The Shmooze

Nigella Lawson's Coke Problem

By Reuters

Two kitchen assistants who used to work for British Jewish celebrity chef Nigella Lawson have alleged that she was a regular user of cocaine and other drugs, according to reports of a court hearing published by several national British media on Tuesday.

The two women are being prosecuted for fraud and the allegation against Lawson forms part of their defence. The media reports said the allegation had been described in court by a prosecution lawyer as untrue and “totally scurrilous”.

Contacted by Reuters, Lawson’s publicist Mark Hutchinson said: “As proceedings are live we can’t comment at the moment.” Under British law, it is legally risky to comment publicly about what is said during criminal court proceedings.

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The Heroic Brit Who Saved 600 Jewish Children

By Masha Leon

To the roster of Righteous Gentiles that includes Oskar Schindler and Chiune Sugihara — the Japanese diplomat who in 1940 issued 2039 visas that saved 6000 Jews (including my mother and me) — one must now add Sir Nicholas Winton whose British chutzpah illuminates the Menemsha Film documentary “Nicky’s Family.”

Directed by Matej Minac, the wrenching yet heartwarming film chronicles the rescue of nearly 700 Czech and Slovak Jewish children before the outbreak of World War II. During my overseas exchange with Barbara Winton, daughter of the 104-year-old (and still active!) Winton, she recalled the film’s provenance: “A scrapbook found in an attic in the 1970’s, when I was in my early 20’s. I showed the scrapbook to some Israeli friends. None of us recognized the implications it would have on the names on [the scrapbook’s] list.”

Menemsha Films
Nicholas Winton with rescued child

Interfacing archival film of Hitler’s march into Czechoslovakia with montages of mothers pleading with a 29-year old Winton to save their children, the film transmits the desperation and panic of that period. “He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his remarkable deed,” Winton’s daughter pointed out.

Imagine my surprise when one of the rescued Winton children — who appears as an adult in the film — turned out to be a long-time friend, Hanna Slome! In all the years I’d known her, she never mentioned her history. During our chat this week she revealed: “Only recently did I learn who had saved me! All I remembered was my mother at the train station in Prague, May 1938, telling me ‘if I have your hand, I’ll be with you.’ I was fourteen… an older girl, given a young child on my lap, someone to care for and put on a train to England. I have absolutely no recollection of the four-day train trip.” Yet she clearly recalled that on the ship to England “children sang the Czech national anthem.” At the dock in England, she described, “a 3-year old left waiting to be picked up. A taxi driver took him home, fed him fish and chips. The poorer they were, the kinder they were.”

Most of the children never saw their parents again nor knew what happened to them. Slome told me: “In 1942 my mother spent one week in Terezin — Hitler kept good records! She was then sent to Bergen-Belsen or Treblinka.” To this day many of these rescued children — who had been placed in Christian homes — have not been located. At a 500-strong recent Kindertransport reunion held at The Catskills Nevele Resort, Slome finally met someone from her transport, enabling her to begin to retrace her past.

In a 1988 clip from BBC’s “That’s Your Life,” Winton seems unaware that he is sitting next to those he had saved until half the audience — his rescuees — rise to applaud him! There are over 6,000 descendants worldwide.

“Nicky’s Family” opens in New York on July 19 at the Quad and Manhattan’s JCC. Don’t miss.

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Leonard Cohen Reschedules Show For High Holidays

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images
Leonard Cohen

Sorry British fans! You won’t get to see Leonard Cohen dip apples in honey onstage.

The Canadian performer has reportedly rescheduled shows in Leeds and London after he realized that the dates fell on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the BBC reported.

A statement released on behalf of the 78-year-old and promoter AEG apologized “deeply for the inconvenience.” Cohen will now be playing the First Direct Arena in Leeds on 7 September and the 02 Arena in London on 15 September.

In case you were wondering, Rosh Hashanah falls on September 5-6 and Yom Kippur is on September 14. Don’t be late!

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Israel Celebrates the Royal Wedding

By Nathan Jeffay

Getty Images

Welcome to Modi’in, the Israeli city that is so British that people drink tea at four o’clock, stand in orderly lines at the bus stop (unheard of in this part of the world) and play cricket. Well today, it became even more so.

One street in the city is today covered in red white and blue Union Flags, and people will shortly spill out to fulfill that old British tradition of the “street party” — an outdoor pot luck party where neighbors and friends celebrate national occasions together. The occasion, of course, is the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

People setting up the party, a Shabbat meal which starts soon, wished each other “mazalotov” like you do at a family wedding. There are even commemorative Grace After Meals booklets, as the organizers billed it as a “sheva berachot” — the traditional celebratory meal held in the days following a Jewish wedding.

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British Holocaust Denier To Lead Tour of Nazi Sites

By Josh Tapper

Controversial British Holocaust denier and “historian” David Irving (to call him a historian, sans quotations, seems a tad irresponsible) will lead a group of British and American tourists on an “unforgettable journey” next week to Nazi sites in Germany and Poland.

Needless to say, Irving’s trip hasn’t gone over well.

“For Holocaust survivors, the planned visit by David Irving to the sites of the Treblinka death camp and the Warsaw Ghetto is a deliberate act of hate and contempt by this notorious racist,” Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, told JTA. “His tour is an insult to all victims of Nazi brutality, Jew and non-Jew.”

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Gay Tourist Robbed, Left Naked at Israel Intersection

By Michael Kaminer

Criminals apparently got the memo that Tel Aviv’s now hot with gay tourists, as the Forward recently reported. According to, a British traveler was lured into a robbery with promises of sex, then left stranded — and naked — at a Tel Aviv intersection by a male perp.

Though reports of the crime just surfaced yesterday, police say the alleged attack took place on April 4. The Briton got friendly with the suspected robber on one of Tel Aviv’s gay-friendly beaches. The victim drove with his new friend to a secluded spot under a bridge, where they started “engaging in sexual acts,” according to JPost. Then the alleged criminal, a Palestinian who lives in the West Bank, threatened the Brit, kicked him out of the car and sped off with his clothes and possessions.

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The Western Wall's Advertising Woes

By Nathan Jeffay

Ever since 1967, Israel has grappled with the problem that its de-facto borders are out of sync with most of the international community’s view of where its territory starts and finishes. Normally, the ramifications are political. But now, it appears that they are also impairing the country’s tourism efforts.

The Israeli Government Tourist Office just launched a newspaper advertising campaign in Britain, selling the country on its compactness. You can travel its entire length “in six hours,” it boasted, showing some of the places you can expect to see – including the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, which Israel captured in 1967.

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