Yes, it was a brutal year, from Paris to the streets of Jerusalem to San Bernardino. And yet, as we exit 2015, we mined the year’s news and came up with a few nuggets that catch the light. Here then, 10 stories that shined:
–We’ll Miss (really miss!)… Abe Foxman, the longtime national director of the Anti-Defamation League who stepped down in July, for being gutsy, unpredictable, stubborn and 1,000 percent Jewish. End of an era.
–We’re Proud Of… Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt, for making the tricky transition from Israeli basketball to the NBA Finals. (OK, having LeBron helped, but still.) … And of the quirkily misspelled American Pharoah, owned by the Egyptian-born Orthodox Jewish (and Teaneck resident) Ahmed Zayat, for winning the Triple Crown and captivating a nation.
–We’re Blown Away… that “Ida,” an austere black-and-white Holocaust-related film about a nun who carries a Jewish secret, won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, and that it had one of the longest runs of any film at Film Forum. Restores our faith in the power of simple storytelling, and in the sometimes-shallow Academy voters.
–We’re So Thankful For… Lassana Bathily, the Muslim employee of the kosher market in Paris who shepherded Jewish customers into the shop’s basement, thereby keeping them alive. A real hero, in any religion.
–We’re Awed By… the outpouring of grief for slain U.S. gap-year teen Ezra Schwartz, and then the outpouring of support for his family. We feel like he’s a son to so many of us.
–We’re Of Two Minds About… the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College’s decision to admit and ordain intermarried rabbis. Right side of history, or a leap too far?
–We’re Of One Mind About… the Reform movement’s far-reaching welcome of LGBTQ Jews. Right side of history. Period.
–We’re Relieved That… President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu seemed to bury the Iran deal hatchet at their White House meeting in November. Optics matter, though the hard feelings may not be far from the surface.
–We Note The Irony Of… an Israeli-developed immunotherapy cancer drug helping to cure President Jimmy Carter’s melanoma. The ex-prez has been tough (really tough) on Israel; Israel, it turns out, has been tender on him. Then again, Israeli hospitals treat terrorists as well as their victims, so we shouldn’t be surprised by the generous spirit.
–We’re Packing For Barcelona and Lisbon… since both Spain and Portugal this year offered citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews. Long time (500-plus years) coming. And speaking of Spain … we’re rapt by rapper Matisyahu’s big-hearted decision to play a Spanish music festival after originally being disinvited because of ugly BDS matters. Art slays politics.
And so bring on 2016.