The Shmooze

Jewish Florist Recalls Pen Pal Ghadafy

By Forward Staff

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Muammar Ghadafy

A retired Jewish florist from Brooklyn was Muammar Ghadafy’s unlikely pen pal, but never got to write a good-bye letter to the slain dictator.

Louis Schlamowitz, 81, had been writing to Ghadafy for 50 years and obtained a trove of letters and autographed photos of the eccentric leader, The New York Post reported.

“He was a good pen pal,” said Schlamowitz. “I felt it was very nice of him to take the time to write back to me, because I’m nobody special.”

The florist first contacted Ghadafy shortly after he seized power in 1969. A month later, Schlamowitz received an autographed picture and a note thanking him for his “kind message.’’

After that, a wacky pen pal relationship was born.

“We kept corresponding with each other. I’d send Christmas cards and letters to him about my different viewpoints about the United States and Israel. I said the state of Israel would never be split because it’s the homeland of the Jewish people,” Schlamowitz told the Post.

Ghadafy wrote back attacking both countries in a two-page screed.

Schlamowitz, who made a hobby out of writing to famous people, took the remarks in stride. “I don’t go along with what everybody sends me,” he said.

The retiree wrote again to Ghadafy around the time the uprisings started in Libya, but the letter was returned undelivered.


Last East London Jewish Hospital Demolished

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Despite opposition, the last remaining Jewish hospital building in London’s East End will be torn down to make way for a five-story housing development. The Tower Hamlets council agreed for the Jewish Maternity Hospital on Underwood Road, Whitechapel, to be demolished because it does not have landmark status. It is neither listed by English Heritage, nor does it fall within a Conservation Area, according to a report in the East London Advertiser.

Those opposed to the demolition, including cultural and political leaders, are especially upset that the cottages next door to the hospital are also set to be taken down. They say that they are large single-family homes in good shape. “The Director of Jewish Heritage UK, Sharman Kadish, also wrote to Peabody [the real estate developer], saying the social and historic significance of the cottages next to the main hospital building have been overlooked while urging the trust to convert the cottages into residential use,” the article in the Advertiser said.

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‘Good Girls’ Rewarded With Sticker of Boys

By Nathan Jeffay

It’s just the prize that every seven-year-old girl wants. Not a teen-pop record or a Barbie doll, but a sticker with the faces of her male contemporaries.

Take kids to the physician here in Israel and they are often rewarded for their cooperation with a sticker. If you belong to the Clalit health maintenance organization, the stickers have pictures illustrating the message, such as a recuperating child with the message “get well soon.” But the stickers bearing the message “good girl” distributed in some parts of Israel are illustrated with a picture of four boys.

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Sabbath Dilemma: Should Jews Watch Game 7?

By E.B. Solomont

The St. Louis Cardinals’ miraculous, epic 10-9 win over the Texas Rangers last night is already being called one of the greatest baseball games ever played. But within minutes of the win, it provoked one of those soul-searching conflicts for St. Louis’ Orthodox Jews: to watch or not to watch the game on Friday night.

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Baseball is a religion for fans in St. Louis, and Facebook and Twitter were abuzz within minutes of the win. “Friday night oneg at Momo’s anyone?” wrote one member of Cardinal Nation, referring to a tavern situated in the heart of University City’s religious Jewish enclave and across the street from a synagogue. “Need a heter to watch game 7 tomorrow,” said another. “I’m taping it — and nobody in shul better tell me what happened,” wrote a fan who lives out of town.

During the playoffs, which coincided with the holiday of Sukkot, local fans responded by surreptitiously leaving radios on or putting television sets on timers. Other fans roamed the neighborhood to see if they might catch a glimpse of the score through someone’s open window.

The conflict crept up on Sabbath observers this week, when rain forced Game 6 to be postponed until Thursday. (Coincidentally, the same happened in 2006, the last time the Cardinals won the World Series.) This time, there almost wasn’t a Game 7, until the Cards clinched it in 11th inning.

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Bar Refaeli To Launch Lingerie Company

By Michael Kaminer

Israeli model Bar Refaeli is going into the underwear business.

Jewish celeb-gossip site 6DegreesNoBacon reports that Refaeli will launch online lingerie retailer Undeez.com with fellow Israeli mannequin Dudi Balsar.

Undeez has raised $1 million from Israeli angel investors, according to Israeli financial newspaper Globes. “Undeez will apply a sophisticated e-commerce model, which was developed over many months. Balsar, an attorney and former model, came up with the idea for the venture, and Refaeli will be responsible for marketing and business development,” Globes said.

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Social Justice Protestors Taking To Israeli Streets Again

By Nathan Jeffay

Israel’s social protests are due to return to the streets tomorrow with a march, the first in just under two months. “On October 29, we young people need to take to the streets and demand a new national budget, and the social justice we deserve,” protestor May Turgeman said at a press conference in which details of the renewal of the struggle were released.

The protests, which began on July 14, clearly had a large impact on the national agenda, forcing the government to grapple with the cost of living and convene the Trajtenberg Committee. This panel has recommended reductions in tariffs on food, extra benefits for working mothers, a home-building plan and expanded childcare, and has had its recommendations endorsed by the cabinet.

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Oprah's Mikveh Visit

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Although Oprah Winfrey didn’t quite take the plunge, she did recently stop by a mikveh in Brooklyn Heights.

Scouting locations to film segments for her new show, “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” which will air in January 2012 on OWN, she stopped in at Congregation B’nai Avraham. The program will show Oprah interviewing spiritual leaders around the world. The Shmooze is guessing that the visit to the synagogue’s new, state-of-the art ritual bath has something to do with Winfrey’s plans to touch upon the halachic concept of “family purity” and the related spiritual nature of immersion in “living waters.”

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Shalit's Lucky Dollar

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

Sometimes a dollar bill is not just a dollar bill. According to a report by Arutz 7/Israel National News, it can be a portent, as in the case of a certain dollar bill given to a woman 21 years ago by the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, along with a blessing.

According to Chabad (the story’s original source), the note in question ended up in the hands of Aviva Shalit, when a Chabad rebbetzin named Chana Kanterman came to visit her at the now dismantled Gilad Shalit protest tent next to the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. Kanterman insisted on giving the dollar bill, which she had personally been handed by the rebbe, to the Shalit family as a sign of her support for their struggle.

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Skelos Recalls Smuggling Aid to Soviet Jews

By Renee Ghert-Zand

As New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos volunteered in the Masbia soup kitchen on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn yesterday, he reminisced about having once smuggled religious items and medical supplies to Refuseniks in the Former Soviet Union. With Jewish terminology like “shul” easily tripping off his tongue, the Senator joked with the Masbia staff about how the “tzizis” he was wearing at the time made him itchy. (The Shmooze won’t give away the punch line — you’ll just have to watch the video clip.)

It is not clear what sparked Skelos, who donned a velvet yarmulke for the occasion, to suddenly recall the work he did on behalf of Soviet Jewry so many years ago. Masbia director Alexander Rapaport said that Skelos, together with Senator Marty Golden, “chopped carrots, peeled potatoes, ladled soup, and served meals to those who would not be able to eat otherwise.” Perhaps there were some Russian recipes on the menu that day.

Watch Senator Skelos Reminisce at the Soup Kitchen:


Toy Nazi Soldiers for Sale in Rome

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Travelers preparing to take a train from Rome’s Termini Station can grab some food at a kiosk and pick up a magazine at a newsstand there. And while they’re at it, they can also buy for themselves some Nazi dolls as souvenirs of their stay in the Eternal City.

Barak Talmor, an Israeli studying in Rome, happened upon a shop next to the station in central Rome selling dolls (more like toy soldiers) dressed in SS uniforms. From the photos Talmor took and sent to Israel’s Channel 2 News, it appears that many are holding flags or standards with swastikas. Some are marching while others riding atop tanks. There is even one of Hitler himself giving the Nazi salute as he stands in the front seat of an open-top car.

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Diabetic Israeli Children Test Artificial Pancreas

By Renee Ghert-Zand

An artificial pancreas was taken for a test drive recently in Israel. This new technology, if it proves successful, could be a huge breakthrough in diabetes care and control.

“A Sweet Life,” a website for healthy living with diabetes, reported that 18 children in Israel were gathered at Kibbutz Ma’aleh Hahamisha to participate in the world’s first out-of-hospital artificial pancreas trial. The study was led by two doctors from the Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel: Prof. Moshe Phillip of the Institute of Endocrinology and Diabetes, and and Eran Atlas of the Diabetes Technology Institute.

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Charity Team Runs NYC Marathon for Holocaust Survivors

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Organizers of this year’s ING New York City Marathon on November 6 are hoping that runners will raise $1 million per mile. That’s a total of $26,200,000 for charity. Among the official charity teams this year will be 70 runners raising money for The Blue Card, a non-profit organization that supports the everyday financial needs of 2,000 destitute Holocaust survivors in the United States.

“Some survivors have commented about how they are honored and find it interesting that while they were once on death marches, now younger people are raising money for them by running,” noted The Blue Card’s executive director, Elie Rubinstein. “It’s not ‘run for you life,’ as it was for the survivors during the Holocaust, but rather ‘run for someone else’s life.’”

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McDonald’s Comes to Masada

By Nathan Burstein

iStockphoto

Would you like fries with that mass suicide?

Visitors to Masada can now ponder Jewish martyrdom while eating fast food, thanks to the recent opening of a McDonald’s at the historical site. The latest issue of Time Out Tel Aviv reports that the fast-food chain “just opened a branch inside the visitors center of the sombre ruined fortress,” where a besieged group of Jews killed themselves “rather than face a life of slavery at the hands of their Roman captors.”

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Meet the ‘Real Housewives’ of Israel

By Nathan Burstein

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Like Marie Antoinette, one clueless Israeli housewife said that protesters should eat cake.

Bravo’s “Real Housewives” series has spawned spinoffs in cities across the U.S., so perhaps it was only a matter of time before the phenomenon hit Israel. A Hebrew-language version of the show debuted last night on Israel’s Channel 10, where it is called simply “Me’usharot,” or “Rich” (and where it was ostensibly created independently from the American series).

Like its U.S. counterpart, the Israeli version follows the lives of some of the country’s richest women, who mostly spend their time shopping, talking smack about their friends and living lives of almost unimaginable extravagance. Depending on how generous you’re being, the series can be read as mocking or shamelessly celebrating the subjects’ materialism and vapidity — as well as their social climbing, plastic surgeries and general lack of self-awareness.

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Madoff’s Daughter-In-Law Dishes on ‘The View’

By Nathan Burstein

With a memoir to sell and scores to settle, Bernie Madoff’s daughter-in-law appeared on “The View” this morning to talk about the infamous Ponzi schemer and the damage he wrought on his own family.

The author of the newly published “The End of Normal,” Stephanie Madoff Mack cut a sympathetic figure on the ABC daytime show, and was treated gently by the show’s panel, which included Barbara Walters. Madoff Mack’s husband, Mark — Bernie Madoff’s elder son — hanged himself with a dog leash in December while she and the couple’s daughter were on vacation at Disney World.

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Looted Painting Returned to Jewish Heirs

By Michael Kaminer

What happened in this German casino will not be staying in this German casino.

A gambling establishment in a German spa town will return a Dutch Old Master painting to the heirs of a Jewish art dealer persecuted by the Nazis and forced to flee Germany, Bloomberg reports.

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Fashion Week Comes to Israel

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Israeli model Bar Refaeli on the runway in 2008

It won’t be quite like Fashion Week in New York, Paris or Milan, but it will be Holon’s biggest fashion week ever. This month, the Mediatheque Cultural Center in Holon, just south of Tel Aviv, will host a fashion-focused event October 24-27 that will include film screenings, an international symposium, master classes taught by international fashion personalities and a fashion show.

The Holon municipality and the Design Museum Holon, which opened in 2010, are behind the fashion week. They are aiming to make a name for their museum and to gain recognition for Holon within the international design community. This, the third annual Fashion Week in Holon, is being produced by produced by Benny Moran Productions in collaboration with the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, the lifestyle channels of Ananey Communications, the Israel Textile and Fashion Association and the Foreign Ministry.

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Shalit Shirt Inspires Fashion Trend

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

Many questioned Hamas’s fashion sense when they saw the civilian outfit that Gilad Shalit was dressed in for his transfer to Israel during last week’s prisoner swap. They thought it was far from flattering to his thin, malnourished frame and gaunt face. It turns out, however, that Gazans actually thought the collared, checkered shirt the Israel soldier was wearing was the height of style. Consequently, it has been dubbed the “Gilad Shirt” and turned into a must-have item.

Large numbers of the exact shirt, as well as some very similar ones, are now on display in Gazan stores and markets for an average price of $16.50. They are being snatched up like hotcakes, and Gazan shoppers have expressed concern that they will run out.

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Lawyer Explains Claim That Film Is Anti-Semitic

By Renee Ghert-Zand

To help us better understand the merits of the ridiculous lawsuit Michigan resident Sarah Deming is filing against the producers of the new film “Drive” — which stars Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and Bryan Cranston — her lawyer has decided to spell out its bizarre logic in the comments section of a movie blog.

In addition to complaining about what she perceives as a bait-and-switch scheme whereby the film’s trailer was deceptive about the amount of action-packed driving there actually is in the movie, Deming claims that “Drive” is anti-Semitic. Gawker quotes the suit as stating that the movie had “extreme gratuitous defamatory dehumanizing racism directed against members of the Jewish faith, and thereby promoted criminal violence against members of the Jewish faith.”

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Stricter Gender Rules at Western Wall on Sukkot

By Nathan Jeffay

During the Jewish festival season, which finished yesterday here in Israel (and draws to a close tonight in the States), thousands have descended on the Western Wall. All sorts have made their way to the popular pilgrimage site, from secular to Haredi Jews, as well as a sizable contingency of Christians from around the world who visit Jerusalem every Sukkot. But all of them, it seems, are being subjected to norms of Haredi society.

The area directly in front of the wall itself — essentially a large synagogue as it is used for prayers — has long been segregated along gender lines, and this is relatively uncontroversial. But it seems that visitors in recent days have been instructed to segregate long before arriving at the wall — rather being asked to get in line, according to gender, ahead of the security checks for the whole Western Wall Plaza.

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