The top 14 Jewish newsmakers of 5776
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The top 14 Jewish newsmakers of 5776

Check out which Members of the Tribe drove international headlines this year

Sen. Bernie Sanders waving in Concord on the day of the Democratic primary in New Hampshire,  February 9, 2016. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/JTA)
Sen. Bernie Sanders waving in Concord on the day of the Democratic primary in New Hampshire, February 9, 2016. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/JTA)

JTA — With Rosh Hashanah approaching, which Jews made the biggest news in the past Jewish year? From the presidential election to Israel to your TV screen, here are 14 Jews who earned headlines during the past 12 months for their accomplishments, blunders, mitzvahs and missteps.

Bernie Sanders

First on our list is the first Jewish candidate to win a major party’s presidential primary. Once considered the longest of shots, the septuagenarian senator rode a wave of enthusiasm among young voters and took his insurgent campaign all the way to the Democratic National Convention, garnering more than 40 percent of primary votes. The Vermont Independent pushed rival Hillary Clinton to the left on a range of issues. He also broke ground by criticizing Israel in ways seldom heard from a mainstream candidate. Last, but certainly not least, he gave Larry David a role for the ages.

Ivanka Trump

For Jewish Americans, one of the most fascinating parts of Donald Trump’s unorthodox campaign is his Orthodox Jewish daughter, Ivanka. A self-styled champion of working women and erstwhile friend of Chelsea Clinton, Ivanka has become one of her father’s most prominent surrogates. She’s added a softer touch to an often brash campaign, and has influenced her father on women’s issues, including family leave. Married to developer and key Trump adviser Jared Kushner, she has proved to be one of the campaign’s main weapons in defending her father against charges that he countenances anti-Semitism.

Ivanka Trump speaking in Washington, D.C., at Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit, October14, 2015. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Fortune/Time Inc/JTA)
Ivanka Trump speaking in Washington, D.C., at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, October14, 2015. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Fortune/Time Inc/JTA)

Anat Hoffman

For decades, Hoffman has led the fight for women to host prayers at the Western Wall. And after years of being arrested, pelted with eggs and shouted at, her group, Women of the Wall, grew closer than ever to its goal this year. After three years of negotiations, Israel’s Cabinet approved a plan to expand and upgrade the site’s non-Orthodox prayer section. But the controversy is far from over: Implementation of the deal has been stalled amid political wrangling for months, while some feminists complain the compromise represented a capitulation to the wall’s Orthodox authorities.

Women of the Wall leader Anat Hoffman at the Western Wall, February 7, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90/JTA)
Women of the Wall leader Anat Hoffman at the Western Wall, February 7, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90/JTA)

Aly Raisman

Our favorite Jewish gymnast didn’t disappoint at this summer’s Rio games. At 22, Raisman was the U.S. women’s gymnastic team captain and its oldest member (her nickname: Grandma). In addition to helping the Americans win team gold again, Raisman took the silver medal in the all-around and floor exercises, adding to the two golds and one bronze she won in 2012. Raisman has vowed to return in 2020. Hopefully her delightfully nervous parents can come along, too.

Aly Raisman competing on the uneven bars at the Rio Olympic Games, August 7, 2016. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images/JTA)
Aly Raisman competing on the uneven bars at the Rio Olympic Games, August 7, 2016. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images/JTA)

Jonathan Pollard

Last November, a long-running saga ended between the American Jewish establishment and the United States government. Pollard, a civilian Navy intelligence employee arrested in 1985 for spying for Israel, was paroled after serving 30 years in a federal prison. At first an embarrassment to Jewish leaders, Pollard in recent years began to be seen as a martyr by some Jews who protested his long prison term. He will not be able to move to Israel, as he wished, but he can surf the internet.

Jonathan and Esther Pollard following his release from prison, November 20, 2015. (Courtesy of Justice for Jonathan Pollard/JTA)
Jonathan and Esther Pollard following his release from prison, November 20, 2015. (Courtesy of Justice for Jonathan Pollard/JTA)

Elor Azaria

As Israeli security forces struggled to stem a wave of stabbings this year, Israeli soldiers drew criticism for what some observers — including inside the military — called a disproportionate response. No case proved more controversial than that of Azaria, a 19-year-old soldier who killed a Palestinian assailant lying wounded on the ground. Azaria’s case, which is still in trial, has divided Israel. Critics say he broke the rules of engagement. His defenders say he was doing his job.

Israeli soldier Elior Azaria at a military court hearing in Jaffa, August 30, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90/JTA)
Israeli soldier Elior Azaria at a military court hearing in Jaffa, August 30, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90/JTA)

Sheldon Silver

The man who was the all-powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly is now serving a 12-year prison sentence. Silver, 72, is an Orthodox Jew who gained a reputation as one of New York’s foremost power brokers during more than two decades in the speaker’s post. A Democrat from Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Silver was arrested in 2015 on seven counts of honest services fraud, extortion and money laundering. He was convicted in November of that year and sentenced to his dozen years behind bars in May. Lamenting the length of the sentence, The Jewish Press, a newspaper serving New York’s Orthodox community, said his fate is relevant to New York Jewry due to “his extraordinary legislative achievements which revolutionized the way members of the Jewish community are able to go about their everyday lives without having to sacrifice the practice of … their faith.”

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver arriving at the courthouse in New York, November 24, 2015. (Seth Wenig/AP Images/JTA)
Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver arriving at the courthouse in New York, November 24, 2015. (Seth Wenig/AP Images/JTA)

Debbie Wasserman Schultz

A rising Jewish star in the Democratic Party suffered a swift fall. Wasserman Schultz, a South Florida congresswoman who once said she voted as “a Jewish mother,” began serving as chair of the Democratic National Committee in 2011. She had powerful allies and a famous fundraising prowess. But right before this year’s Democratic National Convention, leaked emails showed her staffers strategizing against Sanders during the presidential nomination race. Instead of gaveling in the convention, Wasserman Schultz resigned her post — though she did win her Democratic primary this year.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz sitting for an interview in the spin room inside the Wynn Resorts Ltd. resort and casino before the first Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, October 13, 2015. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images/JTA)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz sitting for an interview in the spin room inside the Wynn Resorts Ltd. resort and casino before the first Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, October 13, 2015. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images/JTA)

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein

Rarely does a retired octogenarian rabbi make this much news. Lookstein, the former rabbi of the posh Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun Orthodox synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, was at the center of two controversies this year. First, a conversion he supervised was declared invalid by Israel’s Chief Rabbinical Court, causing further friction between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. Then Lookstein, who oversaw Ivanka Trump’s Jewish conversion, agreed to deliver the opening invocation at the Republican National Convention. Following an outcry over what critics called an implicit endorsement of Donald Trump, Lookstein withdrew, explaining, “I have never been involved in politics. Politics divides people.”

After Israel's Chief Rabbinate rejected a conversion performed by prominent modern Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, right, Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky, left, protested on his behalf. (Ben Sales/JTA)
After Israel’s Chief Rabbinate rejected a conversion performed by prominent modern Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, right, Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky, left, protested on his behalf. (Ben Sales/JTA)

Yisrael Kristal

How do you fit 113 candles on a cake? That’s one happy dilemma Kristal could contemplate when Guinness World Records certified him as the world’s oldest man in March. Kristal, who turned the big 1-1-3 in September, is a Holocaust survivor who made a living making candy starting in 1920. After surviving Auschwitz, where his first wife was killed, Kristal remarried and moved to Israel. In September, his family announced that Kristal would celebrate his bar mitzvah a century late. He couldn’t at age 13 because of the war — World War I, that is.

Holocaust survivor Yisrael Kristal, confirmed in March 2016 as the oldest man in the world. (Courtesy of family)
Holocaust survivor Yisrael Kristal, confirmed in March 2016 as the oldest man in the world. (Courtesy of family)

Merrick Garland

Always a Supreme Court justice nominee, never a Supreme Court justice. That’s been the fate of Garland, who was nominated to the country’s highest court after Justice Antonin Scalia died in February. Garland is currently the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and he’s been in limbo for a while. Fearing a liberal majority on the Supreme Court, Senate Republicans have refused to hold a hearing on Garland’s nomination with the presidential election nearing.

Judge Merrick Garland being introduced by President Barack Obama as a nominee for the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden at the White House, March 16, 2016. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/JTA)
Judge Merrick Garland being introduced by President Barack Obama as a nominee for the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden at the White House, March 16, 2016. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/JTA)

Jill Stein

If you want to elect a folk-singing physician who seeks to end foreign aid to Israel, Stein is your candidate. Making her second run as the Green Party’s presidential nominee, Stein is promising a “Green New Deal,” a universal basic income and a significant reordering of America’s foreign policy — including support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. Stein has made some headlines this year — among other things, a warrant for her arrest was issued in North Dakota for her actions during a pipeline protest — but she’s languishing in the polls at about 3 percent.

Jill Stein announcing that she will seek the Green Party's presidential nomination at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., June 23, 2015. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/JTA)
Jill Stein announcing that she will seek the Green Party’s presidential nomination at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., June 23, 2015. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/JTA)

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer

The ladies of “Broad City,” which completed a hilarious third season this year, have never shied away from making Judaism a natural part of their New York City stoner comedy. Earlier episodes featured such gems as sex talk at a shiva and a T-shirt reading “challah back.” An online only video features the friends trying to talk themselves through the Yom Kippur fast — while eyeing bacon-and-egg sandwiches. But Abbi and Ilana took the Jewish factor to a new level in this year’s two-part season finale, which saw them take a flight to Israel with “Birthmark,” a parody of Birthright. We won’t spoil the episode, but it features Abbi singing a Christmas carol and Ilana itching to join the “mohel chai club.”

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer at a 'Broad City' screening during the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, April 17, 2016. (Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic/via JTA)
Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer at a ‘Broad City’ screening during the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, April 17, 2016. (Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic/via JTA)
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