The Shmooze

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.


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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.


6 Valentine's Day Tips From Dr. Ruth

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Saturday is Valentine’s Day. For couples, this means chocolates, birds chirping “La Vie en Rose” and an explosion of heart-shaped confetti. If you’re single, it means burrowing under your covers with Netflix and a bottle of wine, waiting for February 15 to roll around.

Whatever category you fall under, our favorite octogenarian sex therapist — Dr. Ruth Westheimer — has some advice on how to make the most of this most wonderful/awful of holidays.

For the person planning “Singles’ Awareness Day.”


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A Chat With the Writers/Directors of 'Gett'

By Masha Leon

I don’t recall ever feeling as angry as I was after seeing “The Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,” the blistering gut-wrenching must-see film by writer/directors Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz.

Warmly ensconced at The Regency Hotel during one of New York’s recent snow-ins, the Elkabetz siblings alternated in answering my questions about the film’s heroine Viviane’s (Ronit ) attempt to divorce her husband Elisha (Simon Abkarian) following a 20-year untenable and loveless marriage. Not sure who angered me more: the rakhnomes-lacking didactic religious judges in the claustrophobic courtroom or the neighbors and relatives who, in Rashomon style, proffer their spin on the couple’s marriage that should long ago have been aborted.

“There are over 450,000 still open cases in Israel – some wait for twenty years to be adjudicated,” Shlomi told me. “It covers the full spectrum – every woman in Israel, secular or Orthodox, has to go through it if married and registered in Israel… There is a sense of God is punishing mei… Women are treated like property.” Commenting on the image of the Israeli woman as modern, a kibbutznik, soldier, bikini-clad beach lounger? Shlomi said, “When it comes to divorce there seems to be a democratic mantra – a gett is a gett.”

“The idea was mine,” volunteered Ronit. “I wanted to understand, to research…. it disturbed me. We had an idea to follow this woman’s life through different stages between herself and the state (Israel). But the woman’s place in this community is to submit…not show her hair, be modest.” Watching the film’s years-long delay after delay without a verdict, I flashed back to the film “Shawshank Redemption” in which, like Vivian, Morgan Freeman is asked year after year if he has repented yet and, irrespective of his reply, is denied parole.

I asked actor/director/writer Ronit – whom I first met in the delightful Israeli film “The Band Visit” – about her change of wardrobe when toward the film’s end– after years and years of soul numbing denials by rabbi-judges – the black-clad Viviane appears in court sporting a blood red shawl and flaunting her below-waist long loose hair. The film’s stark courtroom, Ronit told me, was actually much nicer than those it was modeled after. “She had no more energy,” said Ronit. “The red clothing revitalized her, woke her up. But she did not know that on that day she would be accused of being unfaithful. Caught between two rabbis she forgets herself…. it was not a provocation! Gett denied!”

“The reactions are different from age to age,” said Shlomi. “For young people it’s an occasion for rethinking about marriage …and a gett…. The Rabbinic court is so strong and political, but,” he told me: “Three hundred rabbis will be watching the film…the first time in Israeli history [they will] discuss the issues. It’s extraordinary.”

A winner of more than seven 2014 film festival awards – and most recently a selection at the New York Jewish Film Festival– “Gett” opens on February 13 at Lincoln Plaza Cinema and other area theatres. Go! Applaud Ronit, tsk, tsk the judges and hiss her husband.


7 Quotes That Should Be in the New Joan Rivers Memoir

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Joan Rivers fans who can’t afford her $28 million apartment will soon have another way to catch up with the late comedian.

AP reports that her daughter, Melissa, is writing a memoir.

“The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation” is set for publication on May 5 by Crown Archetype, a subset of Penguin. According to The Huffington Post, the book “will feature jokes, stories and advice.”

In that spirit, let’s revisit some of Joan Rivers’ pearls of wisdom:

On pets: “Don’t make friends with your dogs. The sons of bitches will literally die ahead of you and cause you grief!” (Hollywood Reporter, 2013)

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Jon Stewart's 18 Most Jewish Moments

By Hilary Saunders

Jon Stewart announced last night that after 16 years, he will be leaving Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. Born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, the news host/comedian has always infused a bit of Judaism into his satire. From the scathing to the self-deprecating, from the educational to the historical, Stewart has managed to reference his people in ways that make fellow Jews knowingly laugh with him, without ostracizing others. So in honor of Stewart’s storied career and his continued success in life, we’ve found 18 hilarious instances he honored, teased, and stood up for our people. L’chaim, Jon. L’chaim.

1) November 2, 2006 – Borat Sagdiyev


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#OyDate - A Comic about Dating Misadventures

By Lior Zaltzman

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we’re launching a new comics series about Jewish dating misadventures! Let’s celebrate our dating fails!

Do you have your own horrific or hilarious stories about Jewish online (or offline dating)? Tweet us a story with #OYDATE to @jdforward. Or e-mail your stories to zaltzman@forward.com with the title OYDATE - for anonymity.


Urban Outfitters Sells Holocaust-Inspired Item — Again

By JTA

The Anti-Defamation League has urged Urban Outfitters to stop selling a tapestry with a design resembling the uniform that gay male prisoners were forced to wear in Nazi concentration camps.

The ADL complained about the “insensitive” design of the tapestry, which features pink triangles over a gray and white pattern, in a letter to Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne.

“Whether intentional or not, this gray and white stripped pattern and pink triangle combination is deeply offensive and should not be mainstreamed into popular culture,” the ADL’s national president, Abraham Foxman, said in a news release Monday.

Prisoners in Nazi camps were forced to wear uniforms with inverted triangles of different colors. A pink triangle indicated that the prisoner was homosexual.

Urban Outfitters has faced previous criticism from Jewish groups. In 2012, the retailer sold a T-shirt with a six-pointed star that resembled the Star of David patch worn by Jews in Nazi Germany. In 2008, the company sold a T-shirt with a picture of a Palestinian boy holding a machine gun between the words “Fresh Jive Victimized.”


You Never Would Have Failed Hebrew School With This Teacher

By Avi Bass

You’ve never heard the Aleph Bet like this. A new music video released by Israeli artist Victoria Hanna flies through the sounds of the Hebrew alphabet with an energy you couldn’t imagine as your mom drove you to Hebrew school on Sunday mornings.

Hanna performs the various sounds in a rhythmic chant, dressed as a school teacher in front of a mesmerized class of girls. But then the video explodes into the alphabetic acrostic prayer of “hoshana”, traditionally recited in synagogues on Sukkot.

Victoria Hanna is the daughter of an ultra-Orthodox rabbi, and has performed with Bobby McFerrin and the Israeli group Balkan Beat Box.


Joan Rivers 'Haunted' Pad on Market for $28M

By Anne Cohen

Corcoran Group

Got a cool $28 million to spare? You could be living in Joan River’s swanky apartment, complete with four-bedrooms, 4¹/₂-bathrooms, five fireplaces and a 23-foot-high sky-blue ceiling. And, oh yeah, the ghost of J.P. Morgan’s niece.

Yes, you read right. the late comedian was so convinced that her apartment was haunted that she brought in Sallie Ann Glassman, a Jewish voodoo priestess from New Orleans, to exorcise the spirit.

“It was just very strange,” Rivers told “Celebrity Ghost Stories” in a 2009 episode. “The apartment was cold. I could never get any of my electrical things to work correctly.”

When she complained to the doorman, he said: “I guess Mrs. Spencer is back.”

The 5,000 square-foot penthouse occupies the top three floors of a seven-story Gilded Age mansion at 1 East 62nd Street. Built in 1903) by John Drexel, the house was converted into condos in the 1930s. Rivers purchased the apartment in 1988.

If gold ceilings and gaudy crystal chandeliers are your thing, then this place is definitely for you. “It’s what Marie Antoinette would have done if she had money,” Rivers once joked. The Louis XIV-inspired ballroom has hosted the likes of Nancy Reagan, Steve Forbes, Martha Stewart and Regis Philbin.

Check out the pictures below:



10 Jewish Designers to Know at New York Fashion Week

By Elyssa Goodman

This week, fashionistas will flutter through Lincoln Center, Soho, and Chelsea to see what designers have in mind for their Fall/Winter 2015 collections at New York Fashion Week, beginning on Thursday, February 12 and ending next Thursday, February 19. What you may not know, though, is that some of the hottest emerging and established designers are also members of the tribe! Take a look below to learn more about some great Jewish voices in fashion design today.

Rachel Antonoff

Rachel Antonoff began her line in Spring 2009, but since then has established a cult-like following with today’s “it girls,” like Alexa Chung and Aubrey Plaza, the latter of whom was the model for her Spring 2014 collection look book. Antonoff’s designs are feminine and vintage-inspired, with sprightly patterns and soft shapes.


Yigal Azrouel

Azrouel, who launched his line in 1998, has been participating in New York Fashion Week since 2000. He was born in Israel, of French-Moroccan Jewish descent. Azrouel is known for “an effortless tough-chic style,” which includes draping and structural details. He regularly donates to charities like UJA-Federation of New York and JFS Heart and Soul, among others.


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The Hidden Gem in Matisyahu's Medium Essay

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Sex, drugs, rock and roll — and ultra-Orthodox Judaism. What else could you expect from an essay written by Matisyahu?

“Akeda, the Binding and Unbinding…the Long Walk Back,” published in Medium, tells the moving tale of the formerly Hasidic singer/songwriter’s journey to overcome substance abuse, his religious struggle, his Bob Marley obsession, and more.

But the best line in the entire text comes when he tries to describe a niggun, or Hasidic melody, in layman’s terms.

I was dedicating myself to the cause. I moved to Crown Heights and gave up on the world. Happiness would need to come from within. I prayed and studied and prayed and studied and mikva’d and drank vodka, and ate chicken and drank vodka and sang niggunim (Chassidic melodies that sound similar to the scene in Star Wars when the bad guy’s ship is arriving). I wore the uniform (black and white just like the ideology). I believed there was something wrong with me that needed to be eradicated. That wrongness inside could be purified if I just tried hard enough.

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Babs Was Robbed — and Other Jewish Lessons From the Grammys

By John A. Oswald

Babs was robbed. The Bee Gees got short shrift. But at least the late Joan Rivers and Beck got their due (when Sam Smith wasn’t scooping up everything else.)

It was a mixed bag for Jewish artists at this year’s Grammys, which we almost had to shut off, what with host LLCoolJ constantly yelling into the camera and then the geriatric ACDC screeching something or other.

But there was one Jewish geriatric we all can be proud of, Jew and non-Jew: septuagenarian Ken Ehrlich, the Grammy telecast’s longtime executive producer who recently was honored with 2,541st star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Ehrlich was the driving force for the show’s dramatic and somewhat downbeat – but necessary – foray into the domestic violence issue, which in the past year has become a matter of national conversation after several high-profile case involving NFL players.

He was the one who picked up the phone to call Texas domestic violence survivor-turned-activist Brooke Axtell and ask her to marry her story and her gut-wrenching road away from her abuser with Katy Perry’s spot-on performance of “By the Grace of God.”

Add in a message from President Obama asking American’s to join a White House effort to keep the abuse fight on the front burner and you pretty much had some history unfolding.

“Join our campaign to stop this violence. Go to itsonus.org, and take the pledge. And to the artists and the Grammys tonight, I ask you to ask your fans to do it, too. It’s on us, all of us, to create a culture where violence isn’t tolerated, where survivors are supported and where all our young people, men and women, can go as far as their talents and their dreams will take them,” said in a video message.

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Sarah Jessica Parker Returns to HBO for 'Divorce'

By Elizabeth Wagmeister

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

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

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

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

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Ziggy Gruber — A 'Deli Man' for All Seasonings

By Masha Leon

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

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

Karen Leon
Ziggy Gruber and Masha Leon

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

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

By Gabe Friedman

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


Radio Host Calls Jon Stewart 'Nazi' for Backing Vaccination

By Anne Cohen

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

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

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

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

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Are You Ready to Call Saul?

By Anne Cohen

Courtesy of AMC

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

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

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

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

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Natalie Portman Ruins Her Wedding in Dior Ad

By Anne Cohen

Natalie’s back!

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


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