The Shmooze

Say It With Nutella — Unless You're Jewish

By Anne Cohen

Courtesy of Nutella

You might want to reconsider those Nutella-filled hamentaschen this year.

The beloved purveyor of spreadable chocolate hazelnut goodness has banned certain words from its “Say it With Nutella” campaign, which allows people to customize their jar labels. This policy would be totally understandable if the list of so-called inappropriate words didn’t also include “Jewish,” “lesbian,” and “Muslim,” alongside reasonable options like “Hitler,” “poop” and various controversial sex acts.

For some reason, “Gay” and “Christian,” are both good to go.

In a statement, Ferrero (Nutella’s parent company) said that “negative or insulting messages were directly removed from the field of possibilities, the idea being to use the jar of Nutella as a communication medium to share enthusiasm … similarly, words of communities that are often subject to attacks by malicious people were removed from the proposals.”

For the record, “palm oil,” the controversial fat that makes Nutella taste like heaven on toast, is also banned.

Click here for the full list of banned words.

[h/t Grubstreet]

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My Memories of Leonard Nimoy, Yiddish-Speaking Vulcan

By Masha Leon

I first met Leonard Nimoy — a.k.a. Spock from the hit TV series “Star Trek,” who died today at 83 on February 27, 2015 — when as a celebrity at the 1973 American Booksellers Convention in Anaheim, California. He stopped by my publishing company’s exhibit booth.

A distant Litvak cousin of my mother’s from Grodno Gubernie (Byten-Slonim) in what is now Belarus, he became a friend and would later be showcased in several of my columns.

Masha Leon and Leonard Nimoy, 1973 // Karen Leon

At the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre’s June 12, 2003 “Broadway Salutes Yiddish” Gala, Nimoy recalled his audition for Maurice Schwartz — actor/director who founded the Yiddish Art Theater. Nimoy joshed, “Schwartz’s wife said: ‘He looks like a goy!’ But when I replied in Yiddish, Schwartz nearly fainted. I got the job.” That night Nimoy sang Itzik Manger’s “Oyfn Veg Sheyt a Boym” (On The Road Stands A Tree) then offered the Vulcan split-finger parting gesture which, he explained, “I first saw as a boy in shul.”

My favorite handwritten Nimoy letter dated August 12, 1994 — on stationery headed Susan Bay Nimoy & Leonard Nimoy reads:

Dear Masha:

Thank you so much or your letter and columns. It means a lot to me to find myself in print in my Zeide’s favorite paper!

I read and enjoy your columns regularly! I was touched by your piece about the your father and totally agree that it was a pity that “only 600 supporters saw the National Foundation for Jewish Culture Awards.

Zei gezunt,
Leonard Nimoy

At the October 9, 2013 American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s benefit at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, Nimoy was “beamed” onto the stage and set forth the IPO’s remarkable evolution from its 1933 nascence in Palestine — including a reference to violinist Bronislaw Huberman’s vision to bring Jewish
Courtesy of Masha Leon
Letter from Leonard Nimoy to Masha Leon
musicians from Europe to safety to its present world-class prominence.

A visibly fragile Nimoy left the stage and did not remain, as he had at past events, to mingle with the guests.

With my Nimoy correspondence I found the following Interview that appeared in a blurb from Publishers Weekly — possibly in conjunction with his 1973 ABA appearance: “By the time I was cast as the alien “Spock” in “Star Trek,” I had appeared in several other science fiction vehicles I usually played aliens. I suppose the reason was that I simply didn’t fit the image of the clean-cut astronaut from Terra. Whatever the explanation, I was happy to get the work… There is something very protective, very territorial that lives in the breast of the science fiction reader. Probably that accounts for the outpouring of mail to NBC, which resulted in “Star Trek” being continued for a third season. Many TV station managers have told me they’d rather not answer the phone when they take “Star Trek” off their rerun schedule.

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Katy Perry Visits Auschwitz

By Anne Cohen

Katy Perry took a break from the European leg of her “Prismatic World Tour” to visit Auschwitz on Wednesday. The pop star posted shared a picture of the concentration camp with her 15 million Instagram followers with the following caption:

“My heart was heavy today.
For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where the Nazi murdered about one and a half million men, women and children mainly Jews from various countries of Europe.
Auschwitz - Birkenau
1940-1945
‘>The one that does not remember history is bound to live through it again’ — George Santayana”

No selfies were involved, and for this we are thankful.

Instagram/Katy Perry

[h/t Tablet]

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Monica Lewinsky's Life Has Been Turned Into a Mini-Series

By Anne Cohen

Remember when Monica Lewinsky tried to put that whole Bill Clinton scandal behind her by moving to Manhattan and starting her own handbag line?

Well, now the whole saga has been immortalized in a new 6-part DIY mini-series, the Fader reports.

The series, directed by Doron Max Hagay, seems loosely based on New York Magazine’s 2002 profile, “Monica Takes Manhattan,” which showed Lewinsky struggling with the Big Question: How does one get over being notorious? (Apparently, there’s a lot of yoga involved.)

“The obvious route of representing Monica as a joke or vixen was an appealing aspect of her story to play against, and once I began to ask questions in the process of figuring out the story, complexities began to emerge,” Hagay told the Fader. “I began to empathize with Monica, whom I saw as gravely hurt and misunderstood. I love melodrama, especially the films of Douglas Sirk, so crafting a narrative with a female protagonist whose desire to control her destiny and regain a semblance of normalcy, which fits in in the intensely emotional realm of melodrama, was exciting to me.”

The first episode (below) shows actress Lily Marotta (as Lewinsky) arriving in the West Village wearing her signature beret. For more, check out the project’s website here.


{h/t FADER]

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Marisa Tomei Will Play Gloria Steinem in New HBO Series

By Anne Cohen

Oscar winner Marisa Tomei will be playing Gloria Steinem in a new HBO-series produced by George Clooney. (Yes, that’s a lot of big names. Take a minute to process.)

The project, which will also star Kathy Najimy, will reportedly be set in 1971, during the early days of Ms. Magazine. The story will be told both from the perspective of the founders of the iconic magazine, and also through the narratives of women’s whose lives were changed by the Women’s Movement. According to the Wrap, Steinem will be a consultant on the show.

Najimy will play Bella Abzug, who joined Steinem in founding the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971. Bruce Cohen, George Clooney and Grant Heslov will executive-produce with Najimy and Tomei.

Tomei previously worked alongside Clooney and Heslov in “The Ides of March.” She won an Oscar in 1992 for her performance in “My Cousin Vinny.”

Can I just say, this show sounds AWESOME. Can’t wait.

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Would You Let Your Jewish Grandpa on Tinder?

By Anne Cohen

You’ve heard about Jewish moms hijacking their kids’ JDate accounts — but what about grandfathers taking one for the team on Tinder?

Jewish Youtuber Ethan Cole wasn’t having much luck with the ladies. So he asked his 89-year-old zayde, Joe, for help. The plan? The pair would create a Tinder profile using a somewhat outdated picture of Joe, who would then take the lucky women out for a night on the town. Once things got weird — as they tend to do when an old guy shows up for your date — Ethan would swoop in and save the day.

What could possibly go wrong?

[h/t Mashable]

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Jon Stewart's 18 Most Jewish Moments

By Hilary Saunders

Jon Stewart announced last night that after 16 years, he will be leaving Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. Born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, the news host/comedian has always infused a bit of Judaism into his satire. From the scathing to the self-deprecating, from the educational to the historical, Stewart has managed to reference his people in ways that make fellow Jews knowingly laugh with him, without ostracizing others. So in honor of Stewart’s storied career and his continued success in life, we’ve found 18 hilarious instances he honored, teased, and stood up for our people. L’chaim, Jon. L’chaim.

1) November 2, 2006 – Borat Sagdiyev


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Joan Rivers 'Haunted' Pad on Market for $28M

By Anne Cohen

Corcoran Group

Got a cool $28 million to spare? You could be living in Joan River’s swanky apartment, complete with four-bedrooms, 4¹/₂-bathrooms, five fireplaces and a 23-foot-high sky-blue ceiling. And, oh yeah, the ghost of J.P. Morgan’s niece.

Yes, you read right. the late comedian was so convinced that her apartment was haunted that she brought in Sallie Ann Glassman, a Jewish voodoo priestess from New Orleans, to exorcise the spirit.

“It was just very strange,” Rivers told “Celebrity Ghost Stories” in a 2009 episode. “The apartment was cold. I could never get any of my electrical things to work correctly.”

When she complained to the doorman, he said: “I guess Mrs. Spencer is back.”

The 5,000 square-foot penthouse occupies the top three floors of a seven-story Gilded Age mansion at 1 East 62nd Street. Built in 1903) by John Drexel, the house was converted into condos in the 1930s. Rivers purchased the apartment in 1988.

If gold ceilings and gaudy crystal chandeliers are your thing, then this place is definitely for you. “It’s what Marie Antoinette would have done if she had money,” Rivers once joked. The Louis XIV-inspired ballroom has hosted the likes of Nancy Reagan, Steve Forbes, Martha Stewart and Regis Philbin.

Check out the pictures below:


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10 Jewish Designers to Know at New York Fashion Week

By Elyssa Goodman

This week, fashionistas will flutter through Lincoln Center, Soho, and Chelsea to see what designers have in mind for their Fall/Winter 2015 collections at New York Fashion Week, beginning on Thursday, February 12 and ending next Thursday, February 19. What you may not know, though, is that some of the hottest emerging and established designers are also members of the tribe! Take a look below to learn more about some great Jewish voices in fashion design today.

Rachel Antonoff

Rachel Antonoff began her line in Spring 2009, but since then has established a cult-like following with today’s “it girls,” like Alexa Chung and Aubrey Plaza, the latter of whom was the model for her Spring 2014 collection look book. Antonoff’s designs are feminine and vintage-inspired, with sprightly patterns and soft shapes.


Yigal Azrouel

Azrouel, who launched his line in 1998, has been participating in New York Fashion Week since 2000. He was born in Israel, of French-Moroccan Jewish descent. Azrouel is known for “an effortless tough-chic style,” which includes draping and structural details. He regularly donates to charities like UJA-Federation of New York and JFS Heart and Soul, among others.


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Are You Ready to Call Saul?

By Anne Cohen

Courtesy of AMC

Good news “Breaking Bad” fans. On Sunday, our favorite slightly shady, Jewish-impersonating legal mind, Saul Goodman, will be making his comeback on TV and computer screens everywhere.

I’m referring to the premiere of “Better Call Saul,” which airs in two parts on Sunday, February 8 and Monday, February 9 on AMC.

The spinoff stars “Breaking Bad“‘s Bob Odenkirk as James McGill a.k.a. Saul Goodman —  “The Jew thing I just do for the homeboys. They all want a pipe-hitting member of the tribe, so to speak,” he informs a confused Walter White.

When we first meet Saul (in season 2, episode 8), he’s an already an established defender of the underworld, known for his low-budget ads. (“I had a good job until my boss accused me of stealing… I better call Saul!”)

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Natalie Portman Ruins Her Wedding in Dior Ad

By Anne Cohen

Natalie’s back!

The new ad for Dior fragrances stars our girl Natalie Portman in what is honestly the most beautiful wedding dress I have ever seen (drool). “It’s Miss, Actually,” directed by Anton Corbijn, shows Miss Dior on her wedding day. But here’s the twist: in what is every Jewish parent’s nightmare, she gets cold feet halfway down the aisle, dumps what we assume is a nice Jewish boy, and hitches a helicopter ride to Paris with her lover, all set to Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart.”

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Haim Don't Care About Your Mean Tweets

By Anne Cohen

Jimmy Kimmel’s “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” never gets old. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s simple: famous people sit down and read what the trolls of the Internet have to say about them. Out loud. The latest edition features musicians: Wiz Khalifa, Britney Spears, Blake Shelton, Lady Gaga, and our favorites, Jewish girl band Haim.

Este, Danielle and Alana Haim had what we deem the best reaction in “Mean Tweets” history.

Responding to @showmethesign’s, “Let’s face it, the girls from Haim are ugly as f—k and perform like they’re orgasming,” Alana quips: “I kind of like that.”

Suck it haters.

As an aside, Drake, also a member of the tribe, has an excellent sad face. Don’t worry, we don’t think that “Drake looks like Voldemort with hair.”

Speaking of those who hate, hate, hate, Haim will be touring with Taylor Swift on her 1989 World Tour. We can’t wait, wait, wait.

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Gay Marriage Isn't Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp, Mike Huckabee

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Forget that same-sex marriage is now legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Mike Huckabee thinks that forcing people opposed to gay marriage to accept it is like “asking somebody who’s Jewish to start serving bacon-wrapped shrimp in their deli.”

Right. Those Jews, they don’t eat things like seafood and pork. I’m with you there, Mike. For the sake of argument, let’s let him continue.

“We’re not going to do that,” the former Baptist minister told CNN, adding: “We’re not going to ask a Muslim to serve up, ah, something that is offensive to him, to have dogs in his backyard.”

Okaaaay…

“We’re so sensitive to make sure we don’t offend certain religions, but then we act like Christians can’t have the convictions that they have had for over 2,000 years.”

In the words of Jon Stewart, that “makes no f—king sense.”

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Is Patriots Wide Receiver Julian Edelman Jewish?

By Gabe Friedman

Getty Images

JTA — During the Super Bowl Sunday night, many Jews across the country no doubt had the same question: Is Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman Jewish?

Edelman had an excellent game Sunday night, catching nine passes for 109 yards and a touchdown in New England’s dramatic comeback victory over the Seattle Seahawks. He also happens to have a Jewish-sounding name. But is he actually a member of the tribe?

While his father has Ashkenazi roots, this is what Edelman had to say on the topic on a media day before his previous Super Bowl appearance with the Patriots in 2012:

“Well, I’m not completely Jewish, if you know what I mean. I know people want me to be. My father is Jewish. My mother isn’t. I’ve been asked this before. I guess you could say I’m kind of Jewish but not really.”

For the record, while traditional Jews believe one must have a Jewish mother or convert in order to be considered Jewish, both Reform and Reconstructionist Jews recognize patrilineal descent.

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How About a Kosher Super Bowl Half Time Show?

By Gabe Friedman

Getty Images

From Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” in 2004 to rapper M.I.A.’s middle finger to the camera in 2012, the Super Bowl Halftime Show has not been very kosher in recent years. The halftime show, which usually features some of the most popular musical acts in the world, is often a spectacle of scantily clad dancers and songs that reference sex.

Last year pop singer Bruno Mars and the rock band the Red Hot Chili Peppers played a reasonably family-friendly set, but this year’s headliner, Katy Perry, will most likely bring the show back into familiar territory.

For those looking for a more family-friendly (or a more Jewish) alternative to the usual halftime show antics, Orthodox radio host Nachum Segal provides a solution: the second annual “Kosher Halftime Show.”

Since 1983, Segal, the son of Rabbi Zev Segal, has hosted “Jewish Moments in the Morning” for WFMU 91.1 FM, a Jersey City-based radio station. His usual show includes music (from Hasidic rock to modern Israeli and klezmer music), Jewish and Israeli news, and guest interviews. He calls his longstanding show a “Jewish radio empire.”

This year’s “Kosher Halftime Show,” to be streamed on nachumsegal.com, will feature the jam band Soulfarm, whose co-founder C. Lanzbom has worked with Pete Seeger and Shlomo Carlebach.

“There are many families that enjoy watching the game together, but when the halftime show starts they are uncomfortable,” Segal said in a press release, which also estimates that last year’s show drew over 10,000 viewers.

Nevertheless, for those who are going to stay on the couch for the duration of the normal ceremonies, there will still be at least one Jewish element to the normal Super Bowl this year: Jewish singer Idina Menzel, known for her lead roles in “Frozen” and “Wicked,” will sing the national anthem to kick off the game.

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Wait, Johnny Depp Wants to Be a Mohel?

By Anne Cohen

It looks like Johnny Depp is just as depressed about his acting career as you are.

During an appearance on Israeli TV show, “Erev Tov With Guy Pines.” the “Mortdecai” actor revealed that he’s been considering a change of pace to become… a mohel?

Thanks to Tablet for pointing out the fantastic exchange below:

Host: “Johnny, you heard of Purim?”

Johnny Depp: “No, but I can tell you that I have given serious though to becoming a…”

Host: “A Jew?”

Johnny Depp: “A mohel”

Paul Bettany (also there to promote the movie): “Like an emergency mohel”

Johnny Depp: “That’s it. It’s more like an on-call mohel.”

Let’s just get this straight: the man who played Edward Scissorhands wants to do your bris? Looks like Tim Burton might have a plot for his new movie.


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9 Jewish Things To Watch If You're Snowed In

By Anne Cohen

If you’re on the East Coast right now, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re hunkered down with a fridge full of food and a couple of extra blankets. So, what better time to catch up on all those shows and movies you’ve been meaning to see?

Here are a couple of our more Jewish suggestions:

1) The Honourable Woman

This 8-part mini-series/Middle East thriller won Maggie Gyllenhaal a Golden Globe this year. Gyllenhaal plays Nessa Stein, an Anglo-Israeli businesswoman, hiding a dark secret.

Available on Netflix


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What My Jewish Mom Thinks About Deflate-Gate

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Most Jewish boys just call their moms. Josh Seftel turned his chats into a web series.

Every week, the New York filmmaker Facetimes his mom in Sarasota, Florida. After covering the basics, the conversation always segways into to Pat’s favorite subject: celebrity gossip. Over the past year, they’ve tackled some of the great questions of our time: Is it morally kosher to eat Paula Deen’s fried chicken? Is Denzel Washington aging well? Will Lena Dunham’s tattoos prevent her from getting a Jewish burial?

This week was no exception: the shocking(?) revelation that 11 of the 12 balls used during the New England Patriots’ win against the Indianapolis Colts were under-inflated by 2 pounds — leading to the inevitable “Tom Brady’s deflated balls” jokes — just screamed for a Jewish mother’s perspective.

Watch Pat Seftel weigh in on the Patriots, deflate-gate and why she would definitely date Tom Brady:

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I.B. Singer's Wife Alma Dishes About His Women

By Masha Leon

After a screening of “The Muses of Isaac Bashevis Singer,” I replied to a chutzpedik questioner: “Isaac never hit on me!” A frequent visitor in the 1930s to my parents’ Leszno 6 one-room home in Warsaw when I was toddler, I reconnected with him in New York in the 1960s when he and my father were both Forverts contributors.

In 1973, when the Jewish studies Department of Queens College offered “The Novels of I .B. Singer With The Author Present,” I was in that SRO classroom. We read a novel a week. In an attempt to impress Singer, students parsed his characters through Freudian/Jungian filters. Sitting in a chair, facing the awe struck class, Singer shrugged: “I create a karakter un der karakter does vat der karakter vants.” Apropos his heroes’ romantic appetites and roamings, he said: “A man can have as many liaisons [and illegitimate] children as he wants–but not so a woman!”

After his Nobel Prize for Literature brouhaha in 1978, I told his wife Alma — who spoke no Yiddish who with Singer had been dinner guests at our home–that she, too, deserved a moment in the spotlight. Isaac was out when we schmoozed at their 86th Street apartment where her daughter Inga, from her first marriage, served me babka.

Masha Leon with Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1973 // Photo credit: Joseph Leon

“How do you feel about all the women who come onto him?” I ventured. “Thank God, now it’s mostly platonic,” she replied. The conversation covered stories that would have been grist for a Yiddish“Page 6.” Alma spoke of her supporting Singer after she left her first husband and two children for the skinny poor Yiddish writer. “Does he take your advice?” I asked. “And how!” “Do you act as his buffer?” Alma sighed: “He does not let me through, but I feel he absolutely overdoes it with interviews.”

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Bacon Scratch-and-Sniff Lottery Tickets Are Here!

By Anne Cohen

Thinkstock

What’s better than winning $1,000? Winning $1,000 while smelling bacon.

At least, that’s what New Hampshire wants you to think.

According to The New York Post, the state lottery has launched a special “scratch and sniff ‘I Heart Bacon’ ticket” this month.

Players “will think it’s time for Saturday morning breakfast,” Lottery Commission Executive Director Charlie McIntyre told the Post.

So basically, not only does New Hampshire want you to smell bacon — they want you to smell it on Shabbat?!

That’s not the end of it — to promote the product, the New Hampshire Lottery has announced a “bacon truck” that will drive around offering free applewood bacon samples, filling the air with more pork products.

Ok treyf, you win — this time.

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