The Shmooze

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.”

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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.)

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Study Suggests Jews Are Wealthiest After All

By Nathan Burstein

istockphoto

This news comes uncomfortably close to reinforcing old stereotypes — but a new study shows that Jews are indeed one of the wealthiest groups in the United States.

Data collected by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows that Reform and Conservative Jews ranked first and third, respectively, on a list of the country’s most affluent religious groups. Two-thirds of Reform households earn $75,000 or more annually, an income matched by 57 percent of Conservative homes. Sixty-five percent of Hindu households earned $75,000 or more, placing the group second.

The poorest Americans, meanwhile, were Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Baptists. The Pew numbers show that the percentage of Reform households earning more than $100,000 is the same as the proportion of Baptist households earning $40,000 or less.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Stereotypes, Religion, Income, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Economics, Demographics

Lag B’Omer Can Wait 24 Hours, Says Israeli Rabbi

By Nathan Jeffay

Everyone knows the joke about how much Jews love to disagree — the single inhabitant of a desert island builds two synagogues so that he has one to assiduously avoid. Now, disagreement has cropped up in a new sphere — the calendar.

Children across Israel are scouring forests and streets for sticks and scraps of wood for the traditional bonfires for Lag B’Omer, the next festival. But when is Lag B’Omer? It depends who you ask.

Refer to your calendar and it will tell you that it’s on Sunday (starting as most Jewish festivals do the night before). But the influential Israeli Sephardi rabbi Ovadia Yosef has ruled that celebrations should be delayed by 24 hours. His reasoning is that if bonfires begin on Saturday night, people — including the hundreds needed to secure Israel’s largest celebration at Mount Meron in the Galilee — will be led to desecrate the Sabbath to prepare them.

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Israeli Actress Mali Levi To Star Opposite Brad Pitt in Zombie Thriller

By Nathan Burstein

The Shmooze reported a few months ago that the race was on among Israel’s top actresses to land a part opposite Brad Pitt in “World War Z,” a zombie thriller set for release in 2014.

Well, there appears to be a winner. Hebrew-language news site Ynet reports that the role of a female Israeli soldier will likely go to Mali Levi, a model, actress and generally gorgeous 30-year-old who has also dabbled in pop music. The role will serve as Levi’s Hollywood debut, putting her on the growing list of Israeli knockouts playing key roles in American blockbusters.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Brad Pitt, Film, Israel, Mali Levi, World War Z, Zombies

Tweet #Torah to the Top

By Nathan Burstein

The most-tagged topics on Twitter generally involve Justin Bieber and other celebrities, but at least for one day, the Jewish Publication Society hopes to elevate Torah into the top 10.

In honor of Shavuot, the Philadelphia-based JPS is introducing a new tool that breaks up blocks of text into Tweet-size chunks, then posts them with a #Torah hashtag. The publisher is asking supporters to post favorite chapters or verses on Twitter on June 7, just before the start of Shavuot, when Jews celebrate receiving the Torah at Sinai.

To help #Torah’s prospects, JPS is offering free e-book versions of its 1917 Tanakh to those who sign up on its Web site.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: JPS, Jewish Publication Society, Torah, Tweet, Twitter

Second Ave. Deli Vs. Heart Attack Grill: Who Owns the Triple Bypass?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Courtesy 2nd Avenue Deli

Who can tell the difference between a “Triple Bypass Burger” and a “Triple Bypass Sandwich?” Everyone can, according to the owners of the legendary 2nd Avenue Deli.

But an Arizona restaurant seems to think that it has a lock on artery-clogging fare—or at least on the terms used to describe it. Deli owner Jeremy Lebewohl recently received a cease-and-desist letter from the Heart Attack Grill claiming that the deli’s plan to sell a “Triple Bypass Sandwich” violates the other restaurant’s “Triple Bypass Burger” trademark, NYMag’s Grub Street reports. Lebewohl and his co-owners have preemptively sued to declare that there is no trademark infringement.

The Heart Attack Grill’s food (which purportedly has a “taste worth dying for”) is served by waitresses who wear skimpy nurse uniforms and put hospital bracelets on the restaurant’s “patients.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Trademarks, Sandwiches, Lawsuits, Heart Disease, Burgers, Heart Attack Grill, 2nd Avenue Deli

Shalit Independence Day Protest Absent From Israeli TV

By Nathan Jeffay

It was probably the most newsworthy element of this year’s Independence Day celebrations in Israel, but, oddly, footage of it didn’t appear on television.

At the official state torch-lighting ceremony in Jerusalem, Yoel Shalit — the brother of Gilad Shalit, who has been held captive by Hamas for almost five years — stood up with his girlfriend and displayed signs saying “Gilad is still alive” and shouted in protest against what he considers the government’s lack of effort to bring Gilad home. The two were forcibly ejected from the Monday night event.

The ceremony was televised by three domestic channels, all of which used a feed from a production company engaged by the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry. But the protest was conspicuously absent from the feed, meaning that TV viewers didn’t see it.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Protest, Israel, Independence Day, Gal Shalit, Yoel Shalit

JDate Launches Netflix-Like Jewish Film Club

By Michael Kaminer

Cinematic tastes are usually a good indicator of compatibility. Maybe that’s why JDate, which calls itself “the premier Jewish singles community online,“ is launching a movie site.

The New York Times reports this week that JDate is sponsoring “North America’s first Jewish Film-of-the-Month Club,” which plans to send a new, Jewish-themed feature film on DVD or streamed to subscribers bimonthly — “and then monthly, when things get swinging” — for an annual subscription rate of $108, or $68 for six months and $3.25 in shipping and handling costs per disc.

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‘House’ Stars Tour Israel

By Nathan Burstein

The stars of TV’s “House” started their summer vacation by celebrating Israel’s Independence Day in Tel Aviv.

That’s the word from Israel’s tourism ministry, which is co-hosting four of the show’s cast members this week, along with partners including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and El Al.

The four actors — Lisa Edelstein, Amber Tamblyn, Omar Epps and Jesse Spencer — will also visit the Galilee, the Dead Sea and Masada before wrapping up their trip in Jerusalem. They will be tweeting and blogging about their impressions, and “are expected to share their experiences in media interviews on their return to the United States,” the tourism ministry says.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Television, Omar Epps, Lisa Edelstein, Jesse Spencer, Israel, House, Amber Tamblyn, Travel

Yiddish Cell Phones Unveiled

By Michael Kaminer

Like my new klingen? How about this cool schirm verteidikung?

Ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel might be asking those questions this week — about their ringtones and screen-savers, respectively — after an Israeli telecom company launched a new “kosher” cell phone with a Yiddish interface.

Reuters reports that “Israel’s second largest mobile provider, Partner, [has] introduced what it hailed as the world’s first Yiddish cell phone.” Hundreds of thousands of mobile phones, popularly dubbed kosher “because they block access to services frowned upon by ultra-Orthodox rabbis,” have been in use for years in Israel.

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