It’s been an… interesting year for celebrities. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, there’s also been a reckoning of sorts with celebrity culture (why should we care about you being bored in your mansions?!). But we still turned to celebrities for entertainment, joy, and honestly, distraction from everything going on in the world. So, without further ado, here are the Almas for the Jewish best celebrity moments.
Jewish comedian Chloe Fineman joined the cast of Saturday Night Live last September and quickly stole our hearts. Her impressions — of everyone from Meryl Streep to Timothée Chalamat to Drew Barrymore to Marianne Williamson — quickly thrust her into the spotlight.
Here, watch this single SNL sketch — “MasterClass Quarantine Edition” — for proof of Chloe’s award-winning talent:
ESPN ranks Deni Avdija as the fifth best basketball prospect in the world, even though he’s only 19. He is only the sixth Israeli ever to enter the NBA and is expected to be the second, after Omri Casspi, to be drafted in the first round.
According to JTA, Deni Avdija, who was born on Kibbutz Beit Zera in northern Israel, is carrying on a family tradition with his athletic prowess. His father, Zufer, a Muslim Serbian-Israeli citizen, played for his native Yugoslavia’s national basketball team as well as several Israeli pro teams in the 1990s. His mother, Sharon Artzi, is a Jewish Israeli and former track and field athlete. Avdija holds dual Israeli and Serbian citizenship and currently plays for Maccabi Tel Aviv. Get ready to start hearing about him a lot more.
Best Retirement Announcement
Jewish gymnast Aly Raisman has won three gold medals, two silver medals, and one bronze medal, not to mention countless trophies at gymnastics championships outside the Olympics. This year, at age 25, she formally announced her retirement from the sport.
“I think about what I’d say to her now,” Raisman wrote, talking about her 8-year-old self. “I would tell her about all the amazing people she will meet along the way, and the success she will have. I envision her eyes lighting up and a smile spreading across her face as she learns she will one day be like those gymnasts she watched on TV, and that she will inspire some other little girl to cartwheel around her house, dreaming of one day competing at the Olympics. The power of dreams is too big to put into words, but I’d try anyway since it is what makes magic happen. It’s also what will get her through the tough times.”
“I really struggle,” Raisman wrote, “when I think about whether I’d tell her about those tough times. I wonder if I would tell her that life will be filled with ups and downs, and that there are people in the sport who will fail to protect her and her teammates. It would be so hard to tell her that, but I would make sure she knows she will get through it and she will be OK. And I would tell her that it is often in our darkest hours, when we feel most vulnerable and alone, that we realize our greatest growth.”
We’re so proud of you and your career, Aly. (Read the full statement here.)
Best Award Show Look
Remember award shows? And red carpets? 😭 Anyway, we’ll be thinking about this Tracee Ellis Ross Oscars look at the Vanity Fair afterparty for a longgggggg time:
Wearing a Zuhair Murad gown, styled by Karla Welch, Ross didn’t just attend an Oscars afteparty — she embodied the Oscars. Swipe for an amazing twirl:
Best Magazine Cover
Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur — spiritual leader, public intellectual, mother of three, avowed feminist — graced the January cover of Elle France, and it is simply stupendous:
Rabbi Delphine, the third-ever female rabbi in France, explained in the profile how she embraces multiple identities: “[M]any have started to say ‘we’ instead of ‘I’: we Jews, we gays, we women, we Muslims, etc. As if each of these groups had become monolithic … The phrase I have repeated the most in recent years is: ‘I am not only Jewish! I am many other things!’”
Best Protest Against Harvey Weinstein
Yes, we’re giving an award for this. Because fuck rapists, fuck celebrities like Weinstein who use sexual violence as a means of power and access, and fuck anyone who defends them.
“Un Violador en Tu Camino” (“The Rapist In Your Path”) has been called an anti-rape anthem, a protest song, a viral performance, a protest performance, a feminist anthem — but no matter what you label it, you cannot deny its power. The piece was first performed on November 25, on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, by LasTesis, a feminist collective in Santiago, Chile. They performed in front of the supreme court building, as if speaking directly to the structures that have oppressed them.
They chant: Y la culpa no era mía, ni dónde estaba ni cómo vestía. (And it’s not my fault, not where I was not how I dressed.)
The song/dance/protest spread across the world in early December. It then reappeared on January 10, outside the trial of Harvey Weinstein in New York.
Activist Paola Mendoza, who helped organize the Weinstein protest, told the Huffington Post that the song focuses on systemic violence against women: “It is much larger than one man committing a horrific crime, this is a systematic problem. And so it’s not just about the Harvey Weinstein trial, though he represents something specific in the United States. It’s about something that’s bigger than that.” And how powerful it is to watch.
Best Critique of Mark Zuckerberg
Yes, we’re also giving an award for this because not only is Mark Zuckerberg a Jewish celebrity, the winner of this award is also a Jewish celebrity. Sacha Baron Cohen hates the Facebook founder who has come under a lot of hear this past year. And his constant critiques are amazing.
At the 2020 Golden Globes, Sacha Baron Cohen presented a look at Jojo Rabbit, one of the best motion picture nominees. “The hero of this next movie is a naive, misguided child who spreads Nazi propaganda and only has imaginary friends. His name is Mark Zuckerberg,” Cohen said. “Sorry, sorry… this is an old intro for Social Network.”
But that’s not even Cohen’s best call-out of Zuckerberg. In November 2019, the Anti-Defamation League honored Cohen with their international leadership award. In his speech, he called social media and Facebook “the greatest propaganda machine in history.” Also in the speech? Calling out Zuckerberg for allowing Holocaust deniers on Facebook. Yes, Zuckerberg has said in the past that he thinks Holocaust denial is okay on Facebook. In Cohen’s words: “This is madness.”
“Still, Zuckerberg says that ‘people should decide what is credible, not tech companies.’ But at a time when two-thirds of millennials say they haven’t even heard of Auschwitz, how are they supposed to know what’s ‘credible?’ How are they supposed to know that the lie is a lie?” Cohen asks.
You can watch his full speech here (or read it here):
Tiffany Haddish’s Bat Mitzvah
Yes, comedian Tiffany Haddish’s bat mitzvah was the celebrity moment of the past Jewish year, so it’s getting its own special section.
Best Celebrity Bat Mitzvah
Well, no surprises here… Tiffany Haddish wins this one, without a doubt. As Rebecca Pierce wrote in Alma, her bat mitzvah was a powerful affirmation for Black Jews: “Tiffany Haddish’s joyful bat mitzvah pictures are a reminder that life as a Black Jew isn’t just suffering and discrimination — it’s also pride, laugher, and a sense of community,” Pierce wrote. “Seeing Tiffany Haddish reading from the Torah at her bat mitzvah means seeing my own love for Jewish learning reflected back at me. Hearing her address being Black and Jewish in her new Netflix special Black Mitzvah means I get to laugh along with someone talking about my experience, rather than it being the butt of an outsider’s joke. There is something liberating in the normalcy of it all, and the way that her Jewishness is given public respect where many Black Jews have had ours questioned.”
Best Aliyah at Tiffany Haddish’s Bat Mitzvah
This one goes to Billy Crystal. Yes, beloved American actor Billy Crystal had an aliyah at Tiffany’s bat mitzvah and could be seen smiling proudly as she read from the Torah:
Best Bat Mitzvah Gift to Tiffany Haddish
Barbra Streisand gifted Tiffany with a Star of David necklace that she now wears all the time.
Here’s Tiffany on IG live talking about the gift:
And here’s Tiffany in the necklace:
Celebrity culture irrevocably changed in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. As Amanda Hess wrote in The New York Times, “Among the social impacts of the coronavirus is its swift dismantling of the cult of celebrity. The famous are ambassadors of the meritocracy; they represent the American pursuit of wealth through talent, charm and hard work. But the dream of class mobility dissipates when society locks down, the economy stalls, the death count mounts and everyone’s future is frozen inside their own crowded apartment or palatial mansion. The difference between the two has never been more obvious…”
Still, Hess continued, “if I’m going to pay attention to celebrities at a time like this, their contribution better be charming or deranged enough to distract me from the specter of mass suffering and death. Even as the power of pure celebrity tanks, the value of a true entertainer rises.”
On that note, here are the celebrities who have brought us some joy during the pandemic.
Best Social Media Presence
Mandy Patinkin, the one celebrity who has not disappointed us. As Lior Zaltzman wrote in her How I Keep Calm column, “My current disdain for celebrities does not apply to Patinkin, the king of Jewish dad energy, his wife, Kathryn Grody, and their son Gideon, who are sheltering in place in upstate New York. Their quarantine videos, produced by Gideon, have made me feel seen and soothed. Mandy and Kathryn, who have been together for over four decades and have two sons, Isaac, 37, and Gideon, 33, have taught me more about quarantine relationships than a hundred self-help books ever could. They’ve made me smile so wide that my cheeks hurt. They’ve made me cry real tears. And they’ve shown me, and us, who they are, and why they deserve to be adored.”
Gideon, running his dad’s social feeds, has shared with us the joy of the Patinkin family:
It’s all we want/need.
Best Celebrity Livestream
Speaking of families on Instagram, the best Jewish celeb livestream goes to Taika Waititi’s kids cutting his hair. Waititi went live on Instagram on March 31 with his two daughters — Te Hinekahu, 7, and Matewa Kiritapu, 4 — and had them cut his hair. It was amazing and chaotic and exactly what we needed to see.
Kveller, thankfully, screenrecorded the entire thing:
Best Haircut Livestream
While the livestream of the event was great, Waititi’s actual haircut was not, so the best haircut livestream must go to Sue Bird cutting her partner Meghan Rapinoe’s hair with guidance of hairstylist Riawna Capri. Rapinoe is known for her iconic short hair — which has to be maintained, but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was not being maintained. So, Jewish basketball player Bird stepped up to the challenge.
What resulted was a nearly two-hour livestream that will make you feel joy again:
Best Streamed Seder
No offense to your family’s seder, but “Saturday Night Seder,” touted as “a Passover seder with the family you never knew you had,” was a star-studded streaming benefit for the CDC Foundation’s Coronavirus Emergency Response Fund. And it was simply amazing.
As Emily Burack reflected in Alma, “There was something so joyous about watching these Jewish celebrities proclaim their Jewishness loudly and proudly. Watching Dan Levy make a seder plate with famed chef Michael Solomonov’s instructions (for a shank bone, he used a dog treat; for karpas, he used salsa verde), Idina Menzel sing Ma Nishtana, and Richard Kind and Debra Messing tell the Passover story… it was like a balm for my soul. As I sat watching Andy Cohen joke about hiding the afikomen and play up Jewish guilt, Fran Drescher wash her hands while singing The Nanny theme song, Billy Porter belt ‘Let My People Go’ I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.”
Best Concert Livesteam
Since the shelter-in-place orders began in March, Carole King started recording videos of her gorgeous songs, changing the lyrics to reflect our current reality. Each video starts with a sweet message from King. They’re wonderful and feel like a comforting hug. Watch here.
Best Graduation Stream
As part of YouTube’s Dear Class of 2020, the cast of Schitt’s Creek reunited (in character) to sing “Hero” by Mariah Carey (with a special appearance from Mariah herself)!
We dare you to watch this and not cry:
Best Ketubah in the Background of a Zoom
Glamour culture director Mattie Kahn tweeted on June 30: “Is that a ketubah on Penn Badgley’s wall?”
Quickly the Jewish internet confirmed: Yes, that is a ketubah. Badgley is married to Domino Kirke, who has an English dad and an Iraqi Jewish mom. (You can read a timeline of their relationship here.)