The Shmooze

First Look at Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

By Anne Cohen

Wonder Woman. Has. A. Sword.

“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” director Zack Snyder tweeted out a photo during Comic Con this weekend, showing what the glorious combination that is Israel model/actress Gal Gadot and badass superchick Wonder Woman will look like. This isn’t your good ol’ red, blue and gold getup. Gadot seems to be taking her cues from Xena, Warrior Princess’ with that metal armor bodice. No spandex or tights in sight.

At this point, it’s worth repeating: Wonder Woman. Has. A. Sword.

What do you think of the costume?


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One Direction Divided Over Gaza

By Anne Cohen

One Direction is at a crossroads.

It seems that two members of the popular British boy band have very different opinions when it comes to the war in Gaza.

Frontman (and sometimes Jewish wannabe) Harry Styles was criticized last week for being too pro-Israel, after he started following Israel journalist Lliana Bird on Twitter, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

Now, bandmate Zayn Malik has chimed in, tweeting out a “#FreePalestine” message to his 13 million followers. So far, it has received over 150,000 retweets.

But not all fans were pleased. Per the Jewish Chronicle:

One fan told the 21-year-old, who was raised as a Muslim in Bradford, Yorkshire, that he should be “ashamed”. Another wrote: “I’m so disappointed right now”. One Israeli tweeted: “It broke me that one of my idols wants me to die”.

The two tween heartthrobs join a growing number of celebrities who have taken to social media to air their views on Operation Protective Edge. Just last week, Joan Rivers passionately defended Israel on TMZ.

Hopefully, Styles and Malik can agree to disagree — we wouldn’t want One Direction parting ways.


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Bel Kaufman, Author and Tango Dancer, In Her Own Words

By Masha Leon

Bel Kaufman, who died on July 25 at 103, gave the impression she might live forever. During lunch on August 31, 2012 at her favorite eatery Demarchelier, she told me: “I have just stepped into the future.”

Her two novels, “Up the Down Staircase” (which was made into an award-winning film) and “Love, Etc.” were being digitized and sold as e-books. Seeing my reaction as she dug into a humongous omelet, she said, “I eat an awful lot…I warn people that I eat everything. I have all my teeth — only fillings…. When I was 100 everyone said, ‘God bless you! How wonderful!’ When I tell them I an now 101, they simply say, ‘Oh, really.” What about outliving your friends? I asked. “You just make new ones,” she replied.

Masha Leon and Bel Kaufman // Photo by Karen Leon

Between bites, Kaufman — whom I had known for over three decades and once kissed me on the head when I told her I had read her grandfather Sholem Aleichem’s works in Yiddish and did a dissertation on his “Eizenbahn Geshikhtes” (train chronicles) — confided “I was the first woman to get a by-line in Esquire magazine. It was the 1940’s and my agent told me that they don’t buy anything by a woman. So I changed my name from Belle to Bel.”

Addressing the Warburg Society Tea at The Jewish Museum, Kaufman told the guests: “Because I am 94, I am too busy to grow old.” Once asked if she was still dancing,” the avid sometimes 3-times-a-week on stiletto heels tango aficionada snapped back: “Are you still breathing?” She once confessed to an audience that at home Sholem Aleichem spoke only Russian. “ I had to attend a Sholem Aleichem school to learn Yiddish.”

Karen Leon
Bel Kaufman

In May 2010 she managed to speak extemporaneously at three consecutive [May 11-12-13] nights of celebration on the occasion of her 100th birthday—a Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene bash, a May 12 National Arts Club reception and a May 13 Hunter College ”Party of the Century” held at Roosevelt House at which she was lauded by Hunter College president Jennifer Raab as “a 1934 Magna Cum Laude alumna.” She ended her address with “Now that I am one hundred I feel liberated — “My time is precious, I no longer have to do what I must do.”

Kaufman’s last public appearance was at the December 2, 2013 Hanukkah Gala at Symphony Space at which Theodore Bikel was honored. Presenting the award to 90-year young Bikel, Kaufman stated: “I am truly happy to be standing here!”

During my delightful March 13, 2009 taped hour-long interview with Kaufman at the Jewish Braille Institute, she recalled walking with her grandfather as 3-year old holding hands. “’The harder you press my hand, the better I write,’ he told me…. I held on very tightly, so if you enjoy his writing — the credit goes to me… A year before he died in Odessa, he wrote ‘Dear Belushka, I am writing for you to hurry up so you can learn to write me letters. So it is necessary for you to drink milk, eat vegetables and fewer candies. Regards to your dolls. Your Papa, Sholem Aleichem.’ He told me you gotta stay alive even if it kills you.


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Joan Rivers Goes All Jersey on Anti-Israel Crowd

By Gabe Friedman

Joan Rivers has come out in support of Israel in a big way.

When asked by a TMZ reporter about the violence in Gaza and Israel, Rivers compared the situation to New York and its much-maligned neighboring state.

“If New Jersey were firing rockets into New York, we would wipe ‘em out,” she said, waving her hands. “If we heard that they were digging tunnels from New Jersey to New York, we would get rid of Jersey.”

Even if Rivers apparently missed the memo about the PATH trains that connect New York to New Jersey underground, she got her point across.

“You cannot throw rockets and expect people not to defend themselves,” she continued.

The reporter countered by asking her about the Palestinian civilian casualty rate.

“They started it!” she yelled repeatedly.

The interviewer then mentioned that celebrities Dwight Howard and Selena Gomez had defended Palestine on Twitter.

“Oh, Selena Gomez, that college grad,” Rivers responded. “Let’s see if she can spell ‘Palestinian.’”


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Support Israel's Troops — By Getting Naked

By Anne Cohen

A new Facebook page showcases a new way for Israeli women to support the troops — by stripping down practically to their birthday suit.

“Standing With the IDF” calls on Israel women to raise morale (so to speak) by uploading sexy pictures of the their bodies, upon which uplifting messages have been scrawled. The page’s intro is pretty self-explanatory: “You keep us safe from above, and we will watch you from below!”

The page had more than 15,000 likes as of Friday morning. By Monday it had apparently been taken down.

Still, the initiative has received mixed reviews. As seen in Haaretz:

One person wrote “I must admit, I am a great fan of this page… You have found the way to give our soldiers the most uplifting present without even leaving the house. I thank you, in the name of every soldier who got a moment of peace and a reason to enter the battlefield with a smile on his face. Be he married or single, be he pious or a player, a big thank you from all soldiers, for the self- confidence and the strength of soul you teach us.”

Others were less positive. “I don’t want to bum you out, but wow - bad idea. Good execution, bad idea. Thanks, but no thanks to whoever invited me to this group,” said one. Another quipped: “Boys, what about the gay soldiers? They need to know you are behind them, too, so join the effort and send your naked photos!”

From singles trips in the desert to barely concealed support for the boys in uniform, the conflict raging in the region hasn’t seemed to put a damper on those libidos.


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What The Rockets Over Israel and Gaza Look Like From Space

By Anne Cohen

Social media is awash with pictures of what the rockets flying over Israel and Gaza look like from the ground. This tweet takes that to a whole new level.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst, currently on board the International Space Station, shared a photo of what the conflict looks like from 260 miles above earth — it’s pretty striking.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: space, rockets, gaza, buzzfeed, alexander gerst, International Space Station, Israel

Chelsea Clinton Holds Gluten-Free Baby Shower

By Rachel X. Landes

Chelsea Clinton and mom Hillary hosted a baby shower up at Cabtree’s Kittle House Inn, in Chappaqua, New York, near the senior Clintons’ estate.

Chelsea first announced her pregnancy with Jewish hubby, Marc Mezvinsky, back in April when she tweeted: “Marc and I are so thrilled to be expecting our first child in the fall! Thank you for all of the kind words!”

Bill Clinton, with Mezvinsky in tow, even stopped by towards the end of the festivities and schmoozed with guests. According to the New York Daily News, the family are regulars, and the former POTUS can often be found chatting up patrons at the bar.

Due to Chelsea Clinton’s wheat intolerance, the food was mostly gluten free, and present openings were saved until after the party ended.

The Clintons didn’t leave until 10 PM, two hours later than their reservation dictated.

Who knows if Bill Clinton’s grandkid will be raised Jewish, but we still wish the happy couple the best!


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War, What Is It Good For? Jewish Sexy-Time

By Anne Cohen

War, what is it good for? Jewish sexy-time, apparently.

Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund- JDate Singles Trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travel to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.

The launch of Operation Protective Edge forced the organizers to tweak the original itinerary, which included tours through “the trendy neighborhood clubs of Tel Aviv, the wide expanses of the Negev, and the hi-tech center of the Gush Dan region.”

Far from putting a damper on the experience, a JNF statement reports that the alternative route “served to enrich the trip experience.” Said one participant from New York: “Because we were unable to go to some of the typical tourist sites in the center and the south, we got a chance to see another side of Israel. The main sites are important too, but this way we felt like we were really getting to know the country and its people.”

Read more


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Celebrities Tweet the Middle East — With Controversial Results

By Julie Wiener

(JTA) — First, there were the celebrity tweeter and deleters.

As the Israel-Gaza conflict continues to spark a proxy war on Twitter and other social media, numerous celebrities are getting themselves caught in the crossfire.

Earlier this week, both singer Rihanna and basketball player Dwight Howard alienated partisans on both sides by tweeting the #FreePalestine hashtag — and then deleting it.

Then former Justin Bieber paramour Selena Gomez decided to get all political and post a “Pray For Gaza” photo on her Instagram feed.

Fans got upset, so she posted a photo of herself meditating on the beach with the caption: “And of course to be clear, I am not picking any sides. I am praying for peace and humanity for all!”

Now comedian Bill Maher is irking feminists (and, presumably, Hamas supporters) with the following post:

Jezebel took issue with the “crazy woman” analogy: “Making a joke about hitting a woman to make a point about a country where people are being killed is just gross.”

Read more


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Robert Downey Jr. Tops Forbes List of Highest Paid Actors

By Rachel X. Landes

For the second year running, Robert Downey Jr. tops Forbes’ list of highest paid actors in Hollywood. Since June of last year, Iron Man has made $75 million — impressive even by Tony Stark standards.

The tribe has done slightly better on Forbes list of highest paid actresses, with two fabulous Jewish ladies making the list.

Natalie Portman comes in 8th, having made $14 million last year from another movie from the Avengers franchise, “Thor: The Dark World.”

Mila Kunis made $11 million, due to the Wizard of Oz remake, “Oz the Great and Powerful.” She ranked 9th on the list.

Sandra Bullock deserves an honorable mention (Does anyone remember that time she had a bris for her adopted son?). She made $14 million as well for being suspended in front of a green screen for “Gravity”.


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Jill Abramson Champions Freedom of The Press

By Masha Leon

“She was reading the New York Times before she could transfer to a bottle,”Gail Sheehy said of Jill Abramson, at the July 15 reception she hosted at her Manhattan duplex for the former executive editor of The New York Times.

Author of 16 books — including megahit “Passages,” Sheehy touted Abramson as “among the first to invade the all-male testosterone preserve at Harvard…and because of her, the New York Times has an equal number of men and women on [its] masthead.”

Sponsored by The Common Good as part of its Leadership Series, the more than 50 guests included former, still active and young wannabe journalists. Standing on a white plastic stool — so she could be seen — barefoot in-a-chic-black and white pattern sleeveless dress, Abramson declared: ”The First Amendment is first for a reason… Jefferson famously said if you had to choose between having a country with a government and no newspapers — or the opposite — he would say that having newspapers is more important than the government. The founders of this country were desperately afraid of highly centralized power and believed that a free press was necessary to hold the government accountable to the people” and that “stories from [accused] whistle-blowers — if they are indeed the sources — were very much in the spirit Jefferson envisioned.”

Karen Leon
Jill Abramson

Abramson stated: “When Obama came into the White House, he pledged to have the most transparent administration ever… and in certain ways the Obama administration had been good — declassified millions of documents. But in terms of these leaks… they have been unusually tough, aggressive and I see that as a really disturbing trend.”

Read more


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Is Amar'e Stoudemire Looking For a Hebrew Tutor?

By Anne Cohen

He has part ownership of an Israeli basketball team, sports a yarmulke before games and thinks Shabbat is “awesome.” Now, it seems Amar’e Stoudemire is ready for the next step: learning Hebrew.

According to an email making the rounds, the basketball star is looking for a tutor:

Please let me know if you have any connections to a Hebrew tutor who could work with a professional athlete that is looking to improve their conversational Hebrew. The tutor would need to spend most of the next 6 weeks living in Florida with the athlete and then continue to work with the athlete back in NY after the summer. Obviously all expenses and a generous salary would be included.

A few lingering questions: If the email does in fact refer to Amar’e Stoudemire, does this mean his Israeli citizenship is coming through? Could he be planning a move to the Holy Land?

Of course, Knicks fans might prefer Stoudemire spend his summer working on his defensive skills, but that’s another story.


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Jon Stewart on What It's Like To Talk About Israel as a Jew

By Anne Cohen

Making jokes about Israel can be tricky. No one knows this better than Jon Stewart, who has been criticized for remarks he made on “The Daily Show” pointing out the asymmetrical distribution of force in Operation Protective Edge.

So in a segment on Monday night, Stewart responded using what he does best — comedy. Every time the host mentions the word “Israel,” the show’s entire roster of correspondents starts shouting at him. Over and over again.

“Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this,” Stewart said when the verbal onslaught finally subsided. “But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”

Cue the tongue-lashing — and on to a “lighter” topic: Ukraine.

Check out the whole clip below:


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'Louie' Renewed For a Fifth Season

By Anne Cohen

Fans of ‘Louie,’ rejoice!

Not for you the long, almost-unbearable two-year gap between seasons three and four. FX just announced that “Louie” has been renewed for a fifth season, with seven episodes set to run in spring 2015.

“Louie’s fourth season was once again groundbreaking,” FX Networks and FX Productions CEO John Landgraf said in a statement. “Sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking – always thought-provoking. The show went to narrative and cinematic places no comedy has gone before, and we look forward to seeing what Louis comes up with next.”

Now, we know what’s on your mind: Why is the Forward covering this? Well friends, here it is: Louis C.K. is Jewish. Kind of.

C.K.’s paternal grandfather, Dr. Geza Székely Schweiger, was a Hungarian Jew whose family emigrated to Mexico. In an interview with NPR, C.K. said that his grandfather agreed that his children be raised Catholic, while remaining “quietly Jewish.” When C.K.’s father remarried a Jewish woman, he converted to Judaism and is now an Orthodox Jew.

So there you have it. You can look forward to a lot more “Louie” coverage on this blog.

The hit dark, and sometimes surreal, comedy just earned five Emmy nominations — including outstanding comedy series, lead actor, writing, directing and casting. We can’t wait for the next round.


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The Middle East Crisis, According to Woody Allen

By Rachel X. Landes

The situation in Gaza is “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself,” Woody Allen declared in an interview about his new movie, Magic in the Moonlight.

Asked about the Israel-Palestine conflict, Allen explained, “I feel that the Arabs were not very nice in the beginning… The Jews had just come out of a terrible war where they were exterminated by millions and persecuted all over Europe, and they were given this tiny, tiny piece of land in the desert.

“If the Arabs had just said, ‘Look, we know what you guys have been through, take this little piece of land and we’ll all be friends and help you,’ and the Jews came in peace, but they didn’t. They were not nice about it.”

Allen concluded that “there’ve been public relations mistakes, actual mistakes, and it’s been a terrible, terrible cycle of mismanagement and bad faith.”


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Adam Levine Gets Hitched, Jewish Girls Mourn

By Rachel X. Landes

Women around the world are weeping as Adam Levine, Maroon 5 front man and coach on “The Voice,” officially took himself off the market and exchanged vows with Victoria’s Secret model Behati Prinsloo.

Levine and Prinsloo began dating two years ago, after Levine’s split from model, Anne Vyalitsyna. As you can see, he has a type. They got engaged nearly a year ago, but only after asking Prinsloo’s father for permission.

The couple tied the knot in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on Saturday night. Approximately 275 guests attended the wedding, which was officiated by comedian Jonah Hill. Stevie Nicks preformed.

Levine accepted no gifts for the wedding. Instead, he and his wife asked for all guests to donate to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. What a mensch.


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When Elaine Stritch Dated Marlon Brando

By Masha Leon

Elaine Stritch, who died on July 17 at 89, was as feisty off-stage as on— whether belting out the the ode to imbibing: “The Ladies Who Lunch” or the survival anthem “I’m Still Here!.”

A presence at many a New York City bash, she was a participant in the November 17, 2003 “Stella By Starlight” Gala at the Rainbow Room to benefit the Stella Adler School of Acting. Stritch — an alumna — recalled: “When Ellen (Stella’s daughter) and I were both dating Marlon (Brando), Stella invited him to lunch at the Plaza. After lunch she said, ‘Marlon, you are not going to see Ellen any more…unless, darling, you marry her!’” Stritch chuckled: “Three waiters dropped their trays.” Stritch also recalled: “Stella made a purchase at Tiffany’s and when asked where to send it, she gave a New York address. ‘I thought you were English’ said the sales lady.’ Stella replied: ‘I’m not British… just affected.’” Stritch smiled: “I started to talk like her! And it scared the s**t out of me!”

Elaine Stritch and Masha Leon // Photo by Karen Leon

When I called Ellen Adler for some Stritch memories, she told me that her mother — grand dame of the legendary Adler Yiddish Theater dynasty — would say: “’When students come to me, they are bums. They don’t know how to talk, how to walk. When they leave me, they are artists.’” As an afterthought, Ellen Adler said: “When Marlon and Elaine were my mother’s students — both he and my mother would always yell at Stritch ‘Silence’!’”

Read more


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Backstreet Boys Scrap Israel Shows Over Gaza

By JTA

The Backstreet Boys canceled three sold-out concerts in Israel due to the Gaza conflict.

The American pop band posted a message Sunday on its official website announcing the cancellation of the July 29-31 concerts at the Raanana Amphitheater “to assure the safety of the audience.” New dates will be scheduled for the spring.

“This is a major disappointment for the band and fans as this was to be our first visit to Israel and we looked forward to meeting our fans,” the message said.

Canadian singer Paul Anka also canceled two concerts set for this week in Tel Aviv. The concerts will be rescheduled “once the local situation is resolved,” according to a statement issued by his representative.

Earlier, the Gaza conflict forced the cancellations of a Neil Young concert in Tel Aviv and a performance by the band America.


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CO2 and the Jews — Both Victims?

By Gabe Friedman

What does carbon dioxide have in common with the persecuted Jews of Nazi Germany?

Plenty, at least according to Princeton University physics Prof. William Happer.

On CNBC’s July 14 edition of Squawk Box, a morning news and business segment, Happer said: “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler. Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews.”

The bizarre comparison came in a discussion about climate change, which Happer has denied in the past. He was a featured guest “expert” on the subject, even though he has never published peer-reviewed research on climate change

Happer also complained that he has been vilified for his unorthodox views and compared himself to Galileo, whose round-earth theory was slammed by the establishment of his day.

Jon Stewart featured Happer’s quote in his “Moment of Zen” segment on Tuesday’s edition of The Daily Show.


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Dr. Ruth's Sex Tips for Wartime

By Alona Ferber

Getty Images

(Haaretz) — If you were wondering what sexual position was most appropriate in a bomb shelter, don’t. That’s some of the advice Dr. Ruth Westheimer gave an audience in Tel Aviv Wednesday night.

The sprightly 4-foot-7, 86-year-old lost her parents in the Holocaust and was a sniper in the Haganah, prestate Israel’s underground army. But it was her sex advice over the radio that made her famous back in the ‘80s in the United States. On Wednesday, she addressed a crowd of 650 on the ninth day of Israel’s air offensive in Gaza.

The escalation between Israel and Hamas was very much in the background; Dr. Ruth applauded the audience for holding out despite the situation. Meanwhile, the event’s organizer, the Tel Aviv International Salon, reassured people that if the air-raid siren went off, they were in a safe zone.

“I want to applaud you for your resilience and taking the time to talk about subject matter that I am still talking about almost every day, even though I’m 86,” she said to laughter from the crowd, who had been woken up that morning by a siren. Then came her rundown on good sex, with a healthy dose of Jewish tradition mixed in.

“For Jews, sex has never been a sin; it’s always been a mitzvah,” she said in her famous German accent. And if you want to be “sexually literate,” as she put it, it’s better to be in a relationship. “I’m talking about relationships and commitment. Did you hear me? Commitment,” she said to laughter from the audience of mostly young professionals who have immigrated to Israel.

What else is key for a good sex life? Women must take responsibility for their sexual satisfaction, a message she noted that women in the United States had heard loud and clear. A couple’s relationship is a vital part of the puzzle. Don’t talk about past partners, “Use sechel,” she advised, using the Hebrew word for good sense. And don’t get too used to a vibrator.

Another important rule of thumb, if you’ve had an affair and don’t want a divorce, if you want someone else besides your partner, or if you sometimes don’t find your partner attractive, just don’t say it out loud. “You can have a whole soccer team in bed with you in your imagination,” she said. “Just keep your mouth shut.”

Read more


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