The Shmooze

Barrymore Enlists Sandler as Conversion Coach

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Sandler and Barrymore at the 31st Annual People’s Choice Awards in 2005

Is it any surprise that, after going out on fifty first dates with Adam Sandler and also falling for him as a wedding singer, Drew Barrymore would say that she is close to her co-star? Of course, not. However, it’s one thing to look to a co-star for friendship and acting advice — or even romantic companionship — and entirely another to seek his services as a religious conversion coach.

But that is exactly what Barrymore is doing, according to In Touch weekly. The gossip magazine reports that Sandler, of “Hanukkah Song” fame, is guiding Barrymore, 36, in her conversion to Judaism as she prepares for her upcoming marriage to her Jewish fiancé, Will Kopelman, a 34-year-old art consultant. Let’s just hope that Sandler knows more about Judaism than how to rhyme yarmulke with Hanukkah and menorah with Dinah Shore-ah.

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Israeli Jews Split on IDF Women Singing

By Nathan Jeffay

There is a surprising new poll out in Israel, where there has been significant controversy in recent weeks about religious soldiers who leave ceremonies where women sing. The walkouts have generated angry opinion pieces in the media and fury among top army brass, with 19 reserve major generals petitioning the Defense Ministry claiming that they damage “the fundamental values of Israeli society” and the army eventually ruling that soldiers must stay in their seats. But it seems that Israeli society is more evenly split on the issue than most of us assumed.

A poll conducted by the Panels Research Institute found that 49% of the Jewish public believes that religious soldiers should be excused from military ceremonies that include women performers. Backing for the army’s position, that they must attend, was lower at 40%.

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Israeli Sketch Comedy Pokes Fun at U.S. Jews

By Nathan Jeffay

It must be American Jewry season on Israeli television. A few weeks ago, everyone was talking about the depiction of the Jewish American man in the government’s ad campaign to get Israelis living in the U.S. to head “home.” Now, U.S. Jews are fodder for the most popular sketch show in Israel.

Eretz Nehederet has just run a parody of Taglit-Birthright’s trips, which bring Diaspora Jews to visit Israel and — the funders hope — develop affection for the country.

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H & H Bagel Saga Continues

By Michael Kaminer

It’s been through multiple bankruptcies. Its New Jersey manufacturing plant is history. Its iconic Upper West Side store is but a memory. And it now faces the loss of its only remaining space — a West 46th Street plant and shop. But H & H Bagel — once New York’s dominant producer of Jewishy baked treats — will rise again, its beleaguered owner told The Wall Street Journal yesterday.

In his first public comments since the company’s widely publicized Chapter 11 filing last year, Helmer Toro told the Journal “he is in preliminary talks with investors. He also said he is actively looking” for another location on the Upper West Side. “I’ve been doing this for 40 years and I make the best bagels, according to my customers. And I love what I do,” said the 61-year-old Toro, who founded H & H in 1972.

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'Gay Cure' Idea Offends Day School Students

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Sixth formers (high school seniors) at JFS, the oldest and largest Jewish day school in England, are being taught that homosexuality can be cured. At least, that is how some students, parents and community leaders understand the inclusion of information about JONAH — Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (an American organization that maintains that homosexuality can be “mitigated and potentially eliminated”) — in a Jewish text class on homosexuality and the Orthodox viewpoint.

Complaints have been lodged with the school’s administration, contending either that introducing the notion of gay “conversion” is offensive, or that at the very least, opposing views to those of JONAH should be included in the class. Material from or mention of Keshet UK, the LGBT forum, were reportedly not part of the course of study.

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A Kiddush for Shipwreck Survival

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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British newlyweds Ian and Janice Donoff sponsored a kiddush last Shabbat at London’s Stanmore Synagogue — but not for one of the usual reasons, like a bar mitzvah, aufruf, baby naming or birthday. Their celebration was to give thanks for surviving the recent Costa Concordia shipwreck off the coast of Italy.

As the couple was finishing their Shabbat dinner on January 13, they heard a loud crunching sound and the ship’s lights went out. Mr. Donoff, 62, told the Jewish Chronicle that when the ship came to a halt, they realized that something was wrong. “We decided something was amiss and that we should dress warmly,” he said. “We saw people were wearing life-jackets, so we took our passports and I stuffed my siddur and tefillin into my pocket.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Shipwreck, Newlyweds, Kiddush, Costa Concordia, Cruise Ship

Defunct Borscht Belt Hotel May Rise Again

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Old Borscht Belt hotels never die…they just get boarded up until a new buyer comes along to save them. At least that’s the story when it comes to the Nevele, which closed its doors in the Catskills back in 2009.

The Nevele may indeed have a new lease on life if a sale to the Manhattan-based Claremont Investments LLC goes through. A state judge was to hold a hearing on the sale of the 432-room resort on Monday. Claremont is hoping to work with a casino developer to restore the property, and is betting on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s support for a constitutional amendment to overturn the ban on gambling on non-Indian land in New York State.

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Underwear Ads Irk North London Orthodox

By Renee Ghert-Zand

While some Haredim in Jerusalem have succeeded in getting images of women removed from public advertising there, the Orthodox community in North London has had less luck on that front.

In London, it is not all women’s images they find offensive, but rather those of Calvin Klein models wearing nothing but their skimpy underwear on the sides of public buses driving on routes through Orthodox neighborhoods. According to the Jewish Chronicle, “a claim that a lingerie advert placed on buses that ran through Stamford Hill was ‘offensive’ and ‘irresponsible’ has been rejected by the advertisers’ watchdog because there was ‘no explicit nudity.’”

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Haim Amsallem Launches Moderate Haredi Party

By Nathan Jeffay

One of the most remarkable things about covering Israeli politics is watching parties come and go. People have an amazing willingness to support a brand new party with no track record.

Earlier this month Yair Lapid, journalist and icon of secular middle-class Israelis, announced he was entering politics. As the Forward reported, before he even announced what his party would be called and who its other candidates would be, polls showed that he would win between seven and 20 of the Knesset’s 120 seats. Now, the religious community has its own Yair Lapid-like phenomenon.

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DSK’s Wife To Head French HuffPo

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Perhaps in an attempt to put her husband’s very public sexual assault scandal behind her, Anne Sinclair is throwing herself into her work. The former television journalist and wife of Dominque Strauss-Kahn has been named editor of the soon-to-be-launched French version of the Huffington Post.

Ariana Huffington herself will be on hand in Paris on January 23 to formally announce the launch of the news and opinion website, as well as Sinclair’s appointment.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Huffington Post, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Ariana Huffington, Anne Sinclair

Hitler Bunker To Become Tourist Stop

By Renee Ghert-Zand

It looks as though there might be another site added to the Polish Holocaust tourism trail. According to Reuters, Poland is searching for someone to spruce up the Wolf’s Lair, in the northeast of the country, near the Russian border, and open it up to the public.

“Wolf’s Lair” was the code name for Adolf Hitler’s heavily fortified bunker complex, where Hitler and his top officers were protected from bombardment during Operation Barbarossa, otherwise known as the German invasion of Russia. The fortress, which was built in 1940-1941, had its own power plant and railway station. The German forces destroyed it as they retreated in early 1945.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Valkyrie, Tourism, Hitler, Claus von Stauffenberg, Wolf's Lair

Jewish Billionaire Owns Sunken Cruise Ship

By Michael Kaminer

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Arison outside the Waldorf-Astoria for NBA negotiations in September 2011

An old joke used to blame the Titanic disaster on the Jews because of the “Iceberg.”

But in the case of this week’s sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, there actually is a Jewish connection.

According to JTA, Jewish billionaire Micky Arison is the owner of the capsized luxury liner. The Israeli-American businessman is CEO and chairman of Carnival Corp., the company that operates the cruise line whose ship ran aground off the Italian coast. Arison, who also owns the National Basketball Association’s Miami Heat, is the head of the Carnival Corp., of which Costa Cruises is a subsidiary, JTA said. Carnival operates 101 ships with brands including P&O, Cunard and Princess Cruises, and accounts for almost half of the global cruise market, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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Office Workers Face Sex-Segregated Elevators

By Nathan Jeffay

iStock

Lots of people have claimed in recent weeks that gender segregation is reaching new heights. But never before has the charge been so, well, literal. Making your way up in an elevator should be, according to some members of the Haredi pro-segregation lobby, a single-gender affair.

According to a press report signs have gone up in ultra-Orthodox city of Modiin Illit’s business centers asking men and women to use separate elevators. Some locals tore them down, but others posted new signs to replace them, claiming that they represented the wishes of members of the community.

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Jeff Goldblum To Play Gay Jewish Dad on 'Glee'

By Nathan Burstein

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“Glee” fans have long known about Rachel Berry’s gay Jewish dad, but they’ve never seen him.

That’ll change on Valentine’s Day, when the character will finally make an appearance in the form of Jeff Goldblum, who’s been announced as one of two actors who’ll play Berry’s fathers. Goldblum’s TV spouse will be played by Broadway mainstay Brian Stokes Mitchell, and both will sing during the episode.

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Michael Moore Backs New Film on Resistance

By Nathan Burstein

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Oscar winner Michael Moore has signed on to help an Israeli filmmaker produce his next documentary — a project that will focus, in part, on the small minority of Germans who defied the Nazis during World War II.

Moore, who received an Academy Award for the 2002 documentary “Bowling for Columbine,” has agreed to match funds currently being raised by Yoav Shamir, whose previous films two have focused, respectively, on Israel’s military culture and anti-Semitism. Like his new benefactor, he’s no stranger to controversy: His most recent film, “Defamation,” questioned and at times mocked accusations of anti-Semitism emanating from parts of the Jewish world, looking in particular at the Anti-Defamation League.

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Tila Tequila Converts to Judaism

By TMZ Staff

Crossposted from TMZ

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Tila Tequila is converting to Judaism … seriously … and for once, she swears she’s not just after some cheap publicity.

TMZ has learned Tequila has been taking classes at a NY temple to begin the conversion process … and even skipped Christmas this year to focus on change.

We spoke with the former MTV reality star about the situation and she explained, “As time passed, I started to become more and more fascinated with Kabbalah, the culture, and the way of life of the reform Judaism religion.”

Read more at TMZ.com


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Kosher Prison Food Not Only for Jews

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStock

Eating kosher, even in prison, is a constitutional right — not only for Jews, but also for Christians.

On January 11, a three-justice panel of the California 3rd District Court of Appeals issued a ruling that overturned a lower court one that had denied Margarito Jesus Garcia kosher meals from the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The court declared that responding negatively to Garcia’s request for kosher food amounted to a violation of Garcia’s rights under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.

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Beware of Viagra-Spiked Coffee

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStock

Watch out, Israeli customers: That coffee you bought may be a lot stronger than you think!

Israel’s Health Ministry is warning people that products like “Magic Power Coffee” contain counterfeit Viagra. This powdered instant coffee drink, as well as others, are touted by marketers as natural alternatives to the erectile dysfunction drug. However, lab tests performed by the Health Ministry discovered that they actually contained the same chemical substance that is found in Viagra.

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Date Set for 2nd Jerusalem Marathon

By Michael Kaminer

As Jerusalem continues to shake off its, er, parochial reputation, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism this week announced the second annual Jerusalem International Marathon will run its course on March 16 around some of the Holy City’s most iconic sites.

The race, whose 2011 debut drew more than 10,000 runners from more than 40 countries, will include a full and half marathon, as well as a 10K run, according to a press release. The race “will bring participants through sites within Jerusalem’s historical landscape, including the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, the Knesset, Jerusalem Promenade and various Old City sites such as Sultan’s Pool and the German Colony,” the announcement said.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Nir Barkat, Jerusalem International Marathon, New York Times, Matt Gross

Ben Stein Sues for Religious Discrimination

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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The Shmooze had no idea that not believing that climate change is caused by humans constitutes a religion. It’s not at all clear that it really does, but that’s what actor, writer and commentator Ben Stein would have us believe.

In response to Kyocera Corp’s backing out of an agreement to hire him to star in commercials for its printers, Stein is suing the company and its advertising agency, Seiter & Miller, for breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, wrongful discharge for political expression…and illegal religious discrimination.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Kyocera, Discrimination, Ben Stein, Climate Change



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