Dixie hospitality, hilarity and no-laughing matter

Yes, there are Jews throughout the South, and many of them even take on the cultural coloration of the natives.

For a glimpse, check out the Dixie Jews home page, a brief but interesting examination of Jewish life across the old Confederacy.

This no-frills site — www.angelfire.com/ky2/dixiejews — offers a surprising amount of information and lots of links to sites where you can get more.

One part of the site offers brief sketches of the Jewish demography of the south. There's a link for each state; go there, and you'll get the basics (such as: Mississippi has only 1,400 Jews, while Florida has about 628,000).

For each state there are also links to local organizations, such as Jewish community centers and federations, synagogues and museums, as well as city and state government offices.

More interesting still: a collection of general links on Jewish history and life in the South. Here you can connect to institutions such as the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, the Southern Jewish Historical Society, a site on Jews in the Civil War and the "Everything Jewish in Florida" site.

Organization of the site is straightforward; there some pretty pictures to break up the expanses of white space, but little with Jewish content.

Still, the Dixie Jews site is a worthwhile stop for cybernauts interested in the diversity of Jewish life.

Death isn't quite as appealing a topic. In fact, it's one most of us would rather ignore.

But it's smart to think about our ultimate check-out in advance. And for Jews, it's important to understand religious laws and traditions surrounding death for those inevitable times when we face the passing of loved ones.

The strongest offering on www.Jewish-funerals.org: an extensive discussion of Jewish funeral, burial and mourning practices, and the religious laws and traditions underlying them.

There is also an extensive collection of references to books and videos on death and dying from a Jewish perspective for adults and children, and links to Jewish burial societies and associations around the country.

A section on medical ethics takes up such subjects as organ donation and "aging with dignity" from a Jewish perspective.

The site is well laid out, if not particularly attractive; finding the information you're looking for is easy. A search engine makes it even easier, although it tends to turn up spurious hits along with the relevant ones.

But that's just a quibble. This is a useful site — not exactly fun to visit, but important.

On a much lighter note, check out www.whyaduck.com.

In this Bevis and Butthead age, the humor of the Marx Brothers seems…well, quaint and strangely innocent.

But the three clowns of movie comedy — four, counting the boringly sane Zeppo — still have legions of fans. And, not surprisingly, there are a growing number of Web sites to accommodate their interests.

One of the best is the "Why a Duck" home page, named after a zany routine in an early Marx brothers movie.

The site aims to be entertaining rather than exhaustive; if you're looking for every last detail of the lives of Groucho, Harpo and Chico, look elsewhere.

Instead, you'll find a quirky assortment of material. The site is attractive in design and easy to navigate.

Start with the section that provides information about each of the Marx Brothers movies, including interesting things to look for the next time you rent one from your local video store.

Better still, you can read the dialogue for particularly memorable Marx scenes, including Professor Wagstaff's hilarious lecture to students in "Horsefeathers."

Another section includes many of their best zingers, like this one from Groucho: "I've got a good mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it."

There are lots of cool extras. Want to send a Marx image to a friend as an electronic postcard? Go to the "Greetings from Why a Duck" section and select from almost three dozen images: movie stills, posters, even a Life Magazine cover featuring Harpo.

Jewish content? Not much. But this is classic Jewish humor, after all.

A lot of this site is still under construction. Even so, it's a treasure trove for confirmed Marxists — Groucho, Harpo and Chico, that is.

The writer is a Washington-based correspondent who has been writing about Jewish Web sites since the early 1990s. His columns alternate with those of Mark Mietkiewicz. Besser can be reached at [email protected]