The Shmooze

In Israel, Free Preschool From Age 3

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

It has been six months since moms and dads pushed strollers as they pounded the pavement in last summer’s social protests in cities around Israel. One of their major complaints was that the cost of day care and private early childhood education was prohibitively high.

It seems that they got their point across, because on Sunday, the Israeli cabinet voted to approve free education to all Israeli children from age 3 and up (until now, it was free for only age 5 and older). A law for free preschool education has been on the books since 1984, but it was never enforced. Implementation of the law was postponed from year to year by means of the Economic Arrangements Law, which allowed the Finance Ministry to object to its high cost.

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David Remnick On Board for 'Jewish Jocks' Book

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images
Tennis star Harold Solomon in 1999

Sports Illustrated recently released a list of history’s greatest Jewish athletes, and now a group of top thinkers and policymakers is doing the same.

Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers and New Yorker editor David Remnick will be among the big-name contributors to “Jewish Jocks,” an essay collection about Jews in sports.

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Small-Town Mayor Rants Against Israel

By Michael Kaminer

Wikimedia Commons

A small-town Canadian politician and talk-show host is in trouble — again — for on-air, anti-Israel rants.

Stephane Gendron, mayor of tiny Huntingdon, Quebec and host of French-language chatfest “Face a Face,” informed his audience last month that Israel is an “apartheid regime” and doesn’t deserve to exist, the CBC reports. Now, after complaints from Jewish organizations, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council is investigating Gendron’s tirade, CBC says.

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MK Throws Glass of Water in Anger

By Nathan Burstein

She sure knows how to make a splash at the Knesset.

Right-wing legislator Anastasia Michaeli got into a heated war of words with fellow MK Raleb Majadele today, then cooled off the situation by throwing a glass of water in his face. The one-way water fight, which took place during a meeting of the Knesset’s education committee, was caught on camera by Israel’s Channel 7.

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Demi Moore To Play Gloria Steinem

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

The Shmooze can totally see Demi Moore as feminist Gloria Steinem. We may not be casting directors, but we can certainly see the resemblance in terms of hairstyle and bone structure.

Indeed, the soon-to-be ex-Mrs. Ashton Kutcher is set to play Steinem in an upcoming Linda Lovelace biopic, which will star Amanda Seyfried as the “Deep Throat” actress. It was the X-rated “Deep Throat,” released in 1972, that launched the modern adult film industry, which in turn put into motion a nationwide campaign against porn.

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A Letter from Dad...on Hitler's Stationery

By Renee Ghert-Zand

CIA

Many of us have saved old letters and cards that were sent to us by family members and close friends when we were children. Some of us even have scrapbooks filled with old “Welcome Baby” notes and birthday cards that our parents compiled as keepsakes.

But only Dennis Helms has such a greeting written on Adolf Hitler’s personal stationery. The CIA recently acquired and put on display a note that Helms’ father, Richard (then an OSS officer) wrote from Germany to his three-year-old son back home on May 8, 1945 (Victory in Europe Day).

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Memo to Rubberneckers: Pray, Don’t Look

By Nathan Jeffay

Jim Champion via Wikimedia Commons

It is an international problem, only accentuated here by Israeli curiosity — or what in America is called nosiness. Whenever there is a road accident, traffic slows as people peer to see what’s going on. Everyone knows deep down that it’s unhelpful, but everyone just wants to know what is happening. And nobody has found a way to reprogram people not to look… until now.

The Israeli medical service Hatzolah has come to the realization that if you give would-be rubberneckers a responsibility for the injured, it will keep them busy and away from the scene. What role can you give them that keeps them away? Tell them that they are with the injured in a spiritual sense!

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Does Your Dog Deserve a 'Bark Mitzvah'?

By Nathan Burstein

iStockphoto

It is with mixed feelings that the Shmooze brings you this latest development in dubious religious trends: the rise of bar mitzvahs for dogs.

While not exactly mainstream, the ceremonies, known as “bark mitzvahs,” are apparently now a rite of passage for some Jewish dog owners and their pets, part of what the Associated Press describes as a “booming multimillion-dollar industry.”

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Vermont Legislator Takes Birthright Trip

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Kesha Ram, a Vermont State Representative, recently visited Israel for the first time — but not on the kind of Israel trip most American legislators take. The 25 year old (who happens to be the youngest state legislator in the country right now) went on a free Taglit-Birthright Israel experience together with other people her age.

Ram, whose mother is of Eastern European Jewish background and whose father is an Indian Hindu, wrote in her application for the program: “In Jewish culture, my understanding is that if your mother is Jewish, you are considered Jewish. In Hindu culture, if your father is Hindu, you are considered Hindu. I have lived in both worlds and have gone to synagogue and temple; I have been to India three times, but I have never been to the sacred places of my Jewish ancestors. I would like to better understand Israel and my heritage for both my personal and professional knowledge.”

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Auschwitz Photo Used in Health Club Ad

By Renee Ghert-Zand

It’s not just Haredi Jews who have offended many this past week by using — or rather, abusing — Holocaust imagery.

A news outlet in the United Arab Emirates reported that a Dubai health club put out a promotional poster with a picture of the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau, with the tag line: “Kiss your calories goodbye.” The club, The Circuit Factory, pulled the poster after receiving complaints about it — but not until after it had gained significant exposure through Facebook and Twitter.

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Tel Aviv Makes 'Most Creative City' List

By Haaretz

Tel Aviv had the honor on Thursday to be named one of the world’s most innovative cities, alongside London, Sydney, Stockholm and Shanghai. A special report by Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper proclaimed that “while Tel Aviv is small, it’s one giant innovation engine.”

“The entire population of Israel may only number seven million—smaller than New York City,” the report says, “but this Middle Eastern state spends more of its GDP on research and development than any other nation.”

The writers highlight two main examples of Israeli innovation. One is the facial recognition software called Face.com, founded by Gil Hirsch and three other colleagues in Tel Aviv. “Face.com really made waves when Facebook integrated its site,” the report says. “Two Facebook-specific apps—Photo Finder and Photo Tagger—spawned calls from other developers eager to work with the technology.”

The second example of Tel Aviv’s technological creativity is Waze, a crowd-sourced GPS navigator. The software, developed by Ehud Shabtai and two other colleagues in 2009, optimizes driving routes with drivers contributing their data in real-time. According to the article, “since its arrival in the U.S. last year, two million users have begun contributing data, and Waze is now working to develop partnerships with broadcasters.”

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Banned! Israel May Outlaw Weird Names

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Israel would ban strange names under a bill that was just debated by Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation. It seeks to outlaw parents from giving their newborns highly unusual names.

Current law already authorizes the Interior Minister to refuse to register a name if “it could mislead or offend the public.” The newly proposed law, however, would establish a “Public Names Committee” that would judge whether a name could also be possibly damaging to a child him or herself.

MKs Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) and Miri Regev (Likud), who co-sponsored the proposal, have suggested that the committee would consist of an educator, a social worker and a psychologist. The idea would be that these people would be able to provide guidance to the Interior Ministry and parents in such cases when a births registry clerk was confronted with a questionable name. “Giving a hurtful and insulting name to a minor, or names of curses or negative figures, could make him an object of mockery in the eyes of his peers and damage his self-image and self-confidence,” the lawmakers were quoted as saying.

Whether or not this proposed law actually passes the Knesset, it’s unclear whether it might be applied to Natalie Portman’s baby, who is named after the Hebrew letter, Aleph. In any case, the 6-month old with the unusual moniker would probably have been grandfathered in.


Natalie Shows Off Aleph to Israeli Relatives

By Renee Ghert-Zand

She may be an Academy Award-winning actress and many men’s dream Jewish woman. But she is also a new mother, and like all new moms, Natalie Portman, wants to show off her baby to friends and family.

That is just what Portman did last week on a trip to Israel. Ynet reports that the actress made an under-the-radar trip to the Holy Land with fiancé ballet dancer Benjamin Millepied and six-month-old son Aleph to visit with friends and family. The 30-year-old Portman, whose birth name is Natalie Hershlag, was born in Jerusalem and has many relatives living in Israel.

Portman, Millepied and little Aleph stayed at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel (where Portman checked in under an assumed name) and visited (accompanied by two body guards) tourist sites such as the Western Wall, Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market, and the Dead Sea. Portman was also spotted sitting in cafes greeting friends and relatives, as well as graciously posing for photographs with fans who had recognized her.

The family departed Israel Monday, but knowing Portman’s strong attachment to Israel, it can be assumed that they will be back again with little Aleph soon.


Who's Tops on Jewish Sexy-O-Meter?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the sexiest one of all? Well, according to the popular media, the answer to that question these days is the Jews. Whether you think of this as fetishism or not, it seems that many would agree with Details magazine that “America can’t get enough smoking-hot Semitic tush lately,” to put it somewhat crudely. And, of course, the sexiest of the sexy are Jewish celebrities.

Last year, GQ selected James Franco as “Leading Man of the Year” And the Shmooze reported not long ago that the same magazine named Mila Kunis “Knockout of the Year.”

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Cardozo Law Student Chooses To Be Homeless

By Renee Ghert-Zand

A Cardozo School of Law student who identifies himself only as “David,” has some serious first world problems. You know, like the kinds of problems that involve being able to afford a home with a warm bed to sleep in, good food to eat, nice clothes to wear, and somewhere safe and clean to bathe.

So burdened was David by these problems, that he decided to do away with his apartment and just live on the street (well, sort of—as you will soon read). In other words, in a time when so many people are having their home foreclosed upon them, David has deliberately chosen to be homeless.

But the real question is whether David’s brand of homelessness really counts as homelessness, as most people understand the term. In an interview with The Observer, the official newspaper of Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, David explained that he gave up his apartment and now spends $30-40 per month on a health club membership so he can shower and store his belongings in several lockers there. He also uses a locker at the law school. As a student, he has access to the couches in Cardozo’s climate controlled libraries, where he naps between classes and his internship during the day. He sleeps outside, bundled in layers of sweatshirts and blankets, for about six hours every night—after the libraries and health club are closed.

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Jill Zarin Uses Hanukkah Candles in Blackout

By Renee Ghert-Zand

getty images
Jill Zarin

Former Real Housewives of New York City star Jill Zarin may have skipped Hebrew school the day they taught that the light of the Hanukkah candles may not be used for anything other than publicizing and enjoying the holiday’s miracle. How does the Shmooze know this? Well, we can’t be totally sure, but the fact that Zarin used her Hanukkiah for light during a blackout is a pretty good clue.

The New York Post reported in a news brief titled, “Let There Be Jill,” that Zarin, a resident of the Upper East Side, pulled out her Hanukkah candelabra when the lights went out for several hours due to a power outage as the Marriot Aruba Surf Club on Christmas Day. She told the Post that she lit the candles in her grandchildren’s bedroom at the hotel because they were afraid of the dark.

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Man Eats 105 Sufganiyot for Charity

By Renee Ghert-Zand

istockphoto

Elie Klein is a guy who really puts his — or rather, other people’s — money where his mouth is. Following a tradition he started last year, Klein, a Yeshiva University graduate and account executive for the Ruder Finn communications agency who lives in Beit Shemesh, ate as many sufganiyot as possible during Hanukkah to raise money for charity.

He just concluded his “Dough for Donuts-MEGA Munchathon” campaign, and announced on its Facebook page that over the course of eight days, he had eaten 105 sufganiyot and raised NIS 52,005 ($13,667) for 83 Jewish charitable causes in Israel and abroad with the help of 129 sponsors. The list of organizations benefited literally ranges from A to Z, from ALEH, which assists severely disabled children to ZAKA, the volunteer rescue and recovery organization — and everything in between.

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Do Skeletal Remains Belong to Israeli MIAs?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

An Israeli farmer found a skeleton dressed in a military uniform and boots in a bunker in a minefield in Israel’s Upper Galilee, near Kibbutz Snir, on Wednesday morning. It is unclear as to whether the remains belong to an Israeli or a Syrian soldier, but it is appears that they date back to one of the battles that took place many years ago in the area.

The agricultural worker, Yossi Egozi, said, “I found the skull in one spot, and the skeleton next to it.” He immediately alerted the authorities upon making the discovery. The removal of the remains will be a careful operation, given the dangerous surroundings. The bones will be taken to the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute for study.

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Yeshiva Boys Choir Signs Major Record Deal

By Renee Ghert-Zand

The Yeshiva Boys Choir has what all the other boy bands have had: the youthful autotuned voices, the slick dance moves, the skillfully produced videos, and the coordinated costumes (though, in this case, the members usually wear dress shirts and black velvet yarmulkes, and many wear glasses and sport peyes). Now it also has something else groups like Menudo, Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block had — a major record deal.

It was announced Tuesday that Universal Music Group has signed on the Brooklyn-based Yeshiva Boys Choir. The group’s new YBC5-Hanukkah album has been added to the company’s international distribution list. A single from the album, “Those Were the Nights (of Hanukkah)” has gone viral, with 100,500 hits on YouTube in less than a month.

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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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