The Shmooze


Hillel: A College Campus Oasis of Judaism and Romance Honors Morris Offit

By Masha Leon

“I have a sickness! I love to go to Jewish dinners. You learn a little something you never knew,” said Morris Offit, chairman of Offit Capital Advisors LLC. Hillel honored Offit with the Renaissance Award at its annual gala, held May 26 at The Pierre. “We all have our awakenings,” said Offit, who accepted the award from Leonard Feinstein, co-founder of Bed Bath and Beyond. “Hillel’s primary role is in giving students on campus ammunition to experience the centrality of Israel to the Jewish religion,” Offit said.Read More


“Renaissance” U.S. Admiral Stavridis Honored at Dinner Aboard the Intrepid

By Masha Leon

“He is a Renaissance admiral and a consummate diplomat,” Mel Immergut, co-chair of the May 26 Salute to Freedom Award Dinner, said of multifaceted Admiral James G. Stavridis, recipient of the 2011 Intrepid Freedom Award. Immergut, chairman of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP and a 2006 recipient of the Simon H. Rifkind Award from the Jewish Theological Seminary, listed but few of the admiral’s rankings and proficiencies: He is NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander of Europe and commander of the U.S. European command. He also noted that Stavridis holds a doctorate in international relations, law and diplomacy from Tufts University and is the author of several books.Read More


Fashion Diva Iris Apfel Honored at Albert Einstein College of Medicine Women’s Division

By Masha Leon

“She is fashion’s latest ‘It Girl,’ who wears necklaces for elephants,” event chair Andrea Stark said of Iris Apfel, an honoree at the Spirit of Achievement Luncheon of the Women’s Division of Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine, held May 5. Stark continued: “One of the most influential personalities in fashion, textile and interior design, in 1950, with her husband, Carl, she founded the high-end textile company Old World Weavers when she could not find a particular fabric. Her restoration projects have included the White House for nine presidents.”Read More


"The People In The Picture": Ich, Uch, Feh! Oy!

By Masha Leon

If you can survive Act I of Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of “The People in the Picture,” which opened on April 28 at Studio 54, by the end of Act II you will witness one of the longest, schmaltziest onstage bedside-death scenes since Second Avenue’s Yiddish theater heyday. With book and lyrics by **Iris Rainer Dart **(author of nine novels, including “Beaches”) and music by Mike Stoller and Artie Butler, this well-intentioned musical about a pre-World War II Warsaw Yiddish theater group of which the members survive the Holocaust gets farblondzhet, or goes seriously astray.Read More


Israeli Writers Sound Off at PEN Event

By Masha Leon

“I don’t pay my children to empty the dishwasher or take out the garbage. I pay them $1 a book to read. Children are not reading,” lamented Israeli novelist Yael Hedaya (author of “Housebroken,” “Eden” and “Accidents,” and head writer for “In Treatment,” an Israeli TV series adapted for HBO) at the April 27 “Authors and Audiences” panel discussion. The discussion was moderated by Bookforum co-editor Albert Mobilio.Read More


Floral Designer Bella Meyer Reminisces About Her Grandfather, Marc Chagall

By Masha Leon

“I grew up with his paintings around me,” said Bella Meyer, floral designer and founder of the studio Fleurs Bella, describing her grandfather, Marc Chagall. Meyer was among those attending and competing April 12 in The Horticultural Society of New York’s “Flower Show Dinner Dance Showcasing Table Designs,” held at 583 Park Avenue. Paris-born Meyer reminisced about frequent visits to her grandfather in the South of France. “We used to go for walks, talk…. My grandfather spoke Yiddish, Russian and had a funny French-Romanian accent. He [believed in] freedom for the Jews…. He always spoke about ‘my Bella’ [his wife]. She was the only one who truly understood him. The only other person who understood him was his daughter, Ida, my mother.”Read More


At Last! A “Permanent Greek Exhibition at the Auschwitz Memorial”: Barack 18

By Masha Leon

In one of the early frames of an upcoming documentary that soon will be shown in New York — “The Rescuers: Heroes of the Holocaust,” by African-American filmmaker Michael King and featuring British historian Martin Gilbert as narrator — Britain’s Prince Charles is seen addressing the Kindertransport Association.Read More


Kvelling in the Aisles at Folksbiene: Tilson Thomas Thomashevsky Theatre Gala

By Masha Leon

Before the over-the-top theatrical saga of Bessie and Boris Thomashefsky was showcased at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, there was noshing and shmoozing at the April 6 reception for the National Yiddish Theater-Folksbiene gala held on the Promenade, at which Michael Tilson Thomas, music director of the San Francisco Symphony, and Folksbiene boosters David and Sylvia Steiner were honored. Folksbiene board chairman Jeffrey Wiesenfeld introduced Joseph Benincasa, president and CEO of The Actors Fund. “I was an altar boy… the Jesuits insisted that I attend ‘Fiddler on the Roof… the ‘roof’ is a metaphor for survivorship.Read More


Paul Libin, Broadway Powerhouse and Alum of Workman’s Circle Schools, Honored

By Masha Leon

“In 1922, in a small village in Russia, not far from Minsk [Moghilev], my father returned from the warehouse he was in charge of,” said Paul Libin, executive vice president of Jujamcyn Theaters and recipient, at UJA-Federation of New York’s March 28 dinner, of the Excellence in Theater Award. The dinner was held at the St. Regis New York. “Villagers broke into the warehouse. Unable to explain the food shortage and fearing he would be tried and most likely executed, that night, he left for America. He was 23…..Read More


Susan Sarandon and Padma Lakshmi Put Spotlight on Endometriosis at Blossom Ball

By Masha Leon

“I won’t bore you with tales of my genitalia,” said Padma Lakshmi, co-founder with Dr. Tamer Seckin of the Endometriosis Foundation of America, at the foundation’s third annual Blossom Ball, held March 18 at the New York Public Library. Lakshmi, a model, actress, award-wining author and Emmy-winning host of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” credited “advanced gynecological surgeon” Seckin for having “changed my life.Read More





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  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
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  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
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  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
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  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
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