Holy crap, a lot of stuff happened this year. Instead of focusing on the bad, we’d like to pick ourselves up and revisit those heartening moments that warmed our souls and reassured us that the world was full of good. If these don’t bring a smile to your face, we don’t know what will.
1. This boy with autism led his own bar mitzvah service — even after doctors said he would never talk. Debby Gans, the boy’s mother, wrote:
In front of a packed sanctuary, Benji didn’t just shine, he captivated a room full of his family, friends, and key players in his journey with Autism. Saying the day was meaningful is an understatement—it was magical. From the moment he stepped on the bimah, he led the service as if he had been training to be a rabbi for his entire life. He loved every moment as he chanted prayers, sang Hallelujah in Hebrew, and gave a heartfelt and relevant speech about letting go of anger…It was a day beyond anything I ever imagined possible.
2. This teen with muscular dystrophy went to Israel and spent time at the Dead Sea, with the help of her parents. You can read more about her here.
3. These strangers formed a human chain to save a family from drowning in Florida. Here’s what happened:
Jessica Simmons, a witness to the event, noticed flashing lights, a police truck, and people crying for help about 100 yards beyond the beach. The family of six, four adults and two boys, were struggling in the current. There was no lifeguard on duty.
This is when Simmons and other strangers fearlessly helped out, with many shouting to “form a human chain.” Roberta Ursrey, one of the people caught in the waves, heard the shouts. She originally jumped in to help her sons, Noah, 11, and Stephen, 8, who had gotten separated from their family while on their boogie boards.
The other two adults fighting for their lives were Tabatha Monroe and her wife, Brittany, who were in Panama City for a birthday getaway. They were also strangers who heard the boys’ cries, and went out to help–only to become trapped themselves.
4. Wonder Woman is now officially the biggest earning DC Universe movie. That’s a big deal for female-fronted superhero movies–and female directors — and is definitely inspiring for all women who dream big. In this case, Gal Gadot, who is the star of the franchise, also proves that you can be both a mom and have a career at the same time.
5. Kentucky obstetrician Dr. Amanda Hess delivered another woman’s baby when she was supposed to be delivering her own. This is what happened:
She was in her room preparing to give birth to her second child when she realized a woman down the hall was in dire need.
The woman two doors down from her was in a serious condition, since her baby’s heartbeat was dropping, something that gets medical staff worried. Because the on-call doctor was not in the building yet, Hess became the doctor (aka superhero) on call at Frankfort Regional Medical Center in Frankfort, Kentucky where she normally works, throwing on an extra hospital gown and boots.
Hess’ own labor and birth was scheduled to be induced on Sunday (she ended up giving birth to her own baby girl, Ellen Joyce, at 9:30 a.m. on Monday). But even though the original on-call doctor was only 10 minutes away, Hess said she felt that no time should be wasted to help mom and baby get through it all safely.
6. A woman safely gave birth during Hurricane Houston, thanks to her neighbors who formed a human chain to help her get outside her apartment and into a nearby medical center. Here’s what happened:
Andrea Smith and her husband, Greg, are both doctors who moved Houston last month. On Sunday morning, the couple woke up to “two or three feet” of water–and worse, Andrea had been experiencing contractions for a few weeks already.
This is when her neighbors stepped into to help–one of them contacted the fire station, who came by on “what appeared to be a large garbage truck.” Their neighbors then formed a human chain to help Andrea move safely through the water, which was waist-high. She gave birth to baby Adrielle at 1:59 a.m. on Monday morning.
7. Nosher Editor & Kveller writer, Shannon Sarna, proved that moms can truly breastfeed anywhere, even when rendering schmaltz (though we don’t recommend trying this at home). Sarna was featured in Glamour’s roundup of moms breastfeeding — in her photo, she was rendering shmaltz. Shannon told us:
Nursing isn’t easy, and my road to breastfeeding my two daughters had a rocky start like many mothers. Both my girls were tongue tied, and had minor surgery to alleviate the issue and allow them to nurse more effectively (and relieve my bleeding nipples). With each it was a good 6-8 weeks before I was able to consistently and comfortably nurse them.
So sharing photos of my real life–schmaltz or no schmaltz–fills me with pride. There’s that saying, anything that is worth doing isn’t easy; and nursing is that–it takes dedication and sometimes a lot of hard work. But for me it was worth it. And how many people can claim they have rendered schmaltz while nursing an infant?!
8. This Jewish dad had a Hanukkah miracle — he received a lung transplant. Three years ago on the last night of Hanukkah, Brian Zionts-Bernstein underwent a double lung transplant that saved his life. Now 53, Zionts-Bernstein lives in Pennsylvania with his wife Kym and their son Sam. This Hanukkah, he reflected back saying:
The first words I heard were ‘Brian, we have lungs for you,’ and I had trouble listening to it after that because I started crying and got very emotional.