Columns - 2006

    To a city near Jew

    Not since the days of Barney Google has Google been such a ubiquitous word in our society. Not since the days of Barney Fife has so much ridiculous wisdom been within our reach.

    Google is, for better or worse, among the many proper names that has turned into a headline-grabbing verb for some period of time, just like Kleenex, Xerox, Tivo, and Jew.

    If you want to know something about anything at all, no matter how strange, you search for it on Google (or Yahoo, or Lycos, or Alta Vista, or Ask... but they didn't pay us as much to be the focus of this column).

    You can find information about practically anything, whether you believe in evolution, intelligent design, unintelligent design, that the universe was created in one Big Bang, or that there was a second Big Bang on the grassy knoll.

    In fact, several of you might not remember that a few short years ago, this very column was bestowed with the great honor of being named a Googlewhack. A Googlewhack is a website that has the only occurrence in the entire internet of a specific term. People actually spend their time coming up with strange terms, search for them, and contact the owner of the site that has the lone entry.

    This column was a Googlewhack for the phrase, "rabbinical discombobulation." Which is more amazing: that this column used that phrase, or that some random person thought of that phrase to search on? Of course, by writing an entire column later about this coveted award, the Googlewhackitude no longer exists. But they can't take away the original award.

    But today we're here to explore a new Google feature. Using Google Trends you can search for statistics on web searches. That is, enter a phrase and it will tell you the top ten cities in the world where that phrase has been searched on.

    How useful is this information? First of all, it's great fodder for a column.

    In the interest of full disclosure, at press time Sports Illustrated had also done a column based on this general idea. But they didn't search on topics of interest to us, such as Jewish Athletes, so we now complete the task.

    Sadly, Jewish Athletes hasn't been searched on enough times to have statistical data. Now that Shawn Green has been traded to the Mets, we expect that result to not change in the slightest.

    If you're looking for a Tallis, you're apparently from Australia or the UK. True, the word means something else there. So if you search for Tallit, the Hebrew term is predictably most commonly sought from Finland.

    Tefillin are most popular in New York, but interestingly Sydney, Australia, comes in a very weak eighth.

    More people seek to learn Torah in Haifa, then New York. (Noticing a Trend?) But the Talmud gets surprising interest from Vancouver, Minneapolis, and Budapest batting 4, 5, and 6 in today's lineup.

    More people looking for a Synagogue are from New York than anywhere else, which is odd considering there's one every three blocks. But Temples are the most sought after in Waco, Texas, and India. However, Jewish Temples are most sought in Los Angeles. Atlanta gives the South an appearance here at number nine.

    If you're trying to get that last bit of information about Rosh Hashanah, you're in New York, but you're almost as likely to be in Cambridge. Same for Yom Kipper, though Reston, Virginia is a close third.

    If you're planning a little further ahead to get your Sukkah ready, you're once again in New York. But if you speak Hebrew, you're more likely looking for Sukkot from Haifa.

    Most people who act on their curiosity about Hannukah are in New York and Reston. However Channukah is much more popular in Miami and San Francisco; people in Reston apparently have as much trouble spelling the "ch" as saying it. And it seems Billy Joel is shopping early for his daughter Alexa: New York is a weak second in the search for Chanukah, well behind Hicksville, New York.

    And the most people who seek humor about the Middle East in these trying times search for the Dry Bones comic from Atlanta. Interestingly, Amsterdam is sixth which makes you wonder what kind of dry bones they're searching for, and why.

    Sadly, none of these terms had any Southern city in the top ten. Except Atlanta, as mentioned above. But they don't count. They're not in my readership. And they have the Braves.

    Doug Brook is trying to find himself, using Google. If you want to try for yourself, visit his website at

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.