The Shmooze

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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Carnegie Deli Names Sandwich After Judy Gold

By Lucy Cohen Blatter

Getty Images

Comedian Judy Gold is following in the footsteps of Henny Youngman and Woody Allen, with a Carnegie Deli sandwich named in her honor.

Gold, who’s starring in the one-woman, off-broadway show “The Judy Show: My Life as a Sitcom,” provided inspiration for the Gold E. Lox (get it?) — a bagel with cream cheese, lox, tomato and creamed onions, served with a side of creamed herring. It’s a sandwich Gold’s been eating since the “fancy bagel breakfasts” of her childhood. “It’s my favorite sandwich in the whole world,” she said.

And for $22.95, you too can give it a try.

For a Jewish New Yorker, her very own Carnegie Deli sandwich is a pretty big deal. “You know, it’s kind of like the Jewish version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame,” she said.


Introducing the ‘Jewish al-Jazeera’

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Jewish news junkies will be pleased to know that they will very soon be able to get TV news covering Israel and the Jewish world 24/7. On September 21, Jewish News 1 will go on the air and reach viewers in North America, Europe and the Middle East via satellite.

The network is already being dubbed “the Jewish al-Jazeera” for its aim to gain the attention of Jews all over the globe, just as its Arabic-language counterpart has won the hearts of Arabs spread out in different countries.

Jewish News 1 will have its headquarters in Brussels, but will also have studios and correspondents throughout the world. It already has studios in Brussels, Tel Aviv and Kiev, and will soon open ones in London, Paris and Washington.

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Why Are Some People Born Without Fingerprints?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

With all the heightened security and anti-terrorism measures in place these days, we are all pretty sick of bureaucratic problems at border crossings. But people with “Immigration Delay Disease,” however, face a unique challenge when traveling from one country to another.

Those with “Immigration Delay Disease” (its scientific name is adermatoglyphia) have no fingerprints. In fact, they don’t have dermatoglyphs, or ridges, on their palms, toes or soles of their feet, either. Aside from confounding border crossing officials and police detectives, this condition has also confounded the medical and scientific community.

But now, researchers at Tel Aviv University, led by Prof. Eli Sprecher, have worked with colleagues at the University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland, to solve the mystery of the missing fingerprints.

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iTunes Classifies Jewish Music as Christian

By Renee Ghert-Zand

It looks like iTunes must have been snoozing during Comparative Religions 101. The Jerusalem Post found that the world’s largest online music and video vendor doesn’t seem to know the difference between Jewish and Christian music. Or maybe it just doesn’t care.

The newspaper reported that it found most popular Jewish singers’ songs and albums were classified as “Christian and Gospel,” and that there was no separate category for Jewish music. Some Jewish songs were listed in the “World Music” section of the iTunes store.

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Obama Makes New York Magazine Cover as ‘First Jewish President’

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

Barack Obama may be America’s “first Jewish president,” this week’s New York magazine cover provocatively suggests.

The publication sets the phrase in quotation marks, placing it over a cover photo of Obama’s kippah-wearing head. The accompanying article — entitled “The Tsuris,” and written by staff political analyst John Heilemann — looks at at Obama’s relationship with both Israel and American Jews. Is the latter group truly up for grabs in next year’s election because of the president’s Middle East policy, as some Obama critics suggest? The article explores the issue via interviews with commentators on both sides, taking its cover quotation from Obama supporter and former White House counsel Abner Mikva, who in 2008 joked, “When this all is over, people are going to say that Barack Obama is the first Jewish president.”

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Israeli Military Snubs Domestic Shofar Merchants

By Nathan Burstein

Deror Avi, via Wikimedia Commons

Israel’s shofar merchants consider it a low blow, but the country’s defense ministry isn’t backing down.

Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot reported Friday that local shofar sellers are red in the face over a decision by the defense ministry to purchase 150 of the rams’ horns from suppliers in China and Morocco. Going abroad for the shofars — which will be used in military ceremonies — will save the ministry, and by extension Israeli taxpayers, 4,500 shekels, or about $8 per shofar, according to the snubbed Israeli suppliers.

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Quadriplegic Israeli Tennis Player Eyes Paralympics

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Wikicommons

Serious tennis fans have likely heard of Israeli players like Shahar Peer and Andy Ram, but it’s safe to bet that most are not familiar with Noam Gershony, despite the fact that he is higher ranked than the others.

Gershony, a quadriplegic, plays wheelchair tennis. He is ranked third in the world in wheelchair quad singles, and ninth in doubles. Just this past week at the US Open Wheelchair Competition at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., Gershony defeated David Wagner of the US, 6-3, 6-1 during a three-day round robin tournament. Wagner is the world’s No. 2 singles player and No. 1 doubles player.

According to a report by Howard Blas in the Jerusalem Post, Gershony, a 24-year-old from Kfar Sava, took his first ever tennis lessons just shortly before being paralyzed in a crash of the Apache helicopter he was flying during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

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Flying El Al? Better Pack Your Own Sandwich

By Nathan Jeffay

If you’re planning on flying El Al, pack your own sandwiches. The airline has reportedly announced that it is cutting the number of flight stewards in tourist class by one steward in flights of up to four hours and two in longer flights.

El Al employees are furious with the company’s chief operating officer and other top officials. “They don’t know what service is, they don’t know how to say please and thank you,” El Al workers committee chairman Yossi Levy told the business publication Globes.

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Johansson and Kunis Exposed by Hackers

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

For people who keep track of these things — and naturally, The Shmooze is far too refined for such behavior — today is the second straight day that private photos of a major Jewish celebrity have been released by hackers.

Yesterday’s victim was Scarlett Johansson; today’s is Mila Kunis. Both appear to be victims of a hacking ring devoted to releasing personal photos of young female celebrities. Earlier casualties include “Gossip Girl” star Blake Lively, bad-movie staple Jessica Alba and former Disney princess Vanessa Hudgens. The FBI is apparently investigating the Johansson hacking.

Other than Kunis and Johansson’s respective backgrounds — the latter’s mom is Jewish, so we’ll claim her — there’s nothing “Jewish” about this scandal. And of course the family-friendly, high-minded Shmooze would never post — or even glimpse at — the leaked photos, which in Kunis’s case are reportedly far tamer than her “Black Swan” scenes with that other Jewish goddess, Natalie Portman.

We merely bring these facts to your attention during our brief breaks from studying the Talmud and reading Joyce and Keats.


Israel Will Re-enact Space-Age Experiment

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Wikimedia Commons
Israeli Astronaut Ilan Ramon

Israel will be trying to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records next week. Of course, Israel is often seen as a place of extremes, but this attempt at record-breaking has nothing to do with the usual political headlines or social disagreements.

As a nice distraction to what many fear will be a rough few days next week as the Palestinians seek statehood recognition at the United Nations, hundreds of Israelis will gather at various universities, science institutions and museums around the country September 22 to simultaneously conduct a science experiment that the late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon did in space. Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, where the Ilan Ramon Youth Physics Center is located, is spearheading the project.

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