Don’t call me yenta

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

Don’t call me yenta

Celebs that have traveled (recently) to the Holy Land, Part I

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In the past year or so, Israel has become hot destination for the celebrity crowd. Yes, you read this correctly; many Hollywood stars have been making the trek to the Holy Land. Whether filming for their reality shows— Gene Simmons and the Duggar Family— playing in sold out concert venues— Rihanna, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Justin Bieber— getting married!— James Van Der Beek— or just getting back in touch with their Jewish roots— Amar Stoudemire— it seems Israel is the place to see and be seen.

Check out the list of celebs (both Jewish and not Jewish) that have been to Israel recently or on notable trips. (I decided to make this challenging for myself, so no Israeli celeb, ie. Natalie Portman or Bar Rafaeli appears on this list).

Amare Stoudemire 
New York Knicks basketball player Amar Stoudemire visited Israel to explore his possible Jewish heritage. Stoudemire’s been very open about his belief that he has “Hebrew roots” through his mother. He’s told news outlets in the past that his Hebrew roots have, “played a subtle but important role in my development,” he said. His visit to Israel was a chance to enhance his connection to Judaism, to learn the language and more about the Jewish religion.

Stoudemire’s breadth of knowledge has only increased since his return.  He frequently tweets about his Hebrew studies and you can often catch tweets that include Hebrew.

Maybe one day he Omri Caspi can join an Israeli basketball team together? Wouldn’t that be something!

Claire Danes 
Claire Danes made her first visit to Israel to film a TV series titled Homeland that is based on an Israeli series. Danes visited the country with her husband and fellow actor, Hugh Dancy. The couple traveled all over the country visiting not just the Western Wall, but also the Dead Sea, Masada and Tel-Aviv.

Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher 
Last year Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher traveled to Israel in the wake of a cheating scandal. The trip was said to be a spiritual journey to help the kabbalah-loving couple get their marriage back on track.

But apparently it didn’t work because as I’m writing this, People Magazine has published a statement from Demi Moore’s camp announcing the demise of her marriage:

"It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I have decided to end my six-year marriage to Ashton," says Moore. "As a woman, a mother and a wife there are certain values and vows that I hold sacred, and it is in this spirit that I have chosen to move forward with my life."

She continues: "This is a trying time for me and my family, and so I would ask for the same compassion and privacy that you would give to anyone going through a similar situation."
 

The Duggar Family 
My fellow blogger, Joel Schatz, already touched on the Duggars trip to Israel in a recent blog post:

The stars of the TLC reality TV series “19 Kids and Counting,” recently headed off to Israel with the whole clan—two parents, the 19 kids, one daughter-in-law, two grandchildren, one grandmother and a cousin, plus the obligatory film crew.  

El Al Airlines’ Sky Words newsletter  says the family checked 24 bags totaling 720 pounds, as well as three strollers and four car seats. There were 10 outfits and three pairs of shoes per person, along with 70 baby bottles and 40 hair bows.

This is what family matriarch Michelle Duggar had to say about the trip:

It happened that Grandma Duggar's birthday was this year -- she turned 70. And the dream of her life, from the time she was a little girl, was to get to go to the Holy Land.

So we told her on her birthday that we wanted to give her a trip to Israel. At that point we were thinking we would buy two tickets and send her with a family member. But we all ended up going, and it was something Grandma would have never thought would've happened -- all of her grandchildren in Jerusalem with her. It was so neat.

Gene Simmons 
For those of you who watch KISS founder Gene Simmons' reality show, Family Jewels, much of the focus lately has been on Gene’s decision to finally marry longtime love and mother of his two children, model Shannon Tweed.  But did you also know that an episode during the sixth season of the show featured Simmons on a trip to Israel?

Or better yet, that Gene Simmons is in fact Israeli?

That’s right, born in Haifa to a Holocaust survivor, Gene speaks Hebrew (along with several other languages), but left the country at the age of eight when his mother divorced his father and had never returned.

Simmons told Spinner magazine the following about the trip:

"My parents had divorced; I came to America with my mom and never saw my dad again. He was married at least six times, as I understand it. Anyway, the trip was Shannon's idea. She thought it would be good for the show. So we get to a restaurant for dinner and a man approaches, a big, good-looking guy I thought was the waiter. Then they spring it on me: It's a brother I never met. Then two sisters, then another sister. Shannon arranged for all of my relatives from my father's side to surprise me. Her master plan."

James Van Der Beek 
Did you know that Dawson got married in Israel? James Van Der Beek didn’t just visit Israel recently; he went there to get married! James married Kimberly Brook (who is Jewish) in a small, top-secret ceremony at the Kabbalah center in Tel Aviv that was officiated by Rabbi Yehuda Berg, who also married fellow kabbalah enthusiasts Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

It turns out, lots of celebrities like Israel! Isn’t that great? Check back next time for more celebs that have traveled to Israel in Part II. Just don’t call me yenta.

The long list of Jewish reality stars

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Kim Kardashian's 72 day marriage was a big topic of conversation at my dinner table last night. While those of us sitting around the table maybe wished we weren't letting her short lived marriage dominate the conversation, somehow it kept coming back up. These days it seems reality TV is taking over—this yenta is the first to admit she watches a lot of it, even though she knows she shouldn't. But it's mindless entertainment and it's not all that bad. Some reality stars are actaully famous for what they do professionally and not just because they are on a TV show. And while Kim and her ex may not be MOTs, many other reality stars these days most definitely are and in some cases (for better or worse) Judaism plays a large role on their shows.

Here's my list of the top Jewish reality stars. I know I'm missing some faces (I don't actually watch ever reality show out there), so please add your favorites to the comment section below.

The Bravolebrities
Either there are a lot of them or I just watch a lot of Bravo TV, but from real housewives to top chefs and celebrity stylists, Jews are representing on Bravo's reality packed channel.

The Rachel Zoe Project
Rachel Zoe's (sort of) eponymous show (her real name is actually Rachel Zoe Rosenzweig) follows the trials and tribulations of LA's biggest celebrity stylist and her loveable husband (also Jewish) and staff (many of them Jewish.) Last season, Rachel took a day off from her grueling schedule of picking out clothes for herself and others to actually cook her family a Passover Seder. This season, pregnant Rachel following tradition, refused to buy anything for the baby till he was born.

The Real Housewives of New York and Beverly Hills and Bethenny Ever After
Jill Zarin, a former Real Housewife of New York, has probably played up (and capitalized on) her Jewish roots more than anyone else. She, with the help of her sister and mother, published a book titled, "Secrets of a Jewish Mother" and she frequently brings up her Jewishness on the show.

Kyle Richards, though somewhat less vocal, has shared her own Jewish back story on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Kyle converted to Judaism when she married her husband. They've reared their daughters in a Jewish household and send them to Jewish Day School.

Though Bethenny Frankel (formerly a Real Housewife of New York and now star of her own show) is not raising her daughter Jewish, I'm still including her on this list. Whether she admits it or not, everything about Bethenny is Jewish. From her perfectionist ambition, mad Jewish mother cooking skills and desire to always feed people, I wish she would just embrace her Jewishness full-time. And I love here, so she's here. Go ahead, argue with me.

Millionaire Matchmaker
For better or worse, anyone who has seen Millionaire Matchmaker knows that Patti Stanger is Jewish and more frequently than not, so are the millionaires she is trying to fix up.

Watch What Happens Live
I adore Andy Cohen, Executive Vice President for Original Programming and Development at Bravo aka the guy behind the real housewives shows. A few years back, he got his own half hour TV show that runs a few times a week with special guests ranging from reality stars to real celebs like Sarah Jessica Parker. From his "mazel" of the week to standing up and bringing attention to any kind of injustice, Andy is a super Jew and uses his show as a funny vehicle for good.

Top Chef
I don't actually watch Top Chef, so I'm not as well versed on the contestants. I'm sure quite a few of them are Jewish. I'm just going to mention one of them here. Season 7: Washington D.C. Contestant Alex Reznik currently runs a kosher restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles. Doesn't get much more Jewish than that!

The Bachelor/Bachelorette Franchise
Again I'm sure I'm missing several of the Jewish contestants, but I'm just going to focus on the more memorable cast members (those cast as leads or who became engaged on the show.)

Jason Mesnick
Jason Mesnick was the runner up on season four of the Bachelorette. He went on to star in his own Bachelor franchise. Jason's season was one of the more controversial seasons in Bachelor history. After choosing Melissa Rycroft for his final pick, he later changed his mind, broke up with her and went back to the runner up from his season, Molly Malaney, who he married on TV in a Jewish ceremony.

JP Rosenbaum
JP is the most recent winner of the Bachelorette, not only did he win the heart of lead contestant Ashley Herbert, but the hearts of most of the (Jewish) women tuning into the show last season.

American Idol/The X Factor/Dancing with the Stars/The Voice
The talent shows are chock full of Jewish representation. Some of the people listed here are actual celebs, but since they are participating in reality shows, I've decided to include them in this post.

Adam Levine
Adorable Adam Levine, lead singer for Maroon 5, also appears as one of the four judges on the new singing show, The Voice. During the first season, Adam mentored the eventual winner of the show Javier Colon. Good work, Adam!

Paula Abdul
I think everyone knows her, so I'll keep this short. Now on her third show, Paula is the kooky, nice judge countering Simon Cowell's harsh critiques.

Brooke Burke
A former Dancing with the Stars contestant, Brooke Burke is now a cohost on the show. She's also one of only two Jewish contests to ever win Dancing with the Stars. Jennifer Grey also won her season. Some other Jewish contestants who've appeared on the show, include Ian Zering, Kelly Osbourne, Marlee Matlin, Jane Seymour, David Arquette, Jerry Springer, Steve Guttenberg, and Marissa Jaret Winokur.

Karina Smirnoff and Maksim and Val Chmerkovskiy
Proving Jews can dance well and look hot.

A few others…

Ace of Cakes
Admittedly, I've never seen Duff Goldman's show about his bakery, so I took this from his bio page on the Food Network website. "Meet Chef Duff. Shaping cakes with drill saws and blowtorches, and staffing his bakery with fellow rock musicians, he's not your typical baker. However, he's one of the most sought-after decorative cake makers in the country. Every week at Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, Duff and his team of artists try to meet the demands of creating up to 20 cakes a week, some of which take up to 29 hours to build!"

Man vs. Food and Man vs. Food Nation
As a longtime vegetarian, Adam Richman's shows tend to gross me out. I appreciate what he does (sort of), but I usually can't make it through a whole episode. Each week, Adam goes to a different city to try the food and compete in a challenge to eat a ridiculous amount of something. It's a pretty amazing spectacle to watch that proves some Jews have tough stomaches.

Project Runway
Michael Kors is one of the three main judges on Project Runway. Always dressed in his signature black shirt and blue jeans, Michael's been dishing out criticism and occasional compliments to the shows contestants for the past nine seasons.

I think this is a good place to stop. Please let me know who I've neglected to include in the comments below, just don't call me yenta.