Elliott – né Ephraim – Yamin, the most successful Jewish “American Idol” contestant to date, said his goodbyes to the competition last week after being short the 0.2% of the votes he needed to move on to the final round. The 27-year-old former pharmacy clerk blew one final kiss to his mother, shed his last onstage tear and expressed his gratitude to his legion of fans. He then exited the stage gracefully, having fulfilled to the end the nice-guy reputation he acquired during the competition.
Although the singer is admired for his soulful voice, it was his genial demeanor that frequently set him apart during the competition. Yamin became amicable judge Paula Abdul’s favorite, and in numerous interviews he said that the special bond between Adbul and him was created by their big hearts and by their common Jewish heritage. Even oft-nasty judge Simon Cowell, during a recent appearance on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” applauded Yamin’s good nature. Not to be outdone, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor — the only Jewish Republican in Congress — praised the singer on the House floor.
But perhaps it was the support from the Jewish community that sealed his good-guy standing. In a widely distributed e-mail headed “Nice Jewish Boy Needs Our Support,” Jordan Shenker, executive director of the JCC in Yamin’s hometown of Richmond, Va., rallied for the contestant. The e-mail, sent out during the final stages of the competition, praised Yamin for his “humbleness and sweetness” and for being able to overcome such obstacles as diabetes, deafness in one ear and being raised by a single parent with limited financial means.
Yamin’s mother, Claudette, who overcame her own illness during the course of the show, said that she and her son are grateful for all the support they’ve gotten from the Jewish community.
“The community came out in full force,” she told the Shmooze. “We want to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts. It made us proud to be Jewish.”
As for Yamin’s future, he will continue to pursue a career in the music industry and will be on the “American Idol” national tour in July.
His mother certainly hasn’t lost faith.
“There is a star out there with his name on it,” she said.
This story "Even in Defeat, a Mensch Shines" was written by Elissa Strauss.
Elissa Strauss has written for the Forward over a number of years. She is a regular contributor to CNN, whose work has been published in a number of publications including The New York Times, Glamour, ELLE, and Longreads.