The Shmooze

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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Is Roseanne Barr Making Aliyah to Israel?

By Jana Banin

(JTA) — Comedian Roseanne Barr revealed via Twitter on Wednesday she is interested in making aliyah. Here’s what went down: Barr, who currently lives on a macadamia nut farm in Hawaii with her fourth non-Jewish husband, responded to a Times of Israel story about the aliyah organization Nefesh B’Nefesh with this tweet.

Next, Nefesh B’Nefesh chimed in.

Then, according to The Times of Israel, the two parties actually did chat via direct message.

The star of the hit sitcom “Roseanne” and 2012 presidential nominee was raised by Jewish parents in Salt Lake City. While she was influenced by her Orthodox Jewish grandmother, her parents kept their religion secret from neighbors and had connections to the Mormon church. For more details on her truly fascinating, stranger-than-fiction life (alleged incest, brain injury, adoption, and more), check out Barr’s autobiography.

It has just been reported that Barr is being sued by the parents of George Zimmerman for tweeting their address, which could possibly help to put this whole aliyah thing into perspective.


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Joan Rivers Auctions Country House Furniture

By Patricia Reaney

(Reuters) — Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers is selling furniture, fine art, ceramics and other objects from her country home in Connecticut, Christie’s auction house said on Wednesday.

More than 150 items will go under the hammer during the New York sale which will be part of Christie’s interiors auction on April 1-2.

Rivers, 80, sold the house on the 760-acre country estate that also included a caretaker’s cottage last year for $4.4 million.

Highlights of the auction are expected to include a modern upholstered bed in pink linen, which could sell for up to $3,000, a pair of white-painted palm trees with a pre-sale estimate of as much as $5,000 and a collection of 15 animal horn trophies that could fetch $2,000.

“This home was filled with some of the treasure of my life,” Rivers, the 80-year-old veteran of plastic surgery who is known for her snide Oscar red carpet commentary, said in a statement announcing the sale.

Items in the auction range from very personal pieces made by her friends and top furniture makers to objects the Brooklyn-born, raspy-voiced star found while traveling for concerts.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale will be donated to charity.


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Orange is the New Black, Purim Edition

By Dan Friedman

To celebrate the release of the new Netflix series ‘Rambam is the new Rashi,’ thousands of Hasids took to the streets of Los Angeles.


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Meet the Jewish Bachelorette: Andi Dorfman

By Anne Cohen

If you haven’t been watching the latest season of “The Bachelor,” you’ve probably never heard of Andi Dorfman. That’s about to change.

The Jewish assistant district attorney from Atlanta has just been named the next Bachelorette, People Magazine reports.

Dorfman made a memorable and dramatic exit from Season 18 of “The Bachelor” when she told Bachelor Juan Pablo Galavis exactly what she thought of him after a disastrous date in the fantasy suite.

A highlight of the spat featured Dorfman calling out Juan Pablo on his ignorance about her religious beliefs. “I’ve never been with anyone who’s asked me so little about my life,” she said.

The Bachelor replied that she probably didn’t know his religion either. She shut him right down (he’s Catholic).

Other Jewish “Bachelor” moments included the Meet-the-parents episode, when Juan Pablo failed to score points with Daddy Dorfman (first name Hy).

In the “After the Rose” special broadcast after the Bachelor finale on March 10, host Chris Harrison asked Dorfman if she’s ready to find love in “The Bachelorette“‘s 10th season.

“Are you prepared to come here, find love, and make that happen?” Harrison asked. “And that’s not a guarantee, but you have to enter into it with that feeling.”

“I am. Absolutely,” Dorfman said. “I feel all in. I feel mentally all in, emotionally all in, physically all in. I am in the place in my life where I am just so ready for this. I hate to say it because I don’t want to jinx myself, and be like, ‘I’m so all in and if this doesn’t happen it’s the end of the world.’ But I am ready. I have never felt better in my life about this, and I’m just excited.”

“I think it can happen anywhere, especially on a show like this. I mean, why not?” she added. “At the end of the day, I can’t wait to hopefully say, ‘You are the one. This is a wrap.’ I can’t wait for that moment.”

Dorfman will take a professional hiatus while taping the show.

We will be watching.

Photo credit: Youtube screen shot.


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Nora Ephron's Advice Helped Lena Dunham Nab Jack Antonoff

By Anne Cohen

When you want good advice, you go to the experts. And really, who could dish out dating advice better than Nora Ephron?

In Glamour magazine’s April edition, which she covers, Lena Dunham talks about the words of wisdom that changed her dating life, courtesy of the beloved creator of “When Harry Met Sally.”

“You can’t meet someone until you’ve become who you’re becoming,” Dunham recalls her “hero” saying. Those very words. she says, led her to meet her boyfriend of two years: Jack Antonoff, of fun. and Bleachers fame.

Per the interview

“Yeah! [Before Jack] I was all tortured about whether I should get back together with this guy I’d been seeing for five months,” Dunham tells Glamour. “We’d broken up, and it felt like my only chance at romance for the rest of my life. But Nora was like, ‘No, no, no.’”

“So I broke up with him in January, ‘Girls’ debuted at the beginning of April, and then I met Jack at the end of April. The dialogue around the show already existed, so it was sort of clear to him what the baggage of dating me was going to be.”

“I remember talking with him on our first date and him being like, ‘God, all the articles about your nudity on the show are such bullshit,’” she continues. “It’s funny, ’cause in some ways that’s the conversation we still have when I’m upset [about stuff I read].”

The April issue of Glamour hits newstands on March 18. For a sneak peek at Lena’s thoughts about the universe, click here.


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Rabbi Shmuley Boteach to Honor Sean Penn

By Jana Banin

(JTA) — Who needs another Oscar when you’re about to be crowned the 2014 Champion of Jewish Justice? Not to put words in his mouth or anything, but we’ll bet that was what two-time Academy Award winner Sean Penn was saying to his girlfriend Charlize Theron as soon as they stopped “making out like crazy“ at Madonna’s Oscars after-party.

Okay, so maybe we’d lose that bet, but for reals, Penn is set to receive the honor at This World: The Values Network’s annual dinner in May. The organization is helmed by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who singled Penn out for his above-and-beyond efforts to help free Jacob Ostreicher, an Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn imprisoned in Bolivia.

“One of the highest Jewish values is to rescue a person from imprisonment,” Boteach told 6NoBacon.

While the former rabbi to Michael Jackson admits to disagreeing with the left-leaning Penn on most issues, he was amazed by the actor’s commitment to the Ostreicher case. “You never judge a man by his views, you judge him by his actions,” he said.

Ostreicher was in Bolivia in 2011 working on a rice-growing venture he’d invested in when he was arrested on suspicion of money laundering. He was also accused of doing business with drug traffickers. No proof was ever provided in court. The father of five was held in what has been described as a squalid, inhumane prison for 18 months before being placed under house arrest. According to The New York Times, Penn had a hand in the transfer.

Penn’s involvement in the case made headlines in May, when he spoke at a congressional hearing intended to pressure Bolivia to release Ostreicher. In December, Ostreicher finally escaped, thanks to what Penn called a “humanitarian operation” that moved Ostreicher across the border into Peru. Penn, who was reportedly part of the operation, remained by Ostreicher’s side upon his return to the U.S.

“Penn had no obligation to risk his life for Ostreicher,” said Boteach. “I’d like to think he was moved by the simplest of reasons – to save another human being in need.”

No word on whether the rights to this truly remarkable story have been optioned for the big screen, but it sounds like the stuff of a great thriller. Or a buddy comedy about a spunky rabbi and a surly actor who, against all odds, find some common ground. Oscar material, for sure.


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3 Love Stories From Jewish Home's 'Over 80' Gala

By Masha Leon

The March 5 inaugural Jewish Home Lifecare “Eight Over Eighty: Celebrating Eight Remarkable Lives” Gala honored octogenarians who proved that life can be a hoot at any age.

In an filmed interview, Klara and Larry Silverstein, president and CEO Silverstein Properties, Inc, revisited their meeting-to-marriage saga. In 1951, Larry got a job at a camp working in a kitchen “which left me with dishpan hands” where Klara was his demanding and “fastidious” boss. An invitation to her parents’ home followed and, said Larry, “It’s 2014 and she’s still my boss.”

His afterthought: “Her father’s attitude was: ‘No chupah, no shtuppa’” had a good sport Klara whisper ‘I hope this will not be in the film. ” After a nanosecond of stunned silence, the 500 guests at the Mandarin exploded with laughter.

President and CEO of Jewish Home Lifecare, Audrey Weiner, said, “Most of us want to age like New Yorkers…. There is not one among us who wants to live in a nursing home. So on West 97th Street, we will open the 20-story Living Center of Manhattan that will revolutionize how we care for those who need our services…We will care for all New Yorkers… whatever they believe and whomever they love…. By 2030 here in New York City there will be more people over the age of 65 than children in kindergarten — one in five New Yorkers.

Karen Leon

Also honored: Dominic Chianese (whose film credits include “The Godfather: Part II” and “The Sopranos”). A Bronx H. S. of Science alum, he has been performing at nursing homes for more than 30 years. Guitar in hand, Chianese led the guests in a sing-along of the 1926 hit “Heart of My Heart.”

Emily and 95-year old Eugene Grant president of Eugene M. Grant & Co., a real estate investment firm (who still plays a mean classical piano), recalled their meeting at a skiing resort in Quebec, Canada. She was 21, playing a Schumann piano concerto. “He thought I was a nice little French girl and spoke to me in French. He sent a bottle of wine to my table.” He said, “[this] led to my proposing to her 48 hours after we met.” Emily, a chair emeritus of Purchase College (and other impressive credentials) added: “It’s still a work in progress.”

Also honored were five foot tall feisty Edith Windsor who recalled her “love story” with Thea Spyer whom she met in Greenwich Village in 1963. Once a UNIVAC maven who did groundbreaking work at IBM programming languages and operating systems, she changed the course of American history by challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the Supreme Court — and won. Completing the honoree roster: Joan Wachtler, a trustee of Jewish Home Lifecare, and Richard Eisner, Founding Partner and Managing Partner of Eisner LLP.

Tobi Kahn a painter and sculptor, created eight one-of-a-kind wooden figures to be installed at the Living Center in Manhattan with miniature replicas for each of the 8 honorees.


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'Girls' Goes Biblical on SNL

By Anne Cohen

“Son of God,” “Noah,” and now “Girls” — 2014 is the year of the Bible movie.

Lena Dunham nailed her ‘Saturday Night Live’ hosting debut with a parody of her hit HBO series, proving that the travails and tribulations of the average twentish-year-old woman are as old as time itself. “Girls: The Bible Movie” trades in the coffeeshops of Greenpoint for the Garden of Eden, with Adam Driver and Dunham’s character Hannah Horvath as Adam and Eve.

And just like in “Girls,” everyone’s naked.

How do unlabeled relationships fare in a land of talking snakes and forbidden fruit? See for yourself:


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A Jew at Buckingham Palace

By Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — They are trained to uphold the strictest protocol, which includes standing motionless and expressionless at attention outside Buckingham Palace in London.

But that training was no match for an American Jewish tourist who made a Royal Guard soldier crack up, and then captured it on film.

The video documenting the man identified as Yankel’s feat surfaced recently online, and though attempts to reach Yankel and ascertain his identity and the date of filming have not immediately succeeded, the film pretty much speaks for itself. Yankel, who appears, judging by his black kippah, black suit, tzitzit and white shirt, to be Orthodox, begins his offensive on British decorum by standing next to the soldier and telling his friends’ camera: “We were together in school, me and him. He went his own way.”

The soldier remains frozen as Yankel elaborates on their 30-year-long friendship, which he says has endured despite some basic differences of character. “I remember in school, he used to sit by himself and read books. I was just this guy fooling around and having fun,” Yankel says. The soldier begins to crack 60 seconds into Yankel’s routine, when Yankel recalls how the soldier’s mother would pick him up from school until he was 20.

Read more


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