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Gentiles of the Year: 2011

As loyal JTA readers know, we do our Year in Review stuff during the lead-up to Rosh Hashanah. But in the spirit of the holiday season, we thought this would be a good time to launch our annual "Gentiles of the Year" list — our way of recognizing the non-Jews who made us smile, think about ourselves and/or played an important role in the Jewish story during the past year. And in the spirit of Chanukah we chose eight. Here they are (in alphabetical order):

  • style=”margin: 5px; float: right;” Not only did Michele Bachmann have the chutzpah to, well, try saying “chutzpah,” she also managed to stand out in a philo-Semitic GOP presidential field by showing that even a Tea Party candidate can love kibbutzim.
  • Critics accuse Glenn Beck of trafficking in conspiracy theories with an anti-Semitic pedigree. Hogwash, say his fans, who hailed his broadcasts in memory of a slain Jewish family in the West Bank and cheered his “Restoring Courage” rally in Jerusalem. (Come on, admit it, you thought his shofar blowing-entrance was kind of cool.)
  • Nearly three weeks after Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire, his Jan. 4 death unleashed the Arab Spring, toppling a string of dictators and changing Israel’s neighborhood forever.
  • Amy Chua and her "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom" left us more appreciative of our Jewish mothers than ever before.
  • OK, the price was a little steep. But German foreign intelligence agent Gerhard Conrad helped answer the prayers of Jews worldwide by brokering the Hamas-Israel deal that brought Gilad Shalit home.
  • Daniel Hernandez Jr. went from congressional intern to national hero after his quick thinking and decisive actions likely saved the life of his wounded boss, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
  • Yes, Barack Obama has the power to influence Israeli-Palestinian talks and whether Iran acquires nuclear weapons. But whether you give him the thumbs up or thumbs down on these issues, there’s no denying that the president throws a mean Jewish Amercan Heritage Month party.
  • Owen Wilson pulled off the seemingly impossible in “Midnight in Paris” by showing us how a sporty blue-eyed blond dude could convincingly channel Woody Allen.
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