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News This Week

May 26, 2000

Homer's Omer

Bart Simpson repents for the sin of forgetfulness

Matthew S. Robinson, Advocate Staff

WEST NEWTON -- Starting on the second day of Passover, the remembrance of the exodus from Egypt, we are told to count seven weeks of seven days until Shavuot, the remembrance of the giving of the Torah. But what if we can't keep track? D'oh!

Fortunately, Brian Rosman, a health policy researcher at Brandeis University has come up with a method of remembering which is memorable in itself.

"I find counting meaningful," says Rosman, who happens to be married to Rabbi Barbara Penzner of Temple Hillel Bnai Torah in West Roxbury. "It's always a challenge to keep it up day by day. I like the spiritual idea of connecting Passover with revelation in a tangible way."

Last year, Rosman came upon an electronic Omer calendar which featured 49 still pictures of Homer Simpson, the addlepated patriarch of America's favorite animated television family.

"When I saw it, I wanted to do something more interactive and in-depth," Rosman explains.

The result of Rosman's whimsical project is "The Homer Calendar." Hosted by JVibe, an Internet site for Jewish teens, the calendar ( helps visitors count and appropriately bless each of the 49 days of the Omer. Special days such as Yom Hazikaron, Yom Ha'Atzmaut and two passings of Rosh Chodesh are also noted.

"It seems to have really struck a chord with a lot of people," Rosman says, noting the site's 17,000 hits, over ten percent of which have come from Israel. "People appreciate the humor and are taking it more seriously than I intended."

In fact, people from around the world (including many rabbis) have been using the site to literally remind them of which day it is. In order to spice up the site even further, Rosman has used scenes from an episode of "The Simpsons" which featured the voice of Jackie Mason to create a photo essay entitled "Jewish life in Springfield."

Rosman sees many Jewish elements in "The Simpsons." In addition to the many Jewish writers, Rosman also cites the fact that popular character Krusty the Klown was born to a family of rabbis (much like Mason) and that the show once parodied the film "The Jazz Singer," which has starred Al Jolson and Neil Diamond. The "mix of high- and low-brow humor" also reminds Rosman of the Marx Brothers.

Rosman says that he first became interested in The Simpsons while living in Israel, where the show is almost as popular as it is in America.

"I love it," he exclaims. "I watch it all the time." As to whether or not the people at Fox would reciprocate his good feelings, Rosman hopes that, if one of them should see it, they would get a laugh out of it, and maybe learn something in the process. If they are going to be sticklers for copyright law (which, Rosman points out, allows parodies), he hopes they will at least be lenient.

"There's an old joke in which a man is given eight days to take down his sukkah," Rosman recalls. "Hopefully, they'd give me at least 49 days to take down the site."

Copyright The Jewish Advocate 2000