Forward Thinking

Our 'Car Talk' Rebbe in God's Auto Repair Shop

By Jeffrey Salkin

“Car Talk” hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi

It’s a stereotype, but Jewish men have an ancient and mostly well-earned reputation for not being able to fix things. (There have been many notable exceptions to this, including my father, who could fix anything).

I have done my best to uphold this proud tradition of our people. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle and the chain popped off the sprocket. Heartbroken, I proceeded to drag my bike back home. I would have to drive it to the local bike shop where it would be repaired by someone who — you guessed it — never went to Hebrew school.

Except that morning I had heard a brief news item — yes, on National Public Radio. An Israeli Orthodox rabbi had declared that Reform Jews were not really Jews. This was great. I celebrated my sudden loss of Jewish identity. I turned the bike over, put the chain back on the sprocket (and yes, got my hands dirty) and continued on my merry way.

That might have been the last time that I ever fixed anything. For that reason, and many more, I loved NPR’s “Car Talk” show. Tom and Ray Magliozzi (Click and Clack) had more than four million listeners a week, and I was one of them. That is why I will sorely miss Tom, who died this week of complications of Alzheimers’ disease at the age of 77.

“Car Talk” had more listeners than any other program on NPR. What was it about that show that we loved (and continue to love) so much?

It was because the Magliozzi brothers were the real deal — the realest of deals. There was no sham in their show, no pretentions. These were self-made men, in the style of our parents. They grew up working class in East Cambridge, and never shed their working class vowel-less Boston accents — even and especially after they attended MIT. They worked with their hands.

But there was another thing. “Car Talk” had deep Torah in it.

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Barack Obama's Israeli Boom Box

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

President Obama listens to Israeli radio on an ’80s-style ghetto blaster. That’s the concept behind a new Israeli ad for a government-owned radio station, promoting its coverage of the upcoming elections in the Jewish state.

The ad pictures the U.S. president on the lawn of the White House with a radio glued to his ear.

But it’s not just any radio. The first black president is depicted carrying a large boom box of the sort associated with the inner city youth culture of the crack era.

Apparently, the eye-catching goal of the ad is to convince Israelis that everybody — even Barack Obama — tunes in to catch the station’s coverage. The ad’s text reads, “When it’s really important for you to know what’s happening in the elections.”

It also shows the First Family’s dog, Bo, clamoring for the president’s attention on the White House lawn.

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