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The Most Popular Bar Mitzvah Dancer in Boston

Dave Heard makes $450 a simcha while trying to make it to Broadway

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(Shutterstock)

The best thing on the Internet today, without a doubt, is the Boston Globe’s profile of Dave Heard, a 32-year-old Broadway-aspiring dancer and personal trainer with a surprising weekend business: bar mitzvahs. The in-demand bar mitzvah entertainer (“motivator,” to be exact) spends his Saturday nights pumping up the crowd, dancing with moms, and making shy sure seventh graders have the time of their lives.

Heard has worked more than 100 bar and bat mitzvahs, where he can make up to $450 a gig. And from the glowing reviews of bar mitzvah-goers, it sounds like he’s worth every penny.

Heard has studied at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and toured internationally with “Hairspray” and “Dreamgirls.” But he’s 32 already, and he knows that if he’s going to make it to the Broadway stage, he needs to get there soon. He’d love to play Simba in “The Lion King,” or the Ugandan doctor in “The Book of Mormon.” But this Saturday night found him earning a living at an event space in Foxborough, tripping the light fantastic with the bat mitzvah girl’s mother, Robin Milstein, 50, of Needham. (more…)

Is This The Best Bagel in New York City?

GQ anoints Absolute Bagels on the Upper West Side the city’s best

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Bagels are really having a New York moment. Mile End’s new bagel joint, Black Seed Bagels, has a line down Elizabeth St. nearly every day of the week, and the newly opened Baz Bagels on Grand St. is doing its part to keep Jewish food trendy. Still, there’s something to be said for classics—at least according to a new GQ ranking of the best bagels in New York City. (more…)

Gretchen Wieners: Where Is She Now?

A decade after Mean Girls, following up on the film’s token Jewish character

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Mean Girls' Gretchen Wieners, third from left. (Paramount Pictures)

Attention must be paid to Gretchen Wieners, the oft-overlooked middle member (and token Jewish girl) of the Plastics, the titular quartet of Mean Girls, Tina Fey’s teen classic, which turns 10 this month. Regina George, the meanest of the mean, has become a byword for a certain kind of feminine tyranny and catapulted her portrayer, Rachel McAdams to stardom. Amanda Seyfried, as the dimwitted Karen Smith, whose psychic breasts could tell when it’s raining, has also become a major star. Lindsay Lohan, as audience stand-in and protagonist Cady Heron, has become…whatever Lindsay Lohan has become.

But what of Gretchen, who suffered so many indignities at the hands of her so-called friends? Gretchen Wieners, who was not allowed to wear hoop earrings because Regina said they were her thing and when her parents gave her a pair of “really expensive white-gold hoops for Hanukkah” had to pretend she didn’t even like them? Gretchen Wieners, who fell to the gym floor with a painful thud during the school-wide trust exercise even though she can’t help it if she’s popular! Whatever became of Gretchen Wieners? (more…)

Peres and Abbas’ Vatican Date Set For June 8

Pope Francis hosting prayer session for the Israeli and Palestinian presidents

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Israeli President Shimon Peres welcomes Pope Francis at the President's Residence, on May 26, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Mark Neyman/GPO via Getty Images)

Pope Francis, while leading Mass in Bethlehem last weekend, extended an unexpected invitation to Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas—that the two leaders join him at the Vatican for an afternoon prayer. Both men agreed, and now the Vatican has set the date for the peace prayer: June 8, the AP reports.

Unprecedented though this gathering may be, if the Pope’s visit to Israel is any indication, the day’s focus will be prayer, and not politics. According to the AP, the Pope “stressed that he is not seeking to jumpstart peace negotiations, but merely bring the two sides together to pray.” (more…)

New Charges Against Kansas City JCC Shooter

Frazier Glenn Miller already faced capital murder charges in the April attack

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Crowds pass by a makeshift memorial following an interfaith service honoring victims of Sunday's shootings on April 17, 2014 at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, in Overland Park, Kansas. (Julie Denesha/Getty Images)

Frazier Glenn Miller, the 72-year-old former KKK leader accused of last month’s Kansas City shootings in which three people were killed at two separate Jewish institutions, appeared in court this week to acknowledge additional charges against him in connection with the shooting, Reuters reports. Frazier Glenn Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross, had already been charged with capital murder in the deaths of Reat Underwood, 14, and his grandfather William Corporon, 69, outside the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, and first-degree premeditated murder in the death of Terri LaManno, 53, who was shot minutes later outside Village Shalom Jewish retirement home. Now, according to Reuters, Miller faces the additional charges of “attempted first-degree murder of three men, aggravated assault against a woman, and for discharging a firearm in an occupied building.”

He’s being held on $10 million bail, and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for November 12-14. (more…)

Israeli Parents Crying Foul Over New Diaper Ads

Huggies’ cheeky new denim diaper ad campaign causing a stir in Israel

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I subscribe to the “I’ll know it when I see it” school of thought when it comes to kiddie porn. I learned this about myself quite recently—today, in fact—while looking at an ad campaign for Huggies diapers that has caused quite a to-do in Israel.

The campaign includes a TV spot (and I have Don Draper to thank for teaching me the vernacular needed to discuss this matter properly) that shows toddler-aged boys and girls vamping in Huggies’ latest innovation—denim-patterned diapers. It also includes billboards that feature the same tots in their version of come hither poses. The tag reads: Huggies Jeans—the most important item in the wardrobe.

As the parent of a toddler, I agree, in part: diapers are vital. Their being pseudo denim is not. (more…)

Nazi Salute Gets Man Banned From London Area

Yelled ‘Heil Hitler’ by kosher restaurant on Holocaust Remembrance Day

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Golders Green district of London. (Wikimedia/geograph.org.uk)

Shouting “Heil Hitler” and giving a Nazi salute outside a crowded kosher restaurant on Holocaust Remembrance Day might not be the best idea. Miroslav Ondrus, a 33-year-old Slovakian man living in London, learned that the hard way—he was convicted of religious harassment, sentenced to 180 hours of community service, and banned from London’s NW11 district after doing just that, Haaretz reports.

Ondrus admitted two charges of racially or religiously aggravated harassment and one charge of assault by beating for approaching Neville Kesselman and Gary Ost and performing the Nazi salute outside the White House Express in Golders Green Road on April 29 this year.

He also admitted to assaulting restaurant manager Solomon Tangi, whom he picked up and shook violently.

(more…)

IDF Soldier Suspended Over Nakba Day Shooting

Non-combat soldier suspected of firing rubber bullets without authorization

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Palestinians wave flags as they attend the funeral procession of Musaab Nuwarah, 20, and and Mohammed Udeh, 17, a day after they were shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes outside the Israeli-run Ofer prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 16, 2014. (THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

An Israeli soldier from a communications unit has been suspended following an investigation into the deaths of two Palestinian teenagers during a Nakba Day demonstration last week, Reuters reports. “No apparent evidence linked the soldier to either fatality, though, in the incident outside Israel’s Ofer prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah,” Reuters reports. “The soldier was suspected of firing rubber bullets, not live ammunition, the reports said.”

An Israeli military spokesman declined comment on the reports, saying “the incident is still under investigation by military police.” The media reports said a military tribunal had clamped a gag order on other details of the case.

The military said on May 20 that a preliminary investigation indicated that security personnel had fired rubber bullets but not live ammunition during the clashes.

(more…)

Ex-NYPD Cop’s Anti-Semitic Graffiti Targeted ‘Cheap’ Jews

Suspect has been under observation at Bellevue Hospital since his arrest

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(Wikimedia)

The former NYPD cop arrested earlier this month for spray painting a string of anti-Semitic messages on cars and and buildings in Brooklyn was arraigned Friday, the New York Post reports. Michael Setiawan, who has been under observation at Bellevue Hospital since his arrest, was charged with 15 acts of vandalism, nine of which were hate crimes.

According to the Post, court papers offer a small amount of insight into Setiawan’s motives for spray painting swastikas on a Borough Park synagogue and “tagging” the Bnos Zion Bobov Elementary School. He reportedly told arresting offices he did it “Because I don’t like those people.” (more…)

The Elders of Zion: A ‘Secret Society’?

Huffington Post listicle confuses fact with fiction

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(Gil C / Shutterstock.com)

One of our readers drew our attention to a Huffington Post listicle published today, enticingly titled “The 7 Most Exclusive Secret Societies in History.” The blog post lists some well-known names, such as the Freemasons and Yale’s infamous Skull and Bones, with short description of each. To our reader’s—and our—surprise, comfortably nestled in this register of real and debatably still-operative secret societies, is an entry for “The Elders of Zion.”

That’s right, that so-called secret society of Jews “exposed” in 1920 by a newspaper owned by well-known anti-Semite Henry Ford, in an article which was later republished in Russian and disseminated throughout the Muslim world. That supposed Jewish cabal that secretly controls the purse-strings of the world and ensures Jewish world domination; that product of the greatest anti-Semitic canard ever written. (more…)

Poland Expands Survivor Pension Eligibility

Victims of Nazi and Soviet persecution living outside Poland today also eligible

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A former concentration camp prisoner attends a ceremony at the memorial site of the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland, on Holocaust Day, January 27, 2014. (JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

The Polish government has widened the parameters for those who are eligible for monthly pensions. A new law will allow Holocaust survivors of Polish descent, as well as Polish victims of Soviet persecution, who are no longer living in Poland to be eligible for monthly stipends of roughly $135, the Times of Israel reports.

Prior to the change, people of Polish descent who were recognized as veterans or victims of oppression could receive the monthly benefits only if they had a bank account in Poland or knew a resident of Poland who was willing to transfer the money to them. Only very few people living outside Poland – reportedly less than 50 — actually applied for pensions.

As we reported in January, the number of Holocaust survivors living in poverty in the New York area alone is staggering, which makes this development of particular note. (more…)

Iranian Court Summons Mark Zuckerberg

Demands Facebook’s ‘Zionist director’ defend himself over privacy concerns

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the opening keynote at the Facebook f8 conference on April 30, 2014 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

An Iranian court in the southern province of Fars has opened a case against social media sites WhatsApp and Instagram, both of which are owned by Facebook, over concerns of privacy breaches, Reuters reports. The judge has also for some reason decided to summon Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to his court, for perhaps no reason other than the opportunity to refer to him as the company’s “Zionist director” to his face.

“According to the court’s ruling, the Zionist director of the company of Facebook, or his official attorney must appear in court to defend himself and pay for possible losses,” said Ruhollah Momen-Nasab, an Iranian internet official, according to state news agency ISNA, referring to Zuckerberg’s Jewish background.

Iran banned WhatsApp earlier this month, also citing prominently Zuckerberg’s Jewish roots in their decision. (more…)

Justin Timberlake Instagrams Western Wall Visit

The singer is scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv Wednesday night

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Singer Justin Timberlake performs at The Staples Center on November 26, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

It looks like Pope Francis isn’t the only high profile visitor to Israel this week. Justin Timberlake, who is scheduled to perform tonight in Tel Aviv, arrived in the Holy Land this morning, and reportedly stopped at the Western Wall with wife Jessica Biel and his parents on his way from the airport.

Timberlake posted a picture of his early morning visit on Instagram with the caption, “The Holy Land… What an experience. I will never forget this day. #Israel.” (more…)

Inside SodaStream’s West Bank Factory

Documentary offers a behind-the-scenes look at the controversial company

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Palestinian workers prepare boxes to pack products at the Israeli SodaStream factory in the Mishor Adumim industrial park, next to the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim on January 30, 2014. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

What’s bubbly, stirs controversy, and is represented by one of Hollywood’s biggest megastars? SodaStream, a company that produces home soda makers and operates a factory in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, which employs 500 Palestinians from Ramallah, Jericho, and other surrounding villages.

Controversy over the company fizzed earlier this year when the twin forces of the Super Bowl and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions—or BDS—movement converged, and superstar Scarlett Johansson, SodaStream’s new celebrity spokesperson, was caught in the middle. Johansson was pressed by BDS supporters to drop SodaStream for operating in the occupied territories of the West Bank. She refused, either because she had no idea the maelstrom she had entered or because she believed, like many others, that a factory that gives jobs to Palestinians can’t be all bad. Johansson ultimately stepped down as an ambassador for Oxfam, citing the humanitarian group’s stance on BDS. The Super Bowl ad came out (it was alarmingly sexual, even though it had been edited to be suitable for children—and for a moment it seemed that the political question had been outdone by the question of taste). (more…)

Prayer, Not Politics, On The Pope’s Visit to Israel

Though Pope Francis was seen foremost as a world leader during the trip

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Pope Francis places a prayer into the Western Wall on May 26, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

Pope Francis’ whirlwind 3-day tour of the Middle East came to a close yesterday evening at Ben Gurion airport, as Prime Minister Netanyahu asked that the Pope “pray for us, and we’ll pray for you.” It was a fitting close to a visit that Israeli and Palestinian officials alike attempted to milk for all its political value, but the Vatican insisted was a simple pilgrimage of prayer. In the end, the Vatican had its way: Francis, despite his reputation for jauntily revitalizing the Church with seemingly off-the-cuff statements, was the very model of wary piety.

Even the one big headline he made vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—an invitation to Presidents Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas to join him in a joint worship session for peace at the Vatican—was more about symbolic prayer than politics. Still, the heart of his trip—the visits to Gethsemane and the Cenacle, a show of Catholic-Orthodox unity at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—went almost unreported in Israel. The Pope was seen first and foremost as a world leader. (more…)

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