A year ago, Jews looked back on 5779 and wondered, after the Pittsburgh and Poway synagogue shootings and a resurgence of anti-Semitism on the right as well as the left, how things in the United States could get any worse. As I do every year, I cautioned that such a turn of events is always a possibility. But 5780 proved me more right on that score than I could have ever imagined.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t have a worldwide deadly coronavirus pandemic that would send a thriving global economy into a near-depression as one of my predictions for the year. Nor did I imagine the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement and a summer of demonstrations and riots over charges of racial injustice and police brutality.
But the arrival of a new Jewish year has us asking what’s in store for 5781, and what could possibly be worse than what we’ve just lived through?
As we struggle to recover from the pandemic, with Israelis still divided about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and with Americans preparing for a presidential election that has already started to feel more like a civil war than a political event, we shouldn’t lose what is left of our sense of humor, even as we try to account for our misdeeds.
So before the Almighty writes down just how much worse (or better) it will be for us in the proverbial “Book of Life,” I present (with apologies, as always, to the late New York Times columnist William Safire) the latest edition of my annual Jewish Pundit Quiz for 5781.
So guess, or should I say prognosticate, along with me about the coming year.
As far as last year’s quiz, as is often the case, my predictions weren’t very accurate. I was wrong about Benny Gantz becoming prime minister, wrong about no third Israeli election and wrong about Elizabeth Warren becoming the Democratic presidential nominee. I was right about the Trump peace plan, no new negotiations with Iran, no progress toward an expanded egalitarian prayer area at Jerusalem’s Western Wall and the Democrats reaffirming their pledge to reinstate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
My answers to this year’s quiz are at the bottom of the article. Save this column and see which of us was right this time.
And remember, if you are worried about the outcome, teshuvah (“repentance”), tefillah (“prayer”) and tzedekah (“acts of justice and charity”) may avert the severe decree.
- The winner of the U.S. presidential election will be:
- A: Donald Trump
- B: Joe Biden
- C: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will govern for at least a couple of months because the Electoral College won’t produce a majority for either candidate.
- When will we know the outcome of the presidential election?
- A: On election night.
- B: Within one week of Election Day.
- C: Not until the Electoral College meets in December
- D: Not until the U.S. House of Representatives votes to resolve the deadlock.
- E: Not until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the various challenges to the results.
- Will the election results be respected by both major parties?
- A: Yes. Both Biden and Trump unite to preserve order and avoid violence.
- B: No. Black Lives Matter and other leftist protesters will burn America’s cities if the outcome is uncertain or if Trump wins.
- C: No. Republicans will obstruct a Biden transition by lawsuits and disputes over voter fraud.
- D: Yes. The outcome will be a landslide that cannot be challenged.
- E: No. Both parties resort to coup d’état schemes as the Constitutional provisions for resolving the deadlock fail.
- Which party will control Congress after the election?
- A: Democrats will hold the House and take the Senate.
- B: Republicans will retake the House and hold the Senate.
- C: Democrats will hold the House, but the GOP will hold the Senate.
- D: Democrats will take the Senate but lose the House.
- Will the world be back to something approaching pre-pandemic normal by Rosh Hashanah 2021?
- A: Normal life resumes by the spring of 2021 as vaccines become available during the winter and the pandemic is eradicated by the fall.
- B: Normal life resumes by the summer of 2021 as vaccines lead to a steep decline in the infection and fatality rates.
- C: No. The suspicion of vaccines and resistance to continuing pandemic restrictions lead to new and deadly outbreaks all over the world.
- D: No. Despite the limited success of vaccines, fear of the virus ensures that the world won’t go back to anything like normal for many years, if indeed it ever does.
- Who will be prime minister of Israel by the start of 5782?
- A: Benjamin Netanyahu
- B: Naftali Bennett
- C: Yair Lapid
- D: Benny Gantz
- E: Ayman Odeh
- How many Arab nations will normalize relations with Israel in the coming year?
- A: None
- B: All 22, fulfilling the prediction of Jared Kushner
- C: Only the UAE and Bahrain
- D: The UAE, Bahrain and Oman
- E: Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman
- The most important issue facing the Jewish people in 5781 will be:
- A: The pandemic’s decimation of organized Jewish life leads to a drastic decline in support for synagogues, federations and organizations.
- B: America’s re-entry into the Iran nuclear deal destabilizes the Middle East.
- C: The split between pro- and anti-Trump Jews leads to a schism between denominations and organizations as competing umbrella groups are formed.
- D: The growth of anti-Semitism on both left and rights as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to polarize society.
- E: The failure to make peace with the Palestinians.
- Which one of the following things will happen in 5781?
- A: The Israel baseball team will win a medal at the delayed Tokyo Olympics.
- B: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to cede power to Benny Gantz.
- C: A peaceful and celebratory inauguration of a new president of the United States on Jan. 20, 2021.
- D: A resurgence of respect for free speech and political disagreements as cancel culture is seen as going too far.
- E: A federal anti-trust suit breaks up Google, and social-media giants lose immunity from lawsuits due to their attempts at censorship.
Tobin answers: 1-c; 2-e; 3-b; 4-c; 5-a; 6-a; 7-c; 8-d; 9-a
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.