The Shmooze

FBI: Tupac Extorted by Jewish Defense League

By Nathan Burstein

Wikicommons

Fifteen years after Tupac Shakur’s murder, the FBI has released documents showing that the rapper received death threats from the Jewish Defense League as part of an extortion scheme.

The papers reveal an FBI request for additional time to investigate the matter, with the organization interested in determining “whether the extortionate activities … are in furtherance of the social and/or political goals of the JDL.” They show a scheme in which the League notified the rapper of alleged death threats, then provided “protection services” while working out a “deal” with the supposed threat maker. After receiving money from the musician, the JDL would announce an agreement with the would-be killer, allowing Shakur to return to normal life. The papers don’t show any connection between the JDL and Shakur’s unsolved murder, which occurred in Las Vegas in 1996. Rumors since that time have focused on the so-called East Coast-West Coast rap rivalry of the 1990s, which claimed the life of Shakur rival the Notorious B.I.G. the following year.

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Dueling Rabbis Film Gets Cannes Nod

By Nathan Burstein

A movie about dueling rabbis has qualified for a chance at one of the film industry’s highest honors, the Palm d’Or.

“Footnote,” an upcoming film by Israeli director Joseph Cedar, has been selected as one of 19 movies to compete in the main competition at next month’s Cannes Film Festival. The drama tells the story of rival Talmud scholars, who also happen to be father and son.

The film’s selection marks another triumph for Cedar, who already boasts a series of international successes. Cedar’s most recent movie, “Beaufort,” claimed one of the top prizes at the Berlin Film Festival in 2007, then was nominated for a foreign-language Oscar the following year.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Film Festival, Duel, Cannes, Beaufort, Footnote, Joseph Cedar, Rabbis

Donna Karan Goes to Bat for Galliano

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

Just when you thought you were safe from John Galliano news, New York magazine has found an apologist for the anti-Semitism-spewing designer.

Jewish fashionista Donna Karan has gone to bat for the disgraced Galliano, who faces prison time in France for public rants about his “love” for Hitler and other hate speech. Presumably in reference to his firing by the Christian Dior fashion house, Karan told the magazine that Galliano’s remarks were “blown up out of proportion.”

“He’s a wonderful designer, a brilliant designer, and he probably needs help and support right now,” she said, explaining why his comments should be overlooked. “To be a designer’s a very taskful situation, and sometimes it can push a few limits.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: anti-Semitic, Patricia Field, Galliano, Natalie Portman, Donna Karan, jail, rant

English Soccer Stars Speak Out Against Against Y-Word

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

A group of England’s top athletes has teamed up to fight a popular anti-Jewish chant used at soccer games.

In a new online video, a multi-racial cast of stars has come out against “the Y-word” — Yiddo, or Yid — an anti-Semitic slur used against supporters of the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, whose fan base is disproportionately Jewish. Although the term has been adopted affectionately by some of the team’s supporters, the video reminds them of its hateful origins. “The Y-word is just as bad, and just as offensive, as the N-word or the P-word,” the clip notes, referring in the latter case to an epithet used against players of Pakistani origin. The video goes on to show how quickly the casual use of a slur can morph into something more threatening, featuring footage of soccer fans shouting about Tottenham supporters “on their way to Auschwitz.”

The video’s backers include Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard and Tottenham defender Ledley King. It is being promoted by the Kick It Out Campaign, an organization devoted to eliminating racism and homophobia from soccer.

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Boteach, Matisyahu Get Chatty at Salita Boxing Match

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Wikicommons

Late on Tuesday night, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and rapper Matisyahu were speaking together outside of the men’s room at a Brighton Beach event hall.

The pop Hasidic rabbi, author of “Kosher Sex” and former star of TLC’s “Shalom in the Home”, and the Hasidic pop star, who once sang on Letterman in a fedora, had come to the heart of Russian Brooklyn to watch their mutual friend, Orthodox Jewish boxer Dmitriy Salita, win his 33rd career fight.

Salita, who boasts a professional boxing record of 33-1, has rebounded since his stunning defeat in the second minute of his December 2009 light-welterweight title fight against world champion Amir Khan.

Salita has fought three times since, winning all of his bouts. No longer just a boxer, the young Ukranian-born New Yorker also promoted last night’s event, as he has two previous boxing cards since September.

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A Ben & Jerry Take on Jewish Ice Cream

By Lucy Cohen Blatter

In honor of yesterday’s free cone day at Ben & Jerry’s, the folks over at Tablet Magazine dreamed up some Passover-appropriate flavors.

We personally think vanilla ice cream with chocolate- and caramel-covered matzo (“Mat-So Delicious maybe?) could take the world — or at least New York, London and Israel — by storm.

But here are some of the Tablet concoctions we could get behind: Sephardic Stew (saffron ice cream with raisins); Afikomen Delight (chocolate ice cream with exactly one piece of matzo per pint) and Yerushalayim Shel Pecan (caramel ice cream with pecans and pie crust — to be eaten after Passover, of course).

You never know, these could catch on. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are both Jewish, after all.


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Bibi-Bieber Summit is Off, Bieber Hates Israeli Paparazzi and More

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

The Bibi-Bieber summit is off.

Contrary to yesterday’s reports, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not be meeting Justin Bieber this week before the pop star’s Tel Aviv debut. The pair were set to have a tête-à-tête today, but the meeting has been called off amidst what’s turning out to be another PR fiasco for Israel.

According to Netanyahu’s office, Bieber had requested a meeting with the Israeli leader this week, as part of the Christian singer’s first trip to Israel. Netanyahu obliged, but then — perhaps to justify meeting with a teen singer — invited children from near Israel’s volatile border with Gaza. The move appears to have displeased the singer, as have overly zealous local paparazzi.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tel Aviv, paparazzi, Netanyahu, Justin, Israel, Concert, Bieber

Did Israel's Foreign Minister Make a Toilet Faux Pas?

By Nathan Jeffay

The media in Israel expects the country’s controversial Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, to be indicted by the end of the week on charges including fraud, breach of trust, money-laundering and obstruction of justice. But there’s a more immediate accusation facing Lieberman – transgression of telephone etiquette.

Yesterday, the radio station Reshet Bet was interviewing him, and all of a sudden, you heard something that sounded distinctly like a toilet flushing. Listen for yourself – you can hear the original audio in this clip posted by the Israeli news site Ynet.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: toilet, flush, Yisrael Beiteinu, Reshet Bet, Danny Ayalon, Avigdor Lieberman

Justin Bieber Will Meet With Bibi in Israel

By Nathan Burstein

Wikicommons

The Bieber has landed.

After months of hysterical anticipation among Israel’s tween girls, the Canadian pop star has arrived in Israel, where he will perform Thursday in Tel Aviv - and, it turns out, meet with Benjamin Netanyahu.

The prime minister’s office, sounding somewhat defensive, has let it be known that the singer and his manager requested the meeting, and not the other way around. Either way, Netanyahu plans to get some political mileage out of the event, inviting children from near the rocket-strewn border with Gaza to attend.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tel Aviv, Netanyahu, Justin, Israel, Concert, Bieber

Comcast To Debut Holocaust Film Series

By Michael Kaminer

Comcast, which bills itself as “one of the world’s leading media, entertainment and communications companies,” is about to launch an on-demand series of films connected to Steven Spielberg. But don’t expect “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

Instead, as The New York Times reports today, Philadelphia-based Comcast “is distributing 10 films about the Holocaust in a public service project it is calling Days of Remembrance.” Through an unprecedented arrangement with the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, which Spielberg founded in 1994 to collect testimony of Holocaust survivors, Comcast will give its customers access to ten films, some in English and some in other languages, through video-on-demand and an iPad app, the Times reports. Others will be able to stream the films at XfinityTV.com. Pegged to Holocaust Remembrance Day on May 1, the streaming will start Monday and last through May 25.

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Julian Assange: New Revelations Will Rock Israel

By Nathan Burstein

Wikicommons

After keeping a relatively low profile in recent months, Julian Assange has re-emerged with a lengthy interview in this weekend’s edition of Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot. Speaking from the English estate where he’s under house arrest, the Wikileaks founder denied recent accusations of anti-Semitism, and promised more embarrassing revelations on his controversial Web site — which this time will focus on Israel.

As he awaits a British court’s decision about whether to extradite him to Sweden to face sexual-assault charges, Assange is speaking about the documents he has yet to release on Israel. The country survived Wikileaks’ massive “intelligence dump” last summer relatively unscathed, but could sustain more damage from the 6,000 documents Assange claims he’ll release in the near future.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Julian Assange, Yehiot Aharonot, Israel, leaks

Israel Electric Corporation Leaves Moses in the Dark

By Nathan Jeffay

“From Moses to Moses, there was none like Moses,” goes the rabbinic saying on the Biblical Moses and his namesake, the twelfth century philosopher and halachic authority Moses Maimonides. Author of the “Guide to the Perplexed” and other famous works the latter Moses brought enlightenment to the masses. But the Israel Electric Corporation has left him in the dark.

It has disconnected the electricity from his tomb and the surrounding complex in the northern Israel city of Tiberius. The site, a popular place of pilgrimage, is now open to visitors only during the daytime. According to this report the organization that runs the site owes the equivalent of $12,000 in unpaid bills.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: tomb, Moses Maimonides, Moses, Guide to the Perplexed

13-Year-Old Bar Mitzvah Mensch Helps Struggling Theater

By Michael Kaminer

New York’s newest theater producer has zero experience and no deep-pocketed backers. He doesn’t even have a driver’s license.

In fact, Jesse Naranjo is barely 13. But the new bar-mitzvah is donating $2,700 of his coming-of-age loot to help a struggling theater production reach the New York stage.

According to the NY Daily News, Naranjo first saw “Liberty: The Musical” in a workshop performance “and fell in love with its message of acceptance.” The show “tells the story of America’s most famous immigrant who arrives from France in 1884 amid anti-foreigner fervor,” reports BroadwayWorld. The immigrant, of course, is the Statue of Liberty herself.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: donation, bar-mitzvah, Jesse Naranjo, liberty the musical, theater

Doctor Says Circumcisions Should Be Delayed Until Age 11

By Nathan Burstein

As the perpetual battle over circumcision continues, a Canadian doctor is proposing an interesting compromise — but one that would preclude the procedure as it’s performed according to Jewish tradition.

Writing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Dr. Noni MacDonald is suggesting that the surgery be conducted only on boys of 11 or 12 years of age. Her rationale is that, from a medical standpoint, there’s no need to perform the procedure earlier, since the health benefits of circumcision — such as lowering the risk of HIV infection — only kick in when a boy becomes sexually active. By early adolescence, she argues, boys are better able to make their own decisions about whether to undergo the surgery.

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Austrian Bakery Makes Nazi Cakes

By Nathan Burstein

A group of Holocaust survivors is accusing an Austrian bakery of criminally bad taste.

The MKOe Mauthausen Committee has filed a complaint against Tortendesign, a bakery outside Vienna that frosts swastikas, SS symbols and babies giving the Nazi salute on its cakes. The designs violate Austrian laws that prohibit the display of Nazi symbols in public, the group alleges.

The committee’s call for tort reform — sorry! we couldn’t resist! — may fail, however, because Tortendesign does not show the symbols openly. Instead, the designs appear in a special “adult section” of its cake catalogue, in which customers can also find sex-themed cakes. “The question is whether a picture in a catalogue is ‘public display,’ ” a representative of the public prosecutor told Austrian media. “If it had been placed in the shop window, the matter would be much clearer.”

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Jewish Couture at Moscow Fashion Week

By Lucy Cohen Blatter

Getty Images

Looks like religious chic is becoming a bona fide trend.

Sure, H&M has their own Tallit, but now haute couture is getting its own Jewish flavor.

At this week’s Moscow Fashion Week, Russian fashion house St. Bessarion — which, ironically, is named for a Christian saint — dressed models in clothes inspired by Orthodox Judaism. Models wore structured black hats that rested on the front of their heads and their hair was styled to look like peyes.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: St. Bessarion, Peyes, Religious, Orthodox, Moscow Fashion Week, Models, Judaism

Natalie Portman's Dad Penned a Pregnancy Novel

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

Is publishing a book easier if your daughter’s an Oscar winner? Natalie Portman’s dad is about to find out.

Avner Hershlag, the Israeli father of the “Black Swan” star, is currently peddling his debut novel to major publishing houses, the Observer reports. Partly inspired by his work as a fertility specialist, the book is described by its author as a “reproductive thriller,” and focuses, in the Observer’s words, on “cloning experiments gone bad and the compromised embryos of a U.S. first lady.”

Initially self-published by Hershlag, the book could now get the backing of a major imprint - setting up interesting questions about whether Portman might write a blurb for the jacket or promote it in other ways.

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Transsexual Israeli Pop Star Agrees To Interview on Qatari Radio

By Nathan Burstein

Wikicommons
Qataris aren’t known to be huge fans of Israelis, transsexuals or Israeli transsexuals, but that hasn’t stopped a Qatari radio station from reaching out to Dana International, the gender-bending Israeli pop star who will represent her homeland next month at the Eurovision Song Contest.

The 39-year-old singer, born Yaron Cohen, has agreed to be interviewed by QBS, a Doha-based radio station. The conversation will be recorded during Eurovision rehearsals in Dusseldorf, Germany, the site of this year’s competition.

“We hope to hear from you soon, along with the entire people of Qatar,” QBS officials wrote to the singer. “We wish you all the best - and to Dana and the state of Israel, all the luck in Dusseldorf.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: dress, Jean Paul Gaultier, Eurovision, Dana International, radio interview

Will Universal Pictures Make a Mossad Movie?

By Nathan Burstein

Americans love Mossad agents in their books and TV shows, and now they’ll get another helping at the movies.

Universal Pictures has announced its acquisition of the rights to the Gabriel Allon series, author Daniel Silva’s bestsellers about a Mossad agent turned art restorer. The studio hopes to turn the books into a franchise on the model of the “Bourne” movies — and has plenty of material to adapt, with Silva set to release the book series’ 11th installment in July.

Whoever ends up playing him, Allon should prove a sharp contrast from Hollywood’s other recent Mossad agents, who include Adam Sandler’s wannabe hairstylist in the comic “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan,” and Eric Bana’s conflicted assassin in the controversial “Munich.”


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Nazis Invaded Long Island During WWII

By Michael Kaminer

The tony beach town of Amagansett, Long Island, got some unusual summer visitors in 1942. According to declassified British documents released yesterday, a Nazi U-boat carrying German spies landed on an Amagansett beach on a June morning — with Jews as targets.

Metro reports “the secret agents came here to leave bombs in suitcases at Jewish-owned shops, as well as to disseminate anti-war propaganda, according to officials.” To enhance the cloak-and-dagger elements of the mission, “the agents chosen for the mission were former U.S. residents returning to their native Germany. They had received training in ‘sabotage school’ there, where they learned to assemble explosives,” Metro further notes.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Mission, Jews, Germany, Dasch, Amagansett, Nazi, Spies, U Boat



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