Taking Dreidel for Spin in Heart of Brooklyn's Hipster Heaven for Hanukkah

'Knishioner' Rules You Don't Have To Be Jewish To Play


By Jared T. Miller

Published December 01, 2013, issue of December 06, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

The favorite team going into the final round, competing nearly two hours after the tournament began, comprised Aviva Grinnell, a 28-year-old resident of Brooklyn’s Park Slope, and Eric Pavony’s father, Howard Pavony — better known as, respectively, “Aviva Las Vegas” and “Virtual Dreidel.” The team was a runner-up last year, and Howard Pavony won a 2008 showdown with a spin-time of 15.4 seconds.

By this round, one spectator had established himself as a dreidel expert, leaning over the edge of the table, brow furrowed, and holding a “Spin/No Spin” sign that he used to indicate whether the move in question was a fair spin or a clunky, out-of-bounds toss. Pete Marinucci, a former Major League Dreidel judge, was still looked to for his unofficial comment on the referee’s ruling.

“I’m actually not Jewish,” Marinucci, 33, said later. He’s a Williamsburg local who became friends with Pavony through his Brewskee-Ball league. Marinucci said he loves the inclusiveness of the event, both culturally and competitively, and wishes he were Jewish “so I could have my turkey stuffed with latkes, and stuff like that” on this year of odd holiday timing.

The final showdown at hand had him rapt, scrutinizing every wobbly spin. The score was tight, and the last spin came down to Aviva Las Vegas and Virtual Dreidel’s opponents, who very nearly scored a walk-off spinny-dip. With the help of Marinucci’s sign, though, it was correctly ruled a “No Spin.” The crowd erupted in surprise, screaming as camera flashes added a strobe light to the victory dance party. Last year’s runners-up were going home with the gelt.

The competitors high-fived and hugged one another after a match hard fought. Pavony awarded Grinnell and his own father with the spoils of success: a Major League Dreidel T-shirt and a Spinagogue of their own. It’s Grinnell’s fourth year playing, a repeat appearance with Virtual Dreidel, and a satisfying victory after last year’s near-miss.

“There’s an amazing community here,” Grinnell said. “The first time I ever walked into this bar was four years ago, for this competition — and I’ve never stopped coming back.”

Jared T. Miller is a freelance journalist based in New York. He has written for Time, the New York Daily News and GlobalPost, among other publications.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.