Don’t call me yenta


Jewish celebrity gossip roundup along with some colorful commentary by Cheryl Jacobs.

Don’t call me yenta

Famous Jewish? animals

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Last week, I decided to create a Twitter account for my dog Toby.** If Boo's fan page can garner over 6 million fans, then why can't my cute dog be famous, too?  I'm not the only one who feels this way. A quick search on Twitter yields literally hundreds of hits for pet profiles and pet  enthusiasts of all sorts. The advent of social media has opened the doors for everyone and their brother, or in my case pet, to try to become famous.

Almost famous Toby

If my dog is going to be the next Lassie, I figured I needed to brush up on my Hollywood animal knowledge, which this yenta has also decided to share with all of you! I'm not going to argue these famous animals are Jewish, though I think some are "Jew-ish."  We can all just agree they are cute.

Fievel Mousekewitz. No one can argue that Fievel is anything but a nice Jewish mouse. Even if he isn't real. In the Spielberg directed Fievel Goes West movie, The Russian-Jewish Mouskewitz family goes on a great adventure while emigrating to the Wild West.

Babe.  Ok, so Babe the pig is clearly traif. And…clearly adorable.  And since we don't eat pork, he'd also make the perfect pet for any Jewish household!

Charlotte. Charlotte is the only spider I will ever root for. She saves another friendly pig, Wilbur, from the slaughterhouse using her spider smarts and creativity. Got to give it to her even if she is a scary looking bug.

Benji. Benji is Toby's favorite celebrity, probably because they share so much in common. Like my pup, Benji was actually a shelter dog named Higgins. Also, like Toby, Benji is a small, super loveable mixed-breed dog who is always there to help someone overcome a problem. Everyone loves him and he loves everyone.

Lassie. While Benji is the epitome of man's best friend, Lassie is everyone's favorite hero dog. Lassie has been described as a dog with "intelligent, apprehensive eyes" that goes around saving people from danger. Clearly then, Lassie is Jewish. Also, did you know that the Lassie's descendants continue to play her today?

Mister Ed. Everyone knows Mister Ed can talk, just not to anyone besides Wilbur. But did you know that Mister Ed has a Jewish connection? Jewish rap group The Beastie Boys used a sample of Mister Ed's voice in their song "Time to Get III" from the album Licensed to III.

Garfield. Ok, another cartoon animal. But he earns a spot on this list for his personality traits: loud, likes to eat, especially Italian food, somewhat sarcastic and crotchety….sounds like anyone's Jewish grandfather? And we know Garfield isn't a fan of Christmas, "they say I have to get up early, be nice to people, skip breakfast...I wish it would never end." Clearly, this is a Jewish cat.


Famous cat Callie Cohen generously supports the Jewish United Fund with her earnings

Willy. Willy, the Orca whale, shatters the perception that all famous animals must be household pets. Willy aka Keiko had a long Hollywood career. Three movies. A famous Michael Jackson song written about him, "Will You Be There." Dozens of pop culture spoofs. Willy is one famous whale.

**And in case you were wondering, I'm not some stage mom. Toby is totally on board with pursuing stardom.  See what he has to say about it, here.

Who are your favorite famous animals?

“Celebrity” Jews by choice

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Last Friday on The View, one of my favorite actresses, Drew Barrymore, came out…as Jewish! Well, almost Jewish. The little girl from my favorite childhood movie, E.T., announced her plans to not only raise her young daughter, Olive, in the faith, but to potentially convert to the religion of her spouse's family.  

"I haven't converted yet, Olive will be raised traditionally," she told Joy Behar and the rest of the View ladies.  "And we had a very traditional wedding ceremony with Rabbi Rubenstein and I did the ketubah. We wore the yarmulkes and we were under the chuppah. I'm there. I love it."

She also shared several lovely words about the Jewish faith.

"He's a nice Jewish man from a nice Jewish family," Barrymore said of her husband Will Kopelman.

"It's a beautiful faith and I'm so honored to be around it," she said. "It's so family-oriented and beautiful and I learned so much. The stories are so beautiful and it's incredibly enlightening. I'm really happy."

Welcome to the tribe, Ms. Barrymore.

Barrymore follows in a long tradition of "A" list celebrities who've joined the faith.

There are those who converted for love: Elizabeth Taylor (Eddie Fisher), Ivanka Trump (Jared Kushner), Isla Fisher (Sasha Baron Cohen), Marilyn Monroe (Arthur Miller), Connie Chung (Maury Povich), and Elizabeth Banks (Max Handelman).

(Interestingly, all these converts are women. Is this because Judaism is matrilineal, so men don't feel the need to convert in order to raise Jewish children, or is there something else at play here? Sound off below, just don't call me yenta!)

The two most beautiful women of all time became Jews by choice! And when their marriages failed, both ladies remained in the faith.

Taylorwho spent nine months studying before her conversionbecame a lifelong supporter of Jewish causes. Her purchases of Israeli Bonds caused an Arab boycott of her films. She was also banned from visiting Egypt to promote Cleopatra. Taylor helped raise money for organizations like JNF, advocated for the rights of Soviet Jews and even made public declarations of condemnation and protested against UN General Assembly Resolution 3379.

There are also some famous folks who just weren't aware of their Jewish roots: Tom Arnold, Amar'e Stoudemire.

Ilana Angel, a fellow blogger over at Keeping the Faith, interviewed and wrote a wonderful blog about Arnold and his Jewish story a few years back. His motherwho abandoned him as a childwas Jewish. Born and raised in Iowa as a Methodist, Arnold only embraced his Jewish faith after battling addiction. He officially converted when he married Roseanne Bar and had his bar mitzvah in his 30s. Now expecting with his Jewish wife, Arnold will be able to carry on the Jewish tradition with his baby son due in March.

And then there's my favorite famous convert: Sammy Davis Jr., the "one-eyed Negro Jew."

The story goes, Davis nearly died in a car accident and while recovering in the hospital, he was visited by performer Eddie Cantor who shared with him some of the similarities between black and Jewish culture. Davis intrigued, began studying the Jewish faith only to convert several years later. After his conversion, Davis even refused to work on Yom Kippur.

So whether, converting for love, discovering past roots or just admiring the faith, many in Hollywood have embraced the tribe of the chosen people. Is this yenta missing anyone from her list? Let me know in the comments below!

Jewish celebrity news--a year in review

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Here are my top 10 happy Jewish events from 2012 (in no particular order):

10. Aly Raisman hava nagilas her way to a gold medal for her floor routine (and a gold medal for the U.S. Gymnastics Team) at the summer Olympics in London. 

9. Aly's parents and YouTube sensations, Lynn and Rick Raisman, deserve their own spot on my list. Their now classic reactions to watching Aly perform resounded with all of us. In the social media era, their moment of sheer joy at their daughter's amazing success immediately went viral in one of the few feel good videos of the year.

8. Based on the Israeli series Hatufim, Showtime's Homeland sweeps the Golden Globes and Emmys winning Best Actor, Actress and Drama Series. (Chicagoan Mandy Patinkin also just received a Golden Globe nomination for his role as Saul Berenson on the show's second season.) 

7. Gilad Shalit celebrates one year anniversary as a free man and gives his first interview.

6. Jewish sports team owners/presidents Micky Arison/Miami Heat, Steve Tisch/NY Giants and Larry Bear/San Francisco Giants all win championships. Who says Jews aren't good at sports?!

Jewish owners face off in Super Bowl 46  

5. Edon Pinchot, a kipah-wearing Chicago Jewish day school student, singer and pianist makes it all the way to the semifinals- capturing America's heart- on America's Got Talent. Edon goes on to perform at YLD's Big Event where he is proclaimed the "Jewish Justin Bieber." 

4. Mark Zuckerberg takes Facebook public and becomes youngest billionaire.

3. The next Congress will have 10 Jews in the Senate and 22 in the House of Representatives, a decline from the 112th Congress, but still a disproportionately large number when you consider we make up less than 2% of the American population. And considering three of the nine Supreme Court justices are Jewish, we are (and will be) pretty well represented. 

2. Steven Spielberg directs another (soon-to-be) Oscar winning movie, Lincoln. Arguably his best since Schindler's List, it's destined to win big at the awards shows this season. You heard it here first.

1. ???? You tell me! What am I missing from this list? Add your top Jewish events of 2012 to the comments section below, just don't call me yenta! 

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy new year filled with lots of loved ones! See you in 2013!

Jewish Hollywood has gone to the dogs

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My dog Toby isn't a celebrity, but he should be. And if he were, he'd make the Tribe proud.


So cute, right?!

I know, I know, this yenta is obsessed with her dog, but she isn't the only one.

Last year, there was something in the Manischewitz, and babies were the hot accessory, but now there is a new trend: Jewish Hollywood has gone to the dogs.

Some of your favorite celebs are loving it up with their four legged friends. 

Just this past week, People Magazine featured a story titled A Letter To My Dog in which stars penned short love letters to their pets. Here are two notes from Chelsea Handler and Fran Drescher respectively to their pooches:

"Thanks for letting me put those stupid bandanas around your neck. I know you don't agree, but it really adds to your personality. Thank you for not taking shadoobies on the floor. And thank you for not being a cat. You were my dog the minute I laid eyes on you. Thank you for making me a mommy. You will always be my main man."

"You are the light from God. An Angel. You don't have a mean bone in your body. I am blessed to have you in my life. You taught me a great life lesson "that you can love, lose and love again! Thank you for that, my darling girl- you are a magical creature, and I witness you as you cast your loving spell on all who cross your path. I love you, Esther. Don't ever leave me."

Other Jewish celebrities have spoken out about their dogs in the past. Here are a few quotes from  a Good Housekeeping magazine's celebrity pet roundup:

"I have a husband and four rescue dogs. There is no option of no dogs on the bed. This is how I know my husband will be a good father someday. The pit bull sleeps on top of my husband. On top of him! He has to remove her sometimes because she snores too loudly into his ear and he can't take it. But he moves her in such a cute, gentle way, and he doesn't care about fur on the bed." Alicia Silverstone

"I've got Flossie dog, and she is great. She and I are still in love, 14 years. That's a relationship that works." Drew Barrymore

"Desmo is my guard dog, but he has a sweet side, too. Nothing entertains him (or me) more than when I blow bubbles and he can chase them." Debbi Mazar

Need more evidence?

There is even a movie out right now dedicated to dogs. Tim Burton's (his wife is my Jewish tie here) latest movie, Frankenweenie focuses on how man (or boy) loves his best friend so much, he'd bring him back to life. Burton told Reuters that the inspiration for the movie came from the strong connection he had with his childhood dog which he compares to your first love.

And in case you were wondering why no cats are represented in this post, well, according to our friends at the Jewish entertainment blog, 6 degrees no bacon, cats are just not that overly excited about being Jewish.


 Sorry to all my cat friends out there, but these pictures speak for themselves!


Fall is Rosh Hashanah, New Year’s resolutions and the return of prime time TV

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There are many things I love about Fall: celebrating Rosh Hashanah, making New Year's resolutions, enjoying the weather while it's still nice, dressing up for Halloween and most importantly, the return of prime time television!

(Side note-as a kid my birthday (October 13) was always at the top of the list, but as I've gotten older I've noticed it's conspicuously fallen off the list. Anyone else feel that way?)

In no particular order, this yenta has the scoop (she scoured lots of TV sites and articles) on what's in-store for your favorite Jew-ish** shows. Warning: there are some minor spoiler alerts below.

**By Jew-ish I mean these shows star Jewish actors, have Jewish characters or Jewish themes.

Shows that are scary

American Horror Story is back for a second creepy season starring one of my favorite MOTS, Adam Levine of Maroon Five, in his first big acting debut. Season two takes place in an insane asylum run by Jessica Lange who won an Emmy for her role as the nosy neighbor Constance in the first season. Levine will co-star opposite Jenna Dewan and round out a pairing described as "The Lovers." Check out the scary season two trailer, here. The show returns on Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 9 p.m. on FX.

Shows about singing

Speaking of Levine, he's back in the judge's seat on the third season of The Voice which premiered this past Monday on NBC during the same time as The X Factor on FOX. Talk about competition! On the other hand, American Idol has yet to announce a premiere date or for that matter, who will even be sitting in the judges chairs next to veteran Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey. While the rumors point to Keith Urban and Nikki Minaj, maybe it will end up being a MOT like Levine.

There are no spoilers to share here because season four of Glee has already premiered, but this list wouldn't feel complete without at least a mention of Glee. Just sayingis there anything about this show that isn't somehow Jewish?

Shows from Israel

Political thriller Homeland is based on the Israeli series Hatufim. For that reason alone, it's a must watch. The second season doesn't look to disappoint. Check out the season two trailer. Homeland returns to Showtime on Sept. 30.

Shows with Jewish characters

Not only does the show Happy Endings take place here in Chicago, but breakout star Adam Pally plays Max, the loveable, single, permanently unemployed MOT.  According to the Huffington Post, this season Max will end up in another relationship along with several other characters on the show, including Dave and Alex who rekindle their romance. Happy Endings returns Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 8p.m. on ABC.

I don't actually watch New Girl, but from what I've been told, Schmidt is sort of like the opposite of Max, except for the fact that they are both Jewish. For those of you who watch New Girl, Max Greenfield, who plays Schmidt, along with Jake Johnson, who plays Nate, were interviewed by Wet Paint about the Sophomore Season.   New Girl premieres on Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 8p.m. on Fox.

Shows with critical acclaim

Big Bang Theory is unarguably the best show on TV. No, that wasn't a typo. There should be no argument about this. Big Bang Theory is. the. best. show. on. TV. Period. Last season's finale was especially satisfying for long time fans: Bernadette and Howard get married. Howard leaves for outer space. Sheldon and Amy hold hands. Leonard proposes to Penny. And Poor Raj is still single. Want to know more about what's to come from your favorite loveable geeks? TV Guide has the scoop from the shows executive producers. The Big Bang Theory returns Thursday, Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. on CBS.

Side notethis yenta will be rooting for Mayim Balik come Emmy night, Sunday, Sept. 23. She is nominated for her first Emmy for her role as Amy Farrah Fowler.

Grey's Anatomy season nine picks up with the aftermath of the plane crash. Rumors are swirling that Lexie will not be the only one to die in the crash and with the confirmation that actor Eric Dane will be leaving the show at the beginning of the season, Dr. Sloane's fate appears up in the air. The residents, including Dr. Yang, will now be attendings and not all of them are remaining in Seattle. The Hollywood Reporter did a large story on the potentially final season of Private Practice, get the detailed scoop here. Both shows return Thursday, Sept. 27 on ABC.

What TV shows will you be tuning into in the New Year? Let me know below. Wishing a happy, healthy, sweet new year to each of you!

U.S. Jewish Olympians are on fire

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Just like her mom, Jewish Americans were kvelling for Aly Raisman after her amazing show last night in London which earned her an unexpected spot in the gymnastics all-around finals alongside fellow American Gabby Douglas. Not only did Raisman turn out a fabulous performance, but her floor routine performed to Hava Nagila (I could only find a video from previous competitions) was a nice moment of Jewish pride after a rocky start for many. While American Jews everywhere became overnight fans of Aly, and will certainly tune in to see how she does in the finals, there are several other Jewish American Olympians turning it out this year that are worth watching.

Here are some to keep an eye on.

As a former competitive high school swimmer, Jason Lezak has always held a special place in my heart. While the Ryan Lochte vs Michael Phelps showdown has garnered most of the swimming PR, Lezak is a swimming veteran. He is returning to London to swim in his fourth Olympics and is one of five captains on the 530-member American squad. Lezak will be racing in the men's 400 by 100-meter freestyle relay.

Rounding out American Jews in the pool is Anthony Ervin. Anthony previously won two Olympic medals at the 2000 Summer Olympics in the men's 50-meter freestyle and the men's relay team in the 4×100-meter freestyle event.  He actually stopped swimming competitively in 2003 (hence skipping Beijing), but decided to begin training again in 2011 and will be competing in the 50-meter freestyle event once more. Anthony is also quite the do-gooder! In 2000, he auctioned off his Olympic gold medal on eBay and donated the proceeds to victims of the 2004 tsunami.

You might not be as familiar with her, but Julie Zetlin has a lot in common with Aly Raisman. Like Aly, Julie is also a member of a gymnastics team--she is a rhythmic gymnast. Julie and Aly both fare from the east coast, are competing in their first Olympic games and are both considered dark horses. Julie was actually awarded a wild-card berth to compete in London.  Finally, Aly and Julie share the dubious distinction of being recently named to the 25 hottest athletes on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team list. Go, hot Jewish girls!

Moving on to fencing…yep, there is a Jew on the American fencing team and his name is Tim Morehouse. Tim is already an Olympic veteran; he won a silver medal competing in the men's sabre in Beijing. He will be back again this year and get this; he is coached by another famous, Jewish, Olympic, veteran, Yury Gelman!

Now admittedly, I don't know as much about this last athlete, but I'm trying to learn more. David Banks is a member of the men's rowing team. I believe this is his first time competing in the Olympics and it looks as though he competed in the Men's eight over the weekend and they finished in first place in their heat! The finals will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 1, so I guess we will just have to stay tuned to find out if he brings home any medals!

There are also 37 Olympians representing Israel in London, including Illinois-born Jillian Schwartz, a pole vaulter who was on the American team at the 2004 Athens Olympics, but is representing Israel this time around.

Am I missing anyone? Let me know, just don't call me yenta!

'Most Talkative,' a review of Bravo’s Andy Cohen’s new book

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If you've read some of my previous posts, then you're aware of my obsession with Bravo's reality TV series The Real Housewives. I watch every cast, including all the spinoffs and have since the beginning days of The Real Housewives of Orange County. I'm addicted to the shows and the wild antics of these women.

(Speaking of, have you checked out the new MOT housewives on New York yet? I like Aviva so far, but the jury is still out on Heather.)

But my favorite personality to emerge from the franchise is not actually one of the housewives; instead it's the guy who made them all famous: Andy Cohen. While today Cohen is known mainly as the guy behind the housewives and the host of kitschy late night show, Watch What Happens Live, Cohen has actually had a rather illustrious and impressive career in television. On a whim (I'd just finished 5,000+ pages of the Song of Fire and Ice series and needed something light) I recently picked up his new book, Most Talkative and gave it a whirl.

Cohen, in the easy conversational manner he uses as host of his show, breezes through his book discussing his childhood and how he came out of the closet, his early career at CBS and his obsession with Erica Kane and soap operas. There's not much behind-the-scenes dirt on the housewives that hasn't been published elsewhere, but nonetheless it was interesting going inside Cohen's head for a little while.

Cohen grew up in St Louis and deeply feels his Midwest, Jewish roots, which he makes clear throughout the book. Although he is no longer a Midwesterner - Cohen attended college in Boston and moved to New York City where he has remained. He always knew he wanted a career in television and has always been a fan of all things pop culture, particularly Days of Our Lives - no wonder he loves his housewives.

But Cohen's career in television didn't begin at Bravo or with reality TV. I was more than a little surprised to learn that he spent 10 years at CBS News, eventually serving as senior producer of The Early Show and also served as a producer for the network's 48 Hours and for CBS This Morning. In fact, he's won an Emmy and two Peabody awards for his work. Ok, the Emmy he won for Top Chef, but still very impressive.

The book focuses mainly on his early years behind the scenes, meeting and interviewing famous people and traveling the country and how he ended up working at Bravo. Part of the charm of his show is that Cohen always seems so excited to meet his guest. He's just a regular fan we can all relate to instead of the celebrity he himself has come to be. The book has the same charm and is peppered with stories of a star struck Cohen meeting the celebrities he loves while sometimes embarrassing himself in the process. The only downside to the book, I wanted to keep reading after it ended a bit abruptly ... and I'd really like to know once and for all who really is his favorite housewife.

So if you are a fan of Bravo and looking for a nice, easy summer read, I'd definitely recommend Most Talkative.

Listen to a clip of the book narrated by Andy himself.

Finally, did you have a chance to play match the MOT last month? As promised, the answers are below. How many did you get right? Let me know in the comments!

  1. "I'll be damned if I'm going to change my name. I'm a Jew and I'm proud of it."
  2. "As an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr Galliano in any way. I hope at the very least these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful."
  3. "I am Irish as a person, but I feel Jewish an an actor."
  4. "I'm Jewish, but I'm totally not."
  5. "First of all, the Jewish religion has a great deal in common with the Christian religion because, as Rabbi Gillman points out in the show, Christianity is based on Judaism. Christ was Jewish."
  6. "The Jewish part of me is superstitious."
  7. "Well I was in Russia. I wasn't allowed to be religious. My whole family was in the holocaust. My grandparents passed and not many survived. After the holocaust in Russia you were not allowed to be religious. So my parents raised me to know I was Jewish. You know who you are inside. You don't need to tell the whole world. You believe what you believe and that's what's important."
  8. "I went to a Jewish school, where nobody understood what it was like to be black and Jewish."
  9. "The night before our wedding I went to mikvah and Mike went to the ocean."
  10. "I interviewed survivors, I went to Poland, saw the cities and spent time with the people and spoke to the Jews who had come back to Poland after the war and talked about why they had come back."
  11. "It's a survivor's sense of humor, maybe even a Jewish sense of humor. Because of the difficulty of life for many Eastern Europeans - the pogroms, the Revolution, the Holocaust - their humor is broad and aggressively and ridiculously comic."
  12. "I didn't want the pain of it. I didn't want the derision. I didn't come from some tough New York community where I'd say: 'I'm Jewish -you want to make something out of it?' There was an insidious anti-Semitism in Los Angeles."
  13. "You know I grew up with the same holidays and such, in an Orthodox manner, in a Kosher home, and all of that. And those are strict rules to live by that I think really shape your personality and discipline. I think they definitely, whether I knew it at the time or not, subconsciously it definitely seeped in to just create a good balance."
  14. "I'm half Jewish, I'm half black, I look in-between. I dress funny. I play all these different styles of music on one record. It's like, What is he doing?"
  15. "I'm Jewish. I don't work out. If God had wanted us to bend over, He would have put diamonds on the floor."

1. Barbara Streisand, 2. Natalie Portman, 3. Harrison Ford, 4. Sarah Silverman, 5. Barbara Walters, 6. Gwenyth Paltrow, 7. Mila Kunis, 8. Drake, 9. Mayam Bialik, 10. Steven Spielberg, 11. Liev Schreiber, 12. Dustin Hoffman, 13. Emmanuelle Chriqui, 14. Lenny Kravitz, 15 Joan Rivers


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