The Shmooze

Shimon Peres Wishes Iran a Happy New Year

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Hot on the heels of the Facebook love fest between everyday Israelis and Iranians, the social media-savvy Israeli President Shimon Peres is sending out special videotaped Nowruz greeting to the Iranian people. Nowruz, the Persian New Year, is being celebrated today.

In his taped message, Peres comes across as genuinely concerned about the Iranian people. But let’s not kid ourselves — given the tense situation over Iran’s nuclear build up, it is not just by chance that the president is making this gesture now.

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Natalie Portman Calls For End To Syrian Bloodshed

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Natalie Portman and others are lending their star power to try to help stop the bloodshed in Syria. On March 15, the first anniversary of the conflict in that country, Portman and other celebrities joined regular people of countries around the world in voicing their outrage against President Bashar al-Assad’s ongoing brutal attack on the citizens of his own country.

Some celebrities took the message to YouTube. Others, like singer Annie Lennox and Nelly Furtado, sent messages out on Twitter. Portman, along with actress Susan Sarandon, posted handwritten notes on the “Unite For Syria” Facebook page. Portman simply uploaded a familiar headshot of herself wearing a leopard print blouse, alongside signed note saying, “Unite For Syria. Stop One Year of Bloodshed. #Syria 15 March.”

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Lenny Kravitz Headed To Israel

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Singer and actor Lenny Kravitz will be on his way to Israel soon, or so he has told a reporter interviewing him about his new film, “The Hunger Games.” While earlier this year, he told Israeli friends that he was going to come to the Holy Land for a private visit, word now is that he is going to turn it into a working vacation.

Although Kravitz has confirmed that he will make Israel a stop on his new “Black and White America” tour this spring, he has not released any information about a specific date, time or venue for the concert.

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Zach Braff and Mitt Romney: Cousins?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Zach Braff, in England right now for the premiere run of “All New People” (his London stage debut — plus, he wrote the play) is surely enjoying the present moment. But it turns out that his past — at least his family’s past — has something to do with another play: “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller.

It seems that the Jewish Braff is related to the Mormon Presidential candidate Mitt Romney…by way of a Puritan Protestant. That Protestant is Rebecca Nurse, who was falsely accused of practicing witchcraft in the infamous Salem witchcraft trials. She was hanged in 1692. Miller made Nurse a central character in his play about the trials.

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Israel Film Festival Opens in L.A.

By Rex Weiner

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Jonah Hill

The gala opening of the 26th Israel Film Festival at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles on Thursday night turned into a celebration of Israel’s entertainment industry as translated by Hollywood. Producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, and Showtime President David Nevins of the TV hit series “Homeland,” based on the Israeli series, were honored with an IFF award presented by Homeland star Morena Baccarin. Israel’s Minister of Culture Limor Livnat also hailed the Academy Award nominations of 10 motion pictures from Israel, included the most recent, “Footnote.”

Noting that Iran had nabbed the Best Foreign Language Oscar this year for “The Separation,” Livnat said, “Mark my words — Iran wins over Israel only in the movies!”

Actor Jonah Hill, Oscar-nominated for his role opposite Brad Pitt in “Moneyball,” was honored by the festival with an award presented by Seth Rogen, who took stage and cracked, “Who won for best circumcision?”

“We are very pleased to honor such a dynamic and multi-faceted talent like Jonah Hill,” said festival founder and executive director Meir Fenigstein. “We are excited to present the IFF Achievement in Film Award for his remarkable accomplishments and his support for Israeli filmmaking.”

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Israeli Celebs Support Sudanese Asylum Seekers

By Nathan Jeffay

It’s celebrities versus politicians in Israel.

If the latest petition to be signed in Israel ever went up for auction, it would sell for millions of shekels, because it bears the names of some of the most famous Israelis alive: writers Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua, singer Yehudit Ravitz and actors Hanna Maron and Moshe Ivgy.

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Teens Not Interested in Bibi’s Outreach Video

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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In a move to reach Israeli youth, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video of himself inviting young people ages 13-18 to propose new ideas and legislative proposals to a special meeting of the Israeli government. But unfortunately for Bibi, it looks like the kids just aren’t that into him or his government.

We’re definitely not talking about a viral video here. Since the clip was posted on YouTube on February 29, it has had only 282 views. The thought of being chosen as one of five people to sit next to the prime minister and present a suggestion for how the government could be doing things differently just doesn’t seem to appeal to the teens. Is it Bibi they don’t like? Or do they just think that sitting around a boardroom table with a bunch of suits is boring and uncool? It’s hard to say. Could be either or both.

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Marla Sokoloff Blogs About Breastfeeding

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Marla Sokoloff’s fans know her from roles over the years on shows like Full House, Party of Five, The Practice and Desperate Housewives. Now she has a new role—that of mother. And Sokoloff is sharing with her adoring public aspects of her private life on a celebrity baby blog she is writing for People magazine.

The actress says she is happy in general to be telling news of her five-week-old daughter Elliotte Anne, whom she had together with her husband music composer Alec Puro. However, in her post from March 14, she emphasized that she felt it was particularly important to share the difficulty she has had with breastfeeding.

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Bibi and the Tasty Nuclear Duck

By Nathan Jeffay

iStockphoto

Benjamin Netanyahu’s now-famous duck comment has caused a great deal of amusement at his expense, most famously from this animated remix. Now, the venerated British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, has set its best comic writers on Bibi.

“If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then what is it? That’s right, it’s a duck. But this duck is a nuclear duck and it’s time the world started calling a duck a duck,” said the Israeli Prime Minister at AIPAC.

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Photo Op: Chelsea Clinton Combats Islamophobia

By Eileen Reynolds

Nancy Adler
From left: Imam Shamsi Ali, Rabbi Marc Schneier and Chelsea Clinton

A year and a half after her wedding to investment banker Marc Mezvinsky, Chelsea Clinton is keeping busy. In addition to her work for the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative, she’s also serving as a correspondent for NBC and pursuing her doctoral degree in public service.

And last night, Clinton headed to New York City’s Upper West Side to moderate a discussion between Rabbi Marc Schneier, founder and president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, and Imam Shamsi Ali, leader of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York.

The JCC in Manhattan event, framed as a conversation about Islamic relations, was titled “Combating Islamophobia.”

Click to enlarge the photo at right.


Scarlett Johansson Dishes on Photo Scandal

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Actress Scarlett Johansson says she felt “absolutely violated” by the hacking of her personal email account and the publishing of nude photos she had taken of herself last year.

Speaking out for the first time about the incident, Johansson, 27, recently told Stylist magazine, “It was really terrible; I felt absolutely violated. I wasn’t really aware of how vulnerable all of us are, but I think everybody is just discovering that now, especially with the recent phone-hacking scandals.” The actress was referring to the ongoing and escalating tabloid news phone-hacking scandal in Britain.

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Ruth Madoff’s New Digs in Old Greenwich

By Renee Ghert-Zand

There goes the neighborhood. Some residents of Old Greenwich, Connecticut are not pleased to learn that they have been joined by none other than Ruth Madoff, wife of the notorious Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff.

Rumors that Mrs. Madoff had arrived in town were recently confirmed. She apparently moved last October into a modest (by Greenwich standards) house that has either been in her family for years or was purchased for her by her surviving son Andrew, depending on the source. She decided to settle in Greenwich to be close to her son and grandchildren. The Madoffs’ other son, Mark, committed suicide in 2010.

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Gilad Shalit To Get Army Discharge

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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The Israeli press has reported on former Hamas captive Gilad Shalit’s every move since his release and return to Israel last October.

First we were informed of the Gilad Shalit shirt craze, then of his first bike ride and his first visit to the beach. Next we saw him being visited by political VIPs like President Shimon Peres. Before long, he was shmoozing with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on a cold day in Paris and smiling broadly, though a bit awkwardly, as he met with Israeli basketball superstar Omri Casspi.

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Bethenny Frankel, Serious Actress?

By Michael Kaminer

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The official website of Bethenny Frankel — the tireless “reality” self-promoter who most recently chronicled her crumbling marriage on Bravo’s Bethenny Ever After(http://www.bravotv.com/bethenny-ever-after) — describes her as a “bestselling author and natural food chef.”

Now, Frankel apparently wants to add “serious actress” to the list. UsMagazine.com reports Frankel just auditioned for a role in director Michael Bay’s upcoming “Pain and Gain,” based on “the true story of body builders in Miami Beach who headed a kidnapping and extortion ring that went awry,” according to HollywoodReporter.com. Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Ed Harris, and Tony Shaloub will star.

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Demi Moore: From Kabbalah To Rehab

By Michael Kaminer

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We’re not sure what Jewish mystics had to say about Red Bull and Adderall, but actress Demi Moore apparently immersed herself in Kabbalah to stay on track with her recovery from addiction, gossip site TheFix reports.

The approach was not entirely successful; in February, Moore ended up checking herself into “an undisclosed location” from which she finally checked out on Thursday, People.com says. An “insider” tells People that “Demi is in a much better place” and “has been working on herself a lot.”

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Peres Goes to 'House That Shrek Built'

By Rex Weiner

getty images
Shimon Peres

While pundits pondered the crisis brewing over Iran, Shimon Peres was visiting the house that Shrek built, but not exactly to pitch a sequel to Prince of Egypt, the biblical epic that in 1998 launched DreamWorks Animation.

On the second day of his Hollywood sojourn, the Israeli president used his lunch-time tour Friday of Hollywood’s last free-standing animation studio, at the invitation of DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, to thank an assembled crowd of animators, computer graphics artists and production staff “on behalf of the children of Israel” for the studio’s global box office hits. Half-jokingly, Peres added that the younger generation “believed film actors more than politicians.”

Preparations for the visit had been underway for a month and the Secret Service locked down the 14-acre Glendale campus for the president’s visit, with security gates for everyone passing into the courtyard where Peres gave his address.

A booster for new technologies, Peres got a demonstration earlier in the morning of the computer graphics process behind such Dreamwork’s features as the upcoming Rise of the Guardians and Madagascar 3. Meanwhile, as about two hundred of the studio’s 2000 employees gathered by the courtyard fountain, a couple of production guys in their Kung Fu Panda 2 T-shirts, fondling iPads, tried to recall the last time a head of state had paid a visit; was it the president of Madagascar, back in 2005, when the first Madagascar feature was released, a box office blockbuster that took in nearly $200 million?

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Shimon Peres Does Tinseltown

By Rex Weiner

getty images
Shimon Peres

When Jason Alexander, the veteran actor from the 1990’s hit TV series “Seinfeld,” met Shimon Peres at the Beverly Hilton Hotel Thursday night, it was, at first, as though he were channeling his old character, George Constanza.

“Happy Purim!” he exclaimed, immediately launching into a comedy routine. Then, commenting on the heavy security on the way in, he said, “I had to give them the names of my rabbi, my cantor—and my moyle…”

It was the last leg of Peres’ visit to the U.S., and for a moment the gathering, organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Israeli Consulate, seemed headed in the direction of yet another Hollywood roast. But Alexander quickly turned serious, paying tribute to the 88-year-old Israeli president by citing the Nobel Prize winner’s oft quoted motto: “Pessimists and optimists die the exact same death but they live very different lives.”

One pessimist in the crowd told the Forward earlier in the evening that she was not entirely an admirer of Peres, whose efforts resulting in the Oslo Peace Accord earned him his Nobel award.

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Bullock and Ratner: We're NOT Dating

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Some celebrities, knowing full well that tabloid reporters like to cook up sensationalist stories, just let the rumor mill churn. But when it comes to the suggestion that she is dating notorious womanizer, gay-basher and producer-director Brett Ratner, Sandra Bullock refuses to go with the flow.

In Touch magazine’s cover this week featured a large photo of Bullock with another smaller one of Ratner next to it. “SANDRA’S RISKY NEW ROMANCE,” screamed the headline, followed by the caption: “Two years after her divorce, she’s finally opened her heart and learned to trust again. But will dating Hollywood’s biggest player end in heartbreak?”

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Israeli Pop Star Tries English Crossover

By Nathan Jeffay

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If there’s one Israeli music star who is original and inspirational, it’s Ninet Tayeb.

With all the bland releases of formulaic rhythms on the Israeli scene, she manages to produce music that appeals to typical consumers of this stuff, but also has an interesting and funky twist. She comes from a family of Tunisian origin, and launched her career following success on the Israeli version of American Idol. She has shown the country that Eastern-influenced music in Israel can be classy and doesn’t need to be cheesy, a trap that artists too often fall into.

Now you can enjoy her music, too — in English. She has produced her first English-language album in Liverpool, one-time home of the Beatles, and has just released the first single from it called “I.C.U.”

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Mila Kunis Grumbles About Weight Gain

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Our heart breaks for her.

Poor Mila Kunis, GQ’s Knockout of the Year, isn’t happy with her body and sits home alone in the evenings. Or so her cover story in April’s Harper’s Bazaar makes it seem.

Apparently, once Kunis gained back the 20 or so pounds that she lost in order to play a ballerina in “Black Swan,” the weight didn’t distribute itself the way she would’ve liked. “When I got down to 95 pounds, I was muscles, like a little brick house, but skin and bones. When I gained it back it went to completely different areas,” she told Harper’s Bazaar. “I’d be happy if my ass got bigger. All the weight that left my chest went to my side hip, my stomach.”

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