The Shmooze

Attack of the 50-Foot Natalie Portman?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images
Portman at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in January

Natalie Portman is big everywhere in the world, including in Beirut, Lebanon, where she appears on a 50-foot billboard for Dior cosmetics. But not everyone is a fan.

Algemeiner reports that anti-Israeli Lebanese bloggers are complaining about the actress’s image in their capital city. “Since each contact or with an Israeli occupation in Lebanon is considered a crime, you do not think hanging a poster size of 15 meters with the Zionist Jerusalem is illegal?,” suggested one blogger. He was referring to Portman having been born in Jerusalem (as Natalie Hershlag) and to her public stance in defense of Israel and against anti-Semitism.

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New Diet Plan: Dessert for Breakfast!

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

Want to lose weight? Just eat dessert with your breakfast. You read that correctly: Treat yourself to some chocolate cake or ice cream in the morning and you are more likely to take off and keep off the pounds.

Researchers at Wolfson Medical Center and Tel Aviv University found that eating a larger breakfast, which included a dessert, helped dieters control hunger pains and consequently eat less throughout the day.

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Video: Bearded Matisyahu Grants Special Wish

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Matisyahu in 2010, with full beard

Reggae star Matisyahu had two surprises in store for concert-goers who had come to see him perform at The Tarrytown Music Hall on February 16.

The first was the re-growth of his beard. No sooner had the singer’s famous facial hair disappeared than it was back again — though it will obviously take a while for it to reach its prior Hasidic-style length. Either Matsiyahu simply got tired of shaving or he has had a religious change of heart…again.

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Sacrifice for Ailing Rabbi

By Nathan Jeffay

Israel’s Orthodox community is anxious, as the country’s most revered rabbi, Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv, is in a serious condition at a Jerusalem hospital. The 101-year-old scholar has been in a coma for almost two weeks. In synagogues across the country worshipers are praying for him — but some people are going further.

One Orthodox Jerusalemite, identified in the religious media just as Aaron B, has reportedly made a deal with the Almighty to shorten his own life by a year and give the time to Eliyashiv.

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M15: Nazi Forged Bank Notes Shook British Confidence

By Michael Kaminer

Seeking to sabotage Britain’s economy in World War II, the Nazis “flooded” Europe with fake British bank notes, according to secret documents released today by British intelligence agency MI5.

And though M15 didn’t know it at the time, the fake bills “were being made at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp by prisoners, many of whom were Jewish,” according to BBCNews.

BBCNews’s Sanchia Berg wrote that she met met one of those unwitting forgers, Adolph Burger, in 2007. “He proudly showed me one of his £5 notes. On watermarked paper, with elegant copperplate script, and engraving of Britannia, it was a perfect counterfeit. He knew, because there was a pinhole in the Britannia, that it was a Sachsenhausen product. The prisoners had marked these notes.”

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Bar Refaeli Pigs Out on Chocolate

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

As Us Weekly likes to tell us, “they’re just like us!” Celebrities apparently do things that regular folks do, like go to the grocery store, make a coffee run, drive a car or change a diaper.

But when it comes to eating, it would seem that gorgeous supermodels definitely don’t do as much of it as the rest of us. But now New York magazine’s Grub Street food blog insists that even the supermodels who pose for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition (sometimes) indulge in food that can pack on the pounds.

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Public Transportation on the Sabbath?

By Nathan Jeffay

iStockphoto

Of all the ways that religion impacts the Israeli public sphere, the lack of public transportation in most of the country on Sabbaths and religious holidays has possibly the largest week-to-week impact on people’s lives. It means that those who don’t have their own vehicles can’t get far from home on these days.

The difficulty this poses is made greater by the structure of the work week here. In contrast to in the United States, where Saturdays and Sundays are rest days, here Sunday is a working day. That means that Saturday, when there is no transportation until nightfall, is the only full day off available for going on trips or to visit friends and family.

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Socialite Zelda Kaplan Dies at Fashion Week

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Socialite Zelda Kaplan, who based on her style could have been separated at birth from Iris Apfel, died suddenly on February 15 while at a New York Fashion Week show. To be more precise, the 95-year-old collapsed while sitting in the front row at the Joanna Mastroianni runway show and died in hospital shortly thereafter. It is believed that Kaplan died of natural causes.

Known for wearing bold and colorful African and Asian prints and large sunglasses, the late nonagenarian considered herself a “citizen of the world.” She told a New York magazine reporter two years ago: “I spent half my life relaxing and the other half crusading — I was a successful ballroom dancer and women’s golf pro in Miami Beach in my 20s, a doctor’s wife in New York in my 30s — and in my 60s and 70s I spent my time largely in Africa and Southeast Asia campaigning directly with local tribal government leaders for women’s and children’s rights.”

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Cows Spared From Reality TV

By Nathan Jeffay

iStockphoto

It’s the ultimate guilty pleasure here in Israel: “Big Brother.” As always, the contestants are having a ball, but the current season seems to be arriving upon increasingly bizarre situations.

Keen to set increasingly off-the-wall “challenges” for contestants, the producers wanted to bring a cow in to the contestants’ house. But it seems that the Agriculture Ministry has come to the same conclusion that many Israeli viewers (and maybe the cows) reached, too: Reality TV stars are okay from a distance, but don’t let them get too close.

“On the program, the cow was supposed to be milked by hand, by persons who are not experienced; and it was to be surrounded by a large number of participants,” ministry official Nurit Zippori-Barak told Haaretz, explaining why the officials blocked the bovine plan.

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Introducing The Times of Israel

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Jewish and Israeli news junkies are rejoicing at the launch yesterday of yet another media outlet — The Times of Israel.

The Jerusalem-based online-only publication is helmed by British-born David Horovitz, formerly editor and publisher of The Jerusalem Report and editor-in-chief at the Jerusalem Post. In a blog post from yesterday, he wrote, “The Times of Israel represents a determined effort, by a team of skilled, committed journalists, to report Israel, the region and the Jewish world accurately and engagingly.” He asserted that the publication would explore the interconnectedness of the global Jewish community, making it “a must-read, must-visit current affairs website for the Jewish people.”

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Oliver Stone’s Son Converts to Islam

By Michael Kaminer

Getty Images

In what sounds like a plot twist from one of his famous father’s films, 27-year-old Sean Stone — Oliver’s offspring — has reportedly converted to Islam on a trip to Iran.

According to the Tehran Times, the younger Stone, himself an aspiring director, underwent the conversion while attending the 30th Fajr International Film Festival, which ended Sunday. “Stone said he had become a Shia Muslim and had chosen the name Ali,” the paper said.

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Fran Drescher To Marry Gay Couples

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Now that Fran Drescher is happily divorced from a gay man and has a TV Land series called — wait for it —“Happily Divorced” about (surprise!) a woman divorced from a gay man, the ex-Nanny is ready to marry some gay people.

Don’t misunderstand. Drescher is not interested in wedding any more gay men herself, but she does want to officiate at the marriages of three gay couples on March 6 in New York. It’s clearly just a gimmick to promote her new show, but she did take the trouble to get ordained for the occasion.

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Circumcise Your Nose

By Dan Friedman

The trouble with living in a logorrheoic country at a time when speech is free, public and almost unashamedly unfiltered is that the careful observations of the geniuses who made it possible seem asinine.

Case in point: Sigmund Freud. Sifting through the occasional secretions of the tightly sealed and private lips of the Viennese bourgeoisie he made an art of joining up the dots into a science of the psyche. One of the more suggestive of his theories was that of upward displacement where genital discomfort or excitation could be manifest as catarrh or nasal itching. Sander Gilman, Melvin Konner, Jay Geller and others discuss whole series of neuroses that surround the Jewish body and psyche.

And now, here come The Groggers with a lovesong to the blond girl with a thing for upturned noses and football players, “Jewcan Sam (A Nose Job Love Song).” Here’s the chorus — “And we would live like we were famous/ With the stars all in our eyes. / And I would love you till forever. / If you got your nose circumcised…” Forgive us Sigmund, wherever you are.

Hat tip to Hillel Broder.


Couple Becomes Oldest Ever To Make Aliyah

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Philip and Dorothy Grossman could think of no better way to show their love for each other, their family and for Israel than to make aliyah this Valentine’s Day. The husband and wife, ages 95 and 93 respectively, are the oldest couple to have ever immigrated to Israel.

The Baltimore couple, married 71 years, were joined by 41 other olim on a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight that landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport early this morning. “We are in love with Israel and are very excited to be making aliyah,” Dorothy said. “We are so happy that we will finally be living close to all our family members in Israel.”

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Kate Middleton Goes Hasidic Chic

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Just last week we were treated to a provocative fashion spread in Israel’s Belle Mode magazine that was both inspired by and meant to protest the exclusion of women in the public sphere. In it, the models struck sexy poses, wearing ultra-Orthodox garb, in a vintage bus.

As highly unlikely as the scenes in those photos would be in real life, we now learn of another highly improbable connection between high fashion and the Haredim. It turns out that none other than the Duchess of Cambridge is walking around in clothes meant to imitate those worn by ultra-Orthodox Jews. We’re not even talking about the long skirts and high necklines of Haredi women’s wear — but rather referring to the long (typically black) coats, or capotes, worn by Hasidic men.

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L.A. Federation Kicks Off Annual Phone-a-Thon

By Rex Weiner

Eight-year-old Lauren Kaufman closed the first pledge, a donation of $5000, at the Sunday February 12 kickoff for Super Week, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ annual fundraiser. It was the first-grader’s first time working the phones, side by side with her dad David, a twenty-year Super Week veteran, representing a crew from the Hillcrest Country Club.

It was a fast start to the day for the room full of volunteers at the Federation’s Goldsmith Center headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard, and for another group working at the Milken Jewish Community Campus across the San Fernando Valley in West Hills. Together the volunteers raised nearly half a million dollars by midday.

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Jews and BDS Working Together To Mock Zionists

By Dan Friedman

Flogging a tired meme to death is something that the internet does better than any other human tool. I haven’t seen the YouTube posting for “S**t Abortionists Say,” but surely it’s out there promoting civil dialogue — laughter being the best medicine, after all.

In the interests of cooperating for peace Penn BDS and friends have put together a video called “S**t Zionists Say.” Purely on the level of compelling viewing there’s only really one funny line, just before the two minute mark but — with the Academy Awards coming up — it’s worth noting that Ali Abunimah is highly convincing as a Zionist!


Davis Party Sobered By Whitney Houston’s Death

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images
Davis with Houston at the Grammy Awards in 2007

“There ain’t no party like a Clive Davis party,” said Sean “Diddy” Combs at Clive Davis’s pre-Grammy party this past Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. And there certainly has not been one like Saturday’s in all the years since Davis began hosting these events in 1976. This year’s festivities were marred by the death of Whitney Houston, which had taken place at the hotel just hours before.

Despite news of Houston’s passing, Davis nonetheless decided to hold the party as planned. Rumors were circulating that Davis had either cancelled the event or had chosen not to attend. MTV reported that these were not true, and that the legendary producer and music executive had decided to go on with the gala at the urging of Houston’s family.

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SNL Crowns Mayim Bialik the Queen of Quirky

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

It seems Mayim Bialik is everywhere these days. The doctor of neuroscience stars as the character Amy Farrah Fowler on “The Big Bang Theory,” writes a weekly column for Kveller, and is the go-to attachment parenting expert for NBC’s Today show and others. She even has a book on attachment parenting coming out this spring.

To her fans’ delight, Bialik turned up unexpectedly on Saturday Night Live this past weekend. Well, she wasn’t actually there, but she was there in spirit. Host Zooey Deschanel was a good sport, participating in a skit about her notoriety as the queen of quirkiness (one of the SNL regulars played Deschanel, while Deschanel herself played Mary-Kate Olsen — who everyone knows holds her own in terms of quirkiness). As the two women offer tips on how to be quirky, they pause to honor Bialik. Why? Because the former “Blossom” star is the “founder of quirky girls.”

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Need a Valentine? Date My Jewish Friend

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

Comedic actress Michelle Slonim may like to joke around, but she is taking Valentine’s Day very seriously. So much so that she has planned a Date My Jewish Friend Extravaganza for the entire month of February. Known for the young Jewish singles events she has been organizing about once a month for the past year and a half, she has decided to take this social scene to a whole other level.

For Slonim, 31, who staged her original party as a way to support her “Michelle’s Jewish Date Party” interactive comedy show, told The Shmooze that she is motivated to bring young Jews together while supporting the arts and partnering with local businesses and organizations. “I like building community,” the New York native said. “I do it through comedy, through talking to people.”

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