Strange but true

New York rabbi fights US Army beard ban

By Jennifer Lipman, December 20, 2010

A rabbi hoping to become chaplain to US troops has run into a problem as plain as the hair on his face – his beard.

According to the army’s strict regulations on appearance, anyone serving the military must be clean - shaven, but Chabad rabbi Menachem Stern has a long black beard.

Rabbi Stern was refused a job as a military chaplain last year after he claimed it would contradict his religious beliefs to trim it.

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George Bush' niece Lauren to marry Jewish

By Jennifer Lipman, December 14, 2010

Six months after Chelsea Clinton married investment banker Marc Mezvinsky, the granddaughter of President’s George HW Bush has announced she is to marry another New Yorker of Jewish descent.

Lauren Bush, niece of George W Bush, is engaged to the son of Jewish fashion designer Ralph Lauren.

At 39 David Lauren, the executive vice-president at Polo Ralph Lauren, is 13 years older than his future bride. The couple met in 2004.

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The 'tefillin terrorist' and a scare on a New Zealand ferry

By Jennifer Lipman, December 13, 2010

Armed police forced a religious Israeli man to his knees and took him away for questioning after passengers on a New Zealand ferry mistook his tefillin boxes for an explosive device.

The man and a friend were later freed without charge, after police realised that they were not a terrorist threat and were merely observing Jewish practice.

An elite police unit was called in when another passenger saw the man strapping the leather boxes to his arm and alerted crewmembers.

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Traffic jam: Time for some Jewish dancing

By Jennifer Lipman, December 8, 2010
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When the road ahead is blocked, the obvious thing to do is to leave your car and dance.

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£80 to conceal alleged killer's Nazi tattoos

By Jennifer Lipman, December 7, 2010

A man on trial for murder in Florida has been awarded nearly £80 per day to cover up his Nazi-themed tattoos.

Lawyers for John Ditullio, in court for a double stabbing in 2006 which left one victim dead and another wounded, successfully argued that if jurors could see the Nazi symbols on his skin they would be prejudiced when making their decision.

The court agreed to pay for a professional make-up artist to come in on every day of the trial and conceal Mr Ditullio’s tattoos.

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Court orders Orthodox woman to be cremated after three month battle

By Jennifer Lipman, December 7, 2010

The body of a 105-year-old Jewish woman from New York who died three months ago will finally be removed from a mortuary after a judge ruled that she could be cremated.

Ethel Baar, who died on September 11, began following Orthodox Judaism late in life, and her great-nephew James Pollak said that she had wanted to be laid to rest in accordance with Orthodox tradition.

But in 1999 she also stated in her will that she wanted her body to be cremated, which is against halachah.

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How my Supernan took off

By Jennifer Lipman, November 25, 2010

A French photographer has transformed his 91-year-old Holocaust survivor grandmother into a superhero.

Sacha Goldberger, from Paris, began snapping grandmother Frederika in unusual costumes and poses three years ago to try to cheer her up.

He has since taken thousands of them and now has more than 2,200 MySpace followers. They have also been exhibited in a gallery.

Mrs Goldberger, who was born in Budapest in 1919, emigrated to France when Hungary was under Soviet control.

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Sacha Goldberger's super grandma

By Jennifer Lipman, November 24, 2010

Some of Sacha Goldberger's unusual photographs of his Holocaust survivor grandmother Frederika.

All photos: Sacha Goldberger

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Mike Tyson in talks to open kosher restaurant

By Jennifer Lipman, November 22, 2010

Boxer Mike Tyson could be moving into the kosher food market.

The heavyweight champion is in discussion with Jewish businessman Moshe Malamud about launching a high-end kosher restaurant chain.

According to the New York Post the plan was discussed over a meal at Solo, a kosher grill in Manhattan.

A spokesman for the restaurant said: "They discussed the concept as well as the name, but nothing was finalised.”

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Harry Potter and the Israeli muggle grave

By Jennifer Lipman, November 17, 2010

It has been described as a “billion-dollar Zionist project” by an Iranian newspaper and criticised for “corrupting” young souls by the pope. Now it turns out that Harry Potter does have a connection with the Holy Land.

Tourists have been flocking to the Israeli town of Ramla to visit the grave of Harry Potter, a British soldier who died as a teenager in 1939.

Private Potter, unlike his fictional counterpart, grew up in Birmingham and joined the army in 1938.

He was posted to what was then British Mandate Palestine and killed in battle the following year.

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