If the year 2016 were a dog, there would be two possibilities — both bleak.
Either the dog is remorseful for what it has done, now moping with its tail between its legs, or it is rabid and unable to feel shame.
Say what you will about the election; this was also the year of Zika, the losses of Elie Wiesel and Gene Wilder and what will likely be the warmest 12 months ever recorded (we’ll have to wait for the new year to make it official, but it seems certain, like a Nate Silver prediction).
If one is tempted to reach for a Teddy bear for comfort, it is also worth noting that 2016 saw the passing of the last American older than the Teddy bear. Goldie Michelson of Worcester, Mass., passed away in July, a month shy of her 114th birthday. Michelson, who attributed her longevity to her passion for walking, was born in Russia to a Jewish family in August 1902.
Another Russian Jewish immigrant, Morris Michtom, invented the Teddy bear in November of 1902. Michtom was inspired by the compassion Theodore Roosevelt felt for a bear during one of his famous hunting trips. Speaking of compassion, this year, the terms “angst,” “sad” and “why” were all searched for more online than “compassion,” according to Google Trends.
Nevertheless, bears found redemption again in 2016: Giant pandas were removed this year from the endangered species list. And speaking of bears, some found solace in the Cubs’ victory in the World Series.
But, even if you like the Cubs, did the team’s first World Series win since 1908 redeem the year?
“No comment,” said lifelong Cubs fan Rabbi Jack Moline of the Washington-based Interfaith Alliance. “No matter how I answer that question, one group or another is going to hate me for my answer.”
What’s more, the joy of sports now seems to be more nerve-racking than ever, with broadcasters of the World Series showing more close-ups of terrified athletes than ever before. Moline called watching his team win a “cardiac event.”
And what’s the point of being a sports fan if you have to wait a century for gratification? As any good rabbi would, Moline found a lesson in his suffering. “I learned more about being Jewish from being a Cubs fan than anything else,” said Moline. “In the end it was a justification of faith.”
Speaking of the Jewish faith, this could have been a great year for Jewish-American public figures, but don’t ask Bernie Sanders or Merrick Garland about that.
Some Jews did have a good years. Aly Raisman won three gold medals in the Olympic Games, Anthony Ervin became the oldest person ever to win a gold medal in an individual swimming event and Elon Musk saw his celebrity rise, although he isn’t actually Jewish (he just has a Jewish-sounding name) and one of his rockets blew up.
To the extent there was good news in 2016, it often came out of left field. The world’s tiger population rose for the first time in a century and the Nobel Prize in literature went to a male American Jew above the age of 70 not named Philip Roth.
(Hint, if needed: It was Bob Dylan.)
This was also the year we lost Harper Lee, who included in “To Kill a Mockingbird” the line “There are no better people in the world than the Jews.” Fittingly, Lee knew how to take care of a rabid dog.