The Shmooze

Whitney Houston Had Israel Trip Planned

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown with Ariel Sharon in 2003

For some people, that one last trip to Israel never takes place. That’s what happened to Whitney Houston, according to CBS’s “The Insider.”

AbbaNibi, the Israeli/Jewish cultural newswire reports that it was revealed on the gossip show last night that Houston had been planning a return trip to the Holy Land as a follow up to the time she spent there with her then-husband Bobby Brown. She apparently wanted to be baptized again in the Jordan River by the African Israelites (Black Hebrews). “The Insider” showed Houston’s goddaughter Brandi Burnside saying, “We planned to go to Israel together. She said to me, ‘We need to get into the holy waters, so that nothing can harm us.’”

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German Soccer Marred By Anti-Semitism

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Itay Shechter

Soccer hooligans called Israeli soccer player Itay Shechter a “dirty Jew” and made the Nazi salute at him during a training session for the Kaiserslautern team in southwest Germany on Sunday, prompting an outcry in the German media against anti-Semitism in German football.

Although DFB, Germany’s national football association, condemned the incident and said it does not tolerate any kind of racism in the sport, it was reported that police and security personnel are reluctant to eject people making anti-Semitic remarks from the stadium. The media criticized the police’s inaction as part of a “deescalation” strategy, and journalist Alex Feuerherdt, who covers anti-Semitism in German soccer said it was “completely inexplicable that the police did not intervene” the minute the hooligans began calling Shechter a “dirty Jew.”

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Is Natalie Portman Married? Yes!

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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UPDATE: The rings say it all—Natalie tied the knot.

Natalie Portman and Benjamin MIllepied are officially married, Us Magazine reported.

The rings that actress Natalie Portman and her fiancé Benjamin Millepied were wearing at the Academy Awards this past Sunday could very well have signaled that they’ve made it official. But Portman’s reps wouldn’t confirm one way or another to the New York Daily News, so the Shmooze doesn’t know what to think.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Oscars, Natalie Portman, Jamie Wolf, Benjamin Millepied

Big Win for French Jewish Director

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy publicly congratulated actor Jean Dujardin and director Michel Hazanavicius on winning the Oscars for best actor and best director, respectively. The president proudly stated that these awards, along with three others (including best picture) for “The Artist” “demonstrate the exceptional vitality of our cinema and the success of our policy of supporting the excellence of this great French industry.”

The Jewish community in France is likely doubly excited about Hazanavicius’s win, as he is the son and grandson of French Jews who survived the German occupation of France by hiding in the country’s hillsides, according to The Algemeiner. The director’s family is originally Lithuanian, with his grandparents having settled in France in the 1920s.

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At the 'Footnote' Oscar Viewing Party

By Rex Weiner

Tipi Cedar at the Oscar viewing party

At an Academy Awards viewing party sponsored by the Israeli Consulate together with the Israeli Leadership Council at the Luxe Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, the moment when the Iranian film “A Separation” won the Oscar was greeted by a heartfelt moan. “Footnote,” the comic drama directed by Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar about a pair of father-and-son Talmudic scholars, had failed to snag the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in Israel’s 10th Academy Award nomination in the category.

But not everybody took the loss as hard.

“It doesn’t matter as long as he can create that’s all that I care about,” Tipi Cedar, mother of the 44 year old Orthodox filmmaker, told the Forward. “He’s a mensch.”

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Oscar Night Highlights

By Eileen Reynolds

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Oscar night has come and gone, and now the real fun begins. With the glitzy spectacle fresh in our minds, this is the time to dissect, analyze, and discuss. Best and worst dressed? Start with our red-carpet photo slideshow. Which victories were well deserved? Who should’ve won but went home empty handed? Check out our list of historic wins to see how this year’s nominees measure up against the greatest Oscar winners of all time.

Best speech? Worst joke? Sweetest red-carpet couple? Read on to see how this year’s crop of Jewish nominees, presenters and guests — from Steven Spielberg to Natalie Portman to Sacha Baron Cohen — fared at the 84th Annual Academy Awards.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Seth Rogen, Sacha Baron Cohen, Oscars, Natalie Portman, Michel Hazanavicius, Jason Segel, Gwyneth Paltrow, Billy Crystal, Ben Stiller, Barbra Streisand, Adam Sandler, Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen

Behind the Scenes: 'Footnote' Pre-Oscar Party

By Rex Weiner

Rex Weiner
Joseph Cedar

Israeli-born producer Avi Lerner can’t compare the film “Footnote” to the blockbusters that he produces. “It’s a different movie,” he said of the Israeli film, which is nominated for an Academy Award in Best Foreign Language Film category. Lerner, who has produced big-budget action movies like “The Expendables” and low-budget exploitation flicks like “Crocodile 2: Death Swamp,” was among the 50 guests gathered for a pre-Oscar party for “Footnote” at a private home in Beverly Hills Thursday night.

The comic drama, about a pair of father-and-son Talmudic scholars, snagged Israel its 10th Academy Award nomination in the category and, Lerner hopes, the nation’s first win when Oscars are handed out Sunday night.

Sponsored by the Israeli Consulate and L.A.’s upcoming 26th Israel Film Festival, the festivities were hosted by Shanit Schwartz and her husband, Sam, a talent agent whose stable boasts many of film and TV’s top musical composers. Guests entering the Schwartz’s art-filled villa emerged onto a hilltop with sunset views toward the distant Channel Islands and, just across the way, the $30 million driveway (yes, driveway) that leads to the home of Sam and Shanit’s neighbor, Microsoft mogul Paul Allen.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Expendables, Shlomo Bar-Aba, Shanit Schwartz, Sam Schwartz, Moshe Edery, Oscars, Paul Allen, Meir Fenigstein, Leon Edery, Joseph Cedar, Footnote, David Mandil, Crocodile 2, Avi Lerner, Academy Awards

Fashion Crowd Stunned by Flash Mob

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Model Shalom Harlow at Stella McCartney’s special presentation February 18

As if fashion designer Stella McCartney weren’t busy enough creating two main fall/winter 2012 collections (one shown this past week in London and the other to be shown soon in Paris), designing Great Britain’s Olympic team uniform, and being mother to her four children, she also managed to pull off the most-talked-about event at London’s Fashion Week.

On the evening of February 18, guests were invited by the designer to a black-tie affair in a deconsecrated church in London’s Mayfair district. Just as partygoers were wondering when the fashion show would begin, they were surprised by someone throwing a chair, another person yelling at a waiter, and a third individual leaping across the floor in attack mode. It took a few moments for the guests, including model Kate Moss, pop star Rihanna, artist Peter Blake, architect Zaha Hadid, and actors Paul Whitehouse, Richard E Grant and Minnie Driver, to figure out that a flash mob had begun.

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Yair Lapid Applies for Ph.D.

By Nathan Jeffay

iStockphoto

For Yair Lapid, things tend to work out well. He’s handsome, and everything he touches seems to turn to gold. He’s an author, screenwriter and one-time actor. Until recently he was a popular columnist for the best-selling newspaper Yediot Aharonot, but then he left to enter politics. Again, this move went super-smoothly — before he said a single word about what his policies would be, he was polling seven to 20 of the Knesset’s 120 seats.

But it now seems that not everything can be plain sailing for Lapid. Normally, for acceptance to a doctorate degree program in Israel you are expected to have an undergraduate degree. This is the case with Bar Ilan University’s hermeneutics program, which combines master’s and doctoral studies and declares the requirement for a bachelor’s degree in the course description. But Yair Lapid, being Yair Lapid (and having what Bar Ilan calls exceptional non-academic achievements), was admitted without.

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Jews Rank Highest on Well-Being Index

By Renee Ghert-Zand

There’s a Yiddish saying, “It’s hard to be a Jew.” But according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Jews enjoy the highest well-being of all religious groups.

The research shows that the most religious members of all American religious groups have the highest well-being. Very religious Jews lead the way at 72.4%, with very religious Mormons close behind at 71.5%. However, there is a significant drop off in well-being level between very religious Mormons and less religious ones. Jews, on the other hand show a very small difference between the very religious, moderately religious and the non-religious.

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Attack of the 50-Foot Natalie Portman?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Portman at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in January

Natalie Portman is big everywhere in the world, including in Beirut, Lebanon, where she appears on a 50-foot billboard for Dior cosmetics. But not everyone is a fan.

Algemeiner reports that anti-Israeli Lebanese bloggers are complaining about the actress’s image in their capital city. “Since each contact or with an Israeli occupation in Lebanon is considered a crime, you do not think hanging a poster size of 15 meters with the Zionist Jerusalem is illegal?,” suggested one blogger. He was referring to Portman having been born in Jerusalem (as Natalie Hershlag) and to her public stance in defense of Israel and against anti-Semitism.

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New Diet Plan: Dessert for Breakfast!

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

Want to lose weight? Just eat dessert with your breakfast. You read that correctly: Treat yourself to some chocolate cake or ice cream in the morning and you are more likely to take off and keep off the pounds.

Researchers at Wolfson Medical Center and Tel Aviv University found that eating a larger breakfast, which included a dessert, helped dieters control hunger pains and consequently eat less throughout the day.

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Video: Bearded Matisyahu Grants Special Wish

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Matisyahu in 2010, with full beard

Reggae star Matisyahu had two surprises in store for concert-goers who had come to see him perform at The Tarrytown Music Hall on February 16.

The first was the re-growth of his beard. No sooner had the singer’s famous facial hair disappeared than it was back again — though it will obviously take a while for it to reach its prior Hasidic-style length. Either Matsiyahu simply got tired of shaving or he has had a religious change of heart…again.

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Sacrifice for Ailing Rabbi

By Nathan Jeffay

Israel’s Orthodox community is anxious, as the country’s most revered rabbi, Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv, is in a serious condition at a Jerusalem hospital. The 101-year-old scholar has been in a coma for almost two weeks. In synagogues across the country worshipers are praying for him — but some people are going further.

One Orthodox Jerusalemite, identified in the religious media just as Aaron B, has reportedly made a deal with the Almighty to shorten his own life by a year and give the time to Eliyashiv.

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M15: Nazi Forged Bank Notes Shook British Confidence

By Michael Kaminer

Seeking to sabotage Britain’s economy in World War II, the Nazis “flooded” Europe with fake British bank notes, according to secret documents released today by British intelligence agency MI5.

And though M15 didn’t know it at the time, the fake bills “were being made at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp by prisoners, many of whom were Jewish,” according to BBCNews.

BBCNews’s Sanchia Berg wrote that she met met one of those unwitting forgers, Adolph Burger, in 2007. “He proudly showed me one of his £5 notes. On watermarked paper, with elegant copperplate script, and engraving of Britannia, it was a perfect counterfeit. He knew, because there was a pinhole in the Britannia, that it was a Sachsenhausen product. The prisoners had marked these notes.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sachsenhausen, M15, Britannia, Ban Notes, Adolph Burger

Bar Refaeli Pigs Out on Chocolate

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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As Us Weekly likes to tell us, “they’re just like us!” Celebrities apparently do things that regular folks do, like go to the grocery store, make a coffee run, drive a car or change a diaper.

But when it comes to eating, it would seem that gorgeous supermodels definitely don’t do as much of it as the rest of us. But now New York magazine’s Grub Street food blog insists that even the supermodels who pose for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition (sometimes) indulge in food that can pack on the pounds.

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Public Transportation on the Sabbath?

By Nathan Jeffay

iStockphoto

Of all the ways that religion impacts the Israeli public sphere, the lack of public transportation in most of the country on Sabbaths and religious holidays has possibly the largest week-to-week impact on people’s lives. It means that those who don’t have their own vehicles can’t get far from home on these days.

The difficulty this poses is made greater by the structure of the work week here. In contrast to in the United States, where Saturdays and Sundays are rest days, here Sunday is a working day. That means that Saturday, when there is no transportation until nightfall, is the only full day off available for going on trips or to visit friends and family.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai, Public Transportation

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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