Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden Have Traditional Jewish Wedding

OFTENTIMES RABBIS LAMENT THE FACT that two Jews don't choose to include many of the traditional Jewish wedding elements into their big day. Well, now many rabbis can point to two non-Jewish celebrities who have chosen to include many of those traditional Jewish wedding elements into their wedding.

Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden opted for quite the Jewish wedding although neither is Jewish. On Monday, January 5, 2015 the famous couple became married at Cameron Diaz's Beverly Hills mansion.

The couple got ready in separate rooms prior to the ceremony. The wedding party included bridesmaids Nicole Richie (her new sister-in-law), Drew Barrymore, her older sister Chimene Cain, and Diaz’s assistant Jesse Lutz. Standing up for Benji Madden were his groomsmen Josh and Joel Madden.

As reported on Yahoo! News, the event, which was planned by Yifat Oren and Stefanie Cove, featured a Jewish ceremony on a stage set up inside of Diaz’s home. The bridesmaids wore black dresses and carried white bouquets, entering the room to a Ryan Adams song. See photos of Diaz's gorgeous engagement ring.


An officiant (presumably a rabbi) presided over the service, reading the seven blessings for the couple. When the time came for the pair to exchange rings, Benji accidentally dropped his, and the 100 guests laughed along with the bridal party. To seal the deal — as is custom in a Jewish ceremony — Madden stepped on and broke a glass as the crowd shouted, “Mazel Tov!”

After the vows, Madden requested personal time with Diaz, during which they entered a private room for about 30 minutes, asking not to be disturbed — a Jewish wedding ritual known as Yichud.

Guests, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Samantha Ronson, Lionel Richie, Toni Collette, Nancy Juvonen, Judd Apatow, Leslie Mann, and Robin Antin, enjoyed a cocktail hour in the backyard’s outdoor tent, which was decorated with olive trees, linen tablecloths, and beeswax candles. The newlyweds soon joined their friends and family in the tent, giving a welcome toast.

Sheva berachot, yichud and the breaking of a glass. Maybe now more Jewish couples won't question why rabbis insist on all that tradition!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Former New England Patriots' Star Andre Tippett Loves Latkes on Hanukkah

SHOULD ADAM SANDLER EVER DECIDE to write a new version of his famous Hanukkah Song, he should definitely include that NFL Hall of Famer Andre Tippett enjoys eating his potato latkes on Hanukkah with apple sauce. That's right, the former New England Patriots' star Andre Tippett is Jewish after converting several years ago.

While he didn't play in the NFL while he was an official member of the Jewish tribe, Tippett, along with former NFL greats Ron Mix and Sid Luckman, are the only three Jews in the NFL's Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

The Boston Globe's Steven A. Rosenberg recently interviewed Tippett, who spoke fondly of his Baptist upbringing and his beautiful Jewish family. When he began to discuss his family's Hanukkah holiday rituals, "his voice grows even softer" than it normally is.

“Hanukkah means dedication and is about miracles. I’m probably more excited than most of the family because I look forward to any type of celebration when it comes to holidays,” the 55-year-old Tippett told the Boston Globe reporter.

Married to the Jewish Rhonda Kenney, the couple has a daughter Madison and a son Coby. They were married by a rabbi in 1993 and Tippett began taking Judaism classes that led to his conversion in 1997.

Andre Tippett at the New England Patriots vs St Louis Rams game in 2008. (Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Jon Stewart Offers to Have a Talmud Discussion with Stephen Colbert

ON LAST NIGHT'S EPISODE OF The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert finally had his good friend and former boss Jon Stewart as a guest on the successful Comedy Central show.

Jon Stewart (née Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz) came on Colbert's show to promote his new movie, Rosewater, and explained that behind closed doors he only quotes rabbinical texts.

"I am merely an arbiter of biblical law," he said. And then he offered to have a Talmudic discussion with his friend Stephen Colbert.

Although Jon Stewart is a producer of The Colbert Report and helped launch the pseudo spin off of his own The Daily Show, he had never been a formal guest on the Colbert Report until last night. (Stewart had made cameo appearances in the past.)

Stephen Colbert, who is not Jewish, has been tapped to take over hosting duties on The Late Show when David Letterman retires at the end of the year. Colbert only has 12 more episodes of the Report remaining this year.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert
Before Colbert gave Stewart a chance to pitch Rosewater -- the story based on the memoir Then They Came for Me by Maziar Bahari -- the two demonstrated their special chemistry, which has been called a loving bromance. At the end of the interview, each man kissed the other on the cheek.

Here's the video of the exchange:




Rabbi Jason Miller is the co-founder of PopJewish.com blog. Rabbi Jason's an entrepreneur, educator, technologist and blogger. He is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post and Time.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RabbiJason.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rabbi Barry Freundel and Personal Safeguards

CHEATING ON A SPOUSE IS USUALLY considered an unforgivable sin and often ends in divorce. It is also socially reprehensible, though regrettably, we have become numb to its frequent occurrence. I was surprised to learn that research indicates that oftentimes cheating spouses are not necessarily unhappy in their marriage, or are looking to cheat as a way of satisfying their ego, and do not always engage in this act impulsively. The way a psychologist explained it to me is that, oftentimes, it’s the outcome of a fantasy that festers and festers in his or her mind for days, months, and maybe even years. Psychologically speaking, if a spouse has multiple affairs, we can chalk it up to the idea that has been around since Talmudic times, that once you have tasted the forbidden fruit, it’s too difficult to go back.

I don’t know Rabbi Barry Freundel or the particulars of his character, other than what I have heard and read recently. But it might very well be that his sick and perverted behavior stemmed from a fantasy that festered within him for a very long time. Perhaps after a particularly frustrating day he did some research about cameras. A few months later, after an unfulfilling day in the office, he bought one, and a few months after that he installed it. Once he recorded his first victim, it was too difficult to turn back.

Whether my psychological analysis of Rabbi Freundel is correct is not the point. What is important to recognize is that even the most moral, ethical and family oriented person can succumb to a desire that is the product of a far-fetched fantasy he or she never dreamed would actually come to fruition. The unfortunate truth is that we can destroy many lives by turning a fantasy into a reality that we never really wanted in the first place. We need to protect ourselves from ourselves, but how? Just as important as creating communal safeguards to prevent society from acting on its basest instincts, is the need to create personal safeguards to prevent ourselves from yielding to the unholy and unhealthy temptations we face on a daily basis. Is there anything we can do to ward off the “impure,” “evil” or inappropriate thoughts that enter our minds? Are there strategies we can adopt to protect ourselves from allowing an idea to fester to the point that we make the biggest mistake of our lives? Can we be programmed to flip an “off” switch to shut out these thoughts? Is it possible to diffuse or at least control them?

Orthodox Rabbi Barry Freundel Arrested for Voyeurism; Abuse


Jewish tradition provides a number of what has currently come to be called “cognitive behavioral techniques” to protect someone from succumbing to their base desires. The advice is remarkably prescient and remains relevant today.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rabbi Tom Hanks Dances at Scooter Braun's Jewish Wedding

RABBI TOM HANKS? No, Tom Hanks is not playing a rabbi in his next movie. However, video and photos of Tom Hanks wearing a white kippah (yarmulke) and a fake tallit (Jewish prayer shawl) are all over the Internet thanks to Justin Bieber.

Bieber was at the Jewish wedding of his long-time manager Scooter Braun in Whistler over the weekend. It looked like quite the party and Justin Bieber uploaded video of Tom Hanks dancing to the classic ‘90s song "This is How We Do It". From Bieber's Instagram account the video quickly went viral and was reported on by several entertainment television shows and celebrity websites.

Bieber has more than 17 million followers on Instagram. He captioned the video: "Haha Tom Hanks singing 'This Is How we do it' dressed like a Rabbi lol #thatdancetho".

Scooter Braun is 33 and his new wife is 27. Yael is the CEO of F--- Cancer, an organization she founded after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2009.

Other celebrities in attendance at Scooter Braun's wedding to cancer activist Yael Cohen in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, over the Fourth of July weekend included Tom Hanks, his wife Rita Wilson, Sophia Bush, Carly Rae Jepsen and Ed Sheeran.

Rabbi Tom Hanks in a kippah and tallit dances at Scooter Braun's wedding
Tom Hanks in a kippah and tallit dances at Scooter Braun's wedding


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mike Myers Introduces New Generation to Shep Gordon

A FEW MONTHS AGO I GOT a voicemail from a publicist in Los Angeles. She told me that she stumbled upon my PopJewish.com blog on the web, read some of my posts, and thought I'd enjoy watching a movie she was promoting. I returned the call and we talked a little about Hollywood icon Shep Gordon and the film about him that Mike Myers directed.

I quickly agreed to screen an advance of the movie and within a week I received a copy of "Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon". I put the film on one of my monitors and continued to do some work on the other. Well that lasted for about 30 seconds until my full attention was directed to the very Jewish looking guy on the screen who sounded a little like Larry David with a nasal infection.

I was hooked. The film has interviews from some of Hollywood's biggest celebrities talking about why Shep Gordon is such a great guy (read: mensch). This biography documentary could easily have felt like a bar mitzvah tribute video, albeit to a seventy-year-old Hollywood agent, but Myers succeeded in making this a truly touching film that shows the best parts of Hollywood.

For several decades Shep Gordon was a Hollywood agent to the likes of Alice Cooper, Anne Murray, Groucho Marx, Luther Vandross, Blondie, Raquel Welch and even Pink Floyd (for only 9 days).

Shep Gordon

Later in his career he developed the concept of the "Celebrity Chef" with his client Emeril Lagasse. But more than a name-dropping history lesson in how a trumpanick of a kid becomes a successful agent in Hollywood, this film is a warm, touching story of a guy who really was a mensch.

Throughout his diverse career Shep Gordon gave out "coupons" to help people out. These were favors or loans that he'd float to help out his friends in difficult times. When the great Groucho Marx was struggling after his career was over, Shep cashed in some of these coupons to help out the legendary comedian.

Continue reading on Blog.RabbiJason.com


Rabbi Jason Miller, a co-founder of PopJewish.com, is an educator, entrepreneur and blogger. He also writes the Jewish Techs blog. He is president of Access Computer Technology. Follow him on Twitter at @RabbiJason.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Mick Jagger Knows Some Hebrew (Apparently)

MICK JAGGER, KEITH RICHARDS AND THE REST of the Rolling Stones gave Israelis a real treat the other night in Tel Aviv when they performed a sold out concert at Hayarkon Park.

David Horovitz of the Times of Israel put together a list of Mick Jagger's Hebrew expressions throughout the night. (To be fair, some of the words are Arabic.) Based on what most attendees have told me, his pronunciation was near perfect revealing that he must have had some good coaching and practiced the phrases before taking the stage right after the conclusion of the Shavuot holiday.

Here's Horovitz's list (in order of appearance):

1. Erev Tov Tel Aviv (Good evening Tel Aviv). A modest opening foray, delivered two songs in. Quickly followed by…

2. Chag Shavuot Sameach, Yisrael (Happy Shavuot, Israel). Already impressive. A festive greeting. A mention of Israel. And those awkward guttural sounds mastered on CHag and SameaCH.

3. Anachnu HaAvanim Hamitgalgalot (Literally: We are the Rolling Stones). Yup, we knew that. We just didn’t know he knew how to say it in our language.

4. Todah. Shukran (Thank you, in Hebrew and Arabic). Delivered after an aching “Angie.” We were the thankful ones.
Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones perform in Tel Aviv [Photo: EPA]

5. Hakol Sababa? (All good?). Excellent Arabic slang, invoked anxiously after “Paint It Black.” Reassured by a huge cheer that everything was indeed sababa, Jagger gave us a rich cockney “ohhhh kayy!”

The Rolling Stones guitarist, Ronnie Wood, during the band's concert in Tel Aviv, Israel, on June 4, 2014. (Photo credit: Flash 90)
The Rolling Stones guitarist, Ronnie Wood, during the band’s concert in Tel Aviv, Israel, on June 4, 2014. (Photo credit: Flash 90)

6. Kanita Na’alayim Bashuk? (Did you buy shoes in the market?) The evening’s undoubted Hebrew highlight, asked of a presumably uncomprehending Ronnie Wood, who was wearing nifty orange sneakers. There was no audible reply, in Hebrew or any other language.

7. Lisa Fischer maksima (The lovely Lisa Fischer). Backing vocalist extraordinaire. One of only two musicians to merit a Jagger Hebrew introduction, the other being…

8. Al Hatupim (On the drums) Charlie Watts. Special treatment because, two days earlier, Jagger told us, it had been Charlie’s…

9. Yom Huledet (Birthday)! The audience responded with a raucous Hebrew rendition of “Happy Birthday” and the usually inscrutable drummer smiled, very broadly, like a bashful school kid. He’s 73, by the way.

10. Atem Nehenim? (Are you having a good time?) After a rousing “Gimme Shelter,” you betcha!

11. Atem Kahal Meturaf (You’re a Crazy Audience). A compliment as we neared the end, between “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Brown Sugar.”

12. Layla Tov, Ve’Shalom Tel Aviv (Goodnight and goodbye Tel Aviv). Mick’s final Hebrew utterances as the band disappeared. They reappeared for two encore songs, but the Jagger Hebrew vocabulary had been exhausted, leaving only the eternal question, Did Ronnie Wood buy his sneakers in the market?

David Horovitz is the founding editor of The Times of Israel. He previously edited The Jerusalem Post (2004-2011) and The Jerusalem Report (1998-2004). He is the author of "Still Life with Bombers" (2004) and "A Little Too Close to God" (2000), and co-author of "Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin (1996).