The 12 Best Jewish Pop Culture Moments of 2023

In a darkly ironic way, this year provided some of the most joyous and newsworthy Jewish representation in a while.

Welp, 2023 is nearly over. What started as a generally fine year is now coming to a close in the midst of an onslaught of antisemitism, Islamophobia and violence in Israel and Palestine. (Though to be clear, all of those things also existed before October 7.) Frankly, we’re not sure whether to cheer on the end of this annus horribilis or boo and hiss every remaining second.

And yet, in a darkly ironic way, 2023 provided some of the most joyous and newsworthy Jewish pop culture representation in a while.

As we wrote this time last year in our annual pop culture round-up, “Of course, we aren’t suggesting that exciting moments of Jewish pop culture are a complete antidote to antisemitism, or even carry the same weight as the terrible moments of Jew-hatred this year.”

We went on, “However, as we close out 2022, it’s seems more than appropriate to remind ourselves, and you, that this year wasn’t all bad. In fact, there were moments that were downright wonderful.”

For better or worse, we believe the same is true in 2023.

Team Hey Alma — Editor Molly Tolsky, Deputy Managing Editor Vanessa Friedman, Associate Editor Evelyn Frick and Audience Engagement Associate Avital Dayanim — put our heads together to pick the top 12 Jewish pop culture moments of the year, highlighting one notable moment from each month. All completely and utterly subjective, of course.

Without further ado, these are the Jewish pop culture moments that we’re reflecting on the most from 2023:

1. In January, “You People” debuted on Netflix and it was absolutely cringe-worthy. (We realize this isn’t the most auspicious start to the list. However this movie was a notable Jewish pop culture moment albeit not a very good one.)

“How could a cast that excellent and a script written by a Jew and a Black man (Jonah Hill and Kenya Barris) possibly turn out wrong?” Hey Alma associate editor Evelyn Frick wrote at the time. They went on, “To answer my own question, said all-star cast can be wasted when 1) the script forces them to act out scenarios which place Black culture and Jewish culture in opposition to one another, as if Black Jews don’t exist, and 2) when the jokes are based on stereotypes and misinformation.”

Granted, the movie does contain a few funny and Jewy jokes. Our personal favorites are when Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character Shelley whispers during services, “It is Yom Kippur, God dammit.” And when Ezra (Jonah Hill) mocks his sister’s (Molly Gordon) shul outfit by saying, “I have a question. What do you and the rabbi talk about in the car on the way to the rabbinical witch outlet store?”

Moreover, the movie reintroduced the world to Black Jewish actress Lauren London, who was funny and charming as Ezra’s love interest Amira.

2. In February, Leonardo DiCaprio WAS NOT dating Jewish model Eden Polani. (Once again we’re classifying this as a notable Jewish pop culture moment, not necessarily a fun one. But don’t worry, the good stuff is coming.) On January 31, the “Titanic” star was spotted at a party in Los Angeles, which the 19-year-old Israeli was also attending. Due to DiCaprio’s noted penchant for dating women under the age of 25, rumors immediately proliferated that the pair were there together and dating. Thankfully, by February 7, an inside source told TMZ that Leo and Eden were not an item. Baruch Hashem!

3. In March, we got the most Jewish episode of “The Bachelor” ever! In season 27, episode 8, Bachelor Zach Shallcross visited New York City to get to know Jewish contestant Ariel Frenkel.

“When someone enters my family or enters my life, they need to know how important it is for me to be proud of my Judaism, to be proud of my family and to be proud of where I come from,” Ariel said on air. She then promptly took Zach to Sarge’s Jewish deli in Manhattan where the couple enjoyed pastrami, cow tongue (an old-world Jewish comfort food) and gefilte fish.


Later, Ariel primed Zach to meet her family by telling him about the antisemitism they experienced. “My parents fled the Soviet Union and it was very difficult for them,” she said. “They were persecuted for being Jewish.”

Going on, she added, “Being first generation, I spend every day being extremely proud of what my family created and who they made me out to be.”

The rest of the episode didn’t go quite according to plan — spoiler alert, Ariel’s Ukrainian tough-as-nails Jewish family did not like Zach. And ultimately, Zach eliminated Ariel during the Fantasy Suites episode. But Ariel’s Jewish hometowns episode was a huge milestone for a franchise which, up until that point, had been outwardly pretty Christian. Our only complaint is that Ariel Frenkel hasn’t yet been named the Bachelorette!

4. In April, Sofia Richie and Elliot Grainge tied the knot in a breath-taking and highly publicized Jewish wedding.

“Hosted at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in the south of France, the ceremony and after-party had just about everything, which, in case you’re curious, includes a seven-and-a-half-minute walk down the aisle, three custom Chanel dresses, bouquets on bouquets of white flowers, guests like (sister of the bride) Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton, and musical performances from (brother-in-law) Joel Madden of Good Charlotte, singer-songwriter Stephen Sanchez and, of course, Lionel Richie,” Evelyn Frick wrote at the time.

Per Vogue, the couple, who are both Jewish, were married by Rabbi Thomas Salamon of London’s Westminster Synagogue under a luxurious, cream-colored chuppah. (In addition to his Tom Ford tuxedo, Elliot also wore a tallit and kippah.) Before the public ceremony, the bride and groom and their families met for a private ketubah (or Jewish wedding contract) signing.

“It was very important to Elliot’s family and to me, now that I’ve converted, that it be a traditional Jewish ceremony,” Sofia told Vogue at the time. Richie, who was raised Christian, took to Instagram on April 3, 2023 to announce her conversion to Judaism. In the post, she called it “one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

Mazel tov, again, Sofia and Elliot!!

5. In May, “Jewish Matchmaking” dropped on Netflix and changed our lives forever TBH. If you haven’t watched it, the show follows matchmaker Aleeza Ben Shalom as she meets and matches straight Jewish singles from Jerusalem to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

As we wrote at the time, “The fun cast of vivacious Jewish personalities includes Nakysha, a 25 year-old motorcycle lover who wants to get married and get out of Kansas; Fay, a devout, yet open-minded Orthodox entrepreneur who’s familiar with the shidduch process; and Ori, a mama’s boy who’s looking for a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Israeli woman. Aleeza anchors the show with her loveable wit, ever-positive attitude and insight on Jewish practice and customs.”

Excitingly, some of the cast members from season one are now married or engaged! Click here and here to read more. (Obviously, spoilers ahead.)

Jewish Matchmaking
Courtesy of Netflix

6. In June, another Jewish celebrity wedding rocked the pop culture-sphere: the summer camp-themed nuptials of Beanie Feldstein and Bonnie-Chance Roberts! (Though the wedding was in late May, the news broke on June 1st so it counts!!!)

Per Vogue, Beanie and Bonnie were married under a gorgeous tree canopy chuppah at Cedar Lakes Estate in Port Jervis, New York on Saturday, May 20.

“We are both proud Jewish girls, but we didn’t have a rabbi or cantor that we felt knew us both equally and that was very important to us to get married by someone who could capture and reflect us both equally,” Beanie said, explaining why the couple opted to be married by their guncle Charles. Additionally, instead of the typical sheva brachot (seven blessings) for a Jewish wedding, seven of the brides’ loved ones wrote and read their own personal blessings.

After the ceremony, it was time to party. As is tradition in the Liverpudlian Jewish community, of which Bonnie and her family are members, the hora took place first. And, naturally, notes of the couples’ summer camp theme were interspersed throughout the entire weekend. After a Shabbat candle lighting and ketubah signing on Friday night, all the guests enjoyed a welcome dinner which featured decor like bandana tablecloths and woven friendship bracelets, and a menu with s’mores.

Mazel tov, Beanie and Bonnie!!

7. Hi, Barbie! In July, “Barbie” became the greatest biblical retelling ever made. (Plus, adding to the film’s Jewish cred is the fact that Barbie and her creator are Jewish, the cast of the movie features numerous Jewish actors and Greta Gerwig wanted the movie to feel like Shabbat.)

Of course, most of us are probably the most excited about all the glossy sets and props, extravagant costumes, incredible soundtrack, everything pink and, of course, Ken. But Hey Alma contributor Abigail Weil honed in on something else entirely.

“‘Barbie,’ I was thunderstruck to realize, retells the story of the Garden of Eden,” she wrote in mid-July. “The soul of ‘Barbie’ is a contest between the seeming binaries set up in the story of the Garden of Eden: good and evil, knowledge and ignorance, creator and creation, woman and man.”

She goes on, “Gerwig departs from the narrative of Genesis — there is no snake, no expulsion, and the boundaries between the two worlds are porous. But she zooms in on the implications of two major relationships that the Bible takes for granted: man and woman, and God and manpersonkind.”

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

8. In August, Sunny and Sadie Sandler grabbed the spotlight in “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah.”

The movie, which is based on a 2005 book of the same name, tells the story of Stacy Friedman (Sunny Sandler), a young tween preparing for her bat mitzvah. At the same time, however, she has to deal with her wacky rabbi (Sarah Sherman), her hyper-involved family (Adam Sandler, Idina Menzel and Sadie Sandler) and her traitorous best friend, Lydia Katz-Rodriguez (Samantha Lorraine), totally stealing her crush, Andy Goldfarb (Dylan Hoffman). Overall, the movie is cute, hilarious, heart-warming, a little cringe, extremely Jewish and allowed the audience to get to know the Sandler sisters in their own right.

Plus, the movie gave us two of the best Jewish characters of all time: Rabbi Rebecca and DJ Shmuley!

9. In September, former Bachelorette and current queer woman Gabby Windey said that she might convert to Judaism

In an episode of “Just B,” Bethenney Frankel’s podcast, Gabby and her girlfriend Robby Hoffman (whose bombshell relationship announcement shocked us all) sat down with the former RHONY to chat about their relationship.

“I’ll convert,” Gabby said without skipping a beat.

“She’s desperate to convert,” Robby added, jokingly. “She’s so into it.”

“I get a Jewish history lesson almost every day, which I love and I die for now,” Gabby continued, more seriously. “And there is, there’s so much culture. I mean, truly, talk about oppression.”

The conversation goes on and features many other Jewish highlights, including Gabby saying “Baruch Hashem,” describing her newfound affinity for the number 18, Bethenny insisting that Gabby have a bat mitzvah so she can plan it and Robby quipping: “Hasidic to scissoring, dreams do come true.”

10. In October, Golden Bachelor” contestant Leslie Fhima showed her Jewish pride on national TV! While the rest of the world fell in love with the show for its wholesomeness, we at Hey Alma could not stop kvelling over its Jewishness. First, Leslie wore her Star of David necklace in multiple episodes — including during her one-on-one ATV date with Golden Bachelor Gerry Turner.

But, spoiler alert: it wasn’t meant to be. In the taped portion of the final episode, we see Gerry haphazardly break up with Leslie, despite the fact that he told her that he loved her. In the moment, he essentially tells her that she shouldn’t feel like she’s never chosen, to which Leslie iconically said, “Gerry, no offense — I can think whatever the fuck I want.”

Later, in the live studio final portion, Leslie eloquently confronts Gerry for leading her on. In both portions of the episode, Leslie’s identity as a strong Jewish woman was on full display through actions and her Star of David accessory.

Here’s hoping Leslie is the first Jewish Golden Bachelorette and that we get more Hava Nagila water aerobics!

11. In November, Barbra Streisand’s long-awaited memoir “My Name is Barbra” came out. While there are plenty of Jewish moments throughout the book (including all her hot takes about Jewish delis and egg creams), our personal favorite ancedote is about fellow Jewish icon Mandy Patinkin.

More specifically, Barbra spills some serious tea about how he was apparently terrible to work with on “Yentl.” Gasp! According to Babs, a short while into the shoot, Mandy couldn’t look Barbra in the eye during a scene and was acting angrily and rude. She took him into her dressing room to talk to him, where he confessed that he thought she hired him because she wanted to have an affair.

“I looked at him as if he were crazy… 1) I would never have an affair with an actor I was directing, 2) he was married, and 3) I wasn’t at all attracted to him,” Barbra writes. She goes on, “I said, ‘Mandy this kind of behavior can’t continue. I’m prepared to replace you. We’re only two weeks in. I can reshoot all your scenes if you can’t be more professional. I’ve waited fifteen years to realize my dream and I will not let you destroy it.”

Damn, Barbra Streisand did not come to play.

12. In December, we finally got a good Hallmark Hanukkah rom-com in “Round and Round.”

Vic Michaelis in Round and Round
Photo via Hallmark Channel

In the movie, we meet Rachel Landau (Vic Michaelis), a young Jewish woman working in publishing who gets caught in a time loop, reliving the seventh night of Hanukkah again and again. Unfortunately for her, the day isn’t a great one — her boyfriend Adam ditches her family’s Hanukkah party, a mysterious stranger at the train station causes her to drop all of her sufganiyot and the Hanukkah party ends in a fire. We won’t give too much away, of course, but with the help of Zach (Bryan Greenberg), her grandma’s art instructor who scored an invite to the party and also happens to be the stranger from earlier, Rachel goes on a hilarious and heart-warming journey to get out of the time loop and take control of her life. And, since its a rom-com, Rachel might just find some love along the way!

“Round and Round’ gives us what we’ve been missing: a Jewish love story to fall in love with,” our colleague Lior Zaltzman wrote for Kveller. “What makes it so great is that it finally feels like just a really great cheesy romcom that happens to be Jewish. Hanukkah is just another character, among many incredibly charming ones. And it still has all the winning elements of a good Hallmark movie — and a lot of self-awareness — too.”

Here’s to a better 2024! L’chaim!

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