The Shmooze

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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Islamic Sex Guide ‘Fights Jews’ With Polygamy

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Despite claims by its distributor that it is selling “like hot fried bananas,” an Islamic sex guide with anti-Semitic overtones has been banned by Malaysian authorities.

The 115-page “Islamic Sex: Fighting Jews to Return Islamic Sex to the World,” was published in October by the Obedient Wives Club, a pro-polygamy group believed to be an offshoot from the Al-Arqaam sect. Al-Arqaam was banned by the Malaysian government in 1994 for its allegedly deviant teachings. The club, which touts itself as being selective, is believed to have at least 800 members in Malaysia, as well as branches in Indonesia, Singapore and the U.K.

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Hitler Art Sale Called Off

By Nathan Burstein

Wikimedia Commons

To the relief of Sweden’s Jewish community, the sale of art allegedly painted by Adolf Hitler has been temporarily canceled — largely because the paintings may not truly have been the work of the Nazi dictator.

Swedish news site The Local reports that the paintings were to be auctioned off by Swedish debt collectors who were seeking to reclaim funds owed by Thomas Moller, a former head of the local Hells Angels. Moller says the works are worth 4 million kronor (a little more than $60,000), but their authenticity has been called into question, resulting in the canceled sale.

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Bernstein's First Speech as Obama's Jewish Liaison

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Jarrod Bernstein made his first public speech as President Obama’s liaison to the Jewish community Monday, at the second annual Agudath Israel legislative breakfast, in New York . As might be expected, he did his best to remind the members of the pro-Israel Haredi organization of what the administration is doing both for Israel and for the Jews at home.

Addressing an audience made up of people not generally known to be Obama fans, Bernstein pointed out that the Obama administration has allocated a record number of Pell grants, which benefit rabbinical and yeshiva students. He also highlighted the fact that Obama’s requests to Congress for aid to Israel have been the highest in history ($3 billion this year), and that this funding has been integral to the deployment of the Iron Dome missile defense system, which has been saving Israeli lives. Bernstein also spoke of Obama’s efforts to thwart the Iranian nuclear threat.

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Natalie Portman Sheds Baby Weight With Ballet

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

It’s back to the ballet barre for Natalie Portman, star of Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan.” Portman, who won the Academy Award for best actress for her role in the ballet-themed psychological thriller, has reportedly been dancing as part of her exercise regimen since giving birth to little Aleph in June.

In addition to the ballet, she has also been doing Pilates and some running, according to Yanir Dekel, who blogs about the Hollywood scene for Israeli audiences. Dekel shared with his readers a photo that appeared on gossip sites yesterday, showing Portman out for a run with Aleph’s father, Benjamin Millepied.

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New York Mag Spotlights Ashkenazi ‘SuperAgers’

By Nathan Burstein

iStockphoto

This will be news to residents of southern Florida, but it turns out that Ashkenazi Jews, as a group, don’t actually live longer than the rest of the population. Nevertheless, shared genetic traits have made Ashkenazim a compelling subject for scientific study, including in a fascinating project outlined in the newest edition of New York magazine.

In one of the more charming, thought-provoking articles you’re likely to read this week, the magazine’s latest issue examines the Longevity Genes Project at New York City’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where researchers Nir Barzilai and Gil Atzmon have been examining so-called “SuperAgers” — men and women who have made it past age 95 without serious medical problems. The article focuses in particular on members of the Kahn family, two brothers and two sisters who all became centenarians, surely making them one of the oldest sets of siblings in human history.

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Jerusalem Judge to Jews: Don't Spit On Christians

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Wikimedia Commons

Some Christian clergymen in the Old City of Jerusalem have taken matters into their own hands after being spat at by Haredi Jews, and they are finding sympathy among Israeli judges.

Last week the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court threw out an indictment against an Armenian seminarian who punched an ultra-Orthodox man who spit on him. Siding with the spitting victim rather than the punching one, Judge Dov Pollock wrote in his verdict that “putting the defendant on trial for a single blow at a man who spat at his face, after suffering the degradation of being spat on for years while walking around in his church robes is a fundamental contravention of the principles of justice and decency.” The judge also emphasized that the spitting, in the first place, was a criminal offense.

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Video: Hebrew Prayer in Papua New Guinea

By Renee Ghert-Zand

At this point, the Shmooze is used to seeing videos posted on social networking sites of cute little Hebrew school or Jewish day school children reciting the Sh’ma. But this Sh’ma video spotted and published by Israel National News the other day is quite unusual. You will not see little ones dressed in blue and white or their Shabbat best, but rather people of Papua New Guinea in their native dress reciting — in Hebrew — the central creed of Judaism.

It turns out these are Christians who have been taught, presumably by missionaries, to recite the Sh’ma to demonstrate their love and respect for Christianity’s Jewish roots. The video appears to have been shot by Yakov Damkani, a Messianic Jew.

Watch Papua New Guineans Recite the Sh’ma:


Texas Lawmaker: 'Don't Try To Jew Them Down'

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Rep. Larry Taylor, who is running for the Texas Senate in 2012, used a Jewish slur as he spoke in a Texas state legislative committee hearing on Thursday, and then issued an apology.

Having realized that telling Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, “Don’t nitpick, don’t try to Jew them down,” was not appropriate, he quickly said, “probably a bad term” and went on speaking.

The formal apology came later through a spokesman: “I inadvertently used a phrase that many people find offensive. I corrected myself immediately when I realized what I had said. I regret my poor choice of words and sincerely apologize for any harm they may have caused.”

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Report: Smugglers Stealing Migrants' Organs

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Egyptian Bedouin smugglers are reportedly killing African migrants who are attempting to infiltrate into Israel for their organs. More precisely, the Bedouins are drugging migrants who cannot pay their high smuggling fees, opening them up, harvesting their organs, and then leaving them to die in the Sinai.

According to The Jerusalem Post, the Al-Arish-based New Generation Foundation for Human Rights and the EveryOne Group from Italy have found corpses missing organs dumped in wells in the Sinai. They have also photographed bodies in the El-Arish morgue with scars consistent with organ removal.

The Jerusalem Post refers to a CNN report quoting a source that said that mobile clinics with advanced equipment come from a private hospital in Cairo and conduct examinations on the migrants to determine which would be the best sources for healthy organs. Then the surgery is performed on the spot in the middle of the desert. The doctors pay $20,000 and up per organ to the Sawarka tribe.

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Clerics' Sermons Spread Messages of... Safe Driving

By Nathan Jeffay

It’s one of the most politically charged subjects in Israel and the West Bank: what imams choose to preach about. The Israeli authorities have long been concerned about what they call “incitement” in sermons. But it seems that some imams aren’t only steering clear of radical politics, but are actually taking a path that rabbis could do with following.

Israelis have a reputation for being bad drivers, and last year this assumption became enshrined in official information for visitors put out by the American State Department. “Aggressive driving is a serious problem and many drivers fail to maintain safe following distances or signal before changing lanes or making turns,” says the State Department guide. “Drivers are also prone to stop suddenly on roads without warning, especially in the right lane.” Imams serving some Muslim congregations in Israel have started preaching for a change.

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Jerusalem's Top Johns: Which Toilets Make Cut?

By Michael Kaminer

iStock Photo

Call it Porcelain Tourism.

Online news service Israel21c has released its pick of Jerusalem’s best public toilets.

Israel21c culled its list of recommended WCs from a Hebrew-only list of 40 public restrooms on the city of Jerusalem’s municipal website.

“The Old City alone has 13 public johns spread across the Jewish and Muslim quarters,” Israel21C reports, “though only eight appear on the confusing Hebrew map given out at the Tourist Information Center.”

The random servicios sampling “revealed that public bathrooms inside buildings generally are nicer than freestanding units, which often lack toilet paper, soap and — ahem — ambience. But hey, if you gotta go, you gotta go.”

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Canada Hockey Night Comes to Israel

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Nimrod Glickman

Toronto native Danny Spodek grew up with “hockey night” in Canada. Now, thanks to his efforts, there is such a thing as hockey night in Israel, too. That night is on Thursday, when Israeli immigrants from North America meet on the ice rink at Canada Centre in Metula — way up at the northern tip of Israel — to play the sport.

Spodek, a 40-year-old dentist who lives in Zichron Yaakov, heads up the Israel Recreational Hockey Association. Right now, he is focusing on organizing and promoting the association’s sixth annual tournament, to take place after the new year on February 6-10 in Metula. “At our first tournament, we had 40 players,” Spodek recalled in a conversation with The Shmooze. “This year we are expecting 150.”

Only two or three of the eight teams that will play in the tournament will be from Israel. The event draws hockey enthusiasts (mostly aged 35 and older) from North America and Finland, including some non-Jews. “This year we are expecting players from Vancouver, Seattle, Toronto, Winnipeg and Boston,” Spodek said. “And we also have a Baptist church from Kenora, Ontario, bringing eight people.”

“Hockey [takes up] a ton of my time,” said Spodek, who has volunteered for the past eight years developing and building the association’s program. “We’ve got things figured out for the adults, so now we are focusing on roller hockey and ice hockey for kids,” he said.

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It's Too Early To Criticize Gilad Shalit

By Nathan Jeffay

That didn’t take long. Gilad Shalit is now fair game for criticism, so it seems. Shas Minister Meshulam Nahari publicly condemned Shalit for going to the beach on his first Sabbath out of captivity, instead of going to synagogue. So reports Ynet.

Well I don’t know about you, but I’d say it’s fair that after five years in captivity, Shalit do what he likes on his first free Sabbath.

I’m troubled by this jumping-to-conclusions on the part of the Shas man. He says that Shalit should have gone to say the prayer for people who have been in dangerous situations. Well excuse me, Mr. Minister. He walked free on a Tuesday, meaning that if he wanted to recite the prayer on a day when there is a Torah reading in synagogue, he may well have done so on the preceding Thursday (the Torah being read on Mondays, Thursdays and on the Sabbath). Or he may have gone to synagogue before heading to the beach.

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New App Detects Military Police Presence

By Nathan Jeffay

iStockphoto

It’s the iPhone app that helps you to be a shloch. For Israeli teenagers who grow up attending schools with — how shall I put this delicately as the husband of a teacher? — loose discipline by international standards, the military police they encounter on their conscription to the army come as a shock.

All of a sudden they can be apprehended anywhere in the country if they’re not wearing their uniform according to regulation, or for a variety of other misdemeanors. Coming from schoolrooms where threats of punishments are rarely acted upon, they’re now in an army where the police officers mean business, and punishments are harsh.

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Herman Cain Angers Palestinians With Gaffe

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has once again demonstrated that he could use a crash course in American foreign policy. His latest blunder in this subject area comes as a quote from him in Israel Hayom, the Israeli right-wing mass circulation tabloid backed by American multi-billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Sounding more extreme than even the most hardened Israeli nationalist, Cain referred to the Palestinians dismissively as “the so-called Palestinian people.” He was speaking of the Palestinian’s seeking U.N. membership and the full quote was “I think that the so-called Palestinian people have this urge for unilateral recognition because they see this president [Obama] as weak.”

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My Doctor Is Marrying Joe Biden's Daughter

By Laura Goldman

Dr. Howard Krein and Ashley Biden

What is it about the daughters of Democratic politicians and Jewish men? Former Vice President Al Gore’s daughter Karenna married Andrew Schiff, who is descended from a long line of German Jews. Bill and Hillary Clinton’s only daughter, Chelsea, married Philadelphian Jew Marc Mezvinsky in a ceremony presided over by a rabbi. Now, Vice President Joe Biden let it slip that his daughter Ashley has become engaged to Dr. Howard Krein, a Jewish otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia — and my doctor. At an event in Delaware on Friday, he kept gushing about “his future son-in-law.

Courtney O’Donnell, a spokeswoman for the vice president’s wife, Jill, would only confirm that the couple is engaged, but would not offer any details. She wrote in an e-mail, “The Biden family is thrilled.”

I have been a big fan of Joe Biden since I volunteered for and donated money to his doomed 1980 presidential campaign. You can imagine my happiness when I discovered that his daughter, who is a social worker, was marrying my doctor.

Krein grew up in Cherry Hill, N.J., before attending Rutgers University, followed by Thomas Jefferson Medical College. He is part of a multi-physician practice that is attached to Jefferson Hospital. For those unfamiliar with Jefferson, their otolaryngology department is ranked nationally as the best by US News & World Report. Double board certified in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, Krein is co-director of the Herbert Kean Center for Facial Aesthetics. He is also an assistant professor at the medical school there.

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‘Glamberts’ Will Pay $20 for Magazine Cover

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Remember Adam Lambert? You know, the eyeliner-wearing singer who didn’t win American Idol?

For many of us, Lambert’s 15 minutes of fame have passed, but not for the “Glamberts,” his die-hard fans. According to Gawker, some of them have been willing to shell out as much as $20 for the current issue of The Advocate. The gay magazine has Lambert on its November 2011 cover.

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Rabbi Gordis Kvetches About Kids on Airplanes

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

Those of us who are used to reading the latest entries from Rabbi Daniel Gordis on his “Dispatches From an Anxious State” blog were surprised over the weekend to see him posting on Facebook about a different type of anxiety. Instead of commenting on Zionism, Israel and politics, as he usually does, Gordis shared with “friends” his unease about flying in business class with other people’s children.

“Serious question. Does anyone know which airlines that fly between TLV and the NYC area do not allow children in business class? EL AL Israel Airlines USA does, and enough is enough. I’m told that other airlines might even transfer over my Platinum status, so if anyone know who doesn’t allow kids in business, please let me know,” the rabbi wrote.

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Montel in Israel on Medical Marijuana Quest

By Nathan Burstein

iStockphoto

“Fact-finding missions” to Israel don’t usually involve cannabis, but medical marijuana is the reason former talk-show host Montel Williams is currently in the Holy Land.

“Some of the leading science on where and how those chemicals [in marijuana] work is being done right here in this country,” the Emmy Award winner said during the trip.

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