Best (Jewish) jokes from the James Franco roast


Comedy Central’s roast of James Franco doesn’t air until September 2nd, but already a slew of critics and bloggers are hard at work ruining it for enlightening the rest of us who weren’t lucky enough to attend the event Sunday night.

While we really did want to wait to actually hear funny people like Andy Samberg, Sarah Silverman, Seth Rogen, and Jonah Hill make fun of Franco–and each other–naturally we couldn’t help but take a peek at the many lists of the evening’s best jokes that are flooding the Internet.

It turns out the lines were pretty funny–and pretty Jewey. Here, a few of our favorites.

Bill Hader on the Seth Rogen / Barbra Streisand movie The Guilt Trip: “If I wanted to watch two ugly Jews weaving through traffic I’d watch Seinfeld’s web series.”

Rogen on the roasters: “This dais is literally Hitler’s wet dream. It’s got Jews, gays and whatever Aziz is.”

Nick Kroll: “James Franco is truly our generation’s James Dean. So handsome that you forget he’s only been in two good movies. Dean, of course, died at the tender age of 24 sparing himself the embarrassment of writing self-indulgent short stories and getting roasted by a bunch of jealous Jew monsters.

Sarah Silverman: “I can’t tell if this is the dais or the line to suck Judd Apatow’s balls. This dais is so Jewey. What is this, the Comedy Central audit of James Franco?”

Natasha Leggero: “Andy Samberg’s comedy group is called The Lonely Island, which is how each of his teeth feel.”

Since there is no video of the roast just yet, here is James Franco chatting with his brother Dave Franco chatting about their careers:

College Humor roasts Facebook (and bashes Myspace)


Rahm Emanuel is a fighting policy wonk with a Jewish soul


Political insight, killer in a fight, Yiddishkayt — it’s an inseparable package when it comes to Rahm Emanuel, say those who know President-elect Barack Obama’s pick to be the next White House chief of staff.

Since his days as a fundraiser and then a “political adviser” — read: enforcer — for President Bill Clinton, Emanuel has earned notoriety as a no-holds-barred politico. Accept the good with the bad because it’s of a piece, said Steve Rabinowitz, who worked with Emanuel in the Clinton White House.

“He can be a ‘mamzer,’ but he’s our mamzer,” said Rabinowitz, using the Yiddish term for “bastard,” speaking both as a Democrat and a Jew. “Sometimes that’s what you need.”

The apocrypha is legendary, if somewhat hard to pin down: Jabbing a knife into a table screaming “Dead!” as colleagues shout out the names of political enemies, sending a dead fish to a rival, screaming at friends and enemies alike for no good reason.

Even his allies acknowledge that Emanuel, 48, can be on edge at times.

“He’s not running for Miss Congeniality, ever,” said U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who has known Emanuel since they worked at Illinois Public Action, a public interest group, in the early 1980s. “He is relentless; he doesn’t give up, but in a strategic way. He’s good at figuring out other people’s self-interest and negotiating in a way that comes out in his favor.”

Emanuel, an Illinois congressman who boasts strong ties to his local Jewish community and the Jewish state, also can be seen as embodying Obama’s stated commitment to Israeli security and diplomacy: During the first Iraq War, Emanuel flew to Israel as a volunteer to help maintain military vehicles. Two years later, he was an aide to Clinton, helping to push along the newly launched Oslo process.

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Ari, Rahm recalled, “beat the crap out of him” — not because of the bike, not to protect his brother, “but because of what he said about black kids.”

Rahm defended his brother in terms he might have applied to himself: “Where others see fierceness, I see loyalty. Where others see intensity, I see passion.”

In general, Emanuel is fiercely loyal to his family, and they were a consideration in his hesitation to take work he’s always dreamed of having — he waited two days to say yes. Obama, in his statement announcing the pick, recognized the pain it would cause Emanuel’s wife, Amy, and “their children, Zach, Ilana and Leah.”

Emanuel, born to an Israeli doctor who married a local woman after he moved to Chicago in the mid-1950s, speaks Hebrew and fondly recalls summering each year in Israel as a child — including just after the 1967 Six-Day War. He attends Anshe Sholom, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Chicago, and sends his children to Jewish day school.

His rabbi, Asher Lopatin, recalls Emanuel approaching him just before Rosh Hashanah this year, telling him that an effort to put together a bailout package for the hard-hit stock market before the holiday had failed and asking whether it was permissible to take conference calls on the holiday in order to salvage the bill.

“I asked, ‘Is it as serious as people say it is?'” the rabbi recalled. “He said, ‘Without this bill there could be a meltdown of the financial system.'”

Lopatin considered the effect such a failure would have on children and the poor.

“I felt it was a case of pikuach nefesh, the commandment that places the saving of life above all other commandments,” Lopatin said, and gave Emanuel the OK.

The somberness of the request couldn’t quell Emanuel’s acerbic wit. Lopatin recalled Emanuel’s teasing, wondering whether the status of the rabbi’s 401(k) investments wasn’t also behind the heksher.

“He kibitzed with me about that,” the rabbi said.

Emanuel repeated the story, to raucous laughter, in caucus meetings on the Hill — an example of how he will skid in the same sentence from Judaism to a liberal commitment to social reforms to hard-nosed politics, Schakowsky said.

“There’s barely a caucus meeting where he doesn’t make some reference to being Jewish, often in a humorous way,” she said.

But his Jewishness does more than inform his sense of humor, Emanuel’s rabbi said.

“He has a very deep commitment and feel for Yiddishkayt,” Lopatin said, “and it’s a Yiddishkayt that’s about tikkun olam, having a positive effect on the world.”

Roast for Richard; A Wish Is Granted; And the World Tastes Good; New Faces X 2


Roast for Richard

City of Hope honored civic leader and philanthropist Richard S. Ziman at a toast and roast Sept, 14. Ziman was presented with City of Hope’s Spirit of Life Award and President’s Award for his longstanding commitment to the advancement of science and the care of patients with cancer. The event raised $1.6 million for City of Hope’s groundbreaking cancer research and treatment programs.

A Wish Is Granted

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Rabbi Elianna Yolkut was installed Sept. 16 at Adat Ari El, a conservative synagogue in Valley Village. Yolkut was ordained this past spring from the University of Judaism’s Zeigler School of Rabbinic Studies.

New Faces II

Jewish National Fund (JNF) has hired Donna De La Paz as regional zone director. Virginia-born De La Paz has worked in the Jewish communal world since 1988, most recently as the associate director of development in Florida for the Anti-Defamation League. Prior to that she was executive director of the Miami and Houston offices of the American Jewish Committee. Her first Jewish communal job was for B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) where, as a teenager, she was imbued with a love for Israel.

“Donna possesses all the qualities we look for in a leader,” said Russell F. Robinson, CEO of JNF of America. “She is intelligent, creative, thoughtful, innovative, but most importantly, she is passionate about Israel. For someone to convey to others — donors and lay leaders alike — what JNF does, its value to life in Israel and the role it plays in the growth, security and continuity of the Jewish homeland, they need to care deeply. Donna does and we are excited to welcome her aboard and look forward to what she can accomplish.”

With a background in education, De La Paz began her professional career as a teacher on track to become a school principal. Somewhere along the way the track shifted, and when deciding what she wanted to do with her life, she recalled that her happiest moment was the summer she spent in Israel with BBYO.

“I called BBYO for a job,” she said, “and haven’t looked back since.

As JNF’s zone director she hopes to build a strong board who will help her better educate the community about who JNF is and the work it does.

“People just don’t know the breadth and scope of all that we do,” she said, “and we do so much.”

For more information, call 323-964-1400.

And the World Tastes Good

Yummy, was the word for the night Southern California’s most prominent Jewish leaders and elite raised in excess of $200,000 to benefit student scholarships at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem at the third annual “A Chocolate Affaire,” sponsored by American Friends of the Hebrew University (AFHU). Almost 300 guests wandered about the event, an extravagant evening of gourmet food, cocktails, live music and chocolate tasting, in a beautiful home in Holmby Hills Sept. 9.

Represented there were various treats like Carvel Ice Cream, and gourmet cuisine was provided by The Kitchen for Exploring Foods. Beacon Restaurant donated signature desserts for the third year in a row. Chocolate and dessert sponsors besides Carvel included Chrissie’s Cookie’s, Leonida’s Belgian Chocolate, My Mother’s Brownies, Osteria Latini and See’s Candies.

Among those who were seen noshing shamelessly (or was that just me?) were guest speaker Shaul Druckmann, a Hebrew University student ambassador and doctoral candidate in neuroscience, who shared his personal experiences and stressed the need for scholarship support; AFHU chairman Richard Ziman; attorney Patricia Glaser, Western Region president of AFHU; several members of the AFHU board of directors; “American Idol’s” Paula Abdul, and Peter Willner, AFHU national executive director

AFHU is a national, not-for-profit organization that provides programs, events, and fundraising activities to support Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel’s foremost center of higher education and research. AFHU’s Western Region is helping to lead the way in ensuring that the university’s 24,000 students have the resources they need to become leaders and innovators in Israel and around the world.