The Shmooze

Ambassador Thomas Pickering Cited at Blue Card Gala

By Masha Leon

“It’s is one of the most beautiful organizations I have heard of in my life,” emcee Danny Burstein told the guests at Blue Card’s Annual Benefit at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall.

Currently playing Herr Schultz in “Cabaret,” the award-nominated actor touted The Blue Card as “The only charity in the U.S. whose mission is to provide financial aid to needy and destitute Holocaust survivors including those in Wyoming.” He paused: “Who knew there were Jews in Wyoming? We give 100% of our donations to our clients [and] are the closest thing to a family that many survivors have.”

“The Blue Card is an organization that truly functions as a team,” said Blue Card president Gia Machlin who touted Blue Card’s Executive Director Masha Pearl and its staff. “They know what our clients need…when they go to dinner, the name of the place next door where they have lunch…so we are very lucky indeed.”

Karen Leon
Ambassador Thomas Pickering

“You are both generous and thinking donors…in the work you do for the people who are so much in your care,” said Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering recipient of Blue Card’s Richard C. Holbrooke Award for Social Justice. “When I came to New York to represent the U.S. at the United Nations (1989-1992) Richard went out of his way to welcome me personally…bring me around the table of his choice with leading New Yorkers….No one has achieved what Richard did… settling the Balkan conflict. [He} left us all too early…He died on the nation’s business …he gave his life to American diplomacy to our country and indeed to the service of mankind.”’

Accepting the award from Holbrooke’s wife, author-journalist Kati Marton. Pickering said “So Kati and Blue Card, thank you for the honor…Nothing I have been able to do in my life has been done alone…and for Richard that was the same watchword…. We all stand on the shoulders of many who came before.”

A special treat was a performance by still spry 97-year old Holocaust survivor singer and mandolin player Emily Kessler whose program of Ukrainian and Yiddish songs included a beautifully articulate “Oyfn Veg Shteyt a Boym” (on the road stands a tree) and Holocaust-centered lament “Vu Ahin Zol Ikh Geyn” (where shall I go?”).

The Max L. Heine Humanitarian Award was presented to Seth Klarman president and CEO of The Baupost Group, L.I.C. and a board member of Facing History and Ourselves. The Young Leadership Award was presented to Amanda Bilski a fourth generation of her family to volunteer with The Blue Card.

Sharing the table with George Heindl Austria’s Consul General and Amb. Pickering and Kati Marton, I chatted with German Consul Bernd Georg Reindl. The conversation veered toward Yiddish when I mentioned that my Litvisher Yiddish was once dubbed “Echt Schwabischn Deutch” — authentic Schwabian German. “ But of course!” exclaimed Consul Reindl. “I am from Schwabia and we use many Yiddish words.” Comparing expressions he told me: “We use the word mischpokhe all the time,” and with a smile, he added — “it refers to a particular branch of the family.” He did not specify.


Megan Amram's Simple Physics for Ladies

By Margaret Eby

Courtesy of Simon and Schuster

Ladies, have you wondered what planet you would weigh the least on? Or what household chemicals make the best cocktails? Or perhaps you want to know what the best birth control method is (hint: long denim skirts). Comedian Megan Amram has a book with all the answers for you.

If you’re familiar with Amram’s work, you probably also know about her particular brand of biting, acerbic humor, one that she broadcasts on her very popular (32,400 followers and counting) Twitter account and uses to her benefit on the writing staff of the hit NBC series “Parks and Recreation.”

Now, Amram has turned her attention to “Science… for Her!” a faux textbook skewering the tone of such women’s magazines as Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire. The book includes charts like “The Best Religion for Your Body Type” and “Fashion Staples for Each Phase of Global Warming,” pointed absurdism that’s also clever social satire.

The 27-year-old Portland, Oregon, native launched her career on Twitter, where she would practice joke writing. Before she knew it, Amram drew the attention of Academy Awards show runners, who hired her in 2011 to write jokes for that year’s Oscars. This led to writing stints for “Kroll Show,” “Childrens Hospital” and even the Disney Channel before her current position writing for “Parks and Recreation.”

The Forward’s Margaret Eby spoke to Amram about feminism, growing up Jewish and the state of the Internet.

Margaret Eby: How did you hit on the format of “Science… for Her”?

Megan Amram: I really wanted to write a comedy book, and I wanted it to be a higher-concept artifact than just a string of jokes. I noticed that a lot of the things I posted to my blog happen to be making fun of the writing in women’s magazines like Glamour or Cosmo. It would be a fun aesthetic. The end of that was making a science textbook making fun of how women don’t understand anything about science or their bodies.

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Jon Stewart Slams Jews for 'Sad' Narrow-Mindedness

By Raffi Wineburg


(JTA) — Jon Stewart is no stranger to harsh criticism. Some Jews have called him a self-hater, while the Iranian media has painted him as a Mossad agent. But “The Daily Show” host wasn’t on the receiving end Tuesday when he dished out some tough love to his fellow Jews.

In an interview with Canada.com to promote his new movie, “Rosewater,” the Jewish comedian commented on a number of things he found “troubling” with Judaism and the Jewish state.

“It’s so interesting to me that people want to define who is a Jew and who is not. And normally that was done by people who weren’t Jewish but apparently now it’s done by people who are,” Stewart said. “And you can’t observe [Judaism] in the way you want to observe. And I never thought that that would be coming from brethren. I find it really sad, to be honest.”

He went on to describe certain Jewish behavior as “fascistic.”

Asked whether he could criticize Israel, Stewart’s answer was a resounding “No.” Although that’s not a new revelation.


The New Face of Streit's Matzo: Real Housewives' Jill Zarin

By Yael Even-Or

Getty Images

How about some drama with your matzo?

“Real Housewives of New York City”s Jill Zarin has apparently signed a deal with Streit’s matzo, The New York Post’s Page Six reports.

The kosher food company based in New York’s Lower East Side will pay Zarin a seven-figure sum for the endorsement deal.

The 50-year-old former “Real Housewives” participant (and wife of Bobby Zarin, New York schmatta king) published in a book titled “Secrets of a Jewish Mother” in 2010. She co-wrote with her mother, Gloria Kamen, and her sister, Lisa Wexler.

This is the first national campaign for Streit’s, which has been in business since 1925. That’s a lot of Passover stomach-aches.


French Jewish Singer Patrick Bruel Rocks Beacon Theater

By Masha Leon

“What is the mood of the Jewish community in France and your reaction to[Jean-Marie] Le Pen’s [past] comment about you?” I asked French-Jewish Algerian-born singer-actor Patrick Bruel.

We were chatting post performance at Manhattan’s Beacon Theater following the launch of his U.S. tour. “Le Pen…it’s not new,” he responded. “There have been provocations. You know who he is and what he represents. Yes, it’s hard for the Jewish community.” Admitting to the exodus of some Jews from France he said, “It’s not only the extreme right…it comes from many other sides.” I asked if it had any effect on his career. “Why would it! I am Jewish. I am very proud to be Jewish and I always said it. Everybody knows my position, everybody knows how much I want peace. All my songs are universalist.”

And his concert was indeed universalist. I suspect every French tourist and expat in New York was among the ecstatic nearly 3000 strong audience —  often on its feet — as Bruel bounded onstage with the greeting “Hello New York!…. My accent is cute — no?” The audience roared. A high decibel nearly two-hour long lights and sound show with sirens and urban and psychedelic image montages — had the audience reacting to Bruel with adoring fervor. At several points Bruel and the orchestra stopped in mid song but the audience, a mostly young crowd, continued to sing the song a capella!

Masha Leon
Patrick Bruel

Sirens, death, destruction montages…An amazing break dancing ensemble. Hip hop pyrotechnics set to a backdrop of a French inner cityscape. There was a heart wrenching song which Bruel informed was a tribute to America’s Johnny Cash “about a father who would never see his son again.”

And then Paris the city of amour surfaced with Bruel singing love songs with most of the audience joining in dancing to a waltz and couples embracing in the aisles. “She’s Gone, “ “Je Serai La Pour La Suite.” Bruel at the mic… with guitar and at the piano keyboard, he kept pointing to his watch but the audience begged for more. He kept coming back, and back and finally…. the stage went dark.

During our chat, I mentioned his film portrayal of [real life] Maxime Grimbert [ne Grinberg] in the 2008 French film “Le Secret” in which he plays a French athlete who refused to wear a Jewish Star during WWII hoping his athleticism would “separate him from the other ‘Yids’.” Bruel smiled. Commenting on one of his songs with a gypsy melodic theme, he said “That was not gypsy it was klezmer.” I insisted it was gypsy not klezemer and proceeded to sing a few bars of “ya ba bai-tchiri bim” phrases. “Ah, yes. klezmer!” he nodded. A hug and we parted. Outside the Beacon, winding lines behind barriers waiting for a sighting of Bruel.

During the performance I relished the Beacon’s Greek, Renaissance Rococo splendor. An unexpected postscript: The November 13 New York Times obituaries lists a tribute to Daniel Meltzer — a writer, teacher — who died on November 6 and in 1985 headed the “Save the Beacon” committee rescuing this landmark gem from demolition!


VIDEO: Larry King Shows Off Breakdancing Moves

By Anne Cohen

Larry King has got moves.

The octagenerian newsman showed off his breakdance skills (using the term loosely here) during an interview with “Black-ish” star Miles “Baby Boogaloo” Brown.

Highlight: “This is new for a Jew!”

Hats off to Heeb for this little gem of a find.


The Ku Klux Klan Welcomes… Jews?

By Anne Cohen

Members of the Ku Klux Klan, circa 1930 // Getty Images

Have you been harboring a deep, dark, hidden desire to join the Ku Klux Klan? Well, now’s your chance. Apparently, the Klan, bastion of White Supremacy, is looking to “diversify and increase its membership to include Jews, black people, homosexuals and those of Hispanic origin with a re-branding as ‘the new Klan’,” the Daily Mail reports.

The new and improved organization, re-dubbed the Rocky Mountain Knights, claim to have traded in their old standby — hate — in favor of “a strong America.” Prospective members must be 18 and live in the Pacific Northwest.

‘White supremacy is the old Klan. This is the new Klan. The KKK is for a strong America,’ founder John Abarr told the Great Falls Tribune.

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Jeff Goldblum Got Married This Weekend

By Anne Cohen

Third time’s the charm for Jeff Goldblum.

The 62-year-old “Jurassic Park” actor married Emilie Livingston, 31, in a ceremony at L.A.’s Chateau Marmont on Saturday. Sadly, no dinosaurs were in attendence.

Livingston Instagrammed a pretty bottle of champagne to commemorate the occasion. Caption: “Excited to see our pictures from our photographer but right now feeling so loved after a magical and enchanting evening on Saturday!!!”

The two had been dating since 2011.

Goldblum was previously hitched to “Silverado” co-star Patricia Gaul from 1980 to 1986, and to Geena Davis, with whom he starred in “Earth Girls Are Easy,” from 1987 to 1990.

Mazel tov!


Nicki Minaj Is Sorry About 'Nazi' Video — Sort Of

By Anne Cohen

It’s ok guys, we can all relax. Nicki Minaj is really sorry about all the overt Nazi imagery in her new music video. In fact, she’s not responsible at all. Turns out the people behind the madness were all Jewish. Well, in that case…

The ADL generously accepted Minaj’s apology.

“We are pleased that Nicki Minaj has taken full responsibility for the video and recognized that it was indeed offensive,”Abe Foxman wrote in a statement. “Her clear renunciation of Nazism is an important step. We hope that she will take further steps to educate herself and her fans about who the Nazis were and why we should never take genocide or the Holocaust lightly.”

If you haven’t seen the offending item yet, here it is:


Scared of Over-Sharing? 5By's Greg Isenberg's Got You Covered.

By Natasha Baker

(Reuters) — Consumers concerned about over-sharing on public social networks are turning to private messaging apps to share texts, photos and videos with a limited group of people.

Downloads of private social messaging apps increased 200 percent in 2013 over 2012, making them the fastest-growing category of apps, according to San Francisco-based mobile analytics firm Flurry.

The apps provide more private connections and allow users to express themselves without worrying about how they are perceived by their entire networks.

“Millennials are realizing that they have to be really careful about what they share on public social networks. One embarrassing or exposing photo can severely impact their job prospects,” said Greg Isenberg, CEO of 5by, a division of San Francisco-based web discovery engine StumbleUpon.

The 5by app, for iPhone, iPad and Android devices, allows users to create private forums around videos. They can search for videos across public social networks like YouTube and Vimeo and share them with a select group of people.

“For young people it’s about sending that silly video and expressing yourself how you really want to express yourself,” said Isenberg.

[Ironically enough, the first thing that comes up when you search Isenberg’s name on Youtube is a video of him partying hard in Montreal. Oops.]

Ephemeral media apps such as Snapchat, which disappear after a few seconds, cater to consumers’ desire for more private experiences, he said.

Snapchat, available for iPhone and Android, makes texts, photos and videos disappear seconds after they are viewed.

“You know it won’t live beyond a certain time so you express yourself in a truer manner to yourself,” said Isenberg.

Facebook has also recognized the need for more private experiences. Last month it launched the Rooms iPhoneapp to allow users to converse with a select group of people using real, or made up, names.

The company earlier this year acquired private social messaging app WhatsApp, which lets people chat privately with friends across mobile devices.

Flurry Chief Executive Officer Simon Khalaf said consumers realize they need to restrict how they share information. Users might share a silly photo with a friend on Snapchat, he said, but share a photo family members might see on Facebook.

“Often times with new technology, such as in the early days with Facebook and social web-based platforms, we over-shared,” said Marcos Sanchez, vice president of corporate communications at San Francisco-based mobile analytics firm App Annie.

“As we go through these phases of oversharing, it’s often followed by a phase of curation.”


Another Day, Another Jewish Trump Wedding

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

First Ivanka, now Eric. The MOT-Trump circle has just gained another member.

The Donald’s 30-year-old son married Jewish TV producer Lara Yunaska on Saturday in front of 450 people. The ceremony, held at Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, also featured a “crystal-embellished” chuppah. Because, you know, Trump.

The bride, who reportedly broke both her wrists horseback riding two weeks before the wedding (ouch!), wore Vera Wang.

Ivanka Trump, who married New York Observer publisher Jared Kushner in 2009, posted pictures of the ceremony to Instagram.

Kushner, who officiated the ceremony, reportedly told Yunaska: “You are not just gaining a family you are getting 6 million Twitter followers.”

Mazel tov.


American Friends Israel Museum 'Rock The Garden' Gala

By Masha Leon

It was a high-energy multi generation crowd at the American Friends of the Israel Museum’s “Rock the Garden” Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street. Overhead a huge “Rock the Garden” neon sign, plus a wall-sized display of LP’s against an orange background. Denim fabric decorated with metal snaps and zippers tubular table centerpieces helped make the museum’ annual event an over-the-top happening.

During my reception chat with NFL New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft he proudly informed that two of the players on his football team — Julian Edelman and Nate Ebner were Jewish with one — “wearing a mezuzah during play.”

“Nearly fifty years ago my husband’s family were founders of the Israel Museum,” AFIM president Stacey Bronfman told the guests. “”To honor my husband’s grandfather — Samuel Bronfman — on his 70th birthday, the family proudly donated the archeology wing. Our uncle Charles [Bronfman] generously supported the museum…my late father-in-law Edgar Bronfman would be proud of you… Under the leadership of James Snyder it has secured its place among the [world’s] top art institutions and is ranked 63rd in the world with close to one million visitors annually.”

Karen Leon
James Snyder

“Great to see you!” Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Museum Snyder called out to the audience. “We are a little museum 6,000 miles away in Jerusalem and look at the quality, and energy, of this party. This past summer… has been one for the books. But all during the summer, the [museum’s] garden was a place of sanctuary. All this talk about the beauty and tranquility is really the calling card of the garden, and everyone came calling during that entire time. All the more reason to celebrate the garden, designed by Isamu Noguchi.”

“The garden — seven acres out of the [museum’s] twenty acre campus — is where the museum’s heart really beats. There were no tourists…but all during the summer months we were packed with local visitors… The Family Festival had 3000 people a day…our Kite Festival had 6,000…our wine festival… 12,000 and more than 100,000 visitors came to explore “Big Bambu” — American brothers’ Doug and Mike Starn monumental outdoor installation 52.5’ high and 7500 sq. ft. made of more than 10,000 bamboo poles]. These are normal numbers for us…even though tourists are one third of our audience.”

The Garden’s benefactor was famous American impresario Billy Rose. In the early 1960’s he met with Teddy Kollek and Karl Katz — the museum’s first chief curator — and decided to donate his priceless collection of sculptures to the newly forming museum — eventually sponsoring the creation of a large-scale sculpture garden.

The evening lasted through the dessert party and everybody’s parting gift was a cool black T-shirt with a white and neon pink ROCK THE GARDEN logo splashed across the front.


Eli Roth Ties the Knot, Jewish Ladies Everywhere Weep

By Anne Cohen

Ladies, it’s over. The Bear Jew is taken.

Eli Roth, 42-year old director of “Hotel,” “Cabin Fever” and yes, that guy anyone with eyes ogled during “Inglurious Basterds,” has tied the knot. The lucky lady is actress Lorenza Izzo, 22.

According to People Magazine, the couple wed in Izzo’s native Chile in a bilingual ceremony. She wore Vera Wang, he wore an Isaia tuxedo.

And before you ask, here’s that scene:


Bob Geldof Re-Booting 'Do They Know It's Christmas' For Ebola

By JTA

Getty Images

Musician and philanthropist Bob Geldof, who in 1984 inspired a generation of rock stars to record a charity single for Africa, will raise money to combat Ebola with a new version of the song.

Geldof, frontman for Irish new wave band The Boomtown Rats, pulled together the Band Aid supergroup for “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” three decades ago to help those affected by famine in Ethiopia.

Geldof confirmed at a conference in London that the song would be re-recorded. The new line-up is expected to include boy band One Direction and singers Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith, British media reports said.

The original song, which raised 8 million pounds ($11 million), featured some of the era’s biggest acts including U2’s Bono, George Michael and David Bowie. It has been re-recorded twice in 1989 and 2004.

Geldof co-wrote the song with Ultravox singer Midge Ure. It topped the charts in 1984 and sold millions of copies, with proceeds going to Ethiopian famine relief.

They followed it up with Live Aid in 1985, a transatlantic concert that raised an estimated $100 million for Ethiopia.

Ebola has killed 4,950 people out of more than 13,000 infected since it broke out in West Africa earlier this year, according to the World Health Organization, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia an


Is Nicki Minaj's New Video Nazi-Themed?

By Anne Cohen

Is it me, or has there been an unusual amount of inappropriate Nazi-themed pop culture lately?

Fans of Nicki Minaj are calling for the singer to take down her controversial new video, “Only You,” featuring Drake, Lil Wayne and Chris Brown. With hoards of SS-style troops goose-stepping in an ominously drab fascist landscape while sporting swastika-like armbands, it’s more than a little suggestive of the Third Reich.

At the center of all this is Minaj herself, seated on a red throne overlooking her stormtroopers (is she Hitler in this scenario?).

See for yourself:

Of course, the ADL is “deeply disturbed” about the whole thing. Abe Foxman, who is himself a Holocaust survivor, released the following statement:

Nicki Minaj’s new video disturbingly evokes Third Reich propaganda and constitutes a new low for pop culture’s exploitation of Nazi symbolism. The irony should be lost on no one that this video debuted on the 76th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the “night of broken glass” pogrom that signaled the beginning of the Final Solution and the Holocaust.

It is troubling that no one among Minaj’s group of producers, publicists and managers raised a red flag about the use of such imagery before ushering the video into public release.

This video is insensitive to Holocaust survivors and a trivialization of the history of that era. The abuse of Nazi imagery is deeply disturbing and offensive to Jews and all those who can recall the sacrifices Americans and many others had to make as a result of Hitler’s Nazi juggernaut.

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DIY SodaStream Wine...It's A Bad Idea

By Anne Cohen

So, to all you youngsters hoping to spice up Shabbat dinner with homemade sparkling wine: Don’t.

One kid put this sensible advice to the test when he decided to make a red wine spritzer using his SodaStream. His kitchen is now purple. The moral of this story: SodaStream and Beaujolais do not mix.

[h/t Gawker]


John Galliano Loses Dior Lawsuit For Unfair Dismissal

By JTA

The British fashion designer John Galliano lost his lawsuit against Christian Dior for unfair dismissal.

The decision by a Paris employment court was announced Tuesday.

Galliano, who was fired in March 2011 after being filmed making anti-Semitic statements at a Paris bar, was ordered to pay Dior one symbolic euro. He had sued for lost earnings of up to $16 million, claiming that the fashion house was aware of his alcohol and drug addictions before the incident.

In the video, Galliano stated his love for Adolf Hitler and told people he believed were Jewish that their mothers should have been gassed. He later blamed his outbursts on addictions to drugs and alcohol.

“It’s the worst thing I have said in my life, but I didn’t mean it,” Galliano said in an interview with Vanity Fair in an article in the July 2013 issue.

A French court ruled in September 2011 that Galliano in several incidents had made “public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity.” He was sentenced to a suspended fine and no jail time.

Following the anti-Semitic tirade, actress Natalie Portman, who was serving as a spokeswoman for Dior, issued a statement condemning Galliano and said “I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way.”

Last month, Galliano was hired as the creative director of the Paris-based fashion house Maison Martin Margiela.


Bill Ackman Lauded By Police and Fire Widows Benefit Fund

By Masha Leon

“I have always appreciated the work done by our bravest and finest” said hedge fund whiz William Ackman founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management L.P., honoree at the New York Police & Fire Widows’ & Children’s 29th Benefit Fund’s Gala at The Waldorf-Astoria.

Honored for his “steadfast commitment to the non-profit’s mission,” Ackman accepted the “Answer the Call” Award — a large digital mosaic of the Stars & Stripes by artist Alex Cao –created exclusively for the Benefit Fund. He told the 900 guests: “I am one of the luckiest people in the whole world [partly] because I was born here, work here…and what I do can’t be done anywhere else but in New York, one of the few cities in the world you can walk down the street and feel safe.”

With joint New York Police and Fire Department Honor Guard Drum and Pipe Bands leading the way, the organization’s president Kevin Parker asked for silence to honor “three First Responders we lost this year” adding “we also lost a great friend and longtime supporter — Ace Greenberg.”

Karen Leon
Bill Ackman

There were blessings by Rev. Christopher KeenanOFM and NYPD Chief Chaplain Rabbi Alvin Kass who, in addition to alluding to the “wisdom of the Kotzker Rebbe,” told of “Three clergymen considering how each would like to be remembered by people visiting their graves. The priest said: ‘I hope they will say I was a good man who tried to bring his flock closer to God.’ The minister said: ’I hope they said I tended to the needs of my congregation.’ The rabbi said ‘I hope one will say to the others I think he’s moving!’”

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The U.S. Tried to Arrest Roman Polanski At Jewish Museum Opening

By Gabe Friedman

Getty Images

The United States government still really wants to arrest director Roman Polanski —  and what better place to catch him than the Polish Jewish history museum?

Polanski, who was arrested (but never sentenced) for sexually assaulting a 13-year old girl in 1977, was attending the grand opening of Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw last Tuesday when U.S. authorities contacted Polish officials. The Holocaust survivor was questioned by police but not arrested.

“From the point of view of Polish history,” this attempt by the U.S. “showed absolute ignorance,” Tomasz Nalecz, an advisor to the Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski, told the BBC.

Polanski’s mother was murdered in Auschwitz.

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What Should We Call Gary Shteyngart's Next Book?

By Martyna Starosta

Gary Shteyngart from Jewish Daily Forward on Vimeo.

Calling Gary Shteyngart fans! This is your chance to leave your imprint on American Russian Jewish literature.

The author just celebrated a big success with his latest memoir “Little Failure,” which won him a Top 5 spot in this year’s Forward 50 list.

But this is also a great moment to speculate about Shteyngart’s next book. At the end of our Forward 50 video interview the author requests input from our audience “Let the Forward readers decide on a title in a communal way.”

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