Whether you’re at a Long Island Shabbat dinner or a Palm Beach beauty parlor, it would not be unusual to hear a version of the following Jewish-exceptionalist trope: ‘Well just look at how many Jewish Nobel Prize winners there are. Must be something to that whole chosen people thing huh?’ Put aside the absurdity that Jewish Nobel Prize winners themselves attribute their accomplishments to some genetic predisposition of being recognized by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. While we rightly scoff at suggestions of Jewish overrepresentation in finance or media, there seems to be no shame in shepping a little nachas by delighting in disproportionately being honored by a foundation whose origins emerge from ensuring that its founder would not be remembered for inventing dynamite.
Of course, that is a gross oversimplification. Winners of the Nobel Prize are to be commended for their incredible contributions to global society. As to why so many Jews have been gifted the 11 Million Swedish Kronor along with an all-expense paid trip to Stockholm? A 2013 Haaretz article dispels common misconceptions of some innate Israelite aptitude for education and scholarship. The most likely answer, at least according to the article’s author, arises from the Nobel’s establishment at the turn of the 20th century coinciding with a period when waves of Jewish migrants moved from rural shtetls to urban centers.
Upon arrival in Berlin, Paris, St. Petersburg, New York and elsewhere, the quickest way up the social ladder ran though excellence in science with its universal, meritocratic values. Thus, through a historical quirk Jews happened to flock to exactly the fields for which the Nobel Committee awards prizes. Once in those professions, it was only natural that their children and grandchildren would pursue similar paths explaining the enduring legacy.
At last year’s JCC Passover Seder, we were beyond fortunate to host Dr. Drew Weissman. If that name sounds familiar, it is because just a few days ago Dr. Weissman received the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his and partner Katalin Karikó’s “discoveries concerning nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19”. In layman’s terms, the man responsible for us being able to host an in-person Passover seder in 2022 sat and sang the four questions with us in Tokyo that night. While the dais tried to keep up with Dr. Weissman’s brilliance, our Table of Learned Doctors and their kids were the ones who kept him the most animated.
What did Dr. Weissman think of our humble community center? As his assistant graciously wrote to us afterward, “What a treat it was to find ourselves in the midst of the warm and welcoming community that is the JCJ. Moreover, it was thrilling to experience Pesach service in English, Hebrew and intermittent Japanese! It is amazing how the simple act of seeking out Jews in any corner of the world can make us feel instantly at home, no matter how far from home we actually are…we loved sharing the festivities with everyone—it was an experience we will not soon forget.”
Wishing a hearty Mazal Tov to Dr. Drew Weissman and yes, the Jewish people on an incredible achievement.
Shmini Atzeret Kabbalat Shabbat
Lecture on The Jewish Community in Poznan: Past and Present
Friday, October 6th
Dinner in the Sukkah by reservation: 7:00pm
Lecture following dinner is open to all
Shmini Atzeret Shabbat Service with Yizkor
Saturday, October 7th
Lunch in the Sukkah by reservation: 12:30pm
Erev Simchat Torah Service
Saturday, October 7th
Services and Dancing with the Torah: 6:00pm
Pizza, refreshments and drinks
Friday, October 13th
Dinner by reservation: 7:00pm
Friday, October 27th
Dinner by reservation: 7:00pm
Shabbat Parshat Lech Lecha
Bar Mitzvah of Kenny Schamisso
Kiddush Lunch: 12:30pm
All are welcome!
JCJ Platinum 70th Anniversary
Saturday, November 11th in the evening
Featuring 70s music, food and cocktails
Couvert: 15,000 yen
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Will these holidays never end? The cavalcade of conspicuous consumption continues with even more celebration in the Sukkah and sanctuary this weekend. Yes, of course that means food. Sukkot started with two packed meals followed by Hiroo Hoshanot on Sunday morning where we took the lulav and etrog to the streets singing all the way. Join us for Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah on Saturday evening where we’ll sing traditional songs while dancing with the Torah.
Mazal Tov to the Israeli Embassy in Japan on the construction of its first ever Sukkah this year. The JCC in partnership with the Yokosuka Chaplain’s Office inaugurated the Sukkah with the entire delegation where Ambassador Gilad Cohen led the traditional waving of the four species. If you want to see more, check out the embassy’s video of the event.
Thank you to the Gernshein Duo for a rousing performance of beautiful pieces from European-Jewish composers who were nearly forgotten.
Yiddish Club with Jack Halpern: Please contact Jack at email@example.com if you are interested to join. All levels are welcome, from beginner to advanced. Much more than just language, the club’s monthly meetings explore Yiddish culture as well.
Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah
Candle Lighting Night 1: 5:00pm
Candle Lighting Night 2: 5:55pm from a pre-existing flame