The Shmooze

Obama Appointee Honored At Camp Good Grief Lunch

By Masha Leon

Honored with the Good Heart Award at the 15th Annual “Power of Your Heart” Valentine Salon Luncheon, which benefits Westhampton’s East End Hospice’s Camp Good Grief, was Life Camp founder Erica Ford, recognized by President Obama, who appointed her to the President’s Task Force on gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook Massacre.

Addressing the 204 elegant women at 583 Park Avenue who braved a cold Manhattan day Ford said: “A Lot of people don’t have the tools that some of us have. They become victims of the tragedy by taking their lives, getting addicted to drugs, causing pain and anger to someone else. So Camp Good Grief is valuable to our future. Some of the parents could not make it because they were scared of the challenge to change. But when you are stuck on your fear and pain—you don’t see tomorrow…. We have the ability to let people see they can live past their pain…we can live past our tragedies.”

Erica Ford and Debra Halpert. // Photo by Karen Leon.

“I love what I do at ‘Hamptons Magazine,’” said its publisher, Valentine Salon honoree Debra Halpert. Accepting the award from event co-founder Jacalyn Weinstein. Halpert stated: “Nelson Mandela said ‘You should do things with passion and compassion.’ My for-profit life supports my non-profit life.” Echoeing EEH Board Member Ellen Lowey’s observations, she amplified: “This is a world-renowned bereavement program” and described the children served by the camp as “silent mourners“ who can share their grief “in a safe and comforting environment.” This year’s group of 150 campers encompassed 79 who experienced the death of a mother or father and included women who lost children to street violence.

Priscilla Ruffin, president and CEO of East End Hospice stressed: “They’re sad. They’re mad. They are scared and they come away [from camp] with the ability to self-soothe during troubled times, a greater understanding of who you are and a catalyst for change… I listen to parents talk about what we mean to them.” A wrenching example was a father, left with three little children — his wife died in childbirth. “Each night I give my children one kiss on one cheek for me and the other for their mom.” He left the camp empowered. His story left some in the room teary-eyed.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: obama, jewish, erica ford, camp good grief

Bernstein's First Speech as Obama's Jewish Liaison

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Jarrod Bernstein made his first public speech as President Obama’s liaison to the Jewish community Monday, at the second annual Agudath Israel legislative breakfast, in New York . As might be expected, he did his best to remind the members of the pro-Israel Haredi organization of what the administration is doing both for Israel and for the Jews at home.

Addressing an audience made up of people not generally known to be Obama fans, Bernstein pointed out that the Obama administration has allocated a record number of Pell grants, which benefit rabbinical and yeshiva students. He also highlighted the fact that Obama’s requests to Congress for aid to Israel have been the highest in history ($3 billion this year), and that this funding has been integral to the deployment of the Iron Dome missile defense system, which has been saving Israeli lives. Bernstein also spoke of Obama’s efforts to thwart the Iranian nuclear threat.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Obama, Agudath Israel, Jarrod Bernstein

Obama Makes New York Magazine Cover as ‘First Jewish President’

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

Barack Obama may be America’s “first Jewish president,” this week’s New York magazine cover provocatively suggests.

The publication sets the phrase in quotation marks, placing it over a cover photo of Obama’s kippah-wearing head. The accompanying article — entitled “The Tsuris,” and written by staff political analyst John Heilemann — looks at at Obama’s relationship with both Israel and American Jews. Is the latter group truly up for grabs in next year’s election because of the president’s Middle East policy, as some Obama critics suggest? The article explores the issue via interviews with commentators on both sides, taking its cover quotation from Obama supporter and former White House counsel Abner Mikva, who in 2008 joked, “When this all is over, people are going to say that Barack Obama is the first Jewish president.”

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: New York Magazine, Israel, 2012 Election, Obama

White House Switchboard Swamped With Calls for Pollard's Temporary Release

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Supporters of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard jammed the White House’s switchboard over the weekend, demanding his temporary release so that he could attend his father’s funeral today. Morris Pollard died at the age of 95 in South Bend, Ind., on the morning of Saturday, June 18.

Angry that President Obama did not heed requests to grant Pollard “compassionate leave” to visit with his dying father, activists overloaded the White House phone system with calls to say that Pollard should at least be allowed to part with his father at the funeral. The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in response to more than a week of pressure from the pro-Pollard lobby, agreed Sunday to issue a formal diplomatic request through Israel’s embassy in Washington, asking for Pollard to be allowed to attend the funeral.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Jonathan Pollard, Israel, Facebook, Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama, Whie House

Yiddish Songs and Workers' Rights: Notes From the PJA Dinner

By Rex Weiner

Courtesy of Jewish Funds for Justice

A couple of things became apparent during the Progressive Jewish Alliance’s annual gala in Los Angeles last week, factors which will surely shape the run-up to the 2012 election. These factors did not include the “Yiddish songs of the labor movement,” which were performed entertainingly enough by singer Cindy Paley as guests shmoozed pre-dinner, but are unlikely to be adopted as campaign anthems unless David Dubinsky rises from the grave and runs for office.

The fund-raising dinner held at Temple Sinai in Westwood, where the merger between the PJA and — what’s that other org? many of the evening’s speakers joked — ah yes, the Jewish Funds for Justice was officially announced, also featured as guest of honor U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. A Latina and an L.A. native, Solis extolled the virtues of the country in which she rose from humble origins to a cabinet post. She received warm applause for praising the community organizer’s vocation, to which many in the packed banquet room, including Freedom Rider and PJA-founding member Ralph Fertig, had been called.

The warmest applause, however, came at the point in Solis’s speech when she hailed her boss, the President (another community organizer), saying she would be happy to serve Obama for another four years. And from the room’s unanimous reaction it was clear that the White House is wasting no time mobilizing its potent force of surrogates who are already on the campaign trail, firing up the Democratic base.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Progressive Jewish Alliance, Obama, Labor, Merged Entities, Jewish Funds For Justice, Hilda Solis, Democrats, Elections

Rocker Gene Simmons Not a Fan of Obama’s Israel Policy

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

It appears that President Obama can cross “Rock and Roll All Night” off his list of potential 2012 campaign songs.

The president’s recent speeches on Israel have made a critic of KISS rocker Gene Simmons, who implied on CNBC that Obama has “no [expletive] idea” about how to solve the Arab-Israeli impasse.

“If you’ve never been to the moon, you can’t issue policy about the moon. You have no [expletive] idea what it’s like on the moon,” Simmons said, apparently unaware that Obama has in fact visited Israel, if not outer space.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Obama, Israel, Gene Simmons

Presidential Aide Valerie Jarrett Discloses Her Jewish Roots

By Nathan Guttman

The White House can add one more senior staffer to its list of advisers with Jewish roots, and it is an unlikely name. Valerie Jarrett, President Obama’s senior adviser and assistant for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement, disclosed her Jewish ancestry to a Jewish gathering on Monday.

Speaking on behalf of the administration at the annual plenum of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jarrett, who is African-American, told the story of the first Passover seder she attended as a child.

“Many, many years ago, my parents hosted a seder for a group of our Jewish friends, and it was here that my father first told me that my great-grandfather was Jewish. What a wonderful surprise for our friends, and for me! So Passover has always been a special holiday for me.”

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Orthodox, Obama, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish, African American, Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett, White House

New York Vs. Washington: Whose Menorah Is Bigger?

By Michael Kaminer

Is a New York-Washington rivalry about to erupt over menorah size? While NY1 News is claiming Mayor Michael Bloomberg lit “the world’s largest menorah” to kick off Hanukkah in New York last night, some news sources are claiming the National Menorah on the White House Ellipse — ignited yesterday in a ceremony attended by a Jewish Obama Administration official — is, in fact, the biggest in the world.

As far as ceremonies go, Washington had the edge, with performances by violinist Itzhak Perlman, the United States Navy Band and The Three Cantors. The highest-ranking member of the cabinet, Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew — accompanied by two rabbis — lit the first candle of the National Menorah. Contradicting NY1’s assertion, web sites like ThirdAge.com and the Philadelphia Jewish Voice were calling D.C.’s menorah “the world’s largest”.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Menorah, Jack Lew, Itzhak Perlman, Grand Army Plaza, Obama

Citing Shabbat, Orthodox Union Leader Declines Obama's Ramadan Invite

By Lauren F. Friedman

In the tradition of Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, Nathan Diament, the director of the Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs, will be sitting out an important event due to religious observance. Only this time, it’s not a baseball game, it’s a Ramadan feast — at the White House.

Last year, Diament joined Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, Religious Action Center director David Saperstein and a long list of diplomats and politicians at President Obama’s interfaith dinner celebrating Ramadan.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Hank Greenberg, Iftar, Nathan Diament, Obama, Orthodox Union, Ramadan, Sandy Koufax, Shabbat, White House

Clinton Wedding: WikiLeaks at the Wedding

By Dan Friedman

The Forward has learned that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is not in Melbourne, Australia, as has been widely reported. According to documents that Assange accidentally leaked to his own website, Assange has set up shop in Rhinecliff, NY, where he and anonymous volunteers are amassing top-secret information about Chelsea Clinton’s wedding to Marc Mezvinsky.

The Forward has managed to plant moles in the Assange team, who have been issuing a steady stream of revelations about America’s most highly classified nuptials. Here are some of the highlights:

Getty
  • Although President Obama has not been invited, he will attempt to crash the wedding posing as SNL cast member Fred Armisen, an old friend of the Clintons.
  • Al Gore will be attending and, after his recent separation, will be bringing the Internet as his date.
  • One of the ushers will be Usher.
  • The teams for post-dinner charades have already been decided, and the early money is on Oprah, Steven Spielberg and Doris Kearns Goodwin as the team to beat. According to X-rays of the game envelopes, the first answer appears to be “Saved By the Bell,” or “The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993.”
  • In honor of the wedding, the town of Clinton, NY, 15 miles from Rhinebeck, will change its name to I Give It Three Years, NY.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: WikiLeaks, Usher, Starr Report, Rhinebck, Oprah, Obama, Marc Mezvinsky, Chelsea Clinton, Fred Armisen, Hillary Clinton, Julian Assange, Al Gore

Sarah Palin’s Holocaust Rhetoric

By Lauren F. Friedman

Ever since her first appearance in the national spotlight, Sarah Palin has garnered mild affection from the Jewish community for her frequent shout-outs to Israel (especially via Twitter and Facebook) and critiques of President Obama’s policies in the Middle East, most recently regarding the flotilla incident. But her social media war against Obama’s policies has taken a Hitleresque turn, and now some are crying foul.

In the space of 140 characters, Palin may have successfully undone whatever goodwill she was building in the Jewish community. “This is about the rule of law vs. an unconstitutional power grab,” she tweeted on June 25th regarding the BP oil spill, directing her almost 200,000 Twitter followers to an article by prominent conservative Thomas Sowell, in which he ominously warns that American democracy is being dismantled and then uses the BP escrow fund to compare the Obama administration to Hitler’s Nazi regime.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sarah, Palin, Obama, Nazi, Lamestream, Hitler, Facebook, Twitter

Jon Voight to Obama: You Lied to the Jewish People

By Devra Ferst

Countless Americans and people around the globe criticize Obama daily (it’s part of the job). But it’s just something special when a major celebrity (and father of a an even more major celebrity) does it in ink.

Jon Voight, actor and father of Angelina Jolie, attacked Obama’s treatment of Israel and Jews in an open letter published Tuesday in the conservative Washington Times:

“President Obama:

You will be the first American president that lied to the Jewish people, and the American people as well, when you said that you would defend Israel, the only Democratic state in the Middle East, against all their enemies. You have done just the opposite. You have propagandized Israel, until they look like they are everyone’s enemy — and it has resonated throughout the world. You are putting Israel in harm’s way, and you have promoted anti-Semitism throughout the world.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Middle East, Jon Voight, Jane Fonda, Israel, Celebrity, Angelina Jolie, Obama

Sandy Koufax Is Belle of White House's Jewish Ball

By Nathan Guttman

President Obama greets Sandy Koufax, as Jane Clarke and Theodore Bikel look on at the White House Jewish American Heritage Month reception.

True, it was an opportunity to shake hands with President Obama, to shmooze with Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and to count more than 30 Jewish lawmakers who showed up for the first ever White House Jewish American Heritage Month reception.

But for many, the most thrilling moment was getting to shake hands with and ask for an autograph from baseball legend Sandy Koufax. At 75, Koufax was the biggest attraction in a room filled with accomplished Jewish Americans. Even Obama chose to make Koufax the center of the only joke he weaved into his speech. “Sandy and I actually have something in common — we are both lefties,” Obama said. “He can’t pitch on Yom Kippur; I can’t pitch.”

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Supreme Court, Roger Cohen, President, Obama, Koufax, Kagan, Jewish, Diane Sawyer, Dara Torres, American

Polls Ask: How Much Do You Think Obama Loves Israel?

By Nathan Jeffay

It’s the million dollar question here in Israel – what, exactly, does the public think of President Barack Obama? A Jerusalem Post poll in March indicated that just 9% of Jewish Israelis think that his administration is more pro-Israeli than pro-Palestinian. Now, figures from Tel Aviv University’s monthly opinion poll paint a very different picture.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tel Aviv University, Poll, Obama, Jerusalem Post




Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.