The Shmooze

Jon Voight Slams Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz for Gaza Letter

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Actor Jon Voight has written a letter condemning Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz for their letter referring to Israel’s operations in Gaza as “genocide.”

In a guest column for the Hollywood reporter called out the couple for inciting anti-Semitism, and being “oblivious to the damage they have caused.”

To be fair, both Bardem and Cruz issued statements last week apologizing for the letter, and expressing their support for Jews and their desire for peace in the Middle East.

Not good enough, says Jon Voight, who took the opportunity to call out celebrities everywhere commenting on the conflict:

You have forgotten how this war started. Did Hamas not kidnap and kill three young teenagers for the sake of killing, and celebrated after the killing? What a travesty of justice.

I am asking all my peers who signed that poison letter against Israel to examine their motives. Can you take back the fire of anti-Semitism that is raging all over the world now?

You have been able to become famous and have all your monetary gains because you are in a democratic country: America. Do you think you would have been able to accomplish this in Iran, Syria, Lebanon, et cetera? You had a great responsibility to use your celebrity for good. Instead, you have defamed the only democratic country of goodwill in the Middle East: Israel.

“You should hang your heads in shame,” Voight concluded. “You should all come forth with deep regrets for what you did, and ask forgiveness from the suffering people in Israel.”

You can read Javier Bardem’s apology right here.


'Big Brother' in Bomb Shelter

By Rachel X. Landes

Keshet Broadcasting

The show must go on! This time with a new bomb shelter.

Although many Israeli shows and networks have gone on hiatus due to Operation Protective Edge, Big Brother Israel is undeterred. The show, filmed in Neve Ilan, a village near the outskirts of Jerusalem, was in the middle of its sixth season when the conflict started.

Rather than shut down, the show’s producers got creative.The house now contains regional alarms and a bomb shelter, even though that violate the rules of the show that houseguests cannot have any contact with the outside world – Security will out.

According to Quartz, Keshet, the network that produces “Big Brother Israel,” waited almost a month to tell contestants about the escalating conflict between Israel and Gaza.

The first time an air-raid siren went off in the outskirts of Jerusalem, where the house is located, its residents—by then nearly two months into their confinement—were told it was a technical glitch (link in Hebrew). But after a second alarm the next day, July 8—almost a month after three Israeli teens were kidnapped, on June 12, and later found dead, setting off an escalation of tensions and violence—the show’s producers decided to break the rules and tell the contestants what was going on.

A video via Jerusalem Post (in Hebrew) shows some of their reactions.

Also from Quartz, here’s a translation of the announcement from the disembodied Big Brother voice:

“Tenants of the house… As you all know, with your entrance into Big Brother, you were disconnected from the outside world. Living in a place cut off from outside is an essential part of your, and the viewers’, experience in the house. The producers do everything to preserve this disconnection. We don’t allow messages from the outside or updates on events outside of the house—unless the situation can have a direct impact on the house’s tenants, or on their family members outside. Big Brother feels obliged to update you that in the past few days, the security situation has become tense. There has been an escalation in the south, which includes rocket fire, mainly on those living just outside the Gaza Strip, but which this evening has spread to Gush Dan [the Tel Aviv area] and our area.”

Only after milking the moment for the benefit of reality television viewers did the announcer admit that the show’s producers had confirmed that everyone’s families were safe and sound.

Keshet has lost $13.1 million over the past two weeks, a rep for the company told The Hollywood Reporter last week. Despite the rockets, 45% of Israeli audiences still watch the show, which switches to the news if there are any significant developments.


Alan 'Ace' Greenberg — Wall Street Maven and Mensch

By Masha Leon

As soon as I heard that former Bear Stearns CEO Alan “Ace” Greenberg” had died of cancer at 86 on July 25th, I called my childhood friend — and now world renowned financial guru — Chairman Emeritus of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (MERC) Leo Melamed. for comments.

“Ace was a very feet-on-the ground kind of guy. He always had a practical answer based on reality — not invention. He was extremely open, friendly, understanding and — to me — a mentsch.”

Alan “Ace” Greenberg // Photo by Karen Leon

A co-honoree with Paul Volker at the October 10, 2002 Builders of Jerusalem Awards Dinner at The Plaza, Greenberg recalled being asked by Jerusalem’s former mayor Teddy Kollek to help fund “a foundation project.” The result: The Esther Greenberg Comprehensive High School and Ted Greenberg Sports Center in Gilo “for all citizens of Israel: Arabs and Jews.”

Introduced with his wife Kathy Greenberg as: The Humanitarian Couple” at the April 21, 2004 Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York Benefit at The Pierre, Mrs. Greenberg, founder of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) was adamant about the need to provide [women] with “something money can’t buy and marriage does not guarantee — self esteem.” After accepting the award, “”Ace” Greenberg calmly declared: “In 1984 I was knighted by the Queen of Denmark. Now you are going to see a very quiet knight.” He said nothing more and then sat down!

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Why Mayim Bialik Supports Israel

By Anne Cohen

Mayim Bialik has been active on social media since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, sending thoughts and prayers to her friends and family in Israel.

But in a personal piece posted on her Kveller blog on Thurday, the “Big Bang Theory” explained her decision to send money to the Israel Defense Forces. The list is simple and to the point:

  1. I need to feel like I’m doing something.

  2. No matter what your politics are, soldiers sent into war zones deserve to be protected from enemy fire.

  3. Every soldier is someone’s son or daughter. Every single one.


Javier Bardem Apologizes For Anti-Israel Letter

By Curt Schleier

Javier Bardem has joined his wife Penelope Cruz in saying “Oops.”

Bardem, Cruz and Pedro Almodovar were the three most famous Spanish celebs who signed a letter earlier this week calling Israeli operations in Gaza “genocide” against the Palestinians. But as many an NFL referee has said, on further review, Bardem changed his mind.

Yes, while, he said, he was “critical of the Israeli military response,” but meant to say he had “great respect for the people of Israel.” His signature was only “a plea for peace.”

Some thought his remarks anti-Semitic, which is the “antithesis of who we are as human beings.”

Obviously, there’s no way to tell whether Bardem/Cruz just didn’t read the letter before signing it, wanted to jump aboard the growing European Israel bashing wagon or believed the letter’s contents and are just now backing off fearful of a backlash.

In any case, here is his four paragraph statement:

This week, along with a number of artists in my home country of Spain, I spoke out about the conflict in Gaza urging all governments to intervene in this escalating crisis. My signature was solely meant as a plea for peace. Destruction and hatred only generate more hatred and destruction.

While I was critical of the Israeli military response, I have great respect for the people of Israel and deep compassion for their losses. I am now being labeled by some as anti-Semitic, as is my wife - which is the antithesis of who we are as human beings. We detest anti-Semitism as much as we detest the horrible and painful consequences of war.

I was raised to be against any act of violence, and the consequent suffering of humanity for it, regardless of religions, ethnicities and borders. Too many innocent Palestinian mothers have lost their children to this conflict. Too many innocent Israeli mothers share the same grief. There should not be any political reason that can justify such enormous pain on both sides. It’s my hope that leaders involved in this complicated struggle will heed the call of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, ‘In the name of humanity, the violence must stop.‘

Palestinians and Israelis in the region deserve to have their safety and human rights recognized and respected so in the near future they may find peace and co-existence, for themselves and their innocent children. So generations to come could bring hope, forgiveness and compassion for each other. This is the most basic and necessary way to peace for all of us.”


Jewish Harry Potter Raises Galleons For Gaza War

By Hody Nemes

Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?

Jewish Israelis have claimed the wizard wonder boy and his legacy on the “Jewish Harry Potter” Facebook page, which has over 10,000 likes. Beneath a profile picture of a yarmulke-clad Harry, users crack jokes about Israeli politics and Jewish religious life through the lens of the Potter series.

Lately, the site’s creators have used the Hershel — I mean Harry — books to process and satirize the war going on around them. Here are their most memorable Jewish Harry Potter memes, ones really worth storing in your pensieve:

1) Chambers of Secrets

Under the heading “A blow to the Death Eaters,” Snape informs Voldemort of an operational setback in their war with the wizarding establishment.

Snape: “Bad news, my lord: the I.D.F. has discovered the tunnel between Borgin & Burkes and Hogwarts.”


2) Hamas’ Peculiar Demands

One user made a list of ceasefire demands promulgated by a little known terrorist group, the Al-Qessem Brigades (punning on the hebrew words for “Kassam rocket” and “magic”).

“We will accept a ceasefire on the following conditions:
A) All our prisoners in Azakaban will be released.
B) Slytherin, under the leadership of Severus Snape, will henceforth run Hogwarts.
C) Voldemort will be appointed Minister of Magic.”


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Joan Rivers Has Advice for Israel: Nose Jobs

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Joan Rivers is trading in her “Fashion Police” badge for some international relations credentials.

The comedian, who just last week was seen passionately defending Israel to a TMZ reporter, is at it again. In an interview with Israel’s Channel 10 on Wednesday, Rivers had some words of advice for Israel’s PR team.

“We are doing something very wrong in Israel and we are not doing public relations work,” Rivers told Channel 10’s U.S. correspondent Gil Tamari. “Hamas is so smart, they are using old pictures of dead children every time we hit a spot that happens to be – yes, a school, but underneath it there are weapons and they say ‘school!’ and it’s killing me because the wrong people, the dumb people are buying into it.”

Asked for advice on how deal with celebrities like Selena Gomez and Rihanna, Rivers said: “I think Israel should start showing dead puppies. And you’ll see these girls turn right around and go, ‘aww, boo hoo.’”

Lovely, Joan. Just lovely.

But wait, there’s more.

The segment ended with Tamari asking Rivers to play “Got To Have It or Make It Stop,” a game made popular on “Fashion Police.”

This particular gem came out of round 1:

“Well I think we should make it stop and I think I know how to make it stop. I think every Palestinian should get a nose job,” she said. “Because once somebody has had a nose job they won’t fight ‘cause they’re scared their new nose would get broken. I think we should send over every great Jewish plastic surgeon doctor, fix their noses, and there will be peace in the Middle East.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Joan Rivers.

Watch the whole segment below (if you dare).


Penelope Cruz Just Wants Peace in Gaza

By Curt Schleier

Getty Images

Penelope Cruz didn’t exactly say “I didn’t know what the heck I was doing,” but she did issue a clarification to an open letter — written by husband Javier Bardem — which she signed along with nearly 100 Spanish actors and filmmakers.

The original letter called for an end to “the genocide perpetrated by the Israeli occupation army in the Gaza strip against Palestinian civilians.”

Turns out that just maybe that wasn’t what she meant.

“I don’t want to be misunderstood on this important subject,” she said. “I’m not an expert on the situation and I’m aware of the complexity of it. My only wish and intention in signing that group letter is the hope that there will be peace in both Israel and Gaza. I am hopeful all parties can agree to a cease fire and there are no more innocent victims on either side of the border. I wish for unity, and peace.”


Disney's Aladdin and Jasmine Re-Cast as Hamas

By Anne Cohen

aleXsandro Palombo

Well, this is a whole new world.

A new series called “Stop Hamas Terrorism: Once Upon a time the children in Palestine” by artist aleXsandro Palombo re-casts Aladdin and Princess Jasmine as members of Hamas. That sound you hear? That’s your childhood going up in smoke.

Per an introduction posted to Palombo’s blog:

Naftali Fraenkel (16, from Nof Ayalon), Gilad Shaer (16, from Talmon), and Eyal Yifrah (19, fromElad), were the three Israeli teenagers that were abducted and killed in June by a terrorist cell affiliated to Hamas. It’s unacceptable and atrocious that in the modern era three young boys full of life, hopes and dreams, had to die in this uncivilized and barbaric way, killed by unscrupulous people who, for years, have forced the Israeli people to live in fear and terror. Hamas terrorists not only harm the people of Israel but takes also in hostage the people of Gaza, where civilians are used as human shields and where children are turned into little soldiers and causing the deaths of Gaza’s civilians, children, women, men… Terrorism is like a cancer, something that you have to fight.

aleXsandro Palombo

Beyond the fact that the singling out of the two main Arab characters ever to appear on Disney is more than just a little racist, the art itself is seriously disturbing.

Jasmine threatening Snow White. Aladdin holding a rocket (and a Quran). Cinderella gagged and bound. Jasmine pointing a gun at Aurora (I bet “once upon a dream” is sounding pretty good right now).

Why Pinocchio, Peter Pan and Chris Griffin from Family Guy also appear dressed as Jihadists is beyond me.

In any case, it’s all pretty atrocious. We’re all entitled to our opinions, but don’t mess with Disney.

If you’re interested, you can see the rest of the series here. Careful though — you may have to waste a wish and ask Genie to help you erase them from your mind.



Israel Embassy Tweets Image of Jihadist Mona Lisa

By Anne Cohen

Twitter/Newsweek

Israel’s embassy in Dublin has deleted a series of tweets showing iconic works of art, including the Mona Lisa, dressed as Jihadists. All images were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world.”

The images, captioned “Israel is the last frontier of the free world,” were sent from the embassy’s official Twitter account, Newsweek reports.

The Mona Lisa is portrayed wearing a hijab and holding a rocket, is stamped with the inscription: “Israel Now, Paris Is Next.” The statue of David, addressed to Italy, is dressed in a skirt of explosives.

Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue holds a gun and a message reading “Israel Now, Denmark is Next,” while Dublin’s own statue of Molly Malone is covered with a black niqab.

“There was no intention to cause insult or offense to anyone,” the Israeli ambassador Boaz Modai’s office explained to Newsweek.

The same Israeli embassy was criticized last week for posting the following tweet, likening Free Palestine activists to Hitler:

Nice and tactful, guys. Good job.


Andi Dorfman Is Really Over 'Bachelorette' Runner-Up

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Unless you’ve been offline all day, or, you know, have a life beyond the dramatic ups and down of reality television, you may have heard that Andi Dorfman, a.k.a. the Jewish Bachelorette, has made her decision.

The lucky man comes in the form of Josh Murray, a failed baseball player from Atlanta. So basically, Dorfman could have avoided all this hearttache by just trolling her hometown’s sports bars.

But as in every fairy tale ending, there’s a big loser sitting at home crying. And in Andi’s case, that person is Nick Viall, who, as Jezebel pointed out, was less than gracious about not being the chosen one.

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Jon Stewart Calls U.S. 'Oprah of Middle East'

By Anne Cohen

Youtube

Everyone wants peace in the Middle East. That’s the easy part — saying it. But then, how to achieve it?

Jon Stewart may have the answer.

On Tuesday night’s “Daily Show,” Stewart opened a segment on the conflict between Israel and Hamas by showing clips of American leaders who “all want to see peace in this region.”

“It’s what we do,” Stewart quipped. He then pointed out that the U.S. is sending arms to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Israel.

“We’re like the Oprah of Middle East Weapons systems!” Stewart said. “You get some bombs! You get some bombs! Everybody get some bombs!”

You’re welcome.

Stewart, who has been lambasted for his coverage of Israel’s operation in Gaza, once again took the opportunity to strike back at his critics:

“This is a dangerous region,” he said, “even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”

Watch the whole segment below:


Simon Cowell Takes Blowback for $150K IDF Gift

By JTA

Celebrity music impresario Simon Cowell is getting blowback for a $150,000 donation to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.

Cowell’s donation, made at a Beverly Hills gala last October, has recently drawn more public attention, and with it some harsh online criticism for Cowell. According to Ynet, critics of Israel have been tweeting images of dead Palestinian children killed in Gaza to Cowell’s Twitter account. Other tweets accused Cowell of having “blood on your hands” and of acting on orders from his “masters in Tel Aviv.”

Cowell is Christian, but his late father, Eric, was Jewish, as is his current partner, Lauren Silverman, who recently gave birth to the couple’s first child.

The Friends of the IDF is a New York-based nonprofit that raises millions of dollars to support non-military benefits for IDF soldiers including fitness facilities, education programs, and financial assistance.


'The Passenger': Holocaust On And Below Deck

By Masha Leon

Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s 1968 opera “The Passenger,” which Lincoln Center Festival and Park Avenue Armory co-presented at the Armory, offered a soupcon of “Titanic” vibes with its 1960’s Brazil-bound ocean liner’s huge white funnel and its first class carefree passengers — elegant in all-white suits and gowns — waltzing to an orchestra’s calming beat.

Among the dancers, Walter (Joseph Kaiser), a 50-year old German diplomat and his 37-year old wife Liese (Michele Breedt) who suddenly panics when she recognizes one of the passengers –a former inmate of Auschwitz—at a time when she was a 22-year-old SS Overseer.

The below deck set is a can-almost taste, smell, and touch recreation of a concentration camp setting with women’s barracks housing an assemblage of multinational, head-shaved, inmates in striped garb: Polish Marta 34, French Yvette 22, Czech Vlasta 20, Polish Krystina 28, Bronka, 50, 21-year old Russian partisan Katya, 18-year old Jewish Hannah and 25-year old Teadeus, Marta’s fiancée.

Performed in English by members of the Houston Grand Opera, directed by David Pountney with Patrick Summer conducting the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra, the program notes inform that the work was “deemed a perfect masterpiece by Weinberg’s mentor Dmitri Shostakovich”. In the realm of Holocaust re-creation, the presentation of the wretched women with their heads shaved and loose striped dresses ”The Passenger” stands alongside the visceral cinematic “Shoah” masterpiece “The Last Stop” “(Ostatni Etap”) by Wanda Jakubowska which she shot in 1948 at Auschwitz (using some of the camp’s survivors) and the only Holocaust film directed by a woman.

Polish-Jewish Weinberg — who escaped from Warsaw and ended up in the Soviet Union during WWII — never lived to see the opera performed. In the program notes Pountney notes “the Soviets didn’t want anything to do with pity for the Jews’ anything that did no actively further the Communist agenda was officially condemned as ‘Abstract Humanism’” a phrase Pountney noted “used by the Nazis vis a vis Red Cross inspections of the camps.’” Admitting that “The Passenger” is not a modern opera but a “time capsule,” he mounted its first full production in 2010 at the Bregenz Festival in Austria.”

Liese’s brutality to the woman as an SS Overseer is staggering. There is a love sub-plot, but mainly the opera is a musical j’accuse plea. As each woman prisoner sings her lament—the Russian (Kelly Kaduce) opts for a lullaby —the depth of each woman’s despair and hope is spelled out in a plea “Do not forget!” and to the fellow women prisoners, the promised: “I swear I will never forget you!

Most likely the nearly 1000-strong audience sitting on the floor-to-Armory ceiling highly raked tiered seats will not forget “The Passenger” operatic voyage.


Javier Bardem Anti-Israel Letter Backed by Celebs

By JTA

Getty Images

A letter accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza was endorsed by 100 Spanish celebrities including Academy Award winners Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar.

On Monday the renowned actors, writers and directors endorsed a letter that Spanish actor Javier Bardem published last week in the Barcelona-based El Periodico de Catalunya, the daily reported.

“This is a war of occupation and extermination against a whole people without means, confined to a miniscule territory without water and where hospitals, ambulances, and children are targeted and presumed to be terrorists,” Bardem, himself an Academy Award-winning actor, wrote.

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor told JTA that the “assertion that Israel is perpetrating genocide is not only patently false and detached from reality, but also inflammatory and outrageous at a time when demonization against Israel is fueling unprecedented levels of anti-Semitic violence in Europe.”

Kantor added: “I would be interested in reading the opinion of the same Spanish celebrities after 2,500 rockets explode on Madrid or Barcelona.”

In his letter titled “Genocide,” Bardem also wrote: “Being Jewish is not synonymous with supporting this massacre, just as being a Hebrew is not the same as being a Zionist and being Palestinian does not mean being a terrorist from Hamas. That is as absurd as saying that being German means espousing Nazism.”

Bardem also wrote: “My son was born in a Jewish hospital because I have Jewish people who are very near and dear to me.”


First Look at Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

By Anne Cohen

Wonder Woman. Has. A. Sword.

“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” director Zack Snyder tweeted out a photo during Comic Con this weekend, showing what the glorious combination that is Israel model/actress Gal Gadot and badass superchick Wonder Woman will look like. This isn’t your good ol’ red, blue and gold getup. Gadot seems to be taking her cues from Xena, Warrior Princess’ with that metal armor bodice. No spandex or tights in sight.

At this point, it’s worth repeating: Wonder Woman. Has. A. Sword.

What do you think of the costume?


One Direction Divided Over Gaza

By Anne Cohen

One Direction is at a crossroads.

It seems that two members of the popular British boy band have very different opinions when it comes to the war in Gaza.

Frontman (and sometimes Jewish wannabe) Harry Styles was criticized last week for being too pro-Israel, after he started following Israel journalist Lliana Bird on Twitter, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

Now, bandmate Zayn Malik has chimed in, tweeting out a “#FreePalestine” message to his 13 million followers. So far, it has received over 150,000 retweets.

But not all fans were pleased. Per the Jewish Chronicle:

One fan told the 21-year-old, who was raised as a Muslim in Bradford, Yorkshire, that he should be “ashamed”. Another wrote: “I’m so disappointed right now”. One Israeli tweeted: “It broke me that one of my idols wants me to die”.

The two tween heartthrobs join a growing number of celebrities who have taken to social media to air their views on Operation Protective Edge. Just last week, Joan Rivers passionately defended Israel on TMZ.

Hopefully, Styles and Malik can agree to disagree — we wouldn’t want One Direction parting ways.


Bel Kaufman, Author and Tango Dancer, In Her Own Words

By Masha Leon

Bel Kaufman, who died on July 25 at 103, gave the impression she might live forever. During lunch on August 31, 2012 at her favorite eatery Demarchelier, she told me: “I have just stepped into the future.”

Her two novels, “Up the Down Staircase” (which was made into an award-winning film) and “Love, Etc.” were being digitized and sold as e-books. Seeing my reaction as she dug into a humongous omelet, she said, “I eat an awful lot…I warn people that I eat everything. I have all my teeth — only fillings…. When I was 100 everyone said, ‘God bless you! How wonderful!’ When I tell them I an now 101, they simply say, ‘Oh, really.” What about outliving your friends? I asked. “You just make new ones,” she replied.

Masha Leon and Bel Kaufman // Photo by Karen Leon

Between bites, Kaufman — whom I had known for over three decades and once kissed me on the head when I told her I had read her grandfather Sholem Aleichem’s works in Yiddish and did a dissertation on his “Eizenbahn Geshikhtes” (train chronicles) — confided “I was the first woman to get a by-line in Esquire magazine. It was the 1940’s and my agent told me that they don’t buy anything by a woman. So I changed my name from Belle to Bel.”

Addressing the Warburg Society Tea at The Jewish Museum, Kaufman told the guests: “Because I am 94, I am too busy to grow old.” Once asked if she was still dancing,” the avid sometimes 3-times-a-week on stiletto heels tango aficionada snapped back: “Are you still breathing?” She once confessed to an audience that at home Sholem Aleichem spoke only Russian. “ I had to attend a Sholem Aleichem school to learn Yiddish.”

Karen Leon
Bel Kaufman

In May 2010 she managed to speak extemporaneously at three consecutive [May 11-12-13] nights of celebration on the occasion of her 100th birthday—a Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene bash, a May 12 National Arts Club reception and a May 13 Hunter College ”Party of the Century” held at Roosevelt House at which she was lauded by Hunter College president Jennifer Raab as “a 1934 Magna Cum Laude alumna.” She ended her address with “Now that I am one hundred I feel liberated — “My time is precious, I no longer have to do what I must do.”

Kaufman’s last public appearance was at the December 2, 2013 Hanukkah Gala at Symphony Space at which Theodore Bikel was honored. Presenting the award to 90-year young Bikel, Kaufman stated: “I am truly happy to be standing here!”

During my delightful March 13, 2009 taped hour-long interview with Kaufman at the Jewish Braille Institute, she recalled walking with her grandfather as 3-year old holding hands. “’The harder you press my hand, the better I write,’ he told me…. I held on very tightly, so if you enjoy his writing — the credit goes to me… A year before he died in Odessa, he wrote ‘Dear Belushka, I am writing for you to hurry up so you can learn to write me letters. So it is necessary for you to drink milk, eat vegetables and fewer candies. Regards to your dolls. Your Papa, Sholem Aleichem.’ He told me you gotta stay alive even if it kills you.


Joan Rivers Goes All Jersey on Anti-Israel Crowd

By Gabe Friedman

Joan Rivers has come out in support of Israel in a big way.

When asked by a TMZ reporter about the violence in Gaza and Israel, Rivers compared the situation to New York and its much-maligned neighboring state.

“If New Jersey were firing rockets into New York, we would wipe ‘em out,” she said, waving her hands. “If we heard that they were digging tunnels from New Jersey to New York, we would get rid of Jersey.”

Even if Rivers apparently missed the memo about the PATH trains that connect New York to New Jersey underground, she got her point across.

“You cannot throw rockets and expect people not to defend themselves,” she continued.

The reporter countered by asking her about the Palestinian civilian casualty rate.

“They started it!” she yelled repeatedly.

The interviewer then mentioned that celebrities Dwight Howard and Selena Gomez had defended Palestine on Twitter.

“Oh, Selena Gomez, that college grad,” Rivers responded. “Let’s see if she can spell ‘Palestinian.’”


Support Israel's Troops — By Getting Naked

By Anne Cohen

A new Facebook page showcases a new way for Israeli women to support the troops — by stripping down practically to their birthday suit.

“Standing With the IDF” calls on Israel women to raise morale (so to speak) by uploading sexy pictures of the their bodies, upon which uplifting messages have been scrawled. The page’s intro is pretty self-explanatory: “You keep us safe from above, and we will watch you from below!”

The page had more than 15,000 likes as of Friday morning. It was taken down by Facebook but a number of copycat pages popped up.

Still, the initiative has received mixed reviews. As seen in Haaretz:

One person wrote “I must admit, I am a great fan of this page… You have found the way to give our soldiers the most uplifting present without even leaving the house. I thank you, in the name of every soldier who got a moment of peace and a reason to enter the battlefield with a smile on his face. Be he married or single, be he pious or a player, a big thank you from all soldiers, for the self- confidence and the strength of soul you teach us.”

Others were less positive. “I don’t want to bum you out, but wow - bad idea. Good execution, bad idea. Thanks, but no thanks to whoever invited me to this group,” said one. Another quipped: “Boys, what about the gay soldiers? They need to know you are behind them, too, so join the effort and send your naked photos!”

From singles trips in the desert to barely concealed support for the boys in uniform, the conflict raging in the region hasn’t seemed to put a damper on those libidos.


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