The Shmooze

Gender-Bending Baby Names Take Off in Israel

By Nathan Jeffay

iStockphoto

It’s hard work keeping up with my four-year-old’s social life — not only because it’s far more lively than mine, with invitations freely exchanged over the sandpit, but also because it’s so difficult to identify his friends.

“Can you see Rotem?” he asks during morning drop-off at kindergarten. I look at each of the girls, believing I’ve already met her and risking his wrath because I have forgotten what she looks like, but no, this Rotem — though it’s a traditional girls’ name — is a boy. A couple of days later, a woman chats to me at the kindergarten gate. “I’m Natanel’s mom,” she says, positive that I know Natanel (the Hebrew form of Nathaniel). The name rings a bell, so out of politeness I say I know how much my son enjoys playing with him. Cover blown: Natanel is a she.

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How Barbra Streisand Saved Lea Michele’s Nose

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

Barbra Streisand may have been slightly disappointed with Jennifer Aniston’s smooth-nosed “Funny Girl” homage, but at least she can take personal credit for Lea Michele’s distinctive schnoz.

“My mother would say to me, ‘Barbra Streisand never got a nose job. You’re not getting a nose job,’ ” the “Glee” star says in the latest issue of Allure magazine.

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Hubby: Boehner Shunned Wounded Gabby

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

It looks highly unlikely that we will ever chance upon Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, having a friendly beer with Speaker of the House John Boehner.

Gawker noticed that The Hill published excerpts from Kelly’s new book, “Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope,” that clearly showed that Kelly is more than a little miffed at the lack of support the Republican Boehner has shown his Democratic colleague since she was shot in the head last January.

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Brett Ratner’s Subconscious Stockbroker Guilt?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

The writers over at New York magazine’s Vulture are convinced that they have successfully mined film producer and director Brett Ratner’s subconscious to explain why so many of his movies have anti-Wall Street themes. One need not look further than his current and disappointing “Tower Heist” — featuring a Bernie Madoff-type villain played by Alan Alda — to know what Vulture is referring to.

The big discovery is that Ratner — you know, that guy who just recently lost his job as producer of the Oscars for saying lewd and intolerant things — once worked as a stockbroker on Wall Street. And it turns out that he worked not at just any firm, but at South Richmond Securities, a brokerage “so corrupt that it would eventually be fined over a million and a half dollars and put out of business by the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) for defrauding clients by manipulating stock prices and overcharging on commissions, both during and after Ratner’s tenure,” according to Vulture.

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In Photos: Celebrities Design Plates To Feed Hungry

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Courtesy of Mazon
A plate designed by Margaret Atwood

Famous personalities who have the means to dine in fancy restaurants always have a lot on their figurative plates. Now, some of them have taken time from their busy schedules to decorate real plates as a way of helping to feed the hungry.

See slideshow below

At its annual fundraiser on November 22, Mazon Canada’s Montreal chapter will be auctioning off plates designed by the likes of self-help guru Deepak Chopra, author Margaret Atwood and actor and singer Theodore Bikel. There are also some by younger pop culture celebs like Tori Spelling, Nikki Yanofsky and Emmanuelle Chriqui.

And since we’re talking about plates here, there are, of course, some decorated by celebrity chefs like Mario Batali, Graham Kerr (a.k.a. The Galloping Gourmet), Bobby Flay and Daniel Boulud.

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Low Fence Blamed for Tel Aviv Skyscraper Suicides

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Wikimedia Commons

The Azrieli Towers have come to define the Tel Aviv skyline in recent years, but they have also become the prime location for those seeking to jump to their deaths. There have been 10 suicides from the towers in the past three years.

Israel’s Channel 2 News reported yesterday that the Tel Aviv police have opened an investigation into possible negligence on the part of the Azrieli Group and the towers’ management company. There is a fence around the perimeter of the towers’ rooftop balconies, but some feel its height is not sufficient. Three years ago, then Tel Aviv district attorney Ruth David sent a letter to the management company asking it to raise the height of the fence, even though it was technically up to code.

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Too Cute! Baby Giraffe Born in Israel

By Haaretz

Crossposted from Haaretz

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Click to enlarge

A joyous occasion took place at the Ramat Gan Safari on Monday, as one of the safari’s female giraffe’s gave birth to a healthy baby boy, after a lengthy and complicated labor.

Dikla began birthing the baby giraffe at 1 P.M., when chief safari veterinarian Yigal Horowitz noticed that the process was stalling, prompting safari staff to aid the labor.

The veterinary staff then noticed that the calf’s legs had tangled around its neck, eventually succeeding in removing it safely. Dikla then proceeded to lick her newborn, which was standing on his own within the hour.

In line with custom, safari staff are now turning to the public to suggest names beginning with the letter “d.”

Read more at Haaretz.com


Video: ‘West Side Story’ Flash Mob in Times Square

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images
Circa 1972: Edgar Finch and Peter Daly rehearse as part of The Jets and The Sharks, two youth gangs in the musical ‘West Side Story’.

If you happened to see some Jets and Sharks dancing in the middle of Times Square last week, rest assured that you were not hallucinating. The flash mob you saw was a group of New York City dancers performing some moves choreographed by Jerome Robbins for “West Side Story.”

The flash mob was organized by DanceOn, a dance video website, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the film version of “West Side Story.” The movie, a 1950’s-era New York City interpretation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, was directed by Robbins and Robert Wise, and starred Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer and Rita Moreno, among other talented actors and dancers. The film was based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical written by Arthur Laurents (book), Leonard Bernstein (music) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics).

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Pyramid Closed to Foil 'Jewish Plot' in Egypt?

By Nathan Burstein

Wikimedia Commons

Did Egypt close its Great Pyramid last week over fears of a “Jewish” plot?

That’s one of the rumors circulating in Cairo after the country’s antiquities authority cut off access to the Cheops pyramid Friday. Local media had put out “unconfirmed reports” that unnamed groups planned to perform “Jewish” or “Masonic” rites at the pyramid that day.

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Holocaust-Denying Radio Host Gets His Job Back

By Renee Ghert-Zand

A German radio host who allegedly made Holocaust-denying remarks and also made light of 9/11 has been reinstated to his position after having been temporarily suspended.

Ken Jebsen, the host of the “Jugendwelle” program on Radio Fritz, which is based in Potsdam just outside Berlin, had written in an email to a listener that “Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels implemented the public relations plan of the Holocaust, and the Americans provided fuel for the entire Nazi bombing campaign,” according to a report in the Jerusalem Post. In a separate comment, he said that the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York was a “warm demolition.”

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Gay Orthodox Rabbi Does Same-Sex Marriage

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Roee Ruttenberg reported over the weekend in +972 Magazine that “for the first time in history an openly-gay American rabbi ordained by the Orthodox movement has officiated at a same-sex wedding ceremony.” He was referring to a Jewish marriage ceremony that Rabbi Steve Greenberg performed for gay couple Yoni Bock and Ron Kaplan at the Historic 6th & I Synagogue in Washington, D.C. last Thursday evening.

As Ruttenberg noted, the event was both unique and controversial. Rabbi Greenberg, who came out publicly after having been ordained by an Orthodox rabbinical school, became well known after he appeared in Sandi Simcha DuBowski’s 2001 documentary film, “Trembling Before God,” about Orthodox Jews trying to reconcile their Jewish and gay identities.

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LeBron James Shoots Hoops at JCC

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

LeBron James does not — we repeat, does not — think Jews “suck” at basketball.

The Shmooze can report this happy piece of news after the NBA star’s latest difficult episode in Cleveland, where his jersey was burned last year following his highly publicized defection from the local Cavaliers to the Miami Heat.

An Akron native, James played basketball last week at his Cleveland’s Mandel Jewish Community Center (of all places!) after a spot opened up on his friends’ basketball team. Initial reports suggested the JCC game went well for the 26-year-old, whose team won by 10 points. “So funny but good run,” James later tweeted.

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Student Sues UC Davis Over Jewish Fraternity Hazing

By Renee Ghert-Zand

A former University of California at Davis student has filed a lawsuit against the university. His claims include negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and creating a hostile educational environment — all stemming from the university’s refusal to address his complaints about hazing at a Jewish fraternity on campus.

According to the court papers filed on behalf of Ryan Clifford, he was forced to drink dangerous amounts of alcohol laced with drugs and was subjected to violent and sexual abuse. Clifford says that Alpha Epsilon Pi pledges were required to attend a retreat at Lake Tahoe, where senior members forced them to drink “inordinate amount of alcohol” laced with narcotics. Clifford says he was also forced to undress in front of everyone there and that some of the fraternity members touched his penis and made sexual comments. The lawsuit lists other instances of abuse, including one that resulted in Clifford’s suffering a broken bone requiring two orthopedic surgeries.

In addition, Clifford alleges that he was “specifically targeted for the harshest form of hazing, known as ‘ratfucking,’ because of his non-Jewish religious affiliation.”

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Biden To Speak at Detroit Yeshiva Fundraiser

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Don’t look for Vice President Joe Biden in Washington on Sunday. He’ll be in Detroit, possibly adding to his long and memorable list of gaffes as he speaks at the annual fundraising dinner for an area Orthodox day school.

Biden will also be stumping for Debbie Stabenow, the Democratic junior senator from Michigan, while in town. But it is expected that Jewish voters — Democratic but also possibly others — and supporters of Jewish education will likely turn up at the Detroit Marriott Hotel at the Renaissance Center for the Yeshiva Beth Yehudah dinner. There they will hear the vice president speak on U.S. foreign policy and support for Israel.

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Concerns Over Waning Interest in Rabin Death Anniversary

By Nathan Jeffay

Wednesday marked the 16th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s death, according to the Hebrew calendar, and people in Israel have been mourning the former prime minister all week. But, as we reported last year, interest in the anniversary is waning, raising concerns among some that the warning against political incitement that is implicit in the story of the Rabin tragedy is being lost. It’s been a remarkable irony, then, that as the mainstream population takes less notice of the anniversary, the small group of far-rightists who really catapulted it to center stage seem to admire Rabin’s assassin. The story that ensured the assassination stayed in the press this year was the spraying of a graffiti message on the home of a Peace Now leader that read, “Rabin is waiting” for her. Thank you bigoted crazies for reminding the nation just how objectionable your message is, and how the story of the Rabin assassination is still so relevant.

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Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Kosher Chicken Liver

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Wikimedia Commons
Color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph showing Salmonella typhimurium (red) invading cultured human cells

As of this week, chopped liver is getting even less respect than it usually does. That’s because it’s been found to be the cause of Salmonella food poisoning in 89 people in New York and several others in New Jersey.

Health officials have traced the kosher liver to the Queens-based Schreiber Processing Corp., which has issued a recall of the product (under its MealMart brand) from various delis, caterers and retirement homes.

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Anti-Semitic ‘Jingle Bells’ Song Heard at Oxford

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

Anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head again at Oxford University in England. Disillusioned officers of the university’s Conservative Association recently leaked documents to the campus newspaper The Oxford Student, showing evidence of anti-Semitic behavior among its members.

The paper found one video to be particularly offensive. It is of a student leading others in a drunken chant of “Dashing through the Reich / in a black Mercedes Benz / killing lots of kike / ra ta ta ta ta. ” It was evidently recorded toward the end of the Michaelmas term in 2010. That would have been in December, which would explain why — at least to The Shmooze’s ear — these lyrics sound as though they go to the tune of “Jingle Bells.” The song has reportedly been enthusiastically sung by OUCA members in other seasons, as well.

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Spielberg Censored in Lebanon

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

It’s not quite worthy of a Sherlock Holmes story, but the mystery continues: Who censored Steven Spielberg’s name at a movie theater in Lebanon?

In a piece picked up by The Washington Post, the country’s Blog Baladi reported yesterday that the director’s name had been covered up on a poster for his next movie, the kid-friendly “Adventures of Tintin.”

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Batali Bites the Banker Hand That Feeds Him

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

You don’t have to be a fan of the U.S. banking system to realize that credit default swaps are not the same as gas chambers and the gulag.

Or so you would think. But celebrity chef Mario Batali evidently doesn’t see that distinction, having compared American bankers to both Hitler and Stalin while participating in a panel discussion yesterday about Time magazine’s next Person of the Year.

“The ways the bankers have kind of toppled the way money is distributed and taken most of it into their hands is as good as Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys,” the TV chef and restaurateur remarked, in comments that were published on Forbes’ website. Asked after the discussion whether he stood by the statement, Batali told Forbes writer Jeff Bercovici, “Oh, that was just a metaphor.”

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What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Calmer?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

It looks like carbon monoxide may have been getting a worse rap than it deserves. The silent killer turns out also to be the silent calmer — and anything that soothes the nerves of frazzled city dwellers is ostensibly a good thing.

Prof. Itzhak Schnell of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Geography and the Human Environment has found that low levels of CO gas can have a narcotic effect on those who inhale it, helping them better deal with the pressures of city living. In particular, he found that the CO helped them cope better with high noise levels in urban settings.

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