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Google Doodle celebrates the Jewish designer of cat-eye glasses, Altina Schinasi

(New York Jewish Week) – The Google Doodle for Friday, Aug. 4 features a cartoon image of a bespectacled woman peering out from one of the lenses of orange cat-eye glasses. The Doodle celebrates the 116th birthday of Altina “Tina” Schinasi, the Sephardic Jewish artist, inventor and New Yorker who devised the distinctive eyeglasses.  

A trained sculptor, Schinasi designed the glasses in the late 1930s while working as a window display designer in Manhattan. Many major manufacturers rejected her designs, inspired by the Italian Harlequin mask, because they were too edgy. She pushed forward and partnered with a boutique optical shop called Lugene on Madison Avenue, where one of the first pairs was sold to writer Clare Boothe Luce. Schinasi’s designs took off and she soon established her own eyewear company. 

The “Harlequin”-style glasses, more popularly known as “cat-eye,” became a hallmark of glamor in the late 1930s and were a dominant eyeglass silhouette through the mid-20th century, worn by the likes of Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. 

By the mid-1940s, Schinasi sold her eyeglasses company and moved out to Los Angeles, where she again focused on painting, sculpture and, later in life, filmmaking. Three of her paintings appeared in an exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 

Schinasi was born on this day in 1907 at her family’s mansion at 351 Riverside Drive. She was the youngest of three daughters born into a wealthy Sephardic family. Her dad, Turkish-born Morris Schinasi, was an international tobacco businessman who made his fortune by inventing a cigarette-rolling machine and then selling his own brand of cigarettes. 

Her mother, Laurette Schinasi, was born in Salonica (now Thessaloniki, Greece). The two met when Morris Schinasi was on a business trip to Salonica — Laurette was the granddaughter of his business partner. They married in 1903.

Upon Morris Schinasi’s death in 1928, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that Schinasi left $1.3 million (roughly $23 million in today’s dollars) to be allocated to several hospitals and Jewish charities, as well as to erect a hospital in Turkey and a new synagogue building for the Bual Zion Congregation (now the B’nai Zion Congregation), a Conservative synagogue in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The Schinasi Mansion was designed by William Tuthill, the same architect who constructed Carnegie Hall, in the early 1900s. It was declared a New York City Landmark in 1974 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Currently owned by Goldman Sachs executive Mark Schwartz, it still sits on West 107th Street and Riverside Drive and is presently the largest single-family residence along Riverside Drive.

As a child, Tina Schinasi attended the Horace Mann School in the Bronx before beginning boarding school at age 12 at Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Massachusetts. A biography of Schinasi in an online Dana Hall encyclopedia states that Schinasi felt that “although she had many friends, she often felt isolated as one of the only Jewish students on campus and tried to hide that part of her identity from her classmates.”

Upon graduating, Schinasi studied painting in Paris and decided to attend art school instead of college. In the late 1920s, she began to study painting with Samuel Halpert, a Russian Jewish immigrant, at the Nicholas Roerich Museum on the Upper West Side. 

Schinasi’s first job was designing windows for stores on Fifth Avenue, where she brushed shoulders with the Spanish artist Salvador Dalí. She and Dalí then went on to study under George Grosz, who had fled Germany in 1932 and Maurice Sterne, a Jewish sculptor and painter from Latvia. 

In the late 1930s, Schinasi had her artistic breakthrough and achieved a lasting legacy through her patented design of the Harlequin eyeframe. Per Wikipedia, “A walk down the street occasioned this design breakthrough; finding herself underwhelmed by the lackluster frames in an optician’s window, Altina set out to create a frame that conveyed whimsy, mystery and romance.”

“‘Surely, there must be some way to design eyeglasses that could be attractive! What looks good on a face? What adds to a face? What could a woman wear on her face that would be romantic?’ she wondered.”

In 1939, she won the Lord & Taylor Annual American Design Award. She has been credited with transforming eyeglasses into a fashion accessory.

In 1960, she produced a documentary film about her former art teacher, the late Grosz, who, though not Jewish, was in exile from Germany and was active in anti-Nazi efforts. Titled “George Grosz’ Interregnum,” the 29-minute film was nominated for an Academy Award and won first place at the Venice Film Festival.

Also during the 1960s, Schinasi acquired the film rights for Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington. She commissioned a screenplay and met with King, Rosa Parks and other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement while on a trip to Alabama. All expressed excitement about the movie. However, Schinasi could not raise funding for the film and it was never made.

Married four times, Schinasi had two children, Terry Sanders and Denis Sanders, with her first husband Morris Sanders. Both of her sons became film directors. In 2014, her grandson Peter Sanders and her granddaughter Victoria Sanders produced and directed “Altina,” a documentary about her life.

“My grandmother Tina was proud of her Jewishness, deeply affected by the rise of the Nazis and personally furnished 13 affidavits to enable Jewish refugees to enter the United States. But we were never practicing Jews in the religious sense,” Peter Sanders told JTA at the time. The film relied on footage shot on the honeymoon of her first marriage in 1927 and 1928, as well as a two-hour interview filmed by her son in 1991.

Altina Schinasi died in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1999 at age 92.

In a note from Google, the company wrote, “Happy birthday to the woman who was a visionary in more ways than one!” 

Google also thanked Schinasi’s son Terry Sanders for his contributions to the project. In a note, Sanders wrote, “Happy Birthday, Tina! Thank you for your courage, kindness and inspiration. Much love, always,” and signed it on behalf of himself and Schinasi’s seven grandchildren: Victoria, Juliette, Peter, David, Eve, Jessica and Brittany. 


The post Google Doodle celebrates the Jewish designer of cat-eye glasses, Altina Schinasi appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks

A protester wrapped in an Israeli flag at a rally against antisemitism at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Photo: Reuters/Lisi Niesner

A live web service provided by Aish.com that allows users to speak directly with one of the Jewish organization’s leading rabbis has seen a 300 percent increase in usage since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.

More than 5,000 chat responses (over 225 per day) are received each month, according to Aish, which added in a press release that many of the chats turn into extended conversations, sometimes on WhatsApp, in which rabbis help unaffiliated or disconnected Jewish users reconnect with their Jewish identities and form bonds with other Jews.

The Jewish organization said it believes the increase in usage of its live web chat service is due to the global rise in antisemitism and a newfound curiosity about Israel following Oct. 7, as well as a “yearning for meaning and community in the face of life’s uncertainties, and a desire for deeper meaning and spirituality in the face of a fast-paced modern culture where spiritual needs have been put on a backburner for too long.”

“We’re hearing from so many Jews who feel profoundly disconnected, whether due to living in areas with little Jewish community or lack of affiliation growing up,” said Rabbi Tzvi Broker, who oversees Aish.com‘s Live Chat. “The personal nature of these interactions, coupled with their anonymity, creates a safe space to ask questions and begin exploring. Having a live rabbi to connect and share with, has been a draw for many, and we’re seeing lives transformed as a result.”

Among their efforts, Broker and his team have helped people on the chat slowly incorporate Jewish rituals and traditions into their lives, and have connected them with peers through the organization’s new online community Aish+ so they can continue learning and engaging with other Jews.

“It’s amazing to witness lives being transformed in such profound ways,” said Broker. “Jews around the world are finding threads of connection to their heritage, and tapping into the depth and wisdom of our tradition to find meaning, community, and resilience in these challenging times.”

Bob Diener, the founder of hotels.com and the seed funder of Aish.com’s live chat, added in a statement: “The chat has been a powerful way for people to connect one-on-one with a spiritual leader and have their unique questions answered in a non-threatening and non-intimidating way. The chat’s rabbis are connecting so many people to their roots who otherwise don’t know where to go for guidance.”

“The chats have had a deep impact on many disconnected from the Jewish community,” said Aish CEO Rabbi Steven Burg. “Each of the people we connect with demonstrates a broad yearning to explore Jewish spirituality, peoplehood, and identity and that is why they have been turning to Aish for connection and guidance. We are happy to provide both while connecting them with local Jewish communities in their area, if there is one, to continue their journey.”

The post Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Jerry Seinfeld Ridicules Anti-Israel Heckler Interrupting His Show in Australia: ‘You Moron, Get Out of Here’

Jerry Seinfeld attends the premiere of Netflix’s “Unfrosted” at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, California, US, April 30, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/David Swanson

Jewish comedian and actor Jerry Seinfeld roasted an anti-Israel protester who tried to disrupt his comedy show in Sydney, Australia, at the Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday night.

Videos from the scene showed a male heckler in the audience repeatedly shout, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan that has been widely used as a call for the destruction of Israel.

While the disruptive audience member continued to chant in support of Israel’s extermination, Seinfeld ridiculed him, sarcastically telling the audience:  “We have a genius, ladies and gentlemen! He’s solved the Middle East! He’s solved it: It’s the Jewish comedians, that’s who we have to get! They’re the ones doing everything.”

“Go ahead, keep going,” Seinfeld told the anti-Israel heckler as the audience laughed and cheered. “They’re gonna start punching you in about three second so I would try and get all of your genius out so we can all learn from you. It’s a comedy show you moron, get out of here.”

The heckler was eventually escorted out of the arena by security personnel and as he walked out of the venue, Seinfeld mocked him some more by sarcastically saying: “You’re really influencing everyone here. We’re all on your side because you have made your point so well and in the right venue. You’ve come to the right place for a political conversation. Tomorrow we will read in the paper: ‘Middle East, 100 percent solved thanks to man at the Qudos Arena stopping Jew comedian.’ They stop him and everyone in the Middle East went, ‘Oh my god, let’s just get along.’”

The “Seinfeld” creator then jokingly suggested that to solve issues with “indigenous Aboriginal people and the white people” maybe he should harass Australian comedian Jim Jefferies during a comedy show in New York because “if this works, that will work.”

“You have to go 20,000 miles from the problem and screw up a comedian. That is how you solve world issues,” Seinfeld quipped.

Seinfeld had a number of his comedy shows recently disrupted by anti-Israel activists because of his support for Israel since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks. Seinfeld’s commencement speech at Duke University was also interrupted by similar protesters, who staged a walk-out shortly after he was introduced on stage.

During an interview last month, Seinfeld addressed protesters by saying: “It’s so dumb. In fact, when we get protesters occasionally, I love to say to the audience, ‘You know, I love that these young people, they’re trying to get engaged with politics … we just have to correct their aim a little bit.”

The post Jerry Seinfeld Ridicules Anti-Israel Heckler Interrupting His Show in Australia: ‘You Moron, Get Out of Here’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Ratted out: Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the end of feeling a need to ask if every contrived pop-culture trend is good for the Jews

As an expert (self-proclaimed) in the female heterosexual gaze, I took note of the trend of the “hot rodent man.” Does this mean you’re attracted to the friendly mascot from Orkin Exterminator Co.? Maybe you do, maybe he’s tremendous, but no, “hot rodent man” refers to what is essentially the male equivalent of jolie laide, […]

The post Ratted out: Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the end of feeling a need to ask if every contrived pop-culture trend is good for the Jews appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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