Inspiring Stories of 2015

 

At a quick glance, the year 2015 may seem like a dark year for the Jewish people. But within the shadows of growing anti-Semitism are points of great light. Jewish Treats and NJOP present 18 stories that inspired the Jewish community, and the world, in 2015. May these powerful moments inspire us to create, celebrate and share more uplifting experiences together with the global community in the year to come.

 

 Paris Kosher Market Hero

In the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attack that killed four Jewish men at a Paris kosher market, one of the most painful stories for the Jewish community in 2015, the media’s attention was focused on Lassana Bathily, a true hero. Bathily, who is Muslim, was employed in the market and helped guide several customers to a safe hiding place in the store’s basement. Many praised Mr. Bathily’s brave act, and he was also formally honored later in the year by both the American Jewish Committee, with their Moral Courage Award, and by New York City’s Mayor Bill De Blasio.

Kosher Baker Serves Firefighters

Good deeds on a large scale could almost be considered a theme for the past year’s social media heroes. Often these moving and impressive stories show how all people can make a positive effort through simple everyday kindness. One of the first of these was the story of the Jewish owner of a kosher bakery who passed out coffee and pastries to the weary firefighters trying to put out the fire following a building explosion in Lower Manhattan.

Nepal Earthquake

In April, Nepal was struck with a disastrous 8.0 magnitude earthquake that killed over 9,000 people and injured 23,000 more. Just three days later, risking aftershocks and other dangers, 250 doctors, medics and other rescue personnel were part of an Israel Defense Force delegation that set up a field hospital in the region. In their very first day they treated 100 patients and delivered a baby.

Jewish Commencement Speaker

What do you do when you’re asked to speak at your university graduation ceremony and the graduation takes place on Shabbat? Binghamton University graduate Don Greenberg found a brilliant solution. With the assistance of the university, his pre-recorded commencement address was played in his stead.

Jewish Coach for the Cavs

David Blatt, the 2014 Euroleague Coach of the Year, became the first Israeli-American to serve as head coach of an NBA team. In their first season under his leadership, the Cleveland Cavaliers and their star player LeBron James made it to the NBA Finals but lost to the Golden State Warriors.

Jewish Triple Crown Winner

When 3-year-old thoroughbred American Pharoah become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978, the Jewish media went crazy because the horse belonged to Jewish philanthropist Ahmed Zayat. During the many interviews following the historic win, Zayat shared the ways in which his family maintained their Shabbat observance on the Saturday race days, such as staying in an RV near the race course. He also made it a point to thank God from the Winner’s Circle. The commitment that Mr. Zayat showed toward God and the Sabbath is something about which all Jews can be proud.

Jewish High School Students Help Spongebob

Popular late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live, has a recurring segment called “How Long?” during which he does a social experiment testing how long it takes everyday people to react to an unusual event. An August “How Long?” segment featured a man dressed as Spongebob Squarepants lying helplessly on a busy Los Angeles street unable to get himself up. We watched for nearly seven minutes as people passed by, ignoring and laughing at the situation, before a group of Jewish high school students came across Spongebob and immediately offered a hand. Thousands who saw the clip on Jimmy’s show, and later on YouTube, got to witness their mitzvah of helping a stranger. Not only did they help the man to his feet, but they all began to dance a joyful hora in the street!

Matisyahu Stands Up To BDS Movement

Jewish singer Matisyahu graciously accepted an apology and reinvitation to a popular music festival in Spain after his initial invitation was revoked under pressure from the anti-Israel Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. During his set, Matisyahu bravely performed his hit song “Jerusalem,” which includes the lyrics, “Three thousand years with no place to be, and they want me to give up my milk and honey.”

IsraAID Helps Refugees

The Israeli non governmental organization IsraAID rushed to provide assistance to the Syrian, Iraqi and Pakistani refugees who began flowing into Europe, at times rushing to beaches where they pulled refugees from the surf as they evacuated dangerously overloaded boats.

Jewish Volunteer Service Saves The Day

The Jewish volunteer organization Chaverim got a public shout-out when a popular performer on the America’s Got Talent reality show publicly shared his praise and gratitude to them for coming to his aid when his car blew a tire in the middle of the night en route to a performance. He noted with surprise that the group wouldn’t accept payment for their service and their desire to simply do a mitzvah for a stranger in need.

“I’m That Jew”

“I’m That Jew,” Eitan Chitayat’s six minute video, was a viral hit with well over 2 million views. Chitayat reminded Jews everywhere that while anti-Semitism, violence and hatred continues to be directed toward the Jewish people, we should always be proud of our heritage, accomplishments and spirit.

Oprah’s Jewish Star

Oprah Winfrey’s new television program, “Belief,” featured Mendel Hurwitz, whose parents run a Chabad synagogue in Hungary. The show follows Mendel as he prepares for his Bar Mitzvah and shares with the audience some Jewish wisdom about what it means when a Bar Mitzvah boy becomes a man.

America Memorializes Fallen Teen

In the wake of the tragic murder of Jewish American teen Ezra Schwartz during a terrorist attack in Israel, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (who is Jewish), arranged for a moment of silence to be observed during the broadcasts of Monday Night Football, which is aired on ESPN. Mr. Kraft also took time to visit the Schwartz family as they sat shiva in nearby Sharon, Massachusetts.

Jewish Philanthropist Treats The Troops

During a layover at the Shannon Airport in Ireland, Jewish philanthropist Shlomo Rechnitz came upon 400 U.S. soldiers travelling home for the Thanksgiving holiday. Finding out that they were issued less-than-exciting military ready-to-eat meals as they waited for their flights, Mr. Rechnitz decided to show his deep gratitude for their service to the USA by treating them all to dinner at the airport restaurant of their choice.

Jewish Hero in New Orleans

In New Orleans, Jewish medical student Peter Gold was hailed as a hero after he was shot and nearly died saving the life of a stranger. Seeing a woman being attacked, Gold drew the attention of the assailant and was shot in the stomach. Miraculously the gun misfired when the man tried to shoot again, sparing Gold’s life.

Montana Chabad Helps Stranded El Al Passengers

When an El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Los Angeles was forced to make an emergency landing in Billings, Montana, hundreds of passengers and crew members were treated to a feast by the Chabad emissary who travelled two hours from her home in Bozeman to bring them kosher food and supplies.

Facebook Owner Inspires Philanthropy

Upon the birth of his first child, Jewish Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla made a vow to give away 99% of their wealth to charity, a sum that is worth approximately $45 billion. This announcement sparked many on social media to join conversations on the value and importance of charity.

Dane of the Year

The country of Denmark bestowed a huge posthumous honor on Dan Uzan, the Jewish volunteer security guard who was gunned down outside his synagogue last February while trying to protect his fellow congregants. Mr. Uzan was named ‘Dane of the Year’ in a December ceremony.