The Top 14 Jewish Newsmakers of 5776

Clockwise from top left: Elor Azaria, Ivanka Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. (Getty Images)

By Ben Sales

(JTA) —From the presidential election to Israel to your TV screen, here are 14 Jews who earned headlines during the past 12 months for their accomplishments, blunders, mitzvahs and missteps.

Bernie Sanders

CONCORD, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) walks through downtown Concord on election day on February 9, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. Sanders, who is expected to win over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, greeted voters before taking a short walk where he was mobbed by members of the media. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Sen. Bernie Sanders in Concord waving on the day of the Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire, Feb. 9, 2016. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

First on our list is the first Jewish candidate to win a major party’s presidential primary. Once considered the longest of shots, the septuagenarian senator rode a wave of enthusiasm among young voters and took his insurgent campaign all the way to the Democratic National Convention, garnering more than 40 percent of primary votes. The Vermont Independent pushed rival Hillary Clinton to the left on a range of issues. He also broke ground by criticizing Israel in ways seldom heard from a mainstream candidate. Last, but certainly not least, he gave Larry David a role for the ages.

Ivanka Trump

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 14: Founder and CEO of Ivanka Trump Collection and Executive Vice President of Development and Acquisitions of The Trump Organization, Ivanka Trump speaks onstage during Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit - Day 3 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on October 14, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Fortune/Time Inc)

Ivanka Trump speaking at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C., October 14, 2015. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Fortune/Time Inc)

For Jewish Americans, one of the most fascinating parts of Donald Trump’s unorthodox campaign is his Orthodox Jewish daughter, Ivanka. A self-styled champion of working women and erstwhile friend of Chelsea Clinton, Ivanka has become one of her father’s most prominent surrogates. She’s added a softer touch to an often brash campaign, and has influenced her father on women’s issues, including family leave. Married to developer and key Trump adviser Jared Kushner, she has proved to be one of the campaign’s main weapons in defending her father against charges that he countenances anti-Semitism.

Anat Hoffman

Anat Hoffman of the Women of the Wall seen at the Western Wall, as the group got together to teach women how to wear and pray with teffilin, on February 7, 2016 The Knesset voted that Women of the Wall will be allowed to perform pluralistic prayers at the extention of the Western Wall, by Robinson's Arch, and not at the Women's prayer section of the Wall, which has been the goal of an over 25-year long struggle by the group. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90

Women of the Wall leader Anat Hoffman at the Western Wall, Feb. 7, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

For decades, Hoffman has led the fight for women to host prayers at the Western Wall. And after years of being arrested, pelted with eggs and shouted at, her group, Women of the Wall, grew closer than ever to its goal this year. After three years of negotiations, Israel’s Cabinet approved a plan to expand and upgrade the site’s non-Orthodox prayer section. But the controversy is far from over: Implementation of the deal has been stalled amid political wrangling for months, while some feminists complain the compromise represented a capitulation to the wall’s Orthodox authorities.

Aly Raisman

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Alexandra Raisman of the United States reacts after competing on the uneven bars during Women's qualification for Artistic Gymnastics on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Aly Raisman competing on the uneven bars at the Rio Olympics, Aug. 7, 2016. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Our favorite Jewish gymnast didn’t disappoint at this summer’s Rio games. At 22, Raisman was the U.S. women’s gymnastic team captain and its oldest member (her nickname: Grandma). In addition to helping the Americans win team gold again, Raisman took the silver medal in the all-around and floor exercises, adding to the two golds and one bronze she won in 2012. Raisman has vowed to return in 2020. Hopefully her delightfully nervous parents can come along, too.

Jonathan Pollard

Jonathan and Esther Pollard following his release from prison, Nov. 20, 2015. (Courtesy of Justice for Jonathan Pollard)

Jonathan and Esther Pollard following his release from prison, Nov. 20, 2015. (Courtesy of Justice for Jonathan Pollard)

Last November, a long-running saga ended between the American Jewish establishment and the United States government. Pollard, a civilian Navy intelligence employee arrested in 1985 for spying for Israel, was paroled after serving 30 years in a federal prison. At first an embarrassment to Jewish leaders, Pollard in recent years began to be seen as a martyr by some Jews who protested his long prison term. He will not be able to move to Israel, as he wished, but he can surf the internet.

Elor Azaria

Elior Azaria, the Israeli soldier, who shot a Palestinian terrorist in Hebron seen during a court hearing at a military court in Jaffa, August 30, 2016. Elior Azaria was filmed shooting a Palestinian attacker, who was already "neutralized" by other soldiers who stopped him from attacking further. Azaria is on trial charged with manslaughter. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90

Israeli soldier Elor Azaria at a military court hearing in Jaffa, Aug. 30, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

As Israeli security forces struggled to stem a wave of stabbings this year, Israeli soldiers drew criticism for what some observers — including inside the military — called a disproportionate response. No case proved more controversial than that of Azaria, a 19-year-old soldier who killed a Palestinian assailant lying wounded on the ground. Azaria’s case, which is still in trial, has divided Israel. Critics say he broke the rules of engagement. His defenders say he was doing his job.

Sheldon Silver

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver arrives at the courthouse in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. A jury heard Silver's corruption case boiled down to two conflicting portrayals of the once-powerful Democrat: one as a greedy lawmaker who enriched himself with bribery and another as a seasoned politician who played by the rules regarding outside income. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver arriving at the courthouse in New York, Nov. 24, 2015. (Seth Wenig/AP Images)

The man who was the all-powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly is now serving a 12-year prison sentence. Silver, 72, is an Orthodox Jew who gained a reputation as one of New York’s foremost power brokers during more than two decades in the speaker’s post. A Democrat from Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Silver was arrested in 2015 on seven counts of honest services fraud, extortion and money laundering. He was convicted in November of that year and sentenced to his dozen years behind bars in May. Lamenting the length of the sentence, The Jewish Press, a newspaper serving New York’s Orthodox community, said his fate is relevant to New York Jewry due to “his extraordinary legislative achievements which revolutionized the way members of the Jewish community are able to go about their everyday lives without having to sacrifice the practice of … their faith.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman and a Democrat from Florida, sits for an interview in the spin room inside the Wynn Resorts Ltd. Las Vegas resort and casino before the first Democratic presidential debate hosted by CNN in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015. While tonight's first Democratic presidential debate will probably lack the name-calling and sharp jabs of the Republican face-offs, there's still potential for strong disagreements between the party's leading contenders. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Debbie Wasserman Schultz sitting for an interview at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort prior to the first Democratic presidential debate, Oct. 13, 2015. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A rising Jewish star in the Democratic Party suffered a swift fall. Wasserman Schultz, a South Florida congresswoman who once said she voted as “a Jewish mother,” began serving as chair of the Democratic National Committee in 2011. She had powerful allies and a famous fundraising prowess. But right before this year’s Democratic National Convention, leaked emails showed her staffers strategizing against Sanders during the presidential nomination race. Instead of gaveling in the convention, Wasserman Schultz resigned her post — though she did win her Democratic primary this year.

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, left, protested on behalf of Rabbi Haskel Lookstein after a conversion performed by the prominent modern Orthodox spiritual leader was rejected by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. (Ben Sales)

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, left, protested on behalf of Rabbi Haskel Lookstein after a conversion performed by the prominent modern Orthodox spiritual leader was rejected by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. (Ben Sales)

Rarely does a retired octogenarian rabbi make this much news. Lookstein, the former rabbi of the posh Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun Orthodox synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, was at the center of two controversies this year. First, a conversion he supervised was declared invalid by Israel’s Chief Rabbinical Court, causing further friction between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. Then Lookstein, who oversaw Ivanka Trump’s Jewish conversion, agreed to deliver the opening invocation at the Republican National Convention. Following an outcry over what critics called an implicit endorsement of Donald Trump, Lookstein withdrew, explaining, “I have never been involved in politics. Politics divides people.”

Yisrael Kristal

Yisrael Kristal (Screenshot from YouTube)

Yisrael Kristal (Screenshot from YouTube)

How do you fit 113 candles on a cake? That’s one happy dilemma Kristal could contemplate when Guinness World Records certified him as the world’s oldest man in March. Kristal, who turned the big 1-1-3 in September, is a Holocaust survivor who made a living making candy starting in 1920. After surviving Auschwitz, where his first wife was killed, Kristal remarried and moved to Israel. In September, his family announced that Kristal would celebrate his bar mitzvah a century late. He couldn’t at age 13 because of the war — World War I, that is.

Merrick Garland

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 16: U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland is introduced by U.S. President Barack Obama as the nominee for the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden at the White House March 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. If confirmed by the US Senate, Garland would replace Antonin Scalia who died suddenly last month. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Judge Merrick Garland being introduced by President Barack Obama as a nominee for the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 16, 2016. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Always a Supreme Court justice nominee, never a Supreme Court justice. That’s been the fate of Garland, who was nominated to the country’s highest court after Justice Antonin Scalia died in February. Garland is currently the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and he’s been in limbo for a while. Fearing a liberal majority on the Supreme Court, Senate Republicans have refused to hold a hearing on Garland’s nomination with the presidential election nearing.

Jill Stein

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Jill Stein waits to speak before announcing that she will seek the Green Party's presidential nomination, at the National Press Club, June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. Stein also ran for president in 2012 on the Green Party ticket. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Jill Stein announcing that she will seek the Green Party’s presidential nomination, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., June 23, 2015. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

If you want to elect a folk-singing physician who seeks to end foreign aid to Israel, Stein is your candidate. Making her second run as the Green Party’s presidential nominee, Stein is promising a “Green New Deal,” a universal basic income and a significant reordering of America’s foreign policy — including support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. Stein has made some headlines this year — among other things, a warrant for her arrest was issued in North Dakota for her actions during a pipeline protest — but she’s languishing in the polls at about 3 percent.

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 17: Actors Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer attend "Broad City" Screening during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival at Festival Hub on April 17, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic)

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer at a “Broad City” screening during the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, April 17, 2016. (Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic)

The ladies of “Broad City,” which completed a hilarious third season this year, have never shied away from making Judaism a natural part of their New York City stoner comedy. Earlier episodes featured such gems as sex talk at a shiva and a T-shirt reading “challah back.” An online only video features the friends trying to talk themselves through the Yom Kippur fast — while eyeing bacon-and-egg sandwiches. But Abbi and Ilana took the Jewish factor to a new level in this year’s two-part season finale, which saw them take a flight to Israel with “Birthmark,” a parody of Birthright. We won’t spoil the episode, but it features Abbi singing a Christmas carol and Ilana itching to join the “mohel chai club.”