The Shmooze

'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

Getty Images

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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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Women's International Zionist Organization, Shoshi Zohar, Purim, Halloween

Bashar Assad's ABC Interview Tips Leaked

By Barak Ravid

Crossposted from Haaretz

Hundreds of emails from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s office were leaked on Monday after an attack by the hacker group Anonymous. One of the email files, which Haaretz has obtained, was a document preparing Assad for his December 2011 interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters.

The attack took place overnight Sunday and the target was the mail server of the Syrian Ministry of Presidential Affairs. Some 78 inboxes of Assad’s aides and advisers were hacked and the password that some used was “12345”. Among those whose email was exposed were the Minister of Presidential Affairs Mansour Fadlallah Azzam and Assad’s media adviser, Bouthaina Shaaban.

Assad’s TV interview with Walters was memorable for his repeated denials that Syrian citizens were being killed. “We don’t kill our people … no government in the world kills its people, unless it’s led by a crazy person,” Assad told Walters.

Read more at Haaretz.com


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Roseanne Barr Seeks Green Party Nomination

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Not sure of Newt Gingrich’s chance of ever making it to the White House? The Shmooze is confident that his odds are better than Roseanne Barr’s.

But Barr isn’t too worried. After completing all the necessary paperwork and declaring her candidacy for the Green Party’s nomination, she admitted that it was doubtful that she would win, given the existing power structures. “As I say, I know it will be a tough fight — We (the greens) only have a 99% chance to win this election,” she tweeted, making reference to the 99% made famous by Occupy Wall Street. “The Democrats and Republicans have proven that they are servants — bought and paid for by the 1% — who are not doing what’s in the best interest of the American people. As a long time supporter of the Green Party, I look forward to working with people who share my values. Behold the greening of America!” Barr announced.

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DreamWorks CEO To Host Obama Fundraiser

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

The big event for Democrats in Hollywood is yet to come. Word is that Jeffrey Katzenberg is set to host a major fundraiser for President Barack Obama at his Beverly Hills estate this spring. It will be timed to be relatively close to the Democratic nominating convention, and will be meant to give the President a chance to reassure Hollywood folks that he has their interests in mind as he heads into the upcoming elections.

In the wake of Obama’s having gotten involved in the SOPA issue, Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was recently in Los Angeles trying to convince entertainment executives and artists that Democrats have not gone soft on piracy. The President himself is scheduled to be at an L.A. on February 15 for a fundraiser sponsored by producer Bradley Bell and his wife Colleen, and comedic actor Will Ferrell and his wife Viveca Paulin.

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'Jewish Husbands Don't Kill Their Wives'

By Michael Kaminer

“Jewish husbands don’t kill their wives. They buy them jewelry.”

That’s one way Houston socialite Yvonne Stern is defending her betrothed, a Maserati-driving personal-injury attorney named Jeffrey Stern — the man accused of hiring paid assassins to get rid of her. To the shock of her friends, neighbors and Houstonians who’ve been following the case, Yvonne Stern’s also dropped divorce proceedings against Jeffrey and become his staunchest defender against the attempted murder charges, according to February’s Texas Monthly magazine.

The TM story lays out the long, sordid tale of the Sterns and the affair that apparently led to three bungled attacks on Yvonne at the couple’s home in a tony Houston neighborhood. “The only thing more stunning than three failed shooting attempts are the people that police and prosecutors say hired the string of hit men: Jeffrey Stern and his mistress, law office manager Michelle Gaiser,” according to Houston gossip site Culturemap. “Gaiser issued a 70-page confession when she was arrested and three hit men have been sentenced for their roles (a fourth hit man’s case hung the jury), but it seems like no one but the prosecutors believes that Jeffrey Stern is guilty.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Assassins, Culturemap, Houston, Jeffrey Stern, Texas Monthly, Yvonne Stern

Jewish Paper Stands Up to Anti-Gay Bullies

By Michael Kaminer

The Jewish Press, a Brooklyn-based weekly tabloid with a strong religious focus, is standing its ground after its advertisers were “threatened” by unnamed groups who objected to a recent op-ed by a gay ex-Hasid.

That story, by a young man named Chaim Levin, revealed “bullying, silencing, and torment for being gay in the frum community”, forced therapy sessions aimed at changing his sexual orientation – and pressure in his Orthodox milieu that nearly led Levin to suicide.

In an op-ed this week headlined “The Jewish Press Won’t Be Silenced,” the paper’s editorial board thanked “our advertisers who have notified us that they plan to continue with us despite the threatening letters and that they won’t give into threats either, particularly when an article like this one may very well have saved a Jewish life.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: LGBT, Gay, Change.org, Chaim Levin, Bullying, TruthWinsOut

Ex-Haredim Sue Israel for 'Financial Damage'

By Nathan Jeffay

There is a remarkable twist in the ongoing battle about Haredi education.

The majority of boys’ schools serving Ashkenazic Haredim do not teach the ministry’s required “core curriculum,” causing fury among secular politicians and educationalists. The Haredim say it’s their right in a multicultural society to decide to give their children a narrow religious education if they want.

Now, a group of graduates from these schools is suing the state for letting their schools ignore the curriculum. “Whoever studied in haredi schools without core issues (including those who are still haredi) and has been forced to complete matriculation or psychometric exams, losing years of work or suffering any other financial damage, is invited to send us his personal details,” says the promotional material of the group initiating the lawsuit. They are members of Maavar, an association of ex-Haredim.

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Cactus Wars: Mascot Dispute Gets Prickly

By Nathan Jeffay

iStock

They’re big, funny and cute. But two popular Israeli mascots are going to be facing off in court.

Kishkashta is a jolly singing cactus seen on Israeli Educational Television. You can sneak a look at him here, on YouTube. Now, take a peek at the Israel Olympic Committee’s mascot, Shpitzik, here.

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Video: Seinfeld in Acura Super Bowl Ad

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

If Matthew Broderick can do it, then so can Jerry Seinfeld. Sell cars, that is. Hot on the (w)heels of Broderick’s reprise of his famous Ferris Bueller alter ego to hock a Honda, we have Seinfeld doing his shtick to push the new Acura NSX.

It seems these days you don’t even have to wait until Super Bowl Sunday to watch Super Bowl ads. Four and half million pairs of eyes have been on Seinfeld’s extended-length commercial since Monday, nearly a week before the game kick off.

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First Jewish Interfaith Cemetery in Canada

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStock

Winnipeg’s Shaarey Zedek, western Canada’s largest Conservative synagogue, is once again ahead of the curve. The congregation, which was the first Conservative shul in Canada to fully welcome and include LGBT Jews, has now opened the first Jewish interfaith cemetery in the country.

Ian Staniloff, Shaarey Zedek’s executive director, said that the interfaith cemetery is a response to demographic realities. “We are serving a growing need in our community. The Winnipeg Jewish community numbers about 16 thousand and up to 70% of our young people are marrying outside the faith,” he told the National Post. “In the past, the Jewish spouse was forced to make a decision — either be buried by themselves in a Jewish manner in a Jewish cemetery or be buried with their partner elsewhere.”

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Jewish Mom in Custody Battle With Saudi Prince

By Renee Ghert-Zand

A Saudi prince is facing an international arrest warrant for not handing over custody of his 10-year-old daughter to her French-Jewish mother.

The Paris criminal court ordered Prince Sattam al-Saud, of the royal Saudi family, to give the little girl, Aya, to her mother, Candice Cohen-Ahnine. The prince, however, says he is not planning to do so. “France hasn’t got the right to take her back. She is a Saudi citizen and a princess. They cannot oblige a princess to leave this country,” he reportedly said.

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Ferris Bueller Now Drives a Honda CR-V

By Renee Ghert-Zand

The Shmooze has been wondering what product would be featured in the new Superbowl ad in which Matthew Broderick is reprising his role as Ferris Bueller. Well, now that the full commercial is out online, it seems we could have guessed from Broderick’s teaser line, “How can I handle work on a day like today?”

The ad is for a car — not the sweet Ferrari 250 GT California we remember from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” but something more suited to a 49-year-old actor and father of three. Broderick is hocking the Honda CR-V. And like the Ferrari, it is red.

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Q&A: David Steinberg Takes Us 'Inside Comedy'

By Curt Schleier

Courtesy of Showtime
Steinberg with Sarah Silverman

You can’t really say that edgy comic David Steinberg is back, because in truth he never really left. He just wandered off in a less visible direction, behind the scenes, as a director of commercials and television shows such as “Weeds” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

In fact, he was in an especially cheerful mood on the day of this interview; he’d just received a Director’s Guild nomination for an episode of “Curb” that he helmed last season. But what Steinberg really wanted to talk about was his new weekly Showtime series, “Inside Comedy,” which debuted on January 26. In it, he interviews giants of the funny business — Seinfeld, Brooks, DeGeneres, Conway, Rickles and others — about their art.

Steinberg spoke with the Forward’s Curt Schleier about the show, a brief return to stand-up and his first job, teaching Hebrew.

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New Online Jewish Heritage ‘Clearinghouse’

By Michael Kaminer

Much of the continent may have united, but Jewish heritage initiatives in Europe have remained far-flung — until now.

The just-launched Jewish Heritage Europe website will aim “to serve as an online clearinghouse for all news, information and contacts about Jewish heritage from as far east as Turkey and Russia to the UK and Portugal,” according to the CzechPosition news site. “The focus will be on built Jewish heritage, meaning synagogues, cemeteries and other architectural remnants of Jewish culture that attest to a presence on the continent stretching back to antiquity.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Ruth Ellen Gruber, Prague, Jewish Heritage Sites, Jewish Heritage Europe

Baby-Faced Leaders Better at Making Peace

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStock
Could you trust this face?

Never mind putting on your game face. Put on your baby face, instead — that is, if you want your opponent in peace negotiations to accept your overtures.

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have found that enemies have an easier time gaining our trust if they have what is colloquially referred to as a “baby face.” They found this out by subtly changing the features of fictional politicians’ faces to look more baby-like. The study, authored by Dr. Ifat Maoz, Associate Professor in the Noah Mozes Department of Communication and Journalism and Head of the Smart Family Institute of Communications, reported that Jewish-Israeli subjects in the experiment were more likely to accept a particular peace proposal from a baby-faced fictional Palestinian politician than they were to accept the very same offer from a more mature-looking one.

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