Monday, March 25, 2013

On Passover | 2013

When we visited my grandmother for her 87th birthday luncheon of foot-long hotdogs, strawberry shortcake, and champagne, I found my old alphabet puzzle.

You will notice that is in Hebrew. The letters are, as the Aleph-Bet song refuses to allow me to forget:

Aleph -Silent, used for words that begin with a vowel sound
Bet - B
[Vet - V (Not considered its own letter for official/numerical/crossword purposes, predominantly used in the middle of a word)]
Gimel - G
Dalet - D
He (hay) - H
Vav - V (official V)
Zayin - Z
Chet - CH (phonographic X or Kh like in German, or the Scottish "loch")
Tet - T
Yod - Y (silent unless at the front of a word)
Kaf - K
[Khaf - (CH again. Second, long-Daled version only used as last letter of a word, no vowel)]
Lamed - L
Mem - M (Square-looking second version used only at end of word, no vowel)
Nūn - N (Long nūn only at end of word, no vowel)
Samekh - S
Pey - P (Has the dot in the middle.) Long version only at end of word
[Fey - F (Pey without the dot.) Also has a long version!]
Tsadi - Ts (And a long version…)
Kuf - K
Reish - R
Shin - Sh
[Sin - S (Not a full letter, just a different pronunciation of Shin, denoted by dot on the LEFT branch)]
Tav - T again (May or may not have a dot on the center!)

While I was nostalgia-ing out at work yesterday, trying deserately to remember what Samekh looks like because for some reason it always escapes me, I magically remembered an episode of Sesame Street showed to my class way back in Hebrew School, the first one I went to that was way too conservative and somehow simultaneously lawless and a livid nightmare of child-on-child torment and abuse.

But the show.

My god, it was terrible. So dumb. So dumb it's one of those train wrecks that comes back to haunt you years later so you ca show it to someone else like the Ring tape and say "See? SEE??"

It took me maybe 10 minutes of off-and-on searching at work between customers to find what it really was: "Shalom Sesame" a multi-part series produced between 1986 and 1990, and again recently as an Israeli version of Sesame Street, containing half-translated classic Street bits, and original segments with original cast and puppets.

What I saw was episode 9, "Aleph-Bet Telethon" in which Jerry Stiller runs a telethon to get people to donate Hebrew letters, because somehow I guess they all started vanishing from the Shalom Sesame street sign. Yup.

Anyway, Oscar the Grouch calls in between segmentsfor some reason, and realizes his berating call was answered by his cousin Moishe Oofnik ("oofnik" being Hebrew for "grouch"). He guilts his cousin about being a shitty grouch since he's helping, and concocts a plan to screw up the telethon by introducing a fake letter called "Yuchalechale," in which the hide a Yod they find. Ben Stiller's dad isn't buying it, and discover the hidden Yod, completing their Aleph-Bet.

Then Moishe tries to sell his fake letter on the cheap. Yup.

Now I want you to remember, this was a show produced to be pro-Judaism.

I also learned The Count is Jewish, which is actually a horrible stereotype of Romanian Jews when you see him wearing a yarmulke and little side curls. "One, ha-ha! One pound of flesh for the money lender! Ha-ha-ha!"

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