Newsletter Issue # 19 February 29, 2012

The Milwaukee Brewers slugger, the first Jewish MVP in a half-century, became the first baseball player ever to successfully appeal a positive drug test. Ryan Braun won his appeal of a suspension imposed after he allegedly failed a test for performance-enhancing drugs, the baseball players union announced Thursday. “I am very pleased and relieved by today’s decision,” Braun said in a statement, ESPN reported.

With Passover just a month away a new app released by the Orthodox Union (OU) aims to help consumers keep kosher throughout the eight-day Jewish festival and to stay up to date on kosher products throughout the rest of the year. The app called OU Kosher promotes the values of the Orthodox Jewish community and provides consumers with updates on products that have been certified by the OU, which is the world’s largest kosher certification agency.

It’s no secret that Jews and Jewish-themed movies have heavily influenced American filmmaking. This year, stalwarts such as Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg have been nominated for Academy Awards, as were the Israeli film “Footnote” and the Polish Holocaust movie “In Darkness.” In addition to celebrated directors, actors and screenwriters, there are plenty of artists in less recognized roles who have picked up their own Oscar statuettes.

Despite the  disappointment that swept through the crowd of some 200 Israelis gathered at a Westside hotel Sunday night, when they heard Israeli film “Footnote” had missed out on an Oscar, Jewish pride was somewhat salvaged by the end of the night. The impressive triumph of “The Artist,” a black-and-white homage to Hollywood’s silent film era, directed by French Jew Michel Hazanavicius, won five Oscars for best picture, director, actor, costume design and original musical score.

The recent International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, one thing was impossible to miss. 2010 saw a proliferation of iPhones and Android phones on the market, and with that came a sharp rise in the number of mobile apps being downloaded. Mobile applications are being integrated everywhere and into everything. Smartphones are no longer the only devices on which users are downloading their favorite apps. In 2011, we realized that we needed those apps on our tablets, computers and televisions. And 2012 will be the year we download apps to our automobiles as well.

“Is she Jewish?” It’s one of the first questions Jews ask about anyone in pop culture who even slightly looks like one of the tribe, or has a “berg” or a “witz” as their name’s last syllable. I’m usually curious to find out the answer, but I’m rarely obsessed. But with one particular woman, I  must know. Who is she? None other than Lady Grantham of Downton Abbey.

Sacha Baron Cohen made a scene at the  Oscars when he arrived on the “Red Carpet” in character as General Aladeen, the star of his upcoming movie “The Dictator.” Carrying the fake ashes of the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, Baron Cohen dumped the ashes onto Ryan Seacrest. It was meant as a prank and a publicity stunt. And like most of Sacha Baron Cohen’s publicity stunts, it worked. People will be talking about it on Monday morning and that will ultimately result in a larger box office take for “The Dictator.”

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