The Shmooze

Biden Makes Sign of the Cross, Rabbis Giggle

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Former TV journalist and newly minted politician Yair Lapid’s address to the Rabbinical Assembly’s National Convention in Atlanta yesterday got a lot of attention. In his remarks, he emphasized that he would work for equality for all religious movements in Israel — something that made the Conservative rabbis in the audience smile.

But another politician one-upped Lapid and made the more than 1,600 rabbis laugh. Vice President Joe Biden was on hand to address the plenary, and he got a good chuckle from the audience even before he stepped up to the microphone and said a single word.

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Dustin Hoffman and Mila Kunis Save Lives

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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First Responders: Mila Kunis and Dustin Hoffman

Who needs the Avengers when we have real-life Jewish celebrities rushing to the rescue?

First came news that on April 27, actor Dustin Hoffman, 74, saved the life of a London jogger who had gone into cardiac arrest. Hoffman, who owns a home in Kensington, was walking in Hyde Park when he saw lawyer Sam Dempster, 27, staggering and frothing at the mouth before falling forward and hitting his face on the pavement. Hoffman reportedly turned Dempster onto his back, which opened his airway, and called 999 (equivalent to our 911) from his cell phone.

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Etgar Keret Hates Manchester United

By Dan Friedman

nate lavey
Etgar Keret

In a recent video interview, Israeli novelist Etgar Keret joked that he wouldn’t trust Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, despite his well known union background and anti-racism bona fides, to hide a Jew in his attic during another Holocaust. And he jested that Real Madrid’s star attacker Cristiano Ronaldo — who used to play for Ferguson at the club — wouldn’t behave much better. He bases his assessment, of course, on nothing but the team’s style of play.

Manchester United have been a dominant financial and sporting force in English soccer over the past decade, earning the envy and enmity of millions worldwide. But they uncharacteristically go into the final game of the English Premier League season this weekend needing a better result than their “noisy neighbors,” Manchester City, to pip them to the title.

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Travolta Sex Abuse Case Takes Anti-Semitic Turn

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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John Travolta is strongly denying allegations by an unnamed male plaintiff (“John Doe”) that he assaulted and sexually harassed him. The actor plans to countersue the plaintiff, a Los Angeles masseur who claims to have been hired by Travolta in January, and his lawyer Okorie Okorocha for malicious prosecution. Travolta’s representative has told the media that the actor wasn’t even in California on the date that the plaintiff claims the assault took place.

The plaintiff’s claims may indeed turn out to be spurious. However what caught The Shmooze’s eye were some pretty wild Jewish-related accusations against Travolta buried in the middle of the complaint for damages document filed with the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

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Video: Spinning Class With Max Greenfield

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Max Greenfield, who plays Schmidt on “The New Girl,” has shown that you can turn some kibitzing into some tzedakah.

A few weeks ago Vulture made up a mock cover for a workout video that it imagined Greenfield’s “lovably preening” Schmidt character might have made. It was all just a joke, but Greenfield kind of liked it and rose to the challenge of actually making a Schmidt exercise video. Greenfield released it on YouTube and it went viral. Imagine Greenfield’s surprise when he found out that people weren’t just getting a kick out of it; they were actually paying attention to his spinning technique.

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'The Dictator' Meant Those Ashes for George Clooney

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Whoops! You know those Kim Jong-il “ashes” that Sacha Baron Cohen — in character as the Supreme Leader of Wadiya — spilled all over Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet at the Oscars? Well, it turns out that they were originally meant for George Clooney…and that the provocateur is contrite over the incident.

Last weekend, Baron Cohen made a surprise cameo on Saturday Night Live and used the opportunity to apologize to Seacrest, who was also on the set. “I didn’t realize that ‘The Dictator’ was doing a walk on cameo [on SNL]!” Seacrest said, according to Perez Hilton. “He comes off stage and comes over to me. He breaks character and says, ‘Sorry about the Oscars. It wasn’t personal.’”

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Remembering ‘Price Is Right’ Creator Bob Stewart

By Michael Kaminer

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I was so obsessed with game shows like “The Price Is Right” as a 1970s kid that I would fake illness, skip school, and play along at home. Until today, I had no idea that the show’s creator, Bob Stewart, was born Isidore Steinberg to Russian immigrants. But I should have figured that a show in which people obsess about the cost of goods would have come from a Jewish brain.

Stewart — who changed his name “after being rejected for a television job because he believed the employer was anti-Semitic,” according to The New York Times — died on May 4. Along with “The Price is Right,” his hit shows included “Password,” “To Tell the Truth,” and “The $10,000 Pyramid,” which eventually adjusted for inflation to become “The $100,000 Pyramid.”

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Is Miguel Cotto’s ‘Kosher’ Tattoo Illegal?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Cotto hits Mayweather during their WBA super welterweight title fight on May 5. Can you spot the OU tattoo?

While Puerto Rican boxer Miguel Cotto’s fight against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. this past weekend in Las Vegas was clearly fair (Cotto lost in a unanimous decision), Rabbi Jason Miller is questioning whether it was completely kosher.

Actually, the rabbi was concerned not about what went on in the ring, but rather about what Cotto was wearing in it. Cotto has been sporting an Orthodox Union kosher symbol (a circle with the letter “U” in the middle, often pronounced as O-U) tattoo for some years now. He apparently got it as a tribute to a Jewish friend.

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On Walk of Fame, ScarJo Thanks Jewish Mom

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Jewish mothers — the butt of so many jokes — don’t always get the respect they deserve. For that reason, the Shmooze commends Scarlett Johansson for specifically thanking her own Jewish mother as she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Wednesday.

Posing in front of her star in a black and white silk print dress, red pumps and an upswept hairdo, ScarJo said it was her mom, Melanie Sloan, whom she had to thank for her success. No stereotypical pushy Jewish mothers came to mind as the actress, 27, explained how her mother has supported her throughout her life and career.

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Video: Camp Ramah Gets Shout-Out on ‘Girls’

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Zosia Mamet

Whether or not they are fans of the new hit HBO series “Girls,” former Camp Ramah-niks may want to tune into this week’s episode on Sunday at 10:30. In the episode, titled “Camp Friend,” their summer home-away-from-home gets a shout-out. Now, would that technically be product placement or guerilla marketing? Doesn’t matter — either way, it’s 15 minutes…well, more like 15 seconds… of fame for Conservative Judaism’s camping movement.

In the preview clip released by HBO, Shoshana Shapiro (played by David Mamet daughter Zosia Mamet) is stopped unexpectedly on the street by a guy who hopes she’ll recognize him. “Hey, Shoshana! Remember me? It’s me, Matt Kornstein. Camp Ramah,” he says. He goes on to compliment her by telling her, “You led the most intense kitchen raid I ever saw in my time as a junior counselor.” No spoilers here: The Shmooze merely notes that the look exchanged between Shoshana and Matt in that moment is also, to borrow Matt’s word, pretty “intense.”

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Popchips: Racist, But Kosher?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Popchips, via YouTube
Kutcher as ‘Darl,’ with Poo-poo.

Popchips execs didn’t have cultural sensitivity in mind when they had Ashton Kutcher (with brown-face make-up and a sing-song Indian accent) comically portray a Bollywood producer named Raj in the company’s latest advertising video. The commercial has been yanked and Popchips has apologized to the Indian-American community for its $1.5 million misstep.

The offending Popchips ad banks on the newly single Ashton Kutcher’s buzzed-about status in pop culture, placing him in a mock “World Wide Lovers Dating Service” viral video. If things don’t work out with Mila Kunis (that is, if there really is anything to work out), Kutcher will have to jump back into the dating scene sooner or later, right?

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Even Shimon Peres Can’t Afford To Fly El Al

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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When it comes to international air travel, Israeli President Shimon Peres, is just like the rest of us. He’s getting slammed by airline baggage fees and is shopping around for the best deals. So, that’s why he’s flying Air Canada instead of El Al.

The 88-year-old balked at the $4,700 fee Israel’s national carrier was demanding for transporting his mandatory oxygen tank. Travel regulations for Israeli public officials demand that Peres and his attendant paramedic bring the tank on board with them. El Al had no problem with the president bringing the tank into the cabin, but it said doing so was going to cost him close to $5,000.

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Sacha Baron Cohen Shocks on Aussie ‘Today’ Show

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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‘The Dictator’ arrives in Sydney, Australia.

Sacha Baron Cohen ruined some Australians’ breakfast appetites when he appeared this morning on the country’s Today Show to promote his new movie, “The Dictator.” In fact, he seemed to be making the show’s hosts so uncomfortable that at times it looked like they themselves might toss their cookies right there on the set.

Dressed as Admiral General Aladeen of the fictional Republic of Wadiya and flanked by two scantily clad female “guards,” Baron Cohen began his R-rated conversation with the hosts by bringing regards from Mel Gibson. “He has just become the head of our Department of Race Relations and he’s on the board of the Museum of Intolerance,” the admiral notified them.

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Hillary Clinton (Gently) Turns Down Jason Segel

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Jason Segel is a guy who looks ahead and thinks big. While complimenting his current co-star Emily Blunt (“The Five Year Engagement”) in an interview with Us Weekly back in March, he mentioned that he’d ultimately like the chance to appear on the big screen together with another special gal.

Segel wasn’t talking about Mila Kunis, Drew Barrymore, Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Aniston, or any of those other romcom leading ladies. He was thinking really outside the box…well, at least outside of Hollywood. Who does he want to share the marquee with? None other than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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Maggie Gyllenhaal Welcomes Baby Girl

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Mazel tov to actors Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard on the birth of their second daughter, Gloria Ray! The new sister for their 5-year-old daughter Ramona was born on April 19 in New York.

With no more details forthcoming from the couple’s reps at this time, US Weekly resorted to pulling out archival quotes about parenthood from Gyllenhaal and Sarsgaard to flesh out its exclusive announcement of Gloria’s birth. Back in January 2010 Gyllenhaal talked about the challenges of balancing motherhood and acting. Then, in March of this year, she told USA Today about the trials and tribulations of keeping her pregnancy under wraps until she was into her second trimester. “I didn’t let anyone know until three and a half months this time. I went to film festivals. I’m throwing up in the bathroom and having to keep pretzels in my purse, and having to fit into dresses,” the actress said.

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Did Shimon Peres Serve Non-Kosher Meat?

By Nathan Jeffay

iStockphoto

President Shimon Peres is a proud advocate of Jewish culture and respect for religion. But has he been serving his guests treyf?

The Israeli media is abuzz with the rumor that meat for Peres’s Independence Day celebration was bought from a non-kosher Arab butcher.

The news site NRG reported that the meat was bought in the Arab locale of Abu Gosh, and that a rabbinate official has said that a kashrut inspector approved the meat without being sure of its origins. According to the report, the company Pri Haaretz was called for a hearing at the supervising rabbinate but did not show so had its license revoked. An unofficial English summary of the article can be found here.

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A New Wrinkle in the Sordid Dudu Topaz Case

By Nathan Jeffay

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It is the celebrity tragedy that simply can’t be laid to rest. Back in 2009, Dudu Topaz, the actor, TV personality and one-time star of Israeli entertainment, committed suicide in the Ramle prison cell where he had been held for the preceding three months. He had been charged with — and confessed to — hiring thugs to attack network bosses whom he accused of ditching him in favor of reality television shows.

After the suicide, an angry war of words ensued between Topaz’s family and the media, with the family accusing the media of acting ruthlessly. Now from the prison comes a claim that he had promised a $13,000 inheritance to a cellmate. According to reports the cellmate says that he bought and cooked food for Topaz. He is now suing Topaz’s brother, Mickey Goldenberg, for failing to hand over the money.

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More on Kunis and Kutcher: The First Kiss

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Poor Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher. The gossip media just won’t give the rumor that they are more than just good friends a rest. People just want to know what’s up with Kunis, who not long ago complained of having no dates, and Kutcher, who recently split from his wife Demi Moore, spending so much quality time together.

And speaking of people, the magazine with that name has suggested that it may not just be chance that has brought the two actors together now. Someone at People went digging through the publication’s archives and found an item from 2001 in which Kunis divulged that her on-screen kiss with Kutcher in an episode of “That 70s Show” in 1998 was actually her first kiss ever. Kunis was 15 at the time and very nervous. “I was like, ‘Oh, he’s so cute, it’s the Calvin Klein model!’” Kunis said in the 2001 interview. “Then I was like, ‘I have to kiss him?’ I was so nervous and uncomfortable. I had the biggest crush on him.”

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Video: Jack Black Shows Off in Hebrew

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Like so many parents these days, comedic actor and musician Jack Black is having a lot of stress about getting his kids into a good school. Last week, he told Conan O’Brien that he recently resorted to some desperate measures — well, at least desperate Jewish word dropping — to impress the admissions people at a local Jewish day school (he said “Hebrew school,” but from the context, it sounded like he was not talking about an afternoon school).

Asserting his right to “take my kids there,” even though he’s an atheist (“I’m technically a Jew, you know. And my wife is too.”), Black admitted to the talk show host that he was feeling pressure. So, Jack Black being Jack Black, he “put on a bit of a show.”

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N.Y. Federation Breaks Sandwich-Making Record

By JTA

One hundred volunteers from the UJA-Federation of New York broke the Guinness World Record for most sandwiches made for the needy in one hour.

A group of Long Island parents and children made 1,660 sandwiches on Sunday at Temple Beth Sholom in Roslyn Heights, breaking the mark of 1,500. The sandwiches and other food, made on the federation’s Mitzvah Day, were donated to the Queens Jewish Community Council for needy families.

Guinness requires that each sandwich have two components between two slices of bread. The sandwiches were made from soy butter and jelly to ensure that the recipients would have no allergy problems, according to an event spokeswoman.

At least another 100 volunteers wrapped the sandwiches for distribution and attached cards and decorations.

A Guinness representative was on hand to certify the results.


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