Did you have a good time in 5768? For Jews around the world, it was the usual assortment of bad — and even worse — news.
Of course, not everything was awful. It was a year in which the tide turned in favor of the American war effort in Iraq. The rocket barrage on southern Israel was halted (for the most part) by a cease-fire with Hamas, and two Israelis kidnapped by Hezbollah were returned home. But, of course, the two were dead and among those released in order to purchase the corpses was an Arab who had murdered an Israeli family, a feat he continued to boast about as he was being treated as a hero by the Arab world. So that probably has to count as even more bad news.
Elsewhere, Wall Street is in a free fall, making checking the value of your 401k plan as scary as watching Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad talk about wiping out the State of Israel.
So, as we pause to catch our collective breath, the arrival of a new Jewish year has us all wondering about what's in store for 5769. Can things get worse? Of course, they can!
Yet, even as we cope with bankruptcies, bailouts, indicted prime ministers, Islamists with nukes and American politicians and their cheering sections who want to drink each other's blood, we shouldn't lose what's left of our sense of humor.
But before the Almighty writes down just how much worse (or better) it will be for us in the proverbial Book of Life, I present (with apologies, as always, to former New York Times columnist William Safire) the annual "Jewish Pundit Quiz" for 5769.
For the record, in last year's quiz, I was wrong about both presidential tickets, with the dumbest one being my choice of Fred Thompson as the GOP winner. In my defense, I made that pick before he had started campaigning and proved himself a total dud. But before you laugh too hard at me, tell me honestly how many of you really thought back then that John McCain would win or that Barack Obama and Sarah Palin would be dominating the news.
Save this column, and see how you or I do in 5769.
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 tzedakah ("acts of justice and charity") may avert the severe decree.
L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu!
1. The winner of the 2008 presidential race will be:
a. Sen. Barack Obama
b. Sen. John McCain
2. The Jewish vote in the 2008 presidential election will be (by percentage points):
a. Obama 80, McCain 20
b. Obama 75, McCain 25
c. Obama 70, McCain 30
d. Obama 65, McCain 35
e. Obama 60, McCain 40
3. The composition of the U.S. Congress in 2009 will be:
a. Increased Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate
b. No change in the current Democratic majorities
c. A split with the Republicans retaking the House while the Democrats hold on to the Senate.
d. Republican control of both the House and the Senate.
4. The American Jew who will have the most influence on policy in the next administration will be:
a. Obama's Secretary of State Dennis Ross
b. Obama's National Security Advisor Barbara Streisand
c. McCain's Secretary of Defense Joe Lieberman
d. Republican House Minority Whip Eric Cantor
e. Imprisoned Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff
5. The average price of a gallon of gas at the pump in the United States at the end of 5769 will be:
6. The most important issue for most American Jews in 5769 will be:
a. The push for a national health care system
b. Support for the State of Israel
c. The growing number of destitute senior citizens in a depressed economy
d. Fear of the Christian right and Sarah Palin
7. By the end of 5769, the prime minister of Israel will be:
a. Tzipi Livni of Kadima
b. Ehud Barak of Labor
c. Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud
d. Zionist Organization of America leader Mort Klein
e. Ariel Sharon, who will wake from his coma and ask what happened while he was asleep
8. By the start of 5769, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will:
a. Have been resolved, as Livni and Mahmoud Abbas reach a historic agreement.
b. Be sidelined, as an Iranian announcement of the successful test of a nuclear bomb renders all other issues moot.
c. Have re-escalated, as new missile attacks lead to an Israeli all-out attack on Hamasistan in Gaza.
d. Still be stalemated.
9. Which of the following will not be true in 5769:
a. Anti-Defamation League head Abe Foxman will decry the ubiquity of talk about faith in American politics.
b. Most American Jews will be against the system of Congressional earmarks as inherently corrupt, but will applaud when local Jewish groups are the recipients of federal largess.
c. Left-wing groups like J-Street will still be pushing for pressure on Israel while ignoring the fact that both Hamas and Fatah have no interest in peace.
d. Philadelphia will still be waiting for its next major sports championship.
e. The majority of American Jews will recognize that day schools are the key to their community's future and take decisive action to make them affordable for middle-class families.
10. The most important event in Jewish history next year will be:
a. Israel's decision to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.
b. The return of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
c. The outbreak of increased anti-Jewish violence in Europe in the wake of the success of the "Boycott Israel" movement.
d. President Obama's convening of a summit at which Iran and Israel will pledge to give up nuclear weapons.
e. President McCain's decision to move the U.S. embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Tobin's answers: 1. b; 2. b; 3. a; 4. c; 5. b; 6. d; 7. c; 8. d; 9. e; 10. a