The Jewish moments of 2021

(As these things are, this is not meant to be the comprehensive list of all the moments that were Jewish in 2021, if you feel like we missed something big please reach out!)
2021, it's been a year.

What a year it’s been, and can you believe it? We at Unpacked aren’t even a year old yet! From our launch over Passover, through the conflict between Israel and Hamas and the rise in antisemitism that quickly followed, to unpacking Doja Cat’s Jewishness, the new season of Shtisel and the new coalition government in Israel, we’ve been there for all the big (and not so big) Jewish moments of 2021, and we want to thank you, our readers, for being there with us for the ride.

January

Sen. Bernie Sanders attends the inauguration of President Joe Biden on Jan. 20, 2021.

Bernie Sanders was immediately turned into a meme following a screen grab of him attending the inauguration of President Joe Biden went viral. Sanders turned his viral fame into a fundraising moment, raising $1.8 million for community organizations in the senator’s home state of Vermont.

February

David Schoen covers his head with his hand while drinking water during proceedings in Congress on Feb. 9, 2021.

“He’s Jewish” immediately started to trend on social media after President Donald Trump’s impeachment lawyer David Schoen covered his head with his hand while drinking water during proceedings in Congress. Schoen, who is religious, was making a blessing on the water and since head coverings are not allowed inside Congress Schoen had to improvise.

Former Nazi guard Friedrich Karl Berger in an old passport photo. (Courtesy: U.S. State Dept.)

The U.S. State Department deported 95-year-old former Nazi guard Friedrich Karl Berger in what is believed to be the last case of its kind in America. Berger was a guard at a subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp system near Hamburg. He moved to the United States via Canada in 1959. The State Department said Berger “was ordered removed from the U.S. based on his participation in Nazi-sponsored persecution while serving in Nazi Germany in 1945 as an armed guard of concentration camp prisoners.” He was later cleared in Germany of any charges due to “lack of evidence.”

“Want to see my muscles?” This 81-year-old American bubbe won the hearts of Israel during an appearance on live television.

March

Drake in the “Wants and Needs” music video.

Drake channeled his Jewish roots in the release of his latest single “Wants and Needs.”

Detail of an anti-vaccination patch resembling a holocaust badge as people protest the Covid-19 vaccine mandate for municipal workers during a protest at Gracie Mansion on October 28, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

March is when we started to see the popularization of invoking the Holocaust use of Star of Davids in protest of vaccine passports. (The ADL explains why this is antisemitic and troubling.)

The afikomen NFT was made in conjunction with the 1,000 Jewish Stars Clubhouse Passover Seder

Selling for 2.20 ETH, or around $4,000, an afikomen emoji is the first believed piece of Jewish NFT art to sell at auction. 

April

Duolingo launches a Yiddish course prompting a huge interest in the East European language.

Sarah Halimi

Protesters gathered in Paris, London, New York, Tel Aviv, Toronto and other cities in April to demonstrate against the ruling of France’s highest court that the killer of a Jewish woman in Paris will not stand trial because he was under the influence of cannabis. 

Rescue workers look for survivors of a stampede in Meron, Israel, Thursday, April 29, 2021. (Courtesy: United Hatzalah)

Forty-five people were killed in a stampede in Meron, Israel, on April 29th and at least 150 people were injured, many critically. In previous years more than 1 million people have visited the town on Lag BaOmer for Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai’s yahrzeit

May

Rockets launched towards Israel from the northern Gaza Strip and response from the Israeli missile defense system known as the Iron Dome leave streaks through the sky on May 14, 2021 in Gaza City, Gaza. (Photo by Fatima Shbair/Getty Images)

In Israel 12 people were killed, including a 5-year-old boy, a 16-year-old-girl and a soldier. At least 300 were wounded and an additional 200 were injured in riots between Jews and Arabs. At least 20 people were killed in the West Bank in clashes with Israeli security forces.

The Gaza Health Ministry, which is controlled by Hamas, reported that at least 230 were killed, among the killed were reportedly 65 children and 39 women. The death toll has not been independently verified and, according to the Associated Press, “the Gaza Health Ministry does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians.” 

Hamas and the terrorist group Islamic Jihad claimed that only 20 of their fighters were killed, The IDF estimates that number to be at least 130.

During the conflict between Israel and Hamas antisemitic incidents broke out across the world, with a major increase in the United States and United Kingdom.

@jewishunpacked

There’s been an incredible rise in ##antisemitism since the start of ##Israel’s latest conflict with Hamas militants. ##jewish ##jew ##judaism

♬ Night Trouble – Petit Biscuit

June

Mayim Bialik, an Orthodox Jewish actress and neuroscientist known for her roles in the sitcoms “The Big Bang Theory” and “Blossom,” is Jeopardy’s! new co-host. (Courtesy: Jeopardy!)

Mayim Bialik took over hosting duty on Jeopardy! following fallout over misogynistic and antisemitic comments made by Mike Richards, the newly appointed host of the game show.

Naftali Bennett, Yair Lapid and Mansour Abbas are seen signing a coalition deal that puts Benjamin Netanyahu out of office. The deal brings together a conservative, liberal and Arab Islamist political party. (Photo: Handout)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party were voted out and a new coalition government led by Naftali Bennett was sworn into office. Netanyahu was the longest serving prime minister in Israeli history, in the post for 12 years. 

A volunteer with the Jewish organization Zaka (in the yellow shirt and orange pants) searches the rubble at the Surfside condo collapse. (Courtesy: Twitter)

Ninety-eight people were killed after the partial collapse of a 12-story condo building on June 24th in the largely Jewish Miami suburb of Surfside, Florida. The collapse mobilized the international Jewish community with Israel sending an urban search and rescue team and Hatzalah coordinating the rescue efforts with local authorities.

July

Jacob Steinmetz makes history as first known Orthodox Jewish player drafted into the MLB.

Jacob Steinmetz made Major League Baseball history this year. The New York native is 17-years-old, 6-foot-5-inches tall, has a 97 mile-per-hour fastball… And he’s an Orthodox Jew. That makes Steinmetz the first known Orthodox Jewish player to be drafted by a US major league baseball team. And while Steinmetz is technically the first, another Orthodox Jewish player, Elie Kligman, was also drafted this year.

My Unorthodox Life on Netflix

My Unorthodox Life, love it or hate it, debuted in July to much debate and conversation.

Sue Bird enters the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo with Team USA. (Courtesy: Team USA)

All eyes were on the Olympics in July which started on the 23rd. Sue Bird, who is Jewish, was given the honor of carrying the U.S. flag during the opening ceremony. There were many Jewish moments during the Games, but one stood out the most– the world fell in love with the guys on the Israeli Baseball Team.

Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Ben & Jerry’s made headlines in July, announcing that it was ending sales of ice cream in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” apparently referring to West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem. The company said in a statement that it was halting sales in these areas because “it is inconsistent with our values.” The founders later clarified in a NY Times op-ed: “We are the founders of Ben & Jerry’s. We are also proud Jews. It’s part of who we are and how we’ve identified ourselves for our whole lives. As our company began to expand internationally, Israel was one of our first overseas markets. We were then, and remain today, supporters of the State of Israel.”

This Jewish grandma is still pissed. (Photo by John Kunza/Unpacked)

Thousands rallied in Washington, D.C., to draw the attention of lawmakers to the rising antisemitism in America.

August

The last Jew of Afghanistan decided to stay, then it turns out he wasn’t leaving due to not giving a get to his estranged wife of many years (he later left and gave the get).

September

Impossible Foods got the Jewish world buzzing in September with the announcement of their latest product Impossible Pork… but it was short-lived, the OU announced did not issue it a hechsher (i.e. even fake pork is still not kosher).

October

@jewishunpacked

Jews in ##space! One of our favorite Canadians, William Shatner, blasted off into space becoming the oldest person ever to go there. ##canada

♬ Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long Long Time) – Remastered – Elton John
Joshua Angrist, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Courtesy: MIT)

Professor Joshua Angrist, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was one of three winners of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on how public policy developments impact society. Angrist holds dual Israeli-American citizenship

Nazis chant “Jews will not replace us,” during the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville. (Courtesy: Vice News)

It’s a trial that was four years in the making, and finally at the end of October organizers of the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, the rally infamously known for the chants of “Jews will not replace us” and for the death of a counter protester, had their day in court. A month later jurors would find the main organizers liable under state law, awarding more than $25 million in damages, but deadlocked on federal conspiracy charges.

November

November was Paul Rudd’s month, on top of turning heads in the Shrink Next Door, he was also named People’s Sexiest Man Alive.

@jewishunpacked

Paul Rudd performing an Aliyah at Will Ferrell’s Bar Mitzvah? 🤯 ##JewishCelebs

♬ original sound – Unpacked

This was the year of viral Hanukkah fails, from Bed Bath & Beyond’s Hanukkah-Passover mix up, to many others.

Cartman, who’s character is often very antisemitic, converts to Judaism and becomes a rabbi.

South Park’s favorite little antisemite is now Jewish? In “South Park: Post COVID,” which debuted on Thanksgiving, Cartman not only converts to Judaism but becomes an Orthodox Rabbi.

December

Yeshiva University’s men’s basketball team made history– they hold the record for the longest consecutive winning streak in NCAA men’s basketball. Sadly the streak was short-lived. After 50 straight wins, no. 51 wasn’t in the works. And, despite the loss at the end of the year, the record still holds.