The Shmooze

'Cabaret' Star Joel Grey Opens Up About His Sexuality

By Anne Cohen

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Joel Grey has been many things in his life: an unforgettable MC in “Cabaret,” an evil reptilian demon on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” a dying scientist on “House,” and a doctor on “Private Practice.”

But all while giving us these characters, he was keeping a part of himself secret. Now, at 82, the Jewish actor has decided to come out. I don’t like labels,” Grey told People in a recent interview, “but if you have to put a label on it, I’m a gay man.”

Grey was married for 24 years to actress Jo Wilder, with whom he has two children: James, a chef, and “Dirty Dancing” actress Jennifer Grey. Family and friends, he says, have known about his sexual orientation for years, but this is the first time he has ever spoken about it publicly.

“All the people close to me have known for years who I am,” Grey told People “[Yet] it took time to embrace that other part of who I always was.”

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The Teaser for 'Wet Hot American Summer' Series is Here!

By Anne Cohen

The rumors are true! The teaser for Netflix’s “Wet Hot American Summer” reboot is finally here.

The eight-part series based on the Jewiest camp movie ever made will take place on the first day of camp during the summer of 1981. Fans of the the original (and if you’re not, just stop reading) will know that it took place on the last day of camp, that very same summer.

So, basically Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks, Janeane Garofalo, Christopher Meloni, David Hyde Pierce, and Bradley Cooper need to play younger versions of their 2001 selves. Good thing regular people things like aging don’t exist in Hollywood.

If the teaser is to be trusted, the show will be released in early summer. Just in time for camp.

Here’s a little something to get you in the mood:

'Night Will Fall': A Documentary Within a Documentary

By Masha Leon

“Not only have I seen the film but I am in the film!” said Menachem Rosensaft following the [January 15] pre-screening of HBO’s Concentration Camp Liberation documentary “Night Will Fall” held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust which debuted on HBO on January 26 with an encore on January 27.

World Jewish Congress Counsel Rosensaft — who told me he was born on May 1, 1948 “in the Bergen Belsen Displaced Persons Camp”— said “I think this is one of the most important film documentaries about the realities of the liberation and the political aftermath of liberation, when politics turned very quickly from wanting to highlight atrocities that had been committed at Bergen Belsen and elsewhere to a policy of ‘letting bygones be bygones’ — considering the survivors and their plight as a political inconvenience.”

Welcoming the preview guests, museum chairman Bruce Ratner informed “I am honored that, once we expressed our strong desire to screen the film, HBO decided that the museum was the perfect setting to present the New York City premiere”. Guests included — coincidentally named [no relation] — the film’s producer Brett Ratner; its film director Andre Singer, its co-producer Sally Angel, HBO Documentary Films president Sheila Nevins, Consul General of Israel Ido Aharoni, Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, Raye Farr U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum interview subject, Dr. Ruth Westheimer a Museum of Jewish Heritage trustee and its director David Marwell.

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7 Moving Images From Anniversary of Auschwitz Liberation

By Lior Zaltzman

January 27, 2015 marks the 70 year anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and International Holocaust Remembrance day. With many of the survivors getting older, for some this may be the last year to commemorate the horrors and loss. Here are some moving pictures of the commemorations from around the world:

UNITED KINGDOM : Holocaust survivor Ela Weissberger, aged 84 looks at one of only 70 special candles commissioned to mark 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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KRAKOW, POLAND: (L-R) 81-year-old Paula Lebovics, 79-year-old Miriam Ziegler, 85-year-old Gabor Hirsch and 80-year-old Eva Kor pose with the original image of them as children taken at Auschwitz at the time of its liberation.

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OSWIECIM, POLAND: Members of an association of Auschwitz survivors, including one showing a medal given to Polish former concentration camp prisoners, depart after laying wreaths at the execution wall at Auschwitz concentration camp .

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Oswiecim, Poland:Polish born oldest known Holocaust survivor and Yehuda Widawski, from Tel Aviv, arrives at a tent build in front of the entrance of the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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PARIS, FRANCE: Francois Hollande with Auschwitz survivor Ida Grinspan speaks with five Jews deported and five young French Jews.

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LIMA, PERU: Hirsz Litmanowiczin, octogenarian Auschwitz survivor, where he was a messenger of Josef Mengele, and who emigrated to Peru in 1952 , believes that religion and economics have become the engine of intolerance 70 years after the Holocaust.

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JERUSALEM, ISRAEL: Young Israeli soldiers at Yad VaShem on International Holocaust Memorial Day.

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9 Jewish Things To Watch If You're Snowed In

By Anne Cohen

If you’re on the East Coast right now, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re hunkered down with a fridge full of food and a couple of extra blankets. So, what better time to catch up on all those shows and movies you’ve been meaning to see?

Here are a couple of our more Jewish suggestions:

1) The Honourable Woman

This 8-part mini-series/Middle East thriller won Maggie Gyllenhaal a Golden Globe this year. Gyllenhaal plays Nessa Stein, an Anglo-Israeli businesswoman, hiding a dark secret.

Available on Netflix

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Natalie Portman Attends First Dior Couture Show

By Anne Cohen

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It may come as a surprise that Natalie Portman, face of Miss Dior, has never actually attended a Dior show.

And yet, sitting in the front row at yesterday’s Haute Couture show held at the Musee Rodin in Paris, she reportedly gushed: “I’ve never been to a couture show,” she said. “This is my first time. I’m super, super excited.”


But as The New York Times points out, Portman’s attendance is actually somewhat significant. In 2011, when John Galliano – then Dior’s creative director – made his infamous anti-Semitic rant in a Paris cafe, the actress was one of the first to condemn him.

“In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way,” the face of the fashion house’s Miss Cherie Dior wrote at the time. “I hope at the very least, these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful.”

Galliano’s replacement, Raf Simons, has apparently been working hard to redeem the brand. Natalie is still under contract.

The Oscar-winner celebrated her big day dressed head to toe in black Dior (natch), but her best accessory was hubby and new director of the Paris Opera Ballet, Benjamin Millepied.

Steven Spielberg Warns of Hatred 'Demons' on Rise

By Wojciech Zurawski and Wiktor Szary

(Reuters) — Hollywood director Steven Spielberg said on Monday he hoped that the Holocaust commemorations taking place in Poland on Tuesday will be a warning for future generations, in light of a rising tide of anti-Semitism and intolerance against Jews.

Spielberg was talking to Holocaust survivors in the southern Polish city of Krakow, ahead of the main event marking 70 years since Soviet troops liberated the Nazi German Auschwitz death camp.

“If you are a Jew today, in fact if you are any person who believes in the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom in free expression, you know that like many other groups, we are once again facing the perennial demons of intolerance,” the Oscar-winning filmmaker said.

The director won an Academy Award for Best Director for “Schindler’s List,” his 1993 movie about a German who saved more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, warned of spreading anti-Semitism.

getty images

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What My Jewish Mom Thinks About Deflate-Gate

By Anne Cohen

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Most Jewish boys just call their moms. Josh Seftel turned his chats into a web series.

Every week, the New York filmmaker Facetimes his mom in Sarasota, Florida. After covering the basics, the conversation always segways into to Pat’s favorite subject: celebrity gossip. Over the past year, they’ve tackled some of the great questions of our time: Is it morally kosher to eat Paula Deen’s fried chicken? Is Denzel Washington aging well? Will Lena Dunham’s tattoos prevent her from getting a Jewish burial?

This week was no exception: the shocking(?) revelation that 11 of the 12 balls used during the New England Patriots’ win against the Indianapolis Colts were under-inflated by 2 pounds — leading to the inevitable “Tom Brady’s deflated balls” jokes — just screamed for a Jewish mother’s perspective.

Watch Pat Seftel weigh in on the Patriots, deflate-gate and why she would definitely date Tom Brady:

I.B. Singer's Wife Alma Dishes About His Women

By Masha Leon

After a screening of “The Muses of Isaac Bashevis Singer,” I replied to a chutzpedik questioner: “Isaac never hit on me!” A frequent visitor in the 1930s to my parents’ Leszno 6 one-room home in Warsaw when I was toddler, I reconnected with him in New York in the 1960s when he and my father were both Forverts contributors.

In 1973, when the Jewish studies Department of Queens College offered “The Novels of I .B. Singer With The Author Present,” I was in that SRO classroom. We read a novel a week. In an attempt to impress Singer, students parsed his characters through Freudian/Jungian filters. Sitting in a chair, facing the awe struck class, Singer shrugged: “I create a karakter un der karakter does vat der karakter vants.” Apropos his heroes’ romantic appetites and roamings, he said: “A man can have as many liaisons [and illegitimate] children as he wants–but not so a woman!”

After his Nobel Prize for Literature brouhaha in 1978, I told his wife Alma — who spoke no Yiddish who with Singer had been dinner guests at our home–that she, too, deserved a moment in the spotlight. Isaac was out when we schmoozed at their 86th Street apartment where her daughter Inga, from her first marriage, served me babka.

Masha Leon with Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1973 // Photo credit: Joseph Leon

“How do you feel about all the women who come onto him?” I ventured. “Thank God, now it’s mostly platonic,” she replied. The conversation covered stories that would have been grist for a Yiddish“Page 6.” Alma spoke of her supporting Singer after she left her first husband and two children for the skinny poor Yiddish writer. “Does he take your advice?” I asked. “And how!” “Do you act as his buffer?” Alma sighed: “He does not let me through, but I feel he absolutely overdoes it with interviews.”

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Miss Israel Speaks Out on Selfie-gate!

By Haaretz

Miss Israel Doron Matalon, who took a controversial selfie with fellow 2015 Miss Universe contestant Saly Greige of Lebanon, has responded to the controversy by saying that she hopes something good will come of it.

“You know, I really want to make a difference,” responded Matalon to a question from a Hollywood Access TV reporter about how she handled the situation. “I want people to talk about it… I’m just happy that I’m here, and I’m sure [Miss Lebanon] is happy here… to be together in this situation, a once-in-a-lifetime [opportunity].”

The reporter, for one, thought Miss Israel’s reaction to the controversy - which even garnered Jon Stewart’s satirical award for ‘most upsetting Mideast picture’ - was “handled beautifully.”

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Bacon Scratch-and-Sniff Lottery Tickets Are Here!

By Anne Cohen


What’s better than winning $1,000? Winning $1,000 while smelling bacon.

At least, that’s what New Hampshire wants you to think.

According to The New York Post, the state lottery has launched a special “scratch and sniff ‘I Heart Bacon’ ticket” this month.

Players “will think it’s time for Saturday morning breakfast,” Lottery Commission Executive Director Charlie McIntyre told the Post.

So basically, not only does New Hampshire want you to smell bacon — they want you to smell it on Shabbat?!

That’s not the end of it — to promote the product, the New Hampshire Lottery has announced a “bacon truck” that will drive around offering free applewood bacon samples, filling the air with more pork products.

Ok treyf, you win — this time.

6 Things Barack Would Rather Do Than Meet Bibi

By Dave Goldiner

It’s no secret that Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu don’t like each other. Not one little bit.

So leaving aside the political and diplomatic drama of the Israeli Prime Minister’s speech to Congress (you know, the one they somehow forgot to mention to the White House), the president will have a few hours of time on his hands some day whenever Bibi finally comes to town.

We’re guessing there are so many things Obama would much rather be do than sit for yet another smile-pasted-on photo op with Netanyahu. Here’s our six top suggestions.

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Barbra Streisand is #1 at Everything

By Tamara Palmer

We’ve always known that our Barbra is the greatest; so great that we don’t even need to use her last name. But did you know that she is literally number one at everything?

This week, Columbia Records sent out a press release announcing that her latest album “Partners,” which was released in September, has been certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for sales in excess of one million copies. This is her 31st album to reach such sales heights — a number no other woman in recording history has achieved. And there’s much elaboration about her top achievements:

“Ms. Streisand is the female artist with the most number one albums in Billboard’s history. She is also the best-selling female recording artist in history, with over 72 million albums sold. Ms. Streisand is the only female to make the All-Time Top 10 Best Selling Artists list, an honor which includes fellow duet “Partners” Elvis Presley and Billy Joel. She also has the longest span of number one albums in history; just under 50 years… Partners is her 33rd album to make it into the Top 10 on the US charts. Ms. Streisand is the only female artist to have achieved this milestone, tying her with Frank Sinatra.”

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PHOTOS: Capturing a 1970s Borscht Belt Singles' Weekend

By Elyssa Goodman

Rani Stevens Goodman

Born and raised in New York, my mother, Rani Stevens Goodman, grew up going to the Catskill Mountains every weekend from the time she was still in the womb until her mid-twenties.

For the uninitiated, The Catskills, which include Sullivan, Orange, and Ulster Counties in upstate New York, was once known as The Borscht Belt, the Jewish Alps or the Sour Cream Sierras for its many Jewish-owned hotels and their mostly Jewish clientele.

Though she went up every weekend in the summer, one particular weekend in 1970 coincidentally involved a Singles’ Weekend at her hotel, The Concord in Kiamesha Lake, New York. Ever the shutter-bug, she snapped photographs at the hotel pool. Here’s what she had to say about them:

What’s happening in these pictures?
These were taken during a singles’ weekend at the Concord Hotel in Sullivan County, New York. Kiamesha Lake, actually. I wasn’t there for the singles’ weekend; I went up every weekend after work on Friday afternoons. Being that I was always together with my trusty camera, and noting the quantity of people in the pool, I decided to get closer.

Rani Stevens Goodman

What did you do when you found out it was a singles’ weekend?
I hid [laughs]. When I got to the pool I said, ‘Where are all these people coming from? What is going on?’ Someone said, ‘Oh, it’s Singles’ Weekend!’ I said, ‘Oh, God help me.’ I was on my usual lounge chair; I had it every weekend because I enjoyed the sun and relaxing and reading.That weekend I was — how would you say — approached more often than usual. [laughs]. They wanted to know where I was sitting, at what table, could they join me for dinner, etc Actually, there was one young fellow working there who was better looking than all of them. The others were a little bit…older than I was. They were obviously there because they needed to be!

Rani Stevens Goodman

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Michelle Obama Wore Jewish Designer Michael Kors at SOTU

By Anne Cohen

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The internet fairly exploded over Michelle Obama’s smokin’ outfit at last night’s State of the Union address. FLOTUS wore a grey blazer/skirt combo by Jewish designer Michael Kors (his mother was model Joan Kors), repping American fashion and the Tribe in one fell swoop.

Fans of the outfit couldn’t help but notice that Julianna Margulies’ (another MOT) character had worn the exact same oufit on “The Good Wife.” Obama/Florrick 2016, anyone?

Mina Bern (And Her Chicken Soup) Celebrated

By Masha Leon

When Eleanor Reissa — performer, director and co-organizer of the January 11th Tribute to Yiddish theater diva Mina Bern —  asked me to participate in “A Celebration of Her Life On Her 5th Yahrzeit” at The Center for Jewish History, I was thrilled. Mina, whose over-the top performances I had reviewed for decades, was the closest I had to a mume (aunt).

Emceed by Kultur Kongres/Congress of Jewish Culture executive director Shane Baker— the event’s driving force — it was an upbeat, heartwarming, laughter-eliciting event with performers —  many of whom credited Mina’s chicken soup as a panacea which solved whatever ailed you —  that included Reissa, Shira Flam, Lori Wilner, Joanne Borts,(who just completed her stint with Broadway hit “Once”), Steve Sterner, Yelena Shmulenson, Robert Abelson,and Allen Lewis Rickman dapper in the bespoke brown tweed suit fashioned by master tailor and Holocaust survivor Martin Greenfield for his character in HBO’s ”Boardwalk Empire.”

As an exemplar of Mina’s mind-over-body divaship, I cited the December 2007 Folksbiene Gala at which Mina began to complain: “ikh feel zikh nit gut” (I don’t feel well. I must go home!). An inspired Folksbiene Board chairman Jeff Wiesenfeld mounted the stage and announced: “We are honored to have the grand lady of Yiddish theater Mina Bern in the audience!” A miraculously revived Mina stood up with arms raised overhead and bowed to the four corners of the room luxuriating in the adulation. She stayed to the end.

Karen Leon
Shane Baker holds up a Mina Bern puppet.

During an interview with Mina, in 1988, she revealed little-known chapters of her survival saga. After Poland, Russia, and Teheran in 1942 — during the General Anders Polish Government in Exile Amnesty she said “they sent me to Nairobi, Uganda to the Buenoro forest to create a colony — grobn di erd (dig up the earth) grow things for the English, Polish and Ugandan people… We were twenty people in a little straw hut, I — -a young woman with an infant in a vilder velt (wild world). Every night the natives would burn the huts and we were left without a stroyanem dakh ibern kop (a straw roof over our heads). My little baby Renia would scream and have nightmares! One day the Polish consul from Nairobi came and chose my [theatre] group to perform, to represent Polish kunst (art) to British government officials. We went by train and along the route were met by Jewish women at the stations who would give us food and drink. A refugee woman like m gave me a job at a ladies store. I spoke no English but knew some Swahili.”

After Nairobi she went to British Mandate Palestine where “I helped create a Yiddish theater. I stayed for four years and became a star. They called me Carmen Miranda. During the 1948 war I served in the army… used to go by jeep to all the mishlatim to sing for the soldiers. I came to one place where a young soldier asked me to sing “Mayn Yiddishe Mame” — the next morning he was killed.”

In her final year Mina would call me weekly and leave me farklempt with her plea “Mashinke, when are you coming to see me? I love you.” I taped those calls — but have yet to replay them.

The event was co-sponsored by the American Jewish Historical Society, which cheerfully provided the space.

How Ruth Bader Ginsburg Stole SOTU Show

By Anne Cohen

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So, you may have heard that the President gave an important speech last night. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first — let’s talk about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s mad style chops.

The Supreme Court Justice, rocked a beaded Egyptian-style style collar, and BLACK. FISHNET. GLOVES. as she gave President Obama a hug. Come to Ruthie…

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Israeli Busted For Hacking Madonna's Computer

By Maayan Lubell

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(Reuters) — An Israeli man was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of hacking Madonna’s computer and selling the pop icon’s songs online, a private investigator involved in the case said.

Israeli police confirmed they had detained a man suspected of stealing the work of a number of international stars, but declined to name any of the possible victims.

In December, unfinished tracks were leaked from Madonna’s “Rebel Heart” album before its release, an act the singer described as “artistic rape” in a post, later deleted, from her Instagram account.

Asher Wizman, owner of the Wizman-Yaar investigation firm in Israel, said Madonna’s team contacted his company several weeks ago to look into the matter after rumors of an Israeli connection to the leak.

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What If Miss Israel Photobombed Others?

By Lior Zaltzman

Miss Israel, Doron Matalon, made headlines this week after allegedly photobombing a selfie Miss Lebanon was taking with Miss Slovenia and Miss Japan and posting it on her own Instagram feed. In doing so, she may have tapped into a new peace-brokering technique. So, what if she did it to others?

To test the theory, we imagined Doron into other situations in dire need of her conflict resolution skills.

One thing Bibi and Obama can definitely agree on.

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Jon Stewart Takes on Miss Israel's Photobomb

By Lior Zaltzman

Once again, Jon Stewart showed us that he can take on anything, even the Miss Universe pageant, in a hilarious segment called “War of the Poses”.

The late-night comic opened his second segment in the show by talking about the other images that have been shaking the world. The images of Muhammad that caused the terrible events in France. The image of the march which upset some: “An ultra-orthodox newspaper “as God commanded” used photoshop to rid the event of women.”

Which brings Stewart to the segment, which he also dubs “What’s Upsetting the Middle East This Week?”

“Is it an Isis beheading?” Jon proposes, “Ayatollah on the toilet? Ankle porn? What?”

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