The kosher culture that made us cheer in 2018!
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The kosher culture that made us cheer in 2018!

What a 12 months it was for Jews in pop culture. We say it almost every year...but, truly, in 2018 Jewish celebs permeated the zeitgeist. Here we offer kosher culture highlights!

2018 was full of thrills and spills, from politics to the TV - But what will 2019 hold?
2018 was full of thrills and spills, from politics to the TV - But what will 2019 hold?

1. Barbra Streisand cloned her dog. In an interview with Variety, Streisand revealed she had cells taken from her beloved dog, Samantha, so she could clone her, and that two of her current dogs were clones of Samantha. The internet went appropriately wild, and Babs ended up writing a New York Times op-ed defending her decision, ending with the iconic line, “You can clone the look of a dog, but you can’t clone the soul. Still, every time I look at their faces, I think of my Samantha… and smile.”

2. Natalie Portman said some stuff about Israel. She also starred in Annihilation, a sci-fi film, and Vox Lux, a pop opera horror film. But this is about Jewish pop culture: Portman, born in Israel, received the Genesis Prize last year (think of it as the Nobel Prize, but for Jews), but refused to attend the ceremony. She clarified why: “Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power.” We’re proud of her for showing you can have nuanced feelings about Israel.

3. Netflix’s hit prison drama, Orange is the New Black, got super Jewish in its latest season. There were batmitzvah flashbacks and an entire storyline about a black Jewish woman. We love the representation!

4. The Haim sisters dressed as the Sanderson sisters for Halloween. An iconic crossover: our favourite Jewish sisters dressed as our favourite witchy sisters (two of whom are played by Jews: Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler).

5. Sarah Silverman received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and called out antisemitism while she was at it. “You know, in a scary time when antisemitic crime is up 57 percent since 2016, it’s not lost on me how lucky I am to be given a star and not have to sew it on my clothes,” Silverman said, referring to the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust. “I’m not sure if that’s gallows humour, or it’s funny ’cause it’s true humour.”

Sarah Silverman

6. A Jewish mum, Jessica Mulroney, was at the centre of the Royal wedding. (Do you think I could write about pop culture in 2018 and not mention Meghan’s wedding to Harry?!) Jessica Mulroney – maiden name Jessica Brownstein – played a critical role at the wedding. Her twin sons held Markle’s veil as she entered the chapel, and her daughter was a bridesmaid.

7. Andy Cohen travelled to Israel for the first time. The Bravo host and TV personality was there to be the international ambassador for the Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade. But that didn’t stop him from taking time to tour the country (and he turned off comments on his Instagram posts, because of the crazy comments celebs get when they visit Israel).

8. Jonah Hill and Beanie Feldstein became our sibling heroes. As Beanie catapulted into stardom this year after starring in Lady Bird, Jonah was a supportive big brother. He even went so far as to get a tattoo of her name.
We wonder what their mum thinks…

9. BlacKkKlansman, based on the true story of a black cop who goes undercover in the Ku Klux Klan, features a nuanced understanding of antisemitism and how it lays at the heart of white supremacy. It should be required viewing, especially in the wake of Charlottesville and Pittsburgh.

10. There was a moment last year (sometime mid-April) when the internet believed Brad Pitt was maybe dating an Israeli MIT professor named Dr Neri Oxman. We’ve since learned he wasn’t, but we got to learn about Ms Oxman – and, honestly, that was worth it.

11. Hidden in a list of her midterm election endorsements, comedian and actress Amy Schumer announced her pregnancy. Which was a great and politically savvy way to do it: news outlets couldn’t write about the announcement without writing about the candidates Schumer endorsed.

12. There’s a Jewish Disney princess now! Because Wreck-It Ralph lives in the Disney universe, comedian and actress Sarah Silverman believes the character she voices – Princess Vanellope – is the first Jewish Disney princess. We’ll take it!

13. It was also the year we got that Maroon 5’s music video Girls Like You, which featured many Jewish women. (Maroon 5 is led by Jewish frontman Adam Levine, obviously.) There was also gymnast Aly Raisman, wearing a shirt that said “Always Speak Your Truth”. Actresses Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Tiffany Haddish and Beanie Feldstein also made star turns.

14. Disobedience, the Orthodox Jewish lesbian romance film starring Rachels Weisz and McAdams, premiered last year. Based on Naomi Alderman’s novel of the same name, we loved it for its portrayal of queer Orthodox Jews. And Rachel Weisz – we adore Rachel Weisz (who was also amazing in The Favourite)!

Rachel Weisz stars as Ronit and Rachel McAdams as Esti in Disobedience

15. And on the note of Jewish characters on television – albeit very different Jewish characters – Fauda season two was remarkable. As The New York Times wrote in its review of the season, Fauda creators “saw how certain circumstances in their world could be synthesised into entertaining, even gripping melodrama — the intimate web of shared history and culture; the normality of high emotion, hatred and nihilism; rigid notions of family and honour; the photogenic density of the weathered Palestinian cities in the West Bank, perfect for car and foot chases”.

16. It’s kind of ridiculous that this is in our top 20 Jewish pop culture moments of 2018, but it’s just so absurd that it has to be: Kylie Jenner made matzah ball soup and documented it all on her Instagram stories. It was a journey.

Fauda

17. Ariana Grande’s tribute to Mac Miller in Thank U, Next made everyone cry. Ariana’s self-love bop will be remembered long past 2018, but we particularly love her tribute to Mac Miller, the Jewish rapper who passed away from a drug overdose in September. Among the lyrics: “Wish I could say ‘thank you’ to Malcolm / ’cause he was an angel.”

18. Israel won Eurovision! The winning entry in the song competition was Toy by Israeli singer Netta Barzilai. She won a nailbiting vote, beating the Cyprus entry at the very last moment. This means this year’s Eurovision will be hosted in Tel Aviv in May. The UK, incidentally, ranked surprisingly high at 24th – a vast improvement considering we’ve toyed (pun intended) with nul points in recent years.

Netta Barzilai won this year’s Eurovision for Israel

19. Everything Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Seriously. Everything. We adore Rachel Bloom, and how the show’s Jewish humour helps subvert Jewish stereotypes. The music is amazing. It’s all so good. And as it airs its fourth and final season, we are so appreciative that this show exists.

20. The Marvelous Mrs Maisel  is arguably the most Jewish show on TV, and season two did not disappoint (although, sadly, Zachary Levi – who plays a very handsome Jewish doctor – is not himself a Jew.) There were major Jewish moments: from a plot line about Tisha B’av, the fast that is little-known outside of the Jewish world, to an episode centred on Yom Kippur, to a joke about the Mi Sheberach prayer. It was all very Jewish.

Alma via JTA

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