The Shmooze

For Women in Ultra-Orthodox Williamsburg, No Cell Phones in Public

By Renee Ghert-Zand

First it was an “out of sight-out of mind” approach as Haredi Jews in Israel relegated women to the back of the bus and restricted them to walking on only one side of the street in certain Jerusalem neighborhoods. Now, the ultra-Orthodox Jews in Williamsburg, Brooklyn appear to prefer that women be seen, but not heard.

Failed Messiah reports that posters have recently been spotted on walls and in synagogues forbidding women from speaking on cell phones in public. The hard-to-miss red and white signs include a picture of a cell phone with a slash through it, and a letter signed by rabbis from Meah She’arim and B’nei Brak in Israel. Women are berated and warned in large Yiddish type:

Can you imagine your grandmother with a cell phone on the streets or on a bus? Where did our ingrained shame and modesty of the Jewish daughter disappear to? On the behest of the Jewish leaders it is forbidden for a Jewish daughter to talk on a cell phone on the streets or on a bus!

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Williambsurg, Cell Phones, Brooklyn, Women

Father of Four Switches Synagogues, Gets Burned in Arson Attempt

By Michael Kaminer

Some Jews talk about getting burned by synagogue memberships. But Aron Rottenberg wouldn’t be exaggerating. The Orthodox Jewish father of four is hospitalized with third-degree burns over 50 percent of his body after another Orthodox Jew allegedly tried to torch his house — all because Rottenberg started taking his family to a different synagogue, Gothamist reports.

Six months ago, according to Gothamist, the family’s car windows were smashed; earlier this month, the same happened to the windows of their house in the village of New Square. “Doing your own thing, that is not something they can take,” son-in-law Moshe Elbaum told CBS2News. “They don’t like that, because it’s showing people can do what they want to do.” For security, the family installed surveillance cameras, which is how Rottenberg discovered 18-year-old Shaul Spitzer allegedly pouring flammable liquid around his house on Sunday morning.

After Rottenberg confronted Spitzer, the gas ignited, according to ABCNews, with flames consuming both men.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Orthodox, Crime, Arson, Aron Rottenberg, Shaul Spitzer, Synagogue

'Live Long and Prosper': Mr. Spock's Hebrew Hand Gesture

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

Who could forget Mr. Spock’s trademark hand sign on “Star Trek”? It turns out that the distinctive salute was based on the Hebrew letter shin.

That’s the story behind the gesture, says Leonard Nimoy, who played the half-human, half-Vulcan character for decades in the various TV and film incarnations of “Star Trek.”

In an appearance last week at a synagogue in Maryland, Nimoy recalled explaining the need for a special greeting for the character. “Humans shake hands. Asian people bow to each other … What do Vulcans do?” he remembered asking a director.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Star Trek, Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy, Hebrew

Rocker Gene Simmons Not a Fan of Obama’s Israel Policy

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

It appears that President Obama can cross “Rock and Roll All Night” off his list of potential 2012 campaign songs.

The president’s recent speeches on Israel have made a critic of KISS rocker Gene Simmons, who implied on CNBC that Obama has “no [expletive] idea” about how to solve the Arab-Israeli impasse.

“If you’ve never been to the moon, you can’t issue policy about the moon. You have no [expletive] idea what it’s like on the moon,” Simmons said, apparently unaware that Obama has in fact visited Israel, if not outer space.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Obama, Israel, Gene Simmons

Israeli Rabbis Get a Raise

By Nathan Burstein

Being a young rabbi in Israel just got a whole lot more lucrative.

Starting salaries for Jewish clergy will rise by up to 250 percent in the coming years, according to a new set of raises approved today by Israel’s treasury. Because the salaries will be paid by the government — Israel doesn’t separate synagogue and state — the increases have ignited an explosion of criticism, with one Knesset minister comparing them to a “mugging.”

The issue remains small in the context of the national budget — the raises currently apply to just 15 rabbis, though the new income figures will be extended to more starting rabbis in the coming years. For a rabbi serving a town of 2,500 residents, monthly incomes will rise from 6,500 shekels (about $1,850) to 16,000 (a bit more than $4,560). In cities of 250,000 or more residents, starting rabbis’ monthly incomes will jump from 18,000 shekels (roughly $5,133) to 29,000 (about $8,271). The average Israeli earned a monthly salary of 8,426 shekels ($2403) last year.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Nitzan Horowitz, Moshe Gafni, Israel, Rabbis, Salaries

Ashkenazi Stem Cells: Key to Longevity?

By Michael Kaminer

We personally think it’s the power of complaining.

But to learn why some Ashkenazim live so long, researchers at Cornell University are about to start studying the stem cells of about a dozen older Jews.

According to the New York Post — in a story headlined “Bouncing bubbes of New York” — many Ashkenazi Jews “live to 100 without disease despite smoking, drinking and eating fatty foods.”

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Longevity, Cornell University, Ashkenazi Jews, Science, Stem Cells

Coming Soon: Israeli 'Golden Girls'

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

Southern Florida is so famously full of Jewish retirees that it often seemed strange that there weren’t any among the main characters on TV’s “The Golden Girls.”

But you can bet there will be at least a couple of Jewish retirees on the new Israeli version of the show, which is apparently so promising that it’s been renewed for a second season, even before a single episode has aired.

Nearly 20 years after the American series went off the air, Israel’s Channel 10 is preparing the launch of a Hebrew-language update that will star some of the country’s foremost stage, TV and film actresses.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Office, Everybody Loves Raymond, Golden Girls, Israel, Television

Russian Jews (Finally) Get Their Own Museum

By Nathan Burstein

They’ve largely disappeared as residents, but Russia’s Jews now have their own museum.

Billed as the first Jewish museum in the country, the Moscow center opened recently following several years of planning. Exhibits are divided between two general themes, focusing on either Jewish practice or on Jewish history in Russia.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: History, Museums, Poland, Russia

Renault Grandchildren Sue French Government for Seizing Company After WWII

By Michael Kaminer

Sure, French automaker Renault made about 30,000 trucks for the Nazis, and even repaired German tanks during World War II. But does that make founder Louis Renault a collaborator?

His granddaughter doesn’t think so. So along with seven other Renault grandchildren, Helene Renault-Dingli is suing the French government over what she calls “the illegal confiscation of the company in November 1944” after claims that it had backed Germany’s war effort, the UK Telegraph reports.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Louis Renault, Nazis, Lawsuits, Germany, France

Israelis Do Not Fear Terrorism in Sinai, New Study Suggests

By Nathan Jeffay

Here’s one of the biggest curiosities of modern Israeli identity. On Passover, when Jews celebrate leaving Egypt in ancient times, thousands of Israelis return there. Sinai, a popular holiday destination year-round, is an especially big hit with Israelis. This is despite the repeated travel warnings from the Israeli government, which suggest that Israeli tourists in Sinai are potential terror targets. This is, after all, the territory though which arms are smuggled to Gaza.

But researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have concluded in a new paper that terrorism comes surprisingly low on Israelis’ list of concerns when going to Sinai. They found that tourists there are first concerned about their “relations with their local hosts — Egyptians and Bedouins.” Second up was “standard and quality of hospitality — food quality, sanitation and hygiene standards.” Only after these two considerations were people concerned with “the risk of terrorism.”

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Terrorism, Sinai, Israel, Fear, Ben-Gurion University, Egypt

Ismail Haniyeh Injured in Soccer Match

By Nathan Jeffay

In the delicate Middle East, leaders are constantly watching their backs. But not quite enough, so it seems. Of all the hazards facing Ismail Haniyeh — Palestinian Prime Minister, according to his organization Hamas, a pretender to the throne, according to Fatah, and a terrorist, according to Israel — who would have thought that the real danger looms on the soccer field?

Haniyeh, a prolific footballer when he’s not inciting hatred against Israel, was reportedly injured on the soccer field earlier today. He will be on the sidelines for ten days, under doctor’s orders to rest.

This part of the world is a breeding ground for conspiracy theories. Who can forget the South Sinai governor, Mohamed Abdul Fadil Shousha, who was reported in December to have suggested that Mossad was behind a string of shark attacks in the Red Sea? How long before it’s claimed that Israel made the grass on the soccer pitch wonky, or untied Haniyeh’s shoelaces to make him wobbly on his feet?


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Conspiracy, Fatah, Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Soccer

'Persona Non Grata': Von Trier Booted From Cannes for Anti-Semitic Comments

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

Here’s how it seems to work at the Cannes Film Festival: organizers are happy to show your film even if you’re famously anti-Semitic — please just don’t make any weird comments on the premises.

That’s one way to interpret the events of the last few days, particularly after today’s announcement that Lars von Trier, the oddball Danish director, has been officially declared “persona non grata” at the festival.

The designation follows von Trier’s totally bonkers performance yesterday at a press conference for “Melancholia,” his latest film, at which he — jokingly? — said he can “sympathize” with Hitler. (Poor Kirsten Dunst was trapped onstage, squirming with increasing discomfort as his bizarre remarks went on.)

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Nazis, Mel Gibson, Lars Von Trier, Kirsten Dunst, Holocaust, Cannes Film Fesitval, Anti-Semitism

Director Lars Von Trier Apologizes, Says He's Not a Nazi

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

After causing a stir at the Cannes Film Festival this morning, Danish director Lars von Trier has issued an apology, clarifying that he is a weirdo — but not a Hitler-admiring weirdo.

The festival’s organizers also issued a press release, saying they were disturbed von Trier’s remarks — apparently poorly delivered jokes — that “I understand Hitler” and “I am a Nazi.”

The press release included von Trier’s apology, in which he wrote, “I am not anti-Semitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi.”

The famously eccentric von Trier, the winner of Cannes prizes in past years for films including “Dancer in the Dark” and “Breaking the Waves,” made today’s comments after being asked about his family’s German background. (The director himself was born in Denmark in 1956.)

“For a long time I was a Jew and I was happy to be a Jew. Then I met Susanne Bier and I wasn’t so happy,” he said, referring to the Danish-Jewish filmmaker who won an Oscar earlier this year for the Danish movie “In a Better World.”

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Lars Von Trier, Hitler, Dancer in the Dark, Cannes, Breaking the Waves, Nazi

A-Rod Facilitates Unlikely Abe Foxman-Rick Sanchez Reunion

By Nathan Burstein

Wikimedia

Advice for Mel Gibson and John Galliano: If you’re an accused anti-Semite trying to rescue your career, Alex Rodriguez, aka A-Rod, is apparently the man to see.

The Yankees third baseman, of all people, was behind last week’s oddball reunion between Anti-Defamation League leader Abe Foxman and Rick Sanchez, the CNN anchor fired last year for insinuating that Jews control the media.

Rodriguez invited the pair to share his box at a game, where they appear to have had a pretty good time.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yankees, Rick Sanchez, Mel Gison, John Galliano, Alex Rodriguez, Abe Foxman

Dan Adler Courts Korean Vote With Bizarre ‘Send a Mensch to Congress’ Video

By Michael Kaminer

Which Dan Adler ad is weirder — the one where he lifts a barbell off actress Patty Duke’s chest with help from two black bodybuilders, or the spot in which he reveals he’s Jewish to a Korean constituent who shrieks “What’s a mensch?”

Our money’s on the second, which — as intended — has catapulted the unknown Democratic candidate’s profile into the spotlight in time for today’s special election to fill California’s 36th district congressional seat.

Adler, a former agent and film executive, told the UK Telegraph he entered the campaign “on the day before the deadline for filing. So I came into it with no money, no machine, nothing. We had to grab people’s attention and the videos were our way of doing it.”

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Political Advertising, Patty Duke, Koreans, Elections, Dan Adler, Congress, California, Asians

Israeli Facebook Fans Name Their Daughter ‘Like’

By Nathan Burstein

It was a tall order, but an Israeli couple has come up with a baby name even weirder than Mariah Carey’s.

Lior and Vardit Adler have named their third child “Like,” as in the Facebook term for something you approve of. “I didn’t want to call my daughter by the name of someone I know, or after someone who’s dead,” Lior Adler told Israel’s Army Radio. “I wanted something unique.”

The Adlers have a history of choosing unconventional names for their children: they named their oldest daughter Dvosh (Honey), and their second daughter Pie (or possibly Pi; that combination of sounds isn’t a word in Hebrew).

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Names, Mariah Carey, Israel, Facebook, Children

What Are Your Favorite Overlooked Jewish Sites Around the Globe?

By Michael Luongo

Wikimedia
A cemetery Mellah, a Jewish quarter in Morocco.

From the pre-Inquisition sites that dot Spain to farming villages in South America, some Jewish places are so surprising and little known that not even the most traveled among us have stumbled across them in our journeys. Help the Forward’s Michael Luongo select the top 10 Jewish historical sites that most of us have never heard of, to rescue them from cultural oblivion and once again make them part of our cultural awareness. Whether it’s Ballarat Synagogue in Australia, Ohel Moishe Synagogue in Asia or the Marrakech Mellah in the Middle East, nominate your favorite overlooked Jewish sites from around the world by posting comments here, or send your thoughts to TopTen@forward.com. Then watch for the final list in the July 1 issue of the Forward.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Ohel Moishe Synagogue, Marrakech Mellah, Jewish, Ballarat Synagogue

Sweden's Queen Agrees To Investigate Royal Family's Alleged Nazi Ties

By Nathan Burstein

A year after issuing an angry denial, Sweden’s Queen Silvia will investigate her family’s alleged Nazi past, including her father’s 1939 acquisition of a Jewish-owned factory in Germany.

Rumors about her family history have long trailed the German-born queen, who last year protested a Swedish television documentary that looked into her father’s role in Germany’s “Aryanization” program, in which Jewish property was seized and taken over by other Germans.

The documentary, “Kalla Fakta” (“The Cold Facts”), investigated reports that the queen’s father, Walther Sommerlath, had obtained the factory after returning to Germany from Brazil. Following the documentary’s broadcast, the queen wrote a letter of protest to the channel’s general manager. She has long denied any family connections to the Nazis, as did her father, who was rumored to have joined the party in 1934.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Germany, Kalla Fakta, Nazis, Queen Silvia, Sweden, Walther Sommerlath

Knesset Member Resists Planned Naked Dead Sea Shoot

By Nathan Burstein

A conservative Knesset member is attacking the “culture of Sodom and Gomorrah” that might bring thousands of naked Israelis to the shores of the Dead Sea.

Zevulun Orlev, a member of the religious HaBayit HaYehudi party, has asked Israeli legal authorities to prevent a planned photo shoot by Spencer Tunick, an American artist who has, according to his Web site, “been documenting the live nude figure in public” since 1992. Tunick, who has staged similar mass-nudity “installations” across Europe, the United States and South America, hopes to carry out his Dead Sea photo shoot later this year, having already raised funds in excess of his $60,000 budget.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Spencer Tunick, Sodom and Gomorrah, Israeli, Knesset, Habayit Hayehudi, Dead Sea, Zevulun Orlev

Schwarzenegger Celebrates Israeli Independence Day in L.A.

By Nathan Burstein

Wikimedia

The end of his marriage didn’t stop Arnold Schwarzenegger from celebrating Israeli Independence Day this week.

The “Terminator” star and former California governor spoke Tuesday at the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles, wishing the country “another 63 years of great joy, peace and a thriving economy.” The appearance marked Schwarzenegger’s first since the announcement Monday of his split from Maria Shriver, his wife of 25 years.

Schwarzenegger was welcomed by Israeli consul-general Jacob Dayan, who noted the actor’s long-standing support of the country, including his defense of its controversial military operations in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead two years ago.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Maria Shriver, Israel, Los Angeles, Arnold Schwarzenegger



Find us on Facebook!
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.