November 18, 2018

Episode 83 – Big in Tel Aviv

Immigrating to Israel is not easy. Alongside mastering Hebrew, finding a Job and making friends, one of the biggest challenges is simply to integrate, to find your place, to feel like a local. If you’re an artist immigrating here, it can be even more difficult. If language is not your medium, art is certainly always a cultural thing – and the divide can easily become a chasm.

Nonetheless, Tel Aviv has become a vibrant multi-national city, and it seems that English speakers are thriving here. Even if you’re an Israeli English speaker, so long as you’re present on social media, you can’t escape the stream of immigrant produced content emanating from Israel. And at the top of that chart, sitting comfortably on her throne, is Renny Grinshpan – the benevolent queen.

Renny Grinshpan is an actor, creator and a model who made aliyah 4 years ago. Since then she’s been scorching Israel’s facebook feed with hilarious viral videos, mainly as part of the Israeliot group, making her one of the most known and influential local internet stars. Renny graduated the Columbia School of Journalism. She’s created videos for the Jewish Daily Forward and the Tross Creative House.

Renny Grinshpan is here with us today to answer the age old question: chocolate or vanilla? Also, will there be peace in the Middle East.

Renny’s FacebookInstagram and website

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You still might have a chance with Bar Refaeli, even if you’re not famous

Bar Refaeli recently made news when she lamented her single status. Everything she said in the interview with Yedioth Ahronot, as related by the Daily News, made her seem not only super relatable, but also shockingly attainable.

Everything, that is, except for the part about how she likes her men “big and strong and famous.”

If that doesn’t sound like the words of a woman who’d just proclaimed her desire to be in a relationship with someone from a warm and loving family and who shares her values, it’s because they weren’t her words.

In fact, the Israeli model was so perturbed by the Daily News piece she tweeted about it.

Phew. Now we can continue to like her, and she, in turn, might just end up liking one of us. Then again, she also suggested that being single is not so bad after all.

Bar Refaeli wants to know why she’s still single

Some good news for all of you single guys out there: You can finally get rid of that JDate subscription because we have the perfect girl for you. Bar Refaeli is on the market, and she’s ready for a relationship. She told the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot herself, the Daily News reports.

Can’t figure out why a hot blonde model is having trouble landing a guy? Neither can she.

“I don’t understand it,” Refaeli said. “I look great. I’m cool. I like going out. I like being at home, I like movies, I like eating. So what’s wrong with me? Why am I alone?”

Uh, we’re stumped, too. At least we can rule out the possibility she’s still not over Leonardo DiCaprio, whom she dated for six years. Refaeli did freak out one night while looking at online pics of her ex with his new girlfriend, Blake Lively. But after one big weep-fest she was good.

“It was like I was cleansed,” she said. “From that day, I haven’t cried since.”

Okay, so here’s her type, in case you’re interested.

“I’m looking for someone serious, who I can set up home with,” she said. “Someone who comes from a warm, loving family like mine, who has values like mine,” she said.

Oh, and this too: “I’m very interested in going out with someone who is big and strong and famous.”

Good luck there!

Refaeli ripped for donning Santa suit

Bar Refaeli is getting heat again — this time for a picture showing the Israeli model in a Santa suit.

Refaeli posted the photo last week on her Instagram account with the caption “Good Morning Santa,” according to Shalom Life. The hat is drawn over her eyes; Shalom Life said “it’s safe to assume that she has a hangover, is drunk, or is exhausted from a photo shoot.”

Twitter followers berated Refaeli for wearing a Santa suit since she is Jewish, even telling her that she is “betraying Israel,” according to Shalom Life.

Refaeli was ripped by Israeli followers during last month's Operation Pillar of Defense for tweeting that she is “praying for the safety of citizens on both sides.” Many Israelis called her “unpatriotic” and accused Eefaeli of not caring enough about Israel.

Bar Santa

Super mogul Kathy Ireland is the new super model for Israel

In the ever-unwinnable image war, maybe what Israel needs is a Cover Girl.

I’m thinking someone tall, curvy and striking, who boasts a record number of appearances in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue (say, 13, with three covers), a role-model type who has created a billion-dollar company, someone wholesome and spiritual, with solid family values (like a doctor husband and three kids) — someone like Kathy Ireland.

More than a former supermodel, Ireland is CEO of Kathy Ireland Worldwide, an international branding company that has grown into a billion-dollar empire and earned her the venerable title Super Mogul. She is also a furnishings designer, a committed mother, philanthropist and, lately, a passionate and public advocate for Israel.


Supermodel Naomi Campbell celebrates birthday in Bethlehem

Supermodel Naomi Campbell visited Bethlehem in honor of her birthday.

Campbell lit candles in the Church of the Nativity Tuesday, the day she turned 42, according to reports. She ate lamb and rice at a nearby restaurant accompanied by friends, Palestinian guards and her own security guards.

“I’m happy to be here. Weapons and war, greed and oil … I hope it all stops,” she told the Palestinian Authority’s official television station, The Associated Press reported. “I care about health, about good vibrations, not destruction.”

Other reporters in Bethlehem were not allowed to interview or photograph Campbell, the Palestinian Maan news service reported.

She reportedly also visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Ethiopian emigres hold model seders

Ethiopian immigrants to Israel held model seders in absorption centers throughout the country in preparation for their first Passover in Israel.

Ethiopian immigrants in the absorption center in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevaseret Zion held a model seder Monday attended by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews; Natan Sharansky, chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel; Col. Zion Shankur, the highest-ranking Ethiopian in the Israel Defense Forces; Ambassador Belaynesh Zevadia, Israel’s first Ethiopia-born ambassador; and prominent Ethiopian-Israeli singer-songwriter Maski Shabiro.

Sharansky recalled making a seder while imprisoned in Siberia, using water instead of wine and bread instead of matzah, and reciting as much of the Haggadah as he could from memory. After his release and own immigration to Israel, he flew to Ethiopia to escort a group of Jews there on their own flight to Israel.

Many of the olim attended the model seder dressed entirely in white, the traditional Ethiopian attire for festive occasions.  After briefly experiencing the highlights of a seder, the participants started dancing a traditional Ethiopian dance.

They have been studying Passover at the absorption center in recent week, learning from the Haggadah along with an Amharic translation.

“In Ethiopia, they ate matzah all year round,” said Yehudah Sharf, director of Aliyah and Absorption for The Jewish Agency. “Here it is only on Passover that they eat the ‘lachma anya’—bread of the poor—because they have so many more opportunities. For them, now, eating matzah truly makes it a night to ask ‘what is different tonight from all other nights.’ ”

Refaeli back in the SI swim

She may not be the 2012 cover girl, but Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli is back in this year’s edition of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Three months ago it was reported that Refaeli and Israeli supermodel Esti Ginsburg would not be appearing in the print edition of the magazine’s most popular issue—but apparently plans have changed.

While Ginsburg will appear only in the swimsuit calendar, Refaeli will be featured in a special segment titled Bar & the Boys, where she poses with NBA star Chris Paul, Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps and Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal.

Perhaps the editors thought that letting Refaeli hang out with three half-naked athletes would make her feel better after she lost the cover to 19-year-old Kate Upton.

The operatic model of a punk rock major satire

Mixing punk rock and opera may be about as heretical as it gets, yet that is precisely what Julien Nitzberg, librettist and lyricist of “The Beastly Bombing,” now playing at the Steve Allen Theater, has done.

Despite being the grandson of Austrian composer Hans Knauer, who conducted his own operetta, “Eva,” in front of Kaiser Franz Josef, the Bronx-born Nitzberg was first drawn to the punk scene. He sported a mohawk in high school where he founded a literary journal titled Piss With Ink. He played “noise guitar with the emphasis on guitar” for a “hard-core punk band in the line of the Dead Kennedys.”

“We played superhard, superfast, superloud,” Nitzberg said, pointing out that his band also earned the reputation of being “allegedly a Republican punk band” because they wrote songs like “We Love Reaganomics.”

No one will accuse him of being a Republican any longer, nor will anyone miss the irony, indeed sarcasm, of “The Beastly Bombing,” a mock Gilbert & Sullivan-inspired opera that lampoons our current Republican president and his two daughters, while also poking fun at white supremacists, Al Qaeda and Chasidic Jews.

Yes, Nitzberg, who is Jewish, does not spare Jews from his wit and has even written one jaunty song with the refrain, “I hate the Jews.”
Stephen Schwartz, composer of “Pippin” and “Godspell,” was apparently so offended by Nitzberg’s politically incorrect opera that he referred to it as the “most morally unredeemable musical he had ever read.” According to Nitzberg, Schwartz said that he would try to prevent “The Beastly Bombing” from finding a venue.

Ultimately, Nitzberg did find a willing sponsor in Amit Itelman, artistic director of the Steve Allen Theater. Itelman embraced the musical’s Sept. 11 parody, just as he had once embraced provocateur Bill Maher by producing “The Hollywood Hell House,” a production that starred the host of “Real Time,” who was famously fired by ABC after saying that the Sept. 11 pilots did not lack courage.

Just as former punk rocker Nitzberg has returned to his pedigree in opera, so has Roger Neill, who composed the music to “The Beastly Bombing.” Neill had also grown up as “a thrasher” on guitar.
“My heart is of a head banger,” he said. Yet before finding the electric guitar at the age of 12, Neill had played flute and piano and began composing classical music at 10. Many years later, he got a doctorate in musical composition from Harvard.

Neill met Nitzberg in the mid-1990s, when Nitzberg was directing his own script for the film, “Bury Me in Kern County.” The underground film, which the press material refers to as a “white trash black comedy,” toured the festival circuit, playing at South by Southwest and Palm Springs among others. It represented the first collaboration between Nitzberg and Neill, who composed the score.
Their present collaboration, “The Beastly Bombing,” may make for a funnier evening than a night at the Improv or the Groundlings.
Nitzberg, who believes that irony should never be dead under any circumstances, writes with a kind of literary diction that is rare in the theater. How often does one hear lines like “Ablophobia is fear of palindromes”? Or, “I’m agog, they don’t know about ZOG”?
ZOG stands for Zionist Occupation Government. It is the acronym used by the musical’s two white supremacists and two Al Qaeda operatives, all of whom plan to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge. Their plans are interrupted when they fall in love with each other and with two ditzy presidential daughters, who introduce them to the drug Ecstasy.

Only Mel Brooks has tread this far, but Brooks didn’t have his president, unmistakable with his gray hair and fly-boy outfit as a George W. Bush prototype, dance a waltz with a lascivious gay Jesus. Nor did Brooks have a Catholic priest, wearing red women’s underwear, speak openly of molesting young boys.

In short, Nitzberg and Neill skewer every sacred cow imaginable while writing a series of catchy, raucous tunes. Some titles like “I am the Bravest President” conspicuously recall Gilbert & Sullivan (“I am the monarch of the sea”), but the songs are far too subversive to be other than a wry homage given “Julien’s crazy lyrical content,” Neill said.

A “superannuated Echo Park punk rocker” with an “Old World Austro-Hungarian sensibility,” in Neill’s phrase, Nitzberg will always straddle the worlds of punk rock and opera. And he will never lose his sense of humor.

As Nitzberg said, “I want people at my funeral to be making jokes. I want them to put hoops in the water and afterward use my body to play Skee-ball.”

“The Beastly Bombing” plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. at the Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., through Nov. 18.

For tickets, call (800) 595-4849.

Photo by Kim Gottlieb-Walker

Congress OKs bill barring military chaplains from mentioning Jesus in official prayers

Congress OKs bill barring military chaplains from mentioning Jesus in official prayers
The U.S. Congress rescinded language in Pentagon orders that allowed military chaplains to mention Jesus in official prayers. Controversy over including similar language in the Defense Authorization Act, a critical spending bill, dogged attempts to pull the bill out of a Senate-House conference committee before Congress recessed for midterm elections.
The conferees ultimately decided to strike the language and order the Pentagon to rescind its earlier instructions. Mikey Weinstein, a former U.S. Air Force officer who led the battle to remove the language, applauded the decision.”We welcome the opportunity Congress has afforded to discuss the appropriate role of religion and chaplains in the military,” Weinstein, who is Jewish, said last week in a statement issued by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which he founded. “The passage of this bill will be a victory for those of us who have been fighting so assiduously to protect both the rights of the men and women in our armed forces and the United States Constitution.”

Austrian extremists gain in elections
Two far-right parties with a history of anti-Jewish rhetoric made gains in Austrian elections. National elections held over the weekend saw a 50 percent rise since 2002 elections in the percentage of votes for the Freedom Party and the Alliance for Austria’s Future. Members of both parties have expressed antipathy toward Israel and are known for their campaigns against Muslims living in Austria.
The left-leaning Social Democrats won the election with nearly 36 percent of the vote, followed by the center-right People’s Party with 34 percent. The Freedom Party came in third with 11 percent, and the Alliance for Austria’s Future, run by right-wing extremist Jorg Haider, received 4 percent of the vote. The Social Democrats and People’s Party are expected to form a governing coalition.
Federal legislation Includes grant for Federation model elderly care program
A Jewish federation model to facilitate care for the elderly in their home communities will be included in federal grant legislation. The United Jewish Communities, the umbrella body for North American federations, launched the “Aging in Place” initiative in 2002, helping 40 communities in 25 states obtain federal dollars for naturally occurring retirement communities.The model was featured in a U.S. Senate hearing this year to consider re-authorization of the Older Americans Act. As a result, a federal grant program for the retirement communities is included in language agreed to by House-Senate conferees.
Swiss stage pro-Israel rally
Approximately 3,000 demonstrators held a pro-Israel rally in the Swiss capital. Saturday’s rally in Bern called for the Swiss government to support Israel’s right to exist and show solidarity with the Jewish state’s fight against terrorism. Twenty organizations signed a resolution urging the government to refuse negotiations with terrorist groups that reject the existence of the Israeli state.

British House of Lords member faces probe by party over Israel lobby remarks
A member of Britain’s House of Lords will be investigated by her party for comments about the “pro-Israel lobby.” Liberal Democrat Party members have announced that Baroness Jenny Tonge’s position in the party will be reviewed in response to her public remarks.
In a speech that recently aired on BBC Radio, Tonge said, “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its [financial] grips on the Western world. I think they’ve probably got a certain grip on our party.”
More than 20 of her peers in the House of Lords wrote a letter to the Times condemning Tonge’s comments, stating, “Baroness Tonge evoked a classic anti-Jewish conspiracy theory,” and that her language “as a member of the House of Lords, was irresponsible and inappropriate.”
In early 2004, she was fired from her position as Liberal Democrat spokeswoman on international development for saying she could understand why a Palestinian would become a suicide bomber and also that she would consider becoming one were she a Palestinian.
Remains of Czech Jewish graveyard found
Evidence of a medieval Jewish cemetery was discovered in the Czech Republic.Researchers from a preservationist organization in the city of Pilsen say they found documents in the city archive revealing details of what they believe was one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Czech lands in the 14th century.
The cemetery’s existence was already known, said archaeologist Radek Siroky of the West Bohemian Institute for Heritage Conservation and Documentation, but the new documents reveal more specifics about its location.
He said that only excavations, approved by religious authorities, could provide more details about the cemetery’s size and the nature of the Jewish community there.
Briefs courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Mirror, Mirror

I think I have body dysmorphia: an unnatural and distorted view of my physique, otherwise known as false body image.

See, I’m the only woman I know who has ever expressed a bit of shock at the Dove advertisements.

They’ve been running for the last few months on billboards, on bus-stop ads and in magazines. Surely you noticed: It’s a veritable chorus line of women clad in the barest essentials of white bra and underwear. But the clothes — or lack thereof — are not what stand out.

It’s the women: Instead of the super tall, super skinny and buxom Amazonians with not one ounce of fat on their bodies, these Dove Girls, as they’ve come to be known, have flab. They’ve got love handles or a little belly or thighs that actually touch and hips made for child birthing. In other words, they’re regular people.

They’re mostly in the Size 8-12 range — which is thin for the typical American woman, who averages out at Size 16. But runway models wear Size 0-4. (Why do they even offer a Size 0?) Every single woman that I’ve spoken to loves the ads.

“Finally, they’re showing what real women look like,” my friends say. “It’s refreshing to see normal bodies on billboards.”

Millions of women have responded favorably to these women, because they’re real, they’re curvy and, truth be told, they’re pretty tight — no jingling or jangling, no unsightly, pockmarked cellulite or varicose veins.

But my first thought was, Don’t you think they’re a little … fat?

Just a little? A teeny bit? I never said this out loud, not in the company of women. Because I’d probably be stoned. I’d be branded a traitor to womankind, flogged and marked publicly with a the scarlet letters F.C.P. — as in Ariel Levy’s new book “Feminist Chauvinist Pigs” (Free Press) which accuses some women of buying into — and perpetuating — male stereotypes of women.

Have I betrayed all my feminist principles and begun to view myself through the prism of society’s — i.e. men’s — standards?

Well, no.

Honestly, this has nothing to do with guys — the standards are all my own. See, I’ve always had issues with fat. But what Jewish woman doesn’t? Although judging by the content of women’s magazines, weight seems to be a national obsession.

Are there any women who were born with perfect bodies who are completely satisfied with those bodies? Women who only eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full? Who don’t save up calories for a really big meal? Or go on juice fast days and cabbage soup diets or count calories or carbs or fats or oils or cholesterol or sodium — or the way the letters of the food add up to spell the devil’s name backward?

Maybe there are women out there who don’t act like the rest of us, but I’ve never met one. (OK, I did once, but I killed her.)

Seriously, am I the only person who walks past other woman on the street comparing myself to her?: Is she thinner than me? Does my butt really look like that? Please don’t say that’s what my elbows look like.

The thing is, I used to be skinnier. I used to be in my 20s. I used to be a teenager. Maybe I’m not a sick person; maybe I’m just trying to recapture my youth, or the body of my youth.

Feeling this nostalgia, I sifted through some old beach pictures. And I made an amazing discovery: I wasn’t any skinnier then. If anything, actually, my arms are a little more toned now, my stomach a little flatter, and my tush is a little less, well, tushier.

So how is it that I feel fatter?

Could it be my surroundings, the fact that I’m no longer in New York City, a metropolis filled with Jewish women who have Jewish women’s bodies — which are generally shorter in height, fuller in the hips and bust and wider in the derriere.

Now I live among a people (“Angelenos”) whose arms look like ski slopes and whose hip bones jut out like moguls on a bare mountain. These are women whose necks are so thin you could see the food being swallowed — if you could catch them in the act of eating. These are women who might have been called gawky, or skinny or coat hangers when they were younger, but for the magic of surgery and a sick workout schedule, have now defined an impossible standard of beauty.

Have I violated the Ten Commandments by coveting these bodies, these waifish figures I will never, ever, ever, become?

As I ponder these sins, and wonder how I have become my own worst enemy, I see the Dove ad again. And again. And again.

I still do that thing: Is she fatter than me? Is she fatter than me?

But then I find one woman in the ad who is no fatter, no skinnier, no taller or no shorter than me. She is me. And she is not bad. She is not fat. She looks nice. We look nice.

Not that I’m not completely reformed. I don’t look at Calvin Klein models and think: You are way too skinny, you war victim.

Yet, sometimes, I look in the mirror and say to myself: not bad; not bad at all.

But even that’s not the point, is it?

The trick is to peer into the looking glass and see that it’s only my reflection in there — not the essential me — and to turn around and walk away.