The Shmooze

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.

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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

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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.


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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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Book Claims Gandhi Was in Love With a Jewish Bodybuilder

By Nathan Burstein

Wikimedia
Gandhi (Left), Sonia Schlesin, his secretary (Center), and Dr. Hermann Kallenbach. Kallenbach sewed this photo in the collar of his jacket before joining Gandhi in England during the First World War.

There are many things The Shmooze has yet to learn about Gandhi, but it’s hard to imagine anything more surprising than this: “the love of his life” was a German-Jewish bodybuilder named Hermann.

So says a new biography, “Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India,” which reports that the anti-colonial leader left his wife for the man, one Hermann Kallenbach, in 1914, keeping a portrait of him opposite his bed. A review in the Wall Street Journal quotes from a letter in which Gandhi wrote that he considered Vaseline to be, umm, “a constant reminder” of his beloved.

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The Top Hebraic Moments of the Canadian Grammys

By Michael Kaminer

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“A biracial Jewish former child star from Canadian television who’s a multimillion-dollar selling artist? You couldn’t create a better Canadian in a science lab.” That’s how one wag described rapper Drake, who made his debut as host of the Juno Awards — Canada’s Grammys — in Toronto last night. And from Drake’s red-carpet kiss with his kvelling Jewish mother to an appearance by a Semitic rock legend, the evening boasted a few Hebraic moments.

After escorting her son through the red-carpet gauntlet, Sandi Graham got a shout-out from Drake, who name-checked “my Jewish mother” in his opening monologue. Drake — nee Aubrey Drake Graham— was raised Jewish, bar mitzvahed and even went to Jewish day school, as the Forward has reported.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Rush, P Thugg, Patrick Gemayel, Matisyahu, Grammys, Juno Awards, Drake, Geddy Lee, David Macklovitch, Canada, Aubrey Graham, Arcade Fire, Sandi Graham, Toronto

Gaga May Go Back to Israel!

By Nathan Burstein

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It sounds more like a wish list than something to plan on, but Lady Gaga and some other major stars could be on their way to Israel this summer.

Today’s Yediot Aharonot reports that the “Born This Way” singer is being courted by “operatives in the American and Canadian Jewish communities” about a concert that would take place in one of the country’s biggest venues. The show would be the 24-year-old’s second performance in Israel, following a 2009 music-festival appearance that took place just as she was becoming a global phenomenon. This time, the article says, concert organizers are hoping the singer’s visit could be used to help promote tourism to the country. If Gaga does go, The Shmooze simply suggests that any meat in her outfits be kosher.

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Montreal Cabbie Can Display Religious Objects in his Cab

By Michael Kaminer

Is a rabbi’s picture dangerous?

That’s what Montreal police seemed to imply by fining and ticketing cabbie Arieh Perecowicz, who’d racked up more than $1,000 in fines “for having pictures of his daughter and a rabbi in his cab, along with a Canadian flag, two small religious symbols and a Remembrance Day poppy,” according to the Montreal Gazette.

And after fighting the citations for nearly five years, Perecowicz yesterday emerged victorious, with the charges dropped and the chief of the Montreal Taxi Bureau conceding “that religious objects are permissible as long as they don’t constitute a security hazard or proselytizing,” the Gazette wrote. “The deal includes specific written acknowledgment by the chief of the Montreal Taxi Bureau that religious objects are permissible,” the newspaper reports.

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Liz Taylor Fashionably Late to Her Own Jewish Funeral

By Nathan Burstein

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Even as she made her final exit, Elizabeth Taylor knew how to make an entrance.

At the star’s request, Taylor’s funeral began 15 minutes past schedule yesterday in California, London’s Daily Mail reported. “She even wanted to be late to her own funeral,” the paper quoted her publicist as saying.

Presided over by a rabbi, the private burial included at least one other element of Jewish tradition — but dressed up, of course, in Taylor’s typically extravagant style.

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American Apparel CEO Faces Four More Accusers

By Michael Kaminer

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Less than a month after an ex-employee sued him for sexual harassment, four women are banding together in a similar case against American Apparel CEO Dov Charney.

According to Courthouse News Service, the quartet’s lead plaintiff “claims Charney sexually assaulted her when she went to his home for an interview. Three other women say they can’t describe in detail what happened to them because they signed confidentiality agreements that Charney requires of all American Apparel employees.” The same plaintiff alleges that after left the company, “Charney sent her inappropriate sexual text messages and called her, saying ‘he was masturbating on the phone while they spoke,’ according to the complaint.”

The complaint, as reported in Courthouse News Service, alleges an apparent sexual assault that left the lead accuser “traumatized and terrified.” All four women also contend that arbitration and confidentiality agreements they signed with the company are invalid, Courthouse News Service says.

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Houdini's Escape From Death

By Ilan Stavans

Extra! Extra! Houdini has done it again: he’s managed yet another fabulous trick. But this is the Big One, the one in which he comes back from the dead. Just look around: Google has adopted him for its logo; he’s on novels, Broadway shows, museums exhibits, movies, biographies, playing cards, computer games… Not bad for a humble Hungarian immigrant and the son of a rabbi who dreamed of hiding his Jewishness. Of course, posterity has done just the opposite, turning him into the ur-mentsh: all things to all people, the escape artist who could never disappear. Viva Houdini!


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Liz Taylor's Funeral — The A-List Rabbi

By TMZ Staff

Crossposted from TMZ

Courtesy of TMZ

Liz Taylor’s funeral will be officiated by a man with plenty of celebrity experience — because he’s helped bury dozens of them.

Taylor is having a traditional Jewish burial ceremony at Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale, Calif., right now — and the man doing the service is Rabbi Jerry Cutler.

Cutler has presided over the funeral services for Milton Berle, Shelley Winters, Walter Matthau, Red Buttons and Jan Murray.

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Jon Stewart: What Happens in Eruv, Stays in Eruv

By Katherine Clarke

Last night on Jon Stewart, Wyatt Cenac reported from West Hampton Beach- the West Bank of Long Island- where trouble has arisen over an Eruv. Some residents aren’t happy about the invisible boundary that allows ultra-observant Jews to carry keys or push baby strollers on the Jewish Sabbath.


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Ashkenazim, Sephardim and Singing Fish

By Dan Friedman

Success has many parents and, it appears, a number of vigorous children. The Maccabeats YouTube success at Hanukkah has spawned a whole cottage industry of Jewish videos.

The latest of them is the offspring of Dreamworks (not officially) and Chabad (not officially) and is not, thankfully, an exposition of a minor festival but a celebration of the spiciness of sephardi culture.

Starring Matisyahu’s son as a small boy in a shopping cart, directed by Larry Guterman of “Antz” and written by Chaim Marcus of Chabad’s “To Life” telethon, Ya’alili by 8th Day (as in “On the seventh day Hashem rested and on the eighth day He created music videos”) is a bi-cultural romp through a supermarket whose gender balance reflects no actual store in existence.

But, despite that unpromising premise, it’s a lot of fun, with high production values, charif, gefilte and singing fish, body popping, ouds aplenty and enough Yiddish, Hebrew and Yeshivish to keep Philologos happy for weeks.


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Elizabeth Taylor Dies at 79

By Laura Sinberg

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Elizabeth Taylor died this morning of congestive heart failure at age 79. The last of a generation of great screen goddesses, Taylor was most famous for her roles in “Cleopatra” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” — the latter for which she won her second Oscar.

Married eight times (twice to co-star Richard Burton), Taylor famously brought the AIDS fight to the forefront when public knowledge about the disease was minimal and, on the principle of personal friendship, defended singer Michael Jackson up until his death in 2009.

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