Lots of us are going on end-of-summer driving excursions—some longer than others. Here are some Jewish twists on traditional travel games to keep the fam engaged and edified!
I’m Going on a Picnic
Normally you’d start with the letter A (for, say, “apple”) and each person adds an item in alphabetical order, first reciting back the previous packed items: “I’m going on a picnic and I packed an apple, a ball, a chocolate bar…”) In the Jewish version, you pack all the things you need to escape the Cossacks.
This is a good game for the youngest kids. Instead of saying “I spy with my little eye something beginning with A,” or “I spy with my little eye something blue,” change it to: “I spy with my little eye something that could give you cholera (ptui ptui ptui).”
Did You Hear That?
This is a delightful but lesser known game that works well with older kids. The idea is to try to trick the other people in the car with fake news stories, as on NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.” You say, “Did you hear that _______ happened?” In response, the other players can say either “That didn’t happen,” or “Tell me more.”
If they say “That didn’t happen,” and indeed it did not happen and you were making it up, they get two points. If they say “That didn’t happen” and it did happen, you get one of their points AND two additional points. If they say, “Tell me more,” you or they get double the points when the truth is revealed.
In the Jewish twist on this game, called “Who Jew, Tattoo?,” one of you brings up all the stories about people with Hebrew tattoos on their iPhone and begins making pronouncements like “Christina Aguilera has an “ani l’dodi v’dodi li tattoo” and “Corey Lewandowski has a Hebrew Hammer tattoo on his left buttock.” Everyone else has to guess whether it’s true. (In the preceding example, one of these things is true.)
This game is already very Jewish. One person starts by announcing “Fortunately…” and then saying something good. The next person has to follow by saying something that is actually unfortunate about the aforementioned situation. Go clockwise around the car, alternating between fortunate and unfortunate situations. If someone giggles, repeats something, or takes too long, they get a strike and the game begins anew with a fresh fortunate (but actually unfortunate) situation. Three strikes and you’re out. Here is an actual example of how to play from Dan Greenburg’s tragically out of print 1964 book How To Be a Jewish Mother:
“Ma! Ma! I won a Pontiac in the Youth Group Raffle!”
“You won a Pontiac in the Youth Group Raffle? Very nice. The insurance alone is going to send us to the poorhouse.”
Don’t Get Me Started
Person #1 assigns Person #2 a completely arbitrary topic—the more arcane the better. Tuna salad, British football clubs of the 1970s, Rudolph Valentino. Person #2 must then deliver a rant about how awful it is for at least two minutes (time the person) without taking a pause of longer than two seconds. In the Jewish version of this game, the person must deliver a rant about how the random thing is Bad For the Jews.
License Plate Game
In the Jewish version of the game, whenever you spot the license plate of a given state, you must mention an anti-Semitic incident that you heard about there. (Feel free to channel Tovah Feldshuh in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: “Oh! Did you hear! / A bishop in Wisconsin said something anti-Semitic/ So the Temple has decided to boycott cheddar cheese.”)
Or, name a treyf item each state is known for and reflect on how disappointed your forebears would be that you know this. (Iowa: Artisanal Duroc pork belly! Rhode Island: Stuffed Quahog! Wisconsin: Butter Burger!)
Another game for small children. People on the right side of the car are one team, and people on the left side of the car are the other team. Both teams look out their respective windows for cows. You get a point for every cow on your side of the car. (You can choose to give the passenger on the left in back double points, if the driver would inexplicably prefer to watch the road than look for cows.)
Jewish spin: Describe how each cow reminds you of Bubbe, e.g. “That cow looks disappointed!”
Why would you play this goyish game? What if you punch your brother and it creates a bruise that turns into a clot that causes an aneurysm?
Turn James Corden’s wonderful celebrity-studded game into an opportunity for bar or bat Mitzvah prep! Make your child chant their portion repeatedly, over and over. Everyone will love it!
The Quiet Game
Who can be quiet the longest? All parents love this game. It is truly ecumenical.