The Shmooze

Stephen Colbert’s Best Jewish Moments

By Hadas Margulies

Tonight marks the last episode of “The Colbert Report,” before Stephen Colbert takes his possibly Jewish self to “The Late Show.” So, as we wait for a Hannukah miracle to keep Colbert at his post, let’s look back on some of his most memorable Jewish moments.

April 8, 2009 was the day Colbert drew our attention to Birchat Hachama, “the moment when Jews believe the sun returns to the same position it had when God first created it 6,000 years ago…At which point, I assume, it collects $200.” Birchat Hachama had occurred only three times prior, each one before a Jewish victory. Fittingly, Colbert decides the time has come to free his Jews, and three actors in ancient Hebrew garb ascend from behind his desk to wander out of the studio in post-slavery stupors.

Nothing says “oy” like a Jon Stewart/Colbert pair-up… The two hosts have gotten together on many occasions, including the 2011 holiday special, where they perform a theatrical duet. Stewart presents Hannukah to Colbert as a “sensible alternative to Christmas.” Colbert declines, but still proves musically talented.

Courtesy of

Remember Thanksgivukkah 2013? Colbert did not appreciate the overlap in holidays. “How dare you, Hannukah?” he ranted “Hannukah celebrates the struggle of an oppressed peoples’ fight against invading conquerors, while Thanksgiving is about our healthy and nurturing relationship with the Indians.” Duh.

The Colbert Report
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6 Best Hanukkah Tchochkes on Etsy

By Anne Cohen

Everything looks better on Etsy — and Hanukkah is no different. From Dr. DreDels to the Menorahsaurus Rex — and Hanukkah’s answer to the traditional ugly Christmas sweater — here’s a roundup of some of the best stuff available.

Dr. DreDel

SillyReggie —  Etsy

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7 Reasons Jews Should See the New 'Hobbit' Movie

By Hody Nemes

Bilbo Baggins enters Smaug’s lair in ‘Desolation of Smaug’ // Courtesy: LOTR Wikia

I’m a Tolkienite and a lover of everything hobbit. There, I said it.

As a child, I read — and reread — all the hobbit-related books, painted the Misty Mountains, set a Tolkien poem to music, and played the “Lord of the Rings” Risk board game whenever I got the chance. Theoden’s speech at the Battle of Pelennor Fields, playing on loop, gave me the courage to write my senior thesis in college (“Forth, and fear no darkness! Arise, Riders of Theoden!”). Now I read the series over again almost every year.

For Jewish hobbit folk like me, this is a big week: “The Battle of the Five Armies” is hitting theaters — and on Hanukkah, no less.

Here are 7 Jewish reasons why you should join me in seeing the end of Bilbo’s quest on the silver screen:

1) Erebor is Israel.

When I was a child, my father read two books to me before bedtime: the Book of Joshua and “The Hobbit.” I loved both books and pleaded with him to keep reading long after I should have gone to sleep. The two have become muddled in my mind — and with good reason: both describe great battles (the Battle of the Five Armies and the Battle of Jericho, for starters), magical wizard leaders (Joshua and Gandalf, duh), treasure hunts, and — most importantly — exiled peoples reclaiming their lands.

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Jimmy Fallon Launches #HanukkahSongs

By Anne Cohen

It’s Hanukkah, or that time of the year that Jews listen enviously to Christmas songs, wishing we had something better than “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel.” Well, guys, Jimmy Fallon feels your pain.

Last Thursday, the “Tonight Show” host asked viewers to tweet out their Hanukkah-ized versions of famous songs. Here are some of our personal favorites:

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8 Best Hanukkah Videos of 2014

By Jason Miller

Rabbi Jason Miller, tech entrepreneur and blogger, has once again come up with a list of the best Hanukkah videos of the year on his blog.

Each year I put together a list of the best Hanukkah videos for the year and this year I’ve really narrowed the list to only the best of the best. What makes a great Hanukkah video? Is it the music? Is it the quality of the video? Both?

The best Hanukkah videos are usually song parodies of currently popular songs, but just because you come up with the idea for a Hanukkah song parody changing Ariana Grande’s “Love Me Harder” to a song about a Hanukkah menorah called “Light Me Longer” doesn’t mean you can write the lyrics, sing it well, and produce a video that will garner a million views on YouTube. Some of these videos aren’t song parodies about Hanukkah, but original songs or mashups of several Hanukkah songs.

So here are the best new Hanukkah videos for this year (and scroll to the bottom for a surprise from one of my favorite comedians, JB Smoove):

SIX13 — ”Shake It Off” (The Hanukkah Version)

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Joan Rivers Remembers Jewish Groups in Will


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Comedian Joan Rivers’ will left money to several charitable organizations to which she was connected.

Among the Jewish organizations which received bequests were the Jewish Guild for the Blind, Jewish Home and Hospital Foundation, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

The amount received by each organization is unknown, since they will be paid from a confidential trust, the New York Daily News reported Wednesday, citing papers filed in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court.

Rivers’ estate is worth an estimated $150 million. Rivers’ assistant Jocelyn Pickett reportedly received River’s four rescue dogs in a bequest. Daughter Melissa, the will’s executor, also received all of her mother’s personal property.

Rivers died at the age of 81 in September, a week after being rushed to Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Hospital after her heart stopped during throat surgery at a clinic. Doctors at the hospital put her in an induced coma from which she never awoke.

The newspaper reported that Melissa Rivers plans to file a wrongful death suit against Yorkville Endoscopy, the Upper East Side clinic which performed the surgery.

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Einstein to Marie Curie: 'Ignore the Trolls'

By Anne Cohen

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Trolls are the worst. Even Einstein said so.

A new trove of Albert Einstein letters put online this week has revealed a piece of correspondence in which the physicist gives some friendly advice to contemporary icon Marie Curie.

The gist? Haters gonna hate.

(The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein)

Despite a Nobel Prize for her work on radioactivity in January 1911, Curie faced widespread criticism. As Vox points out, this was likely due to her having, you know, women parts, and her atheist beliefs. Rumors that she was Jewish didn’t do anything to help in Dreyfuss affair-era France.

So, to anyone who has to deal with those “reptiles,” heed the wise words of Albert Einstein: “Don’t read that hogwash.”

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Paris Hilton Threatened by Man Who Thinks She's Jewish


American actress (using the term loosely here) and socialite Paris Hilton has been threatened on social media by a man who believes she is Jewish.

“I know ur Jew family gives nothing” and “KILL JEWS FOR FUN” are among the threats that have been left on the Instagram account of Hilton and her father, Rick, TMZ reported Tuesday. The man also has threatened to kill and rape Paris Hilton.

The family filed a report with the Los Angeles Police Department, which has obtained a search warrant to allow it to track down the Instagram and Facebook accounts of the man threatening them.

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Bibi's Youngest Son Joins the IDF

By Anne Cohen

Benjamin Netanyahu, Sara Netanyahu with sons Avner and Yair on election day in 2013 // Getty Images

Avner Netanyahu waved goodbye to mommy and daddy Netanyahu on Monday, as he began his military service in the Israel Defense Forces.

Proud papa Bibi was there to see his youngest son off, along with wife Sarah and son Yair, who has already completed his own military service. According to the Times of Israel, Avner was offered a position in the military’s media corps but chose to serve in a combat unit.

The Israeli prime minister, who served as an officer in the Sayeret Matkal commando unit, assured the other worried parents that really, he gets it. Keep calm and carry on.

“We are moved just like every mother and father who watch their son go off to the army,” he said. “We are full of pride and naturally worry. Everyone knows this, every home in Israel, and we are no different. I told Avner to take care of the state and to take care of himself.”

“I wish success to all the soldiers who are being inducted today and to all the parents who are feeling the way we do — calm down, it will be okay,” he added.

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Maccabee on the Mantel, For Jewish Tyke Who Has Everything

By Ed Rampell

Move over “Elf on the Shelf” — the “Maccabee on the Mantel” may be just the ticket for the Jewish child aged three to eight who has everything.

The 10-inch plush depicting a smiling, bearded, robe-, sandal- and helmet-clad ancient Maccabean warrior bearing a Star of David-emblazoned shield comes with an illustrated storybook that briefly explains Hanukkah’s origins and significance.

Manufactured by the Toy Vey! LLC, the Maccabee on the Mantel is the brainstorm of a Jewish mother, co-creator Abra Liberman Garrett, who explained in a phone call to Dallas how she hit upon the idea. As a teacher at the Temple Emanu-El pre-school in Dallas, her children received “a very Jewish experience.” But in 2008, when Garrett’s son Jackson began public school, the secular Texan institution didn’t observe any Jewish holidays, customs, etc. At the same time, the Garretts encountered Elf on the Shelf — an elfin doll-like toy who, Garrett said, “lives with a family prior to Christmas, gets into shenanigans, hides, moves from spot to spot around the house, and ‘reports’ the kids’ behavior back to Santa.”

Her son’s request of an Elf on the Shelf inspired Garrett to create a sort of Jewish version. “The thing is, we don’t have Santa Claus,” so the impish plush “didn’t make sense at our house.” However, Garrett’s then-five year old son and three year old daughter didn’t care about the toy’s religious tie-in. “I realized my kids were more excited about the prospect of waking up each day, finding it, looking for it, and that made a ton of sense to me, because I remember being so excited searching for the afikomen, one of my favorite parts of Passover,” recounted Garrett, who was born 1973 in Deerfield, Ill. and majored in communications and PR at the University of Texas, Austin.

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People Magazine Accidentally Declares Kirk Douglas Dead. He's Not.

By Anne Cohen

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Kirk Douglas will be celebrating his 98th birthday next week. But not according to People Magazine, who accidentally published the actor’s obituary on their website.

“DO NOT PUB Kirk Douglas Dies”

“Kirk Douglas, one of the few genuine box-office names to emerge just as TV was overtaking American culture in the years right after World War II, died TK TK TK,” the article said, with the “TK” referring to copy “to come.”

“He was 97 (DOB 12/9/1916) and had been in good health despite having suffered a debilitating 1996 stroke that rendered his speech difficult,” the article continued.

Well, that’s awkward. The Hollywood Reporter notes that the article is timestamped September 29, though it’s unclear when it was actually published on the magazine’s website.

To be fair to People, this is every news organization’s worst nightmare. At least Kirk Douglas knows that he will be remembered, even if it’s a little in advance.

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A 'Broad City' Guide To Surviving the Holiday Party

By Anne Cohen

Thanksgiving is over. The turkey leftovers have been sandwiched and your family has come and gone. And so starts the holiday season.

Dreading the usual slew of boring parties that you just can’t avoid? “Broad City”‘s Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer have some handy tips that will make the most dreary party seem like… well, a “Broad City” rager.

Number 1 rule? Avoid hipster libertarians. And drink aug nog. Lots of aug nog.

{h/t Heeb]

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4 Actors Who Had Nothing Better To Do Than Star in 'The Red Tent'

By Anne Cohen

What do you get when you combine Brody’s wife from “Homeland,” that guy from “Game of Thrones,” Minnie Driver in some kind of linen robe and the writers from the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”? Lifetime’s adaptation of “The Red Tent,”, a two part-miniseries set to air December 7 and 8.

Anita Diamant’s best-selling novel from 1997 tells the story of Jacob and Leah’s daughter Dinah, who only gets one sentence in the Bible (SPOILER ALERT: There was no rape of Dinah. It was actually all a big misunderstanding. Oops). Most of the action takes place in the eponymous red tent, where the women of Jacob’s tribe tap into their inner Sascha Fierce and dance to “All the Single Ladies” — or some Bible time version of that.

The trailer promises a lot: blood, sex, sandals — there’s something for everyone. But much like the trailer for “Exodus,” starring a very spray-tanned Christian Bale as Moses, I am left with one question: Why are these people all white?

Jacob, Leah, Rivka, Rachel — all nomadic desert folk. Joseph (as in technicolor dream coat) spends decades in Egypt all while retaining a pretty milky skin-tone. Once again, we seem to be in for the trope that white = good, while dark = shady and suspicious (I’m looking at you Simon and Levi).

In any case, the two-night event promises to be fun for those of us who enjoy watching talented actors slumming it on TV. Just because you star in a Oscar-winning movie or Emmy-nominated show, doesn’t mean you don’t have bills to pay.

1) Morena Baccarin as Rachel

Jessica Brody has moved on to better things. At least this guy isn’t a confused sometimes-terrorist who’s in love with a CIA agent.

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Forget Uber — Let Jewish Moms 'Schlep' You Around

By Anne Cohen

Imagine a world in which your car service is run by your worst Jewish mother stereotype nightmare…

…I’ll just pause for a moment so you can get over flashbacks of your own mom driving you to Hebrew school.

From the twisted minds at Elite Daily: “Schlep,” the Uber alternative run entirely by Long Island Jewish mothers. Hope you’re not in a hurry — drivers tend to be 15 minutes late.

[h/t Heeb]

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WATCH Rabbi Susan Silverman's Adoption Video

By Anne Cohen

It’s not often we get an “aww” moment courtesy of Sarah Silverman, but this definitely qualifies.

The comedian took to Twitter on Monday to share a video of her sister, Reform rabbi Susan Silverman, greeting her adoptive son Adar for the first time (Bonus: shots of Sarah Silverman as a proud auntie!)

Susan Silverman, Sarah’s older sister and a member of Women of the Wall, moved to Jerusalem in 2006. She and her husband Yosef Abramowitz have five children, two of whom were adopted from Ethiopia. You can read more about her work on international adoption here.

In the meantime, check out the family’s “Happy Adoption Day” video. Tissues recommended.

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Monica Lewinsky Won't Change Her Last Name

By Anne Cohen

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So, Monica Lewinsky won’t be changing her last name. (In case you were up last night wondering.)

In an interview with Porter Magazine focusing on Lewinsky’s return to public life after 16 years of silence, and her recent campaign against cyber bullying, the 41-year-old was adamant that she never considered changing her name.

“No one else in the investigation had to change their name. Why should I? I use aliases at times to protect my privacy, but I’m not ashamed of who I am.”

Despite the brave front, the woman who referred to herself as “Patient zero: the first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the Internet,” admits that she’s had trouble maintaining a sense of privacy.

“For a long time I didn’t realize the implication of simple things, like looking for an apartment,” she said. “Now when I fill out a form I have to think, ‘Will somebody go to the press with my private information?’”

You be you, Monica. You be you.

Check out the full interview, plus a photo shoot by photographer Bjorn Iooss, in Porter Magazine on newsstands Friday.

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Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Talk Talmud

By Anne Cohen

It was a Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert lovefest last night as the comedian appeared on “The Colbert Report” to promote his new film, “Rosewater.”

Colbert, who let’s remember, got his start on “The Daily Show,” threatened to expose some dark secrets about what goes on behind closed doors. Jon Stewart’s response was to do a pretty impeccable Jewish sage impression.

“I’m going to say something to you, and you know this,” Stewart quipped. “Behind closed doors I only quote rabbinical texts. You know that. There is no dark secret, there is no hidden agenda, I am merely an arbiter of biblical law.”

Laughing, he added: “If you want to have a Talmudic discussion, I’m happy to have it.”

Please comedy gods, make it so.

Watch the whole clip below.

[h/t Tablet]

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Stacy London Wants to Give You a 'Make-Under'

By Anne Cohen

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Dust off those 360 degree mirrors, ladies — Stacy London is back to clean out your closet.

The co-host of TLC’s “What Not to Wear,” which ended in 2013 after a 10-season run(RIP) has signed on for a new show, People Magazine reports. And yes, it’s still fashion-focused.

Called “Love, Lust, or Run,” the new series shows London giving “make-unders” to women who just have waaay too much going on in the makeup/clothes department (I nominate Snookie!).

“I’m super excited to be back,” London told people. “I was burnt out after What Not to Wear. It was a good amount of time for me to take off. I rested and did a lot of traveling, it was amazing!”

“It was an easy thing to say yes to,” she added about her new show “Everyone here is like family and it felt like the right time.”

“Love, Lust, or Run” premieres Jan. 23 at 9 p.m. on TLC.

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Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Racist Jokes

By Anne Cohen

If you’re anything like me, you spent a good part of the early aughts nose deep in a truly depressing series of books.

I’m referring of course, to “A Series of Unfortunate Events” which tells the woeful tale of a trio of orphan siblings trying to escape the clutches of the devious Count Olaf. Well now, Jewish author Daniel Handler, who wrote the books under the pen name Lemony Snicket, has his own very real series of unfortunate events to write home about.

At a ceremony announcing the winners of the National Book Award last night, Handler made an unfortunate joke while presenting the award for young people’s literature to Jacqueline Woodson, a black woman and author of “Brown Girl Dreaming.”

I told you! I told Jackie she was going to win. And I said that if she won, I would tell all of you something I learned this summer, which is that Jackie Woodson is allergic to watermelon. Just let that sink in your mind.

And I said you have to put that in a book. And she said, you put that in a book. And I said I am only writing a book about a black girl who is allergic to watermelon if I get a blurb from you, Cornell West, Toni Morrison, and Barack Obama saying,”This guy’s okay. This guy’s fine.”

The offensive attempt at humor referenced a racist trope that black people like watermelon. The backlash was almost instantaneous.

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Justin Bieber Hangs With L.A. Rabbi


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Pop star Justin Bieber spent three hours meeting with a rabbi in Los Angeles.

Bieber on Wednesday visited the Westside Jewish Community Center, the celebrity news website reported.

The singer “is on a spiritual journey,” according to X17, and reportedly has stopped using drugs and gotten rid of his entourage.

Bieber reportedly was scheduled to spend two weeks with a Christian pastor but apparently cut short his visit. The Christian Post reported that he was “learning how to spread the Word of God.”

Though raised primarily in his mother’s Christian faith, Bieber’s has a connection to the Tribe through his on-again-off-again father, Jeremy, who is Jewish. The pair snapped a pic while on a 2011 trip to Israel, showcasing their matching Hebrew tattoos.

In April 2013, Bieber was criticized for writing in the guestbook at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam that he hoped she “would have been a Belieber.” He visited the museum before playing a concert in nearby Arnhem.

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