(JTA) — From the very beginning of the year, 2022 was anything but easy for American Jews.
The year began with a harrowing crisis at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, during which an armed assailant took a rabbi and three of his congregants hostage during Shabbat services.
From there, Jewish communities across the United States weathered book bans that targeted revered Holocaust stories, and more recently, a high-profile spate of antisemitism by one of the world’s biggest pop stars that has inspired antisemitic extremists.
But it wasn’t all bad news. Jews grabbed starring roles in TV and film, on game shows and on TikTok. Through it all, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency tracked each development, from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows — and JTA readers came along for the ride.
Here are our 10 most-read stories of the year.
10. Meet Danielle Finn, the Modern Orthodox high schooler bringing her voice to ‘American Idol’ by Sarah Rosen (Feb. 25)
Los Angeles teen Danielle Finn competed in this year’s season of the popular TV singing competition show “American Idol.” The 17-year-old wore a chai necklace to her audition, telling JTA, “I feel like I’m making a great representation of the Jewish community.”
9. The great ‘Maus’ giveaway is on as bookstores, professors and churches counter Tennessee school board’s ban by Andrew Lapin (Jan. 28)
When a rural Tennessee school board pulled the celebrated Holocaust graphic novel “Maus” from the district’s curriculum, backlash was swift.
A local comic-book store gave away the book for free to every student in the county, a nearby church held a discussion on its themes and a college professor offered free classes on the book to students in the county. Author Art Spiegelman even Zoomed with locals.
8. Comedian who went viral after having beer thrown at her makes a very Jewish TV debut on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ by Caleb Guedes-Reed (Oct. 25)
Jewish comedian Ariel Elias went viral for her response to a heckler who threw a beer can at her during a stand-up set at a New Jersey comedy club.
Elias’ fame earned her an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” — her television debut — where she performed a very Jewish set. “I’m Jewish and from Kentucky,” she said to applause. “That’s an insane origin story.”
7. Kanye West’s vow to ‘go death con 3’ on Jews and his antisemitism controversy, explained by Philissa Cramer and Ron Kampeas (Oct. 12)
Perhaps the biggest Jewish narrative of 2022 kicked off in October, when rapper Kanye West, who also goes by Ye, unleashed a series of antisemitic comments on social media, initiating a cascading series of consequences for one of the world’s largest pop stars.
We explained the scandal, and the many responses and subsequent stories that continue to develop. More on West below.
6. Jon Stewart vs. Hannah Einbinder: Jewish comedians weigh in on Dave Chappelle’s ‘SNL’ monologue by Jackie Hajdenberg (Nov. 17)
Scandal begets scandal. In the wake of the Kanye West episode, comedian Dave Chappelle hosted “Saturday Night Live,” joking in his monologue about Jews running Hollywood.
Jewish comedian and “Hacks” star Hannah Einbinder said Chappelle’s monologue was “littered with antisemitism,” while fellow Jewish comedian Jon Stewart defended Chappelle.
5. Our breaking news coverage of the Colleyville, Texas, synagogue hostage crisis by Ron Kampeas and Andrew Lapin (Jan. 15)
On Saturday, Jan. 15, all eyes were on Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, where a gunman took Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and three of his congregants hostage during Shabbat services.
The standoff lasted 12 hours, and all four hostages left unharmed. The assailant was killed. The incident renewed attention to synagogue security, and to questions of how to balance safety and inclusion.
4. Texas school district orders librarians to remove a version of Anne Frank’s diary from shelves by Andrew Lapin (Aug. 16)
Less than 10 miles from Colleyville, the school district in Keller, Texas, made headlines last summer when librarians were ordered to remove an illustrated adaptation of “The Diary of Anne Frank” from their shelves and digital libraries.
“It’s disgusting. It’s devastating. It’s legitimate book banning, there’s no way around it,” Laney Hawes, a parent of four children in the Keller district, told JTA. “I feel bad for the teachers and the librarians.”
3. Emma Saltzberg didn’t expect to win on ‘Jeopardy!’ — but criticism of her Israel activism came as no surprise by Philissa Cramer (Feb. 9)
From her years of experience in progressive Jewish groups, including IfNotNow, Emma Saltzberg knew that her appearance on one of the most popular TV shows in the United States would likely generate negative comments from those who believe criticizing the occupation is antisemitic.
“That was priced in to my decision to do something public,” she told JTA shortly after winning $60,000. “I was totally expecting it.” What she hadn’t counted on, she said, was her fellow contestants standing up for her.
2. Michelle Williams, who plays Steven Spielberg’s mother in ‘The Fabelmans,’ says she plans to raise her children Jewish by Philissa Cramer (Nov. 25)
Actress Michelle Williams isn’t Jewish, but her children will be.
In press coverage of her latest movie, Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical “The Fabelmans,” she said that she and her Jewish husband, director Thomas Kail, are raising their two young children with Judaism and that she is studying the religion herself.
“I can’t teach it to them unless I learn it first,” said Williams, who was raised Christian.
1. The Nazi history of Adidas, the sportswear giant that took weeks to drop Kanye West over antisemitism by Andrew Lapin (Oct. 24)
In the fallout over West’s antisemitism, one of the biggest storylines was the rapper’s lucrative relationship with sportswear company Adidas, which itself has a complex history with antisemitism.
Adidas ultimately severed ties with Ye, after weeks of criticism and pressure. With the company in the spotlight, we took a look at its Nazi history — something Adidas has rarely addressed publicly.
From all of us at The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, thank you for reading! We look forward to covering the next chapter of the unfolding Jewish story in 2023. As always, feel free to reach out with tips, questions or feedback, and if you value the journalism we produce, please consider supporting us with a tax-deductible donation.