The Shmooze

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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Israeli Basketball is Pretty Intense

By Anne Cohen

When Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv face off, things get crazy.

That’s the main message we can take away from what happened last night, when Maccabi center Sofoklis Schortsanitis charged into the crowd to try to beat up a Hapoel fan. Madness ensued. Israeli fans raged.

Watch the whole incident below:


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Scarlett Johansson Really Hates Her Nickname

By Anne Cohen

Uh oh. Turns out we’ve all committed a major faux-pas when it comes to Scarlett Johansson. And no, it’s not questioning her political correctness over the SodaStream debacle.

In an interview for the April cover of Glamour, the 29-year-old actress complained that she really, really hates it when the media calls her ScarJo.

“I associate that name with, like, pop stars. ‘It sounds tacky. It’s lazy and flippant … There’s something insulting about it,” she said.

Point taken.

So, on behalf of all media, I want to formally apologize to JLo, JLaw, KStew, the Biebz and anyone else we’ve bestowed a character-saving nickname upon — you know, the age of Twitter and all that.

It’s not the first time Johansson has come out against her moniker. In 2012, she told USA Today: “It’s a laziness … People can’t actually say the whole name? It’s just bizarre … so Cate Blanchett is not, like, ‘CaBla’? Why is that? Why do I have to get stuck with [ScarJo]?”

It’s because we love you. Promise.

Which Jewish celebrity names can we butcher next? I vote for NPort.


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Paul Stanley Calls KISS Members Anti-Semitic

By Anne Cohen

Turns out there was a lot going on behind all that KISS makeup.

In his new memoir, “Face the Music: A Life Exposed,” KISS frontman Paul Stanley (born Stanley Eisen) recounts that band member Ace Frehley had a collection of Nazi memorabilia.

The New York Post also reports that Stanley accuses both Frehley and Peter Criss of resenting himself and Gene Simmons (born Chaim Witz in Israel) for their dominant roles in the creation process (and probably because they’re the only two whose names you remember).

“As a result, the two of them tried to sabotage the band — which, as they saw it, was unfairly manipulated by [us] money-grubbing Jews.”

Stanley added that these accustations of anti-Semitism were “based on years and years of interactions.”

Frehley’s rep. blew off the claims: “Let’s just say that Paul is trying to sell some books,” Frehley’s manager, Dave Frey, told The Huffington Post. “It’s definitely not true.”

For more glam-rock inside dish, check out Stanley’s book, available April 8.


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Peaches Geldof Dies at 25

By Anne Cohen

Peaches Geldof, daughter of Bob Geldof and Paula Yates, has been found deadin her home. She was 25.

The police, called to an address in the village of Wrotham, Kent, released a statement saying they were treating the death as “unexplained and sudden.”

Though not Jewish herself, the writer and presenter was married to musician Thomas Cohen, with whom she had two sons, Astala, one, and Phaedra, who will turn one at the end of April. The English heiress was also spotted wearing a magen david at a fashion event in London last week.

“My beloved wife Peaches was adored by myself and her two sons,” Cohen said in a statement.

“I shall bring them up with their mother in their hearts everyday. We shall love her forever.”

Her father, who confirmed her death, added: “We are beyond pain. She was the wildest, funniest, cleverest, wittiest and the most bonkers of all of us.”

“What a beautiful child. How is this possible that we will not see her again? How is that bearable?”

Her last tweet, posted Sunday, was a picture of herself as a baby with her mother.


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Buzzfeed, Torah-Style

By Anne Cohen

Have you ever scrolled through Buzzfeed thinking, ‘If only this could be a little more Jewish?”

Someone in the wide netherworld of the Internet has heard your prayers and answered them. The result is BuzzTorah, a spoof of the news site that launched a thousand listicles created by Yeshiva University students.

The website self-describes as a “Torah and Jewish Life website featuring quick and comprehensive content like lists, pictures, GIFs, and short articles. We believe the internet can be a strong tool capable of affecting change and spreading Jewish values.”

Some of the content — like “7 Charosets from Around the World” —  could actually be featured on Buzzfeed, which has been known to publish a Jewish-themed article or two (“35 Signs You Were Raised By a Jewish Mother,”, “32 Things Jewish Girls Can’t Resist, “ and “The Official Ranking of the 51 Hottest Jewish Men in Hollywood,” being recent examples).

But BuzzTorah’s appeal comes from the posts that most average BuzzFeed users wouldn’t quite relate to. “5 Rashis You Don’t Want to Miss This Week,” for example, is touted as “Rashi always has great stuff to say. Here, we choose 5 of his commentaries that you don’t want to miss.”

The Orthodox-geared website ironically gained mass attention when Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith, himself a member of the tribe, tweeted out a link on April 4.

Once you’ve delved into Rashi’s mind, you might want to know where he came from. For that, try “15 Ancient Cities of our Sages Revisited”.

Is your mom bugging you about those Skittles you’ve been chowing down on? Show her “9 Greatest Things to Become Kosher in the 21st Century,” (and get some new snack ideas in one fell swoop.)

The list(icle) goes on and on.


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New York Journos Pay Tribute to Ed Koch at Benefit

By Masha Leon

“Mayor Koch believed that mayors were not elected to be president…but to pick up garbage …balance the budget…” said Marcia Kramer, CBS2 New York chief political correspondent and a panelist at the April 3 Tribute to Mayor Edward I. Koch and Benefit for Beit Morasha’s Edward I. Koch Center for Public Policy and Jewish Ethics In Jerusalem.

Held at the Harmonie Club, emcee NBC4 New York Anchor, Chuck Scarborough recapped President Ford’s “Drop Dead!” message to the City and its “1977 riots and death spiral.” Discussion moderator “Maury Povich,” — taking a break from his syndicated “The Maury Show” featuring couples anxiously awaiting results of paternity tests — expounded on Koch’s agile maneuvering “to get elected and save the city.”

“Koch made chutzpah a New York virtue.” joshed NBC4 New York senior correspondent Gabe Pressman. “In the 1970s he was considered a schlemiel…. grew into the job as mayor and was more available than any other mayor.” Pressman also alluded to the “pain in his life”— the suicide of Queensboro President Donald Manes. “It haunted him for a long time…. He was never accused of city corruption but it was on his watch.”

Ido Aharoni and Pat Koch Thaler // Photo by Karen Leon.

N.Y. Post political correspondent Michael Goodwin remembered Koch as “a loyal Democrat to the end [and] I suspect he’d have supported de Blasio but not a lot of his rhetoric.” Also on the panel: Peter Solomon, former deputy mayor of economic policy and development in New York City.

Preceding the dinner and panel discussion, Israel’s Consul General in New York, Ido Aharoni— bracketed by the mayor’s sister Pat Koch Thaler, American Friends chairman of the board Mel Salberg, and Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barkat — recalled Koch’s “special relationship with Jerusalem’s legendary mayor Teddy Kollek.”

Aharoni acknowledged his “debt to “dear friend” [public relations maven] Howard Rubenstein when he arrived in New York “two months before 9/11” and was told, “the first person I need to meet with and seek advice from was Ed Koch… He was a legend in Israel…. Why would he meet with me? Not only did he take my call, but invited me to his office, interrogated me about my career, my work for Shimon Peres.

Harking back to the prior night’s JCRC (Jewish Community Relations Council) Annual Gala at The Pierre at which he was the keynote speaker “with Mayor de Blasio present,” Aharoni said, “I grew up in a suburb of Tel Aviv and would pass a street named La Guardia every day. I had no idea who LaGuardia was…. Later I discovered a street named Ed Koch and — of course — there will be something named after [Michael] Bloomberg. So I told Mayor de Blasio that I wish for him one day there’ll be a bridge in Tel Aviv named de Blasio Bridge so that my grandchildren will pass the bridge and know who de Blasio was.

Aharoni concluded: “On behalf of the State of Israel, I would like to express our profound appreciation of [Koch’s] unwavering support, his friendship and his unconditional love for the State of Israel.”


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