The Shmooze

Andi Dorfman's First 'Bachelorette' Promo Photo

By Anne Cohen

She’s got her roses ready!

Following the official confirmation of Andi Dorfman as the new (Jewish!) “Bachelorette,” ABC have released the first photo of her — all glitz and glam with the requisite bouquet.

Tune in May 19 for the premiere episode.


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Beyonce Visits Anne Frank House

By Anne Cohen

Beyonce took a little break from her Mrs. Carter World Tour to pay a visit to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam with Jay-Z.

According to the museum’s Facebook page, the couple spent over an hour in the museum and were “very impressed by their visit to the hiding place of Anne Frank”.

Don’t believe us? See for yourself:

Queen Bey even took the time to sign the guestbook. Let’s just hope she didn’t pull a Bieber.


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How Well Do You Know Your Yiddish?

By Michael Kaplan

How well did your bubbe train you?

Apparently, mine fell down on the job.

I answered only 8 out of 15 questions correctly on a new survey meant to test your knowledge of classic Yiddish terms and phrases. “You need a bissel more of work to be a maven in the mame-loshin!” the results read.

Questions test your knowledge of words like “Futz” and “Bashert” and phrases like “Hakn a tshaynik!”

The survey, which includes 15 multiple-choice questions, appears just a few days before a five-part documentary series entitled “The Story of the Jews” is set to premier on PBS.

The series follows Simon Schama, a Jewish historian and award-winning writer, as he explores Jewish contributions to the world. It tracks his journeys through Russia, Ukraine, Egypt, Israel and Spain, as he meets with scholars and others to discuss Jewish history, culture and experience.

The entire series already ran last year on the BBC. The first two hours of the series will air on PBS on March 25.


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John Travolta's Flowery Apology to Idina Menzel

By Anne Cohen

When John Travolta apologizes, he does it properly.

After seriously butchering Idina Menzel’s name at the Oscars (in case you live under a rock, or you know, don’t have Internet, he called her “Adela Dazeem”), the 60-year-old actor reportedly sent a little gift to the Jewish Broadway star’s dressing room.

“He sent her a big, gorgeous bouquet of flowers to her dressing room,” a source told E!News. “It was HUGE. It was his apology to her.”

“It was clear he felt very bad about it,” the source added. “And by the size of the arrangement it was an obvious ‘forgive me please’ gesture.’”

The name flub launched a thousand memes, including a widget on Slate allowing readers to “Travoltify” their names.

I’ve been beating myself up all day,” the “Pulp Fiction” star said in a statement right after the snafu. “Then I thought…What would Idina Menzel say? She’d say, ‘Let it go, let it go!’ Idina is incredibly talented and I am so happy ‘Frozen’ took home two Oscars Sunday night!”

Menzel is now starring in “If/Then” on Broadway.


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Gary Shteyngart Finally Out-Blurbs Himself

By Anne Cohen

Novelist Gary Shteyngart is known for being an “enthusiastic blurb-writer.”

But nothing can possibly beat this one.

Writing about “Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy,” a book by Pat Morris and Joanna Ebenstein, which, as the name suggests, tells the story of Victorian taxidermist Walter Potter, Shteyngart said:

“Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy” is one of hte most important books I’ve read on Victorian taxidermy in months. It’s like Thomas Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure,” but with squirrels.” — New York Times: T Magazine

Rapper Cee-Lo Green, featured opposite Shteyngart in a T Magazine “Take Two” had this to say about the book:

“I can’t imagine the type of special individual it takes to do this. I don’t have any animals that are stuffed, but I’ve got some stuffed animals — a panther, a Rottweiler, a couple little doggies I’ve found along the way.”

Budding taxidermists can place their order here.


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'The Giver' Trailer Is Here

By Anne Cohen

In the age of “Hunger Games” and “Divergent” dystopian frenzy, expectations are at an all-time high for the movie adaptation of Lois Lowry’s “The Giver.”

Unlike Katniss Everdeen’s gritty District 12, Lowry’s best-selling novel takes place in a warped future where all the unpleasant aspects of life have been erased. No war, no pain. And no feelings.

As Meryl Streep —  throwing some major shade in the newly released trailer — says: “When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong.”

Starring alongside Meryl (aren’t we all?) are newcomer Brenton Thwaites as the main character, Jonas, Jeff Bridges (who also produced), Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift (what?) and Israeli actress Odeya Rush.

Watch the trailer here:

Photo credit: Meryl Streep in “The Giver”// Youtube


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Sarah Silverman Donates Her Voice to Keshet

By Jana Banin

(JTA) — Attention all Bostonians looking for a good, old-fashioned, R-rated outgoing voicemail message: Sarah Silverman and Keshet, an organization that advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Jews, might be able to help. Attendees of the Keshet Cabaret on March 27 will have the opportunity to bid on a personal voicemail from the raunchy comedienne, The Boston Globe reports.

This isn’t the first time Silverman has donated her voice to Beantown-related cause. Last April an outgoing voicemail message from Silverman was a prize in a raffle held by the Boston Marathon Relief Fund.

And as you can see here, she has plenty of other voicemail experience, too.


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Enrico Macias, Sephardic Superstar

By Anne Cohen

If you’ve grown up as a Sephardic Jew, there’s one singer that you’ve reliably heard at every single wedding, bar/bat-mitzvah, engagement party, Shabbat, or celebration of any kind.

His name is Enrico Macias.

Born Gaston Ghrenassia in Constantine — then in French Algeria — in 1938, the Jewish “Pied Noir” singer has come to embody the bittersweet memories and nostalgia felt by Jews who left their Arab homelands in the 1960s and ‘70s.

In other words, you’re not a Jew of North African descent until you’ve seen your grandmother tearing up to “Adieu mon pays,” (“Goodbye My Country”), Macias’s first hit, written from the deck of the boat carrying him and his family away from their war-torn home.

Macias and his wife, Suzy, fled the Algerian War for Independence in 1961 after his father-in-law, Cheikh Raymond Leyris — also a famous musician — was murdered. Macias’s father, Sylvain Ghrenassia, was a violinist in an Andalo-Arabic orchestra.

Since then, he’s become an international superstar of French music, an “Ambassador at Large for Peace and Protection of the Children of the World” (named by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in 1997), and most recently, a successful comedy actor.

The Forward’s Anne Cohen sat down with Macias at the Gansevoort Hotel in New York City to talk about his upcoming move to Israel, his new movie career and, of course, his favorite songs.

This interview has been translated from French.

Anne Cohen: A movie about your life premiered at the 17th Annual New York Sephardic Film Festival. You also star in “Would I Lie To You 3”, which will close the festival on March 20. How do you like acting?

Enrico Macias: My first movie experience was “La Vérité Si Je Mens 2” (“Would I Lie To You 2”). When they asked me to be in “La Vérité Si Je Mens 3” (“Would I Lie to You 3”) it was like a reward, because it meant that I wasn’t so bad. The movie was a big success in France. Not just for the actors, but for me personally. I’m not a seasoned actor, I did this on a lark. But it turns out I really like acting. Especially comedy acting. Which is funny because I’m not necessarily like that in everyday life. I like to laugh, and I like to make jokes. But in front of a camera, I only have to stare and people laugh.

I think a new, younger audience has joined my traditional fans – and when I saw traditional fans, they also span a couple of generations. It’s great. Young people see me in movies and say “Oh, he’s also a singer, I’m going to listen to his songs.” And that’s how they discover my work.

Read more


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'Aladdin' With a Jewish Twist

By Masha Leon

Hundreds of parents with children in tow — some in strollers — were rushing along 42nd Street to make the March 9 matinee curtain at the New Amsterdam Theatre for the preview/benefit of Disney’s musical comedy “Aladdin.”

The marquee featured the logo Hebrew Charter School Center and the repeating zipper message — which could be seen from Times Square, which proclaimed: “Todah Rabah! Thank You For Supporting 1000 Children In Our Classrooms Around The Country.”

“We’ve filled 1,500 seats!” beaming event co-chair Sara Berman told me as I came down the aisle.

Photo by Karen Leon.

A quick hello to event chairman Michael Steinhardt and educator Charlotte Frank whose credentials include Sr. V.P., McGraw-Hill Education Research and Development. The buzz was intense as parents settled kids in their seats and ushers were bringing in booster seats. All went silent as the curtain rose on an Arabian Nights spectacle that had adults laughing at double entendres and kids delighted by the physicality of the production. Throughout three hours — not a baby cried!

A storyline with a moral, “Aladdin” has gorgeous girls, sword swallowers, stunning sets, including a gasp-eliciting flying carpet. Dazzled by the costumes, I wondered who had the sequins concession?

But it is Adam Jacobs as the handsome hottie Aladdin who energizes the production. Basically the story line is of a boy wanting his family to be proud of him, which had the parents in the audience kvelling as he sang “Proud of Your Boy.”

Princess Jasmine (Courtney Reed) is a princess who refuses to be kept down and whose feminist manifesto is very much beyond the harem walls. Full bodied acrobatic James Monroe Iglehart portrays the Genie with such unstoppable energy his agility leaves you breathless.

Opulent, with pyrotechnics and stagecraft that elicited 1000-voiced “oohs” and “ ahhs” the production includes a cha-cha montage, a Follies Bergere spectacle (Las Vegas version), a Marx Bros. spoof, and a nod to Busby Berkeley’s “42nd Street.”

With music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and additional lyrics by Chad Beuelin the production includes an excerpt by Stephen Schwartz and a “Mambo” by Leonard Bernstein. This upbeat musical concludes with a dazzling Disneyesque hora performed by the full cast.

An HCSC brochure at each seat explained the schools’ imperative “…to weave the study of Hebrew language and history and culture of Israel and its immigrant communities into a robust educational program…. [to] embody true diversity. Our students emerge as global citizens fully bilingual and deeply knowledgeable about the United States, Israel and the world.”

Opened in Brooklyn in 2009, HCSC serves nearly 500 students from all economic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds with schools in New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Harlem and California on the horizon.


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Is Beyonce Coming to Israel?

By Jana Banin

(JTA) — The upcoming Israeli summer might just be getting even hotter.

According to a Sunday report on Israel’s Channel 2 news, Beyoncé will be stopping over for a gig at Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park on June 15.

The thing is, the date does not appear on Beyoncé’s website. Plus, as Israeli fans may remember, a 2009 rumor that the pop star would visit never panned out.

If this thing really happens, Mrs. Carter will join a long list of big-name performers to visit Israel this summer, including Lady Gaga, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young and Justin Timberlake.


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Ranking 'Pantheon' of 6,000 Years of Jews

By Michael Kaplan

Well, rankings of the world’s most famous people from the past 6,000 years are in.

Israeli-born actress Natalie Portman has beat out Ariel Sharon, Moses has an ever-so-slight lead over Muhammad and Jesus Christ is apparently the world’s number one Jew.

The project, an endeavor of the Macro Connections group at MIT’s media lab, includes more than 11,000 of the world’s most popular individuals.

Aptly titled Pantheon, the website includes lists breaking down icons by locale and profession, but also allows users to manipulate the parameters and disregard time, profession and place. So American porn-star Jenna Jameson, Portuguese soccer player Christiano Ronaldo and the late Greek philosopher Aristotle go head-to-head on the same 11,334 famous persons list, which spans from the years 4,000 BCE to 2010.

Martin Luther King Jr. tops the list of Americans and film director Stanley Kubrick, the top Jew on the list, places in at 23rd. Film director Steven Spielberg and linguist Noam Chomsky, both Jewish, also make the top 100 of the famous Americans list.

The project assigns figures to the modern national borders of their birthplace.

The MIT project’s methodology page admits the inevitable shortcomings and incompleteness of their endeavor, which largely relies on Wikipedia entries. Creators included individuals whose biographies have been translated into more than 25 languages and says the project measures “historical cultural popularity and production.”

Here are some findings using their lists.

World’s top 5 Jews:
-Jesus Christ, Palestine (4 BCE)
-Moses, Egypt (1394 BCE)
-Abraham, Unknown (3500 BCE)
-Albert Einstein, Germany (1879)
-Karl Marx, Germany (1818)

America’s top 5 Jews:
-Stanley Kubrick (1928)
-Isaac Asimov (1920)
-Steven Spielberg (1946)
-Noam Chomsky (1928)
-Zac Efron (1987)

Israel’s top 5 (4000 BCE – 2010):
-Solomon (1000 BCE)
-Mary (100 BCE)
-John the Baptist (5 BCE)
-Mary Magdalene (1)
-Isaac (3500 BCE)

Palestine’s top 5 (4000 BCE – 2010):
-Jesus Christ (4 BCE)
-David (1040 BCE)
-Saint George (280)
-Herod the Great (73 BCE)
-Saint Joseph (90 BCE)

The Modern State of Israel’s top 5 (those born in Israel included):
-Natalie Portman (1981)
-Ariel Sharon (1928)
-Yitzhak Rabin (1922
-Moshe Dayan (1915)
-Benjamin Natanyahu (1949)


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Jewish Comedian's Airbnb Nightmare

By Anne Cohen

Who could have possibly imagined that letting perfect strangers into your plush Chelsea apartment could result in utter disaster?

Jewish comedian Ari Teman found out the hard way when he came home to an “XXX Freak Fest” in the New York City apartment he had rented out on Airbnb.

According to Buzzfeed, someone named David booked Teman’s apartment for March 14, claiming he needed a place for his brother and sister-in-law who were “visiting for a wedding.”

When Teman returned to pick up a suitcase he had left behind, he found a crew of around 20 people hanging out on his patio, while others carried out his disassembled furniture.

“My first thought was, these guys are just stealing my furniture,” he told Buzzfeed.

If only.

Turns out, “David” had actually taken to Twitter earlier that day to advertise: “TONIGHT MANHATTAN XXX FREAK FEST @ 1 7th AVE 10pm- 4am $20 b4 1am $25 after…TWINN.” (The tweet has since been taken down).

Though Teman said he didn’t actually see anyone having sex in the apartment, he did glimpse bags of condoms and liquor bottles.

The livid owner wrote posted a letter to Airbnb on Tumblr, claiming that their oversight had resulted in over $80,000 in damages.

Dear Brian and the AirBNB team,

Usually I am a fan of your service. However, I have a minor bone to pick with you, in that it appears my apartment was reserved for some major boning. Also, it appears some stuffed animals were abused. We’ll get to the damage to my furniture and belongings – but first you’re gonna love this:

You just sent a porn sex fest into my apartment, and now I’ve got over $87,076 in losses. I had to call 911 and have these “XXX Freak Fest” people removed from my apartment, my super is having me evicted by my landlord, and I do not feel safe here anymore since hundreds of people got a text saying there’s an XXX sex fest in my apartment and continue showing up, according to the doormen who I’ll never be able to look in the face again.

Teman added that he no longer felt comfortable staying in the apartment.

This can no longer be my home. The stress and fear that a large band of “XXX Freak Fest” individuals have my address and keys to my home is unreal and my friend (who helped me carry my wet and dirty stuff back into the apartment (I don’t even want to know how it’s wet) was even too afraid to stay here and encouraged me to leave.

Bet your Purim weekend is starting to look pretty tame.

Below is the back and forth on Twitter:


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Remembering David Brenner

By Masha Leon

Comedian David Brenner, who died at 78 on March 15, was among my favorite TV funny men — except when the tall, witty guy told tall tales about his landsmen. Maybe it was due to a bad chopped liver sandwich in his youth, but his [mis]take on Jews sometimes left me no alternative but a Forward column.

In a 1993 David Letterman appearance, in the midst of a hysterical monologue, Brenner posited: “Jews are no good with their hands…. We can only use our heads…I can’t use a hammer, only one finger.” I had received a David Brenner press kit, which stated that among “topics too serious to be joked about are prejudice, bigotry, race.”

Nu? So what about stereotyping? I took him to task in an April 1993 column. Then, in a 1996 TV appearance, he expanded on the Jewish klutzy theme and confessed: “I can’t fix anything because I am Jewish and if our mothers saw a hammer, they would throw it and shout: “Book! book! book!” I laughed and nearly cried at the same time.

David Brenner, 1997. Photo by Karen Leon.

I was finally able to address Brenner in person at the March 17, 1997 Creative Coalition Awards Gala at The Pierre where he was in heady company that included: Robert Kennedy. Jr., Marlo Thomas, Stockard Channing, Conan O’Brien, Carly Simon, Kenneth Cole, “and his wife Maria Cuomo Cole, Whoopie Goldberg, Alec Baldwin and then president of Screen Actors Guild Richard Masur.

Intercepting Brenner’s entrance to the reception, I asked, “How can you keep saying that Jews are manually deficient in your TV appearances? What about Israeli pilots and the generations of immigrant tailors, machine operators, bakers, plumbers, musicians, surgeons? My grandfather was a carpenter. My Bronx-born husband designs and builds complicated machinery.” He shrugged and parting amicably, he came up with the afterthought, “Maybe he shouldn’t. “

A memorable Brenner faux-pas which caused a tumbleweed storm of outrage from Texas Forward readers was my coverage of his August 7, 1988 TV monologue during which he joked that there were “no Jewish cowboys” and no Jews at the Alamo…”Had there been any, they would have gotten out the back door.” The TV audience roared. I gasped. Was he wrong!

In 1985 Karen and I visited San Antonio and our hotel window faced The Alamo. The Alamo’s Visitor Guide informs: “Two gallant Jews died fighting Santa Anna’s troops: Anton (Anthony) Wolfe who came to Texas from England, one of the last to die — and Galba Fuqua, an Alabamian.” When we met with Mrs. Kallison, then president of the Texas Jewish Historical Society, she took Karen and me on a tour of the “Jewish cattle barons’ spreads” and pointed out many of San Antonio’s landmarks with Jewish provenance.

Among the letters the Forward received following my “Alamo” column, was from an upset Jewish Texan subscriber who sent in a photo of himself as a youngster astride a horned steer who wrote that his grandfather was fined ($200) for leading a 2000-strong head of cattle down Dallas’ main street when the limit was 800 head.

David was a one-of-a-kind funny guy and will be missed.


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Madonna Celebrates Purim as 'Mother of Dragons'

By Anne Cohen

Stop the search: We have officially found the best Purim costume of the year.

Madonna celebrated the triumph of Jews over Haman and the return of “Game of Thrones” (April 6, you guys!) in one fell swoop by dressing up as Daenerys Targaryan, a.k.a Mother of Dragons, a.k.a Khaleesi.

She posted the picture to Instagram with the caption: “Happy Purim!!!!! All Hail All Queens! ##certainty”

Daenerys isn’t the only queen Madonna’s representing. Though raised Roman Catholic, the pop diva adopted Kabbalah in the late 90s and took the Hebew name Esther, as in Queen Esther, who saved the Jews and became Queen of Persia.

All hail, indeed.


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Bar Refaeli's Purim Costume Is Better Than Yours

By Anne Cohen

Think dressing up for Purim is just for kids? Bar Refaeli doesn’t agree.

The Israeli supermodel embraced her inner child this year and posted a picture of her Purim costume to Instagram to prove it. The caption reads: “A stylish tiger #happyPurim.”

Bet your version doesn’t include a bright yellow Chanel satchel.


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Tel Aviv Makes Top Ten 'Selfiest' Cities List

By JTA

Tel Aviv has the sixth-most “selfie-takers” per capita of any major city, according to a ranking in Time Magazine.

One-hundred thirty-nine Tel Aviv residents per 100,000 frequently take selfies, or self-portraits taken with a cellphone, according to the survey, published Monday. The magazine calculated its results by surveying 400,000 selfies tagged according to location on Instagram, a popular photo-sharing online social network.

The survey looked at selfies from every city worldwide with at least 250,000 residents. Tel Aviv, Israel’s second-biggest city, has a population of approximately 400,000. Jerusalem, Israel’s capital and biggest city, did not crack the top 100. The Philippines’ Makati City won the distinction of the “Selfie Capital of the World,” with 258 “selfie-takers” per 100,000.

The United States holds three of the top five spots, with the New York borough of Manhattan placing second, Miami placing third and the metropolitan area of Anaheim and Santa Ana, Calif., placing fourth.

Photo credit: Getty Images


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Mayim Bialik's Sushi Hamantaschen

By Anne Cohen

Much has been written on how to improve hamantaschen: add some booze, avoid prune filling (we can all agree on this one, I think), drizzle with chocolate, and so on and so on.

But Mayim Bialik topped every single one of those with her version of “nouveau” Purim cooking:

Yum? Yuck? Let us know in the comments.


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Shimon Peres's Purim Costume

By Sigal Samuel

Shimon Peres in disguise. / Facebook

Do you feel pretty proud of your Purim costume right now? Think you’re the master of disguise? If so, you’d better think again.

Israel’s president’s got you beat.

On his Facebook page, Shimon Peres today revealed the disguise he wore back in the 1970s when he would go to meetings with King Hussein of Jordan to discuss the signing of a peace agreement. His costume included everything from a beard, a mustache and fake hair (nice side-sweep you’ve got there, Shimon!) to black glasses and a wide-brimmed hat.

Or at least, that’s what his Purim spiel would have us believe.


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Lighting Up With Seth Rogen: Jewish Edition

By Jana Banin

(JTA) — We just can’t stop talking about Seth Rogen lately! Sorry if you’ve had enough, but this clip from Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live” is just too Jew-packed to resist.

Last night the show’s host Andy Cohen got Rogen to play a round of “Spill the Herbal Tea,” in which the writer, actor and Alzheimer’s advocate was asked to admit which celebs he’d “blazed up with.” Check out the startling results.

James Franco: “It’s depressing for me to say but I’ve never smoked weed with James Franco, because he doesn’t smoke weed!” Paul Rudd: Yes, lots of times.

Sarah Silverman: Ditto.

Snoop Dogg: Naturally.

Barbra Streisand: “No, but we talked a lot about it a lot.” That said, Rogen did reveal that the diva has smoked with Peter Sellers.

Jonah Hill: Yep.

Willie Nelson: No, but believe it or not, Cohen has. Mazel!


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Seinfeld Supercut Shows What A Show About Nothing Really Looks Like

By Anne Cohen

Turns out, ‘Seinfeld’ was about something after all.

The following supercut, by video editor LJ Frezza, shows what the beloved sitcom would have been like in a New York sans people, soup Nazis, anti-Dentites, marble rye, men in capes, sombreros and Kramer.

And what a sad, sad world it would be.

[h/t Gothamist]


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