Archive for September, 2011

Tony And The Tycoon

September 26, 2011

This post first appeared as “Tony Blair Cozies Up To Israeli Businesswoman Ofra Strauss” on The Shmooze blog of the Forward.

Ofra Strauss

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been spending quite a bit of time in Israel since becoming the Quartet’s representative there. According to the Daily Mail (which in turn cites Maariv), the married Englishman has been spending a noticeable amount of that time with 51-year-old, twice-divorced Israeli “tycoon” Ofra Strauss.

Blair has apparently known Strauss, who is the chairperson and former CEO of the Strauss Group, which she inherited from her father, for some time. The company makes dairy products, snacks and sweets, and was one of the targets of the popular protests in Israel this past summer.

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© 2011 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

Blasting Their Way To A New Record

September 26, 2011

This post first appeared as “Toronto Day School Blasts Shofar World Record” on The Shmooze blog of the Forward.

The students at Associated Hebrew Schools of Toronto are tooting their own horns now that it looks like they have broken the world record for the largest shofar ensemble.

Last week, the school’s community gathered together to blow 1,406 shofars simultaneously, shattering the prior record of 796 set in Boston in 2006. The new record will not be official until the school submits evidence of the feat to Guinness, and it is approved.

Associated, as the school is known among Toronto Jews, was able to pull off such a stunt because it is the largest Jewish day school in the city. It has more than 1,600 students on three campuses. In addition to the students’ bringing in shofars from home, the school held shofar-making workshops so that each student in grades 1-8 could make their own from a ram’s horn.

Then, of course, came the issue of teaching all the children how to blow a shofar. Principal Eric Golombek reported that the kids were really into it. “It’s been electric. Kids have been so excited about it,” he told a local news website. The educator emphasized that the focus was not only on breaking a world record, but more importantly about doing something exciting and unifying to usher in the Jewish New Year.

© 2011 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

Keeping A Secret For Obvious Reasons

September 26, 2011

This post first appeared as “Iran Hiker Josh Fattal’s Judaism Kept Secret” on The Shmooze blog of the Forward.

Josh Fattal, flanked by Sarah Shourd and Shane Bauer, addresses a press conference in New York yesterday.

In an exclusive report, the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia has revealed that Josh Fattal, one of the two American hikers released from Iranian prison last week, is Jewish. This information had been purposely kept out of the press for the 26 months of his captivity for obvious reasons.

Although local friends, acquaintances and rabbis in suburban Elkins Park, Pa., Fattal’s home town, knew of his being Jewish, it was a deliberate decision on the part of the Fattal family to decline offers of assistance from Jewish organizations. The hiker’s Jewish identity was kept almost completely under wraps, and the Exponent refrained from reporting the story. “When it comes to someone’s physical safety, we’ll always err on the side of caution, even if it means suppressing such a dramatic and important story,” said Lisa Hostein the paper’s executive editor.

Fattal, 29, had been in Israel just prior to meeting up with friends Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd in Syria and then continuing on together to visit Iraqi Kurdistan. It was as they hiked in Iraqi Kurdistan in July 2009 that they allegedly — according to Iranian officials — crossed the Iranian border, prompting Iran to claim they were U.S. spies and arrest them. Shourd was released in September 2010.

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© 2011 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.


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