The Shmooze

Mayim Bialik's Scary Ironic Biblical Cat

By Anne Cohen

Mayim Bialik has a sense of humor.

The actress shared a picture of her cat on Instagram today with the caption: “My sleepy baby, Esau. (that’s an ironic Biblical name. Google it.)”

Once you recover from the sight of what is really a scary-looking hairless creature, the joke is pretty clever. Esau, in the Torah, is Isaac’s oldest son and Jacob’s twin brother. His name, in Hebrew, means “hairy” or “rough.”

This is how his birth is described in Genesis 25:25: “Now the first came forth, red all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau.”

Good one, Mayim.

Instagram/Mayim Bialik

Monica Lewinsky's Life Has Been Turned Into a Mini-Series

By Anne Cohen

Remember when Monica Lewinsky tried to put that whole Bill Clinton scandal behind her by moving to Manhattan and starting her own handbag line?

Well, now the whole saga has been immortalized in a new 6-part DIY mini-series, the Fader reports.

The series, directed by Doron Max Hagay, seems loosely based on New York Magazine’s 2002 profile, “Monica Takes Manhattan,” which showed Lewinsky struggling with the Big Question: How does one get over being notorious? (Apparently, there’s a lot of yoga involved.)

“The obvious route of representing Monica as a joke or vixen was an appealing aspect of her story to play against, and once I began to ask questions in the process of figuring out the story, complexities began to emerge,” Hagay told the Fader. “I began to empathize with Monica, whom I saw as gravely hurt and misunderstood. I love melodrama, especially the films of Douglas Sirk, so crafting a narrative with a female protagonist whose desire to control her destiny and regain a semblance of normalcy, which fits in in the intensely emotional realm of melodrama, was exciting to me.”

The first episode (below) shows actress Lily Marotta (as Lewinsky) arriving in the West Village wearing her signature beret. For more, check out the project’s website here.

{h/t FADER]

This What You Get When You Combine Limp Bizkit and 'Seinfeld'

By Anne Cohen

Seinfeld and Limp Bizkit — two 90s phenomenon (ok, one is early 2000s, but bear with me). And there the similarities end. One has achieved cult status; the other — not so much. One is Jewish; the other — not so much.

But combine them, and you get something surprisingly, well, awesome.

Posted last Thursday, the video has already gotten over 350,000 views. Time for a Fred Durst comeback?

Melissa Rivers Speaks Out on Joan Rivers Oscars Snub

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Fans were outraged that Joan Rivers was left out of the Oscars’ “In Memoriam” segment — but her daughter seems to be taking the high road.

In a statement posted to Joan Rivers’ official Facebook page, Melissa Rivers basically told everyone to please, take a chill pill:

“It would have been nice, especially considering the impact she had on the awards season, but Cooper and I have been overwhelmed with support and love over my mom’s passing and we choose to focus on that.”

Rivers paid tribute to her mom — who pioneered the iconic question: “Who are you wearing?” — during her Oscars red carpet coverage on E!

The Academy kind-of-not-really apologized for the oversight, telling The Hollywood Reporter: “After the ceremony was over, a rep for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences told BuzzFeed News: “Joan Rivers is among the many worthy artists and filmmakers we were unfortunately unable to feature in the ‘In Memoriam’ segment of this year’s Oscar show. She is, however, included in our ‘In Memoriam’ gallery on”

Rivers wasn’t the only one snubbed — Jewish actress Elaine Stritch was also left out. Not cool, Oscars.

Reaching Young Jews With Twebrew, Tweets and Treats

By Masha Leon

Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, founder and executive director of National Jewish Outreach Program, told the 300 guests at its February 27th Annual Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria that “on October 12, 2014 NJOP celebrated Sukkot Across America at 80 locations.”

The brainchild of Holocaust survivor and NJOP supporter Sam Domb, the rabbi said: “Over 4,200 men women and children attended a broad array of Sukkot activities.” He informed that its April 2014 “Passover Across America” NJOP sponsored 60 Passover seders in 49 cities, 22 states, one Canadian province, in Germany, Mexico, New Zealand and South Korea! He also told of Chaplain Shlomo Shulman at the 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion of the U. S. Army at Grafenwohr, Germany. “In the middle of a forest miles from the nearest Jewish community–Jewish servicemen who had never attended a Passover seder nor had attended one for decades — were revitalized by the experience.” Grafenwohr seder participants included “an Israeli man — who ran a jewelry store in a small town miles from the base who said he’d not been to a seder for over 25 years and showed up with his 22-year old son who had never been to a seder!”

Karen Leon
Rabbi Buchwald

Rabbi Buchwald also cited Rabbi Akiva Herzfeld of Congregation Tphiloh in Portland, Maine who boasted that one of his NJOP seder participants was professional hockey player Ethen Wernik “whose father is Israeli who was able to get away from the team’s practice to attend the seder.”

Though a decade ago, at its February 2004 dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria, Rabbi Buchwald had lamented: “Almost 60% of American Jews have nothing at all to do with Judaism,” he was still able to proclaim that: “For the prior 16 years NJOP has reached 730,00 North American Jewish souls… taught them Hebrew and basic Judaism and given them a positive Shabbat experience… The future is to keep channels of communications open and we were ahead of the game. What [young people] respond to is social media —Twitter, Facebook… and we have 51,900 subscribers to Twitter — a total of 250,000 impressions a day!”

Following this year’s dinner I asked Rabbi Buchwald his thoughts vis a vis current Jewish literacy. “The problem is that the majority of non-Orthodox young people do not get any Jewish education…have no connection with Judaism, do not read Hebrew, do not attend synagogue and [regrettably] — synagogues are oyf tsores [in trouble] closing down…merging.”

Notwithstanding, Rabbi Buchwald proudly informed: “NJOP’s 2014 Read Hebrew American and Canada Campaign conducted during the High Holidays offered over 500 Hebrew Reading classes at more than 400 locations. About 5,000-6,000 North American Jews learned to read Hebrew over the past few months. And — would you believe — a small group of American ex-pats in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico have been learning Hebrew through the NJOP method.

“This year on March 13, 2015 we will celebrate Shabbat Across American and Canada. To date 974,830 North Americans have participated — and [this time] we expect our one millionths participant!”

Marisa Tomei Will Play Gloria Steinem in New HBO Series

By Anne Cohen

Oscar winner Marisa Tomei will be playing Gloria Steinem in a new HBO-series produced by George Clooney. (Yes, that’s a lot of big names. Take a minute to process.)

The project, which will also star Kathy Najimy, will reportedly be set in 1971, during the early days of Ms. Magazine. The story will be told both from the perspective of the founders of the iconic magazine, and also through the narratives of women’s whose lives were changed by the Women’s Movement. According to the Wrap, Steinem will be a consultant on the show.

Najimy will play Bella Abzug, who joined Steinem in founding the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971. Bruce Cohen, George Clooney and Grant Heslov will executive-produce with Najimy and Tomei.

Tomei previously worked alongside Clooney and Heslov in “The Ides of March.” She won an Oscar in 1992 for her performance in “My Cousin Vinny.”

Can I just say, this show sounds AWESOME. Can’t wait.

Jon Stewart's 'Uncircumcised' Swansong

By Allison Kaplan Sommer (Haaretz)

In a long, in depth interview that covered the span of his career as a performer, director, and show creator, Jon Stewart appeared at a live performance in New York City with comedian Catie Lazarus and discussed the reaction to his announcement last week that he was stepping down from the helm of the hugely popular news satire program The Daily Show.

It was a very Jewish exchange - Lazarus, like Stewart, mines her ethnic background frequently in her comedy and has published articles in a number of Jewish publications. Her show and podcast “Employee of the Month” which takes place at Joe’s Pub in the New York Public Theater regularly hosts celebrities and other guests who come onstage in front of the cameras and talk about the nuts and bolts of their work. The podcast video was billed as “An Uncircumcised Interview with Jon Stewart.”

In it, Stewart assured Lazarus, (who called him a “total mensch” for making the appearance) that he was not about to disappear from America’s television screens. “I’m not retiring. I’m not putting on the black socks and heading down to Boca. No - There’s no retirement.”

One of Lazarus’s first questions to Stewart was: “Do you feel like since your retirement that you have a zillion Jewish moms who are like ‘What are you doing, what are you eating? Is he eating? What should I prepare for the next meal?’”

He replied: “You know, I had a thousand Jewish moms before I announced anything - when you do a show about current events…” And he imitated one of his critics in a typical New York yenta accent: “So is that REALLY whatcha think about Israel?”

Read more

Idina Menzel's Revenge and 6 More Thumbs-Up at the Oscars

By John A. Oswald

All in all, it was a decent night for the Tribe at the 87th Academy Awards.

Among the high notes:

IDINA’S REVENGE: Last year, John Travolta botched the name of Idina Menzel our second-favorite Jewish diva (after Barbra). This year Adele Dazeem got her revenge as the two collaborated to present best song to Glory. “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage my very dear friend, Glom Gazingo,” Menzel said in what was the funniest bit of the night.

TRIUMPH OF ‘IDA’: The black-and-white drama, a story about what happens when a woman about to take her vows as a Catholic nun finds out she’s really an Old Testament gal, won best foreign-language flick. And director Pawel Pawlikowski took home the informal category of best acceptance speech as he refused to be rushed off the stage by Oscar’s orchestra. He talked over them with a hilarious bit of extra thank-you’s, shutting the exit guides down.

SCARLETT’S TWO-FER: The talented Jewish beauty introduced the event that saved the night: Gaga singing The Sound of Music. And then there was the “if-looks-could-kill” moment earlier on the red carpet, where she all but rolled her eyes when Travolta snuck up behind her and stole a kiss.

Read more

Steven Spielberg Beats God for Oscars Thank You's

By Lior Zaltzman

If you watched the Oscar last night, you, like me, might be all “thank you”-ed out. It’s all about the “members of the academy,” God and mom and dad. Last night, a film-maker even thanked his dog.

But who ranks No. 1 in the Oscar gratitude-meter? No, it’s not HaShem, but rather, a small, bearded Jewish man, responsible for’ Jaws’ and ‘Schindler’s List’.

Yes, with more than twice as many thank you’s than God almighty, Steven Spielberg was thanked 42 times at the Oscar’s podium. Followed not so closely by another powerful Hollywood Jew, Harvey Weinstein.

God was way behind at 20, edging out Martin Scorsese with 15 and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Here’s the top 10 list:

Read more

How Lady Gaga Saved Us From Debbie Downer Oscars

By John A. Oswald

I was a little harsh on Lady Gaga when, half-joking, I accused her and Tony Bennett of mugging our dear Jewish diva Barbra Streisand at the Grammys.

Today, I am singing Gaga’s praises for turning around what had become the Debbie Downer Academy Awards with an exuberant “Sound of Music” montage celebrating the 50th anniversary of that most Jewish of Hollywood musicals.

Until that magic moment, I almost forgot the reason many Americans tune in to award shows: to be entertained. In the spirit of Jewish funny lady Rachel Dratch’s most-famous SNL character, I was pretty sure I was sitting through a four-hour political polemic.


Host Neil Patrick Harris got the ball rolling with an unfunny and unfortunate quip about the whiteness of the show’s list of nominees – a huge controversy this year.

“Whiplash” star J.K. Simmons just made me feel sad when he used Best Supporting Actor Oscar speech to tell me what I don’t need more guilt for not doing “Call your mom, call your dad. If you are lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call them …. Tell them you love them and thank them.”


Read more

Joan Rivers Snubbed at Oscars


Getty Images

(JTA) — Jewish artists and themes featured among the winners at the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood Sunday night, but the star-studded night was marred when the show overlooked the death Joan Rivers.

The evening’s “In Memoriam” segment, devoted to film industry notables who have passed away over the past year, included, among others, Israeli filmmaker Menachem Golan, director Mike Nichols, and legendary film actress Lauren Bacall. A number of writers and people on Twitter were outraged that Rivers, a perennial red-carpet favorite, was not mentioned.

The Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film went to “Ida,” a Polish film about a Catholic novitiate who learns she is the daughter of Jewish parents killed by the Nazis.

But Israel’s losing streak at the Oscars continued, as the short film “Aya,” co-written and co-directed by Mihal Brezis and Oded Binnun and starring Sarah Adler, failed to win for Best Short Film.

The director of “Ida,” Pawel Pawlikowski, whose paternal grandmother was Jewish and died in Auschwitz, was asked during a backstage interview whether he considers the Holocaust and the fate of the Jewish people one aspect of post-World War II Poland. Pawlikowski, in his response, tried to shift the emphasis.

Read more

Lena Dunham Will Guest Star on 'Scandal'

By Shelli Weinstein

“Scandal” has lined up its next big guest star. Lena Dunham has booked an appearance on the ABC drama, Variety has confirmed.

Though details of her role are being kept under wraps, Dunham is set to appear in one episode in March, and may have some involvement with Pope & Associates.

The “Girls” star has been a longtime fan of “Scandal,” and previously said that being a guest star on the show is her “life’s great passion. I want to be like, a senator who did something wrong,” she said in an interview . Dunham also took part in a “Scandal” parody during a hosting gig on “Saturday Night Live.”

Dunham is actually repped by the real-life Olivia Pope, crisis manager Judy Smith, who is the inspiration behind Kerry Washington’s character on “Scandal.” She hired Smith, along with PMK-BNC chairman and CEO Cindi Berger, earlier this year.

Entertainment Weekly first reported the news of Dunham’s guest gig.

PHOTOS: Playing and Praying in the Jerusalem Snow

By Lior Zaltzman

Jerusalem was once again blanketed in shiny snow on Friday.

From the Temple Mount to the Western Wall, neither Muslims nor Jews skipped their prayers. And children on both sides engaged in their favorite kind of fighting: snowball wars.


What’s a little bit of snow? Prayers go on as usual at the Western Wall.



Ultra orthodox boys shovel and play with the snow.



You’re never too old for a snowball fight!



Clickhole Wins the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

By Lior Zaltzman

Someone in the Clickhole (The Onion’s Buzzfeed-like equivalent) offices woke up yesterday morning with the most glorious of ideas: What better way to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than through Facebook comments?

And so, the following message was posted to social media: “Want to argue about Israel and Palestine? Have at it in the comments!”

As you know, the conflict is a subject we deal with often. And well, when people have at it on our page, they really have at it — sometimes, it ain’t so pretty. Which is maybe why fellow Jewish publication Tablet has decided to charge people to comment.

But on Clickhole, the whole experience is kind of cathartic. I’m not sure whether I should thank their expert curation or if Clickhole Facebook users are just way more more respectful (unlikely), but the whole thing makes for a real enjoyable read (with the occasional inevitable troll). My husband and I lay in bed last night with our laptop, laughing our heads off at a subject that causes so many fraught and frustrating discussions in our day-to-day life. So, thank you Clickhole, for that precious gift.

Here are some choice comments:

Read more

For Tovah Feldshuh, 'Aging is Optional'

By Masha Leon

“Happiness is a choice,” Tovah Feldshuh told me between rehearsals for her one woman world premiere show “Aging Is Optional” at 54 Below. ‘I want to grow older in linear time… to live as long as my mother Lily did.”

A Tony nominated, multiple Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle Awards, Obie Award Winner — whose professional age-transformational highlights include her award-winning portrayal of 60-ish Israel’s Prime Minister Golda Meir in the long-running Broadway blockbuster “Golda’s Balcony” and as the 16-year old Polish Catholic savior of a dozen Jews Irena Opdyke in “Irena’s Vow” — Tovah stated: “I firmly believe that aging is optional because I choose doorways that keep me young…If you can align yourself comfortably in your own skin…whatever works for you. What I do not do is create an oppositional universe for myself.”

Reflecting on the show’s content — which includes music from living legends Carole King and Stephen Schwartz [“Pippin”) she was adamant about her pronouncement that “aging is a matter of ‘choice.’” “My act presents an alternative to aging which–through comedy and jumps from one time zone to another–demonstrates how letting go, pushing the ‘delete’ button, the words you say, write [that] make you angry, all affect you. He who gets angry loses the race.”

Karen Leon
Tovah Feldshuh

“I believe that the things you do and say influence your health. Depression is related to osteoporosis. My mother peppered her life with chocolate and laughter on a daily basis and is a strong presence in the act. She dispenses words of wisdom and love like a true ‘shtarke’ [heroic one] and lived — with all her faculties until 103… My hope is to live to 104.”

Queried about her on-stage costume, Tovah changed channels: “It’s silk… made for me in the silk center of Vietnam in primary colors. The three-piece ensemble allows me to be glamorous, feel free and play men as well as women.”

Referring to her recent appearance at another event at which she greeted an all-woman assemblage with: “We’re all shrinking,” I ventured: “Have you lost height?” “Yes. I’ve lost one inch in height but I do Pilates and yoga in the hope of [regaining height].”

Feldshuh also paid homage to her physically active dad. “My father came from an Austrian family. He rode, he skied — I rode a horse [side] saddle… my father was president of the Boulder Brook Equestrian Center in Scarsdale. Dad was a litigator. I based my character in an episode in “Law & Order” on my father.

Reiterating her mantras that “connecting with people is a choice that leads to health” and “anger does not work,” she told me that following her February 19 through 21 appearance at 54 Below [254 W 54 St.] “I plan to fly to Africa to climb [Mount} Kilimanjaro to implement my philosophy of the act.”

The production is directed by Jeff Harnar with musical direction by James Bassi.

Would You Let Your Jewish Grandpa on Tinder?

By Anne Cohen

You’ve heard about Jewish moms hijacking their kids’ JDate accounts — but what about grandfathers taking one for the team on Tinder?

Jewish Youtuber Ethan Cole wasn’t having much luck with the ladies. So he asked his 89-year-old zayde, Joe, for help. The plan? The pair would create a Tinder profile using a somewhat outdated picture of Joe, who would then take the lucky women out for a night on the town. Once things got weird — as they tend to do when an old guy shows up for your date — Ethan would swoop in and save the day.

What could possibly go wrong?

[h/t Mashable]

Andi Dorfman Calls 'Bachelorette' Breakup 'Biggest Failure'

By Lior Zaltzman

Getty Images

Last month, we found out that our favorite (and only!) Jewish Bachelorette, Andi Dorfman had broken off her 8-month-long engagement with Josh Murray. Hearts were broken and our faith in true love was shattered.

Andi, it seems, was just as crushed as we were.

In an interview for ‘Chris Tells All Bachelor Special’ this past Sunday , our good Jewish Bachelorette was still decidedly broken up about her broken engagement as she tearfully recounted the juicy details.

Weeping, she told Chris: “I know this is honestly the biggest failure of my life so far.”

Read more

Behind Scenes at Fashion Week With Yigal Azrouël

By Elyssa Goodman

Fashion Week is a hurricane that sweeps through the industry. The biggest shows happen twice annually, during the Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter collections. Designers spend months creating their visions for the upcoming seasons, and in a single day, in mere hours, it’s all over: the beautifying, the catwalking, the flash of cameras and the crowds. Until next season, that is.

I recently had the pleasure documenting the Fall/Winter 2015 collection of Yigal Azrouël, an Israeli-born designer of French Moroccan and Jewish descent (who I also mentioned in my round up of Jewish designers presenting their collections this Fashion Week).

Take a look at what happens behind the scenes, just before models take off down the runway:

No improvisation here! All of the looks from the entire collection are photographed and assembled onto a board backstage. This way, people dressing the models know exactly how each outfit should be styled and in what order they should come out during the show.

Read more

Emile Hirsch Checks Into Alcohol Rehab

By Patricia Reaney

(Reuters) — Actor Emile Hirsch, star of the film “Into the Wild,” was being treated at an alcohol rehabilitation facility after he allegedly assaulted a film executive at the Sundance Film Festival last month in Utah, his lawyer said.

The actor had been drinking heavily that night and had no memory of the Jan. 25 incident, lawyer Robert Offer said in a statement on Thursday. Hirsch checked himself into an alcohol rehabilitation facility a few days later, Offer said.

Hirsch, 29, was charged on Thursday with felony aggravated assault for allegedly putting Daniele Bernfeld, Paramount Pictures’ vice president of digital entertainment, in a chokehold at the TAO Nightclub in Park City, Utah.

According to court papers filed on Thursday, Bernfeld told police Hirsch pulled her across a table and landed on top of her on the floor and wrapped his hands around her neck.

“Emile takes these allegations very seriously, and is devastated that any of this has occurred,” Offer said in the statement.

Hirsch is due to appear in court on March 16 and could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine if convicted.

He has also been charged with misdemeanor intoxication, said Ryan Stack, a prosecutor with the Summit County Attorney’s office.

Was Ruth Bader Ginsburg Tipsy for State of Union?

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

If you were watching the State of the Union this year — or following on Twitter — you may have noticed Ruth Bader Ginsberg taking a little snooze during the presidential address. During a talk at The George Washington University this week, the Supreme Court Justice explained why dozed off — and no, it wasn’t Barack Obama’s soothing voice.

“The audience for the most part is awake, because they’re bobbing up and down, and we sit there, stone-faced, sober judges. But we’re not, at least I wasn’t, 100 percent sober,” she said.

“Because before we went to the State of the Union, Justice Kennedy brought in … it was an Opus something or other, very fine California wine, and I vowed this year, just sparkling water, stay away from the wine, but in the end, the dinner was so delicious, it needed wine,” Ginsburg said.

Ladies and gentlemen, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was TIPSY. (Cue “Notorious” chant.)

Apparently, her granddaughters called her out on it after the event. “I got a call when I came home from one of my granddaughters and she said, ‘Bubbe, you were sleeping at the State of the Union,” the Blaze reports Ginsberg saying.

Long live RBG, queen of our judicial system. Bow down.

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.