Jewish kickers on the Holy Mount Zion team weren’t good at cheating: They reportedly forgot to call their teammates by their fake Jewish names on the field, leading the refs to employ that modern detection tool, Facebook, and then put the ringers on notice to prove they’re Jewish (hopefully, not on the spot.) The other team claims there just weren’t enough tribesman to fill the ranks. No wonder. Who wants to play on a league that’s not only run by such sticklers but also smacks of discrimination. What ever happend to the love of the game?

The sports fields and floors have always been a place to build coalitions and cross boundaries. Just ask the Lubavitch kids and their black neighbors who reached out and built hoop dreams after the Crown Heights riots in the 90s. And here’s a nice photo op with the Israeli consulate handing formerKnicks all-star Alan Houston a Martin Luther King award. Play nice, London Maccabis. Think beyond the goalpost and make new friends.

We lost two legends this week, but few people probably knew their names.

Joanne Siegel was ostensibly the inspiration for the intrepid reporter Lois Lane, although she was not a journalist. (Ruth Gruber more fits the bill.) Siegel was one of the last ties to the Jewish origins of Superman, having married one of his creators, Jerry Siegel. They met, the story goes, when she posed for Siegel and his partner Joe Shuster to practice their renderings of Lois when the characters were in conceptual stage. Like the character she helped form, Siegel led a tenacious fight of her own, to successfully win the legal rights to Superman and related characters after new interest in it from Warner Brothers that began with movie series in the 70s and 80s and continues with rehashes today. Jerry Siegel died in 1996. Joanne, 93, the daughter of Hungarian immigrants, died in California at 93.

Len Lesser had a recurring role on Seinfeld as Uncle Leo, who lived alone, gave cheap presents and fishes watches out of trash cans. Comedy aside, Leo’s character stuck with us because we all have some version of a Jewish Uncle Leo, or know one: Born before World War II with at least some connection to Europe and the immigrant experience, public school educated, likely an army veteran, unlucky at love or business; perhaps divorced or widowed. For him to die 12 years after the show went off the air makes us feel that he was that neglected relative that went off to Florida to retire and was never heard from again until somoene’s sitting shiva for him.

Bronx-born Len Lesser, the son of a Polish immigrant, fought the Japanese during the war and had a long career on stage and screen before he finally got the part that made him, if not a household name, a recognizable face. “Uncle Leo became a whole new thing for me,” Lesser told The National Post in Canada in 2010. “After sweating out every job, my God. Now it’s everywhere I go. I was at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, watching people put notes in the wall, it’s an esoteric day, very silent, very nice. All of a sudden: ‘Uncle Leo, where’s the watch?’ Lesser was 88 and died of pnuemonia after a bout with cancer.

There are fewer and fewer Uncle Leos, or Len Lessers, around these days as their generation sunsets. If you still have one, why not give him a call and reconnnect for a while.


Speaking of "Seinfeld," those Junior Mints that Jerry and Kramer noshed while watching surgery, with near tragic results, are now (trumpets, please) kosher. Dentists and observant noshers everywhere, rejoice. Sugar Babies, Tootsie Rolls and DOTS, too. Good news for people looking for new Shalach Manot stuffers or ammunition to throw after the haftara; bad news for parents. As if going to the movies wasn’t expensive enough. Frum dads have lost an excuse not to shell out five bucks for a box of sugar, food coloring and (now kosher) gelatin. Thanks, Orthodox Union.

Want to know what’s not kosher? Diabetes. Maybe Michelle Obama should pay a visit to the OU and give her pep talk about juvenile obesity and its health risks. Maybe some products should stay unkosher. The OU and other members of the Big Four supervision agencies admit to supervising some products that don’t need it, like bottled water, beer and soap. How about slapping a hecksher on some carrot sticks or nice, crunchy celery stalks? Like Junior Mints, they too can be very refreshing.

Parting thought, courtesy of George Lopez, on our President’s upcoming meeting with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg: "I think it’s great that the most important person in the world is going to meet Barack Obama."

Have a great weekend.

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