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?’”
Every high-speed action flick needs a scantily clad woman to help kick some criminal butt. In the case of the newly released “Fast Five,” that woman just happens to be a former Miss Israel. Model and actress Gal Gadot, a veteran of the Israel Defense Forces and numerous magazine covers, plays Gisele Harabo in the film, which is the fifth installment in the canon of “The Fast and the Furious.” (Gadot’s character was first introduced in the fourth installment, “Fast & Furious.”)
The viscerally satisfying movie has already garnered its share of accolades: Its opening weekend brought in an astounding $83.6 million (making it the highest-grossing April film opening ever).
From Israel, Gadot spoke to the Forward’s Curt Schleier about the film role and a nagging magazine cover that continues to draw ire.
Criticize any national or ethnic cuisine and you’re spoiling for a fight.
So writer Josh Ozersky knows he’s stepping on a land mine when he writes, on the Web site of Time, that “Jewish food is awful.”
Having launched his attack, however, the Jewish Ozersky quickly retreats, clarifying that he’s limiting his discussion to “the familiar Eastern European Jewish food that most American Jews of my generation grew up eating: dry and flavorless brisket … [and] tasteless matzoh balls,” among other alleged atrocities. The piece goes on to explore what Ozersky sees as a paradox — Jews’ famous obsession with food and the fact that their own cuisine supposedly isn’t much good.
Perhaps it was inevitable that someone in the Madoff clan would eventually write a tell-all.
If she gets her way, that family member will be Stephanie Morgan, the former daughter-in-law of Bernie and Ruth Madoff. New York magazine reports that Morgan is currently shopping a memoir to publishers, promising a story that portrays her as “strong-minded woman overcoming tragedy and moving ahead with life.”
The Shmooze didn’t initially like the idea of a Madoff family member profiting from Bernie’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme, which ruined many lives and did massive damage to numerous charities. But Morgan is at least partly a victim herself, since her husband, Mark Madoff, killed himself in December — a suicide allegedly caused by shame over his father’s crimes.
Welcome to Modi’in, the Israeli city that is so British that people drink tea at four o’clock, stand in orderly lines at the bus stop (unheard of in this part of the world) and play cricket. Well today, it became even more so.
One street in the city is today covered in red white and blue Union Flags, and people will shortly spill out to fulfill that old British tradition of the “street party” — an outdoor pot luck party where neighbors and friends celebrate national occasions together. The occasion, of course, is the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
People setting up the party, a Shabbat meal which starts soon, wished each other “mazalotov” like you do at a family wedding. There are even commemorative Grace After Meals booklets, as the organizers billed it as a “sheva berachot” — the traditional celebratory meal held in the days following a Jewish wedding.
Alas, intrepid journalist though I am, I cannot finagle a way to cover this royal wedding, the Friday nuptials of William and Kate. But I sure remember being there the last time an heir to the British throne ceremoniously tied the knot, and that day — July 23, 1986 — was both my most aristocratic moment, and my most humbling.
A handful of American correspondents based in London were offered seats in Westminster Abbey, for the wedding of Prince Andrew to Sarah Ferguson, and I was one of the lucky ones. I had to buy a hat (one must always wear a hat in the presence of the Queen), the only time I was ever able to put such an item on my expense account. And I had to wear a long, fancy dress. Fortunately, the dress I had purchased for my sister’s wedding that following September — a gorgeous, hot-pink number, with a cut-out drape in the back — was already in my closet, and available.
So off I went that cool, drizzly morning, in my dress and hat, interviewing the famous and very famous guests as they arrived at the Abbey, in shiny black boat-like cars, dressed in gowns and morning suits and every kind of finery I’d ever imagined. Once the reporters were ushered inside the magnificent building, we were treated to the splendor of royal theatrics as only the British can do, elegant, sweeping and historic.
In 2010, over two-thirds of Israel’s 3.45 million tourists were Christian, and nearly half were self-proclaimed religious pilgrims. It’s rare to find a discriminatory tourism industry these days — dollars are dollars — and fortunately for Israel, the Holy Land is holy for a lot of folks.
Enter the Gospel Trail, the Israeli Tourism Ministry’s newest attempt to monetize Christian pilgrimage. The 40-mile path, located in the Galilee and set to open in May, enables tourists to trace the footsteps of Jesus and his disciples, hitting Tabgha, where Jesus fed the multitude, the Mount of Beatitudes and Capernaum, the site of his purported home on the Sea of Galilee.
According to the Associated Press, the Gospel Trail “includes New Testament quotes carved into stones along the path, shaded rest areas and picnic sites.”
Christians have many. We Jews have a few. Muslims and Buddhists do, too, and the Hindus and Wiccans may soon get theirs. But despite the fact that 3,000 chaplains minister to the needs of active-duty service people in the military, none serve atheists.
That may soon change. “Groups representing atheists and secular humanists are pushing for the appointment of one of their own to the chaplaincy, hoping to give voice to what they say is a large — and largely underground — population of nonbelievers in the military,” The New York Times reports.
Jason Torpy, a former Army captain who is president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, told the Times humanist chaplains would do everything religious chaplains do, including counsel troops and help them follow their faiths.
“Humanism fills the same role for atheists that Christianity does for Christians and Judaism does for Jews,” Torpy said. “It answers questions of ultimate concern; it directs our values.”
You’ve read Anne Frank’s “Diary of a Young Girl,” but what about her blog?
If you’re weirded out by the idea, you may not instantly love “Le Blog de Anne,” part of a promotional Web site for “Anne le Musical,” a song-filled new play about — you guessed it — the murdered Jewish teen.
Premiering today in Paris, the show has stirred controversy with its retelling of Frank’s famous story, in a production that includes rap, among other musical genres.
Somewhat miraculously, “Anne le Musical” turns out not to be in horrible taste, at least if French theater critics are to be believed. Hailed by Paris Match as a “great success,” the show was described by Le Figaro as “most stirring,” and as “a wonderful vocal performance” by Periscope.
As The Shmooze has already observed, the people of the United Kingdom have a habit of seeing Hitler in odd places — from the facade of Welsh houses to their own pet cats.
Now a small-town politician has spotted the Nazi leader — or at least his mustache — on one of his own political posters, leading to a minor controversy in Pitcombe, Somerset, a hamlet west of London.
Town councillor Mark Beech complained to police about the poster, which featured his own face and was later adorned with a Hitler mustache by an unknown vandal. Using the Public Order Act as justification, investigators made “house-to-house inquiries” at each of the town’s 20 residences, the Telegraph reported, an investigation derided by locals as “an outrageous waste of police and taxpayers’ money.”
It doesn’t have the glamour of Cannes or the indie cred of Sundance, but it does boast Moses as its mascot.
In the lead-up to next month’s Toronto Jewish Film Festival, organizers have released a series of ads featuring the biblical forefather in a humorous mix of modern situations - a publicity effort that has won praise from the ad industry but a ban from the city’s Transit Commission.
The most risque element of the campaign - and the subject of the ban - is an image of Moses in a “Ten Commandments”-style robe, exiting a limo without underwear and unintentionally flashing the paparazzi, in the manner of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears circa 2007. Although Moses’ private parts are tastefully blurred, a Transit Commission rep told trade newspaper Ad Week that it was rejected for fear of “instances where people might not find it funny.” (“We can’t think of any, but I suppose it’s possible,” Ad Week countered.)
A pair of YouTube promos feature Moses working at a movie theater, in one case serving goat’s milk rather than soda at the concession stand. Working as a janitor in the second ad, the Israelite leader splits a puddle of spilled soda for an attractive woman, then brings it back together before her date can pass.
Bad ideas if you want a role in the royal wedding: insult the bride, write about your anti-Semitic fantasies and slur England’s Pakistani immigrants.
One of the would-be guards during this Friday’s festivities has managed all three, getting himself removed from his duties along the ceremonial parade route.
Cameron Reilly was to have joined several hundred of his fellow Scots Guards in lining the path between Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, but was dismissed after the discovery of online rants attacking future princess Kate Middleton and minority groups. Reilly, an 18-year-old who sounds like a real charmer, referred to Middleton as a “stuck-up cow,” among other insults, used a slur to denigrate Pakistani immigrants and joked about shooting Jews while on duty near the Tower of London.
Reilly also wrote on his Facebook page about having “attacked a black man.”
England’s Daily Mail reports that he is among the iconic guards who regularly serve outside Buckingham Palace, and that the Scots Guards say they are investigating him.
Now that he’ll be free during the wedding, perhaps Reilly will return to his hometown - fittingly enough, a place called East Kilbride.
A Montreal man will finally get to reclaim a prized Gustav Klimt painting the Nazis stole from his Austrian grandmother.
The Montreal Gazette reports that the Austrian government and the Salzburg Modern Art Museum have agreed that Klimt’s “Litzlberg am Attersee” was the rightful property of the late Amalie Redlich – and that as her only heir, 83-year-old George Jorich, should benefit from the painting’s eventual sale. The work’s estimated value: At least $27 million.
“As painful as returning this painting is for the…collection, the province and all of Austria, I believe the Salzburg government must stay on the path started in 2002 and not allow itself to benefit from a criminal regime,” said Wilfried Haslauer, director of the Museum of Modern Arts, according to Reuters. He was referring to a 2002 accord struck with Jewish organizations on returning assets that Nazis stole. The Salzburg government and parliament have to approve the move, Reuters reports.
With a new movie about to open, Mel Gibson is attempting a comeback - again.
He - and we - have been here before. The “Braveheart” star tried a similar move last year with the release of “Edge of Darkness,” a thriller that underwhelmed at the box office, and wasn’t helped by Gibson’s hostile reaction to questions about his infamous anti-Semitic tirade in 2006.
Two weeks before the release of “The Beaver,” a drama in which he’s directed by old friend Jodie Foster, Gibson has given an interview posted online by Deadline Hollywood, in which he talks about topics ranging from his professional ambitions to the scandal that damaged his career last year. The conversation, with journalist Allison Hope Weiner, focuses largely on last year’s leaked recordings of the actor, which revealed him threatening his then girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva, and using racist and misogynistic language. The actor describes the recordings as “humiliating and painful,” and claims he “[doesn’t] care if I don’t act anymore.”
Generally pitched as softball questions, the interview mostly sidesteps Gibson’s ideas about Jews. A reference to his 2006 DUI arrest, during which he accused Jews of being “responsible for all the wars in the world,” is used to ask the actor about his work ethic - specifically when caught “at the center of something like this.” Unsurprisingly, Gibson doesn’t directly address the incident.
While Gibson’s professional fate doesn’t rest solely on “The Beaver” - he says he’s already got another project lined up - the prospects for his current comeback should become clearer after the film’s May 6 release.
Is kabbalah losing its most famous student?
No one can say for sure, but reports are spreading that Madonna is considering a switch to Opus Dei, the conservative Catholic sect arguably most famous for protesting its own vilification in “The Da Vinci Code.”
The rumors suggest that Madonna sought out the group in reaction to recent embarrassments involving her charity, which collapsed amid reports of major monetary waste and mismanagement. The singer co-founded the organization, Raising Malawi, with Michael Berg, a friend and mentor from the Kabbalah Centre, the object of her religious devotion for the past 15 years.
Thursday night was certainly different from all other nights at The Olympic Collection Banquet Hall & Conference Center in West Los Angeles. On this particular night, the hall was reserved for the Universal Freedom Seder, an interfaith dinner attended by nearly 250 people to commemorate Passover, Easter, the Quranic story of Moses and the Arabic Spring movements currently roiling the Middle East. The Seder even included a helping of music, including a three-song set by Israeli alt-rocker Idan Raichel of the Idan Raichel Project.
Ruth Broyde Sharone, the event’s primary organizer and a filmmaker who documents interfaith gatherings, announced, “We have more than 12 faiths represented here tonight.” Sharone was flanked at the head table by Rabbi Mordecai Finley of the Ohr HaTorah Congregation, a professor at the Academy of Jewish Religion; Imam Jihad Turk, religious director of the Islamic Center of Southern California; and the Reverend Gwynne Guibord, an Episcopalian priest.
Sharone’s inspiration for the Seder, she said, had been the overturning of the Mubarak regime by the Egyptian people, who’d brandished signs demanding the downfall of their “Pharaoh.” Searching the crowd for Egyptians, I spotted Mohamed Samir Helmy, Los Angeles’s Egyptian consul general.
Bah, humbug! Ebenezer Scrooge seems to have come to Israel this Passover.
The big talking point among Israelis during this time of year is what their company gave them. Employers are expected by convention to give employees a gift twice a year, at Passover and at Rosh Hashanah. It’s a longstanding tradition that dates from the days when the socialist-Zionists who founded the state made it a bastion of workers’ rights.
But a survey commissioned by the Israeli Management Center (results not online) indicates that this year, one in five companies is defying expectations and giving nothing. Those who have given gifts spent an average of 355 shekels ($100), which is slightly down on previous years.
If they could get Natalie Portman involved, it truly would be a Jewish dream team behind “Team of Rivals,” an upcoming Hollywood drama about the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.
Instead, they’ll have to make do with “just” the directing talents of Steven Spielberg and the writing gifts of Tony Kushner, who are collaborating for a second time to adapt Doris Kearns Goodwin’s best-selling 2005 book of the same name. The film will star Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln and Sally Field as his wife.
The movie marks a reunion for Spielberg and Kushner, who worked together on 2005’s “Munich.” Both received Oscar nominations for their work — Kushner shared his with co-writer Eric Roth — but also generated controversy with the film’s depiction of Israeli counterterrorism efforts in the aftermath of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre.
John Galliano must be pretty sorry for his anti-semitic rant.
The British designer has been ousted as head designer of his namesake line, John Galliano. Women’s Wear Daily is reporting that the board of the label has met and decided to fire him. This comes about six weeks after Galliano got the boot from Christian Dior. Galliano’s label is 91 percent owned by Dior.
In February, a video in which Galliano said he “loved Hitler” took the Web by storm. In the video, the once-star designer is seen sitting in a Paris bar and telling someone, “People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f****** gassed.” He has reportedly been receiving treatment in Los Angeles for substance abuse.
Extremism makes strange bedfellows. The Jewish Defense League is trying to rally Toronto Jews to protest against the city’s Pride parade committee by comparing gay people… to Nazis.
Ironically — as the Forward reported in January — a right-wing fanatic named Scott Lively had floated the notion that Nazis were “a homosexual, pagan cult” in a widely discredited book.
This time around, Toronto lesbian/gay newspaper Xtra reports, the JDL is using the comparison to lure Toronto Jews to a demonstration at Pride Toronto’s offices. JDL’s Facebook invitation asserts, in part, that “during the Nazi era, many high-ranking Nazis were gay,” Xtra reports.