The Shmooze

Gwyneth Paltrow Will Raise Her Children Jewish (Maybe)

By Nathan Burstein

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She’s been having trouble making up her mind, but Gwyneth Paltrow now says she wants to raise her children Jewish.

The “Shakespeare in Love” Oscar winner made the comments to guests at a London event organized by Community Security Trust, a Jewish charity. She says she was inspired to make the decision after appearing on “Who Do You Think You Are?,” a reality TV show in which celebrities explore their family backgrounds. In the episode devoted to Paltrow’s lineage, the actress learned about the Eastern European rabbis from whom her father, producer Bruce Paltrow, descended. (The “Country Strong” star’s mother, Blythe Danner, is Christian.)

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Chris Martin, Coldplay, Gwyneth Paltrow, Parenthood

Interfaith Coalition Wants Muslim Prayer Out of Toronto Schools

By Michael Kaminer

Hindus, Christians, and Jews are finally banding together behind a common cause. Unfortunately for Muslims in Toronto, the cause is them.

An interfaith coalition — whose less peaceable elements include the Jewish Defense League and Canada’s right-wing Christian Heritage Party — is sounding the alarm over lunchtime Muslim prayer sessions at a Toronto public school, the Toronto Sun reports.

“Enough’s enough, we draw the line here,” G.J. Rancourt of Christian Heritage said at a Monday press conference at Toronto’s Zionist center. “Our holiest celebration is Christmas and we can no longer celebrate it in public schools…Why would (Muslims) impose your values on the rest of us when we’re accommodating?” Security guards were at the ready for Islamic protesters at the center but no one showed up, the Sun reported today.

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Knighthood, Israeli Style

By Nathan Burstein

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Shimon Peres has won so many prizes that he’s ready to start giving his own.

Israel’s president has announced the creation of the President’s Award, a new honor intended to serve as the Israeli equivalent of a British knighthood, the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and the French Legion of Honor. The prize is for individuals and organizations who’ve made “exceptional contributions to the state of Israel or humanity,” as Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot described it last week.

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‘Ketzel,’ (Feline) Musical Genius, Dies at 19

By Michael Kaminer

iStockphoto

She won a prize for piano composition in 1997, at the tender age of five. She won a coveted spot in a book called The World of Women in Classical Music. And last week — at 19 — she passed away.

Yes, Ketzel accomplished more than many felines her age. As the New York Times reports today, Ketzel — Yiddish for “cat” — gained fame after inadvertently “composing” a short piece by walking across her owner’s piano keyboard.

Ketzel’s person happened to be the late Morris Moshe Cotel, who had retired as chairman of the composition department at Peabody Conservatory in 2000 and became a rabbi, according to the Times.

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Hungarian Police Captain, 97, Acquitted of Holocaust-Era Crimes

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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A sickly, wheelchair-bound nonagenarian who sat in court Monday covered in a blanket and hooked up to an IV was acquitted of Holocaust-era crimes. The scene sounds familiar, but it wasn’t John Demjanjuk on trial again.

In this latest attempt to bring World War II criminals to justice, 97-year-old former Hungarian police captain Sandor Kepiro was tried in a Budapest court and found not-guilty of having taken part in the murder of more than 1,000 Jewish and Serbian civilians in the Novi Sad massacre in northern Serbia in January 1942.

Kepiro, who maintained his innocence throughout, was exonerated on the basis of his defense team’s success in discrediting the witnesses’ accounts of what took place almost 70 years ago. The prosecutors claimed that Kepiro had ordered the round-up and murder of civilians, most of whom were Jews.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Serbia, World War II, Sandor Kepiro, Novi Sad, John Demjanjuk, Hungary, Alexander Nesakr

Hockey Fans: Check Out This Play!

By Aaron Yellin

The Israeli National Ice Hockey team scored 26 goals in its rout of Greece at the International Ice Hockey Federation Division III championships this April, but only one of them was perhaps the goal of the year. Israel went on to win the tournament, but the most memorable part of their run was this play, courtesy of 19-year-old Eliezer Sherbatov. His gem was hidden for the last three months, until it was finally uploaded to YouTube last week, and has been viewed nearly 50,000 times since then. Enjoy!

Watch Sherbatov’s Brilliant Goal:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Eliezer Sherbatov, Hockey, Israel, Israeli National Ice Hockey Team

El Al Flight Arrives at JFK With Dead Horse On Board

By Nathan Burstein

El Al has a good safety record among human passengers. Among horse owners, though, its reputation has just taken a hit.

American officials are now investigating the death of an equine traveler on El Al flight 831, which arrived at New York’s JFK Airport from Belgium on Friday morning.

The flight was carrying a 1-year-old European warmblood horse named Virteuse, who didn’t survive the journey. Worth $140,000, the horse apparently didn’t enjoy the early stages of the flight, “kicking forcefully” about 30 minutes into the trip, according to its onboard handlers. It then settled down for the remainder of the trip, dying at an unknown point before landing.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now performing a necropsy — an autopsy for non-humans — to identify the cause of death.


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Ivanka Trump, Jewish Mother

By Lucy Cohen Blatter

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She’s certainly not your typical Jewish mother, but she’s a Jewish mother no less.

Ivanka Trump — Donald’s daughter, ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ judge and jewelry designer — and her husband, New York Observer owner Jared Kushner, welcomed a baby girl on Sunday. Trump took to Twitter on Monday to announce the baby’s name: “Jared and I are having so much fun playing with our daughter! Arabella Rose is beyond adorable. She’s truly a blessing.”

Trump converted to Judaism before her October 2009 nuptials to Kushner.

While she was pregnant, Trump addressed the fact that their baby would be born with a silver spoon in her mouth. “We have our work cut out for us to ensure that our daughter is grounded and not spoiled,” she said.

To that we say, good luck! (Oh, and Mazel Tov!)


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump, Motherhood

Jennifer Love Hewitt To Star in ‘Jewtopia’ Film

By Nathan Burstein

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In the spirit of cheesy rhymes, maybe she’ll change her name to Jennifer Love Jewitt.

Actress Jennifer Love Hewitt has signed on to play a Jewish woman looking for a Jewish husband in the big-screen version of “Jewtopia,” an onstage comedy billed as the “longest-running comedy in Off-Broadway history.”

The “Party of Five” and “Ghost Whisperer” star will play a woman on the hunt for a husband at a Jewish singles mixer. The man she meets, supposedly a Jewish doctor, is in fact a non-Jewish plumber who’s decided to marry a Jewish girl so that he’ll — um — “never have to make another decision.”

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Young Israelis Camp Out for Housing Reform

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Israelis traditionally fill their city squares during warm summer nights. This week, young Israelis in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities are doing just that — but they’re not going home at the end of the night.

Israel’s “cottage cheese revolution,” having spurred a number of economic protests, has now led to a young people’s revolt against the high cost of housing. The National Students Union has joined with other young citizens’ groups and individuals in a mass camp-out demonstration on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard begun by a young woman named Daphni Leef.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Real Estate, Protest, Jerusalem, Israel, Tel Aviv

Jewish Mogul’s Girlfriend Found Dead in Grisly Scene

By Michael Kaminer

The female companion of a Jewish pharmaceutical mogul — whose company manufactures wrinkle-filler Restylane — was found dead Thursday at his 13,000-square-foot San Diego mansion, Reuters reports.

The body of Rebecca Nalepa, 32, was discovered on Wednesday morning at the historic seaside mansion owned by Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp chief executive Jonah Shacknai in Coronado, “an upscale island beach resort connected to San Diego by a long bridge,” Reuters said. Medicis is based in Scottsdale, AZ.

San Diego CBS affiliate KFMB said police found Nalepa nude, hanging from a balcony, her hands and feet bound. KFMB reported that Adam Shacknai, the executive’s brother, had discovered the body and called 911.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Jonah Shacknai, Phoenix, Rebecca Nalepa, Restylane

Americans Save Israeli Soccer Team Beitar Jerusalem

By Nathan Burstein

One of Israel’s most storied — and racism-tarnished — sports teams has new owners, a pair of Americans who hope to change the atmosphere at games.

Dan Adler, a former Hollywood talent agent and vice president at Walt Disney Imagineering, purchased the team with fellow US investor Adam Levine. The duo are taking on a sports franchise that was once one of Israel’s wealthiest, but has suffered a series of financial and administrative problems in the last half-decade.

Adler’s purchase of the team drew extra attention in Israel because of his affiliation with dovish organizations that support a two-state solution — a position many Beitar supporters reject. Fans of the club have appalled many Israelis — but no doubt pleased others — with racist chants at games, including “Death to Arabs” and “Terrorist, Terrorist.” The team has never had an Arab player, and in 2009 a team captain apologized, due to fan anger, for suggesting that an Arab player might someday join the team.

The son of a Holocaust survivor, Adler mostly avoided politics during an interview with Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot. But he told the paper, “I know Beitar has a certain reputation — or rather, that a portion of the fans has a certain reputation.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Walt Disney Imagineering, Dan Adler, Beitar, Adam Levine

El Al Cracks Down on Israelis With Punctuality Problems

By Nathan Jeffay

iStock Photo

Last week, I went to meet a certain Israeli politician. Her assistant telephoned a few minutes before the scheduled meet time. “Are you on your way?” she asked. “Yes, as scheduled,” I replied, matter-of-factly. She continued her interrogation: “Er, are you going to be on time?”

Why wouldn’t I? Were the roads blocked by her office? Is there a security closure. No. Then it dawned on me — this is just Israel, where punctuality seems to be more of the exception than the rule. So implausible to this assistant was the simple answer that I would arrive as arranged, that she continued her questioning — how was I getting there? What was my precise location? In the end, the only way to reassure her was to say: “Look, I’m British — I grew up being on time.”

When I walked in to the office, the assistant’s colleague greeted me. “You’re British, I heard you would be punctual,” she said, looking at me as if I’m an exotic specimen of human being.

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Michelle Bachmann's 'Chutzpah' Gaffe

By Nathan Burstein

Michele Bachmann needs to work on her “chutzpah.”

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The GOP presidential candidate attempted to use the word on Fox News Wednesday night — but while the Christian Midwesterner’s embrace of Yiddish is striking, her pronunciation would have caused confusion in the shtetl. The Minnesota congresswoman, on a tear in Iowa polls but as gaffe-prone as ever, accused President Obama of chutzpah during the current battle over raising the debt ceiling. But the congresswoman, whose religious views on gays are currently under attack, pronounced the guttural “ch” sound as you would in “church” rather than “Channukah.” (Fine that’s not the way we spell it, but we’re highlighting a point.)

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: GOP Presidential Candidate, Michelle Bachmann, Yiddish, Chutzpah

All-Night Cultural Events Across Israel — Not Just in Tel Aviv

By Nathan Jeffay

The gap between the center and the “periphery” — a term that is increasingly used to refer to pretty much everywhere in Israel except Tel Aviv and its surroundings — is growing, at least economically. But happily, the cultural divide may be starting to narrow.

Two weeks ago, Tel Aviv didn’t sleep — it held its “White Night” of nocturnal events. Today, four other cities will prove that they, too, know how to pull an all-nighter and will benefit from 2.4 million ($685,000) of Culture Ministry funding to get the party started.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tiberius, Tel Aviv, Netanya, Israel, Ashdod, White Night Beer Sheva

Starlet Quits Israeli 'American Idol' After Dad Admits To Skewing Vote

By Nathan Burstein

Following a voting scandal caused by her own father, a teenage singer has quit the Israeli version of “American Idol.”

Seventeen-year-old Tamar Yahalomi announced today that she will not compete in the semi-finals of “Kochav Nolad” (“A Star Is Born”), the popular Israeli edition of the singing contest. The decision came several days after it was revealed that voting irregularities had influenced the results of earlier episodes of the show — and that Tamar’s father stood behind the skewed results.

“Although it’s clear to everyone that Tamar had no connection whatsoever to the votes, [she] has decided that, because of the atmosphere created around her … she has no desire to continue in the competition this year,” the father, Dekel Yahalomi, wrote in a letter made public by the show’s producers.

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Israeli Rabbi Wants To Bring Polygamy Back

By Ben Sales

One thousand years ago, German Jewish sage Rabbeinu Gershom forbade polygamy in the Jewish community. Now, a rabbi in Israel wants to reinstate the practice.

Rabbi Yehezkel Sopher, who heads the organization Complete Jewish Family, placed an advertisement in a popular pamphlet handed out at synagogue calling for the return of plural marriage, according to the Jerusalem Post. The ad quoted the influential Sephardic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who wrote in a treatise on Jewish law that non-Ashkenazim should not follow the decree of Rabbeinu Gershom, who was Ashkenazi.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yehezkel Sopher, Rabbeinu Gershom, Polygamy, Ovadia Yosef, Israel

A Video Message to the Ultra-Orthodox: ‘It Gets Besser’

By Renee Ghert-Zand

If you are a gay or lesbian young person, then “It Gets Better.” But if you a Haredi, Hasidic or Yeshivish Jew yearning to leave your ultra-Orthodox community, then “It Gets Besser.”

Taking a cue from LGBT Orthodox Jews who are increasingly taking pride in who they are and staking claim in the Jewish community, young ultra-Orthodox Jews who have left their insular communities are speaking out in growing numbers. The “It Gets Besser” video campaign is one such statement, aimed both at the general public and at young Haredi Jews who feel that they don’t fit in.

The video features a set of “before” and “after” photos showing individuals as they looked while living their ultra-Orthodox lives and then how they appear now as secular or less observant Jews. There go the payes, here come the male ponytails. Out with the long skirts, in with the short shorts.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Leah Vincent, It Gets Better, It Gets Besser, Unpious.com

Glenn Beck Pledges Support in Address to Israeli Parliament

By Nathan Burstein

He and Fox News have gone their separate ways, but Glenn Beck still has fans in Israel’s parliament.

The former TV host addressed the Knesset’s Committee on Immigration and Diaspora Affairs today, telling legislators that American media coverage of the Middle East is biased, and that the Arab-Israeli standoff boils down to an existential clash of civilizations. “In America, the media is skewed on Israel,” Beck told his hosts. “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict … is about the destruction of Israel and the end of the western way of life. Period.”

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Tough Times: ‘Hairspray’ Star Nikki Blonsky Now Works in a Shoe Store

By Michael Kaminer

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The “Steven Dann” doesn’t exactly have the same ring as the Ed Sullivan or Brooks Atkinson. But it’s where you can now catch once-hot thespian Nikki Blonsky.

An “upscale” Long Island shoe store, Steven Dann is where the former “Hairspray” star has been working the floor since last week, according to the NY Daily News.

The 22-year-old actress’s career has taken a downturn lately with the cancellation of her ABC Family series “Huge,” so she’s had to “swallow her pride” and take a job at the boutique in her hometown of Great Neck, N.Y., the News says.

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