The Shmooze

‘Jihad’ Banner Unveiled at Polish Soccer Match

By Renee Ghert-Zand

In the latest news about the anti-Semitic behavior of European football fans, supporters of Poland’s Legia team unfurled a huge “Jihad” banner during a recent Warsaw game against Hapoel Tel Aviv.

The banner was green, and “Jihad Legia” was written across it in white Arabic-style font. Green is one of Legia’s team colors, but it is also the color of many Islamist groups and parties.

“Some Legia fans have been known for anti-Semitic and extreme-right behavior for years and they had a chance to express their hatred of Jews again when Legia played an Israeli team, this time adopting a pseudo-Islamist guise,” Rafal Pankowski, who runs the UEFA-backed Football Against Racism in Europe network, told AFP. The UEFA is European football’s governing body.

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John Galliano’s Old Haunt Draws Hip Crowd

By Renee Ghert-Zand

John Galliano is no longer at Christian Dior, nor does he go any more to the La Perle café-bar in the Marais district of Paris. That was the setting for the drunken anti-Semitic tirades that got him into trouble not only with his former employer, but also with the law. But the fact that those hateful outbursts happened there has apparently made La Perle a hip place to hang out.

The neighborhood establishment, which caters to local workers and families during the day, is now so crowded late at night that its young, upscale patrons are crowding the sidewalks outside.

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Ralph Steinman Wins Posthumous Nobel

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images
Alexis Steinman, daughter of deceased 2011 Nobel Prize in medicine winner Ralph Steinman, speaks at a press conference in front of a photo of her father at Rockefeller University.

As a result of some unusual timing, the Nobel Prize for Medicine has been awarded posthumously to scientist Ralph M. Steinman. Steinman, a Canadian-born researcher who worked at Rockefeller University, died of pancreatic cancer on September 30, but word of his passing did not reach the Nobel Committee in Sweden before it announced the award today. The Nobel Committee does not grant posthumous awards.

Nobel secretary general Goran Hansson called this a “unique situation, because he died hours before the decision was made.” The panel will have to decide what to do with the prize money that would have gone to Steinman, but it will not name a substitute winner.

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Google's 'Bar Mitzvah'

By Nathan Burstein

Google

If you did an online search yesterday, chances are you saw Google’s homepage decorated with an animated cake, candles and other images celebrating the company’s 13th birthday.

Given the search engine’s Jewish parentage, it makes sense that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg used the occasion to congratulate the site on a major religious milestone, writing on Twitter, “Happy 13th Birthday … and best wishes on your Bar Mitzvah.”

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Avigdor Lieberman Can’t Carry a Tune

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

There are many Israelis, especially those on the left side of the political spectrum, who would describe Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as having a tin ear when it comes to recognizing socio-political realities.

Lieberman’s opponents will feel especially validated now that it turns out that he is actually — and totally — tone deaf. If the painful sound of his singing Hatikva, the national anthem, at a pre-Rosh Hashanah gathering of members of his Yisrael Beiteinu party on Monday, is any indication, it seems as though Lieberman would not be able to sing on key if his life depended on it.

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Ukrainian Nationalists Protest Rosh Hashanah Pilgrimage

By Renee Ghert-Zand

As an expected 50,000 Breslov Hasidim descend on Uman, Ukraine for their annual Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Nachman there, they are being met with protests from local Ukrainian nationalists.

According to reports by the Moscow Times and Kyiv Post, the Svoboda nationalist party held an “Uman Without Hasidim” rally to demand stricter controls on the Hasidic pilgrims. Tetyana Chornomaz, head of the local Svoboda branch, was adamant that the protest had nothing to do with anti-Semitism. However, she did say that “we have many questions regarding their [the Hasidim’s] stay in Ukraine.” In particular, she and other activists are concerned about security and sanitation while the pilgrims are in the area. During the 2010 pilgrimage, 10 Hasidim were deported back to Israel and banned from returning to the Ukraine for disrupting the public order and causing bodily harm to Uman residents.

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Tony Blair Cozies Up To Divorcee Ofra Strauss

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been spending quite a bit of time in Israel since becoming the Quartet’s representative there. According to the Daily Mail (which in turn cites Maariv), the married Englishman has been spending a noticeable amount of that time with 51-year-old, twice-divorced Israeli “tycoon” Ofra Strauss.

Blair has apparently known Strauss, who is the chairperson and former CEO of the Strauss Group, which she inherited from her father, for some time. The company makes dairy products, snacks and sweets, and was one of the targets of the popular protests in Israel this past summer.

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Toronto Day School Blasts Shofar World Record

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

The students at Associated Hebrew Schools of Toronto are tooting their own horns now that it looks like they have broken the world record for the largest shofar ensemble.

Last week, the school’s community gathered together to blow 1,406 shofars simultaneously, shattering the prior record of 796 set in Boston in 2006. The new record will not be official until the school submits evidence of the feat to Guinness, and it is approved.

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Was Obama’s ‘Jew Tax’ Gaffe a Freudian Slip?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

What was that, Mr. President? You meant to say “janitor,” but out came “Jew.” Those words starting with the letter “J” can really trip you up.

In a speech President Obama gave this past Saturday evening at the Congressional Black Caucus annual awards dinner in Washington, it seemed as though he was saying that there is a special tax rate for Jews. In making the point that the very wealthy should pay more taxes, he said, “If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a Jew — as a janitor — makes me a warrior for the working class, I wear that as a badge of honor.”

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Iran Hiker Josh Fattal's Judaism Kept Secret

By Renee Ghert-Zand

In an exclusive report, the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia has revealed that Josh Fattal, one of the two American hikers released from Iranian prison last week, is Jewish. This information had been purposely kept out of the press for the 26 months of his captivity for obvious reasons.

Although local friends, acquaintances and rabbis in suburban Elkins Park, Pa., Fattal’s home town, knew of his being Jewish, it was a deliberate decision on the part of the Fattal family to decline offers of assistance from Jewish organizations. The hiker’s Jewish identity was kept almost completely under wraps, and the Exponent refrained from reporting the story. “When it comes to someone’s physical safety, we’ll always err on the side of caution, even if it means suppressing such a dramatic and important story,” said Lisa Hostein the paper’s executive editor.

Fattal, 29, had been in Israel just prior to meeting up with friends Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd in Syria and then continuing on together to visit Iraqi Kurdistan. It was as they hiked in Iraqi Kurdistan in July 2009 that they allegedly — according to Iranian officials — crossed the Iranian border, prompting Iran to claim they were U.S. spies and arrest them. Shourd was released in September 2010.

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Mossad Flooded With Applications After Arab Spring

By Nathan Burstein

Who said the Arab world has something against the Mossad?

A wave of Arab volunteers has asked to join Israel’s spy agency, according to an article published in Sunday’s Yediot Aharanot. Under the headline “They All Want To Be Agents,” the newspaper reports that Israel’s foreign ministry has received “thousands” of e-mails since the start of the Arab Spring, a notable increase in correspondence that has originated mostly in the Arab countries of north Africa — in particular Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco — as well as Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

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California Unemployment Office Accused of Religious Discrimination

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Jeff Weinberger would like to see the California State Employment Development department do some teshuvah this High Holiday season.

The San Francisco resident, who was laid off from his executive-level hi-tech marketing job last month, received a notice to attend a “re-employment eligibility assessment appointment” on September 29, the first day of Rosh Hashanah. When he notified the EDD that he would need to reschedule for religious reasons, he was told that he was at risk of losing his unemployment benefits if he did not show up on the 29th.

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Forward Columnist Masha Leon Honored by Poland

By Lillian Swanson

Columnist Masha Leon, who has covered social events for the Forverts and then the Forward for more than 30 years, was honored Thursday night by the government of Poland for her articles and other work that have helped further the understanding of Polish-Jewish lives, history and culture.

Karen Leon
Masha Leon receiving the award from the President of Poland.

The president of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski, pinned a blue-ribbon medal with a silver eagle, the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, on her chest in a ceremony held in the grand salon of the Polish consulate in New York City. The award has been given since 1974 to foreigners or Polish citizens living abroad.

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Jewish Freshman Makes U. Maryland Hoops Team

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Courtesy of UMD Media Relations

Jacob Susskind “gave it a shot to just walk on” to the University of Maryland’s NCAA Division 1 basketball team, and that is exactly what this talented athlete ended up doing. The 18-year-old recent graduate of the Golda Och Academy (formerly known as the Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex & Union) in West Orange, N.J., is looking forward to a good freshman year playing for the Terps.

Susskind’s initial efforts to be recruited by Ivy League and Patriot League schools ended in the summer of 2010 when he was sidelined after tearing ligaments in his lower back at Nationals. After he tore both the anterior cruciate ligament and the medial collateral ligament in his knee in January 2011, he had to stop playing altogether.

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Jews Lag Behind Arab Israelis in Child Vaccination Rates

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

The Center for Disease Control of Israel’s Health Ministry has analyzed medical and health trends over the past decade and issued a report with some significant findings.

One of the most glaring pieces of data was the fact that Arabs in Israel vaccinate their children at a higher rate than do Jewish Israelis. The overall vaccination rate in Israel is high (around 70-90%, depending on the specific vaccine), but fewer Jewish children are vaccinated against hepatitis A and polio than are Arab ones. Inoculation against meningitis, diptheria, pertussis and tetanus is almost completely universal in both communities.

The lower vaccination rates among Jewish children is speculated to be a result of the prevalence of ultra-Orthodox families who do not vaccinate, as well as the growing numbers of other families who embrace a natural lifestyle that eschews vaccinations. Haaretz reports that just two weeks ago there was an outbreak of measles at a kibbutz because the children there had not been vaccinated against the disease.


Sandra Bernhard Enraged Over Troy Davis Execution

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

The execution by lethal injection late last night of Troy Davis, a Georgia death row inmate convicted of the killing off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail in 1989, gained the attention of many in the U.S. and throughout the world. Among those protesting the impending execution earlier this week were a number of celebrities, including Jewish comedian, singer and actress Sandra Bernhard.

During the countdown to the execution, Bernhard furiously tweeted to her followers to take action by calling the President and the Georgia parole board (for which she provided phone numbers).

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The Official Toothpaste of Jewish Comedians?

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images
Just look at those pearly whites!

A pair of Jewish comedians are going the extra smile for the father of a friend.

Sarah Silverman and Adam Sandler are both endorsing Supersmile, a tooth-whitening product invented by dentist Irwin Smigel, whose website proclaims him “the father of aesthetic dentistry.” The pair provided testimonials in keeping with their comic styles, with Sandler claiming his teeth “were starting to look like cheese doodles” before he began using the product, and Silverman declaring, “Holy crap, my teeth are definitely whiter!”

The well-connected Dr. Smigel has an impressive roster of famous endorsers: others include Jimmy Fallon, Ivana Trump and Kelly Ripa.

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Tailor Makes ‘Kosher’ Suits for Rosh Hashanah

By Renee Ghert-Zand

It turns out an Indian-born tailor has a yiddishe kop when it comes to making suits for observant Jews. He has attracted many customers concerned about upholding the prohibition against wearing shatnez by making a line of suits that are certified as free of the mixture of wool and linen forbidden by the Torah.

Mohan Ramchandani, the owner of Mohan’s on East 42nd St., near Grand Central Station in Midtown, Manhattan, is doing a brisk business in the sale of shatnez-free suits ranging in price from $500 to $5,000. Like any good businessman, Ramchandani spotted a niche market, and he honed in on it.

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Send Us Your Nominations!

By Forward Staff

iStockphoto

For our upcoming special section on philanthropy, the Forward will profile American Jews aged 21 and under who are making a difference, locally or globally, with cool new approaches to helping others. We are looking for young people who are having a direct impact on their community in the novel way they are confronting poverty, violence, injustice, discrimination and ignorance. Post your nominations here, or email TopTen@forward.com, and be sure to include your contact information. Then watch for the final list in the November 11 issue of the Forward, and be inspired.


Natalie Portman To Produce New ABC Show

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Though actress Natalie Portman has hinted that she might retire to be a full-time stay-at-home mom to little Aleph Portman-Millepied, she definitely hasn’t quit show business completely.

It was recently announced that Portman will executive produce a new TV series that will be a follow-up to the 1980s miniseries, “Scruples,” about a wealthy Boston family. The new series will be adapted from two books by Judith Krantz: the 1978 novel “Scruples” and its 1992 sequel.

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