The Shmooze

Pot Not Kosher for Passover — Even on 4/20

By Anne Cohen

It’s that time of the year again — Passover and 4/20, the unofficial marijuana celebration day. On the same day.

The celebration of all things green poses a particular problem for the chosen people. Namely, is smoking pot kosher for Passover?

Sorry to disappoint, but it seems not.

In 2007, Israel’s Green Leaf Party, which supports the legalization of marijuana, declared that cannabis is among the substances Jews are forbidden to consume during Passover.

“You shouldn’t smoke marijuana on the holiday, and if you have it in your house you should get rid of it,” Michelle Levine, a spokeswoman for the party, said at the time.

Why? Because hemp seeds are considered to be kitniyot.

While biblical law prohibits eating leavened foods, rabbis have since extended the rules to apply to foods like beans, corn and rice. Hemp seeds, found in marijuana, falls under that category. So voila, no Mary-Jane for you — if you’re Ashkenazi that is.

Sephardic Jews have traditionally been allowed to eat kitniyot during Passover, so when it comes to 4/20, they’re in the clear.

If you’re really desperate though, there have been reports in the past of kosher for Passover pot cookies. Cannabliss, an Israeli company that supplies medical marijuana to Hadassah Hospital, makes them with matzo meal or potato flour.

As the ancients said: Put that in your pipe and smoke it. But don’t. Still not kosher.

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Russian Billionaire Books 111 Hotel Rooms for Israel Passover Bash

By Anne Cohen

Roman Abramovich intends to celebrate Passover in style.

For the Jewish Russian billionaire, this involves booking 111 hotel rooms in a Negev desert hotel, to celebrate the holidays with friends and family. Quaint. Understated. Intimate.

Abramovich is a repeat Passover bash offender. In 2009, he rented an entire floor of the Royal Beach Hotel in Eilat.

The Chelsea soccer club-owner will be occupying the Beresheet Hotel from Sunday to Thursday next week, and plans to hold a traditional Seder banquet in a large tent in the desert.

The Times of Israel reports that this latest seder adventure will cost Abramovich roughly $450,000. Apparently, he wanted to get a “feel for the desert in the area where the story of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt took place.”

I’m sure a lavish desert tent party is exactly what Moses had in mind.

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What Would Moses Do? You Decide.

By Anne Cohen

WWMD — What would Moses do?

We ask ourselves a lot of questions around Passover. Why not that one? Now, you too can be faced with decisions determining the fate of the entire Jewish people.

The Fountainheads, a musical group out of Israel’s Ein Prat Academy for Leadership (a program for post-army or post-academy students) have released a new interactive video with a Passover-theme.

“Escape From Egypt,” lets you control the Exodus story in real time, creating one of hundreds of different possible story-lines, The video uses technology developed by Interlude, the Israeli startup that recently made waves with their video forBob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.”

“Pesach is the Jewish story,” said Avital Stein, the band’s director. “It’s the story of the Jewish people and there’s so many different details and drama that everyone can relate to today.”

The whole thing is akin to “Choose Your Own Adventure” (Pesach edition}, to the tune of an original score.

Shani Lachmish, Jeff Petroff, Zlil Rubinstein, Orri Dror (base guitar), Tal Michles (lead guitar), Dan Cohen (drums) and Amir Goldberg (keyboard), met during a session at Ein Prat in 2011. Armed with a green screen and their instruments, they put together a Hannukah video and threw it up on Youtube. It got over 40,000 hits.

Since then, they’ve released 10 videos, and have over 5 million combined Youtube hits. Their 2011 Rosh Hashanah song, “Dip Your Apple,” was the most-viewed Youtube video in Israel that year.They’ve played for audiences in Israel, Europe and North America, and wrote the theme-song for “Advanced Search,” a mini-series on Judaism which aired on Israel’s Channel 2.

You can catch the Fountainheads on their fifth world tour — they’ll be making a stop in the U.S. in time for Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, in May.

Until then though, your adventure awaits here.

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Israeli Basketball is Pretty Intense

By Anne Cohen

When Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv face off, things get crazy.

That’s the main message we can take away from what happened last night, when Maccabi center Sofoklis Schortsanitis charged into the crowd to try to beat up a Hapoel fan. Madness ensued. Israeli fans raged.

Watch the whole incident below:

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New York Journos Pay Tribute to Ed Koch at Benefit

By Masha Leon

“Mayor Koch believed that mayors were not elected to be president…but to pick up garbage …balance the budget…” said Marcia Kramer, CBS2 New York chief political correspondent and a panelist at the April 3 Tribute to Mayor Edward I. Koch and Benefit for Beit Morasha’s Edward I. Koch Center for Public Policy and Jewish Ethics In Jerusalem.

Held at the Harmonie Club, emcee NBC4 New York Anchor, Chuck Scarborough recapped President Ford’s “Drop Dead!” message to the City and its “1977 riots and death spiral.” Discussion moderator “Maury Povich,” — taking a break from his syndicated “The Maury Show” featuring couples anxiously awaiting results of paternity tests — expounded on Koch’s agile maneuvering “to get elected and save the city.”

“Koch made chutzpah a New York virtue.” joshed NBC4 New York senior correspondent Gabe Pressman. “In the 1970s he was considered a schlemiel…. grew into the job as mayor and was more available than any other mayor.” Pressman also alluded to the “pain in his life”— the suicide of Queensboro President Donald Manes. “It haunted him for a long time…. He was never accused of city corruption but it was on his watch.”

Ido Aharoni and Pat Koch Thaler // Photo by Karen Leon.

N.Y. Post political correspondent Michael Goodwin remembered Koch as “a loyal Democrat to the end [and] I suspect he’d have supported de Blasio but not a lot of his rhetoric.” Also on the panel: Peter Solomon, former deputy mayor of economic policy and development in New York City.

Preceding the dinner and panel discussion, Israel’s Consul General in New York, Ido Aharoni— bracketed by the mayor’s sister Pat Koch Thaler, American Friends chairman of the board Mel Salberg, and Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barkat — recalled Koch’s “special relationship with Jerusalem’s legendary mayor Teddy Kollek.”

Aharoni acknowledged his “debt to “dear friend” [public relations maven] Howard Rubenstein when he arrived in New York “two months before 9/11” and was told, “the first person I need to meet with and seek advice from was Ed Koch… He was a legend in Israel…. Why would he meet with me? Not only did he take my call, but invited me to his office, interrogated me about my career, my work for Shimon Peres.

Harking back to the prior night’s JCRC (Jewish Community Relations Council) Annual Gala at The Pierre at which he was the keynote speaker “with Mayor de Blasio present,” Aharoni said, “I grew up in a suburb of Tel Aviv and would pass a street named La Guardia every day. I had no idea who LaGuardia was…. Later I discovered a street named Ed Koch and — of course — there will be something named after [Michael] Bloomberg. So I told Mayor de Blasio that I wish for him one day there’ll be a bridge in Tel Aviv named de Blasio Bridge so that my grandchildren will pass the bridge and know who de Blasio was.

Aharoni concluded: “On behalf of the State of Israel, I would like to express our profound appreciation of [Koch’s] unwavering support, his friendship and his unconditional love for the State of Israel.”

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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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Muppets and Bar Refaeli Too Racy for Israeli TV

By Jana Banin

(JTA) — A risqué ad featuring Bar Refaeli in bed with a purple, mustachioed Muppet has been banned from running before 10 p.m. in the holy land, Walla!, Israel news website reports. Per a governmental council called The Second Authority for Television and Radio, the ad for local fashion brand Hoodies has “too many sexual insinuations” to be seen during prime time.

The spot opens with a post-coital shot of the Israeli super model and her puppet friend, a guy named Red Orbach, with whom many Israelis are already familiar. For some background on the swarthy Muppet, we turn to The Hollywood Reporter:

The character Red Orbach emerged locally from an all-puppet classic rock group called Red Band and his stereotypical persona is that of an aging 1960s American rocker. This past year, Red Orbach co-hosted late-night The Red & Dvir Show with actor Dvir Benedek on Channel 2’s franchiser ReshetBroadcasting.

Anyway, the purple rocker/TV host/skilled lover goes on to imagine what it would be like to be dating not one, but THREE Refaelis. This involves sexy scenes from a car wash (referred to here as a “Bar wash”), a photo booth and a game of strip poker.

R-rated, weird or both? You decide.

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The JDate Haggadah

By Anne Cohen

Do you want your Seder to be “the talk of the town through the end of 5774?”

Of course you do. And JDate has your back (though you may have to cling to the thought that “all publicity is good publicity”).

For the second year in a row, the online answer to all Jewish mothers’ hopes and dreams has come up with its very own Passover haggadah, available on iTunes and as an iBook, compatible with smartphones and tablets, for the hip Jewish single on the go.

So, how is this haggadah different from all other haggadahs, you may ask? Well…

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Enrico Macias, Sephardic Superstar

By Anne Cohen

If you’ve grown up as a Sephardic Jew, there’s one singer that you’ve reliably heard at every single wedding, bar/bat-mitzvah, engagement party, Shabbat, or celebration of any kind.

His name is Enrico Macias.

Born Gaston Ghrenassia in Constantine — then in French Algeria — in 1938, the Jewish “Pied Noir” singer has come to embody the bittersweet memories and nostalgia felt by Jews who left their Arab homelands in the 1960s and ‘70s.

In other words, you’re not a Jew of North African descent until you’ve seen your grandmother tearing up to “Adieu mon pays,” (“Goodbye My Country”), Macias’s first hit, written from the deck of the boat carrying him and his family away from their war-torn home.

Macias and his wife, Suzy, fled the Algerian War for Independence in 1961 after his father-in-law, Cheikh Raymond Leyris — also a famous musician — was murdered. Macias’s father, Sylvain Ghrenassia, was a violinist in an Andalo-Arabic orchestra.

Since then, he’s become an international superstar of French music, an “Ambassador at Large for Peace and Protection of the Children of the World” (named by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in 1997), and most recently, a successful comedy actor.

The Forward’s Anne Cohen sat down with Macias at the Gansevoort Hotel in New York City to talk about his upcoming move to Israel, his new movie career and, of course, his favorite songs.

This interview has been translated from French.

Anne Cohen: A movie about your life premiered at the 17th Annual New York Sephardic Film Festival. You also star in “Would I Lie To You 3”, which will close the festival on March 20. How do you like acting?

Enrico Macias: My first movie experience was “La Vérité Si Je Mens 2” (“Would I Lie To You 2”). When they asked me to be in “La Vérité Si Je Mens 3” (“Would I Lie to You 3”) it was like a reward, because it meant that I wasn’t so bad. The movie was a big success in France. Not just for the actors, but for me personally. I’m not a seasoned actor, I did this on a lark. But it turns out I really like acting. Especially comedy acting. Which is funny because I’m not necessarily like that in everyday life. I like to laugh, and I like to make jokes. But in front of a camera, I only have to stare and people laugh.

I think a new, younger audience has joined my traditional fans – and when I saw traditional fans, they also span a couple of generations. It’s great. Young people see me in movies and say “Oh, he’s also a singer, I’m going to listen to his songs.” And that’s how they discover my work.

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Is Beyonce Coming to Israel?

By Jana Banin

(JTA) — The upcoming Israeli summer might just be getting even hotter.

According to a Sunday report on Israel’s Channel 2 news, Beyoncé will be stopping over for a gig at Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park on June 15.

The thing is, the date does not appear on Beyoncé’s website. Plus, as Israeli fans may remember, a 2009 rumor that the pop star would visit never panned out.

If this thing really happens, Mrs. Carter will join a long list of big-name performers to visit Israel this summer, including Lady Gaga, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young and Justin Timberlake.

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Bar Refaeli's Purim Costume Is Better Than Yours

By Anne Cohen

Think dressing up for Purim is just for kids? Bar Refaeli doesn’t agree.

The Israeli supermodel embraced her inner child this year and posted a picture of her Purim costume to Instagram to prove it. The caption reads: “A stylish tiger #happyPurim.”

Bet your version doesn’t include a bright yellow Chanel satchel.

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Tel Aviv Makes Top Ten 'Selfiest' Cities List

By JTA

Tel Aviv has the sixth-most “selfie-takers” per capita of any major city, according to a ranking in Time Magazine.

One-hundred thirty-nine Tel Aviv residents per 100,000 frequently take selfies, or self-portraits taken with a cellphone, according to the survey, published Monday. The magazine calculated its results by surveying 400,000 selfies tagged according to location on Instagram, a popular photo-sharing online social network.

The survey looked at selfies from every city worldwide with at least 250,000 residents. Tel Aviv, Israel’s second-biggest city, has a population of approximately 400,000. Jerusalem, Israel’s capital and biggest city, did not crack the top 100. The Philippines’ Makati City won the distinction of the “Selfie Capital of the World,” with 258 “selfie-takers” per 100,000.

The United States holds three of the top five spots, with the New York borough of Manhattan placing second, Miami placing third and the metropolitan area of Anaheim and Santa Ana, Calif., placing fourth.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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Is Roseanne Barr Making Aliyah to Israel?

By Jana Banin

(JTA) — Comedian Roseanne Barr revealed via Twitter on Wednesday she is interested in making aliyah. Here’s what went down: Barr, who currently lives on a macadamia nut farm in Hawaii with her fourth non-Jewish husband, responded to a Times of Israel story about the aliyah organization Nefesh B’Nefesh with this tweet.

Next, Nefesh B’Nefesh chimed in.

Then, according to The Times of Israel, the two parties actually did chat via direct message.

The star of the hit sitcom “Roseanne” and 2012 presidential nominee was raised by Jewish parents in Salt Lake City. While she was influenced by her Orthodox Jewish grandmother, her parents kept their religion secret from neighbors and had connections to the Mormon church. For more details on her truly fascinating, stranger-than-fiction life (alleged incest, brain injury, adoption, and more), check out Barr’s autobiography.

It has just been reported that Barr is being sued by the parents of George Zimmerman for tweeting their address, which could possibly help to put this whole aliyah thing into perspective.

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AIPAC's Case of Scarlett Fever

By Ron Kampeas

(JTA) — Scarlett Johansson, fresh out of her SodaStream battles, declined to attend this year’s annual American Israel Political Affairs Committee policy conference. She’s in Paris, picking up an honorary Celeste award and promoting her latest releases,.

She kept appearing at the conference though, after a fashion.

Johansson featured prominently in AIPAC’s showcase of Israel’s high-tech sector on Monday.

Her image — 10 times over — was flashed during a demonstration of the ElMindA, a hairnet-like device that scans a brain’s electronic activity. The company’s managing director, Ronen Gadot, tested the device on Winton Stewart, a linebacker at Alabama State University who is also AIPAC’s deputy director of campus outreach. (Football players are especially susceptible to concussions, which the device could help diagnose more accurately).

The idea was that the device, by tracking how one’s brain registers an image, could then track one when it appeared in quick succession among other images. It is a more accurate measure, Gadot contended, than subjective memories. In other words, while one may remember detecting Johansson’s face five or six times, the device would be able to more accurately register exactly how many times your brain made the right call.

Stewart said he remembered eight out of the 10 viewings, and Gadot said the device recorded that many.

At the conference closing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought Johansson up again, although perhaps in a weirder way. He applauded her role in the SodaStream matter, when she rejected calls for her to boycott the product.

But then he likened her to … a plantation owner? His second paragraph alludes, after all, to Scarlett O’Hara the Southern belle of “Gone with the Wind.”

Everyone should know what the letters B-D-S really stand for: bigotry, dishonesty and shame. And those who — those who oppose BDS, like Scarlett Johansson, they should be applauded.

Scarlett, I have one thing to say to you: Frankly, my dear, I DO give a damn. And I know all of you give a damn, as do decent people everywhere who reject hypocrisy and lies and cherish integrity and truth.

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Eliad Cohen Makes OUT Magazine's Top 10

By Yanir Dekel

Israeli model and entrepreneur/party wizard Eliad Cohen has made it, once again, to OUT magazine’s “Top 10 Eligible Bachelors” list.

2013 was Cohen’s most successful year as a party promoter. Through his startup business, Gayville — a (sort-of) gay interpretation of Airbnb.com — his “Papa” parties, which started in Tel Aviv, have taken off and Cohen has been travelling to New York, Paris and Sydney to make thousands of party people happy. In the next few weeks Eliad will also be traveling with his party to London, Rio and Singapore.

“The international success of the Papa Parties has a lot to do with the high-energy vibe that translates from music to show to theme to crowd interaction,” Cohen explained to the Australian magazine Star Observer this week. ” There is very much an interactive quality to the parties .No party is good without great music, so that’s always our number one concern.”

This isn’t the first time that Eliad Cohen has made OUT’s list: last year, the magazine’s readers ranked Cohen at #2, right after ‘Glee’ star Chris Colfer. The 2014 list was voted on by the magazine readers out of 100 potential gay bachelors.

Cohen is also far from the only Jewish guy to have made the list. American Idol alumnus Adam Lambert topped this year’s list, grabbing almost 22% of the votes. Actor Wentworth Miller (who came out as gay last year) was ranked at #9.

Other Jewish nominees who didn’t make the cut: Daniel Mendsohn, Billie Eichner, Ken Mehlman, Andy Cohen and Nate Silver.

Photo credit: Facebook/Eliad Cohen.

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Israeli Actress Odeya Rush to Star in 'Goosebumps'

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images
Odeya Rush

Move over, Gal Gadot. There’s a new Israeli taking Hollywood by storm — and she’s only 16.

Teenage actress Odeya Rush, who just wrapped filming for her role in “The Giver” alongside Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges, has reportedly landed the female lead in “Goosebumps.”

The movie, which also stars Jack Black, is an adaptation of the novels of R.L. Stine — you know, those terrifying books that used to make you check under the bed before climbing in (or still do —  no judgement here).

According to the Wrap, the 16-year-old will play niece to Black’s character, Mr. Shivers, an R.L. Stine-like author who is forced to hide from his scary literary creations when they jump off the page. Basically, your average “Goosebumps” plot.

Rush was born in Haifa, but grew up in the U.S. She was last seen in Disney’s “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” and has starred in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Law and Order, SVU.” Coming up: a role as the virgin Mary in a Jesus film starring Ben Kingsley and Julia Ormond.

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Natalie Portman Joins Israeli Push to Aid Syrian Refugees

By Jana Banin

(JTA) — We didn’t think it was humanly possible, but Natalie Portman has gone and inspired us yet again. This time, The Times of Israel reports, the actress, director, and adorable mom has donated money and clothing to Syrian refugees via Operation Human Warmth.

The initiative is the result of several Israeli organizations—the youth group Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed, the social and education organization Dror-Israel, and Israeli Flying Aid, a global humanitarian organization–coming together to collect winter supplies for those displaced by the civil war in Syria.

Portman, who who is currently in Israel working on her directorial debut, an adaptation of Amos Oz’s novel “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” learned of the project through Israeli friends.

“When I heard about Operation Human Warmth I felt deeply moved and compelled to get involved,” she said in a statement. “In the middle of a brutal winter, these children have no shelter and their lives are in serious jeopardy from the cold. I am proud to take part in an operation where Israeli youth of all backgrounds are taking action to help out those whom need it most.”

Portman is no stranger to the whole mitzvah thing. The Israeli-born do-gooder has served as an ambassador for the microfinance organization Finca, supported environmental causes, and encouraged teenage girls to pursue careers in science. Have we mentioned how much she inspires us?

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Amar'e Stoudemire's Off-Season Hobby

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Amar’e Stoudemire may have spent a little too much time around Israeli kibbutzim.

The New York Post reports that the New York Knicks player has bought a 190-acre farm in Hyde Park, Dutchess County.

According the Post, Stoudemire talkes about his new farm on a new MSG show, “In the Kitchen With,” which launches on February 7.

No details yet on whether or not Stoudemire plans to build a house on the property. Maybe he just wants an organic farm to grow vegetables for his upcoming cookbook, “Cooking With Amar’e — 100 Easy Recipes for Pros and Rookies in the Kitchen.” Co-written with personal chef Max Hardy, the book will be released in May. ‘

Let’s hope there’s a good recipe for brisket a la Amar’e.

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Scarlett Johansson's (Uncensored) SodaStream Super Bowl Ad

By Jana Banin

(JTA) — Scarlett Johansson’s decision to act as spokesperson for the Israeli firm SodaStream has been controversial from the get-go. Forget the debate over whether or not it’s okay to represent a company with a factory in the West Bank, or whether or not Oxfam should ditch her, though. That’s all just fluff. The real controversy, it turns out, stems from four words the Jewish actress utters in the home soda maker’s upcoming Super Bowl ad.

“Sorry, Coke and Pepsi,” Johansson says at the end of the spot.

Fox, the network airing the big game on Feb. 2, was apparently worried this wouldn’t sit well with Big Soda and asked SodaStream to drop the line. The company grudgingly cooperated, but the uncensored version lives, of course, on YouTube.

More dramatic than the soda slam, in our opinion, is the line Johansson delivers prior to shedding her lab coat, revealing a sexy dress. ”If only I could make this message go viral,” she says suggestively. That one will air on game day.

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Yair Netanyahu's Norwegian Girlfriend

By Daniel Treiman

(JTA) — The Israeli media is abuzz over the revelation that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 23-year-old son, Yair, is dating a non-Jewish Norwegian woman. The pair met while they were both studying at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

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