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Non-Trivial Pursuits

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31 questions not trivial to us

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I was cleaning out my parents’ game cabinet during Passover and found a deck of trivia cards from the 1980s. As I leafed through the questions, I soon realized that many of them were Jewish in nature. Now, this was not a Jewish trivia deck at all, but one that tested the player’s general knowledge — facts the question-makers felt everyone should, or at least could, know.

And if people in general should know these things about Jewish religion and history, how much more should we Jews know these facts about our own heritage? Right? So… do you?

Here are the questions, phrased just as the deck has them:

1. Name the Jewish New Year, celebrated in September or early October.

2. What does Yom Kippur mean?

3. What is the Jewish feast of lights called?

4. What is the first book of the Bible?

5. In the Book of Genesis, who lived 969 years?

6. How many people were on Noah’s Ark?

7. According to the Bible, where did Noah’s Ark finally come to rest?

8. What was the Biblical tower of many languages called?

9. What was Delilah’s nationality?

10. Name the last Judge of Israel, who anointed Saul as King of Israel.

11. What was David’s occupation before he became a warrior and king of Israel?

12. In what year were the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered?

13. Which book of the Old Testament is missing from the Dead Sea Scrolls?

14. In what year was the nation of Israel formed?

15. What is Israel’s legislative body called?

16. In what year was the Yom Kippur War?

17. Name two of the three countries involved in the Yom Kippur War.

18. Name the two Middle Eastern leaders who signed a peace treaty with President Carter in 1977.

19. Name one of the two countries which had a submarine vanish in the Mediterranean in 1968.

20. What canal opened in 1869?

21. In which play does Shylock appear?

22. What is the Italian word for the Jewish residential districts created in the Middle Ages?

23. Name the sect of Jewish mystics founded in Poland about 1750.

24. What Austrian physician developed psychoanalysis?

25. Who wrote “Das Kapital”?

26. What German business leader born in 1743 founded an international banking house?

27. Who wrote the “Foundation Trilogy”?

28. Whose will, in 1917, established awards in writing and music?

29. Which contemporary economist from the University of Chicago is known for his monetarist theories?

30. Which former Miss American became a consumer advocate?

31. As whom was the magician Erich Weiss (1874-1926) better known?


1. Jewish New Year: Rosh Hashanah

2. Yom Kippur: Day of Atonement

3. Feast of lights: Hanukkah

4. First book of the Bible: Genesis

5. Lived 969 years: Methuselah

6. People on the Ark: 8 (Noah, his three sons, and their wives)

7. Ark resting place: Mount Ararat

8. Biblical tower: Babel

9. Delilah: Philistine

10. Last Judge: Samuel

11. David’s occupation: Shepherd

12. Dead Sea Scrolls: 1947

13. Missing from Scrolls: Esther

14. Israel formed: 1948

15. Israel’s legislature: the Knesset

16. Yom Kippur War fought: 1973

17. Yom Kippur War: Israel, Egypt, Syria

18. Peace treaty: Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin

19. Lost subs: France, Israel

20. The Suez Canal

21. Shylock: Merchant of Venice

22. Jewish districts: ghetto

23. Jewish sect: Chassidim (or Hassidim)

24. Psychoanalysis: Sigmund Freud

25. “Das Kapital”: Karl Marx

26. Banker: Meyer A. Rothschild

27. “Foundation Trilogy”: Isaac Asimov

28. Writing awards: Joseph Pulitzer

29. Economist: Milton Friedman

30. Miss America: Bess Myerson

31. Magician: Harry Houdini

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