The Shmooze

Is Madonna’s New Film Soft on Nazis?

By Nathan Burstein

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Madonna brought Kabbalah to the masses, but New York magazine still wonders whether her new movie might have a “Jewish problem.”

Last week, the singer attended the Venice Film Festival premiere of “W.E.,” her second effort as a director. Early reviews were mostly abysmal, but the film’s quality is only part of the story.

Co-written Madonna, the movie apparently offers a fawning vision of Wallis Simpson, the American divorcee who famously inspired England’s King Edward VIII to give up the throne. The movie ignores the pair’s friendly relationship with Hitler, which included a visit to his Berchtesgaden retreat in 1937, well after the nature of his regime became clear.

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Midrash Manicures: The Torah at Your Fingertips

By Michael Kaminer

Courtesy of Rabbi Yael Buechler
‘Clean’ and ‘unclean’ animals from Parashat Re’eh. (Click to enlarge.)

Last week, The Shmooze reported on SpaMitzvah, a bodycare company whose new apples-and-honey based beauty products pay “homage to Rosh Hashanah.”

Now, a Westchester County, N,Y., rabbi is adding her own gloss on the notion of Jewish glamor.

Rabbi Yael Buechler has an unusual hobby: She paints her nails to correspond with a Torah portion, midrash, holiday or “lifecycle event,” according to her website, midrashmanicures.com.

For Passover, Buechler depicted the 10 plagues in miniature; for her own ordination, she spelled out “Yesh Li Rav Yael” [“I have a Rav (Rabbi), Yael”], a pun on the Hebrew phrase for “I have plenty” from her senior sermon on Parshat Toledot. For Parashat Re’eh — the Torah portion that includes a list of “clean” and “unclean” animals — Buechler illustrated her digits with a menagerie of legal and illegal beasts.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yael Buechler, Solomon Schechter School of Westchester, Midrashmanicures, Beauty

Lauren Bush and David Lauren Wed in Jewish Ceremony

By Lucy Cohen Blatter

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Lauren Bush and David Lauren in February, 2011.

It was the society wedding of the season. There were plenty of boldfaced names, designer dresses — and a chuppah, too.

Over Labor Day weekend, Lauren Bush — granddaughter of George H.W. Bush and niece of George W. Bush — married her longtime boyfriend, David Lauren, son of iconic fashion designer Ralph Lauren, in a Jewish ceremony outside Telluride, Colo.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Weddings, Angela Warnick Buchdahl, David Lauren, Lauren Bush, Ralph Lauren

Scarlett Johansson Endorses Jewish Candidate for NYC Mayor

By Renee Ghert-Zand

The Jewish Scarlett Johansson is standing by her Jewish man - that man being not actor Justin Bartha, but rather Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. The 26-year-old actress and singer is putting her celebrity weight behind Stringer’s bid for mayor of New York in 2013.

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Observer.com’s Politicker NY reports that Johansson has said she has had enough of life in New York under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and looks forward to the kind of city she thinks it will be when – not if – Stringer is at the helm.

The actress views Stringer as environmentally aware and the type of leader who would invest in making the city more affordable and accessible for people. “Growing up, all my friends lived in affordable housing, which is something that I want to fight to get back,” said Johansson, a native New Yorker. “Scott’s been a big advocate of affordable housing. I want my friends back in the city. So I believe in Scott,” she was quoted as saying.

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The Rosh-Hashanah Beauty Regimen

By Michael Kaminer

It sounded a bit like a HEEB parody: SpaMitzvah, a body-care company “Where Gorgeously Yiddish Beauty Reigns Supreme!”, issued a press release this week about a High Holidays-themed body-care line.

ISTOCK

The “homage to Rosh Hashanah,” with apples-and-honey-inspired body and bath products, “commemorate[s] the sweet treats that are enjoyed at the Jewish New Year,” the press release said.

How does that translate into product? Think body scrub “in such flavors as Applebaum (apples & cinnamon), Honeybaum (pure honey) and Apple Rosenbaum (a luxurious blend of organic rose and apple),” and a matching range of bath gels dubbed “shower syrups.” A bath milk called “Honey Rosenbaum” combines organic Milk Powder [sic], Honey Powder, Cocoa Butter and Kosher Honey,” and SpaMitzvah Body Oil — our favorite — “will anoint your temple with oils of Shea Nut and Vitamin E.”

Aside from Jewishy names and holiday themes, the company’s website doesn’t really clue you in to what “Yiddish beauty” means. “Whilst our fabulous skincare is proudly described with a shameless sprinkling of Mame-loshn — topped off with a haute kosher heaping of Yiddish flair — we are proud to be an eclectic group of shiny happy people from all cultures, races and religions,” it trumpets. “Not to mention the fact that we are all a bunch of ‘type-A,’ ‘earth hugging,’ pamper-privileged ‘mavens and mensches’ – with an uber cool company name! Yet, we are most proud of being committed to serving you – whilst pampering your precious body temple and our big beautiful planet, equally!”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Michael Kaminer, Rosh Hashanah, SpaMitzvah

More Accusations From Sara Netanyahu's Former Employee

By Nathan Burstein

Another day, another round of embarrassment for the Netanyahu family.

Tara Mela, the Nepalese household worker injured during an argument with Sara Netanyahu, gave a press conference yesterday, in which she alleged further mistreatment by Israel’s first family. A caretaker for Sara Netanyahu’s 96-year-old father, Mela claimed she was fired last night and had not been allowed to enter the Netanyahu residence - where she lived - to collect her things. (She later received them through an intermediary.) Yohanna Lerman, the lawyer representing her, said that preventing Mela from gathering her personal belongings would be a violation of Israeli law.

Mela and her lawyer also claimed she had been denied pay and vacation time, and that Mela’s right to privacy had been violated when the doctor who treated her made public details of her injury.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sara Netanyahu, Nathan Burstein, Benjamin Netanyahu, Tara Mela

Australian Man Suspected of Grisly Murder in Tel Aviv

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Husband-wife trips don’t always work out well, but this one turned out far, far worse than the usual bad vacation.

Israeli police were summoned to a hotel room on the 15th floor of Tel Aviv’s Dan Panorama hotel earlier this week to find Australian tourist John Paul Sebastian with the body of his 54-year-old wife, who had been stabbed multiple times in the neck and upper body. Sebastian was arrested on the spot.

Sebastian, 45, from Melbourne, is facing possible murder charges, but in the meantime is being held for eight days for psychiatric evaluation. He claimed that he was compelled to kill his wife because she was an enemy agent “with a written agreement that meant she owned him.” Even more bizarre was his assertion that she had forced him to eat raw meat and human flesh.

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Worker Broke Her Own Finger, Netanyahus Say

By Nathan Burstein

iStockphoto

Israel’s first lady was afraid of her Nepalese employee.

That’s the updated version of events from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a day after his publicity team acknowledged that a domestic worker dislocated her finger during an argument with the prime minister’s scandal-prone wife.

The still-unnamed worker “responded with an uncontrollable burst of rage” after Sara Netanyahu made a comment about her work, “knocking herself to the ground and smashing into the floor and furniture,” according to a statement released today by the prime minister’s office. “Mrs. Netanyahu feared these bursts of anger [and] alerted her security team, which arrived within seconds.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Israel, Domestic Workers, Benjamin Netanyahu, Abuse, Sara Netanyahu

Diabetic? Try a Therapeutic Dip in the Dead Sea

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Ester Inbar, via Wikimedia Commons

For many, going down to the Dead Sea to bathe in its mineral-rich waters is a sweet treat. Now, researchers are finding that just the opposite is true for diabetics — which is a good thing. A preliminary study has shown that diabetics who immersed themselves in the uniquely salty water were able to significantly reduce their blood sugar levels.

While it is too early to say that Type 2 diabetics will be able to replace their insulin shots or medications with relaxing dips in the Dead Sea, the researchers from Ben-Gurion University and Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva are pleased with their findings thus far.

They used a sample of 14 individuals of varying ages with Type 2 diabetes and had them each take a 20-minute dip in a pool filled with water taken from the Dead Sea. The scientists found that the diabetics’ blood glucose levels dropped by 13.5 percent when they were tested immediately upon leaving the water. An hour later, the subjects’ blood sugar levels went down even more.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Martha Stewart, Israel, Diabetes, Dead Sea

London: Stop Posing Next to the Wax Statue of Hitler

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images
A similar wax figure sits behind glass at Madame Tussauds Berlin.

Displaying a statue of Hitler strikes the Shmooze as an inherently bad idea — and sure enough, the one at Madame Tussauds in London is causing problems.

England’s Zionist Federation has asked the wax-statue museum to alter its Hitler figure, suggesting it be made to look more “vulnerable,” or posed in a way that prevents visitors from posing next to it.

The request comes after complaints by Israeli tourists who were upset to see other Madame Tussauds visitors giving the Nazi salute to the wax dictator. The Zionist Federation has made clear that it is not protesting the museum’s right to display a Hitler statue, but that it would prefer it be done in a different manner.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Zionist Federation, Tourism, Stefan Kerner, Madam Tussauds, Hitler

Caretaker Breaks Finger, Accuses Sara Netanyahu

By Nathan Burstein

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For the sake of his own political career, Benjamin Netanyahu might want to keep his wife away from household workers.

For the second time in less than two years, Israel’s first lady is being accused of serious mistreatment by an employee, an allegation that is now soaring to the top of Israel’s headlines. This time the complaint involves an as-yet unnamed foreign worker, who says she fell during an argument with Netanyahu. “She ran toward me, she came in my direction,” the worker told Channel 2 News, the country’s highest-rated nightly news program. “I got scared and moved back, then fell backwards and broke my finger.”

The dispute allegedly began over financial transfers from an account held by Sara Netanyahu’s elderly father, for whom the domestic worker provides care.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Domestic Workers, Sara Netanyahu, Benjamin Netanyahu, Abuse

Shofar Flash Mob Set for September 18

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

Dust off those rams’ horns and keep checking your Facebook updates and Twitter feeds. There’s going to be a worldwide shofar flash mob on September 18 and you are not going to want to miss it.

Art Kibbutz NYC is hosting “the greatest Shofar-blowing event since Sinai” as a massive call for teshuvah during the month of Elul. To the extent possible, the flash mobs will be coordinated across various global locations. All the flash mobs will be recorded and combined by a composer into an electronic Rosh Hashanah greeting card.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Shofar, Kibbutz NYC, Rosh Hashanah, Flash Mob

‘Israel’s Best Friend’ Dogs Trained To Attack

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Just as we are getting word that the IDF is training West Bank Settlers to handle possible confrontations with Palestinians following the expected vote in the U.N. General Assembly in favor of Palestinian statehood, a rather disturbing video has surfaced about another defense force, the IBF.

IBF stands for Israel’s Best Friend, a non-profit organization that trains dogs for what it calls a “Civilian Attack Dog Unit,” and the “K9 Jewish Legion.” According to the video and the description posted with it on YouTube, the dogs’ mission is to defend Jews specifically against Arabs and Muslims.

That’s a whiff of racism, along with some dog poop, that you smell. As many believe, racism is learned behavior, and it appears that even canines can be taught to be racist.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Dogs, IDF, Israel, Israel's Best Friend, Racism

Why is Rachel Weisz Wearing a Cross Pendant?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

We’ve noted the recent trend of non-Jewish celebrities and public figures wearing Jewish jewelry. Remember Sarah Palin’s big Magen David pendant and Elijah Wood’s ring inscribed with a quote from Pirkei Avot? Now the Shmooze wonders why Jewish actress Rachel Weisz has started the reverse trend by wearing a cross — and one that costs $6,400.

Weisz, whose full name is Rachel Hannah Weisz and who refused to change her identifiably Jewish name for the sake of her career, can be seen in the Wall Street Journal’s latest glossy fashion supplement modeling menswear-inspired ensembles. The attractive actress looks great in all those tailored pants and jackets, including one outfit comprised of a jacket by Michael Kors, a The Row t-shirt from Barneys and trousers by Pringle of Scotland. The text with that photo also mentions that her bra (noticeable through the sheer t-shirt) is by Dolce & Gabbana and her pendant (that would be the aforementioned cross) is by De Beers.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Wall Street Journal, Rachel Weisz, Jewelry, Fashion, De Beers, Cross

Helen Mirren’s Sparkly Jewish Roots?

By Lucy Cohen Blatter

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In her latest film, “The Debt,” British actress Helen Mirren plays retired Mossad agent Rachel Singer. And in a recent interview with the New York Times Magazine’s Andrew Goldman, the Oscar-winning actress (and Dame!) discussed the possibility of having Jewish roots.

When asked if she might be “a secret Jew,” and — like Madeleine Albright — find out later in life that she was actually Jewish, Mirren answered, “I wouldn’t be surprised … My mum came from the working-class East End of London, where the Jewish immigrants began their journey in English society. I’ve always thought I might have either some Jewish or some Gypsy, one or the other,” she said.

When Goldman asked whether she’s ever had moments when she thought, “Oh, I feel very Jewish,” Mirren answered: “My love of sparkle. I don’t think that’s particularly Jewish or Gypsy, but I do have a certain love of sparkle.”

We’re not quite sure what that last part means, but we’d be happy to welcome her to the tribe!


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Madeleine Albright, Helen Mirren, Andrew Goldman, The Debt

Speyer Hosts First Jewish Wedding in 70 Years

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Many German citizens — at least the royal wedding watchers among them — will be caught up in the festivities this weekend of the marriage of two descendents of royal families. Georg Friedrich Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia, and Sophie Johanna Maria, Princess of Isenburg (who are really just private German citizens since the country’s aristocracy was stripped of their titles way back in 1919), will be saying their “I do’s” on the grounds of a former royal palace in Potsdam.

Meanwhile, another notable wedding has taken place recently in the German town of Speyer. There was no royalty involved, but the event did have historic importance. For the first time in 70 years, a Jewish simcha — in this case, a wedding — took place in the ancient city.

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'Real Housewife' Not an Anti-Semite, Says the ADL

By Nathan Burstein

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She’s America’s most famous table flipper, but Teresa Giudice is not an anti-Semite.

Both the Anti-Defamation League and the “Real Housewife of New Jersey” herself have weighed in on the matter, following a comment on the show’s most recent episode that seemed to suggest the stereotype of money-obsessed Jews.

Though her husband’s facing bankruptcy and forgery charges, Giudice will stand by his side, the reality star announced on Sunday’s episode. That was the gist, anyway, but that’s not how she phrased things on-air. “I mean, my Jewish friends are all, ‘I would have divorced him right away!’ But I’m Italian” were her actual words.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Teresa Giudice, US Weekly, Real Housewives of New Jersey, Anti-Semitism, Anti-Defamation League

Ikea Founder’s Nazi Ties Confirmed

By Michael Kaminer

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Shopping carts at Ikea Berlin.

You might want to sit down in your Skrurvska chair before reading this. A new book claims Ingvar Kamprad, the billionaire founder of cheap-furniture behemoth IKEA, “was a member of the Swedish Nazi party and was such a concern to secret service they opened a file on him,” reports the U.K. Telegraph.

While the 83-year-old businessman’s far-right leanings have long been public, a 1943 file proves for the first time that Kamprad “was an active member of Svensk Socialistisk Samling — the successor to the Swedish Nationalist Socialist Workers Party — even his membership number, 4013,” the Telegraph said.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Svensk Socialistisk Samling, Nazis, Ikea, Ingvar Kamprad, Elisabeth Asbrink

Glenn Beck Wraps Up Visit With Rally Near the Western Wall

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

It featured a shofar and showtunes, and unfolded without incident.

Glenn Beck wrapped up his much-debated trip to Israel today with a rally near the Western Wall, where the former Fox News star entered to the blast of the shofar in what at times resembled a religious ceremony. “This is the throne of the Lord,” Beck said of the setting, where 1,700 supporters gathered to hear him express support for Israel and the Jewish people. The audience included both Israeli and American right-wingers, among them settlers and GOP presidential candidate Hermain Cain. Attendees reportedly paid $5,000 for the show, which took place under tight security and was broadcast, according to Beck, at 1,400 venues on four continents.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Glenn Beck, Alan Dershowitz, Israel

Woody Allen Headed To Munich?

By Nathan Burstein

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Holocaust obsessive Woody Allen could be making his next movie in Germany.

The Hollywood Reporter says the filmmaker, currently shooting “The Bop Decameron” in Rome, is in talks to make Munich the scene of his next film. Still enjoying the success of “Midnight in Paris” — the highest-grossing movie in his six-decade career — Allen is negotiating with Bavaria Studios for financing for the film, which would cost $17 million and shoot next summer. The untitled movie would add another country to the list of recent European settings for Allen’s films — among them Shmooze favorites “Match Point” (set in England) and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”

Working with Allen would surely be a coup for Bavaria Studios, whose website lists previous collaborators including European-born Jew Billy Wilder, who made a string of classics including “Sunset Blvd.” and “Some Like It Hot” after moving to Hollywood in the ’30s.

The studio also worked with Max Ophuls, whose World War II/Holocaust documentary “The Sorrow and the Pity” is famously discussed by Allen and the title character in “Annie Hall.”


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