The Shmooze

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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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Israel, Calendar, Bonfires, Lag B'Omer

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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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Cell Phones, Israel, Technology, Yiddish

Alicia Silverstone Names Baby Boy 'Bear Blu'

By Michael Kaminer

Wikimedia

Jewish actress Alicia Silverstone, whose vegetarian activism has drawn more attention than her thespian activity, is back in the spotlight after naming her newborn son for the ursidae family.

Bear Blu Jarecki was born May 5 to the actress and author, 34, and husband Christopher Jarecki, Silverstone’s rep told People yesterday.

Silverstone followed up with her own blog post this morning. “My husband and I welcomed our 7 lb 15 oz baby boy Bear Blu Jarecki into the world on May 5th at 7:50am (PT),” she wrote on The Kind Life. “We are all three in love! I’m so grateful to this community for all the love, support, good wishes and happy vibes you’ve sent me during my pregnancy…it has been wonderful. Thank you all!” The blog gets its name from Silverstone’s 2009 bestseller “The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Christopher Jarecki, Babies, Animals, Alicia Silverstone, Bears

$1 Million For a Bar Mitzvah? No Way, Kanye

By Eileen Reynolds

Wikimedia

Former NBC CEO Jeff Zucker threw his son Andrew a lavish bar mitzvah at the Four Seasons this weekend — complete with sushi, a celebrity guest list that included Katie Couric and customized Converse sneakers handed out to Andrew’s pals as party favors.

But if there was one thing missing from the bash, it was an appearance by Kanye West, who demanded a staggering $1 million when the family asked if he would perform at the event. The New York Post reports that Zucker briefly considered offering West a mere $800,000 — but then came to his senses and offered the gig to Jewish rapper Drake instead (who accepted, presumably for a more reasonable price).

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Katie Couric, Kanye West, Jeff Zucker, Four Seasons, Colin Cowie, Drake, Buddy Valastro, Bar Mitzvah

Where's Hillary? Hasidic Newspaper Photoshops Clinton Out of Bin Laden Photo

By Nathan Burstein

A Hasidic newspaper in Brooklyn has attracted national attention for defying explicit White House instructions and erasing Hillary Clinton from what’s arguably the year’s most powerful photo.

The Yiddish-language newspaper, Der Tzitung, also erased Director of Counterterrorism Audrey Tomason from the image, which was taken as President Obama and his top officials watched the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Der Tzitung left all the men in the photo. The paper’s decision to alter the image directly violates instructions from the White House, which decreed upon the image’s release that it “may not be manipulated in any way.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sarah Palin, Osama Bin Laden, Hillary Clinton, Audrey Tomason, Der Zeitung

Coming Soon: Israel's Biometric ID Cards

By Nathan Jeffay

Biometric identity cards — cards carrying a computer chip with biographical information like a photo, fingerprints, signature, and date of birth — were controversial from the moment they were first mentioned. Now Israel is finally ready to issue them, the local media reports.

We have known this was coming since the run up to the vote on the so-called biometric law, which passed in December. The Forward reported almost two years ago about concerns that were being voiced. But there’s one bizarre detail that has only just come to light.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Israel, Holocaust, Biometric Identity Cards, Zionism

Rabbi and Father of 11 on Trial for Molesting IDF Officer

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Scribd

Editor’s Note: Yesterday Bidany was found guilty of the charge of molesting a female Israeli Army officer.

A female IDF officer is not taking an alleged case of misdemeanor sexual contact sitting down — especially not while sitting on an airplane.

The NY Daily News reported that the 23-year-old officer, who commands a missile defense unit, has accused an Orthodox rabbi and father of 11 of groping her groin and breast while sitting next to her on Delta flight 269 en route from Tel Aviv to New York last March 27. The rabbi, Gavriel Bidany, is currently standing trial in Brooklyn Federal Court, and faces six months in prison if found guilty by Magistrate Ramon Reyes.

The woman has testified that Bidany, who was in the seat next to hers, first touched her groin and later her breast, both times bogusly claiming to have been asleep when it happened. The first time, he took his hand away when she was startled awake by the groping after having put her head down on the tray table to rest. The second time, she reportedly asked him what he was doing, and he said, “No, no, it’s a mistake. I’m asleep.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sexual Conduct, Rabbi, NY Daily News, Israel, IDF, Gavriel Bidany, Ramon Reyes

Upside Down Day: In Tel Aviv, Students and Janitors Switch Places

By Nathan Jeffay

Too often, janitors in public buildings the world over are taken for granted. Nobody captured this phenomenon as vividly as film director Ken Loach in his movie Bread and Roses, in which a janitor expresses that she feels invisible.

Yesterday, students at Tel Aviv University made a sweeping gesture — quite literally — to show they appreciate their cleaning staff. Some 40 students relieved janitors of their duties, taking over their shifts and giving them a chance to rest.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Leaf Blowers, Ken Loach, Janitors, Israel, Bread And Roses, Tel Aviv University

Ringling Heiress Sues Brother After Assault at Shiva

By Nathan Burstein

When it comes to the Jewish family behind Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, the real circus is taking place outside the big top.

In a lawsuit that involves a rabbi, secret gay lovers and an alleged assault at a shiva, Ringling heiress Karen Feld is suing her brother, Kenneth, for $110 million, claiming she sustained brain damage after he ordered her forcibly removed from a shiva minyan for their aunt.

Karen Feld, 63, says she suffered severe injuries when Kenneth’s bodyguards threw her out of her aunt’s Washington, DC, penthouse, then beat her. (They also mistreated her pet poodle, the suit alleges.) Kenneth Feld may be involved in the “Jewish mafia,” the suit claims, and could also be linked to money laundering and murder.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Ringling Brothers, Kenneth Feld, Karen Feld, Barnum and Bailey, assault, circus, lawsuit, shiva

Galliano Loses Jewish Lawyer

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

The Shmooze is shocked — shocked! — to report that an anti-Semite and his Jewish lawyer have parted ways.

Depending on your source, Jewish attorney Stephane Zerbib has either quit working for British fashion designer John Galliano — or Galliano fired him. An unnamed source claims Zerbib “had enough” from Galliano, who was fired by the Christian Dior fashion label in March for an anti-Semitic outburst that went viral on YouTube.

But a Galliano spokeswoman claims the opposite is true, and that Galliano dismissed Zerbib weeks ago due to “apparent irregularities in respect to … financial affairs.” (Side note: even if this is true, and we’re interested to see the evidence, accusing a Jewish employee of financial misconduct may not help Galliano rehabilitate his image.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: fashion, anti-Semitism, Stephane Zerbib, John Galliano, hate speech

Larry David To Play Nun in 'Three Stooges' Film

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

Casting Larry David as a nun is brilliant — as strange and amusing as Condoleezza Rice’s turn as herself last week on “30 Rock.”

Known for his constant kvetching and general misanthropy on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” David has been announced as the newest cast member on the upcoming “Three Stooges” movie, which will co-star fellow TV comedians Sean Hayes (“Will and Grace”) and Jane Lynch (“Glee”). Like Lynch, David will play a senior nun, but one with a last name that momentarily shocked the Shmooze: Mengele, like the infamous Auschwitz doctor who fled after the war to South America.

We’re not sure what connection there might be between David’s Mother Mengele and the Nazi war criminal, but we imagine it’ll come up in some fashion when the movie arrives in theaters next year.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Three Stooges, Nuns, Condoleezza Rice, Larry David, Dr. Mengele, 30 Rock

Hipsters Embrace Hasidic Headwear

By Nathan Burstein

When Hasidim and hipsters have shared headlines in recent years, it’s most often been because of tensions dividing the two communities. So it’s nice, for a change, to see a story about something the two groups have in common — specifically, their love of a distinctive type of headwear.

The New York Times reports that Williamsburg’s hipster population is now embracing the Borsalino, the brand of black fedora long worn by Hasidic men as a way to identify themselves and each other.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: New York Times, Hipsters, Hats, Hasidim, Fashion, Brooklyn, Borsalino, Williamsburg

Celebrities Get Twitter-Happy With News of Bin Laden's Death

By Michael Kaminer

Always hyperactive, the Twitterverse went into overdrive with the news of Osama bin Laden’s death — and Jewish celebs and notables were among the most active broadcasters.

Not surprisingly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, via the Israeli Consulate’s feed, called it “a victory for justice, freedom and common values of all democracies.”

Director Albert Brooks, characteristically, made great material of the news: “Bin Laden to St. Peter: ‘What do you mean they’re no longer virgins?’”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Seth Green, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Joe Lieberman, Osama Bin Laden, Elon Gold, Benjamin Netanyahu, Bar Refaeli, Albert Brooks, Twitter



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