The Shmooze

'Bachelorette' Contestant Dies in Paragliding Accident

By Anne Cohen

Sad news: “Bachelorette” contestant Eric Hill has passed away after a serious paragliding accident.

The 32-year-old was a contestant on the upcoming season, vying for Jewish bachelorette Andi Dorfman’s affections. The accident did not happen on the show, sources confirmed to E!News. Hill had already gotten eliminated from the series, which will premiere on May 19.

“Eric shared his final journey with us this morning as all his immediate family were able to be at his side when he passed away,” his sister Karen Tracy, wrote on Facebook. “Thank you to all of your love and support and prayers and fasting. It was amazing to be with so many of his friends and family yesterday in the hospital who came to express their love for Eric. He gave us such a gift of a life fully lived and fully shared, and allowed us all to be a part of his last adventure here on earth. It is hard to think of life without his bright spark, but we know he is on to new adventures. We look forward to carrying on his legacy here and greeting him joyfully again someday. I love you so much, little brother!”

According to E!News, Dorfman is on hometown dates with her remaining suitors, and cut off from the outside world. She has not yet been told.

ABC has not yet announced Hill as an official contestant, so it’s still unclear how the tragic incident will impact the upcoming premiere.

Photo courtesy of GO with Eric.


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Idina Menzel Makes Variety 'Power of Women' List

By Anne Cohen

Variety

Look, it’s Adela Dazeem! (Never gets old)

On a more serious note though, the extremely talented Idina Menzel is on the cover of Variety, as part of the magazine’s “Power of Women” series.

The Broadway actress and “Frozen” star is being recognized for her work with A Broader Way (founded in 2010 with then-husband Taye Diggs), a summer camp in the Berkshires which helps girls find confidence and self-expression through performance.

Menzel herself helps out during the 10-day trip, and helps organize the show that campers put on for their parents at the end of their stay. The number of campers has almost doubled since 2010 (from 30 to roughly 60), but limited finances means the numbers remain small.

“It’s about using the arts to help girls find their own voice,” she told Variety. “There’s a lot of young women who don’t know how to use their voice literally and figuratively. These girls get to be the authors of their own life.”

Other honorees include Claire Danes, Nancy Dubuc, Iman, Sarah Jessica Parker and Susan Sarandon.


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Drew Barrymore and Will Kopelman Welcome Baby Daughter

By Anne Cohen

Mazel tov to Drew Barrymore and Will Kopelman on baby no.2!

The actress and her Jewish hubby welcomed daughter Frankie into the world on Tuesday, People reported.

“Happy to announce that today we are the proud parents of our second daughter, Frankie Barrymore Kopelman,” the couple said in a statement. “Olive has a new little sister, and everyone is healthy and happy!”

Barrymore, 39 and Kopelman, 36 were married in June 2012, and welcomed daughter Olive in September of that year.

In an interview with Marie Claire in February, the actress dished about being a “good shiksa wife.”

“I go to Central Synagogue in New York,” she said.

On her attempts at a Passover seder: “It was a disaster. I screwed everything up. And I got the date wrong. I ended up taking him to a really awesome Seder at [Working Title president and producer] Liza Chasin’s house.”

As for converting, the actress admitted she’s thought about it: “I thought about converting, but it takes a lot of work and time. I love the Jewish faith. I love the family values. I can get behind those.”


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Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Honored in Yiddish Word and Song

By Masha Leon

On April 20, a glorious, sunny day, more than 100 gathered at Der Shteyn — “The Stone” Memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising at Manhattan’s Riverside Park and 83rd Street.

Organized by the Congress for Jewish Culture, Jewish Labor Committee, Workmen’s Circle and Jewish Labor Bund, it marked the 71st anniversary of the Ghetto Uprising and the April 19, 1943 first Passover Seder during which the Nazis began their final liquidation of the ghetto.

As a trio of flags — United States, New York State and NYC Parks — fluttered behind the podium, chair Marcel Kshensky, welcomed the crowd — including many young people. Event coordinator Shane Baker offered a reading, and Folksbiene artistic director Zalmen Mlotek, at a portable keyboard, accompanied several soloists in Yiddish event-related songs.

In impeccable Yiddish, 94-years-young Majus Nowogrodski declared: “The ghetto fighters did not come from heaven nor did the Ghetto Uprising arise from a vacuum. It was an outgrowth of the hopes of Yiddish youths in wretched conditions, in cellars and attics, who became citizens of the civilized world…. Not only do we need to remember those who fought with weapons…but also those who created theatre for children in the ghetto…produced weapons for the fighters.”

Karen Leon
Majus Nowogrodski, 94.

He recalled Dr. Leon Feiner, “who lived in Warsaw with false papers and as a member of the Polish Underground sent secret dispatches to London and New York—dispatches still languishing in some archive awaiting publication.” Nowogrodski’s father was Emanuel Nowogrodski, a leading Bundist and the editor of the newspaper “Die Folkstzeitung” in Warsaw where — after school — I would visit my father [Matvey Bernsztejn] who worked there.

Speaking in English, George Alexander, born in 1925, a survivor of Krakow-Plaszow (a landscape featured in Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List”) recalled how as a 15-year old he managed to get a job outside the ghetto repairing German boots. “Once a week someone from the [Polish] underground provided us with secret newspapers, news of Nazi terrorist attacks…I became a courier.” Surviving concentration camps “in Austria, Matthausen and others…by May 1945 — undernourished, overworked — I was contemplating suicide. There is something about suicide,” mused Alexander. “You have to have the strength and will…and I did not have it. Lying sick, in my last minutes, I saw through the trees a gray tank with an American flag. A miracle happened! I realized that the war ended for me…in that one minute, I regained my willpower to fight for my life.”

In his welcoming address, Kshensky informed that “Der Shteyn — The Stone” was a temporary marker placed in 1947 as a promise of a permanent tribute to be “built later.” Everyone stood and joined in singing the “Partizaner Lid” (Hymn of the Partisans) and those — old enough — sang in Yiddish “ Di Bundishe Shvueh” (The Anthem of the Jewish Labor Bund).

One-by-one guests laid red carnations and white flowers on The Stone.


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Watch Katy Perry as a Bar Mitzvah DJ

By Anne Cohen

You remember the bar mitzvah DJ. You know, the guy who makes jokes so lame even your dad wouldn’t crack them, whose hairstyle peaked somewhere around 1974, and whose appreciation of the musical stylings of the “Cha Cha Slide” routinely calls his sanity into question.

That guy.

In a teaser video called “World’s Worst Birthday Party Entertainers,” Katy Perry does her best impression of the genre.

Meet Yosef Shulem. He’s lame, he’s cheap and if you’re looking to book your next party, he’s your man.

Perry’s promo for her new single, “Birthday,” also includes an aging glitter showgirl, a Twitter princess and a sad, sad clown. Enjoy.

[h/t Vulture]


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James Bond, The Mensch?

By Anne Cohen

“What is that?”

“They’re guns, James.”

“I know but so many? I mean I’m one guy. How many guns does a person need?”

The opening of Funny or Die’s new video says it all: 007 goes mensch.

The comedy site’s new video offers a solution to a recent comment by Harvey Weistein deploring the amount of violence in Hollywood movies. Starring Phil Rosenthal and Patton Oswalt, the spoof shows nebbishy Bond asking for a Prius, encouraging bombshell Bond girl Ivana Havesex that she can “do anything” with her political science major and name-dropping that he and ScarJo’s dad go to the same shul.

Watch the full video below:


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Pot Not Kosher for Passover — Even on 4/20

By Anne Cohen

It’s that time of the year again — Passover and 4/20, the unofficial marijuana celebration day. On the same day.

The celebration of all things green poses a particular problem for the chosen people. Namely, is smoking pot kosher for Passover?

Sorry to disappoint, but it seems not.

In 2007, Israel’s Green Leaf Party, which supports the legalization of marijuana, declared that cannabis is among the substances Jews are forbidden to consume during Passover.

“You shouldn’t smoke marijuana on the holiday, and if you have it in your house you should get rid of it,” Michelle Levine, a spokeswoman for the party, said at the time.

Why? Because hemp seeds are considered to be kitniyot.

While biblical law prohibits eating leavened foods, rabbis have since extended the rules to apply to foods like beans, corn and rice. Hemp seeds, found in marijuana, falls under that category. So voila, no Mary-Jane for you — if you’re Ashkenazi that is.

Sephardic Jews have traditionally been allowed to eat kitniyot during Passover, so when it comes to 4/20, they’re in the clear.

If you’re really desperate though, there have been reports in the past of kosher for Passover pot cookies. Cannabliss, an Israeli company that supplies medical marijuana to Hadassah Hospital, makes them with matzo meal or potato flour.

As the ancients said: Put that in your pipe and smoke it. But don’t. Still not kosher.


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Zac Efron Proves He's Jewish By Unzipping

By Anne Cohen

Zac Efron is Jewish. Really. He can prove it.

In fact, he did.

In a new video for Comedy Central’s “Workaholics,” Efron and Seth Rogen (his co-star in “Neighbors”) interview for a job with Adam (Adam DeVine), Blake (Blake Anderson) and Ders (Anders Holm).

“I think if you add a Jewish person, you’d probably be more edgy because you’d have a minority in your group,” Rogen says, in an effort to play the diversity card.

And then Efron drops the bombshell: Diversity, shmiversity — he’s Jewish too.

The guys then pressure Efron to prove it, chanting: “We’ve got to see that d–k. We’ve got to see that d–k.”

Which he then does, saying: “There, see? Full circumcised.”

Reaction: “Oh my god, it’s amazing. It is f–king gorgeous,” Rogen says. “Did Leonardo Di Vinci circumcise you? It’s beautiful. Your balls have a six-pack! Put it away! Put it away, it’s too nice!”

Watch the full clip above.


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Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant!

By Anne Cohen

Chelsea Clinton announced on Thursday she is pregnant with the first grandchild of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“Mark and I are very excited that we have our first child arriving later this year,” Chelsea Clinton said referring to her husband Marc Mezvinsky. She spoke to the audience at a New York event while sitting on a stage with her mother.

The grandparents-to-be took to Twitter to kvell:

Sitting with her mother in side-by-side armchairs on a stage at a New York City event on empowering women, Clinton delivered the news with a broad smile.

The audience at “Girls: A No Ceilings Conversation,” organized by the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, immediately broke into applause and cheers.

“I certainly feel all the better whether it’s a girl or a boy that she or he will grow up in a world full of so many strong young female leaders,” said Chelsea Clinton, who works for the family foundation and is a correspondent for NBC News.

“Thank you for inspiring me and thank you for inspiring future generations, including the one that we’ll be lucky enough to welcome into our family later this year,” she told the audience.

It was unclear how news of the first Clinton grandchild will affect the political ambitions of grandmother-to-be Hillary Clinton, who is considering a run for the White House in 2016.

Former president Clinton told reporters in Davos, Switzerland, in 2011: “I would like to have a happy wife, and she won’t be unless she’s a grandmother… It’s something she wants more than she wanted to be president.”

With Reuters


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Andrew Garfield: 'Spider-Man is Jewish'

By Anne Cohen

That nice Jewish boy next door? Could be a superhero in disguise.

Turns out, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is a member of the tribe — at least, according to Andrew Garfield, who plays the famed superhero in the upcoming “Amazing Spider-Man 2.”

““Peter Parker is not a simple dude,” Garfield told Time Out. “He ums and ahs about his future because he’s neurotic. He’s Jewish. It’s a defining feature.”

Stereotype much? Garfield can get away with it — he’s one of us.

“I hope Jewish people won’t mind the cliché because my father’s Jewish. I have that in me for sure,” he said.

So, what do you think? Spider-Man creator Stan Lee (born Stanley Lieber) is definitely Jewish. And Peter Parker does live in Forest Hills (a heavily Jewish area in Queens) with Aunt May…

We’re just going to go with it. Pass the matzo, Spidey.


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James Franco Calls Out New York Times Critic

By Anne Cohen

James Franco is good at lot of things (acting, directing, teaching, writing, selfies) but taking criticism isn’t one of them.

The actor took to Instagram to post a positive review by Variety praising “Of Mice and Men,” in which he currently stars with Chris O’Dowd. He also used the opportunity to call New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley “a little bitch.”

Brantley had apparently called the play a “respectable, respectful and generally inert revival” of the John Steinbeck classic.

The comment has since been deleted but here’s a screenshot, per Gawker (also included in Franco’s instarant):


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Does Grover Speak Yiddish?

By Masha Leon

It was Elmo, cameras, and applause at WNET’s Annual Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street at which community leaders, philanthropists and celebrated personalities toasted the innovative partnerships, which have brought cutting edge programming to millions for decades.

Emceed by husband-wife team Deborah Roberts, correspondent for ABC News’ 20//20 and Al Roker co-host of NBC News’ Today Show, honorees Kathryn and Kenneth Chenault and Cheryl [a vice chairman of WNET ‘s Board) and Philip Milstein were lauded by WNET Board Chairman James Tisch “for their significant efforts and civic contributions.”

“For years WNET has pioneered programming and cultivated partnerships that have enriched the cultural landscape of the New York community and beyond,” Neal Shapiro WNET president and CEO told the 350 guests who helped raise $2.7 million. “Collaborating with community leaders, organizations and supporters dedicated to our mission…is what ensures a dynamic and fertile future for the station for years of growth to come.”

Karen Leon
Tony Bennett

Adding pizzazz to the evening’s Red Carpet blitz were Tony Bennett (who did NOT sing but posed with Elmo,), Charlie Rose (a past honoree) tennis legend Billie Jean King, filmmaker Abigail Disney (granddaughter of Walt Disney), Merryl Tisch, and Cookie Monster.

Mentally revisiting WNET’s decades’ long intellectually –enriching, entertainment feasts, I realized how bereft we’d all be without its TV buffet whose eclectic menu included “Masterpiece Theater,” “Nova,” “Nature;” such musical extravaganzas as “Live from Lincoln Center,” “Live Performances” plus conscience-ticklers such as: ”The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow,”(2002) and “Srebnica — A Cry from the Grave” (1999).

Though since its launch in 1969 Muppets now have multi-language worldwide provenance, at the December 10, 2007 National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene Benefit at New York’s Manhattan Center, longtime “Sesame Street” host and recording artist Bob McGrath accompanied by Grover was among a roster of stellar guests. These included Peter Yarrow of Peter Paul and Mary renown and Bebe Neuwirth, yet it was Grover’s hand that adult and senior guests wanted to shake and pose with for photographs. Someone asked the Grover if he spoke Yiddish. No doubt a joke. Puzzled, Grover looked at McGrath — McGrath looked at Grover and both shook their heads. “Not to worry,” said a guest. “[They] speak international.”


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Celebrities, They're Just Like Us: Passover Edition

By Anne Cohen


For once, it doesn’t matter if you live in an L.A. mega-mansion or a tiny New York apartment – you’ve still got to clean out your hametz. A happy Passover from all your favorite Jewish celebrities.

Read more


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Mila Kunis, Best (Pregnant) Villain

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Mila Kunis puts the va-va-voom in villain. And now, everybody knows it.

The 30-year-old actress looked amazing as she accepted the golden popcorn for Best Villain in “Oz the Great and Powerful” during last night’s MTV Movie Awards.

“Listen, you guys, you just made my 12-year-old self dream come true,” she said. “This is by far the coolest award and I just realized I was the only woman nominated and I won!”

Kunis and fiance Ashton Kutcher, 36, are reportedly expecting their first child ). Though the couple has kept silent on the subject, multiple sources confirmed the news in late March.

The name game hasn’t started yet, but RadarOnline reported in December that the two planned on raising their prospective children in the Jewish tradition (Kunis is a Ukrainian Jew).

Pregnancy agrees with you, Mila. Keep rocking it.


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Susan Bressman Among Top Docs Honored at Castle Connolly Awards

By Masha Leon

“I’m lucky because I found a calling that teaches, gratifies and humbles you,” said Dr. Susan Bressman, an Honoree for Clinical Excellence at the Castle Connolly Top Physicians of The Year Awards Dinner at The Pierre. Daughter of Holocaust survivors, Bressman — Alan and Joan Mirken Chair, Depts. of Neurology, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center and Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center, Professor of Neurology Icahn School of Medicine, Mt. Sinai — Bressman’s arena includes identification of dystonia genes as well as Parkinson’s disease in Ashkenazi Jews.

She affirmed: “Medicine demands that we have empathy and integrity.”

“I am the daughter of two very resilient and wise Holocaust survivors…I learned many lessons from my parents. One was that helping others is itself healing.” After being liberated by American soldiers, her mother was transported to Sweden where she became a nurse’s assistant. “It was my mother’s nursing of others, which helped bring her physically back to health…. Her story was a gift to me because it brought me to the vocation of medicine. My patients are my ultimate teachers…serving them and learning from them is the heart of what I do.”

“It’s an incredible honor to be here,” said Clinical Excellence honoree Dr. Michael Saag. “ I feel like I’m having my Bar Mitzvah again!” he joked. Reacting to the explosive laughter, he said, “I’m glad to be sitting next to a urologist because this could create a urological emergency.”

Karen Leon
Dr. Susan Bressman

Founder of the Center for AIDS Research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and its innovative HIV outpatient clinic, Saag said: “The progress that’s been made is just incredible when you think of a disease that wasn’t even there in 1981…and thirty years later it’s a chronic, manageable condition. It happened in New York, in San Francisco, even Birmingham, Alabama. The patients taught us all what we needed to know. You just had to listen.”

When I asked Dr. Saag the origin of his name, he said, “The name was originally Sagalowsky. The family came here in 1874 from Litvinova…. then St. Louis, Indiana…had a candy shop; movie theatres, theatres…settled in Texas.” But why Saag?” I persisted. He chuckled: “My grandmother wanted to be the first [name] under “S” listings — so she shortened the name to Saag.”

Also honored were: Dr. Catherine R. deVries, Director of the U. of Utah Center for Global Surgery; Dr. Victor Fazio, Chairman Emeritus Dept of Colorectal Surgery, Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Hagop Kantarjian Prof. and Chair, Leukemia at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Host of “The Dr. Oz” TV show Dr. Mehmet Oz, and Lisa Oz, host of “The Liza Oz Show.”

John Castle, chairman Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. offered welcoming remarks, as did its president and CEO John Connolly. William Liss- Levinson, Castle Connolly Vice President, Chief Strategy & Operations Officer was an award presenter. In the guests’ “goody bag”— a hefty 5lb. tome: “Castle Connolly Top Doctors In New York Metro Area” guide.


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Russian Billionaire Books 111 Hotel Rooms for Israel Passover Bash

By Anne Cohen

Roman Abramovich intends to celebrate Passover in style.

For the Jewish Russian billionaire, this involves booking 111 hotel rooms in a Negev desert hotel, to celebrate the holidays with friends and family. Quaint. Understated. Intimate.

Abramovich is a repeat Passover bash offender. In 2009, he rented an entire floor of the Royal Beach Hotel in Eilat.

The Chelsea soccer club-owner will be occupying the Beresheet Hotel from Sunday to Thursday next week, and plans to hold a traditional Seder banquet in a large tent in the desert.

The Times of Israel reports that this latest seder adventure will cost Abramovich roughly $450,000. Apparently, he wanted to get a “feel for the desert in the area where the story of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt took place.”

I’m sure a lavish desert tent party is exactly what Moses had in mind.


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Julia Louis-Dreyfus Shuts Down Critics of Rolling Stone Cover

By Anne Cohen

Memo to celebrities: Next time you’re in a media bind, give Julia Louis-Dreyfus a ring-a-ling.

The leading lady of comedy, who appeared on the cover of this month’s Rolling Stone in nothing but a back tattoo of the Constitution (a tribute to her role as Vice President Selina Meyers in “Veep”), was called out for the lack of historical accuracy in her ink.

John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. Duh.

Even the National Constitution Center got in on the fun.

But Julia one-upped them all with this:

Come on, guys. This is Elaine we’re talking about. You know better than to mess.


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Watch the Trailer For Zach Braff's 'Wish I Was Here'

By Anne Cohen

Jewish indie fans, rejoice!

The teaser trailer for Zach Braff’s Kickstarter-funded movie, “Wish I Was Here,” is, well, here.

The film tells the story of a father (Braff), who pulls his kids out of Jewish day school after his father (Mandy Patinkin) gets sick and can no longer foot the bill. The movie, reportedly inspired by Braff’s own “very strong Conservative/Orthodox upbringing,” also stars Kate Hudson and Josh Gad.

The trailer doesn’t reveal much, but it promises a movie filled with whimsy (pink wig!), and a “Garden State” redux soundtrack.

What’s that song, you ask? Come on. It wouldn’t be Zach Braff without the Shins.


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What Would Moses Do? You Decide.

By Anne Cohen

WWMD — What would Moses do?

We ask ourselves a lot of questions around Passover. Why not that one? Now, you too can be faced with decisions determining the fate of the entire Jewish people.

The Fountainheads, a musical group out of Israel’s Ein Prat Academy for Leadership (a program for post-army or post-academy students) have released a new interactive video with a Passover-theme.

“Escape From Egypt,” lets you control the Exodus story in real time, creating one of hundreds of different possible story-lines, The video uses technology developed by Interlude, the Israeli startup that recently made waves with their video forBob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.”

“Pesach is the Jewish story,” said Avital Stein, the band’s director. “It’s the story of the Jewish people and there’s so many different details and drama that everyone can relate to today.”

The whole thing is akin to “Choose Your Own Adventure” (Pesach edition}, to the tune of an original score.

Shani Lachmish, Jeff Petroff, Zlil Rubinstein, Orri Dror (base guitar), Tal Michles (lead guitar), Dan Cohen (drums) and Amir Goldberg (keyboard), met during a session at Ein Prat in 2011. Armed with a green screen and their instruments, they put together a Hannukah video and threw it up on Youtube. It got over 40,000 hits.

Since then, they’ve released 10 videos, and have over 5 million combined Youtube hits. Their 2011 Rosh Hashanah song, “Dip Your Apple,” was the most-viewed Youtube video in Israel that year.They’ve played for audiences in Israel, Europe and North America, and wrote the theme-song for “Advanced Search,” a mini-series on Judaism which aired on Israel’s Channel 2.

You can catch the Fountainheads on their fifth world tour — they’ll be making a stop in the U.S. in time for Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, in May.

Until then though, your adventure awaits here.


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Lena Dunham Celebrates Her Sister in Moving Speech

By Anne Cohen

Lena Dunham gave a moving speech on Monday night, when she was honored by the Point Foundation, an organization devoted to helping LGBTQ students overcome obstacles.

Speaking at the New York Public Library, the creator and star of “Girls” thanked her family and her sister, Grace, who came out at age 17.

“I have always felt a strong and emotional connection to members of the LGBTQ community. It was actually a huge disappointment for me, when I came of age and realized that I was sexually attracted to men. So when my sister came out, I thought, ‘Thank God, someone in this family can truly represent my passions and beliefs.’

My sister Grace coming out as a gay woman at age 17 was a huge turning point for me in my understanding of the issues facing LGBTQ people. We were raised in an environment—the art world of downtown Manhattan—where no one hid their sexual orientation, and a common question from four-year-old me was ‘Mom, are those ladies gay together?’ I was always very jealous of any child who had two dads. And because of our parents’ deeply held commitment to acceptance and equality, my sister’s process of coming to terms with her sexuality was as angst-free as anything involving sex can really be. She was assured by the adults in her life that she was not only accepted, but adored for who she is. I am so happy that this is the way she was able to enter the world as a woman and an LGBTQ person.”

According to Vanity Fair, Dunham donated $25,000 to the Point Foundation.


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