The Shmooze

9 Jewish Things To Watch If You're Snowed In

By Anne Cohen

If you’re on the East Coast right now, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re hunkered down with a fridge full of food and a couple of extra blankets. So, what better time to catch up on all those shows and movies you’ve been meaning to see?

Here are a couple of our more Jewish suggestions:

1) The Honourable Woman

This 8-part mini-series/Middle East thriller won Maggie Gyllenhaal a Golden Globe this year. Gyllenhaal plays Nessa Stein, an Anglo-Israeli businesswoman, hiding a dark secret.

Available on Netflix

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Natalie Portman Attends First Dior Couture Show

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

It may come as a surprise that Natalie Portman, face of Miss Dior, has never actually attended a Dior show.

And yet, sitting in the front row at yesterday’s Haute Couture show held at the Musee Rodin in Paris, she reportedly gushed: “I’ve never been to a couture show,” she said. “This is my first time. I’m super, super excited.”


But as The New York Times points out, Portman’s attendance is actually somewhat significant. In 2011, when John Galliano – then Dior’s creative director – made his infamous anti-Semitic rant in a Paris cafe, the actress was one of the first to condemn him.

“In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way,” the face of the fashion house’s Miss Cherie Dior wrote at the time. “I hope at the very least, these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful.”

Galliano’s replacement, Raf Simons, has apparently been working hard to redeem the brand. Natalie is still under contract.

The Oscar-winner celebrated her big day dressed head to toe in black Dior (natch), but her best accessory was hubby and new director of the Paris Opera Ballet, Benjamin Millepied.

Steven Spielberg Warns of Hatred 'Demons' on Rise

By Wojciech Zurawski and Wiktor Szary

(Reuters) — Hollywood director Steven Spielberg said on Monday he hoped that the Holocaust commemorations taking place in Poland on Tuesday will be a warning for future generations, in light of a rising tide of anti-Semitism and intolerance against Jews.

Spielberg was talking to Holocaust survivors in the southern Polish city of Krakow, ahead of the main event marking 70 years since Soviet troops liberated the Nazi German Auschwitz death camp.

“If you are a Jew today, in fact if you are any person who believes in the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom in free expression, you know that like many other groups, we are once again facing the perennial demons of intolerance,” the Oscar-winning filmmaker said.

The director won an Academy Award for Best Director for “Schindler’s List,” his 1993 movie about a German who saved more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, warned of spreading anti-Semitism.

getty images

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What My Jewish Mom Thinks About Deflate-Gate

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Most Jewish boys just call their moms. Josh Seftel turned his chats into a web series.

Every week, the New York filmmaker Facetimes his mom in Sarasota, Florida. After covering the basics, the conversation always segways into to Pat’s favorite subject: celebrity gossip. Over the past year, they’ve tackled some of the great questions of our time: Is it morally kosher to eat Paula Deen’s fried chicken? Is Denzel Washington aging well? Will Lena Dunham’s tattoos prevent her from getting a Jewish burial?

This week was no exception: the shocking(?) revelation that 11 of the 12 balls used during the New England Patriots’ win against the Indianapolis Colts were under-inflated by 2 pounds — leading to the inevitable “Tom Brady’s deflated balls” jokes — just screamed for a Jewish mother’s perspective.

Watch Pat Seftel weigh in on the Patriots, deflate-gate and why she would definitely date Tom Brady:

I.B. Singer's Wife Alma Dishes About His Women

By Masha Leon

After a screening of “The Muses of Isaac Bashevis Singer,” I replied to a chutzpedik questioner: “Isaac never hit on me!” A frequent visitor in the 1930s to my parents’ Leszno 6 one-room home in Warsaw when I was toddler, I reconnected with him in New York in the 1960s when he and my father were both Forverts contributors.

In 1973, when the Jewish studies Department of Queens College offered “The Novels of I .B. Singer With The Author Present,” I was in that SRO classroom. We read a novel a week. In an attempt to impress Singer, students parsed his characters through Freudian/Jungian filters. Sitting in a chair, facing the awe struck class, Singer shrugged: “I create a karakter un der karakter does vat der karakter vants.” Apropos his heroes’ romantic appetites and roamings, he said: “A man can have as many liaisons [and illegitimate] children as he wants–but not so a woman!”

After his Nobel Prize for Literature brouhaha in 1978, I told his wife Alma — who spoke no Yiddish who with Singer had been dinner guests at our home–that she, too, deserved a moment in the spotlight. Isaac was out when we schmoozed at their 86th Street apartment where her daughter Inga, from her first marriage, served me babka.

Masha Leon with Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1973 // Photo credit: Joseph Leon

“How do you feel about all the women who come onto him?” I ventured. “Thank God, now it’s mostly platonic,” she replied. The conversation covered stories that would have been grist for a Yiddish“Page 6.” Alma spoke of her supporting Singer after she left her first husband and two children for the skinny poor Yiddish writer. “Does he take your advice?” I asked. “And how!” “Do you act as his buffer?” Alma sighed: “He does not let me through, but I feel he absolutely overdoes it with interviews.”

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Miss Israel Speaks Out on Selfie-gate!

By Haaretz

Miss Israel Doron Matalon, who took a controversial selfie with fellow 2015 Miss Universe contestant Saly Greige of Lebanon, has responded to the controversy by saying that she hopes something good will come of it.

“You know, I really want to make a difference,” responded Matalon to a question from a Hollywood Access TV reporter about how she handled the situation. “I want people to talk about it… I’m just happy that I’m here, and I’m sure [Miss Lebanon] is happy here… to be together in this situation, a once-in-a-lifetime [opportunity].”

The reporter, for one, thought Miss Israel’s reaction to the controversy - which even garnered Jon Stewart’s satirical award for ‘most upsetting Mideast picture’ - was “handled beautifully.”

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Bacon Scratch-and-Sniff Lottery Tickets Are Here!

By Anne Cohen


What’s better than winning $1,000? Winning $1,000 while smelling bacon.

At least, that’s what New Hampshire wants you to think.

According to The New York Post, the state lottery has launched a special “scratch and sniff ‘I Heart Bacon’ ticket” this month.

Players “will think it’s time for Saturday morning breakfast,” Lottery Commission Executive Director Charlie McIntyre told the Post.

So basically, not only does New Hampshire want you to smell bacon — they want you to smell it on Shabbat?!

That’s not the end of it — to promote the product, the New Hampshire Lottery has announced a “bacon truck” that will drive around offering free applewood bacon samples, filling the air with more pork products.

Ok treyf, you win — this time.

6 Things Barack Would Rather Do Than Meet Bibi

By Dave Goldiner

It’s no secret that Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu don’t like each other. Not one little bit.

So leaving aside the political and diplomatic drama of the Israeli Prime Minister’s speech to Congress (you know, the one they somehow forgot to mention to the White House), the president will have a few hours of time on his hands some day whenever Bibi finally comes to town.

We’re guessing there are so many things Obama would much rather be do than sit for yet another smile-pasted-on photo op with Netanyahu. Here’s our six top suggestions.

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Barbra Streisand is #1 at Everything

By Tamara Palmer

We’ve always known that our Barbra is the greatest; so great that we don’t even need to use her last name. But did you know that she is literally number one at everything?

This week, Columbia Records sent out a press release announcing that her latest album “Partners,” which was released in September, has been certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for sales in excess of one million copies. This is her 31st album to reach such sales heights — a number no other woman in recording history has achieved. And there’s much elaboration about her top achievements:

“Ms. Streisand is the female artist with the most number one albums in Billboard’s history. She is also the best-selling female recording artist in history, with over 72 million albums sold. Ms. Streisand is the only female to make the All-Time Top 10 Best Selling Artists list, an honor which includes fellow duet “Partners” Elvis Presley and Billy Joel. She also has the longest span of number one albums in history; just under 50 years… Partners is her 33rd album to make it into the Top 10 on the US charts. Ms. Streisand is the only female artist to have achieved this milestone, tying her with Frank Sinatra.”

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PHOTOS: Capturing a 1970s Borscht Belt Singles' Weekend

By Elyssa Goodman

Rani Stevens Goodman

Born and raised in New York, my mother, Rani Stevens Goodman, grew up going to the Catskill Mountains every weekend from the time she was still in the womb until her mid-twenties.

For the uninitiated, The Catskills, which include Sullivan, Orange, and Ulster Counties in upstate New York, was once known as The Borscht Belt, the Jewish Alps or the Sour Cream Sierras for its many Jewish-owned hotels and their mostly Jewish clientele.

Though she went up every weekend in the summer, one particular weekend in 1970 coincidentally involved a Singles’ Weekend at her hotel, The Concord in Kiamesha Lake, New York. Ever the shutter-bug, she snapped photographs at the hotel pool. Here’s what she had to say about them:

What’s happening in these pictures?
These were taken during a singles’ weekend at the Concord Hotel in Sullivan County, New York. Kiamesha Lake, actually. I wasn’t there for the singles’ weekend; I went up every weekend after work on Friday afternoons. Being that I was always together with my trusty camera, and noting the quantity of people in the pool, I decided to get closer.

Rani Stevens Goodman

What did you do when you found out it was a singles’ weekend?
I hid [laughs]. When I got to the pool I said, ‘Where are all these people coming from? What is going on?’ Someone said, ‘Oh, it’s Singles’ Weekend!’ I said, ‘Oh, God help me.’ I was on my usual lounge chair; I had it every weekend because I enjoyed the sun and relaxing and reading.That weekend I was — how would you say — approached more often than usual. [laughs]. They wanted to know where I was sitting, at what table, could they join me for dinner, etc Actually, there was one young fellow working there who was better looking than all of them. The others were a little bit…older than I was. They were obviously there because they needed to be!

Rani Stevens Goodman

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Michelle Obama Wore Jewish Designer Michael Kors at SOTU

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

The internet fairly exploded over Michelle Obama’s smokin’ outfit at last night’s State of the Union address. FLOTUS wore a grey blazer/skirt combo by Jewish designer Michael Kors (his mother was model Joan Kors), repping American fashion and the Tribe in one fell swoop.

Fans of the outfit couldn’t help but notice that Julianna Margulies’ (another MOT) character had worn the exact same oufit on “The Good Wife.” Obama/Florrick 2016, anyone?

Mina Bern (And Her Chicken Soup) Celebrated

By Masha Leon

When Eleanor Reissa — performer, director and co-organizer of the January 11th Tribute to Yiddish theater diva Mina Bern —  asked me to participate in “A Celebration of Her Life On Her 5th Yahrzeit” at The Center for Jewish History, I was thrilled. Mina, whose over-the top performances I had reviewed for decades, was the closest I had to a mume (aunt).

Emceed by Kultur Kongres/Congress of Jewish Culture executive director Shane Baker— the event’s driving force — it was an upbeat, heartwarming, laughter-eliciting event with performers —  many of whom credited Mina’s chicken soup as a panacea which solved whatever ailed you —  that included Reissa, Shira Flam, Lori Wilner, Joanne Borts,(who just completed her stint with Broadway hit “Once”), Steve Sterner, Yelena Shmulenson, Robert Abelson,and Allen Lewis Rickman dapper in the bespoke brown tweed suit fashioned by master tailor and Holocaust survivor Martin Greenfield for his character in HBO’s ”Boardwalk Empire.”

As an exemplar of Mina’s mind-over-body divaship, I cited the December 2007 Folksbiene Gala at which Mina began to complain: “ikh feel zikh nit gut” (I don’t feel well. I must go home!). An inspired Folksbiene Board chairman Jeff Wiesenfeld mounted the stage and announced: “We are honored to have the grand lady of Yiddish theater Mina Bern in the audience!” A miraculously revived Mina stood up with arms raised overhead and bowed to the four corners of the room luxuriating in the adulation. She stayed to the end.

Karen Leon
Shane Baker holds up a Mina Bern puppet.

During an interview with Mina, in 1988, she revealed little-known chapters of her survival saga. After Poland, Russia, and Teheran in 1942 — during the General Anders Polish Government in Exile Amnesty she said “they sent me to Nairobi, Uganda to the Buenoro forest to create a colony — grobn di erd (dig up the earth) grow things for the English, Polish and Ugandan people… We were twenty people in a little straw hut, I — -a young woman with an infant in a vilder velt (wild world). Every night the natives would burn the huts and we were left without a stroyanem dakh ibern kop (a straw roof over our heads). My little baby Renia would scream and have nightmares! One day the Polish consul from Nairobi came and chose my [theatre] group to perform, to represent Polish kunst (art) to British government officials. We went by train and along the route were met by Jewish women at the stations who would give us food and drink. A refugee woman like m gave me a job at a ladies store. I spoke no English but knew some Swahili.”

After Nairobi she went to British Mandate Palestine where “I helped create a Yiddish theater. I stayed for four years and became a star. They called me Carmen Miranda. During the 1948 war I served in the army… used to go by jeep to all the mishlatim to sing for the soldiers. I came to one place where a young soldier asked me to sing “Mayn Yiddishe Mame” — the next morning he was killed.”

In her final year Mina would call me weekly and leave me farklempt with her plea “Mashinke, when are you coming to see me? I love you.” I taped those calls — but have yet to replay them.

The event was co-sponsored by the American Jewish Historical Society, which cheerfully provided the space.

How Ruth Bader Ginsburg Stole SOTU Show

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

So, you may have heard that the President gave an important speech last night. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first — let’s talk about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s mad style chops.

The Supreme Court Justice, rocked a beaded Egyptian-style style collar, and BLACK. FISHNET. GLOVES. as she gave President Obama a hug. Come to Ruthie…

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Israeli Busted For Hacking Madonna's Computer

By Maayan Lubell

Getty Images

(Reuters) — An Israeli man was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of hacking Madonna’s computer and selling the pop icon’s songs online, a private investigator involved in the case said.

Israeli police confirmed they had detained a man suspected of stealing the work of a number of international stars, but declined to name any of the possible victims.

In December, unfinished tracks were leaked from Madonna’s “Rebel Heart” album before its release, an act the singer described as “artistic rape” in a post, later deleted, from her Instagram account.

Asher Wizman, owner of the Wizman-Yaar investigation firm in Israel, said Madonna’s team contacted his company several weeks ago to look into the matter after rumors of an Israeli connection to the leak.

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What If Miss Israel Photobombed Others?

By Lior Zaltzman

Miss Israel, Doron Matalon, made headlines this week after allegedly photobombing a selfie Miss Lebanon was taking with Miss Slovenia and Miss Japan and posting it on her own Instagram feed. In doing so, she may have tapped into a new peace-brokering technique. So, what if she did it to others?

To test the theory, we imagined Doron into other situations in dire need of her conflict resolution skills.

One thing Bibi and Obama can definitely agree on.

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Jon Stewart Takes on Miss Israel's Photobomb

By Lior Zaltzman

Once again, Jon Stewart showed us that he can take on anything, even the Miss Universe pageant, in a hilarious segment called “War of the Poses”.

The late-night comic opened his second segment in the show by talking about the other images that have been shaking the world. The images of Muhammad that caused the terrible events in France. The image of the march which upset some: “An ultra-orthodox newspaper “as God commanded” used photoshop to rid the event of women.”

Which brings Stewart to the segment, which he also dubs “What’s Upsetting the Middle East This Week?”

“Is it an Isis beheading?” Jon proposes, “Ayatollah on the toilet? Ankle porn? What?”

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Pamela Adlon Gets Her Own Pilot, Directed By Louis C.K.

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

“Louie” wouldn’t be “Louie” without Pamela Adlon.

Which is why I’m thrilled by the news that the comedian is getting her own pilot. FX has picked up “Better Things,” a comedy created by and starring Adlon and directed by Louis C.K.

The Hollywood Reporter describes the show as the tale of “Sam, a working actor trying to earn a living, navigate her three daughters’ lives, having fun with a friend or two, and also — just maybe — squeezing in some sex once in a while. Her life is funny to watch, but you wouldn’t want to live it (except sometimes).”

Adlon (nee Segall — her father, Donald “Don” Maxwell Segall, was a TV comedy writer and producer) has been the secret ingredient in other people’s shows for far too long (see “King of the Hill,” “Californication” and yes, “Louie”). It’s high time she got her own chance to shine.

Mazel tov!

6 Things You Didn't Know About Miss Israel Doron Matalon

By Lior Zaltzman

Photo Credit: Doron Matalon Instagram

Miss Universe’s Miss Israel made some internet waves this weekend when she allegedly jumped into Miss Lebanon’s selfie. Who knew that a photobomb could be a political statement?

21-year-old Doron Matalon will be competing in the Miss Universe pageant on January 25 in Miami. And so, in anticipation, we’ve compiled a little list of things you may not know about Miss Israel 2014:

1) Doron Matalon is from Beit Aryeh, an Israeli settlement in the Northern West Bank. Her father works for IBM and her mother is a pre-school teacher. She has one older brother who is an IDF officer.

2) This isn’t Doron Matalon’s first time taking a political stand (figuratively and literally!). Back in 2011, she was called a “prostitute” and “shikshe” when she refused to sit in the back of gender-segregated bus in Jerusalem. The ultra-orthodox man who yelled at her, Moshe Fuchs, was later convicted of sexual harassment.

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A History of the Holocaust — With Lego

By Anne Cohen

John Denno

One John Denno, of Liverpool U.K., was given a pretty standard high school history assignment: to illustrate the events of the Holocaust.

Denno took the project to the next level. Instead of drawing the usual stick figure Hitler or putting together a run-of-the-mill bristol board poster (ah, good times), he used pieces from his massive collection to build a Lego Holocaust timeline.

Denno starts out his visual narrative in January 1933 (“Adolf Hitler is appointed Chancellor of Germany”) and ends in April 1945 (“Hitler commits suicide”). Though he used mostly standard bricks and figures, he also had to improvise when necessary. According to Pixable, Stalin was “a combination of Chancellor Palpatine, Uncle Vernon from Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker.”

But laugh-factor aside, Denno seems to have learned a valuable lesson through this effort. “The biggest thing I realized about the Holocaust through making this project is just how long the persecution went on. From 1933 Jews slowly lost all their rights until they were being murdered in their thousands,” he told Pixable.

Not bad for a class assignment.

Check out some of Denno’s constructions here:

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JDate Hooks You Up With Your Old Camp Flame

By Elicia Brown

Kurt Hoffman

(JTA) — Beth and Jeff Kopin are one of an estimated 700 married couples to have met at one of the Conservative movement’s Ramah camps.

The Kopins, who fell in love at Ramah Wisconsin in the 1970s, went on to raise a flock of “Ramahniks.”

“There’s this family feeling if you meet another Ramahnik,” says Beth Kopin, who calls herself a “Ramah lifer” and splits her time between Chicago and Jerusalem.

“There’s the communal experience of Shabbat singing, of keeping kosher, of being in a Hebrew musical, of exploring Israel together. It’s being part of a smaller tribe within a larger tribe.”

That’s why Kopin, along with some other Ramah alumni, urged the North American camp network to start a dating service for its alumni.

The service, called RamahDate, is expected to launch this year and is being created in partnership with JDate, the for-profit online dating site. Believed to be the first Jewish camp-specific dating service, RamahDate will cater exclusively to Ramah alumni. The camp estimates that as many as 10,000 of its former campers are single and under 40.

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