The 2017 Jewish American Media Awards

Every so often, a new public figure pops up who may or may not be Jewish.

SARAH SILVERMAN arrives at the Academy Awards in Hollywood last year - consistently great in ‘I Love You, America.’ (photo credit: ADREES LATIF/REUTERS)
SARAH SILVERMAN arrives at the Academy Awards in Hollywood last year - consistently great in ‘I Love You, America.’
(photo credit: ADREES LATIF/REUTERS)
It was a complex year in American Jewish life and a fascinating year in American Jewish media. Here’s what we’ll remember most from 2017:
Jewish Tweeter of the Year
Honorable mentions go to @mollytolsky, @BCAppelbaum, @RavShmuly and @avigaylin. You should follow them all. But the prize goes to actor @JoshMalina, who manages to be insightful, funny, serious, self-deprecating, and deeply Jewish on a daily basis. He’s a political guy, but he also knows his way around a silly, highly retweetable one-liner: “@JoshMalina: On Christmas Eve my family eats Japanese instead of Chinese – we’re Reconstructionists.”
Shanda (Disgrace) of the Year
There are ways to have difficult but respectful discussions about the relationship between religion and terrorist violence.
Shaming peaceful Muslims who happen to be walking in New York the day after an attack is not one of them. Laura Loomer, Twitter provocateur, did this and “wins” the award for it.
Kiddush Hashem Award for Making the Jews Look Good
The #metoo moment has rightfully brought down more than a few reputations, Jewish and otherwise. But Jodi Kantor of The New York Times did us proud with her intrepid reporting on the ugliest aspects of Hollywood culture.
Amy Krouse Rosenthal Memorial Award for Best Jewish Column
Faced with her impending death in early 2017, writer Amy Krouse Rosenthal penned a love letter to her husband. Published in the New York Times “Modern Love” series, its goal was clear: to find her husband a new life partner. The column was widely shared and it was beautiful; Krouse Rosenthal passed away 10 days later.
Best (worst, really) Clickbait
The Forward posted an article titled “We Need to Start Befriending Neo-Nazis.” You clicked it. I clicked it. Everyone clicked it. Such was 2017.
Elizabeth Taylor Award for Rockiest Relationship
Jewish progressives were disappointed this year by the expulsion of Jews from Chicago’s Dyke March. Gretchen Rachel Hammond, the journalist who first reported the story, told Twitter her reporting cost her her job, leading us to conclude the relationship between liberal Zionists and the wider progressive movement may be “off-again.”
Silver Lining Award
Charlottesville was terrible. Rising antisemitism is terrible. Islamophobia is terrible. For a lot of people, a lot of 2017 was terrible. But, the terribleness has inspired Adam Goldberg to reprise his classic character The Hebrew Hammer to fight the terribleness. Google “Make America Kosher Again,” watch the trailer, and think slightly better thoughts for 2018.
Rudd-Sam Scale Winners
Every so often, a new public figure pops up who may or may not be Jewish. When tribal affiliation is confirmed, the response always falls somewhere from “Thrilled to tell Bubbe about it!” to “Uh-oh, hope the Gentiles don’t find out.” We call this the Rudd-Sam scale, in honor of America’s most charming turns-outto- be-a-Jew, Paul Rudd, and David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam serial killer of late 1970s infamy and, yes, Jewish heritage.
This Year’s Rudd: Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros, who knocked in the winning run of Game 5 of the World Series and, it turns out, was bar mitzva’d at Congregation Albert in Albuquerque in 2007. Bubbe is thrilled! This Year’s Sam: Stephen Miller, adviser to the president, oft-cited “architect” of the Muslim Ban, and star of a viral video in which he seems to suggest that high school janitors are overpaid and lazy. Turns out he’s from a liberal Jewish California family. Bubbe doesn’t want to talk about it.
Eric Bana Award for Best Gentile Playing Jewish
A great year in this category, including wonderful performances by Tony Shalhoub and Rachel Brosnahan in Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. But the winner is Melissa Leo, who brings both comedy and gravitas to the role of Goldie on Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here.
Ewan Mcgregor Award for Worst Gentile Playing Jewish
During the Alabama Senate campaign, some guy started calling people up pretending to be a Jewish Washington Post reporter name “Bernie Bernstein.” That guy wins, not because it was super antisemitic (which it was), but because his “New York” accent was just terrible.
Jewish Newcomer of the Year
Much of the praise heaped upon the indie film hit Lady Bird has rightfully been aimed at star Saoirse Ronan. But actress Beanie Feldstein was every bit as heartfelt and compelling in her supporting role. If that’s not enough, she’s also currently starring with Bette Midler in a Hello, Dolly revival, has been nominated for a Grammy and is emerging as a key voice in our culture’s discourse on body image.
Barbara Streisand Award for Jewish Star of the Year
Gal Gadot. A thousand times, Gal Gadot.
Theodore Bikel Award for Best Jewish Performance
Sarah Silverman was consistently great in I Love You, America, as was Rachel Bloom in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. But the award goes to Menashe Lustig and Ruben Niborski, who gave subtle, skillful performances as father and son in Joshua Weinstein’s Yiddish-language film Menashe.
The Brooks-Reiner Award for Best Jewish Entertainment
2017 was an unusually good year for Jewish media and entertainment. Menashe offered an unprecedented, intimate look at hassidic New York. Gal Gadot spoke Hebrew on Saturday Night Live. Sarah Silverman’s I Love You, America was chock full of Jewish humor, including an inspired segment in which Gil Ozeri explains kashrut to a doomsday prepper.
But the winner is the uproarious, poignant The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and it’s not particularly close. Maisel has everything a Jewish (or Gentile) viewer could want. Its vision of the 1950s is lavishly stylish. Its humor is far-reaching, offering everything from observational family comedy to deep blue sex jokes to improbably hilarious Holocaust banter. Its critical take on gender politics is more of the moment than its creator, Amy Sherman- Palladino, could have ever anticipated. It’s a great show about being American and, of course, being Jewish. A worthy winner in any year and a breath of delicious fresh air in the cultural smog of 2017.
Matt Sienkiewicz (@mediastudied) is an Associate Professor at Boston College; Aliza Libman (@AlizaLibman) teaches at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, MD; Joe McReynolds is the co-founder of Sounds Goyish But OK; Josh Moss is an educator and comedy writer in New York.