The Shmooze

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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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.


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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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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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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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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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'Everybody Loves Raymond' Headed to Israeli TV

By Nathan Burstein

Wikicommons

Hollywood has been borrowing from the Israeli TV industry for a while now, but today’s entertainment news is about a show heading in the opposite direction.

Deadline Hollywood and Israel’s YNet news Web site are reporting that a deal is being inked to adapt “Everybody Loves Raymond” for Israel’s small screen. Depending on which source you read, Israel’s Reshet production company will produce 13 or 33 episodes of the show, a massive hit during its nine-season U.S. run. Deadline reports that “Raymond” will also appear in a new version in Poland, and notes that an adaptation of the show is currently the top sitcom in Russia.

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Moses on Facebook and Other TechnoJew Doodles

By Dan Friedman

The new JewTube doodle to head for virality is not a song but a light-hearted video by Aish HaTorah.

Starting with “Go Down Moses” and using the different computer tools that we are all increasingly familiar with, Moses exits from Egypt.

For once the blinkered and earnest and, frankly fairly culturally limited, outreach program has put together 2 minutes and 17 seconds of gentle amusement. Surely there’s got to be better Pesach stuff out there though. Put links to other Pesach songs, jokes and related technological ephemera in the comments and I’ll post a round up later in the week.

Watch the Aish video, “Google Exodus” below.

Hat tip to the Giveret, Mike P and Jews around the world.


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A Tour To Be Paid for in Psalms

By Nathan Jeffay

Sometimes when green ideals and zealous Orthodoxy meet, the results are a little bizarre.

The Haredi media is reporting that Eliezer Zahavi, a green-inclined resident from the coastal Israeli city of Bat Yam, has been salvaging reusable items from people’s trash for months — wooden boards, scraps of plastic, bits of metal. He has constructed a wagon, on which he’s about to start offering rides to the public.

But this is no normal seaside pleasure ride, paid for with money: He demands spiritual reward. The fare is paid in Psalms — he will transport people in the donkey-drawn wagon without expectation of monetary reward, rather they must read from the Biblical book of Psalms for the duration of the journey.


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Campaign To Free Pollard Just Gets Odder

By Nathan Jeffay

The campaign to free Jonathan Pollard just gets odder, and more disturbing.

Pollard started serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison in 1987 for passing military secrets to Israel while working as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy. The Shmooze reported back in December that his wife Esther Pollard claimed that the enormous forest fire in Northern Israel came to rebuke Israel for not working hard enough to free him. Now we have a religious study project that has seen 250,000 people across Israel take on extra study in the name the release of Pollard and… Gilad Shalit.

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Will Sean Penn Play a Jewish Gangster?

By Michael Kaminer

Sean Penn may play Jewish again. But this time, the role couldn’t be further from his Oscar-winning performance as the late civil-rights pioneer Harvey Milk.

Getty Images

The 51-year-old thesp, reports Deadline.com, has been offered the role of notorious L.A. mobster Mickey Cohen in “Gangster Squad,” a crime drama to be directed by Jewish “Zombieland” helmer Ruben Fleischer.

Cohen, according to Deadline.com, was “a former boxer who became an associate of Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, [and] a charismatic figure who caroused around town with a gorgeous girl on his arm, and often with his attractive etiquette coach at his side.” Cohen “once even took part in a Life Magazine profile. But he was also considered a sociopath whose vices included sex and extortion, and whose mood could darken on a dime,” Deadline.com writes.

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Things That Look Like Hitler: Feline Edition

By Nathan Burstein

This week’s unofficial theme is turning out to be Things That Look Like Hitler.

Following Tuesday’s frenzy over a house in Wales that (supposedly) resembles the dictator, today brings a cat that bears his likeness.

Once again, the doppelganger comes from the UK: The Guardian has posted a photo of a feline bearing a suspicious-looking moustache, a cat we can only assume has nefarious plans for the Rhineland.

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Gwyneth Paltrow's Got Rabbinic Roots

By Lucy Cohen Blatter

Getty Images

For Gwyneth Paltrow, Kabbalah isn’t just a passing fad.

The actress (and sometimes singer), who will appear on this Friday night’s episode of NBC genealogy series “Who Do You Think You Are,” discovered that her great great great grandfather was Kabbalah master Tsvi Paltrowitch.

Documents describe Paltrowitch, the Gaon of Nitzy in Russia, as “a miracle worker” who once saved his community from a fire through his faith.

The Paltrowitch family is said to have produced 33 rabbis over generations.

Paltrow is technically half-Jewish – her late father Bruce Paltrow, was Jewish. Her mother, Blythe Danner, is not.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Jewish, Who do you think you are, Gwyneth Paltrow, kabbalah

Israelis Shoot for the Moon

By Nathan Burstein

A trio of Israelis is literally shooting for the moon, aiming to land a small spacecraft there by the end of next year.

Should they do so, Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub would make Israel just the third nation to manage the feat, after the United States and Russia. The threesome are planning the mission in pursuit of the Google Lunar X Prize, a $20 million award intended to inspire “mavericks” to “take new approaches and think creatively about difficult problems, resulting in truly innovative breakthroughs.”

Competing against 28 other teams, the Israelis describe their spacecraft as “the size of a Coca-Cola bottle,” and are planning to spend around $10 million on the effort, far less than their rivals. The three come from Israel’s technology and science sector, and are drawing on the talents of 50 compatriot colleagues, as well as backing from the country’s Weizmann Institute of Science. The ambition and precocity they’re applying to the planned moon launch sound characteristic - Forbes’ Web site notes that Damari, a communications-systems expert, started computer programming at just 6.

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Does This House Look Like Hitler?

By Nathan Burstein

Someone call the Simon Wiesenthal Center: Hitler has been spotted in Wales!

Well, not Hitler, exactly, but his likeness — in the form, if you can believe, of a two-story house. A 22-year-old in Swansea noted the resemblance between the suburban home and the German dictator during a routine traffic stop, then set off a media frenzy by tweeting an image of the house.

Sure enough, with its slanting rooftop “hairline” and above-door “mustache,” the house looks a little like the fuhrer. (You know, if he were, um, a house.)

The Sun quotes a resident as saying he wasn’t aware of the Hitler look-alike in his midst, telling the paper, “You’d never know from this side of the street, but from a bit of a distance, it could almost be him. How funny that I never even noticed before.”

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Jewish Students Flock to Lutheran College

By Michael Kaminer

There’s a kosher menu at the student union. Jewish Theological Seminary is one of its academic partners. And its Hillel House is growing fast.

But Muhlenberg College is “a small Lutheran school erected around a soaring stone chapel with a cross on top,” as The Associated Press described it in a report yesterday. And the school has become “hot” among Jewish students thanks to “word of mouth in the Jewish community,” the AP reported.

Approximately 34 percent of Muhlenberg’s 2,200 students are Jewish, the AP said. And the biggest gains have come in the past five years or so. Why the trend? A university administrator told the AP the school appreciates diversity. But the director of Muhlenberg’s Hillel House offered her own hypothesis. “Jews are like nothing else in terms of word of mouth,” said Patti Mittleman. “There are so many Jews at Muhlenberg who are having a positive experience at Muhlenberg. That gets talked about in the synagogue and in youth group and in summer camp and in all of those ways that Jews meet each other and talk to each other.”

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