Ten Jews who did us proud in 5774

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The top-ten inspirational Jews in a year with no shortage of bad news. They include survivor Alice Herz-Sommer (pic), and includes Superman Sam, Facebook’s Zuckerberg, an IDF soldier, Yellen, Bloomberg, the Nobel laureates, all of French Jewry, soccer supremo David Blatt & Pittsburgh communal leader Gregg Roman who spent weeks scrubbing the web of all reference to journo Steven Sotloff’s Jewish & Israeli identities – not that it stopped ISIS beheading him.
by ANT KATZ with JTA | Oct 05, 2014

In a year with no shortage of bad news, these 10 Jewish individuals or groups inspired or impressed us in 5774 – one could as easily make a list of a hundred. World Jewry and Israel have endured a difficult year – but, as always, there has been no shortage of exceptional Jewish achievements either:

1. DAVID BLATT:  for leading underdog Maccabi Tel Aviv to the Euroleague title and weeks later nabbing the head coaching post of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. Blatt played for an Israeli kibbutz team in 1979 after his sophomore year at Princeton, competed for the US team that won the gold medal in the 1981 Maccabiah and played nearly a decade of professional basketball in Israel. Think the decision by superstar LeBron James to return to Cleveland has anything to do with Blatt’s hire?

2. GREGG ROMAN: for working frantically to keep Jewish journalist Steven Sotloff’s Jewish and Israeli identities secret after news broke that ISIS, the radical Islamic group in Iraq and Syria, was holding him hostage. The director of the Community Relations Council at the Jewish Federation in Pittsburgh, Roman knew Sotloff from time spent in Israel, and Roman spent two weeks scrubbing the Internet of any references to Sotloff’s religion or Israeli citizenship. Ultimately it didn’t make a difference: Sotloff was beheaded by ISIS, and the murder helped fuel the US decision to widen its airstrikes against the Islamic group.

3. SUPERMAN SAM: Eight-year-old Samuel Sommers, aka Superman Sam.


Two newly shorn braids adorn a photo of Samuel Sommer, who inspired Shave for the Brave


Sam inspired thousands of people during his struggle with refractory acute myeloid leukaemia, as documented by his parents Rabbi Phyllis and Michael Sommers on their blog, Superman Sam. Not long After Sam died in December, 73 Reform rabbis shaved their heads to raise $600 000 for paediatric cancer research.

4. SECOND LT EITAN: an Israeli soldier, for risking his life and rushing into a Gaza tunnel to pursue Hamas attackers after they snatched IDF Lt Hadar Goldin during the fighting in Gaza. Eitan, whose last name was not publicly disclosed, was hailed as a hero in Israel for averting a kidnapping situation like that of Gilad Shalit by grabbing enough evidence during his chase to verify that Goldin had been killed in action.

5. MARK ZUCKERBERG: for being the top US charitable giver in 2013. Last December, the Facebook founder and wife Priscilla Chan gave 18 million shares of Facebook stock, valued at more than $970 million, to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. It’s not a Jewish charity, but charity is a Jewish value.

6. ALICE HERZ-SOMMER: the 110-year-old Holocaust survivor and concert pianist, for wowing us with her achievements. A week after her death in February, a documentary about Herz-Sommer’s life, “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life”, won the Academy Award for best short documentary.

7. JANET YELLEN: who just may be the most influential woman in America, her every utterance parsed with Talmudic scrutiny. As chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Yellen is responsible for making sure the US economy stays strong even as Europe teeters on the verge of another recession. She’s the fifth Jew to lead America’s central bank but the first woman.

8. MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: the former mayor of New York City, for his good works. Bloomberg, who reportedly is worth $32,8 billion, decided to use the $1 million Genesis Prize he was awarded to create ten $100 000 grants to seed innovative projects guided by Jewish values that seek to address the world’s pressing issues. This summer, when the Federal Aviation Administration announced a ban on flights to Tel Aviv during Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel, Bloomberg jumped on an El Al flight to demonstrate the safety of flying to Israel and pressure the US government to lift its ban. Israelis are still talking about this gesture - and not just because Bloomberg chose El Al over his own $24 million private jet.

9. ARIEH WARSHEL MICHAEL LEVITT AND MARTIN KARPLUS: for winning the Nobel Prize in chemistry. The three, two of whom are Israeli, shared the prize for their “development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems”.

10. FRENCH JEWRY: for holding it together during trying times. When gangs of marauding Arabs set upon a Paris synagogue during Gaza-related rioting, French Jews stood strong, battling the assailants until backup arrived. Faced with rising anti-Semitism epitomised by the popularity of the quenelle - a gesture with echoes of the Nazis’ Sieg Heil - French Jews seem to think things will get worse. French Jewry is now the world’s No 1 source of immigrants to Israel.


  1. 2 Denis Solomons 06 Oct
    Michael Bloomberg and Mark Zuckerberg !
    The common denominator is big bucks or money.
    As  Bob Dylan or Robert Zimmerman  ( also Jewish ) said 
    " Money doesn't talk it sweares ! "
    But then there are those non-Jews e.g. Rupert Murdoch an Australian who is also pro Israel and very philanthropic ! 
     And then there are the Rothschilds and the Rockerfellers.
    As the saying goes  " money makes the world go round !"
    The beatles said " the best things in life are free but you can tell it to the birds and bees ; I want money ."
    Abba also famously sang " money , money , money ! " 
  2. 1 Myron Robinson 13 Oct
    Fair comment Denis but not entirely correct. Only 5 & 8 are solely money related. Items 3, 7 & 9 have a money connotation. Items 1, 2, 4, 6 & 10 are not money related


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