The Shmooze

Sarah Jessica Parker Returns to HBO for 'Divorce'

By Elizabeth Wagmeister

(Reuters) — Sarah Jessica Parker has officially signed onto star in and exec produce HBO’s comedy pilot, “Divorce,” making her return to the net after “Sex And The City.”

HBO has given a formal pilot order to the project, which will also star Thomas Haden Church, Molly Shannon and Talia Balsam, Variety has learned.

The half-hour comedy is described as the story of a very, very drawn-out divorce. The “Sex And The City” star will play one half of the divorced couple, Frances, a woman who suddenly reassesses her life and marriage and realizes that a fresh start is much harder than she thought.

Church will star as Parker’s on-screen husband, Robert who’s caught off guard by his wife’s perspective on their marriage.

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Ziggy Gruber — A 'Deli Man' for All Seasonings

By Masha Leon

After spending an hour at Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen with young Forward reader, Galitzianer Yiddish-speaking third generation deli man Ziggy Gruber — a featured deli owner in the must see “Deli Man” — I was ready to jet to Houston, Texas where he and partner Kenny Friedman reign over a deli called Kenny and Ziggy’s and the menu includes such gustatory delights as “ Luck Be a Latka,” “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Schmaltz” “Genghis Cohen’s Chicken Salad” and my favorite title “Fiddler on the Roof of Your Mouth.”

“You never know where fate takes you,” he told me. When Houston was suggested as a destination for his deli, Ziggy said, “My first concern was ‘Are there any Yiddishe people there?’ When I got there I was blown away. The Jewish community is very tight, warm and loving–not cliquish. It’s like a shtetl there — ‘come into our community and we will do everything we can to support you.’” Commenting on the long history of the Jews in Houston he noted that there are Jewish graves dating back to the 1600’s.

Karen Leon
Ziggy Gruber and Masha Leon

A graduate of the Cordon Bleu Culinary School in London (he even cooked for the Queen of England), Ziggy described his creations with reverential flair. “My dishes have Yiddish tam. When you taste them it’s not like a shteyn (a stone) but light, and you can get up from the table. My blintzes are light as a feather and took 25 years to develop. My stuffed cabbage is legendary…. Our clientele is of all ages… Jews, non-Jews. I probably have the most extensive traditional menu — chicken fricassee with meatballs and pipik (belly button) goulash…Romanian steaks, all kinds of smoked fish, gehakte leber (chopped liver) and [Romanian] karnatzkalakh. The younger crowd can get a black walnut raspberry salad, Sashimi tuna. I make Hungarian potato noodles — Jewish gnocchi. A lot of kids went on Birthright to Israel so we have incorporated Israeli fare. I invited half the Israeli consulate in Houston and they went wild for the shashuka.”

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Jon Stewart Mocks 'Bibi-Sitter' Ad — and Congress Speech

By Gabe Friedman

On Thursday, Jon Stewart weighed in on the announcement that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a speech to the U.S. Congress next month, just weeks before Israel’s elections. Stewart is critical of all sides, from the U.S. history of involvement in the Middle East to Netanyahu’s droll new campaign ad.


Radio Host Calls Jon Stewart 'Nazi' for Backing Vaccination

By Anne Cohen

Forget self-hating Jew. Someone just compared Jon Stewart to a Nazi.

Mediaite reports that Robert Scott Bell took issue with the comedian’s ‘Daily Show’ segment urging “science-denying affluent California liberals” to vaccinate their children. Bell’s Twitter feed shows him as an active anti-vaxxer — so logically, anyone who disagrees with him would have to be a proponent of mass eugenics and genocide.

Stewart, Bell explained on his show, “just basically said you people that are not vaccinating your children, you’ve turned your children in ticking biological time bombs and now we have to act.”

“This is basically how they said the Jews, the scourge of the world, we’ve got to take them out,” Bell continued “We’ve got to take out the gypsies, we’ve got to take out the gays. Now we’ve gotta take out the people who are aren’t vaccinated under the guise that they are unclean.”

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Are You Ready to Call Saul?

By Anne Cohen

Courtesy of AMC

Good news “Breaking Bad” fans. On Sunday, our favorite slightly shady, Jewish-impersonating legal mind, Saul Goodman, will be making his comeback on TV and computer screens everywhere.

I’m referring to the premiere of “Better Call Saul,” which airs in two parts on Sunday, February 8 and Monday, February 9 on AMC.

The spinoff stars “Breaking Bad“‘s Bob Odenkirk as James McGill a.k.a. Saul Goodman —  “The Jew thing I just do for the homeboys. They all want a pipe-hitting member of the tribe, so to speak,” he informs a confused Walter White.

When we first meet Saul (in season 2, episode 8), he’s an already an established defender of the underworld, known for his low-budget ads. (“I had a good job until my boss accused me of stealing… I better call Saul!”)

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Natalie Portman Ruins Her Wedding in Dior Ad

By Anne Cohen

Natalie’s back!

The new ad for Dior fragrances stars our girl Natalie Portman in what is honestly the most beautiful wedding dress I have ever seen (drool). “It’s Miss, Actually,” directed by Anton Corbijn, shows Miss Dior on her wedding day. But here’s the twist: in what is every Jewish parent’s nightmare, she gets cold feet halfway down the aisle, dumps what we assume is a nice Jewish boy, and hitches a helicopter ride to Paris with her lover, all set to Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart.”


11 Jewish Things To Watch For at the Grammys

By Hilary Saunders

From those working behind the scenes in recording studios to stars performing on international stages in the spotlight, The Chosen People helped make 2014 a great year for music. Jewish composers, producers, and performers—current and classic—are all nominated for the most prestigious award in music, so here are 11 Jewish things to look out for during The 57th annual Grammy Awards, which air at 8 p.m. (EST) on CBS.

1) Rick Rubin’s Beard

Famed Producer Rick Rubin has worked with the biggest names in music — from Johnny Cash to Jay-Z — over the course of his three-decade-long career. Last year, Rubin and his voluminous beard produced British pop singer Ed Sheeran’s “x,” which is nominated for Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album.


2) HAIM

These three sisters, all in their 20s, grew up in a musical family in Greater Los Angeles. The daughters of an Israeli father and mother of Polish descent, HAIM initially thought about calling themselves The Bagel Bitches. No longer playing for matzoh ball soup in Hollywood delis (true story), the pop rock, harmony-filled trio is nominated for Best New Artist based off the success of their debut album “Days Are Gone.”


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Remembering Sir Martin Gilbert, Churchill and Holocaust Scholar

By Masha Leon

I had been corresponding with Winston Churchill chronicler and historian Sir Martin Gilbert for three years before meeting him on February 19, 2003 at Anti Defamation League’s headquarters for the launch of his opus “The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust” (Henry Holt & Co.) In our correspondence, Sir Martin, who died in London on February 4 following a long illness, clarified that though he had been knighted by HRH Queen Elizabeth II — “for two services — to British history and to international relations” — it was “Prince Charles who struck me lightly with a sword.”

Famous for his volumes on the life of Winston Churchill, Gilbert’s 40-volume output includes some of the most comprehensive books dealing with the Holocaust. An avid Forward reader, he asked me at the book launch if he could include me [a recipient of a Sugihara visa] “in a book I am writing about non-Jews who helped Jews during the war.”

Karen Leon
Sir Martin Gilbert autographing ‘The Righteous’ in 2003.

With ADL executive director Abraham Foxman and survivors Vladka and Ben Meed present, Gilbert recapped his Holocaust research at Yad Vashem. “I could not get through a whole day…Sometimes I had to close the books and leave.” He recalled witnessing “ a funeral on Mount Zion at a Christian cemetery where the mourners looked like Polish Jewish survivors and was told the funeral was for an Oscar Schindler “who saved their lives.” Gilbert described the outrage in Israel’s press and “in the streets” when Schindler was first honored “because he was a German and had been a member of the Nazi Party.”

Describing “the incredible ingenuity and courage needed to hide a Jew… a Jewish family…at the risk of the [rescuer]’ s’ own lives” Gilbert cited a Polish surgeon — Feliks Kanabus — who developed a plastic surgery technique to reverse the appearance of circumcision. Imperiling the lives of his three children and mother, he issued false certificates to more than 250 men — including his Jewish colleague Michael Tursz– stating that the circumcisions were “necessitated by an infection.” Another ingenious rescuer Gilbert lauded was Charles Coward a British soldier. Interned in a POW camp attached to Auschwitz III (at Buna about whose cruelty he noted “both Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi would later write”) Coward’s scheme was to strip a dead POW or foreign laborer, throw his corpse on the live wire and “a living Jew given his clothing and identity.”

Gilbert later told me “I was consulted by [former prime minister] John Major on various policy issues and accompanied him on official visits to Washington, Israel and Gaza. In 2009, I was made privy councilor so I am now ‘The Right Honorable Sir Martin Gilbert.’” In 2008 Gilbert invited me to join him on an across Europe “memory” trip to retrace my childhood escape from Warsaw and journey to Japan for his documentary “The Rescuers.” Alas, I could not go.

During the nearly three years of his disability Esther Gilbert — his amazing wife and a writer in her own right — kept me, along with Gilbert’s friends and colleagues worldwide, informed in great detail of his unflagging courage and good humor throughout his medical travails, his little victories and the kindness of those who treated him. The world has lost an amazing treasure.


How Coke Made Hitler 'Happy'

By Anne Cohen

In an acute case of “no good deed goes unpunished,” Coca-Cola’s #MakeItHappy campaign has gone hopelessly awry. The campaign, launched during the Super Bowl, goes as follows: fans of Coke can tweet unpleasant things and the company, who then turns those angry thoughts into a fun image, which is then tweeted back with the slogan “We turned the hate you found into something happy.”

Our friends over at Gawker decided to test the boundaries of this experiment in happy thinking. Using specially designed Twitter bot @MeinCoke, the news outlet proceeded to tweet parts of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” to @CocaCola.

Amazingly, Coke tweeted back.

Behold, the first four paragraphs of Mein Kampf, as illustrated by Coke:

It has turned out fortunate for me to-day that destiny appointed Braunau-on-the-Inn to be my birthplace.


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Forward Readers Show Us Their Yarmulkes!

By Lior Zaltzman

Under Cover from Jewish Daily Forward on Vimeo.

On Tuesday, we showed your our many yarmulkes, and asked you, Forward readers, to show us yours! We got many lovely and diverse contributions. Here are some of our favorite ones:


Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone started us off with his own hashtag kippah!


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'The Simpsons' Go to Auschwitz

By Anna Goldenberg

Alexsandro Palombo

Oh wow.

I scrolled through the pictures I had just received in an email. I looked at them again. And again. The subject line, I realized, went straight to the point: “The Simpsons go to Auschwitz” — a series of drawings by the controversial Italian artist Alexsandro Palombo, depicting the popular yellow cartoon family as famished inmates of the Nazi death camp.

Marge, Homer, Bart, Lisa and Maggie wearing yellow stars, in striped prisoners’ garbs, and undressed in what seems to be the inside of a gas chamber… you get the idea. The “Arbeit macht frei”-sign, the emaciated legs, the fake showerheads — no question, the imagery was painful and upsetting to look at. And the bright, big-eyed cartoon characters with the funny-shaped heads definitely felt out of place.

Alexsandro Palombo

Well, I thought, let’s try to find out what the artist’s message is. “We must educate the new generations and tell them what happened,” Palombo said, at least according to the email sent out by his press office. And then: “We have to do it without filters, bluntly, over and over again, through the memory of facts and terrifying images that reflect the horror of the Holocaust and the extermination of millions of human beings.”

While I agree (and who wouldn’t?) that future generations need to be taught about the Holocaust, I don’t think that doing it “bluntly” and “over and over again” is the right approach.

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First the Bibi-Sitter, Now Miri Poppins

By Lior Zaltzman

Many Israelis breathed a sigh of relief last month when the Israeli satire show Eretz Nehederet (A Great Country) came back just in time for the elections. The popular TV show is one of the only safe places in Israeli TV — by this I mean that nothing is off limits, and even the most controversial topics can be made fun of.

This includes Benjamin Netnyahu. The excellent Argentinian-Israeli comedian Mariano Idelman, has perfected the politician’s voice and special brand of head tilt and eyebrow formation and, this season, is newly adorned with a bright lavender wig. Like the rest of us, the Eretz Nehederet crew couldn’t resist poking fan of the latest Bibi-Sitter campaign ad.

Their latest sketch takes place right after the actual campaign commercial. Bibi is watching TV in the living room as the parents are coming back from their date to discover that Bibi has been joined by Miri Poppins - Likkud MK Miri Regev dressed like Mary Poppins. Here are some choice parts:

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Haim Don't Care About Your Mean Tweets

By Anne Cohen

Jimmy Kimmel’s “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” never gets old. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s simple: famous people sit down and read what the trolls of the Internet have to say about them. Out loud. The latest edition features musicians: Wiz Khalifa, Britney Spears, Blake Shelton, Lady Gaga, and our favorites, Jewish girl band Haim.

Este, Danielle and Alana Haim had what we deem the best reaction in “Mean Tweets” history.

Responding to @showmethesign’s, “Let’s face it, the girls from Haim are ugly as f—k and perform like they’re orgasming,” Alana quips: “I kind of like that.”

Suck it haters.

As an aside, Drake, also a member of the tribe, has an excellent sad face. Don’t worry, we don’t think that “Drake looks like Voldemort with hair.”

Speaking of those who hate, hate, hate, Haim will be touring with Taylor Swift on her 1989 World Tour. We can’t wait, wait, wait.


Gay Marriage Isn't Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp, Mike Huckabee

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Forget that same-sex marriage is now legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Mike Huckabee thinks that forcing people opposed to gay marriage to accept it is like “asking somebody who’s Jewish to start serving bacon-wrapped shrimp in their deli.”

Right. Those Jews, they don’t eat things like seafood and pork. I’m with you there, Mike. For the sake of argument, let’s let him continue.

“We’re not going to do that,” the former Baptist minister told CNN, adding: “We’re not going to ask a Muslim to serve up, ah, something that is offensive to him, to have dogs in his backyard.”

Okaaaay…

“We’re so sensitive to make sure we don’t offend certain religions, but then we act like Christians can’t have the convictions that they have had for over 2,000 years.”

In the words of Jon Stewart, that “makes no f—king sense.”

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Pastrami Talk With 'Deli Man' Director Erik Greenberg Anjou

By Masha Leon

With platters of pastrami sandwiches, pickles and coleslaw beckoning nearby, Ben’s 38th Street Delicatessen was the ideal setting for my interview with Erik Greenberg Anjou producer-director of the soon to open film “Deli Man.”

“I was born outside of Pittsburgh. My mother’s family emigrated from Russian-Romanian border,” said Anjou. “Briefly in France, the family changed the name [Anjou] then on to Germany and Ellis Island. Every male in my family was a doctor, so it was inculcated that my destiny was to be a doctor. But I fell in love with literature and story telling…with the film form and from 21 on was compelled by movies. My first producing job was Cantor Jack Mendelssohn’s documentary “A Cantor’s Tale.” I told Anjou that Mendelssohn — who is featured in “Deli Man” — was at one time the cantor in my synagogue Temple Gates of Prayer in Flushing.

Karen Leon
Erik Greenspan Anjou

“For me the deli was the medium — not the message,” said Anjou. Was the concept his…how did he choose the delis he showcased in the film. “I located the best people to do the research, spent some time which were the best to visit.” Did he speak Yiddish? “Not even a bisele — a tiny bit. My favorite expression is ‘pastrami, pastrami, pastrami.’” Anybody’s pastrami particularly special? “You’re getting into dangerous territory,” he cautioned. “I just love it with lots of spicy mustard — keep it simple.”

“Two things surprised me,” said Anjou. “The amazing sagacity of the deli owners I met. They are poet-philosophers of pastrami. They are chefs and community builders…and they also do tremendous things to survive as business men.” “Guess you never met a deli man who did not have a sense of humor,” I posited. “Absolutely not! Sometimes some of them are tough nuts. To me a guy like Dennis Howard who used to be at The Carnegie Deli is hysterically funny–but he’s got that tough exterior that you only find in New York.

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Israelis Pull Super Bowl All-Nighter

By Ben Sales

Getty Images

There were wings, beers, giant TV screens, and football fans wearing New England Patriots sweatshirts and Seattle Seahawks jerseys. If not for the fact that it was 1 a.m. and former Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid stood in the center of the bar, it could have been mistaken for Anytown USA.

Most Israelis don’t mark Super Bowl Sunday — or, really, Super Bowl Early Monday Morning — in any real way. But a group of Americans in Israel (and some Israelis who became acquainted with American football during stateside stints) showed up past midnight, an hour before the kickoff, putting off sleep and trying to forget about work the next day to watch the big game.

Elie Pieprz, who in 2012 founded a nonprofit to urge American-Israelis to vote in U.S. elections, came to see the game with his 11-year-old daughter, Eliana, in what has become an annual tradition for them. Father and daughter, pulling for Seattle, both wore Washington Redskins jerseys.

“We feel strongly about our connection to America,” Pieprz said. “We didn’t make aliyah to leave America. We’re bringing the best part of America to Israel.”

This Super Bowl party in central Tel Aviv was sponsored by Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, the centrist faction that for now boasts the Knesset’s only American lawmaker, Dov Lipman. Wearing a black sweater along with his trademark black velvet kipah, Lipman appeared chipper at halftime as Katy Perry ascended a robotic lion on a TV screen behind him.

“I thought to myself, there’s enough Anglos in Israel who want to watch, so why not watch it together?” said Lipman, who helped organize the gathering. “It’s not a political event. People are coming to watch the game.”

Some 200 fans attended the party, but most were surprisingly quiet for people who chose to pull an all-nighter to watch the big game. Aside from some hard-core New England fans in the center of the room, much of the crowd timidly cheered for the Seahawks.

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Is Patriots Wide Receiver Julian Edelman Jewish?

By Gabe Friedman

Getty Images

JTA — During the Super Bowl Sunday night, many Jews across the country no doubt had the same question: Is Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman Jewish?

Edelman had an excellent game Sunday night, catching nine passes for 109 yards and a touchdown in New England’s dramatic comeback victory over the Seattle Seahawks. He also happens to have a Jewish-sounding name. But is he actually a member of the tribe?

While his father has Ashkenazi roots, this is what Edelman had to say on the topic on a media day before his previous Super Bowl appearance with the Patriots in 2012:

“Well, I’m not completely Jewish, if you know what I mean. I know people want me to be. My father is Jewish. My mother isn’t. I’ve been asked this before. I guess you could say I’m kind of Jewish but not really.”

For the record, while traditional Jews believe one must have a Jewish mother or convert in order to be considered Jewish, both Reform and Reconstructionist Jews recognize patrilineal descent.

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The Best Part of the Super Bowl? Idina Menzel

By John A. Oswald

Idina Menzel sings the National Anthem at the Super Bowl// Getty Images

It may have been a football game but Jewish diva Idina Menzel hit a home run with her version of the Star Spangled Banner.

Katy Perry at halftime? Feh.

No. For us at The Forward, Idina Menzel (or Adele Nazeem, if you’re John Travolta) Let It Go!

America agrees. Elsa the Snow Queen was Flawless.

And that black jumpsuit by Angel Sanchez? Perfect.

Ex-husband Taye Diggs, with whom the “Frozen” star has a son, gushed: “Yup. Baby Mama crushed it at the Super Bowl.”

Yup.

Menzel has sung the National Anthem at other sporting events, but this, by far, was her largest audience ever.

Menzel hit all the notes just right — a big difference from a month ago when she flubbed a high note on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve and suffered a quick death by Twitter.

Ah, social media, you give and you take.

She asked the Twitterati before taking the field to “send me good vibes.”

The former “Wicked” star exclaimed, “Yes” when she nailed that final note Sunday night.

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Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake Are Having a Baby

By John A. Oswald

At one point or other, Justin Timberlake has been every Jewish girl’s fantasy gentile boyfriend.

And that makes the gentleladies here at The Forward convinced — absolutely convinced — that he cooed these Paul Anka lyrics to his wife, Jessica Biel, when the EPT came back with a plus sign.

“You’re having my baby
What a lovely way of sayin’ how much you love me.
Having my baby
What a lovely way of sayin’ what you’re thinkin’ of me.”

A modern feminist interpretation describes the song as utterly sexist, but we could see Biel getting all doe-eyed as the hunk-a-dunk sang on.

Ok. None of this happened. All we know is what Timberlake Instagrammed: a pic of him kissing the gorgeous actress/model’s baby bump.

Justin Timberlake/Instagram

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Need a Baby-Sitter? Bibi's Your Man

By Anne Cohen

It looks like Benjamin Netanyahu has a new career path lined up — you know, in case the Israeli elections don’t pan out.

A new campaign ad released Saturday shows a couple getting ready for a night on the town. The doorbell rings. It’s the baby-sitter. Or is it?

“You asked for a babysitter, you got a Bibi-sitter,” says a smirking Netanyahu. “Where are the children?”

The parents, understandably confused as to what their country’s prime minister is doing at their door, ask Bibi why he should be the one to watch over their children.

It’s either me, or Tzipi and Bougie,” he replies, referring to Zionist Camp’s Tzipi Livni and Issac Herzog. Oh, no! Not them. The parents shake their heads, demonstrating their mistrust.

Herzog needs his own baby-sitter, the dad jokes. Zing. And Livni? “By the time you get back she’ll probably go over to the neighbors,” Netanyahu quips back. (Livni has skipped to and from four political parties).

The ad conspicuously shows no children. Netanyahu’s previous campaign ad, which showed him as the only adult in a kindergarten class full of children named after Israeli political leaders (subtle, Bibi, real subtle), was banned by the Central Election Committee. Showing children under 15 for political gain is a no-no.


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