The Shmooze

Q&A: David Steinberg Takes Us 'Inside Comedy'

By Curt Schleier

Courtesy of Showtime
Steinberg with Sarah Silverman

You can’t really say that edgy comic David Steinberg is back, because in truth he never really left. He just wandered off in a less visible direction, behind the scenes, as a director of commercials and television shows such as “Weeds” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

In fact, he was in an especially cheerful mood on the day of this interview; he’d just received a Director’s Guild nomination for an episode of “Curb” that he helmed last season. But what Steinberg really wanted to talk about was his new weekly Showtime series, “Inside Comedy,” which debuted on January 26. In it, he interviews giants of the funny business — Seinfeld, Brooks, DeGeneres, Conway, Rickles and others — about their art.

Steinberg spoke with the Forward’s Curt Schleier about the show, a brief return to stand-up and his first job, teaching Hebrew.

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New Online Jewish Heritage ‘Clearinghouse’

By Michael Kaminer

Much of the continent may have united, but Jewish heritage initiatives in Europe have remained far-flung — until now.

The just-launched Jewish Heritage Europe website will aim “to serve as an online clearinghouse for all news, information and contacts about Jewish heritage from as far east as Turkey and Russia to the UK and Portugal,” according to the CzechPosition news site. “The focus will be on built Jewish heritage, meaning synagogues, cemeteries and other architectural remnants of Jewish culture that attest to a presence on the continent stretching back to antiquity.”

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Baby-Faced Leaders Better at Making Peace

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStock
Could you trust this face?

Never mind putting on your game face. Put on your baby face, instead — that is, if you want your opponent in peace negotiations to accept your overtures.

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have found that enemies have an easier time gaining our trust if they have what is colloquially referred to as a “baby face.” They found this out by subtly changing the features of fictional politicians’ faces to look more baby-like. The study, authored by Dr. Ifat Maoz, Associate Professor in the Noah Mozes Department of Communication and Journalism and Head of the Smart Family Institute of Communications, reported that Jewish-Israeli subjects in the experiment were more likely to accept a particular peace proposal from a baby-faced fictional Palestinian politician than they were to accept the very same offer from a more mature-looking one.

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Sarah Jessica Parker To Play Gloria Steinem

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Not long after we heard that Demi Moore had dropped out of the role as Gloria Steinem in the upcoming Linda Lovelace biopic, word came that Sarah Jessica Parker would be replacing her.

It is unfortunate that Moore’s personal situation is difficult right now, but the Shmooze bets that SJP will make an even better feminist icon. After all, didn’t she did play the unmistakably liberated Carrie Bradshaw for years on “Sex in the City”? The series wasn’t quite “Deep Throat,” if you know what we mean, but we are sure Parker will be able to handle playing her part in the porn star’s life story.

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Ferris Bueller Returns in Superbowl Ad

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Life moves pretty fast: It seems like just yesterday that Ferris Bueller was taking the day off. But, believe it or not, that was already 26 years ago. And now the righteous dude is back, but it’s not clear yet what he is up to this time.

A teaser video released on Thursday indicates that Matthew Broderick, now 49, will be reprising his role as Bueller in a Superbowl ad. What product will he be hocking? It’s impossible to tell from the very short snippet shown. All we see is a middle-aged Bueller/Broderick, looking bleary-eyed and wearing a white terrycloth robe, opening the curtains on a window. His one line, “How can I handle work on a day like today?” brings back memories, but isn’t too revealing.

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Demi Moore Drops Gloria Steinem Role

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Demi Moore has been having a rough time lately.

First came the announcement of her split with husband Ashton Kutcher. Then, earlier this week, she checked into rehab to overcome her exhaustion and alleged addictions to nitrous oxide and Red Bull. Now word is that we can no longer expect to see her playing feminist icon Gloria Steinem on the big screen.

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Gilad Shalit, Basketball Fan

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

Going to a basketball game isn’t headline-making news — unless you’re Gilad Shalit, and the game is one of your first public outings after more than five years in Hamas captivity.

Israel’s most famous ex-prisoner returned to the local news in a big way last night after arriving in person to watch his favorite pro basketball team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, take on FC Barcelona Regal. Israelis have closely followed Shalit’s progress since he was released in an October prisoner swap, with the 25-year-old at one point causing controversy simply by going to the beach.

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Barrymore Enlists Sandler as Conversion Coach

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images
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

Getty Images

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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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

Getty Images

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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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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Jewish Billionaire Owns Sunken Cruise Ship

By Michael Kaminer

Getty Images
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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