13 Stories That Rattled the Shtetlsphere in 2013

We’ve got all the Jewish names that lit up 2013, for better or worse — and everything in between.

There’s Titi Aynaw, the trailblazing first black Miss Israel who parlayed her pageant win into a “dream date” with President Barack Obama.

You might not recognize Jake Davidson’s name but the day school kid from Los Angeles showed serious chutzpah by creating a YouTube video asking curvy supermodel Kate Upton to his prom.

James Deen was already a household name (in some households, at least). The nicest Jewish boy in porn made a play for mainstream success.

Mia Farrow’s son, Ronan Farrow, made headlines when he scored an MSNBC talk show gig. Even more intriguing was his mom’s revelation that Woody Allen might not be his real dad.

Fashion bad boy John Galliano tried and failed to make amends for his anti-Semitic past. And the royal baby Prince George — well, we found a Jewish angle on him, too.

What happens in Vegas is supposed to stay there, but Sam Horowitz changed all that. The kid made national headlines with his glitzy bar mitzvah on the Strip.

Mila Kunis showed us just how sexy Jewish can be, while Sarah Silverman stuck with the faith, even though she wore a crucifix.

A dude named Ari Mandel nearly made $100,000 selling a Jewish slice of heaven on eBay.

A Jewish congressman thought a bikini model was his long-lost love child. The truth turned out to be a little less dramatic.

Anthony Weiner’s comeback burned out amid more lurid revelations about sexting — and the profoundly un-Jewish screen name of Carlos Danger.

And Justin Bieber took some heat for suggesting Anne Frank would’ve been a fan. What’s wrong with that?

  1. Gorgeous Miss Israel Blazes Trail of Diversity

    The Miss Israel pageant usually doesn’t merit more than a couple of Shmooze posts. Like every other country, the Jewish State generally hews close to its mainstream standard of beauty when picking its top beauty queen, and there’s not much else to say.

    Titi Aynaw was something totally different — for so many of the right reasons.

    The first Ethiopian-born woman to win the pageant, Aynaw is stunningly beautiful: tall, slim, with a generous figure. But she quickly proved herself to be much more than a pretty face.

    When an initial wave of racist commentary greeted her victory (even the haters had trouble making the ‘she’s not too pretty’ tag stick), the newly crowned queen turned the other cheek.

    Then Aynaw, who served as an officer in the IDF, proceeded to transform herself into a proud ambassador for an Israel that has become dramatically more diverse in recent years. She mused about her ‘dream date’ to meet Barack Obama and – guess what?—she got invited to meet him during his state visit to Israel.

    There were a few awkward (for us, at least) moments along the way, like when 90-year-old Shimon Peres introduced Aynaw to Obama as ‘our Queen of Sheba.’ And Aynaw stumbled at her chance on the world stage when she failed to make the grade at the Miss Universe pageant.

    Still, a visit to the U.S. proved that Titi can bring a message of inclusion that few Israelis can bring off. She met with Jewish day school children who listened in amazement as she told them of her born-in-Africa, raised-in-Israel success story.

    With peace still seemingly far off and plenty of scandal and conflict to go around, she’s a feel-good story the Shmooze could use more of.

    -Dave Goldiner

  2. Day School Kid Wins Supermodel Prom Date

    Prom season means the same thing to all teenagers: the pressure is on to find a date.

    Jake Davidson, a Jewish day school student from a Los Angeles suburb, took things one step too far when he released a YouTube video asking model Kate Upton to be his high school sweetheart for the big night.

    “Wait, wait, wait, hear me out,” Davidson pleaded. “You had me at hello. You are the yin to my yang. I’m Jewish, 5”9 on a really good day, and can’t dance…at all. You’re Christian, 5”10 and that ‘Cat Daddy’ video should have won an Oscar for best short film. You could say this is destiny.”

    The lucky teen caught a glimpse of the dream when the Sports Illustrated supermodel tweeted: “You can call me Katie if you want! How could I turn down that video! I’ll check my schedule.”

    Unfortunately, supermodels are very busy people. But lucky for Davidson, there are a lot of them.

    When Upton backed out because of “other commitments”, Sports Illustrated swimsuit babe Nina Agdal agreed to take her place.

    That boy’s got game.

    -Anne Cohen

  3. Nice Jewish Boy of Porn Goes Mainstream

    James Deen is the nicest Jewish boy porn has ever seen. The baby-blue-eyed “actor” made headlines this year when he made the jump to mainstream Hollywood alongside Lindsay Lohan in Brett Easton Ellis’ “The Canyons.”

    According to reviews, he was the only good thing about the project. But “Deenagers” have nothing to fear — the object of their fantasies is far from ready to quit his day job.

    In April, Deen starred in “Farrah Superstar: Backdoor Teen Mom” alongside former Teen Mom Farrah Abraham. Though the reality star first claimed that she and Deen had made the tape privately, the Deen would have none of it.

    After all, he has a brand to protect.

    Through all this, Deen has no qualms about being known as the “Nice Jewish Boy of Porn” — after all, he did lose his virginity at a Jewish summer camp. In fact, he’s pretty proud to be a member of the tribe, as he told the Forward in February.

    “The Jews know we’re better than everyone else. That’s all that matters.”

    -Anne Cohen

  4. Is Ronan Farrow Woody's Kid — or Frank's?

    Ronan Farrow has long been a kind of once-in-a-generation wunderkind.

    The brilliant and handsome son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen (more on that later) won a Rhodes scholarship, and worked for the U.N. and the State Department. Now he scored his own MSNBC talk show that promises to catapult him to mass-market superstardom.

    None of that would necessarily land him more than a bit role on the Shmooze.

    Mia Farrow did that by casually mentioning to an interviewer that she was romantically involved with Frank Sinatra as well as Woody Allen around the time that Ronan came into this world. (Why is this coming up now, Mia?)

    So in other words, Ronan might be Frank’s kid, not Woody’s. And now that you bring it up, check out the kid’s eyes.

    And how did the young media star take the news? In typical Gen-Y style, on Twitter.

    For that Tweet alone, we can’t get enough of Ronan Farrow.

    -Dave Goldiner

  5. Bad Boy John Galliano's Forgiveness Push Flops

    If John Galliano had a time machine, it seems pretty clear which moment of his life he would revisit (and erase) first.

    The former celebrated-fashion-maven-turned-pariah has spent the past year atoning for the anti-Semitic rant that got him fired from Dior in 2011. Spoiler: So far, it hasn’t been going so well.

    In February, the disgraced designer landed in hot water once again when the New York Post snapped a picture of him leaving his New York City apartment dressed in what was deemed a “Hasidic outfit.” — complete with peyos-like side curls. — under the headline “SHMUCK! Jew-bash Designer’s Costume Mocks Faithful.” Needless to say, the Jewish community was not amused.

    Then, in April, the New School’s Parsons School of Design announced that Galliano would be teaching a three-day design workshop called “Show Me Emotion.” The school’s student union responded with an online petition, protesting the appointment:

    “Imagine if the school were hiring a person who publicly voiced support for the KKK — there would likely be backlash because it’s not right to have someone like that teaching at a school. But because this is someone who has made anti-Semitic remarks, people are willing to look the other way. This is unacceptable.”

    Galliano never got to play professor. He did however give a long interview to Vanity Fair, in which he came clean about his alcoholism and “the worst thing I have said in my life.”

    ” I have been trying to find out why that anger was directed at this race.,” he added. “I now realize I was so f***|ing angry and so discontent with myself that I just said the most spiteful thing I could.”

    Come on everyone, even Anti-Defamation League national director Abe Foxman forgives the “poor shnook.” Maybe it’s time we did too.

    -Anne Cohen

  6. The Jewish Side (We Found It!) of Britain's Prince George

    There’s nothing remotely Jewish about the baby who is now third in line for the British throne, right? Wrong.

    Prince George Alexander Louis was born in the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s hospital in London, named for Frank Charles Lindo, a member of one of Britain’s most prominent Jewish Sephardic families who donated £111,500 to the hospital upon his death in 1938.

    And that’s not all.

    Some commentators praised the reserved way Prince William and Kate Middleton approached their impending parenthood (they didn’t release the name in advance), calling it a very ‘Jewish’ approach to the media circus.

    And on October 23, the baby prince was christened with water from the River Jordan in Israel – where Christians believe Jesus Christ was baptized – during a small and private ceremony attended by only 21 guests.

    Of course, there’s one Jewish question everybody is still asking.

    So, George, when’s the bris?

    -Anne Cohen

  7. Bar Mitzvah Boy Does Vegas — and Goes Viral

    There are big bar mitzvahs, and then there are BIG bar mitzvahs. And then there was Sam Horowitz’s rise-to-manhood.

    The 14-year-old Dallas native made headlines when a video of his bedazzling entrance to his party (which actually took place last year) went viral. The burlesque-themed bash, which took place in the lavish ballroom at the Omni Hotel in Dallas, opened with scantily clad dancers in shiny golden outfits shaking it to Christina Aguilera’s “Show Me How You Burlesque.” Finally, an all-in-white-clad Horowitz descended from the ceiling inside a chandelier. Fifteen-foot letters in the background spelled out his name in lights.

    The video earned him an appearance on national television, during which he recreated the routine, complete with the aforementioned scantily clad female dancers.

    Not everyone was a fan of Sam’s performance. Rabbi David Wolpe, of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, wrote an essay in the Washington Post’s On Faith blog, expressing his dismay at such a display:

    “Poor Sammy. I say this with no irony. What remains to him of the small triumphs of life? When he struggles with math and earns a ‘B’ when before he could never do better than a ‘C’ will they purchase an island to mark the occasion? Will he take Air Force One to his prom?”

    We say : Whatever works for Sam. As long as he posts it on YouTube.

    -Anne Cohen

  8. Mila Kunis Shows the World How Sexy We Can Be

    2013 — Or, as the Shmooze sees it, the year the world discovered that Jews were sexy.

    Scarlett Johansson and Adam Levine put up a good show as Esquire and People magazine’s (respectively) sexiest people alive, but no one’s physical attributes have been so lauded as Mila Kunis, who won not one, not two, but three titles this year.

    The Ukrainian-born actress stole the top spot as FHM’s “Sexiest Woman Alive,” and ranked #1 on Reddit’s list of “100 Sexiest Women Alive.”

    But Mila Kunis is not just another pretty face. Let’s not forget the amazing interview she gave Chris Stark, first time British reporter who nervously chattered on about his life, his friends and his love of jägerbombs, before asking the Hollywood to join him for a soccer (sorry — football) game.

    Where others would have awkwardly stared, Mila played along, leading to a viral hit.

    The people have spoken.

    -Anne Cohen

  9. Dude Tried to Sell Jewish Slice of Heaven on eBay

    Did Ari Mandel have a six-figure dream when he decided to sell something on eBay — or did he just hope to needle some in the Hasidic world?

    Either way, Mandel sure caused a ruckus when he posted ‘My Portion in Olam Habaah (Heaven)‘ on the online auction site.

    The Teaneck man’s description of his slice of the afterlife was either pricelessly innocent, ironic, or harshly sarcastic, depending on who you ask.

    “I’ve done my fair share of Aveiros (sins), but I have a decent amount of unassailable Mitzvos (good deeds) under my belt as well,” he wrote, by way of pumping up his offer.

    The starting bid was set at 99 cents and when the Shmooze was first made aware of the auction, it stood at a couple of bucks

    We thought that was a lot—and ordered up a short story. How wrong we were.

    Within a few hours, bids started pouring in. It broke $100, then $1,000 — and kept on rising. The Shmooze even employed the techie gods to create an online widget so readers could check the current top price.

    “Can you tell me where in heaven this portion is?” one potential buyer asked. “For the price you are asking, I want to make sure I am in prime real estate somewhere over a rainbow, right between the lord and a few angels.”

    As the price spiraled toward a jaw-dropping $100K, so did anger in some quarters.

    Where the Shmooze detected innocent needling of ultra-Orthodox traditions and ways of speaking, others saw Mandel mocking their culture. Message boards and blogs filled up wih messages denouncing him and slamming the eBay auction. Some called the web site to complain.

    After all, the site’s rules allow the sale of only ‘tangible’ items, a euphemism mainly applied to prevent using it for prostitution. eBay gurus agreed, and ordered Mandel to pull the listing.

    Instead of $100,000, Mandel got bupkis. But he did tell us a thing or two about the value of a slice of heaven, even in the internet age.

    -Dave Goldiner

  10. Sarah Silverman's Still Jewish, Cross or No

    It was never going to be an easy for Sarah Silverman to make this list. Last year, the comedian peaked when she offered to perform sexual favors for Sheldon Adelson if the arch-conservative would just switch his allegiance to Barack Obama during the presidential election. Really, how does one top that?

    Well, she did her best. In September, our favorite funny lady appeared on fellow comedian W. Kamau Bell’s talk show with a rather unusual accessory: a tiny gold crucifix.

    Outrage! Horror! One could almost hear a collective resounding “Whyyy” echoing from the zoomed-in photograph published on Heeb.

    To all’s relief, Sarah’s dad, Donald Silverman, set the record straight in the comments:

    “I told Sarah that her nana (long passed) wanted to know about the cross. Sarah told me to tell Nana she’s still a Jew. It came from something she wore on a movie set.”

    Whew. But just in case she gets any funny ideas, we’ll re-iterate the plea on every American Jew’s mind at the time: Don’t leave us Sarah. We need you.

    -Anne Cohen

  11. Anthony Weiner Comeback Goes Limp

    It’s not all that rare for politicians to fall from grace. But few have fallen as far and as fast as former democratic congressional member Anthony Weiner,whose sexting scandal forced him to resign from congress in 2011.

    The once-popular politician became center of controversy (and jokes) after revelations that he had sent lewd images of himself to at least six women using his own public Twitter account.

    After a brief absence from the public eye, Weiner simultaneously apologized for his past misdeeds and announced his ambition to run in the mayoral election in 2013 video.

    It could not have gone worse.

    For a brief period of time it appeared that the only Jewish candidate was on the verge of making a miraculous comeback. But revelations that he had continued with his sexting habits under the alias “Carlos Danger” ruined any hope for the candidate. A 22-year-old woman testified that Weiner had continued sending his artful shots more than a year after his resignation from Congress.

    That was Weiner’s last stand. The embattled candidate lost with only 5% of the democratic primary votes.

    When asked about his future plans in the aftermath of his defeat, Weiner gifted reporters by flipping the finger.

    It’s safe to say that his political days are probably over.

    -Michael Kaplan

  12. Congressman's Bikini Babe Love Child Who Wasn't (His Child, That Is)

    The Tweets had inside-the-Beltway scandal written all over them. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Memphis Democrat, sounded way too lovey-dovey when he shot off a couple of quick messages to someone — then quickly deleted them — during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union message in January.

    A couple of clicks later, reporters discovered the recipient of the Tweets was a gorgeous 20-something bikini model.

    In the Age of Anthony Weiner, that sounded like a great story to the Shmooze, even though Cohen is a middle-aged, never-married man who wouldn’t have broken any laws of God or man by chatting up a woman half his age.

    The truth was very different.

    Cohen called a press conference to tell the world that sexy Victoria Brink was actually his long-lost love child.

    He explained that found out about her existence only a couple of years ago when the girl’s mother contacted him to let him know that their long-ago hookup had profound implications. Cohen said he had been making up for lost time with the daughter, and even hoped to get her interested in national affairs.

    Some even claimed to see a resemblance between the somewhat schlubby lawmaker and the svelte blonde model.

    End of story? Not quite.

    A few months later, the woman surfaced again to reveal that a DNA test had revealed that Cohen was not her father after all. Once again, Cohen to his credit, told reporters the whole truth.

    “I was stunned and dismayed when DNA tests disproved what Victoria and I believed about our relationship,” he said.

    -Dave Goldiner

  13. Would Anne Frank Have Been a Belieber?

    A bewildering message left by Justin Bieber at the Anne Frank House earlier this year raised a few questions about the young idol: Namely, does the he realize that – despite his passionate tween following – the world does not revolve around him?

    “Truly inspiring to be able to come here,” Bieber wrote at the end of his visit to the museum, as the paparazzi waited outside. “Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber, ” a term used to refer to the most passionate of Bieber’s young and star-struck fan base.

    The comment, originally quoted on the museum’s Facebook, sparked a flurry of controversy, as social media lit up with posts blasting Bieber’s comments as self-serving and distasteful.

    “Anne would be wise enough to just laugh,” wrote National Public Radio host Scott Simon in a Twitter jab at the pop star.

    But others quickly jumped to the Biebz’s defense. “She probably would have been [a belieber],” rapper 50 Cent argued.

    Forward writer Jay Michaelson noted that there might actually be evidence that Anne Frank, who reportedly had images of her day’s pop-stars plastered on her walls, would have been a Bieber fan.

    Representatives from The Anne Frank House, a museum dedicated to preserving the memory of the young Nazi-victim, also defended Bieber in the wake of the controversy.

    “His comments were quite innocent,” a museum spokeswoman told The Forward. “He was here for more than an hour and interested in Anne Frank’s life and that for us is the most important thing.”

    Bieber has yet to apologize for the provocative comment, but actor Mark Wahlberg had a tidbit of practical advice for the world-famed young star: “Go take a vacation.”

    -Michael Kaplan

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13 Stories That Rattled the Shtetlsphere in 2013

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