By now you’ve probably heard of the Ice Bucket Challenge. The deal is, if you get nominated, you have to pour ice water over your head or donate $100 to ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) research. This disease, which eventually results in paralysis and death, affects approximately 30,000 Americans.
Watch as our favorite Jewish celebrities take on the challenge!
Nominated by: her friend Menor
Nominated: Zack Snyder, Kate Winslet, Linda Carter, and her Hubby, Yaron Varsano
Nominated by: Bob Iger
Nominated: Chris Hemsworth
Skip to 1:43 for the good stuff. He’s even wearing a white shirt as he gets dunked.
Nominated: Nick Lachey, Kevin Richardson, Joey Fatone, Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams, Jason Segel, Mark Ruffalo and RDJ
Nominated by: Dorie Golkin Smith
Nominated: Josh Duhamel, Hilary Swank
Russell Brand is no stranger to controversy. Between calling out Hugo Boss as a Nazi during a GQ gala and calling Fox News’ Sean Hannity a “terrorist,” the British comedian has certainly made his fair share of enemies.
Now, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has joined the chorus of haters. In an op/ed published in The New York Observer today, Boteach denounced Brand’s call to boycott Israel over the war in Gaza.
He probably would have been more effective had he focused less on Brand’s past struggles with addiction, and more on rebutting the comedian’s claims and arguments.
“So Russell Brand has joined the league of those demanding a boycott of Israel,” Boteach writes. “I’m going to go soft on him because of all the personal problems he’s had, with multiple addictions, 12 arrests for drug possession, rehab for sexual compulsion, and two arrests for attacking paparazzi taking pictures of him.”
Okay. So, Brand is a disgusting person. Does that make his opinion worthless, regardless of whether or not one agrees with him?
A moral beacon he isn’t. A light unto the nations? Fugggetaboutit. And I commend Russell for making no pretensions to being anything other than what he is. A comical, messed up, confused clown. There is something redemptive about his honesty that ought to be commended. Russell Brand belongs to a new, self-declared showbiz genre: the celebrity as moral idiot. And if he has such low expectations for himself, why should we make the mistake of elevating Mr. Brand and his fellow ethical imbeciles by taking him seriously?
Still not seeing any actual rebuttal to Brand’s claims that banks like Barclays “facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza.” Rather, Boteach continues in this vein of personal attacks on Brand’s drug use, “fried neurons,” relationships, messy divorce with Katy Perry — you name it.
One particular jab, implying “that he’s not exactly the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree,” manages to snub Christianity as a whole.
Boteach makes the point that some Hollywood celebrities do have the right to speak. Like Sean Penn, whom his organization honored last May.
Calls to boycott Israel should be scrutinized and argued. With arguments. Facts. Not personal attacks about how someone’s salacious past renders them unfit for any future brain activity.
Before Beyonce, there was Lauren Bacall.
The countless odes and elegies to the late actress, who died last week at age 89, have all but confirmed her place as Hollywood Golden Age’s queen of cool.
And now, we hear her impeccable style (which a “To Have or Have Not” obsessed tween may or may not have tried to imitate at one point — unsuccessfully) is getting its own retrospective.
The Cut reports that the museum at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology will soon unveil an exhibit showcasing Bacall’s (nee Betty Joan Persky, in the Bronx) wardrobe. Preparations for the show were reportedly underway before the announcement of Bacall’s death by the Bogart estate last Tuesday night
According to the Associated Press, the show will focus on her 1950s-60s style, and highlight contributions from the star’s five favorite designers: Norman Norell, Marc Bohan for Dior, Pierre Cardin, Yves Saint Laurent, and Emanuel Ungaro.
Designer Isaac Mizrahi best summed up her combination of sass, smarts and style in the April 2001 issue of InStyle. Remarking on her 1979 Oscars appearance, he quipped:
“Wearing a 50-year-old Fortuny dress proved how smart Lauren Bacall was,” he said. “A smart Jewish girl from the Bronx who knew Norell as well as Loehmann’s. She’s our reference for what smart looks like. Look up ‘smart’ in the dictionary — you’ll find her picture.”
A nice Jewish girl in haute couture? We’re there!
The world is mourning Robin Williams, a comedic powerhouse, Hollywood legend, and honestly, a childhood best friend. He was our very own blend of gentle and maniacal, it shouldn’t have worked, but it did. And for the first time in my life, the death of a celebrity has had such a visceral and wrenching effect on me that I am genuinely heartbroken over his loss.
Robin was there when I fell in love with the Genie from Agrabah, he shared in my Soviet immigrant experience as Vladimir Ivanoff in “Moscow on the Hudson” and he was there in “Nine Months” on the long plane ride from Tel Aviv to my new life in New York.
It’s been heartwarming to see how everyone has shared their love and grief for this man so publicly. Clearly he left no heart untouched in his journey to make us laugh. One of the most touching tributes was from comedian Norm McDonald, who told the story of the first time he met Robin.
It was my first stand-up appearance on Letterman and I had to follow the funniest man in the world. #RIPRobinWilliams— Norm Macdonald (@normmacdonald) August 12, 2014
I was a punk kid from rural Ontario and I was in my dressing room, terrified. #RIPRobinWilliams— Norm Macdonald (@normmacdonald) August 12, 2014
I was on the phone to a friend back home when the funniest man in the world ambled by. #RIPRobinWilliams— Norm Macdonald (@normmacdonald) August 12, 2014
(JTA) — Next time you’re playing Scrabble, you can put down “schmutz,” “schtum” or even “tuchus” without fear of being challenged. (“Tuchuses,” the plural, is also acceptable.)
These are just some of the new Yiddish words to be added to Merriam-Webster’s “Official Scrabble Players’ Dictionary.”
The dictionary’s fifth edition, published this month, includes more than 5,000 new words in total, many of them recently coined ones like “beatbox,” “hashtag” and “chillax.”
But “schmutz” is one of the few newcomers to be highlighted in a promotional video on Merriam-Webster’s YouTube channel. In it, Jewish comedian Judy Gold, laying on a thick Long Island accent, shares several examples of how the word — which means dirt — might appear in a sentence.
Actress Lauren Bacall, who died on August 13 at 89, was an early presence in my life. As a pre-teen in 1944 Montreal I saw Bacall (nee Betty Perske) in “To Have and To Hold” never dreaming that she would one day grace my columns in The Forward!
My classmates at the Workmen’s Circle School ecstatically whispered, “She’s Jewish!” and we competed in imitating the future Hollywood legend’s film character’s now iconic seductive come-on to [future husband] Humphrey Bogart “just put your lips together and blow!”
I first met Bacall at the February 2, 1998 Theatre Hall of Fame Ceremony at The Gershwin Theatre, at which set and costume designer Tony Walton said of honoree Bacall: “Through flu, flood and torn cartilage, Betty — ‘The Look,’ ‘ The Legend’ — never missed a single performance during the five-year run of ‘Applause,’ the two-year run of ‘Cactus Flower’ and ‘Woman of the Year.’
Masha Leon and Lauren Bacall // Photo by Karen Leon
A stunning Bacall in a black and white ensemble said “I fell in love with the theater as a child and lost 15 years in California…. Once I was offered a play by Garson Kanin and Bogie (husband Bogart] snapped, ‘My wife stays in California with me!’ After Bogie died I came back to New York.” Then with classic Bacall edge, she concluded: “I never believe in awards. When they start giving them to you, you’re about to croak. I think I’ll go home and die.”
At the February 7, 1999 Playhouse luncheon honoring Gregory Peck, Bacall sat in front of me with Peck’s wife Veronique. When I gently tapped her shoulder to say “Hello,” she reacted as though seared by a hot poker and ready to lash out, recognized me with a throaty “Hello.” Asked who his favorite leading lady was, Peck said, “Betty Bacall.” Bacall stood up. “With all respect to your wife,” Bacall told the audience “his favorite co-star was Ava Gardner.” “How dare you say that!” Peck shot back. “We won’t go into that,” purred Bacall.
At the November 24, 2003 American Legacy Foundation publicizing smoking-related illnesses dinner at Cipriani 42nd Street, honoree Kirk Douglas” recalled, “I met Lauren Bacall when she was a beautiful 16-year old. I was a poor boy. I had no raincoat. Her uncle gave me an overcoat that I wore for two years. How did I thank her? I tried to seduce her on a rooftop in Greenwich Village. I didn’t succeed, but we have become great friends since then. He accepted the award from Bacall — whose hand he kissed with a grand flourish.
At the January 31, 2005 Drama League Tribute to songwriting giants Betty Comden and Adolph Green, composer Charles Strouse first kissed a shocked Lauren Bacall’s hand and then kissed her on the lips.
My last Bacall encounter was at the January 29, 2009 Legion of Honor Ceremony honoring Sidney Lumet at the French Consulate’s Cultural Center. He got kissed on both cheeks — a la francaise — by Bacall who, still glamorous, held her own amidst the stellar roster of celebrities that included Liam Neeson, Sean Connery and Alan Alda.
Menahem Golan, the flamboyant Israeli film producer who died at age 85 on August 8 in Jaffa, had more than 200 films to his credit. Along with his cousin Yoram Globus, the Golan-Globus partnership out-Hollywooded Hollywood with such international blockbusters as “Death Wish II” and “Delta Force“ starring Chuck Norris, Lee Marvin, Lanie Kazan and Shelly Winters, with Golan as co-writer and director. When I met Golan at a November 19, 1986 private reception at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel following the kick-off gala dinner of the fourth annual Israel Film Festival, Golan-Globus owned 600 movie screens in Europe, including 40% of the market in Britain. Their next ambitious and expensive project at that time was the $24 million “Superman IV.”
Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Photo: Getty Images
After keeping the press waiting, the 6-foot-plus Golan breezed in with an entourage. The room was packed with Jewish and Israeli press and included Festival founder and producer Meir Fenigstein and Israel’s then consul general in New York, Moshe Yegar. Promised arrivals were Chuck Norris, Shelly Winters and Lou Gossett.
Reporters peppered Golan with questions about the still hot issue of the October 11-12 1986 Reykjavik Summit between Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. president Ronald Reagan. Cornered in an upholstered chair and struggling to control his irritation, Golan diplomatically evaded the issue and instead homed in on his own arena. Yes, he said, Jerusalem is now the center for filmmaking in the Middle East. Yes, the films reflect the realistic and political system in Israel…. integration with Arabs and Arabs living with Jews. Yes, he felt his films were as good if not better than those produced in Hollywood.
Robin Williams wasn’t Jewish. But he was close.
Though raised Episcopalian in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (his mother was a Christian Scientist), the comedian had an affinity for Jews which shaped and even defined many of the roles he took on. He used Yiddish, danced a mean hora and did a killer Barbra Streisand impression.
With his death — in the words of Steve Martin (also not Jewish — but, come on) — we have lost a “mensch, a great talent and genuine soul.”
I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul.— Steve Martin (@SteveMartinToGo) August 11, 2014
Let’s take a look at Robin WIlliams most Jewish moments.
1) Mrs. Doubtfire: Robin does “Fiddler”
2) The Crazy Ones: “Rabbi Robin” hosts a bar mitzvah
Robin Williams was my childhood. From “Mrs. Doubtfire” to “Hook,” to “Aladdin,” to “Jumanji,” I can’t even keep track of all the moments of glee and laughter that he bestowed on countless of fans. Since hearing about his apparent suicide at the age of 63 last night, I still catch myself remembering snippets of dialogue, fleeting scenes that cause a rush of warm memories.
And I’m far from alone. It’s been extremely moving to read the rush of tributes and responses to Williams. Here are some of the best from Jewish celebrities whose lives — like mine, and so many others — he touched:
One of all time greatest. Will be missed. ;( http://t.co/HzgBrdlWsH— ADAM LAMBERT (@adamlambert) August 12, 2014
I wish Robin peace from whatever unrest raged within him and much more than gratitude for all the joy he gave us and leaves behind.— Carrie Fisher (@carrieffisher) August 12, 2014
Devastating news about @robinwilliams — knew him a little and liked him a whole lot more. A brain wired like no other and so so kind.— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) August 12, 2014
Found out on set & watching old clips now before bed. Robin. I've always laughed with you, been inspired by you & will miss you dearly…— Dianna Agron (@DiannaAgron) August 12, 2014
No words.— Billy Crystal (@BillyCrystal) August 12, 2014
#RobinWilliams was simply the World's most beloved comedian since Chaplin.— Rob Schneider (@RobSchneider) August 12, 2014
(Reuters) — Amal Alamuddin, the British-Lebanese lawyer engaged to George Clooney, was named with two other experts experts to an international commission of inquiry into possible human rights violations and war crimes committed by both sides during Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Alamuddin will join William Schabas, a Canadian professor of international law and Doudou Diene, a veteran U.N. human rights expert from Senegal.
The independent team will investigate “all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law … in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014,” the U.N. statement said.
A month of war, marked by Israeli air strikes on Gaza and rockets fired by Hamas militants into Israel, has killed 1,938 Palestinians and 67 Israelis while devastating wide tracts of densely populated Gaza.
The panel is due to report by March 2015 to the U.N. Human Rights Council. Israel has long accused the 47-member state forum of bias against it.
Soldiers serving in combat units in the Israel Defense Forces are now being asked to make another sacrifice: donating their sperm.
Israeli parents seeking sperm donors at the Rambam Medical Center have shown a noticeable preference for the sperm of combat soldiers in the wake of the Gaza conflict.
In recent weeks, nearly half of the women seeking sperm at Rambam’s sperm bank have requested the sperm of combat soldiers, according to a statement by the sperm bank.
“Women seeking sperm donors build an ideal profile in their head of the father of their future child,” said Dina Aminpour, head of the Rambam Medical Center’s sperm bank. “The Gaza military operation and the tales of the bravery of the IDF soldiers served to clarify the personality traits which were important to those requesting donations.”
But the patriotism isn’t the reason parents are flocking to combat soldiers’ sperm; the soldiers’ genetics play a role, too. Women assume that combat soldiers will be “fit, healthy, resilient and determined, among several other important attributes,” according to Aminpour.
When it comes to recruiting donors, Israeli sperm banks often feel like they’re swimming upstream. The sperm bank at Rambam Medical Center, the largest hospital in northern Israel, is facing a major shortage of donors, and reported having only 10 donors as of last month.
Only 10% of potential donors qualify for the sperm bank, thanks in part to low sperm quality, according to Dr. Shachar Kol, director of Rambam’s artificial insemination clinic. The sperm bank is using the news of spike in demand for combat soldiers’ to put out a call for more donors. “[T]he center itself is suffering from a shortage in quality donations, and is desperately looking to recruit more men to donate,” the sperm bank said in its announcement.
It wouldn’t be the first time the sperm bank has taken a clever approach to recruiting donors. About three years ago, it teamed up with a local graphic design school to produce snazzy advertisements aimed at male college students.
The results were both humorous and shocking. “Think you’re God’s gift to women? Prove it,” one ad reads. Another shows a box of tissues, along with the phrase “It’s in your hands.” In a third, the words “Giving sperm: it’s a lot more pleasant than giving blood,” appear next to a winking baby.
If you were under the age of 17 when Harry Potter received his Hogwarts acceptance letter, chances are, you have a favorite (“Deathly Hallows”) and least favorite movie adaptation (“Prisoner of Azkaban”). Turns out, Daniel Radcliffe does too. He hates “Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth installment of the blockbuster franchise.
“I never liked watching myself on film, but I do make myself sit through it,” he told the Daily Mail. “I think it comes from not actually realizing I didn’t have to go to my own premieres and watch the film. That’s something I’ve only just realized you don’t have to do. I always went along and sat with everyone else watching the movie. And that’s why it’s hard to watch a film like ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,’ because I’m just not very good in it. I hate it. My acting is very one-note and I can see I got complacent and what I was trying to do just didn’t come across. My best film is [‘Order of the Phoenix’] because I can see a progression.”
According to The Huffington Post, it’s not the first time that Radcliffe has been down on “Half-Blood Prince,” or as he must think of it: “The One With Angsty Lonely Harry. “
“I do think people responded to the fact that there was kissing and hormones and all that kind of stuff,” he told MTV in 2009. “It’s a very lonely film and kind of a hard film for Harry, whereas Ron’s just happy because he’s getting his rocks off with Lavender now. […] If you take out the romantic storyline, it’s pretty much two and a half hours of me looking lonely. That’s all that’s left.”
Radcliffe, is currently starring in “What If,” a romantic comedy starring fellow member of the tribe ( and director Elia Kazan’s granddaughter) Zoe Kazan.
Meet Margalit Gyllenhaal. You probably know her as Maggie.
The actress revealed in an interview with ABC that she didn’t learn her full name until she was 35. In case you were wondering, Margalit means ‘pearl’ in Hebrew.
How does that happen? Well, after marrying to Peter Sarsgaard 2009, Gyllenhaal says she wanted to change her name in her personal life (professionally, she stayed “Gyllenhaal”). When she started the process last year, she found she needed proof of her birth (as one does). After much searching, her parents finally found her birth certificate and magically remembered what they actually named their daughter. Which was not Maggie, to everybody’s surprise.
“They didn’t remember,” Maggie said in an interview with ABC News. “My mother still insists my name is not Margalit.”
Still, her Wikipedia article does not lie — it now lists her full name as Margalit Ruth “Maggie” Gyllenhaal.
Stephen Schwartz, the only songwriter in Broadway history with three shows — “Wicked,” “Pippin” and “The Magic Show”— to have run more than 1900 performances on Broadway, was center stage (and at the piano) at the August 3 “Conversation with Music” at 54 Below - Broadway’s Supper Club.
During the evocative interview by longtime friend, actor Jim Brochu — who himself won a Drama Desk award for his solo portrayal of Zero Mostel in “Zero Hour” (2009) — Schwartz confessed that he once wanted to quit the piano but was told by his parents — who that night were happily ensconced in Great Neck, “that if I wanted to quit, I had to call the piano teacher myself…so I never had the guts to do that.” The rest is musical history.
Recapping the evolution of several of his shows, Schwartz harked back to a work called ”Shinbone Alley.” “It was about a cockroach Archy’s undying love for a cat named Mehitabel…. there was a lot of criticism about who would want to go see a show with a lot of dancing cats!” The audience roared. “Which goes to the importance of timing.”
Stephen Schwartz // Photo by Masha Leon
Brochu recalled being on a 104 Manhattan bus when “Pippin” was first presented. “Two ladies were talking: ‘There is this wonderful show at the Imperial about the son of Charlie Main (Charlemagne) — he was the king of France, you know.’ When her friend asked for the name of the show, she replied: “It’s ‘Pipkin.’ So for me, the show is always ‘Pipkin.’” Responding to Brochu’s query if “the lyrics come first,” Schwartz replied: “Titles come first — at least these days — sometimes a riff, the script…I need to know the characters.”
Imminent “on the drawing board” — a stage version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” DreamWorks is working on “The Prince of Egypt;” Monkeys of Mumbai” — a DreamWorks animated feature with Danny Boyle, who made “Slumdog Millionaire;” and “a new untitled show in Vienna in the fall of 2016 — in German. “Zey vill translate,” joshed Schwartz.
The evening was enhanced by performances of Schwartz’s works by a cast of stellar vocalists, including earthy Dale Soules who reprised her solo “I Want to be a Lion Tamer” which she sang in the original 1973 production of “The Magic Show” and now stars in the Netflix TV series “Orange is the New Black.”
Among the guests and fans: Carol de Giere” author of “Defying Gravity —The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz from Godspell to Wicked” (208 Applause Theater Books). Carol had contacted me after she found my August 23, 1986 Forward review of ”Rags” (book by Joseph Stein, music by Charles Strouse) at the Lincoln Center Library Archive, which she quotes in the book. A thrilling $5.5 musical about the Jewish immigrant experience, it closed four nights after opening! The night I saw it — the last performance — the audience was shouting “ Keep ‘Rags’ open! Keep ‘Rags’ Open!” and had 1000 protesters — including the musical’s klezmer band— chanting on the streets.
You heard about the show about nothing. Now, Larry David presents the play about Larry.
The New York Times reports that David has written a play, and will star in it himself on Broadway. Plot details are scant, except that, according to the author and actor himself, the main character is “somebody very similar to Larry David — it might even be Larry David with a different name.”
So, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” meets Times Square?
David said he was convinced to star in his own project, called “Fish in the Dark,” by producer Scott Rudin — though he freely admitted that he hasn’t actually acted onstage in, well, quite a while.
“I haven’t been in a play since the eighth grade, when I did ‘Charley’s Aunt,” he told the Times. “I seem to remember wearing a dress. That’s it.”
If his stand-up career is anything to go by, the audience better pay attention — David was notorious for abruptly walking off stage if he felt the crowd wasn’t up to snuff.
To all those Barbra Streisand fans out there (which should be everybody) you can now follow our favorite Funny Girl on Instagram!
Yes, Babs has finally joined the latest celeb craze and joined Instragram. She’s already posted one picture, a posed shot with her adorable pooch, Samantha.
I happened came across “Funny Girl” on Turner Classic Movies last Sunday afternoon and watched it for the first time in about twelve years. When I was a little, it was one of the twenty or so VHS’s that my parents had stacked next to the television.
After re-watching it, and laughing uproariously through the pregnant bride shtick that Fanny Brice planned for her opening night at Zeigfield Follies, I have since decided that everyone who has not seen “Funny Girl” recently is seriously missing out.
Sometimes history is so absurd that it’s funny.
“This Land is Mine,” an animated short film about the history of Israel by cartoonist and animator Nina Paley, has resurfaced in the wake of the latest war in Gaza. The short displays all of the tribes, empires, and countries that have claimed the region at some point in history killing each other in chronological order. The result – set to an exaggerated, Frank Sinatra-style theme song – is a ruthless but hilarious historical timeline of the fate of one of the world’s most contested regions.
Jack Antonoff, lead guitarist in Fun. and boyfriend of Lena Dunham, has taken a short break from his Grammy Award-winning band to write and record a solo album. The record, entitled “Strange Desire,” was released in July and features Yoko Ono. Dunham directed the music video for the album’s first single, “I Wanna Get Better.”
In an interview with the New York Daily News, Antonoff explains that he found writing music on his own to be interesting and totally “aesthetically different” than the process of writing with Fun. Most notably, Antonoff sings on his solo record, something he has not done since he fronted his first band Steel Train.
He described working with Yoko Ono as predictably bizarre.
“She went in and started screaming and grunting and making album noises,” Antonoff said. “I basically took this 20-minute file of her doing all this stuff, got in bed and started cutting it all up.”
Despite all this, Fun. fans should not be worried – the band is gearing up to write and record a new album.
Dana International made quite a splash this weekend at the Gay Pride in Amsterdam, when the Israeli transgender singing sensation lifted a cardboard sign in the shape of the Ten Commandments.
The sight of the Israeli singer, perched atop the Pride’s first Jewish boat, caused anti-Israel protestors to shout. But Dana, not one for shyness, answered back. Grabbing the microphone, she answered that the Jewish people are people who believe in love, in peace and in respect for all human beings.
Nora Ephron may no longer be with us (sob!) but her work lives on.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Portlandia’s” Carrie Brownstein is set to complete and unfinished script by the late Ephron for an adapted British mini-series, “Lost in Austen.”
Sam Mendes, of “American Beauty” and “Skyfall” fame, is apparently attached as a producer.
“Carrie is smart and funny and original, and the project is very lucky to have her,” Mendes told the Hollywood Reporter.
“Lost in Austen” tells the story of Amanda, who works and lives in modern-day Brooklyn, only to find herself transported back in time and across fictional planes into the magical world of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” So, basically, Hannah Horvath with more manners and bonnets.
Ephron, who, if you’re one of those people who’s rom com averse, brought us such gems as “When Harry Met Sally,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” and “You’ve Got Mail,” was working on the script for at the time of her death in 2012.
Welcome back, Nora! We’ve missed you. .