As the Jewish Exponent went to press with its Rosh Hashana issue last year,
Islamic terrorists launched their war on the United States on Sept. 11, and everything changed. Among many other far more important things, this also meant that I threw out my annual Jewish pundit quiz column and replaced it with one that focused on the tragic events of the day.
This year, as we observe the anniversary of the terror attacks, it's time again to think about the coming Jewish New Year and what's in store for us. Let's face it, 5762 was awful. Here in America, we coped with the aftermath of Sept. 11; in Israel, the Palestinians escalated their terror war on Jews, and casualties reached record highs.
Can things get worse? Sure, they can. But even as we cope with horrible memories of terrorism in this country and Israel, we shouldn't lose what's left of our sense of humor. So before the Almighty writes down just how much worse (or better) it will be for all of us in the proverbial Book of Life, I present (with apologies, as always, to New York Times columnist William Safire) the annual Exponent Jewish Pundit Quiz for 5763.
So guess, or should I say prognosticate, along with me about the coming year. My answers are at the bottom of the column. And remember, if you are worried about the outcome, teshuvah (repentance), tefillah (prayer) and tzedekah (acts of justice and charity) may avert the severe decree! L'Shana Tova Tikatevu!
1. At the start of 5764, the prime minister of the State of Israel will be:
a. Ariel Sharon, who will lead the Likud Party to victory and be the first Israeli premier to be re-elected since Menachem Begin in 1981.
b. Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna, a former general in the IDF whose dovish policies will sweep the Labor Party back to power.
c. Benjamin Netanyahu, who will oust Sharon in a Likud primary and then coast to victory in the general election.
d. Zionist Organization of America President Mort Klein of Lower Merion, whose "moderate" right-wing stands will outflank both Sharon and Bibi inside the Likud Party -- after he makes aliyah, of course.
2. By the end of 5763, President Bush's planned war with Iraq will:
a. Still be waiting to be launched as support for regime change fades.
b. Be successfully concluded as Saddam Hussein's dictatorship is swept away as easily as the Taliban were in Afghanistan.
c. Be completely forgotten as the bloody overthrow of the royal family in Saudi Arabia by Al Qaeda sympathizers shifts America's war on terrorism to the Arabian peninsula.
d. Be stalemated as American forces become bogged down in a lengthy and bloody war against Hussein's loyalists and Al Qaeda allies.
3. By the end of 5763, the Middle East peace process will:
a. Be at the brink of success as reforms transform the Palestinian Authority into a Jeffersonian democracy.
b. Be stalemated as the Palestinian terrorism continues unabated and Israel gradually abandons any pretense that a return to peace talks is possible.
c. Be completely forgotten as a general Middle East war that begins after the American invasion of Iraq leads to a failed Pan-Arab attempt to destroy Israel via weapons of mass destruction.
d. Be the subject of renewed hope as the end of Hussein forces the rest of the Arab world to cut off support for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat despite his re-election as head of the Palestinian Authority.
4. During 5763, the level of American support for Israel will:
a. Decline precipitately as Americans blame Israel for the casualties in the war on Iraq and the spike in oil prices.
b. Increase to new heights as Israel gains sympathy after Saddam Hussein's latest missile attacks on the Jewish state.
c. Remain at the same high levels despite generally incompetent Israeli diplomacy and ham-handed American Jewish attempts to aid the hasbara (public relations) campaign.
5. The most important American Jewish cultural event of 5763 will be:
a. The selection of a Jewish gangster as head of the "Soprano" crime family on the HBO series, as consigliere Herman "Hesh" Rabkin (played by Jerry Adler) steps in after Tony is put away by the Feds.
b. The decision of reclusive Democratic singer Barbra Streisand to do a benefit concert for the George W. Bush re-election fund after Bush proves his friendship for Israel anew during the war with Iraq.
c. Los Angeles slugger Shawn Green's ninth-inning playoff home run off of Arizona's Curt Schilling to put the Dodgers into the World Series for the first time in 14 years.
d. A boom in both travel to Israel and aliyah, as both the intifada and an obsession with "progress" toward peace with the Palestinians fades.
6. In 5763, the American economy will affect Jewish philanthropy as:
a. The stock slump transforms itself into a full-force recession, slashing donations to record lows.
b. The revival of the economy and the start of a new bull market create a new wave of giving.
c. A moderate rise in the economy has no impact on declining levels of Jewish giving as Federation organizations and charities are seen as increasingly irrelevant.
d. A continued slump in the economy has no impact on Jewish philanthropy, as increased support for Israel in the wake of the war with Iraq and Palestinian terrorism reinvigorates Jewish donors.
7. The most influential American Jewish politician in 5763 will be:
a. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), who breaks ranks with former running mate Al Gore and becomes an early front-runner for the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004.
b. Newly elected Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who assumes the role of Democratic presidential powerbroker, and decides in the summer of 2003 to give his support to Gore and against Lieberman in the presidential contest.
c. Gov. Linda Lingle, whose status as America's only Jewish Republican governor, after winning election in Hawaii, makes her a national celebrity.
d. Sen. Hillary Clinton, whose non-Jewish identity doesn't prevent Jewish liberals from making her their preferred presidential option for 2004.
8. The most significant event in Jewish history to take place in 5763 will be:
a. The readoption of the "Zionism is racism" canard by the U.N. General Assembly.
b. The selection of Jewish leftist Michael Lerner as the Green Party's presidential candidate for 2004 as he runs on a platform of "don't leave the Israel-bashing to the anti-Semites."
c. The tragic collapse of part of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as Palestinian Muslims in charge of the site allow it to go unrepaired in a continuing effort to destroy Jewish antiquities.
d. The pardon of American Jewish spy Jonathan Pollard after the war on Iraq.
9. The most sought-after Jewish invitation in 5763 will be:
a. The wedding of Chelsea Clinton to her Jewish boyfriend in Hollywood live on Bill's television talk show.
b. Brunch with media and real estate mogul and Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations chairman Mortimer Zuckerman.
c. Lunch at the summer White House in West Texas as the end of the Saudi dynasty creates openings in President Bush's schedule.
d. Dinner with American troops in Baghdad.
10. The most hotly debated issue among American Jews in 5763 will be:
a. Religious pluralism in Israel.
b. Whether or not it is kosher to oppose Joe Lieberman's run for president.
c. The morality of Israeli counterterrorism measures that result in Arab civilian deaths.
d. The war on Iraq.
e. The revival of worldwide anti-Semitism.
Tobin's Answers: 1a, 2b, 3b, 4c, 5d, 6d, 7a, 8c, 9a, 10e