How 12 Jews, a Bear and a Robot Took Shtetlsphere by Storm

2014 saw the rise of the first Jewish ‘Bachelorette,’ Jewish chatbots and our own version of a Jewish royal baby (thanks Chelsea Clinton!) We lost Joan Rivers just as Monica Lewinsky made her comeback. A 13-year-old comedian made Howard Stern blush. And let’s not forget an Israeli miracle: Mango the Bear’s “meteoric recovery.”

We’ve got all that, and more, in this year’s roundup of The Shmooze best moments of 2014.

1) Andi Dorfman

Andi Dorfman, America’s Jewish “Bachelorette,” first stole our hearts as a contestant on “The Bachelor” — the assistant district attorney from Atlanta showed us she was a force to be reckoned with when she walked out on smarmy Bachelor Juan Pablo Galavis. So, when Andi was brought back as the star of ABC’s “The Bachelorette,” we kvelled, made popcorn, and turned into yentas every Monday night.

We continued cheering as our girl walked off into the sunset with former baseball player and fellow Atlanta resident, Josh Murray. Not only did Murray win Andi’s (and our) hearts, he also gained the approval of his future father in law, Hy Dorfman. Not an easy feat.

The season’s emotional ups and downs climaxed with the requisite dramatic proposal in the Dominican Republic — where Murray weighed her ring finger down with a three carat diamond — followed the explosive finale had it’s own dramatic confrontation with heart broken runner-up.

Next year, their made-for-TV wedding is sure to be the talk of the Jewish community. Will it be a Jewish service? Interfaith? Will it be the first ABC wedding under a chuppah? Whatever comes, this couple looks genuinely in love. We can’t wait to follow them on their journey, even if their Instagram photos make us queasy.

2) Jen Selter

For Barbra Streisand, it’s her nose. Woody Allen has his big glasses. Bella Abzug had her ubiquitous hats.

What does Jen Selter have going for her? Well, the Internet doesn’t have to think hard about the answer to that question. The Jewish girl from Long Island has parlayed one physical attribute into viral fame — and a paying gig.

Don’t know what The Shmooze is talking about?

Well, then you don’t spend much time online — or don’t care about getting to the bottom of things.

That’s right, Selter’s perfectly proportioned posterior is her drawing card.

She started by posting pics of her outsized derriere on Instagram. Then she scored a job as ”fitness columnist” for the New York Post.

Not bad for a young woman whose own mother pooh-pooh’ed her chances of making it through college.

3) Jon Stewart

Reporting the news from Israel is hard enough — try cracking jokes. That’s the lesson Jon Stewart learned the hard way this summer when he criticized Israel’s tactics in its Gaza offensive.

America’s favorite Jewish funnyman and host of the immensely popular fake late night news show “The Daily Show,” was accused of crossing the line when he somewhat bluntly mocked the Israeli tactic of warning Gazans of an imminent attack with a small mortar explosion ahead of the more extensive attack on the surrounding areas. Stewart joked that the warning bombing was the appetizer of warfare, or “An amuse boom, if you will.”

The reaction was swift, and from both sides conservative and liberal Jews alike called out Stewart as a self-hating Jew and an anti-Semite.

But Stewart had the last word, lashing out at his critics in a November interview with a Canadian magazine: “It’s so interesting to me that people want to define who is a Jew and who is not. And normally that was done by people who weren’t Jewish but apparently now it’s done by people who are, and I find that very interesting. And you can’t observe (Judaism) in the way you want to observe. And I never thought that that would be coming from brethren. I find it really sad, to be honest.”

Boom, indeed.

4) Joan Rivers

The world got a little less funny this year: Joan Rivers, queen of snark, left us for the “Fashion Police” set in the sky.

Born Joan Molinsky in New York in 1933, Rivers was a trailblazer for strong, brash, unapologetic Jewish women everywhere.

The Jewish comedy icon died in September, from a complication during throat surgery, prompting an outpouring of grief from everyone from Howard Stern to Whoopi Goldberg, and a larger-than-life funeral. Who else would request a dirge rendition of “New York, New York”?

But let’s not let Rivers’s death overshadow her life. After all, she had some notable moments in 2014. Here are some of her top Jewish quotes of the year:

That time she solved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “Well, I think we should make it stop and I think I know how to make it stop. I think every Palestinian should get a nose job. Because once somebody has had a nose job they won’t fight ‘cause they’re scared their new nose would get broken. I think we should send over every great Jewish plastic surgeon doctor, fix their noses, and there will be peace in the Middle East.”

On Selena Gomez calling for peace in Gaza: “Oh, Selena Gomez, that college grad. Let’s see if she can spell ‘Palestinian.’”

On her “Tonight Show” comeback: “Being in the studio brought back the most wonderful, wonderful memories of the night that jump-started my career. So when people ask me, ‘Why was last night different from all other nights?’ I’ll tell them that it certainly beats Passover!”

Rest in peace, Joan. Hopefully you’re hosting a talk show with Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall in heaven. Can we talk?

5) Adele Dazeem

The year we all learned Idina Menzel’s name is the year John Travolta forgot it. On stage to introduce the “Frozen” singer for her performance of “Let It Go” at the 2014 Academy Awards, Travolta flubbed and welcomed “the wickedly talented, one and only, Adele Dazeem.”

As with anything these days, the moment launched 1,000 memes (according to the Slate widget allowing you to Travoltify your name, I am Ava Cozzins). Within seconds, an “Adele Dazeem” appeared on Twitter.

Lucky for the man formerly known as Danny Zuko, Menzel has a sense of humor.

“It threw me for like eight seconds,” she told the “Today” show in April. “I had done this whole preparation to make sure that I really was in my body and didn’t get too nervous and let Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep sitting there make me so nervous. So I was picturing my [4-year-old] son, Walker. I thought, ‘Let me just sing it to him,’ like we do in the bathtub… and [John Travolta] said my name like that and I was like, ‘Did that just happen? Then the orchestra started, and then for eight seconds I said: ‘Get your s–t together! And like, stop worrying about your name and sing this song!’… So it took me about eight seconds to get over myself.” Relive the moment below:

6) Donald Sterling

Donald Sterling was once, if at all, known as the tightwad owner who condemned basketball’s Los Angeles Clippers to permanent second-team status in the city of angels.

To be fair, his team has been way better than the once revered Lakers in recent years.

But all that was before the elderly Jewish mogul, who made his billions in SoCal real estate, squandered any and all goodwill by, well, opening his big mouth.

He was caught on tape telling his (much, much) younger model girlfriend, V. Stiviano — who uses just a first initial, anyway? — that she should think twice about bringing black friends to games.

The 81-year-old made things worse when he tried to explain that even Israelis have been known to treat blacks badly.

The firestorm that followed led to Sterling being banned from the National Basketball Association for life — which he countered with threats to fight the league in court.

Fortunately for Sterling, his wife and longtime business partner, Shelly Sterling, stepped in to stop the bleeding.

She negotiated a sweet deal to sell the team to Microsoft gazillionaire Steve Ballmer.

Donald Sterling scored a sweet $1billion from the deal — not bad for a geezer with a big mouth.

7) Chelsea Clinton

Britain has its Royals. We have The Clintons.

And so, when Chelsea Clinton announced that she was expecting a baby with hubby Marc Mezvinski — onstage at a New York City event, no less — we kvelled along with Hillz and Bill.

The proud parents took to Twitter to share the love:

“My most exciting title yet: Grandmother-To-Be! @billclinton and I are thrilled that Chelsea and Marc are expecting their first child,” Hillary wrote to her 2.5 million fans.

Bill, then relatively new to Twitter, chimed in with: “Excited to add a new line to my Twitter bio…grandfather-to-be! @hillaryclinton and I are so happy for Chelsea and Marc!”

Five months and a gluten-free baby shower later, Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky came into the world. Still no news as to whether the baby will be raised Jewish, but we here at the Shmooze choose to be optimistic.

Take that Will and Kate! Baby George has got some serious competition.

8) Ari Teman

Ari Teman thought he was going to bank a few bucks by renting out his plush Manhattan pad for a weekend.

Turned out, his apartment was set to host an orgy — and he walked in just as the action was getting started.

The comedian didn’t suspect a thing when he rented his Chelsea condo on Airbnb in April to someone who called himself David and claimed he was coming into town for a wedding.

Instead of nuptials, the renter had a real-life freak show planned.

Unbeknown to Teman, the renter advertised a $25-a-pop “XXX Freak Fest” for the first night.

When Teman returned to his apartment to pick up a suitcase, he found a crew of 20 people hanging out inside, disassembling his furniture to make room for the sex-starved masses that would follow.

He called the cops, called out Airbnb on Twitter and even sued his superintendent, who trashed him on TV appearances as a “dirty Jew.”

Memo to Ari Teman: Stay home next Purim.

9) Eugene Goostman, Jewish Chatbot

2014 was the year we found out that the smartest computer-generated bot is actually a 13-year-old Jewish-Ukrainian boy named Eugene Goostman.

In June, Eugene became the first computer program to pass the Turing test of artificial intelligence, leading judges to believe he was actually human.

So, bottom line, Eugene is a smarty-pants. But we weren’t satisfied with that: What else makes Eugene Eugene? We got up close and personal with the world’s one and only Jewish chatbot to find out. Here are some of the highlights:

On bagels and lox: “Bagels and lox? Are you sure it is edible?”

On his favorite Torah verse: “I don’t like any.”

On pork: “I hate pork. Every time I try it I want to throw up.”

On his potential bar mitzvah: “Yes, I plan to have a bar mitzvah! And I’m proud of that!”

On matzo: “Does anyone hate it?”

Come on, Eugene. Are you sure you’re Jewish?

10) Josh Orlian

What does it take to shock Howard Stern? Apparently, a 12-year-old Jewish boy from White Plains, New York.

“America’s Got Talent” contestant Josh Orlian raised eyebrows earlier this year when he took the stage for his stand-up comedy debut. That kid was raunchy.

Who knew a shy-looking, ginger-haired, pre-bar mitzvah boy could deliver so many dirty jokes — and with such flair?

But while Heidi Klum and Howard Stern may have been laughing, Orlian’s Orthodox day school sure wasn’t.

“The message conveyed by such a performance was entirely contrary to the Modern Orthodox values taught and lived at WDS,” Rabbi Joshua Lookstein, head of the Westchester Day School, wrote in an email to parents. “The student and the family have committed to never repeating this kind of comic performance in the future.”

Comedy may have lost a rising talent — get it? — but, comedian Howie Mandel pointed out, Orlian’s bar mitzvah will be nothing if not entertaining. “If nothing else, you’ve got a great piece of tape for the reception,” Mandel said.

Pair that with “The Cha-cha Slide,” and we’ve got a winner.

11) Monica Lewinsky

Sixteen years after her little blue dress almost brought down a president, Monica Lewinsky is back in the public eye.

Breaking a near-decade of silence in a personal essay for Vanity Fair, Lewinsky explained that she had finally put the past behind her. It’s time, she wrote, “to burn the beret and bury the blue dress.”

And it seems she’s done just that. The 41-year-old, who calls herself “Patient zero: the first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the Internet,” has become a committed activist speaking out against cyber-bullying.

Speaking at Forbes’s Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia, she said: Having survived myself, what I want to do now is help other victims of the shame game survive, too. I want to put my suffering to good use and give purpose to my past.”

Ironically, she joined Twitter — presumably to promote these noble efforts — and immediately became a target for cyber-bullies. * Ah, Internet. *

12) Jack the Ripper

Who was Jack the Ripper? A nice Jewish boy — well, maybe.

The shtetlsphere was somewhat distressed when businessman and crime sleuth Russell Edwards claimed that DNA found on a Ripper victim’s shawl matched that of a living descendent of one Aaron Kosminski, a Polish Jewish hairdresser.

For years, rumors persisted that Jack the Ripper, accused of murdering five women in 1888, was Jewish. This was in part due to rampant anti-Semitism. But ominous graffiti did nothing to help. A constable called to the scene of Catherine Eddowes’s murder found, “The Juwes are not the men that will be blamed for nothing” scrawled onto the side of a nearby apartment building.

Spelling aside — not so good for the Jews.

Kosminski, who would have been 23 when Jack the Ripper was busy cutting women’s throats, came to England in 1881 with his family. Because he lived near where the bodies were found, he was brought in for questioning at the time of the murders. Kosminski ultimately died in an insane asylum in 1919.

But don’t despair: It turns out that the DNA evidence may have been based on a “fundamental error” by molecular biologist Jari Louhelainen. So, Jack may not have been Jewish after all.

Oh, well, back to square one.

13) Ben Edelman

Memo to Ben Edelman: It’s four stinking bucks — and the dude tried to say sorry.

The Harvard junior professor became the guy the Internet loves to hate after he threw on online hissy fit at a Chinese restaurateur (http://gawker.com/miserly-harvard-professor-harasses-chinese-restaurant-o-1668937632).

It turns out that the Chinese place’s website accidentally overcharged him for spicy chicken, fish, and prawns on what should have been a $53 delivery order.

After being told about the error, Ran Duan, the owner of Sichuan Garden in suburban Brookline, Massachusetts, offered to refund Edelman’s money and profusely apologized.

But that wasn’t good enough for the entitled academic. He browbeat the hapless restaurateur and threatened to take the matter to “the authorities” unless he was paid triple damages of $12, which he claimed that state law provides.

Duan agreed to that, too. As it also turns. out, the town officials weren’t interested in tormenting a mom-and-pop merchant for a penny-ante mistake.

By the time inquiring websites had put Edelman under a microscope, they found other less-than-pleasant online encounters with takeout joints. (http://www.cnbc.com/id/102259845#).

As for his order, we were not impressed. Prawns? C’mon Ben, if you’re going to make a public spectacle, at least don’t order treyf.

14) Mango the Bear, Marius the Giraffe and Pandas in Israel

No year is complete without the requisite cute animal news, and 2014 was no exception.

Mango the Syrian Bear

What’s sadder than a bear undergoing surgery? Nothing, that’s what. Which is why we cheered when Mango, Israel’s favorite brown Syrian bear, made a “meteoric” recovery after a slipped disc operation.

Sagit Horowitz, spokeswoman for the Ramat Gan Zoological Park — Mango’s home — was in awe of the bear’s “tremendous healing powers.” And so we all should be.

Marius the Giraffe

Warning: Dead giraffes will be mentioned in the next sentence. 2014 was also the year that the Copenhagen Zoo saw fit to feed Marius the giraffe to the lions in order to avoid inbreeding.

The 18-month-old (BABY) giraffe was fed a healthy breakfast of rye bread before being euthanized, after which he was skinned and dismembered as crowds of children looked on. Not cool, zoo. Not cool.

But it turns out that one giraffe’s horrifying trauma is another lion’s kosher snack. According to Kashrut.com, giraffe meat is indeed kosher, although it isn’t usually consumed, because no one can quite figure out where perform shechitah, ritual slaughter, on the giraffe’s neck.

China Loves Israel Three Pandas Much

China’s got it down: The best way to ensure everlasting friendship with a country is to give it pandas. That’s the basic premise behind “Panda Diplomacy,” which China has apparently been using for hundreds of years to secure allies.

The newest recipient of this panda generosity? Israel, which will apparently be receiving three cuddly black-and-white bears in the near future. There are conditions however, including providing the appropriate food and a panda-friendly habitat. A delegation from the Haifa Zoo ?? must also make a trip to China to learn how to properly care for the endangered species. Seems like a small price to pay for some panda cuddles.

With Dave Goldiner and Maia Efrem.

Author

Anne Cohen

Anne Cohen

Anne Cohen is the Forward’s deputy digital media editor. When she’s not looking for the secret Jewish history of Voodoo in New Orleans, or making lists about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she writes for The Assimilator. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism with an M.S. magazine concentration in 2012.

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