The Shmooze

Lady Gaga Greets Tel Aviv Fans With 'Shalom' Video

By JTA

Lady Gaga issued a short video in advance of her performance in Tel Aviv, greeting her fans with “Shalom.”

“Shalom, Israel,” the American pop star said in the 10-second video. “I’m so excited to perform my new tour in Tel Aviv.”

The performer’s manager announced Sunday that the Sept. 13 concert would go on as planned, despite cancellations by other high-profile performers due to the Gaza conflict and its aftermath.

The video, which reportedly has gone viral online elicited angry responses from some of her Arab fans, Al Arabiya News reported.

Fans in social media platforms called her “disgusting,” “devilish” and insensitive, in response to the video. The date for the concert in Yarkon Park, part of her “artRave: The ARTPOP Ball” international tour, is listed on Lady Gaga’s official website.

Tickets remain on sale and tens of thousands of Israeli fans are expected to attend.

Neil Young, The Backstreet Boys, America and Lana Del Rey are among the stars who canceled performances this summer due to Israel’s conflict with Gaza.

Lady Gaga performed in Tel Aviv in August 2009, despite of attempts by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to have her cancel.


Sam Kass and Alex Wagner Tie Knot

By Gabe Friedman

Getty Images

Sam Kass – the Obama family’s personal chef and President Barack Obama’s senior policy advisor – is a lucky man. When he gets married on Saturday to Alex Wagner, host of MSNBC’s “Now With Alex Wagner,” he will have some special guests: the president and the first lady.

Kass is a longtime friend of the Obamas who became their personal chef in 2005, when Barack Obama was a freshman senator in Illinois. Since then, he has become a Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy and the director of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” fitness campaign. He regularly appears on television and travels constantly to promote the “Let’s Move!” initiative.

The chef and health food advocate grew up in a Jewish family in Chicago and attended the University of Chicago. He trained in restaurants around the world, from Europe to Mexico, and began his own private cooking company.

Kass and Wagner got engaged last year and were named the political “it-couple” of the year by Vogue.


Chelsea's Last Show on Chelsea Lately

By Rachel X. Landes

Oh Chelsea Handler, how everyone will miss you on E! Or, at least, what appeared to be half of Hollywood will miss you.

Last night, Chelsea hosted the last episode of her talk show, Chelsea Lately, which started seven years ago back in 2007. And of course she left with a bang (and a couple of laughs). She pulled out all the stops to bring dozens of big Hollywood names to her studio to offer their goodbyes.

Mary McCormack, Jennifer Aniston and Sandra Bullock, who appeared on Chelsea’s first-ever episode of Chelsea Lately, all came back (with helpful name cards for anyone who has been living under a rock).

They each read her speeches in a mini Chelsea Handler roast (disguised as an intervention) where they criticized everything about Chelsea, from her poor personal hygiene to her lack of “cool.” Chelsea just sat there and took it all with a smile.

“Never once have you let your job get in the way of your drinking problem,” Mary said earnestly.

Jennifer bemoaned to Chelsea, “My security guard caught you douching with Listerine on camera!”

“I learned something important today. You’re not funny. You’re not cool,” Sandra said before she brought out Chelsea’s ex-fling, 50 Cent.

For the final segment, Chelsea brought together the likes of Gwen Stefani, Avril Lavigne, Gerard Butler, Tim Gunn, Josh Gad (of Frozen fame) and Fergie to sing her a farewell ballad.

Yes, even Tim Gunn sings.

The song is full of witty rhymes like, “There was that time when she tried to quit before/ but then Tiger Woods started texting all those whores!”

Among the non-singing celebrities, see if you can spot Alison Janney, Anna Farris, Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus and Tim Allen.

Alanis Morissette sang, “She never held back her strong point of view/ She offended blacks, Asians and the Jews.”

Watch the whole song below:

Chelsea left E! to star in her own Netflix show, as of yet untitled, which you can watch in early 2016!


Zara Pulls Striped 'Holocaust' Shirt

By JTA

The international clothing chain Zara has apologized for offering for sale a blue and white striped shirt with a six –pointed yellow star on the chest.

The shirt, for toddler boys, is identified on the Zara Israel website as a “striped sheriff t-shirt,” but Israelis on social media have called it everything from poor taste to anti-Semitic.

The yellow star has the word sheriff cut out in small letters.

The company has removed the stock from its warehouses and plans to destroy it, according to the Israeli business daily Globes. The shirt also was available on Zara’s French, Albanian and Swedish websites.

“We express our sincere apologies for any hurt to our customers’ feelings,” the company said in a statement.

The shirt remained on the Zara Israel internet site as of early Wednesday afternoon.

In September 2007, Zara removed a handbag with swastikas embroidered in it. The handbags were manufactured in India and inspired by commonly used Hindu symbols, which include the swastika.

In 2009, the Spanish retailer removed Christmas trees from the windows of its stores in Israel after complaints from customers.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Anti-Defamation League made a statement about the shirt.

“The shirt emblazoned with the yellow star is in poor taste and is deeply offensive to Jews and Holocaust survivors. To anyone who knows their history, this kind of imagery should be off-limits. We welcome Zara’s recognition of the shirt’s potentially offensive imagery and removal from sale,” said ADL National Director and Holocaust survivor, Abe Foxman.


Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Bryan Cranston Recreate 'Seinfeld' Smooch at Emmys

By Anne Cohen

By now — or at least, if you caught the Emmys last night —  you have probably realized that Bryan Cranston, a.k.a Walter White, is none other than Dr. Tim Whatley on “Seinfeld.”

Indeed — before he cooked the best blue meth this side of New Mexico as Heisenberg, Cranston played a dentist who converts to Judaism to get a free pass on Jewish jokes (“a schtickle of fluoride”), causing an angry Jerry to be labelled an “anti-Dentite.”

Cranston, on stage with “Seinfeld” alum Julia Louis-Dreyfus to announce the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, tried to remind the “Veep” actress that they once were co-stars. In true Elaine fashion, she scoffed and blew him off.

When Louis-Dreyfus won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, Cranston gave her memory a little jog — with a mind blowing kiss.

Whoa there, Bryan. I think we all remember now. But just in case, here’s another (less fun) memory refresher:

Cranston went on to win Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for “Breaking Bad.”


Sarah Silverman Thanks 'My Jews' at Emmys

By JTA

Getty Images

Comedian Sarah Silverman broke out a Jewish joke as she took home a trophy at the 2014 Emmy Awards.

Silverman won the award for Best Writing for a Variety Show for her HBO comedy special “Sarah Silverman: We are Miracles.” Upon being announced as the winner, she dashed up onto the stage barefoot and thanked her agents, saying, “Thank you to my Jews at CAA.”

Prior to Monday night’s ceremony, Silverman set the internet abuzz when she announced in an interview on the red carpet that she had brought with her a vaporizer with liquid pot.

Another Jewish winner was actress Julianna Margulies, who took home an Emmy for her role as Alicia Florrick on CBS’s “The Good Wife.” The win marked the third Emmy victory for Margulies, who previously won once for “ER” and once for “The Good Wife.”

An Emmy for Outstanding TV Movie was also awarded to the HBO movie “The Normal Heart,” based on the 1985 play by Larry Kramer, a Jewish writer and AIDS activist. Kramer’s screenplay lost to Noah Hawley for “Fargo.”


Jews On TV: Who To Watch Out For at The Emmys

By Rachel X. Landes

The 66th Primetime Emmy awards, held at the Nokia Theater L.A. Live will air this evening on NBC. Hosted by Seth Meyers (no, not Jewish), you can except lots of laughs, almost Oscar-worthy red carpet glamour and many tears shed over the expected Robin Williams tribute.

Here are some of the Jewish nominees your should watch out for tonight. The ceremony kicks off at 8 p.m. EST (Red carpet at 7:30). Don’t be late!

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Julianna Marguiles — as Alicia Florrick in “The Good Wife”


Lizzy Caplan — as Virginia Johnson in “Masters of Sex”


Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Mandy Patinkin —  as Saul Berenson in “Homeland”


Josh Charles — as Will Gardner in “The Good Wife”


Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Lena Dunham — as Hannah Horvath in “Girls”


Julia Louis-Dreyfus — as Vice President Selina Meyer in “Veep”


Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Louis C.K. — as Louie in “Louie”


Read more


Yiddish Writers Murdered By Stalin Honored

By Masha Leon

The August 12, 1952 murder of Soviet Yiddish writers was commemorated at this year’s August 12 memorial held at the Center for Jewish History.

Sponsored by The Congress of Jewish Culture under the baton of Shane Baker, it opened with a musical fanfare by acclaimed soprano Sofie Van Lier (Sovali) accompanied on the piano by Dimitri Dover.

Event chair Queens College Professor Thomas Bird — who though Welsh and fluent in several Slavic languages, launched the evening with geshmakn (delicious) Yiddish. In fervent mameloshn he set the stage “far dem ondenk far Yiddishe shraiber umgebrakht dem 12 Oygust 1952 in Moskver Lubianka” (in memory of the Yiddish writers executed on August 12 in Moscow’s [infamous] Lubianka prison).

Karen Leon
Tom Bird

Recapping the 1952 events Bird informed: “Using confessions extracted by beatings and torture, the judge announced their sentence determined by the Politburo of the Central Committee of the [Communist] Party that led to the prominent Jewish writers, poets and cultural leaders being shot in the basement of the KGB prison in Moscow…. These included distinguished figures in Yiddish letters …poets Itzik Fefer, Dovid Hofshteyn, Ley Kvitko, Peretz Markish and novelist Dovid Bergelson.

Bird disclosed that in 1943, six months after Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union, “a committee of two — Shloyme Mikhoels and Itzik Fefer — came to the U.S. seeking moral and financial aid. They met with Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, Yehudi Menuhin and other political and cultural leaders…participated in an anti-Nazi rally at Yankee Stadium… with their speeches widely covered by the Western press. Stalin interpreted their remarks in America as evidence that they were plotting [and] represented the Soviet Jewish community. On their return, they were accused of the crime of claiming for the Jewish people the right to be regarded as a nationality with a distinct cultural identity.” Bird underscored: “They were among the last dozens of important 20th century Jewish literati and activists who were eliminated by the Soviet state beginning in the 1930’s.”

“…Mikhoels,” informed Bird “was a renowned Shakespearean actor who was murdered in January 1948 in an ‘arranged’ hit and run accident. In November 1948 the ‘Einikeit’ paper was shut down. In 1949 the Yiddish Theater of Moscow was liquidated… all of these deaths and executions and repressions led up to the August 12, 1952 [executions]…. It was a clear, final statement of anti-Semitism that poisoned the life of Jews in the USSR and the Eastern Block countries…for decades to come… If, as Stalin decreed, it was a crime to value one’s Jewish heritage, a crime to treasure the language of the folk, a crime to care deeply about the continuity of Jewish identity and survival, then…. they were proudly guilty…Theirs was the voice of an ageless Yiddishkeit. Its memory deserves honor…”

Among the works performed by Sovali were selections from Shostakovich’s “From Jewish Folk Song “ and works by Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s (1919 Warsaw-1996 Moscow). Coincidentally, Weinberg’s opera “The Passenger” received its New York premiere at the Lincoln Center Festival and Park Avenue Armory co-presented at the Armory.


Turning Brownstones Green: Interview with Eitan Baron

By Maia Efrem

Courtesy of Greenstone

It takes a certain set of skills to make it in New York, and when Eitan Baron moved to the Big Apple in 2000, he definitely didn’t have it.

Picking up a suitcase and moving from Azor, Israel, to try his luck at selling oil paintings in Florida was not quite what Baron wanted to do with his life. Also, not knowing English made him a terrible salesman. So he relocated up to New York to try his luck at moving furniture for local Israeli companies. He even worked for Moishe’s Moving & Storage for a few days. He was determined to make it.

Then a Judaism seminar organized by Orthodox Jews in Monsey, New York, turned his luck around. Baron, 36, went to yeshiva for 10 days in exchange for an opportunity to work for a construction company. He did everything from cleaning constructing sites to learning all there is to know about home improvement from Home Depot guidebooks.

One opportunity led to another, and before long Baron was buying up historic Brooklyn brownstones and renovating them with environmentally friendly materials and methods, paving the way for his development company, Greenstones. And the rest, as Baron says, is history.

The Forward’s Maia Efrem spoke with Baron about his humble beginnings and his long road toward the American dream.

Maia Efrem: Can you tell me about your entry into development and construction?

Eitan Baron: I got to America in the year 2000. I didn’t speak English and couldn’t find a job, so the quickest way to make money and find work was to use my hands. I was pretty handy, so I worked for someone in the construction industry for about six months, doing anything from cleaning to painting. Two years after that I met a person who was connected to large real estate developers who said let’s do something together. So in 2002 we opened a construction company together. Real estate was booming in New York.

I was living in Park Slope and I was into the environment, and I just saw a growing demand for family-friendly homes, and anyone who comes to Brooklyn hears about Brooklyn brownstones. And once you buy a brownstone, you realize it’s old with a lot of things to fix.

I saw Park Slope as a beautiful place to buy something small. I decided to turn one brownstone into three environmentally friendly units. So the name came: Greenstone.

Read more


When Russell Brand Dropped Acid at Seder

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Russell Brand wants you to know he’s not an anti-Semite.

In light of accusations made by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in the New York Observer on Monday that Brand is an “Israel hater,” the British comedian has written an essay in the Huffington Post explaining his side of things.

Being Russell Brand, the piece opens with an anecdote about drugs — at a Passover Seder, no less.

The year is 1992, I am 16 years old. It is Pesach, the Jewish feast of Passover; I am in Frinton On Sea, Essex, with the Hirsch family at the evening meal. Wine is drunk, there are incantations and Torah readings, my mate Matt’s little sister is beautiful, the sense of family unity and tradition is also beautiful.

Me and Matt, now obediently sat in those little hats, kippahs they’re called, had dropped some acid earlier in the evening and the whole thing suddenly gets a bit too much. Matt’s dad is sort of singing in Hebrew, the old bloke they invite every year from down the street, is smiling with cardigan kindness, Matt’s sister is still beautiful, and of course, there’s the acid. I am overwhelmed by melancholy and, oddly guilt, at the holocaustal images that lysergically zip through my sad and lively mind and I, in front of everyone, begin to weep.

Brand continues: “I am at my first Pesach with a lovely family and feel personally responsible for the holocaust; I think that constitutes ‘a bad trip.’”

Check out the full piece here.


This 100-Year-Old Sex Therapist Has Advice For You

By Anne Cohen

Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. And she just turned 100 years old.

But as Charlotte Altman at Time Magazine points out, Shirley Zussman’s venerable age may actually be the least astounding thing about her. An almost lifelong Manhattanite, she lived in Berlin during the cabaret years, graduated from Smith college the same year as Julia Child (1934), and was mentored through her dissertation by Margaret Meade.

In 1966, Zussman and her husband, Leon Zussman (a gynaecologist who, incidentally, performed the first legal abortion in New York), were invited to a conference at which William Masters and Virginia Johnson were the main speakers. The original “Masters of Sex” (now the subject of the eponymous Showtime hit), took the couple under their wing — when the sex gurus expanded their practice to New York, the Zussmans were there, opening the Human Sexuality Clinic of the Long Island Jewish-Hillside Medical Center.

Leon died in 1981. But Shirley Zussman isn’t letting something like entering her second century slow her down. Born in 1914 (less than a month after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand), she continues to see patients in an office on the ground floor of New York City’s East 79th Street (some, as New York Press reports, are as young as their 20s).

In a recent interview, Zussman bestowed some of her wisdom (after 100 years on this Earth, let’s face it — she’s freakin’ Yoda) on the so-called “hook-up generation”:

“I think there’s a big change in the way we view casual sex. In the 60s it wasn’t just casual—it was frantic. It was something you expected to happen to you, you wanted it to happen, it was sort of a mad pursuit of sexual pleasure. But I think over time the disadvantages of that kind of behavior began to become apparent. There was the emotional crash– the intimacy was not there in the way that people need and want. There was a concern about sexual diseases, and then eventually AIDS made a major impact on calming that excitement.”

I think what was expected of casual sex – frantic sex– was something that didn’t deliver. Because in the long run, sexual pleasure is just one part of what men and women want from each other. They want intimacy, they want closeness, they want understanding, they want fun, and they want someone who really cares about them beyond just going to bed with them.”

I think hooking up includes some aspect of the kind of sex we were just talking about, but in a very much modified, and limited way. It’s not as frantic.”

In other words, just take a chill pill — hooking up is nothing new. In fact, it’s older, even, than Shirley Zussman.

For more advice, check out the full interview here.


Life-Size Amy Winehouse Statue Coming to London

By JTA

Getty Images

A life-size bronze statue of late British Jewish singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse will be erected in the London neighborhood where she lived.

Winehouse, known for hits like 2006′s Grammy Award-winning “Back to Black,” died at age 27 of alcohol poisoning in 2011.

The statue will stand in a market in London’s Camden neighborhood, close to where she died. It will show Winehouse leaning against a wall with her hand on her hip and will go up on Sept. 14, which would have been her 31st birthday.

“Now Amy will oversee the comings and goings of her hometown forever,” Winehouse’s father Mitch said, according to a Thursday report in the Telegraph, a British daily. “Amy was in love with Camden, and it is the place her fans from all over the world associate her with. The family have always been keen to have a memorial for her in the place she loved the most, which will provide fans a place to visit and attract people to the area.”


#IceBucketChallenge Goes Sabra — With Hummus

By Talia Lavin

Wikimedia Commons

(JTA) — Over the past month, a viral sensation has flooded the Internet: the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, in which people post on social media videos of themselves dumping buckets of ice water over their heads to raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the neurodegenerative disease colloquially known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The challenge — which requires anyone who undertakes it to nominate someone else — was inspired by 29-year-old former athlete Peter Frates, who suffers from ALS. It has spread from his Boston peers to police chiefs, celebrities, and pop stars, helping the ALS Foundation raise millions of dollars. Not bad for what’s essentially a giant digital game of freeze tag.

Jewish celebrities — from Adam Levine to Mark Zuckerberg — have enthusiastically taken up the cause.

(Appropriately enough, given that her name means “water” in Hebrew, actress Mayim Bialik also took up the challenge. )

But the phenomenon moved into the political arena last weekend when Justin Bieber nominated President Obama to douse himself in ice.

Even without a personal invitation from the Bieb, pols in Israel have begun taking up the challenge. Two members of Knesset have videoed themselves speaking about ALS awareness, then succumbing to buckets of ice — probably just about tolerable in August in Israel.

Yesh Atid Knesset member Dov Lipman, in a full suit, announces in both Hebrew and English that he’s “bringing the challenge to the Knesset,” and challenges three other MKs to take part as well.


Read more


Nazi-Themed Spaghetti? Why Not.

By Anne Cohen

How about a side of Hitler with your pasta?

Taiwan restaurant owner Tsao Ya-sin caused quite an uproar when she unveiled her latest Italian special: “Long Live Nazi Spaghetti.”

Why the Third Reich theme? Tsao explains that the dish has German sausage in it.

Tsao was also quoted as saying that she just “wanted to get customers attention” — but sharp reprimands from both the Israeli and German embassies in Taiwan was probably not was Ya-sin had in mind.

What’s more, the dish has apparently been on the menu since Rock Hill’s grand opening — last year. But don’t worry: In light of the controversy, the dish has been renamed to “World Champion Spaghetti” —  in honor of Germany’s World Cup victory.

{h/t Grubstreet]


The (Jewish) Ryan Seacrest of Japan

By Gabe Friedman

Wikimedia Commons

Marty Friedman was known throughout the 90s as the guitarist for the chart-topping heavy metal band Megadeth. His mop of curly hair and virtuosic playing gained him a following, and he has been called one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

However, as a new Rolling Stone story details, Friedman has found unlikely fame in Japan, where he moved in the early 2000s. He quit Megadeth, took up playing for Japanese rock and J-Pop groups, and soon became featured on a variety of Japanese television shows. He has hosted programs called “Mr. Heavy Metal” and “Rock Fujiyama,” and has logged an estimated 600 TV appearances.

Clay Marshall, the manager of Friedman’s record label in the U.S., tells people that Friedman is the “Ryan Seacrest of Japan.”

“He’s a cultural celebrity over there,” Marshall says.

Why the sudden, unexpected move and second life as Japanese cultural icon? Friedman told Rolling Stone that he prefers Japanese music for its complexity.

“It all comes down to the music,” he says. “That’s why I’m here. As much as I love Japan, I would not be living 7,000 miles away from my family and friends in America if it weren’t for the great music. If you look at the Top 10 on the charts here, I can pick any day of the week and nine of those songs, I would definitely say ‘I dig that a lot.’ In America, I would be very lucky if there was one song in that Top 10 that I would enjoy.”

Read more at Rolling Stone.


A Holocaust Keyboard Memoir

By Masha Leon

When it comes to Holocaust-inspired memoirs, “The Pianist of Willesden Lane,” which had its New York premiere at the 59E59 Theatre, is in a class all by itself.

A rare treat, the show interweaves memory and classical music performance by world-renowned pianist Mona Golabek who recreates her [pianist] mother Lisa Jura’s journey from 1938 Vienna to London as a Kindertransport refugee…and beyond.

Adapted from the book “The Children of Willesden Lane” by Ms. Golabek and Lee Cohen, it opens with Ms. Golabek coming out on stage in a black dress and glossy hair bob. She begins her memoir stands next to a Steinway grand while behind her on a floor-to-ceiling black velvet curtain hang oversize oddly shaped Dali-inspired empty gilt frames.

Mona Golabek and Gina // Photo by Karen Leon

“It is Vienna 1938 Friday afternoon and I am preparing for the most important hour of my week — my piano lesson” announces Golabek as she channels her 14-year-old mother Lisa. She recalls the Jewish section of the magical city Vienna where she lives. There are memories of Shabbos, and candle lighting.

Suddenly things change. Her father’s shop is closed. Gangs roam Vienna. Most devastating to her is the shock of her beloved professor Isseles telling her that “Teaching a Jewish child is now forbidden…. ’There will be no lessons any more…I am not a brave man.’” Golabek/Lisa revisits Isseles’ reaction to her performance of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata—“’Legato! Make the phrase sing…. minor is not major!’” Golabek/Lisa then exquisitely performs the sonata on the stage Steinway.

Read more


LISTEN: Leonard Cohen's Latest Single

By Anne Cohen

Eighty-shmeighty. Leonard Cohen isn’t letting his upcoming milestone birthday slow him down.

He of the raspy voice and smooth melodies is reportedly set to release his 13th album in the next couple weeks, titled “Popular Problems” (because we haven’t had enough of those lately…). To get you in the mood, here’s a preview of the first track, “Almost Like The Blues.”

Happy listening!

[h/t Tablet]


Jewish Celebrities Take The Ice Bucket Challenge

By Rachel X. Landes

By now you’ve probably heard of the Ice Bucket Challenge. The deal is, if you get nominated, you have to pour ice water over your head or donate $100 to ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) research. This disease, which eventually results in paralysis and death, affects approximately 30,000 Americans.

Watch as our favorite Jewish celebrities take on the challenge!

Gal Gadot

Nominated by: her friend Menor
Nominated: Zack Snyder, Kate Winslet, Linda Carter, and her Hubby, Yaron Varsano


Robert Downey Jr.

Nominated by: Bob Iger
Nominated: Chris Hemsworth


Adam Levine

Skip to 1:43 for the good stuff. He’s even wearing a white shirt as he gets dunked.
Nominated: Nick Lachey, Kevin Richardson, Joey Fatone, Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams, Jason Segel, Mark Ruffalo and RDJ


Emmy Rossum

Nominated by: Dorie Golkin Smith
Nominated: Josh Duhamel, Hilary Swank


Read more


Rabbi Shmuley Boteach vs. Russell Brand

By Anne Cohen

Russell Brand is no stranger to controversy. Between calling out Hugo Boss as a Nazi during a GQ gala and calling Fox News’ Sean Hannity a “terrorist,” the British comedian has certainly made his fair share of enemies.

Now, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has joined the chorus of haters. In an op/ed published in The New York Observer today, Boteach denounced Brand’s call to boycott Israel over the war in Gaza.

He probably would have been more effective had he focused less on Brand’s past struggles with addiction, and more on rebutting the comedian’s claims and arguments.

“So Russell Brand has joined the league of those demanding a boycott of Israel,” Boteach writes. “I’m going to go soft on him because of all the personal problems he’s had, with multiple addictions, 12 arrests for drug possession, rehab for sexual compulsion, and two arrests for attacking paparazzi taking pictures of him.”

Okay. So, Brand is a disgusting person. Does that make his opinion worthless, regardless of whether or not one agrees with him?

Boteach continues:

A moral beacon he isn’t. A light unto the nations? Fugggetaboutit. And I commend Russell for making no pretensions to being anything other than what he is. A comical, messed up, confused clown. There is something redemptive about his honesty that ought to be commended. Russell Brand belongs to a new, self-declared showbiz genre: the celebrity as moral idiot. And if he has such low expectations for himself, why should we make the mistake of elevating Mr. Brand and his fellow ethical imbeciles by taking him seriously?

Still not seeing any actual rebuttal to Brand’s claims that banks like Barclays “facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza.” Rather, Boteach continues in this vein of personal attacks on Brand’s drug use, “fried neurons,” relationships, messy divorce with Katy Perry — you name it.

One particular jab, implying “that he’s not exactly the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree,” manages to snub Christianity as a whole.

Boteach makes the point that some Hollywood celebrities do have the right to speak. Like Sean Penn, whom his organization honored last May.

Calls to boycott Israel should be scrutinized and argued. With arguments. Facts. Not personal attacks about how someone’s salacious past renders them unfit for any future brain activity.


Lauren Bacall's Style Is Getting A Museum Exhibit

By Anne Cohen

Before Beyonce, there was Lauren Bacall.

The countless odes and elegies to the late actress, who died last week at age 89, have all but confirmed her place as Hollywood Golden Age’s queen of cool.

And now, we hear her impeccable style (which a “To Have or Have Not” obsessed tween may or may not have tried to imitate at one point — unsuccessfully) is getting its own retrospective.

The Cut reports that the museum at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology will soon unveil an exhibit showcasing Bacall’s (nee Betty Joan Persky, in the Bronx) wardrobe. Preparations for the show were reportedly underway before the announcement of Bacall’s death by the Bogart estate last Tuesday night

According to the Associated Press, the show will focus on her 1950s-60s style, and highlight contributions from the star’s five favorite designers: Norman Norell, Marc Bohan for Dior, Pierre Cardin, Yves Saint Laurent, and Emanuel Ungaro.

Designer Isaac Mizrahi best summed up her combination of sass, smarts and style in the April 2001 issue of InStyle. Remarking on her 1979 Oscars appearance, he quipped:

“Wearing a 50-year-old Fortuny dress proved how smart Lauren Bacall was,” he said. “A smart Jewish girl from the Bronx who knew Norell as well as Loehmann’s. She’s our reference for what smart looks like. Look up ‘smart’ in the dictionary — you’ll find her picture.”

A nice Jewish girl in haute couture? We’re there!


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.