The votes were cast, the polls were tallied and now it’s time to reveal who you, the Hey Alma readers, have chosen to win this year’s Almas!
Welcome to the fifth annual Alma Awards, the best of the best in Jewish pop culture for the past (Jewish) year. In celebration of Rosh Hashanah and the incoming Hebrew year of 5784, we’re reflecting on every exciting Jewy thing of 5783! We’re giving out awards for everything from Best Jewish Fiction Book to Best Jews of the Eras Tour to Movie Which Most Made You Question: “Is This Good for the Jews?” And, unlike previous years, it was all decided by popular vote. Hooray for democracy!
Read on for all the winners, to whom we wish many mazels, and shana tova!
The Best Jewish Television of 5783
The Best Jewish Drama
Nominees: “A Small Light,” “Fleishman Is In Trouble,” “The Patient,” “Transatlantic”
Here at Hey Alma, we’ve been excited about “Fleishman Is In Trouble” for a long time and it’s a thrill to see our readers feel the same. Since we first reported on Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s debut novel in 2019, we’ve been big fans of this story, and the television series did not disappoint, especially in its portrayal of complicated Jewish women. As Samantha Pickette wrote for us earlier this year: “The series offers a refreshing solution to the problem of Schrödinger’s Jewish woman, tearing the cover off the proverbial box and exposing the truth that the best of contemporary female-driven Jewish television has been hinting at for the past decade: that Jewish women are complicated and fully human, that they can have bad qualities without being “bad,” that they deserve the same amount of attention, interiority and room for error as male antiheroes.”
The Best Jewish Comedy
Nominees: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “History of the World, Part II,” “Dave,” “And Just Like That…”
It was truly the end of an era: This past May, Amazon Studios released its fifth and final season of its critically acclaimed series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Over the course of six years, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino transported viewers to 1950s and 1960s New York through the funny and bright Midge Maisel as she transformed from housewife to comedian, graduating from seedy nightclubs to opulent theater stages. Despite controversy surrounding the casting of non-Jewish actress Rachel Brosnahan as the titular Mrs. Maisel, the show was infused with Jewish spirit, from drool-worthy deli scenes to recognizable family dynamics to drama-filled synagogue scenes that would make any rabbi blush. We were so glad to see this show following a strong Jewish woman not defined by her domestic role or love life go out with a bang thanks to its excellent final season.
The Best Jewish TV Actor
Nominees: Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Daveed Diggs, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Logan Lerman
There are almost too many reasons to love FX’s “The Bear.” Phrases like “yes chef” and calling your friend “cousin” have become an irreplaceable part of pop culture vocabulary, the surprise guest stars are a bevy of hard-hitting, fan favorite actors, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach steals every scene he’s in as dirtbag chef Richie Jerimovich – earning him the 5783 Alma award for Best Jewish TV actor (of any gender). In season one and early season two, Ebon makes Richie the guy you absolutely love to hate. He’s crass, has a “my way or the highway” attitude and says offensive things like “Jewish lightning.” But later on, Richie finds his passion as a back-of-the-house restauranteur. As Ebon both softens and enlivens his character, viewers get the most delicious Richie Renaissance. Seriously, we won’t be able to forget Richie singing Taylor Swift in his car for a long, long time.
The Best Jewish Reality TV Personality
Nominees: Aleeza Ben Shalom, Julia Haart, Stuart Chaseman, Ariel Frenkel
Who else but Aleeza Ben Shalom, the Jewish matchmaker herself, could win this year’s Alma award for best Jewish reality TV personality? Of course, “Jewish Matchmaking” produced a bunch of worthy candidates. As we wrote of the Netflix show earlier this year, “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.” Yet, Aleeza is the heart and neshama (soul) of the show, anchoring it with her lovable wit, ever-positive attitude and insight on Jewish practice and customs.
The Most Binged Jewish Show
Nominees: “Girls,” “The Nanny,” “New Girl,” “The O.C.”
Hmm… What makes “New Girl” so bingeable? Could it be: Judaism, son!? Even though the comedy stopped airing over five years ago, we are still watching this show largely thanks to none other than Winston Saint-Marie Schmidt, played beautifully by Max Greenfield. “His Jewishness, from the start of the show, is always prideful,” Mandy Berman wrote in Hey Alma back in 2018. “He peppers his language with Yiddish, posts a heavily edited video of himself on his JDate profile, and proclaims an unabashed love for kosher yogurt. Any time there’s a less-than-complimentary allusion towards his Jewishness, he’s quick to call it out.” Plus, who doesn’t love the show’s incredible interfaith Jewish family rep?
Fan Favorite Jewish Show: “Beauty Queen of Jerusalem”
The Israeli Netflix hit “Beauty Queen of Jerusalem” returned to the streaming platform with an even more addictive second season that takes us into the streets of 1940s Israel. Fans love the fashion, the diverse Jewish representation — all the Ladino and Sephardi cooking! — the killer cast (we’ll just be here drooling over silver-fox Michael Aloni) and the badass Jewish women in this show, from beauty and fashion queen Luna (Swell Ariel Or) and straight-talking Rachelika (Eli Steen) to fierce and complex matriarch Rosa (Hila Saada) and the sassy and strong-headed grandmother of the family Mercada (Irit Kaplan), who continually brings comedy gold. This season dealt with some incredibly heavy topics, from PTSD to domestic abuse, and yet it remains one of the most bingeable melodramas on Netflix — which is probably why it’s our fan favorite this year.
The Best Jewish Movies of 5783
The Best Jewish Movie
Nominees: “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” “Theater Camp,” “The Fabelmans,” “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah”
We all had so many feelings about “You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah,” and the votes for the Almas this year show that the majority of yours were very positive! Watching the Sandler family embody the Friedmans on screen was a delightful romp through b-mitzvah culture and brought about laughter, recognition, introspection and the desire to both reflect on and dress like Sarah Sherman’s Rabbi Rebecca. Even (especially?) during the most cringe-inducing scenes, the movie accurately portrays what life is like for some Jewish tweens, and we receive that representation way too infrequently in the media. And who can resist borrowing the language of the film, whether it’s referring to everyone you know as a “cutie-pop” or exclaiming out of nowhere: “Everyone be normal, we’re going to temple!”
The Best Jewish Movie Ensemble
Nominees: “Barbie,” “Oppenheimer,” “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah,” “Theater Camp”
Sure, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are fantastic in “Barbie,” but where would the movie be without Hari Nef (Doctor Barbie), Ariana Greenblatt (Sasha), Rhea Perlman (Ruth Handler), Ana Cruz Kayne (Supreme Court Justice Barbie) and Kingsley Ben-Adir (Also Ken)?! That is to say, where would “Barbie” be without its fabulous and rather large ensemble of Jewish actors? The answer to that question is nowhere. Or, at the very least, this talented crew would not have won the 5783 Alma award for Best Jewish Ensemble in a Movie! Together, this group made us laugh and cry through Barbie’s journey to the real world and back, all the while highlighting the beautiful diversity of Jewish identity. What could possibly be better than that?
The Movie Which Most Made You Question, “Is This Good for the Jews?”
Nominees: “You People,” “Oppenheimer,” “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah,” “Menorah In the Middle”
Oh, “You People.” We had such low hopes for this Jonah Hill/Eddie Murphy movie and unfortunately, it delivered. “Watching it, I was cringing in the worst way possible,” Hey Alma associate editor Evelyn Frick wrote in January. They went on, “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? Oh, how naive I was. 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.” Yikes.
The Best Portrayal of a Jew by a Non-Jewish Actor
Nominees: Kathy Bates, Cillian Murphy, Helen Mirren, Paul Dano and Michelle Williams
The world had to wait over 50 years for a movie adaptation of Judy Blume’s iconic YA novel “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret,” and you know what, it was worth it. The charming movie was a beautiful mash-up of ‘70s vibes with the timeless insecurities of young girls the world over and stayed true to the source material in the best way possible. And while the subject of non-Jewish actors being cast in Jewish roles is one that we’ll probably be talking about for 50 years more, one thing we can all agree on is that Kathy Bates is great and we should let her do whatever she wants. She embodied Margaret’s loving, fun, slightly overbearing but ultimately supportive Jewish grandmother with her tchochkes and her “schmucks” and her JGG (Jewish grandma glamour).
The Best Jewish Detail of “Barbie”
Nominees: The bibilical plot, Rhea Perlman as Ruth Handler, Greta Gerwig making it feel like Shabbat, “Some of my best friends are Jewish” joke
As we all know by now, there were some pretty amazing Jewish details in “Barbie.” The (Alma award-winning) Jewish ensemble was stellar, Greta Gerwig wanted the movie to feel like Shabbat, the plot was downright biblical and Will Ferrell’s joke about having Jewish friends was such a fun detail. But, according to the Hey Alma readership, none were better than Rhea Perlman’s portrayal of Ruth Handler. “Where it has become commonplace for non-Jewish actors like Bradley Cooper, Daisy Edgar Jones and Felicity Jones to be cast in Jewish biopic roles, Rhea Perlman feels like refreshing, authentic representation as Ruth Handler,” contributor Mara Kleinberg wrote for Hey Alma’s partner site Kveller. They went on, “In fact, despite her scarce screen time, she is arguably the main star of the film, a Jewish guiding voice for Margot Robbie’s Barbie.” Plus, who amongst us wasn’t ugly sobbing when Perlman as Handler said, “We mothers stand still so our daughters can look back to see how far they have come.”
Fan Favorite Jewish Movie: “No Hard Feelings”
Our beloved Hey Alma readers were quick to point out that “Barbie,” “Oppenheimer,” “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” and “Theater Camp” weren’t the only films this year with a strong Jewish ensemble. Comedy “No Hard Feelings” featured incredible Jewish talent like Andrew Barth Feldman, Matthew Broderick and Alma award-winner Ebon Moss-Bachrach.
The Best Jewish Performing Arts of 5783
The Best Jewish Musical Performance
Nominees: Regina Spektor, Noa Kirel, Mae Muller, Noah Kahan
Unapologetically Jewish and wildly talented, Regina Spektor is a dream of a musician and her tour this past year is very deserving of its title as The Best Jewish Musical Performance of the 5783 Almas. With eight studio albums under her belt, Spektor would be a joy to see live even if she wasn’t so charming and silly in person… but the fact that she is also charming and silly is icing on the cake for her devoted fanbase. Earlier this year, Miri Verona wrote an ode to Spektor for Hey Alma, and this sentiment still rings true: “While her music often has a surreal lack of clarity, she always wears her Jewish identity on her sleeve. Whether she’s spitting facts about antisemitism with dazzling wit or just being a silly ray of Jewish joy, she’s my favorite wielder of Jewish pride.”
The Best Jews of the Eras Tour
Nominees: HAIM, Gracie Abrams, Josette Maskin, Jack Antonoff
It seems that Hey Alma readers (and, let’s be real, its staff) will always be in their HAIM Era. For joining Taylor Swift on 10 dates of the Eras Tour, performing “no body, no crime” live for the first time ever and getting their evil stepsister on for “Bejeweled,” Alana, Danielle and Este have won the first and likely only Alma Award for Best Jews of the Eras Tour. To win this honor, the sisters beat out Josette Maskin from MUNA, Gracie Abrams and Taylor-collaborator Jack Antonoff.
The Best Jewish Broadway Show
Nominees: “Leopoldstadt,” “Just for Us,” “Parade,” “Funny Girl”
The 5783 Alma Award for Best Broadway show will surely be the highest honor for “Parade,” which also won a little award called the Tony for best revival of a musical earlier this year. Starring Ben Platt and Micaela Diamond and composed by Jason Robert Brown, “Parade” centers the tragic real-life story of Leo Frank, a Jewish man who was wrongly convicted of a murder and subsequently lynched in Georgia in 1915. “In ‘Parade,’ I saw myself and my friends,” A.R. Vishny wrote in Hey Alma of the production’s authenticity and catharsis. She added, “This particular presentation marked the first time not only that a major professional production has cast Jewish actors as both Leo Frank and his wife, Lucille, but also that the actors were roughly the ages of the characters they played.”
The Best Jewish Theater Performance
Nominees: Julia Lester, Micaela Diamon, Brandon Uranowitz, Ben Platt
This past year gave us so many phenomenal Jewish theater performances (Brandon Uranowitz in “Leopoldstadt,” Micaela Diamond in “Parade,” Julia Lester in “Into the Woods,” to name a few), but perhaps none were as heart-rending and beautiful, or high profile, as that of Ben Platt in “Parade.” Playing Leo Frank, Platt reinvigorated a role that originated in 1998, bringing every ounce of his own Jewishness to the stage. What’s more, his gorgeous, warm voice soared in songs like “This Is Not Over Yet,” “All the Wasted Time” and even in a rendition of the Shema, all in the face of literal neo-Nazis. Bravo, Ben.
The Best Jewish Comedy Special
Nominees: Alex Borstein’s “Corsets & Clown Suits,” Amy Schumer’s “Emergency Contact,” Sarah Silverman’s “Someone You Love,” Nick Kroll’s “Little Big Boy”
On the second day of Rosh Hashanah last year, comedian Nick Kroll blessed us with a new comedy special, “Little Big Boy,” that cemented him as a jaddy — that is, a Jewish zaddy. As the title suggests, Kroll tells jokes about his experience as a late bloomer, including being a small Jewish boy in a class full of Irish Catholics, his tendency to cry and his lactose intolerance (relatable). He jokes about moms who’ve “got no game,” about becoming a father to a baby so cute he wants to “suck his little brain out” and about being a “card-carrying member of the Jewish media elite.” As our partner site Kveller wrote, “Kroll is impossibly charming and magnetic — and really, really good at his job, which is making people laugh.”
Fan Favorite Jewish Performance: Julie Benko
“It’s been quite the year for actress Julie Benko,” Evelyn Frick wrote back in March, and that was before Benko even won this fan favorite Alma award — now it’s truly been quite the year for her! The Jewish actress and singer was fantastic in Broadway’s revival of “Funny Girl,” where amidst several dramatic casting choices and switches she remained a constant, first as Beanie Feldstein’s standby, then as a guaranteed performer once a week when Lea Michele took over the role. She even starred full-time as Fanny for the month between Feldstein and Michele. For this performance, Benko was honored with Theatre World’s 2023 Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence in the Theatre and was named by the New York Times as the 2022 Breakout Star for Theater. Reviewer Mara Sandroff wrote for Hey Alma: “It has been a true pleasure to watch more people discover [Benko],” and we agree!
The Best Jewish Books of 5783
The Best Jewish Fiction
Nominees: “Marry Me By Midnight” by Felicia Grossman, “All-Night Pharmacy” by Ruth Madievsky, “The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store” by James McBride, “My Last Innocent Year” by Daisy Alpert Florin
“‘Marry Me By Midnight’ is a gender-swapped take on Cinderella which finds Isabelle Lira, the daughter of a respected and established Sephardic family in London’s Jewish East End in 1832, racing to find a suitable husband after her father’s death leaves their family’s fortunes and community standing in flux,” writes A.R. Vishny, describing Felicia Grossman’s regency romance and winner of the Best Jewish Fiction Alma. “She enlists Aaron Ellenberg, the poor synagogue custodian, to help her vet the potential matches because of his valuable insights into the character of her potential suitors. Of course, things don’t quite turn out the way Isabella might have envisioned, but like any good romance novel, it all ends in a delightful Happily Ever After.” Say no more, right? This novel is perfect and we’re so glad y’all agree.
The Best Jewish Non-Fiction
Nominees: “The Big Reveal” by Sasha Velour, “The In-Betweens” by Davon Loeb, “Invited to Life” by B. A. Van Sise, “Bad Jews” by Emily Tamkin
There are a lot of ways to call someone a “bad Jew.” But what does it even mean to be a “bad Jew” in the context of American Jewish identity, history and values? Does such a definition even exist? These are the questions central to “Bad Jews: A History of American Jewish Politics and Identities” by writer and journalist Emily Tamkin. What the book (which Tamkin describes as “a love letter to Jewish pluralism”) reveals is the ever-important reminder that 1) American Jews are not a sociopolitical monolith and 2) we ought to stop attempting to negate the Jewishness of those Jews we disagree with and understand that the diversity of voices and opinions in American Jewry is the essence of American Jewishness.
The Best Jewish YA Novel
Nominees: “You Are SO Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” by Fiona Rosenbloom (aka Amanda Stern), “Going Bicoastal” by Dahlia Adler, “Planning Perfect” by Haley Neil, “Disappearing Act” by Jiordan Castle
You might be more familiar with the movie “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah,” but the book, written by Amanda Stern under the pseudonym Fiona Rosenbloom, is just as good. (And dare we say, maybe even a bit better?) “Much like ‘The Great Gatsby’ or ‘Middlemarch,’ ‘You Are SO Not Invited to my Bat Mitzvah!’ is a masterpiece of its time,” Hey Alma associate editor Evelyn Frick wrote in 2021. “Engulfed in all its mid-2000s glory, complete with references to Ashlee Simpson, Delias, and Nokia phones, this novel tells the story of Stacy Friedman, a girl preparing for her bat mitzvah.” Granted, the 2023 re-released version of “You Are SO Not Invited” updates all the 2005 references to more current ones – swapping Ashlee Simpson for Olivia Rodrigo and Nokias for iPhones. Still, both versions of the book are a compelling, fun portrayal of what it means to be a Jewish tween girl.
Fan Favorite Jewish Book: “B’nai Mitzvah Mistake” by Stacey Agdern
This sweet romance with fantastic Jewish representation is this year’s Jewish Book Fan Favorite. An enemies-to-lovers story and the first of author Stacey Agdern’s new “Last Girls Standing” series, “B’nai Mitzvah Mistake” is appealing for its realistic rendering of Judaism and for its lovable cast of characters including Judith, Ash and their friends and family.
The Best Jewish Pop Culture Moments of 5783
The Most Surprising Jewish Couple
Nominees: Emrata and Eric André, Ariana Grande and Ethan Slater, Robby Hoffman and Gabby Windey
Though quite short lived, witnessing Emratandré’s very Jewish situationship in real time was indeed surprising. “Of all Jewish celebrities to ever be a couple, the award for most random pairing surely has to go to recent sweethearts Emily Ratajkowski and Eric André,” wrote Evelyn Frick. “Beyond the fact that they are both Jewish and have Jewish moms, Emrata and Erandré don’t have a ton in common.” Alas, just after seemingly hard-launching their partnership, the two just as swiftly seemed to part ways. But we’ll always have this well-reported timeline of their dating history on Hey Alma.
The Jewish Moment That Made Us Kvell The Most
Nominees: Kat Graham on Sesame Street for Jewish American Heritage Month, Fran Drescher leading the SAG-AFTRA strike, The news that Adam Brody will play a charming rabbi on Netflix, Lexi Goldberg being a contestant on “The Ultimatum: Queer Love”
On July 13, 2023, the Screen Actors Guild went on strike after the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) failed to offer them a fair contract. Fran Drescher, President of SAG-AFTRA, made the announcement with the fiery passion of her Jewish labor union ancestors behind her. Watching Fran’s speech, in which she was unafraid to directly call out the AMPTP, we all couldn’t help but majorly kvell and feel a deep pride that a Jewish woman is passionately leading what will surely be a pivotal strike.
The Best Celebrity Jewish Tattoo
Nominees: Joey King and Zoey Deutch
In the Zoey Deutch vs. Joey King battle royale of celebrity Jewish tattoos, Zoey came out on top to win the Alma award for her matzah ball soup ink. Earlier in the Jewish year, Zoey went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” where she showed off the gorgeous, delicate and finely-shaded ankle tat – which was a birthday present to herself. In the interview she explained that as much as she loves the tattoo, the steam rising off of it does make the matzah ball look a tad hairy (though she has no regrets about getting it). Regardless, we think it’s adorable!
The Best Jewish Celebrity Wedding/Engagement
Nominees: Beanie Feldstein and Bonnie-Chance Roberts, Abigail Breslin and Ira Kunyansky, Sofia Richie-Grainge and Elliot Grainge, Ben Platt and Noah Galvin
What can we say about Beanie and Bonnie’s wedding except OMG! Truly one of the most gorgeous Jewish weddings of all time, their summer camp extravaganza was stunning and sentimental. Evelyn Frick wrote an extremely detailed summary of their festivities back in June, kicking the piece off with the declaration: “It’s official: Beanie Feldstein and Bonnie Chance Roberts are the queer Jewish queens of Pride Month.” We stand by this statement 100% and wish the happy couple a gorgeous life together.
The Best Jewish TikToker
Nominees: Miriam Ezagui (@miriamezagui), Raven Reveals, Talia Lichtstein, Tiny Jewish Girl
TikTok can’t get enough of Orthodox Jewish influencer Miriam Ezagui and frankly neither can we. Since May 2020, when Miriam first started her account, the labor and delivery nurse and mom of four has amassed a whopping 2 million followers. But unlike other influencers whose lives seem so far removed from the rest of us, Miriam sets herself apart through her honest and authentic explanations of Hasidic Jewish life and her could-be-your-best-friend personality. At a time when antisemitism is on the rise, the benefit of having such positive Jewish representation online is truly incalculable. Thank you, Miriam.
Fan Favorite Jewish Pop Culture Icon: Miriam Anzovin (@miriamanzovin)
There is quite simply no one who’s doing what internet personality Miriam Anzovin is doing online. And for that, Hey Alma readers have awarded her as a fan favorite Jewish pop culture icon. “Anzovin is reaching thousands of people by sharing her videos on her TikTok and Twitter accounts,” contributor Abby Seitz noted in February 2022. She added, “Younger generations are being introduced to the Jewish tradition of studying Talmud, and Anzovin is making it more palatable by not only creating entertaining videos, but by going through the entire page and zeroing in on the most interesting arguments, lines or stories.”