If you grew up in America, you probably don’t get the Eurovision. I mean, you might’ve heard of the old continent’s all-important song contest, but you don’t know what it’s like to tune in to the show alongside literally every other citizen of your country, count every vote delivered by panels of judges located anywhere from Ankara to Amsterdam, and believe wholeheartedly that every unfavorable score had nothing to do with music and lyrics and everything to do with decades-old conflicts. With its preposterous outfits and charmingly idiotic melodies, the Eurovision is one part The Voice, one par the UN Security Council, a continuation of Europe’s old wars by other, campier means. And this year, this seminal evening of entertainment—about 200 million humans watch it every year—will be hosted by a Jewish woman, Daniela Ruah.
Fans of NCIS: Los Angeles may know her as the unimprovably named Special Agent Kensi Blye, although she’s better known for her starring role in a number of Portuguese telenovelas. She was born in Boston to a Portuguese-Moroccan Jewish father and a Russian-Ukrainian Jewish mother, both physicians. When she was five, her family moved back to Portugal; a decade later, she was already a TV star, as well as an accomplished dancer. After winning Portugal’s version of Dancing with the Stars, she moved to New York to study acting, and then to Hollywood.
After last year’s Eurovision contest, held in Kiev, came under fire for featuring an all-male cast of hosts, the Portuguese, last year’s winners and this year’s hosts, decided to take a stand by having four women host the contest, a Eurovision first. Ruah will be joined by Filomena Cautela, Silvia Alberto, and Catarina Furtado, all TV stars, to host the contest’s finals this May.
Which leaves us all plenty of time to brush up on the long and glorious history of Jews and the Eurovision, beginning with this glorious Israeli triumph in 1978: