The Shmooze

Sam Kass and Alex Wagner Tie Knot

By Gabe Friedman

Getty Images

Sam Kass – the Obama family’s personal chef and President Barack Obama’s senior policy advisor – is a lucky man. When he gets married on Saturday to Alex Wagner, host of MSNBC’s “Now With Alex Wagner,” he will have some special guests: the president and the first lady.

Kass is a longtime friend of the Obamas who became their personal chef in 2005, when Barack Obama was a freshman senator in Illinois. Since then, he has become a Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy and the director of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” fitness campaign. He regularly appears on television and travels constantly to promote the “Let’s Move!” initiative.

The chef and health food advocate grew up in a Jewish family in Chicago and attended the University of Chicago. He trained in restaurants around the world, from Europe to Mexico, and began his own private cooking company.

Kass and Wagner got engaged last year and were named the political “it-couple” of the year by Vogue.

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The Israeli Barack Obama

By Julie Wiener

(JTA) — Israel is getting crowded with big-name residents.

In February a Jordanian named Yitzhak Rabin enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces. Now, an African American convert to Judaism in Jerusalem has officially changed his name to Barack Obama, the Times of Israel reports.

A special committee at the Interior Ministry approved Mark Hardie’s request to change his name, and Hardie/Obama’s lawyer is working to have the name legally changed in the United States as well. The newly minted Obama has decided to skip the president’s middle name “Hussein,” however, since it’s not so Jewish.

Hardie moved to Israel in 2000, three years after undergoing an Orthodox conversion, has served in the IDF as well as the U.S. military, and is hoping to become the first African-American Knesset member.

“I decided to go with Barack Obama. I respect the president and I felt like it could be good for Israel to have a Jewish Barack Obama,” he told the Times of Israel.

Who knows what name will turn up next in Israel — Vladimir Putin? Angela Merkel? King Abdullah? (Saddam Hussein is taken.)

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Botticelli Fresco Lures Celebs to Israel Museum

By Masha Leon

“Imagine an Israeli museum receiving Botticelli’s (1481) ‘The Annunciation”— a monumental fresco, a great national treasure —on loan from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy,” James Snyder, Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem announced at the American Friends of the Israel Museum October 28 Gala at Cipriani 42nd St.

“The day it arrived, it knocked politics, economics and Syria off the front page of Haaretz and filled the top of that front page — a first for art in Israel!” Exuberantly, Snyder added: “Last year we had 825,000 visitors — at the rate we are experiencing visitors we might just reach that magical number — 950,000 — which is reached by about 60 museums worldwide… For the first time directors from 16 countries — among them the Louvre, Pompidou [Center], the British Museum, The Met, Boston and Los Angeles all came to us. The museum was far more than they had imagined and their time in Jerusalem changed their view about [the city] and Israel.”

Karen Leon
James Snyder

As featured in the museum’s Summer Journal, visitors included U.S. Ambassador Abraham Sofaer and Mrs. Marian Sofaer, French Ambassador Christophe Bigot, president of the German Bundesrat Winfred Kretschmann, Lady Mayoress of the City of London Clare Gifford and Barbra Streisand who took in the extraordinary “Herod the Great” Exhibit–that categorical blockbuster about which Snyder defined as “the hubris for building for eternity. In a way Herod was a kind of Second Temple Judean Robert Moses [mid 20th century New York environs master builder] and has drawn 360,000 visitors “with ten more weeks to go.”

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Amanda Bynes Calls The Obamas 'Ugly'

By Anne Cohen

There’s a new contender in Amanda Bynes’ ever evolving Twitter challenge of looks. This time, the ex-actress takes on the President and First Lady, adding them both to her ugly list.

Take comfort, Mr. President: You are not alone. As The Huffington Post pointed out, Drake, Chrissy Teigen, Miley Cyrus, Jay-Z, Sarah Hyland, Lance Bass, Courtney Love, Perez Hilton, Kid Cudi and many more have been featured on Bynes’ ugly who’s who list in the last couple of months.

Wondering what Amanda Bynes thinks of you? Well, you can probably guess, but The Huffington Post made this nifty flowchart to illustrate her thinking process.

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#EarthDay Wisdom From The Stars

By Anne Cohen

Celebrities being the arbiters of good taste when it comes to good deeds and causes, they were out in hordes on the Twitter-sphere to remind us to reduce, recycle, and be better people on this 43rd annual Earth Day.

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Twitter Mourns Roger Ebert

By Anne Cohen

Roger Ebert, America’s most famous film critic, died yesterday at the age of 70. Every celebrity he had ever lauded with praise or declared inapt — cough Rob Schneider —rushed to give his life a thumbs up. Ebert, an avid tweeter himself, would have been proud.

For the first time ever, Joan Rivers wasn’t snarky:

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4 Biggest Snafus of Barack Obama's Israel Trip

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Well, it’s over. After three days of meeting, greeting, cheering, and even a heckle or two, President Obama has bid adieu to Israel. While the overall trip was successful, we couldn’t help but round up the some of the more, ahem, entertaining moments.

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#ObamaInIsrael Has Its Own Pinterest Page

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images
President Obama, on the second day of his Israel trip.

Social media loves a good diplomatic visit. Pictures abound, attempts at speaking other languages often fail, and the agonizing possibility that something will go horribly wrong — like a car breaking down, perhaps? — makes for great third party commentary.

All of you avidly following President Obama’s trip to Israel this week will be happy to know that the visit now has its own Pinterest page, called “The Unbreakable Bond: #ObamaInIsrael.”

Run by Israeli volunteers of the Ministry of Public Diplomacy, the page features 18 boards and 198 pins showing everything from the Jerusalem preparations and the President’s arrival at Ben Gurion airport, to Obama and Bibi tasting matzo while checking out robots at the Israel Museum.

All that’s missing are nifty DIY recipes for him to try out while he’s there. Don’t worry though, we’ve got him covered.

Watch Obama say how happy he is to be in Israel — in Hebrew:

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Obama/Bibi Video...Set to Golden Girls Theme Song

By Anne Cohen

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama
The Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. is really excited about Obama’s trip to Israel. So excited, that they made an animated bobble-head video set to theme from “Golden Girls” to tell us about it. Bibi and Barry, just like Rose and Blanche.

This is possibly even more insane than the Obama mustache meme, but it’s absolutely amazing nonetheless.

Enjoy.

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Obama's New Year's Greeting to Oren

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, was so pleased with a Rosh Hashanah greeting he received Monday from President Barack Obama that he photographed it and put it on Twitter. “I’m deeply appreciative of President @BarackObama’s personal letter for Rosh Hashanah,” the ambassador tweeted.

The letter, typewritten on official White House stationery, was delivered to Oren’s home in Washington. In it, Obama makes specific reference to Oren’s wife Sally and children Yoav, Lia and Noam, wishing them and all others who will gather with the family a good and sweet New Year.

But don’t let the fancy letterhead and “L’Shanah Tovah” sign-off fool you. This may be a High Holiday greeting, but it is also a politician communicating during election season. “This holiday season is a time of reflection: a chance to reaffirm friendships and renew our commitments—including America’s unshakeable commitment to the State of Israel,” the President wrote. He went on to state that the security of Israel is “non-negotiable,” and made a specific point of claiming “the security cooperation between our two countries is stronger than it has ever been.”

Having made his point, Obama lightened up a bit. In thanking Oren for his dedication to public service, the President joked that Oren’s accomplishments are “not bad for a kid from Jersey.” Obama—or more likely someone on his staff—did his homework. Long before he came to live in the Israeli Ambassador’s residence, Oren grew up as Michael Bornstein in West Orange, N.J.

However, only a day later, news reports indicated that behind the niceties there are serious tensions brewing between Obama and Oren’s boss, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The rift between top U.S. and Israeli leaders appeared to deepen Tuesday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leveled the sharpest attacks in years by an Israeli leader against Washington, over differences on how to address Iran’s nuclear program,” Joshua Mitnick and Jay Solomon wrote in the Wall Street Journal. Netanyahu was steaming after Obama apparently snubbed his request for a meeting in New York later this month.

We’ll just have to wait and see how they work things out in the New Year.

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Natalie Portman Stumps for Obama in Black

By Simi Lampert

Natalie Portman stumped for President Obama on Saturday at the Nevada Women’s Summit, where she spoke about the president’s commitment to women’s rights.

Portman has a history of flexing her political muscle. In 2008, she defended Hillary Clinton against sexist barbs and then made phone calls for Democratic nominee, Obama. Four years before that, Portman took up John Kerry’s campaign as a cause.

In case you’re wondering what Portman wore while discussing politics (a collared blouse and pants), what color they were (matching black), or what Babble’s famecrawler thought of it (“uber-cute”), you can easily find that with a quick Google search.

But if you actually want to know what she said, scroll all the way down and click on the British Daily Mail article which goes into detail about her remarks. “The president has proven that he is a strong advocate for women and a defender of the issues that are important to women and their families, from affordable health care to fair pay and quality public education,” she said according to the Daily Mail.

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Sarah Jessica Parker To Host Obama Fundraiser

By Margaret Eby

Getty Images

Michelle, meet Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha, and Miranda. Sarah Jessica Parker is the latest Hollywood star to offer up her not-so-humble abode in the name of Obama fundraising. Following in the footsteps of George Clooney and Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, who raised a cool $15 million from a bash at Clooney’s place, Parker is offering up her Manhattan home for a fundraiser on June 14. (Looks like those plans to move her brood to Brooklyn have been put on hold.)

According to the Daily News, supporters can enter a raffle to attend the soiree by donating as little as $3. Parker’s announcement is not only a call for Democrats to support the President, but an invitation to laud the Commander in Chief “Sex and the City” style. “It should be fabulous,” Parker emailed in her invitation.

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Clooney Hosts Big-Time Obama Fundraising Party

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images
George Clooney (left) and Jeffrey Katzenberg

In case you hadn’t heard, there is going to be a big fundraising bash for President Obama’s reelection campaign tonight over at George Clooney’s place.

No one — well, at least no Democrat — would want to miss that, right? But before you run to put on your party dress, you might want to know what it’s going to cost you to get through Clooney’s front door.

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Best Celebrity Tweets for Passover

By Renee Ghert-Zand

It might not surprise you that celebrities were tweeting pre-, post- and even mid-Seder. Some typed clever quips, while others sent out heartfelt thoughts, including greetings for Easter, which coincides this year with the first days of Passover. Here are some of The Shmooze’s favorite Pesach posts of 140 characters or less:

Susan Orlean (on a pre-Passover flight): On this flight we eat only unleavened peanuts and snack mix, to remember how hastily we went through security.

Joan Rivers: Heading to Melissa’s for Passover. Seders in L.A. are so showbiz – until Elijah arrives, we’ve hired a seat filler from the Oscars.

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Scarlett Johansson Hosts Obama’s ‘Runway To Win’

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Big names from the world of fashion gathered Tuesday evening at the Theory clothing store in the West Village to support President Obama’s re-election bid. The Fashion Week fundraiser, dubbed “Runway To Win,” was hosted by actress Scarlett Johansson and Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour. Wintour, according to newly released campaign financial information, is one of the President’s top fundraisers and has donated $500,000 toward his re-election.

More than two dozen designers and celebrities who created special campaign-related apparel and accessories joined the two hostesses. Among them were Beyonce, Tory Burch, Sean Combs (aka Puff Daddy), Marc Jacobs, Derek Lam, Narcisco Rodriguez, Russell Simmons, Thakoon Panichgul, Vera Wang, Jason Wu, and Diane Von Furstenberg.

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DreamWorks CEO To Host Obama Fundraiser

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

The big event for Democrats in Hollywood is yet to come. Word is that Jeffrey Katzenberg is set to host a major fundraiser for President Barack Obama at his Beverly Hills estate this spring. It will be timed to be relatively close to the Democratic nominating convention, and will be meant to give the President a chance to reassure Hollywood folks that he has their interests in mind as he heads into the upcoming elections.

In the wake of Obama’s having gotten involved in the SOPA issue, Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was recently in Los Angeles trying to convince entertainment executives and artists that Democrats have not gone soft on piracy. The President himself is scheduled to be at an L.A. on February 15 for a fundraiser sponsored by producer Bradley Bell and his wife Colleen, and comedic actor Will Ferrell and his wife Viveca Paulin.

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Was Obama’s ‘Jew Tax’ Gaffe a Freudian Slip?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

What was that, Mr. President? You meant to say “janitor,” but out came “Jew.” Those words starting with the letter “J” can really trip you up.

In a speech President Obama gave this past Saturday evening at the Congressional Black Caucus annual awards dinner in Washington, it seemed as though he was saying that there is a special tax rate for Jews. In making the point that the very wealthy should pay more taxes, he said, “If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a Jew — as a janitor — makes me a warrior for the working class, I wear that as a badge of honor.”

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Jon Stewart, Dubbed The Most Influential Man, Interviews Obama Tonight

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

The Obama-Biden Transition Project/Wiki Commons

President Barack Obama and Jon Stewart. One of the pair is the most influential man in the world, and the other hopes to sway young Americans to show up at the polls and vote Democrat on November 2 with a TV appearance tonight.

The most influential of the pair is not the President of the United States, but Comedy Central star Stewart, according to an online survey cited by the Wall Street Journal: “In a poll conducted by AskMen.com, ‘The Daily Show’ host took the number one spot, 20 slots ahead of President Barack Obama.”

The comedian-turned-pseudo-anchorman-turned political activist also beat out Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Kanye West in the poll, as the guy most responsible for shaping 2010.

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Rabbi Funnye's Sukkot Plans

By Renee Ghert-Zand

While President Barack Obama spent Labor Day weekend at Camp David, his wife Michelle’s cousin, Rabbi Capers Funnye, is heading out for a very different kind of camp experience over Sukkot.

While Obama and his diplomatic team will work (thanklessly in some quarters) through a historically intractable conflict to spread a sukkah of peace over Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Funnye will be focusing on bringing Jews of diverse backgrounds and cultures together under a single metaphorical roof to celebrate the Jewish Thanksgiving.

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