Top Viral Jewish Stories of 2014

 

As the year comes to an end, we look back on the viral Jewish stories that Jewish Treats and @JewishTweets shared in 2014.

Scarlett Johannson Defends SodaStream

Jewish actress Scarlett Johannson found herself in hot water after being named the “first global brand ambassador” for Israeli manufactured SodaStream. Demonstrating strength of character, Johannson stuck to her guns and defended the brand, stating that she saw their factory as “a model for some sort of movement forward in a seemingly impossible situation.” Link

 

Jewish Super Bowl Ads

Two Jewish symbols had shining moments during Superbowl commercials in 2014. In a commercial for Go Daddy, eagle eyed viewers spotted a mezuzah, and Coke prominently showed two men wearing kippot in their memorable multi-cultural spot.

 

A Mitzvah For Rashi

The heartbreaking and sudden passing of community leader, and mother of eight, Rashi Minkowicz, led to an outpouring of grief from those she inspired as co-director of Chabad activities in Alpharetta, Georgia. In her memory, a Facebook group “A Mitzvah for Rash” was formed and quickly drew 5,000 members committed to dedicating mitzvot and Torah learning in Rashi’s memory. Link

 

36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave

Dozens of Rabbis gathered in Chicago last April to shave their heads to raise awareness and increase donations for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation which works to find cures for childhood cancers. Two of the participants were the rabbi parents of “Superman” Sam Sommer who so movingly blogged and documented their son’s journey and untimely passing in 2013. Link

 

Macklemore in Costume

Rapper and performer Macklemore appeared on stage in Seattle donning a costume many felt mocked Jewish stereotypes. Not everyone bought his claims that the effect was unintentional, but on his site, Macklemore wrote that something positive can come from a negative experience. Through this situation, I’ve got hip to some incredible groups like the ADL and I encourage people to check out the great work they do. Link

 

Cardinal O’Connor Was Jewish

The sister of Cardinal John O’Connor, the late archbishop of New York, was recently informed by a genealogist that their mother had been born Jewish before converting to Catholicism as a teen and that their grandfather had been a rabbi in Connecticut. This news reveals the Jewish roots of the Cardinal who was known during his tenure for strengthening the relationship between Jews and Catholics in the New York area. Link

 

#BringBackOurBoys

#BringBackOurBoys became more than a hashtag, transforming over time from a symbol of hope and prayer, to mantra and demand, to a symbol of frustration and loss. Though we now know the three teenage boys likely met their fates within moments of being kidnapped, the sense of community both online and in real life prevailed throughout the summer and beyond. Link

 

Iron Dome

Throughout July, Israel’s Iron Dome earned its stripes, diverting more than 1,000 rockets aimed at Israel, shielding Israeli residents and tourists from danger. The Israeli developed Red Alert App was downloaded to thousands of Smartphones and not only alerted Israelis about incoming rocket attacks, but also kept Jews worldwide connected to those in the Holy Land. Link

 

Zara Recall

Zara infuriated Jewish customers after insensitively selling a children’s shirt that resembled concentration camp garb. Zara quickly pulled the shirt from its website and stores. Link

 

Ice Bucket Challenge

More than two million people worldwide took the Ice Bucket Challenge in the summer of 2014. This viral sensation helped bringing attention and fuel donations to many ALS charities, including one supporting a California Chabad rabbi who is battling the illness. Link

 

Joan Rivers

Jewish comedic legend Joan Rivers passed away, leaving a legacy of laughs and funds to several Jewish charitable organizations, including the Jewish Guild for the Blind, Jewish Home and Hospital Foundation, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. Link

 

Israeli Doctors Fight Ebola

On October 11, as the Ebola virus grew and became more deadly, two IsraAID staff members were reported to be the only representatives from international health groups at an emergency meeting in Sierra Leone. This is not going to be a hit-and-run. We’re looking at doing this Ebola work for a substantial time period, and we’re likely to be there for the next two years, said IsraAID founding director Shachar Zahavi. Link

 

“Klinghoffer” at Met

The intersection of art and objectivity take center stage as controversy erupts with the opening of The Death of Klinghoffer at the Metropolitan Opera house. The production, which dramatizes the events leading to the death of a disabled Jewish man at the hands of the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1985, proceeded despite protests. Link

 

Terror in Har Nof

Tragedy struck in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem when terrorists entered a synagogue during shacharit, the morning prayer service. Four rabbis praying in the synagogue that morning were murdered: Rabbi Moshe Twersky, Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky, Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg and Rabbi Kalman Levine. Druze Israeli policeman Zidan Saif, the first responder who has been hailed a hero for preventing the loss of many more lives, was also killed in the attack. Link Photo

 

Rabbi Joins Ranks of CNN Heroes

Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg of Michigan was named one of 2014’s CNN Heroes for his work with Kids Kicking Cancer. The program, founded years after he lost one of his own children to cancer, provides free martial arts classes focused on breathing techniques, meditation and empowerment for children battling serious illnesses. Link

 

Alan Gross Released

The United States negotiated the release of Alan Gross, a Jewish man held captive in Cuba for five years. The day after his release, President Obama spoke of the mitzvah of Pidyon Shvuyim (Redeeming Captives) when mentioning his return to the US at the White House Hanukkah Reception. Link