The Shmooze

Socialite Zelda Kaplan Dies at Fashion Week

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Socialite Zelda Kaplan, who based on her style could have been separated at birth from Iris Apfel, died suddenly on February 15 while at a New York Fashion Week show. To be more precise, the 95-year-old collapsed while sitting in the front row at the Joanna Mastroianni runway show and died in hospital shortly thereafter. It is believed that Kaplan died of natural causes.

Known for wearing bold and colorful African and Asian prints and large sunglasses, the late nonagenarian considered herself a “citizen of the world.” She told a New York magazine reporter two years ago: “I spent half my life relaxing and the other half crusading — I was a successful ballroom dancer and women’s golf pro in Miami Beach in my 20s, a doctor’s wife in New York in my 30s — and in my 60s and 70s I spent my time largely in Africa and Southeast Asia campaigning directly with local tribal government leaders for women’s and children’s rights.”

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Cows Spared From Reality TV

By Nathan Jeffay

iStockphoto

It’s the ultimate guilty pleasure here in Israel: “Big Brother.” As always, the contestants are having a ball, but the current season seems to be arriving upon increasingly bizarre situations.

Keen to set increasingly off-the-wall “challenges” for contestants, the producers wanted to bring a cow in to the contestants’ house. But it seems that the Agriculture Ministry has come to the same conclusion that many Israeli viewers (and maybe the cows) reached, too: Reality TV stars are okay from a distance, but don’t let them get too close.

“On the program, the cow was supposed to be milked by hand, by persons who are not experienced; and it was to be surrounded by a large number of participants,” ministry official Nurit Zippori-Barak told Haaretz, explaining why the officials blocked the bovine plan.

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Introducing The Times of Israel

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Jewish and Israeli news junkies are rejoicing at the launch yesterday of yet another media outlet — The Times of Israel.

The Jerusalem-based online-only publication is helmed by British-born David Horovitz, formerly editor and publisher of The Jerusalem Report and editor-in-chief at the Jerusalem Post. In a blog post from yesterday, he wrote, “The Times of Israel represents a determined effort, by a team of skilled, committed journalists, to report Israel, the region and the Jewish world accurately and engagingly.” He asserted that the publication would explore the interconnectedness of the global Jewish community, making it “a must-read, must-visit current affairs website for the Jewish people.”

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Oliver Stone’s Son Converts to Islam

By Michael Kaminer

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In what sounds like a plot twist from one of his famous father’s films, 27-year-old Sean Stone — Oliver’s offspring — has reportedly converted to Islam on a trip to Iran.

According to the Tehran Times, the younger Stone, himself an aspiring director, underwent the conversion while attending the 30th Fajr International Film Festival, which ended Sunday. “Stone said he had become a Shia Muslim and had chosen the name Ali,” the paper said.

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Fran Drescher To Marry Gay Couples

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Now that Fran Drescher is happily divorced from a gay man and has a TV Land series called — wait for it —“Happily Divorced” about (surprise!) a woman divorced from a gay man, the ex-Nanny is ready to marry some gay people.

Don’t misunderstand. Drescher is not interested in wedding any more gay men herself, but she does want to officiate at the marriages of three gay couples on March 6 in New York. It’s clearly just a gimmick to promote her new show, but she did take the trouble to get ordained for the occasion.

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Circumcise Your Nose

By Dan Friedman

The trouble with living in a logorrheoic country at a time when speech is free, public and almost unashamedly unfiltered is that the careful observations of the geniuses who made it possible seem asinine.

Case in point: Sigmund Freud. Sifting through the occasional secretions of the tightly sealed and private lips of the Viennese bourgeoisie he made an art of joining up the dots into a science of the psyche. One of the more suggestive of his theories was that of upward displacement where genital discomfort or excitation could be manifest as catarrh or nasal itching. Sander Gilman, Melvin Konner, Jay Geller and others discuss whole series of neuroses that surround the Jewish body and psyche.

And now, here come The Groggers with a lovesong to the blond girl with a thing for upturned noses and football players, “Jewcan Sam (A Nose Job Love Song).” Here’s the chorus — “And we would live like we were famous/ With the stars all in our eyes. / And I would love you till forever. / If you got your nose circumcised…” Forgive us Sigmund, wherever you are.

Hat tip to Hillel Broder.


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Couple Becomes Oldest Ever To Make Aliyah

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Philip and Dorothy Grossman could think of no better way to show their love for each other, their family and for Israel than to make aliyah this Valentine’s Day. The husband and wife, ages 95 and 93 respectively, are the oldest couple to have ever immigrated to Israel.

The Baltimore couple, married 71 years, were joined by 41 other olim on a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight that landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport early this morning. “We are in love with Israel and are very excited to be making aliyah,” Dorothy said. “We are so happy that we will finally be living close to all our family members in Israel.”

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Kate Middleton Goes Hasidic Chic

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Just last week we were treated to a provocative fashion spread in Israel’s Belle Mode magazine that was both inspired by and meant to protest the exclusion of women in the public sphere. In it, the models struck sexy poses, wearing ultra-Orthodox garb, in a vintage bus.

As highly unlikely as the scenes in those photos would be in real life, we now learn of another highly improbable connection between high fashion and the Haredim. It turns out that none other than the Duchess of Cambridge is walking around in clothes meant to imitate those worn by ultra-Orthodox Jews. We’re not even talking about the long skirts and high necklines of Haredi women’s wear — but rather referring to the long (typically black) coats, or capotes, worn by Hasidic men.

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L.A. Federation Kicks Off Annual Phone-a-Thon

By Rex Weiner

Eight-year-old Lauren Kaufman closed the first pledge, a donation of $5000, at the Sunday February 12 kickoff for Super Week, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ annual fundraiser. It was the first-grader’s first time working the phones, side by side with her dad David, a twenty-year Super Week veteran, representing a crew from the Hillcrest Country Club.

It was a fast start to the day for the room full of volunteers at the Federation’s Goldsmith Center headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard, and for another group working at the Milken Jewish Community Campus across the San Fernando Valley in West Hills. Together the volunteers raised nearly half a million dollars by midday.

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Jews and BDS Working Together To Mock Zionists

By Dan Friedman

Flogging a tired meme to death is something that the internet does better than any other human tool. I haven’t seen the YouTube posting for “S**t Abortionists Say,” but surely it’s out there promoting civil dialogue — laughter being the best medicine, after all.

In the interests of cooperating for peace Penn BDS and friends have put together a video called “S**t Zionists Say.” Purely on the level of compelling viewing there’s only really one funny line, just before the two minute mark but — with the Academy Awards coming up — it’s worth noting that Ali Abunimah is highly convincing as a Zionist!


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Davis Party Sobered By Whitney Houston’s Death

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Davis with Houston at the Grammy Awards in 2007

“There ain’t no party like a Clive Davis party,” said Sean “Diddy” Combs at Clive Davis’s pre-Grammy party this past Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. And there certainly has not been one like Saturday’s in all the years since Davis began hosting these events in 1976. This year’s festivities were marred by the death of Whitney Houston, which had taken place at the hotel just hours before.

Despite news of Houston’s passing, Davis nonetheless decided to hold the party as planned. Rumors were circulating that Davis had either cancelled the event or had chosen not to attend. MTV reported that these were not true, and that the legendary producer and music executive had decided to go on with the gala at the urging of Houston’s family.

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SNL Crowns Mayim Bialik the Queen of Quirky

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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It seems Mayim Bialik is everywhere these days. The doctor of neuroscience stars as the character Amy Farrah Fowler on “The Big Bang Theory,” writes a weekly column for Kveller, and is the go-to attachment parenting expert for NBC’s Today show and others. She even has a book on attachment parenting coming out this spring.

To her fans’ delight, Bialik turned up unexpectedly on Saturday Night Live this past weekend. Well, she wasn’t actually there, but she was there in spirit. Host Zooey Deschanel was a good sport, participating in a skit about her notoriety as the queen of quirkiness (one of the SNL regulars played Deschanel, while Deschanel herself played Mary-Kate Olsen — who everyone knows holds her own in terms of quirkiness). As the two women offer tips on how to be quirky, they pause to honor Bialik. Why? Because the former “Blossom” star is the “founder of quirky girls.”

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Need a Valentine? Date My Jewish Friend

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

Comedic actress Michelle Slonim may like to joke around, but she is taking Valentine’s Day very seriously. So much so that she has planned a Date My Jewish Friend Extravaganza for the entire month of February. Known for the young Jewish singles events she has been organizing about once a month for the past year and a half, she has decided to take this social scene to a whole other level.

For Slonim, 31, who staged her original party as a way to support her “Michelle’s Jewish Date Party” interactive comedy show, told The Shmooze that she is motivated to bring young Jews together while supporting the arts and partnering with local businesses and organizations. “I like building community,” the New York native said. “I do it through comedy, through talking to people.”

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Madonna Fans To Bibi: Hold Off On Iran Strike

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Madonna’s upcoming concert in Tel Aviv, or the Iranian nuclear crisis: Which is more important? The answer is obvious to some of the Queen of Pop’s Israeli fans.

Confident that they have their priorities straight and that their cause is just, Madonna fans are pleading with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold off on striking Iran until after the singer’s concert has taken place at the Ramat Gan Stadium on May 29. And just like any other protest group, they have set up a Facebook page — this one replete with a photo of Bibi posing with Madge, likely taken on one of her recent visits to the Holy Land). It’s called, “Bibi, No War with Iran until after Madonna’s performance on May 29.” Not too snappy a title, but they do get their point across.

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'Chewish' Dog Toys (What's Next?)

By Michael Kaminer

Copa Judaica

There’s a Yiddish for Dogs manual, and — as the Forward recently reported — a rescue dog who understands Yiddish commands.

Now, in the latest development around canine Yiddishkeit, a Brooklyn company has unveiled a Semitic series of plush toys for pets, all inspired by Yiddish words.

Copa Judaica’s “Chewish” line includes Facachta The Platypus; Meeskeit the mouse; an adorable monkey named Meshugeneh; Nosh the goat; and a raccoon called Ganef.

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Oprah Chats With Hasidic Families

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Back in October, The Shmooze mentioned that Oprah Winfrey had been sighted visiting a mikveh in Brooklyn. Now, this coming Sunday, we will get to see exactly what she was up to amid the Hasidim. That is when the “First Look: America’s Hidden Culture” episode of the “Oprah’s Next Chapter” show will air on Winfrey’s OWN network.

“For the first time ever, Oprah travels to Brooklyn, New York, to meet two Hasidic Jewish families, who lift the veil, revealing the secrets to their usually private and mysterious way of life,” the episode’s promo tantalizingly tells us.

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Madonna To Kick Off Tour in Israel

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

The Super Bowl halftime show was just the start. All of us are going to be seeing a lot more of Madonna this year, but Israelis are going to be the first to see — and hear — her.

Following the release of her new album, “MDNA” on March 26, Madge will kick off a world tour in Tel Aviv. Her many Israeli fans will have to scramble for tickets for her May 31 performance at the Ramat Gan Stadium, where she is expected to sing both new and old songs in characteristic spectacular style. This will be the Material Girl’s fourth concert in Israel, following one in 1993 and two in 2010.

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Scarlett Johansson Hosts Obama’s ‘Runway To Win’

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Big names from the world of fashion gathered Tuesday evening at the Theory clothing store in the West Village to support President Obama’s re-election bid. The Fashion Week fundraiser, dubbed “Runway To Win,” was hosted by actress Scarlett Johansson and Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour. Wintour, according to newly released campaign financial information, is one of the President’s top fundraisers and has donated $500,000 toward his re-election.

More than two dozen designers and celebrities who created special campaign-related apparel and accessories joined the two hostesses. Among them were Beyonce, Tory Burch, Sean Combs (aka Puff Daddy), Marc Jacobs, Derek Lam, Narcisco Rodriguez, Russell Simmons, Thakoon Panichgul, Vera Wang, Jason Wu, and Diane Von Furstenberg.

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'Hudson News' Founder Dies at 86

By Michael Kaminer

The man who founded the ubiquitous Hudson News chain — every airport, train station and bus terminal seems to have one — has died at 86, The New York Times has reported.

Robert Cohen, who built the 600-store empire on top of a successful newspaper-distribution business inherited from his father, passed away in Palm Beach, Fla. of progressive supranuclear palsy, a Parkinson’s-like neurological disorder, according to his son James, who succeeded his father as president of the company.

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A Call To Boycott Sexy Purim Costumes

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Some like to call Purim the “Jewish Halloween.” Whether or not that is really a correct analogy, it seems that the same costume scandals that come up around October 31 also plague 14 Adar.

The Jerusalem Post reports that the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) is urging consumers to boycott companies selling sexy Purim costumes. WIZO Chairwoman Gila Oshrat called them “near-pornographic,” and castigated toy stores for openly promoting and displaying them.

This year, WIZO is targeting the Shoshi Zohar costume company, whose 23-page full color Purim costume circular went out to families with national newspapers last weekend. Last year, it campaigned against another company that similarly promoted “scandalous” costumes.

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