The Shmooze

Vote for the Dead Sea

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Wikimedia Commons

Can the Dead Sea hold on? We’re not talking ecologically — though that is of prime concern to scientists and conservationists studying how and why the sea has been shrinking in size. The Shmooze, on the other hand, is worried about whether the Dead Sea can make it to at least 7th place among the 28 finalists for the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

The website for the contest, run by the New 7 Wonders of the World Foundation, has a countdown clock to November 11 (11/11/11), when global voting will be closed and the winners announced. Until then, you can register your vote for up to seven of the choices over the Internet, by phone or by texting.

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Israel’s Tourism Ministry Courts Martha Stewart

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

They’ve arranged visits by Chilean miners and “House” stars, and now the busy bees at Israel’s tourism ministry have their eyes on Martha Stewart and Oprah.

As part of a new push to bring celebrity visitors to Israel, the ministry has created a special “hospitality unit” to woo famous foreigners, Yediot Aharonot reported recently. The Israeli newspaper says the unit now has its sights set on the two daytime TV stars, and is working hard to secure a visit by Oprah, who theoretically might film the trip for OWN, her struggling new cable network.

The prospects might be better, at least in the short term, with Stewart. The tourism ministry was apparently tipped off that the TV host has been invited to visit friends in Israel next month, and has reached out in hopes that she might film episodes of her show during the trip.

“Negotiations with Stewart are taking place behind the scenes,” Yediot reports, playfully envisioning scenes of Stewart cooking on Masada, or sharing interior-design tips in front of the Western Wall.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tourism, Oprah Winfrey, OWN, Martha Stewart, Israel

Female IDF Soldiers Suffer More Stress Fractures

By Renee Ghert-Zand

A study of women soldiers in Israel has found that for the IDF to attract more women to combat roles, it is going to have to make changes to more than just the design of military gear.

The IDF thought that it had eliminated the problem of women soldiers getting stress fractures by designing a new, lighter vest with narrower straps especially for them. But just a couple of weeks after the introduction of these new vests, a study on the integration of women into combat units has been released, showing that women soldiers suffer disproportionately higher numbers of stress fractures from the physical exertions required of combat soldiers.

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For Tu B'Av, Solar Gets Sexy

By Allison Gaudet Yarrow

Tu B’av is the Jewish love fest, so what better time to promote hooking up? To solar energy, that is.

In a shameless attempt to take advantage of the holiday, Arava Power Company, a solar energy firm in Israel, produced a short flick reminiscent of VH1’s beloved 90s’ series Pop Up Video that is aptly set to Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.”

The somewhat corny video promotes love, but also gets in some digs at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for supposedly giving preference to a conventional energy monopoly.

“I treasure you more than the Treasury loves dirty power,” reads one caption, as a couple lovingly lip-syncs to one other.

The company is also trying to tap into public anger over government’s decision to hike electric rates by 10%. In June, it produced another video inviting viewers to the Inauguration of Israel’s First Solar Field.

Whatever your politics, check out the video before it goes viral.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tu B'Av, Solar energy, Netanyahu, Arava Power Company

Mengele’s Diaries May Be Loaned To Yad Vashem

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images
Some of the diaries of Josef Mengele on display at Alexander Autographs on July 19, 2011 in Stamford, Conn.

Though the recent purchaser of the diaries of the notorious Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele wishes to remain anonymous, he also wants Dr. Mengele’s artifacts to be available for all to see.

Haaretz reports that the purchaser, a modern-Orthodox physician from the U.S. Midwest who bought the diaries and related materials at auction for $245,000, told the newspaper that he believes that his motives have been misunderstood. He, the son of Holocaust survivors, says he is interested in turning Nazi items not into commodities, but rather into educational tools against evil.

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Ed Koch Pens Weight Loss Book for Kids

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch may have once said, “The best way to lose weight is to close your mouth — something very difficult for a politician. Or watch your food — just watch it, don’t eat it.”

That’s a fitting quote for Koch the mayor, but it’s not exactly the message Koch the author is sending in his new children’s book about healthy eating and self-acceptance. “Eddie Shapes Up,” which he wrote with his sister Pat Koch Thaler, will be published in September. It is Koch’s third work of juvenile literature.

The “Eddie Shapes Up” story was inspired by Koch’s own struggles with being overweight as a boy growing up in Newark, N.J. He was called “fatso,” he told The New York Times. “When I look back, it’s no joke…I think, ‘How did I get through that?’ It was tougher than settling a contract with the unions. And who knows what effect it has on your persona? It made me want to strive to be better than the other kids were. The other part of it was the tears. It makes your life miserable.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Zagat, Weight Loss, Eddie Shapes Up, Jonathan Hoefer, Obesity, Pat Koch Thaler, Ed Koch

A-Rod To ESPN: Cousin’s Visit Is ‘Very Kosher’

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

Perhaps Michele Bachmann should ask Alex Rodriguez for some help with her Jewish jargon.

Say what you will about the scandal-tainted Yankees third baseman — when he borrows a word, he uses it properly… sort of. Asked yesterday about his cousin’s visit to his hotel in San Francisco — a visit that could cause problems with Major League Baseball — Rodriguez pronounced it halachically sound. “There’s nothing to talk about,” he told ESPN. “Everyone’s kosher with everything. There’s nothing to investigate. Very kosher.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yuri Sucart, Michele Bachmann, Alex Rodriguez, Halacha

Jews Criticized for Handing Out Challah to Tottenham Rioters

By Renee Ghert-Zand

While most of the ultra-Orthodox residents of the North and South London neighborhoods affected by the recent rioting in the city have heeded rabbinic directives to stay indoors and out of harm’s way, some young Hasidic men did not last Saturday night. And what they were doing has given rise to some nasty finger pointing against the Jewish community.

Were these Yeshiva bochers out burning buildings, torching cars or looting stores? No, they were standing on the streets of Tottenham handing out bread (Challah, reportedly) from cardboard boxes to people around them.

But someone filmed this activity and posted it — oddly set to classical music — on YouTube, under the title “Tottenham Riots Conspiracy.” Then, as might be expected, anti-Semitic vitriol started flowing in the comments section. The poster of the video insinuated that these Jewish men were literally feeding the burning anger of the rioters. “Why are Jewish community members giving out fresh bread to the rioters? Why are they encouraging more violence and fuelling them?” he or she wrote.

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Swedish Queen Decides Father Wasn’t a Nazi

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

The Swedish queen has wrapped up an investigation into her father’s alleged Nazi past, concluding — perhaps a bit conveniently — that one of his 1939 business deals was helping, not exploiting, a desperate German Jew.

Rumors have long swirled about the history of German-born Queen Silvia, whose father, Walther Sommerlath, was said by some to have joined the Nazi party in 1934. The queen reacted angrily last year to the Swedish broadcast of a documentary about her father, which suggested that he had participated in Hitler’s so-called “Aryanization” of seized Jewish assets. She changed course in May, saying she would look into the allegations.

The results of her investigation, released today, suggest that her father acted nobly — at least in her interpretation. In findings released to the Swedish media, the queen says her father purchased a Berlin factory owned by a German Jew, Efim Wechsler, so that Wechsler could flee Germany for the safety of Brazil. The deal included giving Wechsler ownership of property, including a coffee plantation, owned by the Sommerlath family in Brazil.

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Elijah Wood’s Mysterious Ring (No, Not That One)

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

It’s been quite a while since you’ve been able to assume that someone wearing jewelry or other adornments with Jewish symbols or Hebrew writing is Jewish.

Just think about all those Kabbalah red-string bracelets around the wrists of celebs like Madonna, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher. And what about Justin Bieber’s new Hebrew tattoo he got while in Israel? (Okay, it says “Yeshua,” which means Jesus. But hey, it’s still in Hebrew.)

Unlike us, these stars did not get their Jewish bling from their bubbes (didn’t we all get our first Chai and Magen David necklace from our grandmothers?). In most cases, though, they did get it from Jews or in relation to a Jewish experience.

But that, however, is not always the case. This month’s American Way magazine (available online or in the seat pocket in front of you) features a close-up shot of actor Elijah Wood sporting a hard-to-miss silver band imprinted with “Im lo achshav aymatai” (“If not now, when?”) on the ring finger of his right hand.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Justin Bieber, Jewelry, Hebrew, Franka Potente, Elijah Wood

Israeli Court Allows Egg Extraction From Dead Teen

By Renee Ghert-Zand

For the first time in Israel, a court has ruled that the eggs of a deceased woman may be extracted and saved. The decision by the Kfar Sava Family Court this past Sunday was in relation to the case of the late Chen Aida Ayish, a 17-year-old from the Sharon region, who died of severe injuries sustained in a car crash. She was declared brain dead last Wednesday.

Ayish’s family agreed to have her organs harvested for transplant, and requested from the court that the eggs be extracted from her ovaries at the same time. The eggs were frozen, and the court has issued no further decision as to their possible future use.

The family had initially requested that the eggs be fertilized with sperm taken from another dead body, but the court rejected that request. Ayish’s parents have made no specific statement as to why they wanted their daughter’s eggs extracted, but it can be inferred that they may be hoping to produce a grandchild from them at some point.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Israel, Fertility, Chen Aida Ayish, Artificial Insemination, Kfar Sava Family Court, Organ Donation

Belief in Benevolent God Reduces Stress

By Michael Kaminer

Are Jews more anxious because we believe in a vengeful God? A new study suggests that might be the case.

“Researchers at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital have found that those who believe in a benevolent God tend to worry less and be more tolerant of life’s uncertainties than those who believe in an indifferent or punishing God,” according to the Health24 web site. The researchers published their findings in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

The McLean Hospital paper reports data from two separate studies, Health24 reports. One questioned 332 subjects, including Christians and Jews, recruited from religious web sites and religious organizations. The trial found “that those who trusted in God to look out for them had lower levels of worry and less intolerance of uncertainty in their lives than those who had a ‘mistrust’ of God to help them out,” according to Health24.

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Kanye West: ‘People Look at Me Like I’m Hitler’

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

A lot of people don’t like Kanye West — which apparently makes him feel like Hitler.

“I walk through the hotel and I walk down the street and people look at me like I’m [expletive] insane, like I’m Hitler,” the rapper and awards-show hijacker told fans last night at a concert in England. “One day the light will shine through and one day people will understand everything I ever did.”

The Hitler comparison drew “light boos” from the crowd, according to a write-up in Australia’s Telegraph.

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Last ‘Pink Triangle’ Holocaust Survivor Dies at 98

By Michael Kaminer

Getty Images

Another living link to the Holocaust was lost last week when the last surviving man to have worn the pink triangle — sewn onto concentration camp uniforms to signify homosexuality — died at the age of 98.

The New York Times reported that Rudolf Brazda, who had been imprisoned in Buchenwald, died in Alsace, France, where he had lived since the camp’s liberation, in 1945.

It was only in May 2008, “when the German National Monument to the Homosexual Victims of the Nazi Regime was unveiled in Berlin’s Tiergarten park — opposite the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe — that Mr. Brazda became known as probably the last gay survivor of the camps,” the Times said. “Until he notified German officials after the unveiling, the Lesbian and Gay Federation believed there were no other pink-triangle survivors.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Rudolf Brazda, Pink Triangle, Homosexuality, Holocaust

Roseanne Barr: Israel's Next Prime Minister?

By Nathan Burstein

Forget the usual slate of Israeli politicians - the country’s next prime minister could be Roseanne Barr.

Wikimedia Commons

So says the comedian, who announced her unlikely candidacy on yesterday’s “Tonight Show.” After announcing that she would also seek the American presidency, the former “Roseanne” star added the Israeli premiership as a “two-fer.”

“I’ve got to solve all the world’s problems,” she told Jay Leno.

To cheers from the audience, the former TV star outlined her U.S. agenda, which includes eliminating taxes and legalizing marijuana.

Barr, on the show to promote her new Lifetime reality series, didn’t elaborate on her plans for the Middle East. That’s probably a smart move for her candidacy, since the comedian, who has a Jewish background, has treated the issue with something less than nuance in the past. In December 2008, shortly after the start of Israel’s Gaza war, she declared that the country “is a NAZI state” on her blog.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Roseanne Barr, Nathan Burstein, Israel

Lauren Ambrose Named the Next ‘Funny Girl’

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

The role that launched Barbra Streisand has been recast — and it didn’t go to the Jewish heir apparent.

The next Broadway production of “Funny Girl” will star Lauren Ambrose as Fanny Brice, the real-life Jewish comedian whom Streisand played during the show’s original 1964 Broadway run.

The role, which earned Streisand a Tony nomination and later an Oscar for the film version, has been the source of considerable speculation in recent months, as the search has intensified for the star of the new staging. Bartlett Sher, the Tony-winning director of the new show, has said he was looking for an “unforgettably thrilling voice… a once-in-a-generation talent [with] excellent comedic timing.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Six Feet Under, Lea Michele, Lauren Ambrose, Funny Girl, Fanny Brice, Bartlett Sher, Barbra Streisand

Rick Sanchez To Launch Talk Show

By Nathan Burstein

Juda Engelmayer, WikiCommons
Rick Sanchez and Abe Foxman at Yankee Stadium in May 2011

Former news anchor Rick Sanchez, who was fired by CNN last fall after implying that Jews control the media, has completed the next step of his professional comeback.

The ex-cable host is developing a syndicated talk show that will shoot in Florida, TVNewser reports. The program will be shot in both English and Spanish, and Sanchez, who will own a stake in the show, is currently looking for a female co-host — possibly an actress. More details should be known later today, when the TV site will release an interview with the former news anchor.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Rick Sanchez, Television, Emilio Estefan, CNN, Anti-Semitism, Abe Foxman

Israeli Scientists Develop Date-Rape Drug Detector

By Nathan Jeffay

iStock

Israeli researchers look poised to make nightclubs safer. They have developed a sensor that detects date rape drugs in drinks.

Fernando Patolsky and Michael Ioffe of the School of Chemistry at Tel Aviv University have developed a sensor that detects changes to optical signals caused by drugs such as GHB.

In a summary of the research sent to journalists the university claims 100% accuracy for the test. The researchers were aided in their research by bartenders, who mixed popular cocktails of 15 types. Blind testing was then carried out: 50 glasses in total (distributed across the 15 varieties of drink) were randomly spiked with date rape drugs, with the researchers unaware of which glasses contained the drugs. In the experiment, the system detected the drugs in all drinks.

The researchers have patented all elements of the system. They now hope to miniaturize the system for mass production and produce a device no larger than the head of a pin, making it possible for clubbers to check their drinks without their dates noticing.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tel Aviv University, Nightclubs, Michael Ioffe, GHB, Fernando Patolsky, Date Rape, Chemistry

‘Bibi — Shake Shake’: Noy Alooshe’s Latest Remix

By Renee Ghert-Zand

With the crowds in the streets of Israel chanting “Mubarak, Assad, Bibi Netanyahu!,” the Shmooze knew it couldn’t be far behind: a July 14 Revolution-themed Noy Alooshe remix.

What Alooshe did to Muammar Gaddafi (who can forget “Zenga Zenga?”), Israeli Kadima party politicians like Tzipi Livni and Dalia Itzik, and a variety of Israeli and American celebrities and pop singers, he has now also done to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In his “Bibi — Shake Shake” video, he does a fine job of poking fun at the Prime Minister’s recently expressed confidence that the kinds of popular uprisings associated with the Arab Spring could never happen in Israel.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Benjamin Netanyahu, Arab Spring, Alooshe Noy

American Jews Not Prejudiced Against Muslims, New Poll Finds

By Nathan Burstein

For all the distrust that supposedly separates them, American Jews feel a lot of solidarity with their Muslim counterparts.

That’s the stereotype-defying implication of a new poll by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, which shows that American Jews express more understanding for American Muslims than any other U.S. religious group.

Eighty percent of American Jews believe U.S. Muslims are loyal to the country, placing them behind only Muslims themselves (93%), and far ahead of the next most sympathetic religious group, Catholics, 59% of whom see American Muslims as loyal.

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