The Shmooze

Bibi, Shalit and the ‘Forrest Gump’ Effect

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Amichai Yacobbi

Some tech-savvy Israelis thought that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was hogging the spotlight yesterday as the nation celebrated the return of Gilad Shalit after five years and four months in Hamas captivity.

So, they started a creative Facebook meme to express their frustration with Bibi’s perceived need to be in so many photos of the soldier’s homecoming. Facebook users, calling Bibi the Forrest Gump of Gilad Shalit Day, began Photoshopping his face (taken from the now iconic picture of Shalit’s first embrace with his father) into images of historic events he has absolutely nothing to do with.

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Calvin Klein Dishes on Jewish Competition

By Gary Shapiro

Joyce Culver for 92nd Street Y

Forget designer showrooms in the Garment District, modish stores on Madison Avenue, and the latest haute couture from Paris. The stylish place to be last night was at the 92nd Street Y to hear Calvin Klein speak.

Most know the Jewish fashion designer as a name on a fragrance bottle or a logo emblazoned on a pair of jeans. But yesterday, an audience got to hear from the designer himself, as Klein sat down with New York Fashion Week founder Fern Mallis for a discussion about his life and career.

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‘Baby Rabbi’ Tops Worst Halloween Costume List

By Renee Ghert-Zand

costumecraze.com
Click to enlarge.

The Houston Chronicle has done a little pre-Halloween window-shopping and found some children’s costumes that parents should think twice about. The paper’s parenting blog deems them uncomfortable, over-sexualized or, as in the case of one Jewish-themed costume, culturally insensitive.

In the over-sexualized department, most of the costumes are for girls — as might be expected — and many have either extremely short skirts or no skirts at all. The Shmooze agrees that a tween should not be dressed as though ready for roleplay as a French maid, sexy schoolgirl, or Santa’s helper. Likewise, a little boy should never be seen in a pimp suit and hat straight out of a 1970s blaxploitation film.

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L.A. Times Takes On the Kabbalah Centre

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Before the Kabbalah Centre had one material girl, it had another. Long before Madonna started wearing a red string bracelet and visiting Israel, there was Karen Berg, the avaricious wife of Rabbi Philip Berg, the Centre’s founding rabbi.

In a series of articles, the Los Angeles Times is exposing the dark underside of what many consider to be more of a celebrity cult than a legitimate religious institution. Former followers of the Bergs are now speaking out against them, and the IRS is investigating their lavish lifestyle and finances.

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SNL Video: Andy Samberg Interviews Drake

By Renee Ghert-Zand

This past Saturday night, SNL’s Andy Samberg scored an interview — or more like a series of interviews — with Drake, who was the musical guest for the show. It might have been a good conversation between a nice Jewish boy from Northern California and another from Toronto, but it wasn’t. How could it have been with the hilarious Samberg doing the questioning?

If you think you are going to learn something new or personal about Drake from this, you are going to be disappointed. But that’s okay. You’ll be laughing too hard to care.

Watch Andy Samberg Interview Drake on SNL:


Gymnast Alexander Shatilov Is Israel’s Great Olympic Hope

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Israeli gymnast Alexander Shatilov is on his way to the 2012 Olympic Games in London after winning the bronze medal for floor exercise at the Gymnastics World Championships in Tokyo on October 15.

The 24-year-old Uzbekistan native, who immigrated to Israel in 2002, tied for third in the floor exercise with Diego Hypolito of Brazil, with a score of 15.466. China’s Zou Kai, the Beijing Olympic and 2009 world floor champion, won the silver, and Kohei Uchimura of Japan took the gold. Uchimura had won another gold 18 hours earlier, becoming the first male gymnast to win three all-round titles.

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Tel Aviv Mayor Could Use a Lesson in Subtlety

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Marc Goldberg

Has Ron Huldai forgotten that he is the mayor of Tel Aviv and not Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? In condemning the defacement yesterday of the memorial to assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the square outside Tel Aviv’s city hall, Huldai proclaimed, “We should cut off the hands that allow themselves [sic] to harm what is sacred and important to the people of Israel.”

The Shmooze is hoping that the mayor was speaking figuratively. But Israeli journalist Dimi Reider points out that this was not a one-off reference to this strict form of sharia law punishment. Just a week ago, Huldai said, “I expect the hands of those who do such things to be cut off.” That time he was deploring the vandalizing of a Muslim and Christian cemetery in Jaffa.

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Looking for San Francisco ‘Mensch of the Month’

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Courtesy of Dana Hall

Friends Dana Hall and Elizabeth Shapiro are looking for 12 single Jewish men, one for each month of their forthcoming 2012 “Mensch of the Month” wall calendar.

“Hunky blond firemen just don’t do anything for me,” the 26-year-old Hall told The Shmooze. Shapiro, also 26, feels the same way, so the two co-workers at the San Francisco Food Bank set out to produce a calendar featuring the kind of guys they themselves would like to meet. After doing some research and finding that a “Nice Jewish Guys” calendar already exists, they decided to go the more local route.

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A Sukkot Kerfuffle Over Antennas

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Wikimedia Commons

Two adjacent Jewish organizations in San Francisco — the Lisa Kampner Hebrew Academy, an Orthodox Jewish day school, and the Bureau of Jewish Education — are involved in a neighborly scuffle over roof space.

The two groups are feuding over a public hearing about the placement of AT&T antennas on the BJE’s roof. Two existing antennas dating to 1997 are scheduled to be replaced by six new ones. The Hebrew Academy’s Rabbi Pinchas Lipner immediately suspected a conspiracy between the BJE and the city’s Planning Commission when he realized that the meeting was scheduled for today, the first day of Sukkot.

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Protest Sukkah Rises at the Chicago Hyatt

By Renee Ghert-Zand

They may be occupying Wall Street with a sukkah in New York, but in Chicago the protest sukkah is at the Hyatt Regency. That is where the Mortgage Bankers Association’s annual meeting is being held this week, and Jewish activists figured the hotel was the best place to make their point about the need for the real estate industry to help struggling families keep their homes.

The activists — among them rabbis and cantors who insisted the erection of the temporary structure outside the hotel constituted a demonstration and not a protest — invited bankers to eat meals with them in it, and to meet with individuals affected by the housing crisis.

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Feds Nab Leader of Immigration Fraud Ring

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

The long arm of the law caught up with a lawyer who goes by the moniker “Rabbi Avraham David” in Canada yesterday. The attorney, whose real name is Earl Seth David, was arrested in Toronto and will be extradited to the U.S. to face charges for his actions as the alleged ringleader of a massive immigration fraud scheme.

David fled to Canada in 2006 when he realized that the feds were onto him and were beginning to probe the immigration fraud mill he had allegedly operated through his Manhattan law firm since 1996. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney claims that David’s firm filed tens of thousands of fraudulent petitions using fake employer sponsors and a corrupt government employee. Twenty-seven defendants were charged as a result of the investigation.

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Anthony Weiner Kvetches About His In-Laws

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

We are all prone to complaining about our in-laws. We might gripe about them while shmoozing with someone in person, on the phone or by e-mail. Former Congressman Anthony Weiner, it seems, talks about his in-laws even while sexting.

In her forthcoming tell-all book, “I Friended You,” about her online relationship with Weiner, 35-year-old former cheerleading coach Traci Nobles reveals that amid Weiner’s naughty messages to her was also some venting about his wife Huma Abedin’s parents. Abedin, who is a deputy chief of staff and aide to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, was born to a Pakistani family and grew up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

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Gay Rights Pioneer Franklin Kameny Dies

By Michael Kaminer

Wikimedia Commons

Franklin Kameny, the pioneering gay rights leader whose Jewish identity inspired some of his historic activism, has died at age 86, the Washington Post reports.

As the Forward wrote last year in an 85th-birthday profile, Kameny “became a vocal activist at a time when other downtrodden and discriminated-against gay people scarcely dared to show their faces in public.” Rather than shrink from revealing his sexual orientation, Kameny “made it plain,” the Washington Post wrote.

Kameny’s death, on National Coming Out Day, occurred in a year in which gay men and lesbians were accorded the right to serve openly in the armed forces, as gay D.C. Council member David A. Catania told the Post last night. Through his efforts over the years, Kameny deserved to be known as one of the fathers of that shift from the policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Catania told the Post.

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Making a Case for the ‘Sabbath Elevator’

By Nathan Jeffay

iStockphoto

Secular-religious tensions in Israel have reached new heights — literally.

After three years of controversy among residents, homeowners at 14 Jabotinsky Street in Jerusalem’s Talbieh neighborhood have voted to use the building’s elevator every Sabbath as a “Shabbat elevator.” In a nod to the religious prohibition against pressing buttons on the Sabbath, the elevator will be programmed to stop automatically at each floor. This means no more walking up the stairs for religious residents who were previously unable to use the elevator on the Sabbath, but also longer lift journeys for secular residents.

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Bono Says to Think About Africa This Sukkot

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images
Children line up for a meal in Mogadishu, where more than 100,000 people have fled to to seek help from a severe drought that has hit Somalia.

Bono would like Sukkot observers enjoying their bountiful meals in the sukkah to take a moment from their celebration to think about famine in Africa. ONE, the grassroots advocacy organization that the U2 musician founded to fight poverty and preventable disease in Africa, has put out a special Sukkot 2011 guide to educate people on the issue and its relevance to the Jewish harvest festival.

The 5-page booklet was written by Marc Friend, who works for American Jewish World Service in its advocacy department and who was recently an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. It provides some basic background on the rituals, traditions and religious texts of Sukkot, as well as useful statistics about the situation on the ground in the Horn of Africa and resources for further learning about food justice.

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City Pulls Yiddish Signs Ordering Women Aside

By Nathan Burstein

Wikimedia Commons

Municipal workers in Brooklyn have taken down signs directed at Hasidic women — not because they’re religious in content, but because of where they’re posted.

The signs, written in Yiddish, direct Hasidic women in the Williamsburg neighborhood to keep a distance from their male counterparts, telling them, “Precious Jewish daughter, please move aside when a man approaches.”

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‘Sukkah in the City’ Comes to Times Square

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Times Square just got more crowded…at least for the next week or so. Stonehenge Partners, owners and operators of luxury apartment buildings in New York, are building “Sukkah in the City,” reportedly the first sukkah ever to be erected at the Crossroads of the World.

Inspired by the unique designs that were on view at Sukkah City in Union Square last year, this sukkah will have a façade featuring giant sunflowers, ladybugs and a blue sky — in what can be assumed to be a nod to the agricultural origins of the holiday and an ode to nature in the middle of the concrete jungle.

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Bootlegged Lulavs, Etrogs, for Sukkot?

By Nathan Jeffay

Wikimedia Commons

Produce harvested in the dead of night, smuggled and sold for high prices under the radar of authorities. Warehouses burglarized. Tourists hiding the good stuff in suitcases and getting found out by customs.

No, this isn’t a story of drug rings, but rather of lulavs and etrogs, the plant species waved during synagogue services on Sukkot, the festival that starts tomorrow night.

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Yom Kippur Solidarity for Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

The couple that prays together stays together — right?

That’s what celebrity Kremlinologists have been trying to figure since Friday, when reportedly feuding Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher attended services together at the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles. People Magazine reports that the pair sat on opposite sides of the aisle during the service — as is Kabbalah Centre custom — before exiting the sanctuary with their arms around each other’s waists.

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'Customizing' Yom Kippur To Make Room for Football

By Nathan Burstein

His commitment to Judaism — and college football — is impressive.

Wikimedia

For the second time in recent years, Nebraska football fan Joel Alperson is taking extraordinary measures to observe the High Holy Days, and to ensure Jewish fans don’t miss a moment of the Cornhuskers’ season. Omaha resident Alperson is flying New York City Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin to Nebraska for Yom Kippur, where Bashevkin will lead services and study sessions on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus so that observant football fans can make it in time to Saturday night’s game after the holiday.

The Omaha World-Herald notes that kickoff is at 7 p.m., five minutes after the official end of the holiday.

Alperson, a member of Omaha’s Beth Israel Synagogue, was equally creative in 2007, when another Cornhuskers game fell on Rosh Hashanah. In order to both observe the holiday and attend the game, he flew in three rabbinical students from New York City, who prayed with him at a location that was within walking distance of the stadium. He came to regret the decision, however, and while he’s offering Bashevkin’s services to other Jewish football fans this year, he plans to remain at Beth Israel rather than try to squeeze in both the holiday and the game.

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