This year, famous non-Jews were very public about their Jewish proclivities, from craving gefilte fish to singing the Passover classic, “Dayenu.”
These are the top 11 moments in 5776 when gentiles were inspired by Judaism, from the worlds of sports, entertainment and politics.
1. Amar’e Stoudemire moved to Israel
The NBA star signed a two-year contract with the Israeli basketball team Hapoel Jerusalem in July. Stoudemire has a history with Judaism: He has described himself as “spiritually and culturally Jewish” and said he may have Jewish ancestry. He also has ties to the Hebrew Israelite community, African-Americans who believe they are connected to the biblical Israelites. “My family and I are excited to start a new journey in Israel, a country I have grown to love,” the basketball player said.
2. Michael Phelps got a folk treatment with an old Yiddish name
Sports fans were confused after seeing round, purple-red marks on the bodies of several Olympic athletes in August, including swimming champ Phelps. It turns out they were receiving a treatment called cupping — known as “bankes” in Yiddish — which consists of applying heated glass cups to the skin, in the hopes of drawing out evil spirits. Though we were skeptical at first, after seeing Phelps win six medals in Rio, we’re thinking of giving cupping a try.
3. A Japanese gymnast did her Olympics floor routine to a Hasidic tune
Sae Miyakawa wowed us when she did her Rio floor routine to the Jewish-camp classic “Kol Haolam Kulo,” which was originally written by Rabbi Nahman of Breslov. While the Japanese team didn’t win a medal, her performance showed that the “klezmer revival” resonates around the globe. But not everyone was happy with Miyakawa’s choice of music — an Israeli rabbi who reportedly composed the melody said he would seek royalties for the performance, which he slammed as “inappropriate” and “not very modest.” While the video of her Rio performance is not available online, the above video shows her doing the same routine at a qualifying event in Japan.
4. NFL player Terrell Suggs cut down on gefilte fish to lose weight
The Baltimore Ravens linebacker is a big fan of the Ashkenazi fish patties — but he said that in order to get in shape, he had to hold back. “I like my fried chicken, my pizza, my peaches and my gefilte fish,” Suggs said in August. “I had to cut all that out. I still eat the peaches, though, and a little bit of the fish. But that’s about it.” The athlete also has a Star of David tattoo on his right arm. Still, as of press time, it’s not clear whether his love for Ashkenazi food caused him to get the tattoo, or whether the tattoo prompted him to give Jewish cuisine a try.
5. Stephen Colbert jammed with the “Fiddler on the Roof” cast
In March, on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” the host donned a black hat and fake beard as he danced and sang with cast members from the Broadway show, which is playing across the street from the Ed Sullivan Theater. The comedian joined Tevye’s daughters in singing “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” and ended the segment by yelling “L’chaim!”
6. Gina Rodriguez said Latinos in Hollywood should take a clue from Jews
The “Jane the Virgin” star, a trailblazer for minorities in Hollywood, said in August that Latinos should learn from Jewish celebrities. “One thing that I love about Jewish culture is that anthill effect. Every ant brings food to the anthill and everybody eats,” Rodriguez told Latina Magazine. “Sadly our culture has been living the crab-in-the-barrel effect. We’re so afraid there isn’t enough room for all of us that we fight to get to the top. We don’t need to do that.” Bonus: it turns out the actress is part Jewish!
7. “Transparent” star Kathryn Hahn honored rabbis at a gala event
Hahn isn’t a rabbi, in fact, she’s not even Jewish. But that didn’t stop the Catholic actress, who plays Rabbi Raquel on acclaimed Amazon series “Transparent,” from hosting the annual gala for rabbinic social justice group, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human rights in May. The event honored Jewish religious leaders who fought for human rights.
8. John Kasich lectured haredi Jews about the Torah
During a visit to Brooklyn’s Borough Park in April, the Ohio governor made sure to give a group of Orthodox Jews his interpretation of the Bible. In a conversation that came off as somewhat condescending, Kasich asked a group of yeshiva students, who likely spend their days studying Jewish texts, whether they had ever read about Joseph. He also said that Abraham trumps Moses, whom many Jews consider to be the most important biblical figure. Kasich seemed confident in his argument, but we’re not so sure he convinced the Jews.
9. Ted Cruz baked matzah in Brooklyn
The presidential hopeful helped make the unleavened bread in Brooklyn ahead of the New York primary in April, which happened just before Passover. But even joining in to sing the traditional crowd-pleaser “Dayenu” wasn’t enough to help him win the Republican nomination; he came in third place with 14.5 percent of Republican votes.
10. Donald Trump wore a tallit
In September, the Republican presidential candidate donned a Jewish prayer shawl given to him by a pastor during a visit to a black church in Detroit. And it wasn’t just any tallit, but one that came “straight from Israel,” according to the pastor. The incident left many Jews, probably among them Trump’s Jewish daughter Ivanka, scratching their heads.
11. Hillary Clinton broke barriers in a haredi newspaper
In addition to becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major party, this summer Clinton shattered another glass ceiling, of sorts: In August, a Monsey, New York-based haredi newspaper that typically bans women from its pages gave the go-ahead to print a photo of the candidate. The catch: only her arm and the very top of her head were visible. The editor of another Orthodox newspaper said last year that if the Clinton were to become president, he may rethink his editorial policy on featuring photos of women.