The Shmooze

Ehud Barak: Afraid of the Remix

By Renee Ghert-Zand

“If the Minister of Defense knows what a remix is, then I can go to bed peacefully at night,” Noy Alooshe commented humorously as he posted the above clip on Facebook yesterday. The video is taken from an interview Ehud Barak gave to Israel’s Channel 10. In it, Barak shows host Guy Lehrer his smart phone and tells him that he is learning Chinese from an online app. When Lehrer asks him to say a sentence in Chinese for him, the Minister of Defense demurs, saying that he’ll sound silly and “they’ll just make one of those remixes out of it.”

When the host then asks Barak if he really is familiar with Noy Alooshe’s remixes, he answered “of course,” and proceeds to sing a few autotuned lines from Alooshe’s YouTube hit “Zenga Zenga.” Forward readers will recall that “Zenga Zenga” parodied the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Barak is surely aware that Alooshe has parodied plenty of Israeli leaders as well, so he isn’t taking any chances. He was careful to compliment Alooshe, saying that “Zenga Zenga” was “huge, a real classic.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Zenga Zenga, Noy Alooshe, Guy Lehrer, Ehud Barak, Chinese

Anna Wintour Chose Israeli for First Vogue Cover

By Renee Ghert-Zand

As Vogue gets set to celebrate its 120th anniversary in 2012, there has been a lot of looking back at the fashion bible’s history. Most important for fashionistas everywhere is the fact that the magazine’s complete archives is now available online.

One of the items in the archives is the cover of the November 1988 issue, featuring Israeli model Michaela Bercu. This was not just any Vogue cover, but rather editor-in-chief Anna Wintour’s first one. It amounted to a game changer that announced to the fashion publishing world that Wintour was ushering in a new direction and a new era for the magazine.

Wintour recently told CBS news how she adventurously made the decision to break from her predecessor Grace Mirabella’s preference for formal, posed headshots and go for the impromptu natural-light shot of Bercu in jeans. It was the first time a model had ever graced the cover of Vogue in jeans, and likely the first time the Israeli Bercu ever appeared wearing a cross — and not a little dainty one like Rachel Weisz recently wore for a fashion shoot. Rather, it was a huge, heavily bejeweled one taking up the entire front of a cropped sweater by Christian Lacroix.

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Watch Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson Sing Hanukkah Songs

By Nathan Burstein

Movie stars do all kinds of silly things to promote their films — including singing Hanukkah songs and discussing gefilte fish on MTV.

Scarlett Johansson and Matt Damon both proved good sports during interviews with the channel’s Josh Horowitz this week, gamely playing along during a segment entitled “After Hours Chanukah Special.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Cameron Crowe, Josh Horowitz, MTV, Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, We Bought a Zoo

Sports Illustrated Lists Greatest Jewish Athletes

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images
Dara Torres is among Sports Illustrated’s List of ‘Prominent Jewish Athletes.’

Jews aren’t exactly famous for their athletic prowess — the punch line of many a joke, including this classic from “Airplane!”

But in honor of Hanukkah, Sports Illustrated is generously celebrating “prominent Jewish athletes,” compiling an online compendium of top Jewish sports stars from over the past 70 years.

A list rather than a ranking, the collection focuses primarily on professional athletes, ranging from baseball players Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax to NFL great Sid Luckman. There’s also hockey goalie Marty Turco, billed as the “smartest goalie in the NHL,” and tattooed, Ukrainian-born NFL player Igor Olshansky. Several Olympic champions are also in the mix, including swimmer Dara Torres and two Jewish gold medalists once featured on the SI cover: swimmer Mark Spitz and ice skater Sarah Hughes.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sid Luckman, Sports Illustrated, Sandy Koufax, Hank Greenberg, Marty Turco

Prisoner Hamouri Slams Rabbi Who Freed Him

By Nathan Jeffay

The Shmooze reported last week that the prominent Israeli Rabbi Ovadia Yosef gave his consent to the freeing of a man who plotted to kill him. It was a remarkable story given that Yosef is pretty hard-lined and has spoken in the past about opposing mercy to Palestinian terrorists. But those of us who were hoping that the development could provide material for the next Hollywood feel-good movie, with the terrorist showing remorse and becoming friends with the rabbi, are to be disappointed.

Salah Hamouri, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, walked free this week, and quickly declared Yosef’s approval — without which he would have stayed behind bars — to be “a final attempt from the occupation to give this racist man a human face.” He insisted that he was justified in his plot because Yosef “is and will remain a symbol of racism and fanaticism in Israel.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Anna Muna, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Salah Hamouri

Portman Dethrones Depp on Movie Search List

By Nathan Burstein

Wikimedia

Not that we needed proof, but here’s more evidence that Natalie Portman is on the Aleph-list.

Capping a year in which she named her firstborn for the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Portman surpassed Johnny Depp as the most searched celebrity on IMDB, the Internet Movie Database. The victory turns out to be rather impressive — Depp has been the highest-ranked search subject for six of the past seven years, meaning Portman must have been pretty hot stuff to pass him.

Keith Simanton, the site’s manager editor, speculated that Portman benefited from her ubiquity in 2011 — in addition to her Best Actress Oscar in February for “Black Swan,” she also released three high-profile movies (“Thor,” “Your Highness” and “No Strings Attached”) and celebrated the birth of her son.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Johnny Depp, Internet Movie Database, IMDB

Getting Divorced All Over Again

By Nathan Jeffay

One of the recurrent themes of my work as the Forward’s Israel correspondent is trying to make sense of Israeli bureaucracy regarding life-cycle events — or, often, to explore the lack of sense that guides the system. I have covered the woman who was regarded Jewish in one city but a Gentile in another, the couples who cannot get married, the people who can’t get buried, and most recently the woman who may force deportation because she took too frum a path when converting to Judaism. But never have I covered a woman who had to divorce the same man twice two weeks apart.

Meir Asoulin and Merav Marili were divorced at the Be’er Sheva Rabbinic Court earlier this month — or so they thought. But they subsequently got a call from the court saying that they needed to do it all over again.

According to the media there was a problem with the signature of one of the witnesses, which is why the court insisted on a re-divorce. Rabbi Yitzhak Dahan, the head of the Be’er Sheva Rabbinic Court, said that it was under pressure — seemingly the reason it missed the problem before the couple and the witnesses leave.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Merab Marili, Divorce, Meir Asoulin

Terrorist's Widow Treated in Tel Aviv Hospital

By Nathan Burstein

Being the widow of one of the Middle East’s most notorious terrorists isn’t enough to stop Israeli doctors from treating you.

In one of today’s stranger news items, Israel’s Channel 2 is reporting that the wife of Mohammed Oudeh, the mastermind behind the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics, is receiving medical care at Assuta Hospital in Tel Aviv. Channel 2 reporter Ohad Hamo says she’s in a coma, and is being visited by daughters who’ve arrived from Jordan and Ramallah. A third daughter is reportedly on her way from Syria — an unusual situation, to say the least, given relations between the two countries.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tel Aviv, Mohammed Oudeh, Assuta Hospital, Abu Daoud, 1972 Olympics, Terrorism

A Jewish Guide to Christmas 2011

By Eileen Reynolds

iStockphoto

Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, which means that it might be tougher than usual to get that reservation at your favorite Chinese restaurant. But with December 25 just a few days away, there’s no need to feel like a Grinch.

Whether your usual plans have fallen through or you’re in the mood for something different this year (like a comedy show or a mah-jongg game), browse our guide for how to keep your spirits bright throughout the holiday weekend. After you’ve gorged yourself on wontons, for example, you might burn some calories on a walking tour or take the kids to a museum. Got other ideas for avoiding a blue Christmas? Feel free to suggest an event in the comments section below.

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Israeli Man Changes Name to Mark Zuckerberg

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

What is it with Israelis and names inspired by Facebook?

Six months after we brought you the story of an Israeli couple who named their newborn daughter “Like,” the weekend edition of Yediot Aharonot reports that a 32-year-old Israeli man has legally changed his name to Mark Zuckerberg.

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Most Embarrassing Hebrew School Moment?

By Michael Kaminer

iStockphoto

Education is a serious matter for Jews. But the Forward’s upcoming special section on education will also take a lighter look at learning — and you can be part of it.

Tell us your most ridiculous, hilarious, or cringe-worthy moment in Hebrew school. We’ll pick the 10 funniest submissions; the winners will appear in the February 3 issue of the Forward, and online. Post your nominations here, or email TopTen@forward.com, and be sure to include your contact information. Names will not be changed to protect the embarrassed!


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Education, Hebrew School, Embarrassment

Comic Artist at Center of Library Battle

By Michael Kaminer

Not many works on the American Library Association’s list of frequently challenged books — a distinguished roster including “The Great Gatsby,” “Catcher in the Rye,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Beloved” — include cartoons. But “Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics From an Unpleasant Age”, an acclaimed compilation whose clear-eyed, candid cartoons confront adolescent traumas, is at the center of a battle between a Maine parent and her local school board, the state’s Sun-Journal newspaper reported this week.

“There’s sexual content and foul language. I want the correct approach to this book. (Having it in the library) is a very lazy way to teach criminal behavior,” said Becky Patterson, the parent who objected to the book’s availability in the Buckfield Junior-Senior High School library. “It’s very demoralizing to little girls.”

The book’s editor, Eisner-nominated cartoonist Ariel Schrag, is one of 18 artists featured in the Yeshiva University Museum exhibit “Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women”, which I curated and the Forward is sponsoring.

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North Carolina Rabbi Welcomes Immigrants

By Renee Ghert-Zand

A rabbi in North Carolina is letting people know — in a big way — about the biblical injunction to welcome the stranger.

Rabbi Eric Solomon of Beth Meyer Synagogue in Raleigh is a member of a Uniting N.C., an interfaith coalition that has put up billboards in support of immigrants.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: North Carolina, Immigration, N.C. Listen, Beth Meyer Synagogue, Eric Solomon, Uniting N.C.

Jewish 'Nutcracker' Comes to San Francisco

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Yrving Torrealba

Tired of the same old Nutcracker? Looking for a new — and Jewish — twist on that holiday classic? Look no further than “The Jewish Nutcracker, A Maccabee Celebration” in San Francisco.

World Dance Fusion is presenting this holiday season a performance that unites the Tchaikovsky’s score with a fusion of various international dance genres. Katy Alaniz Rous has choreographed the story of the Maccabees’ fight for religious freedom and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem, blending dance forms such as Flamenco, Chinese, Persian, Kathak, Afro-Hatian and Capoeira. The production is meant to reflect the diversity of the world’s Jewish population.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: World Dance Fusion, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Katy Alaniz Rous

Liz Taylor's Jewels Fetch $116 Million

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images
This tiara sold for $4.2 million.

It is no secret that Elizabeth Taylor loved jewelry. The fact that her signature fragrance was called White Diamonds was a big hint, as was the fact that she always appeared in public laden with baubles and bangles (the real kind).

So, it may not come as a shock that the auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels netted a cool $116 million, some of which will benefit the late screen legend’s Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. The final tally was, however, a surprise for Christie’s, which thought the jewelry would bring in only $20 million.

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Ohio Doctor Still Practices at 100

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto
Dr. Fred Goldman, 100, still makes house calls.

Dr. Fred Goldman, who celebrated his 100th birthday on December 11, is still going strong — not by relaxing in retirement, but by working. Goldman is the oldest licensed physician practicing medicine in Ohio.

The doctor still works three full days a week, seeing patients in his non-computerized office (he calls it “the dump”), and in their homes. “If they’re sick and can’t leave home, I go to see them,” he told a reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Medicine, Longevity, Fred Goldman, Ohio

Hackers Put Porn on Haredi Website

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

XBiz, a newswire for the adult entertainment industry, has reported that the Israel-based Haredi website Behadrei Hadarim was hacked during the night between December 12 and 13 by someone who replaced its usual content with pornography.

The site (whose name means “in secret” or “in private” — perhaps an allusion to the fact that some Haredim consider public use of the internet unseemly) was temporarily shut down following many calls of complaint.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Pornography, Computer Hacking, Behadrei Hadarim, XBiz

Ovadia Yosef Frees Man Who Tried to Kill Him

By Nathan Jeffay

What would be your attitude toward someone who had plotted to kill you? I can’t help thinking that I’d be more than a little broiges.

You would imagine that the stakes are upped a little when the target of the murder plot is the former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the Shas party. After all, his would-be murderer was planning his death as an act of terrorism, and Yosef famously said in 2001 that it is “forbidden to be merciful” to Palestinian terrorists. People initially presumed that the “them” referred to Palestinians in general, but he then clarified that he meant Arab terrorists.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Benjamin Netanyahu, Christophe Bigot, Eli Yishai, France, Israel, Ovadia Yosef, Shas Party

Beard-Gate, a Matisyahu Shaving Roundup

By Dan Friedman

Never in the field of human barbery has so much been written by so many, about so few… hairs.

One shave and we’re Shmoozing, of course but we’re not only Shmoozing, we’re Thinking too.

But it’s not only the Forward that has gone stark raving beard bonkers, over at religiondispatches.org they’ve taken some time off from theological niceties and geopolitical necessities to give Forward columnist Jay Michaelson some time to weigh into Beard-Gate.

The Washington Post explains how Matis no longer feels the need for rules, Billboard bemoans the loss of the first “chassidic reggae superstar” and Gawker leads with the Onion-esque stance that shaving off his beard is a publicity stunt.

Ironically, The Onion’s A.V. Club merely notes that Matis’s strange phrase to the effect that “you haven’t seen the last of my facial hair” might mean that his mustache might come calling at your door in 2012.

Seems like Matis might no longer qualify for the International Facial Hair Festival, which is a shame.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: reggae, new look, matisyahu, hasidic, chassidic, beard

Here Come the Hanukkah Videos

By Dan Friedman

UPDATED DEC 15

“Dreidel’s my hobby / Don’t let it get wobbly”

As Amy Klein feared the season of Hanukkah videos has begun. The new Maccabeats video featuring Mayim Bialik and Barack Obama is out (see below). Surely their boy band glow, Noah Jacobson jollities and Uri Westrich video mavening is really just a one year thing, allowing the boys to finally call it a day and go to accountancy school — but both Bialik and Obama are sexier than anyone on last year’s video, so maybe not.

The Fountainheads are always good for happiness in the face of despair and this dark festival season is no exception. They are still dancing on mountaintops as they “Light Up the Night” but their cute Matrix dress-up is either 10 years out of date or brilliantly prophetic.

Over at Heeb Dan Sieradski is appalled at Jew-Z’s Hanukkah production: “Jew-Z’s Groove”. Sieradski doesn’t specify which of the stereotypes offend him but clearly it’s both the song AND the video that are guilty because he wants to punch people responsible for either, “in the f–king face.”

But I know — because I know what you’re like — that you’ve been waiting to see what the JNF could come up with. Because if any Jewish organization has a phat beat and an uncanny instinct for what the kids love, it’s the (Canadian?) JNF. So, below, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Latkes of all sizes, it’s the JNF and the Magen Boys.

Here’s the JNF and Magen Boys getting, umm, hip?

Here’s the new Maccabeats video with the shout-out from President Obama at the end.


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