The Shmooze

Egypt's Richest Man Buys Edgar Bronfman's NYC Penthouse for $70M

By Anne Cohen

And the record for most expensive co-op ever sold in New York City goes to… Nassef Sawiris.

The richest man in Egypt, reportedly worth roughly $7 billion dollars (and ranked as 193rd richest person in the world by Forbes) has purchased 960 Fifth avenue, previously owned by the late billionaire Edgar Bronfman, Sr., who died in December at age 84, Curbed reports.

The price? A whopping $70 million. In cash.

The 16-room apartment, which includes five bedrooms and eight bathrooms, complete with a wraparound terrace overlooking Central Park, is said to be one of the most prestigious addresses in New York City. But Nawiris may have to pull a Moses and part the Dead Sea of furniture (so many Exodus jokes, so little time) if he wants to actually live in his new dream pad. The Real Deal points out that the penthouse — or really, let’s just say it: PALACE — needs to be gut renovated, but my guess is that Sawiris, who heads Orascom Construction Industries, Egypt’s most valuable publicly traded company, has some spare change to throw around.

The previous record for the most expensive co-op was set by David Geffen, when he bought 785 Fifth Avenue for $54 million in 2012.

Here’s a glimpse of what you could buy if you had $70 million lying around. For the jaw-dropping views, head over to Curbed.



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Samuel L. Jackson Celebrates Israel Day

By Anne Cohen

Remember that time Samuel L. Jackson celebrated Israel Day and broke the Internet?

The actor posted a selfie of himself in front of the Israel Day festivities on Fifth Avenue on Sunday, casually causing the Internet to implode. Amidst the usual thread comments celebrating Sam’s glorious badassery — ”Another perfect Sam selfie” — one could also find comments like these:

The picture caused a Twitter firestorm as supporters of the Jewish state defended Israel against its detractors:

Sam, as is his habit once mischief is managed, stayed silent.

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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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Jewish Museum's Purim Ball: A Rap and Twitter Spiel

By Masha Leon

“It’s hard to imagine that we sold out The Armory!” beamed Claudia Gould Director of the Jewish Museum at its February 26 Purim Ball which raised a record $2.5 million.

More than 1,000 festive donors dined on a fabulous meal beneath a ceiling installation of 3,000 T-shirts with such imprints as: “I Love Esther” and “Got Spiel?”

Honoree Anshu Jain, co-chief executive officer of Deutsche Bank, was introduced by BlackRock, Inc. president Robert Kapito, who said, “Queen Esther was a Jewish queen over what was part of modern day India… and Ahasuerus reigned from Hodu to Kush which is the Biblical word for India.” Jain affirmed his familiarity with the Jewish community noting that Indian tradition also hones to “twin views of praise and guilt.”

Claudia Gould and Jessica Williams// Photo by Karen Leon.

Purimspieler Jessica Williams, a correspondent on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with John Stewart,” greeted the guests with: “Hey everybody! Hope you are ready for this, ‘cause it’s about to go down tonight…. There’ll be a lot of Twitter and Facebook and Instagram…. To all the older people — good luck!”

Delivered in Rap and Twitterese, Ahasuerus is King Aha-Tsurus, “the biggest rapper in the U.S., whose crew is De Persian Statesmen who won a lot of Grammys and hangs out with Warren Buffet. King lives with wife “Vashti Knowles” aka “Queen V [Beyonce], so popular she sang at President Obama’s” Inauguration. Theirs is a “life of fame, glamour and of course — anti-Semitism…. Aha-Tsurus has a beef with a Jewish gang, The Jew Tang Clan — a gang not to be messed with… It was rumored that the Jew Tang Clan killed [two major rappers] so he vowed to make the Jew Tang Clan his sworn enemies…. Aha-Tsurus was famous for anti-Semitic lyrics like, ‘What you not a fan, got murdered like the Jew Tang Clan…homey lookin’ real skittish, whatsa matter with you at least you don’t speak Yiddish.”

Photo by Karen Leon.

According to Williams’ hip-hop spiel “Aha-Tsurus held a party with a lot of twerking strippers — ‘who don’t count as humans’— and tweets Vashti to get her “booty butt’” over to his 50-50 Club. No! He divorces her. The king needs a new “Boo” and orders his crew “’Go find me the flyest girl but she can’t be Jewish or from the Jew Tang Clan.” Mordechai, aka Mordy, appears as rapper and a former Jew Tang Clan alum. As for his adoptee Esther, Williams informs: “She has the advantage of being racially androgynous, not unlike [Grammy–winning] Bruno Mars.

King falls for yoga-loving Esther. Another rapper — Haman West — a member of the Persian Statesmen and “a lot like Kanye West, hates and attacks Mordy. Esther “comes out of the Jewish closet” to save Mordy, the members of the Jew Tang Clan and herself. Haman gets exiled to his wife’s Kardashian-like reality show. King is no longer anti-Semitic, makes amends “with the Jew Tang Clan and others like “Jew Live Crew” and “The Old Money Boys.”

Williams concluded: “Esther is totally bummed she could not make it [here tonight] and ”she tweeted me to tell you that tonight celebrate goofy Jewish Halloween in her honor.”

Then came the after party and every guest left with a fun white T-shirt with the imprint “Body by Hamentaschen.”

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Robert Farber Photo Show Opens

By Masha Leon

Opening night of internationally renowned photographer Robert Farber’s solo exhibition “Farberesque: From Pensive to Provocative” by 3 West Project 57 Cavalier Gallery (next door to Bergdorf-Goodman) was an uber trendy New York happening. Adding sizzle to the 400-strong crowd were — what I call “tree tall” those extraordinarily leggy stunners who mingled with the international crowd of collectors, prominent figures in art, fashion, finance and beauty. Lots of hugging and kissing, with Farber admirers anxious to be photographed with the artist who seemed to be having the time of his life.

The wine flowed and the chatter din was several decibels above deafening. Among the cadre of major collectors was Monarch Wealth Management’s Barry Klarberg, a member of the Super Bowl Host Committee who, I was told, stopped by between NFL activities to admire Farber’s famous nudes, fashion montages and images of New York City. Among a cadre of young collectors: Sara Leibovitz, Chantel and Marcel Goodman, Bill Goodman and Maria Anna Goess.

Photo courtesy of Karen Leon.

The first time I met Farber about a year ago at an earlier exhibit at his atelier, he told me “I came to photography through painting…. My first show was in [New York’s] Washington Square where a woman came up to me and asked ‘Are these paintings or photographs?’ When I replied ‘photographs,’ she told me to leave!” The highlight of his success, he said was when Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis saw his work. “I showed photographs, a lot of my Riviera work, and she said ‘Let’s take pictures all over and do a book, ‘By the Sea.’” After its publication, Farber said, “she sent me a handwritten note, ‘Dear Robert’ followed by a typed letter thanking me for the book. It was signed ‘Best, J’ and was dated February 29, 1984. It was Leap Year and my birthday!” Farber added: “That book was in her estate auction and was bought for $48,000!”

Karen Leon
Robert Farber

Among the crush of collectors and must-see-and-be-seen crowd — philanthropist Jean Shafiroff, Baroness Sheri de Brochgrave, journalist and author Rita Cosby, art dealer and publisher Ian Shapolsky and power attorney, philanthropist David Hryck who someone mentioned was “a tax lawyer to stars.”

Farber and gallery owner Ron Cavalier appropriated a portion of the sales from the entire run of the exhibit (through February 26) to go to the National Meningitis Association, his favorite charity. The evening’s guest hosts included NMA president Lynn Bozof and NMA Gala chairs Klarberg, Sara Herbert Galloway, Errol Rappaport and Gary Springer.

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JDaters, Are You Ready to 'Get Chosen'?

By Anne Cohen

Are you ready to “Get Chosen?”

That’s what JDate is asking in its new ad campaign, which made its grand debut in New York City’s Times Square on Thursday.

The ads come to you courtesy of Terri & Sandy Solution, a New York-based advertising firm, who created the campaign based on Jewish humor and culture. As Sandy Greenberg, one of the firm’s co-founders, told the New York Times: “We don’t care if non-Jews don’t get this work.”

The campaign reportedly cost between $2 and $3 million dollars, according to the Times. The Pew Research Center’s 2013 survey on American Jews showed that the intermarriage rate among non-Orthodox Jews who had wed since 2000, was 71%. Among Jews of no-religion, who identify culturally as Jewish but are not religious, that number rose to 78%.

Some of the taglines include: “Find someone who shares your love of gefilte fish;” More Jews than a Chinese restaurant on Christmas;” “Meet someone who wasn’t on your Birthright trip;” and our personal favorite (not), “6,000 years of persecution just so you can go on Match.com?” (see above.)

Oy.

Photo Courtesy of Terri & Sandy Solutions

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Shalom Michael Bloomberg!

By Masha Leon

The first time I met former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg was at Brighton Beach’s September 9, 2001 “HIAS DAY” (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) — a day-long celebration at which some 45,000 — mostly Russian émigrés — enjoyed concerts, sporting activities, gymnastics and chess competitions. “Kto eto cheloviek?” (who is that guy?) I overheard a chess player ask his partner near the stage area. Without looking up, the other shrugged. Standing next to very tall N.Y. State Governor George Pataki, Bloomberg, in shirtsleeves, seemed very reserved. “Yivrey?” — a Jew? — a woman asked me. “Da” I replied. It was two days before 9/11!

I have chosen the following standouts from twelve years’ of Bloomberg sightings as presenter, honoree or keynote speaker.

Karen Leon

At the September 9, 2003 Jewish Community Relations Council of New York dinner, a just returned from Israel Bloomberg said he “rode buses and visited victims of terror.” He urged “send letters to the president [and] thank him for standing up against terrorism whatever your political stripe.” The evening included a video tribute to NYC Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly set to the soundtrack of “The Gladiator.’” Kelly thanked Bloomberg for his support of the Police Department’s measures to protect “Jewish neighborhoods and synagogues.”

At the JCRC’s March 6, 2007 dinner at which Fox News Channel CEO Roger Ailes said, “Only in America [can you find] Irish supporters of the State of Israel,” keynote speaker Bloomberg described his trip to Dublin and Israel where he dedicated a ward at Hadassah Hospital in his mother’s name and another ward in his father’s memory.

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Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones on a Break

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images
Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones

More than a decade after they walked down the aisle, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones have announced that they are taking a break.

“Catherine and Michael are taking some time apart to evaluate and work on their marriage,” the couple’s rep told Us Weekly.

The family has had their share of stressful times: Three years ago, Douglas was diagnosed with stage IV throat cancer and underwent chemotherapy and radiation. In April 2011, Zeta-Jones announced she was seeking treatment for bipolar II disorder.

“It puts everything into perspective on a personal and professional level. I’m not so consumed about what people think or say like I used to be,” Zeta Jones told Stylist magazine last year. “These things are sent to try us, and we do sit back and go, ‘Wow, we got through that,’ and, ‘Oof, we dodged that huge bullet.’ I guess it does make you stronger because you have some ammunition to be prepared for something else that’s going to side swipe you, because it really did side swipe us.”

The couple, who have been together since 1999, were married at the Plaza Hotel on November 18, 2000. They have two children together, Dylan, 13, and Carys, 10.

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Anthony Weiner Aide Slams Former Intern

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images
Anthony Weiner

Shocker: Things are not going well for Anthony Weiner.

A week after the mayoral hopeful’s campaign started to implode when it was revealed that he had in fact continued his Internet sexcapades after his resignation from Congress, Weiner’s reputation continues to tank.

The latest debacle involves remarks made by a Weiner spokeswoman, Barbara Morgan, regarding a campaign intern. In an interview with Talking Points Memo, Morgan made disparaging remarks (to say the least) about Olivia Nuzzi, an intern for the Weiner campaign who wrote an article in the New York Daily News describing the inexperience of those hired by the candidate and a disorganized work atmosphere. Nuzzi also claimed that Weiner sometimes called interns by the wrong name and that most people joined the campaign to network with his wife, Huma Abedin.

“I’m dealing with like stupid f***ing interns who make it on to the cover of the Daily News even though they signed [non-disclosure agreements] and/or they proceeded to trash me,” Morgan told Talking Points Memo. “And by the way, I tried to fire her, but she begged to come back and I gave her a second chance.”

Morgan also said that Nuzzi “sucked” at her job, and that she planned on making sure she never worked on another political campaign.

“She like wasn’t good at setting up events. She was clearly there because she wanted to be seen. Like it was, like, terrible and I had to like - she would like, she would just not show up for work,” she said. “For the four weeks she worked there — she didn’t work weekends, so twenty days total. Of those twenty days, she missed probably five because she would just like not show up and not tell me she wasn’t going to be there. So, yeah, so there’s that.”

Morgan also called Nuzzi a number of offensive expletives.

After the story spread like wildfire on social media, Morgan apologized, telling The New York Observer’s Jill Colvin that she thought she was off the record.

“In a moment of frustration, I used inappropriate language in what I thought was an off-the-record conversation,” Morgan said. “It was wrong and I am very sorry, which is what I said tonight when I called and e-mailed Olivia to apologize.”

Morgan reiterated her apology via Twitter on Wednesday, with amusing creativity.

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Madonna's Son Rocco Bar-Mitvahed

By Anne Cohen

Can you picture Madonna and Guy Ritchie dancing the hora?

This is what one can only hope happened after their son Rocco was bar-mitzvahed on July 13 at the Kabbalah Center in New York.

Madonna celebrated her boy’s transition to manhood by posting a picture on Instagram. “We finish the last letter of the Torah for Rocco”s Bar Mitzva,” the caption reads. “Lucky 13! Happy Birthday! Potential……….responsibility!!!!”

The party train continued on to Bklyn Beast, New York’s Parkour training ground.

The diva, who gave birth to Rocco in August 2000, has been a student of Kabbalah since the 1990s.

The jury is still out on whether or not this can actually be considered a bar-mitzvah (neither Madonna nor Guy Ritchie are Jewish) but in the meantime — Mazel Tov, Rocco!

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

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Jean Shafiroff Feted at JBFCS Benefit

By Masha Leon

It was wall-to-wall photo-op smiles as Jean Shafiroff, stunning in an azure blue strapless above the knee silk dress, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg faced the Red Carpet photo blitz at the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services 2013 Spring Benefit on April 24. Proceeding from The Plaza’s Palm Court, past its “Great Gatsby” costume exhibit, to the Terrace Room, the 375 guests — who helped raise $1.3 million for JBFCS — looked up at the terrace’s balcony level from which the mayor joked : “This is another of those times I am singing for my supper…You are so generous. You are an organization that has done an enormous amount in the past century to help New Yorkers in need. Whether it is providing residential foster care, child abuse prevention facilities…JBFCS [a beneficiary of UJA-Federation of New York] has been in the forefront of reducing the stigma that’s often associated with mental illness…No one is turned away because they cannot pay [or] are too difficult a case.” The mayor praised JBFCS for “being on the ground helping families in need in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.”

Before departing for the “next place where maybe they will feed me,” the mayor congratulated the evening’s honorees: Seymour R. Askin, a JBFCS advisor, Jerold D. Jacobson, a partner at Proskauer Rose, LLP, Paul Levine, JBFCS’s Executive VP & CEO and Jean Shafiroff, a JBFCS board member. Often described as “a socialite” the nomenclature overlooks her solid credentials which include an MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University, a BS in physical therapy from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and a Wall Street finance career.

Karen Leon
Jean Shafiroff and Mayor Bloomberg

During my private chat with Shafiroff, I mention her recent Metropolitan Museum of Art near catastrophe: two days earlier, she literally caught fire at a gala at the museum when her red bouffant “Oscar de la Renta” gown was singed by votive candles on the floor near the museum’s Temple of Dendur’s reflecting pool. A quick-thinking guard saved her from what could have been a Joan of Arc moment. Shafiroff dismissed this tidbit with a wave of her hand. “It’s not about me,” she said. “We’re a means to an end. JBFCS changes the lives of people. It’s truly a beautiful, beautiful charity.” Shafiroff, whom I have dubbed “the lady of the stunning gowns,” always touts JBSFC at nearly every event where we chance to meet.

Among the long list of JBFCS trustees and supporters at the dinner: JBFCS trustee Lynn Korda Kroll, John Ruskay, executive vice president & CEO of UJA, and socialite Sharon Bush mother of Lauren Bush Lauren.

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NYC's Jewish 'Street Fair King' Upset Over Cuts

By Michael Kaminer

To organizers, they’re colorful, family-oriented neighborhood celebrations. To detractors, they’re traffic-snarling commercial ventures that hijack streets and punish locals.

Now, after a long-simmering dispute over street fairs, New York City has decided to cut the size and hours of the outdoor bazaars, the Daily News reported this week.

Street fairs, “which often generate complaints from locals about their crowds, noise and generic offerings, will be cut by about 25%,” officials told the News.

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Busted: Cabbie Littered NY Streets With 'Kill Jews' Notes

By Michael Kaminer

Not content with tossing mundane litter like cigarette butts or gum out his car window, Demetrios Apolonides decided to jazz up his trash with notes that read “kill Jews.” Unfortunately for him, the police caught his trail; the former Brooklyn livery driver was arraigned yesterday on a hate crime charge of aggravated harassment, according to the NY Daily News.

Apolonides, who spread his scribblings across Long Island, “engaged in a practice of taking small pieces of paper, approximately 1 inch by 3 inches, with the words, ‘kill Jews’ on it, and he would distribute it wherever his duties would take him,” a Nassau County police official told a news conference, the Daily News reports.

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Hummus Taste-Off Promotes Peace

By Jordana Horn

At the Peace Market party at M2 Ultralounge on March 10th, a crowd of over 1,000 people gathered to support Seeds of Peace, an organization founded to promote dialogue between young people living in regions of conflict.

And yet, at least one element of the event actively promoted conflict. The event was host to what organizers believed was the first New York City Hummus Taste-Off, in which four reputable restaurants put their homemade hummus to the test in both a popular vote and a judged taste test.

Entrants attempted to distinguish their offerings from one another by any means necessary. Pera, a Mediterranean bistro near Grand Central, was the sole entrant with warm, rather than room-temperature, hummus. Pera raised the ante even higher with homemade pita chips and pomegranate molasses drizzled over the hummus. “Let’s see them top that,” one Pera server said as he flourished a well-plated offering.

Casa La Femme saw the challenge and met it with dollops of spicy, homemade harissa sprinkled in their hummus (throwing in a free bottle of Perrier-Jouet to attendees who go to their restaurant in the next week was also a spicy touch). Moustache, a Middle Eastern restaurant specializing in “pitza,” brought hummus with more of a peanut butter-like consistency and flavor.

The winner of both the electoral and popular vote, Soho’s 12 Chairs, was the most tahini-like of the entries, with a vivid sesame seed flavoring. I’d argue that the friendliness of the hostesses serving at the 12 Chairs table may have helped them a bit in the judging. But who would begrudge a bit more friendliness where anything related to the Middle East is concerned?

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