Apr 5, 2009

Newsweek kicks us in the pants

Newsweek has published their now annual list of the 50 Top Influential Rabbis in America.

The list is diverse and interesting. What particularly struck me is how few Orthodox rabbis are on the list.

It definitely should be looked at as a kick in the pants. I think we sometimes get ahead of ourselves and think how important and influential we are, and how we are the leaders of Judaism with everybody else trying to catch up or somehow "hang" with us.

This list can, and perhaps should, be a reminder to us of our place in Judaism. Maybe it means we have to work harder to present religious/orthodox Judaism to the people in a more positive light. Maybe it means we have to work harder to be more influential and be more involved in the leadership of Judaism. Whatever the specific message might be, this list should somehow spur orthodox leadership to do more and better.


  1. Yasher Koach for this. We definitely suffer from delusions of Grandeur. One often sees this in articles by Orthodox leaders and PR people. Also, many in the BT world trot out the success of the BT movement not acknowledging the overall failure of Judaism relative to intermarriage and assimilation.

    People living in the NYC area are especially susceptible to this. Surrounded by so many orthodox Jews it's easy to lose the perspective that you only make up about 10% of U.S. Jews.

  2. Menachem, I disagree.
    There are 11 Orhtodox Rabbis mentioned there. A few are on the left finge (the Shneirs, Kula, Weiss, while Berg hangs out with celebs and Hier is involved with Holocaust stuff. R Genack is a serious talmid chacham, but he's there because he's a high-profile Democrat.
    They picked Orthodox rabbis (not so few BTW) that by and large are around Manhatten and do things that can be understood by the shallow minded, probably by using Google and gossip columns.
    If anyone thinks that the Skvere Rebbe has less influence than Jill Jacobs, or that Arthur Schneir has more than any of the Litvishe Roshei Yeshiva, they are using critereon I don't understand.

  3. What does Newsweek know from Rabbis? Even we couldn't come up with a list of the top-50 that even a small percentage of us would agree on.

    Also, since the Orthodox are a small number, someone said 10% above, of Jews in America, than any number above 5 (out of the 50) would mean that we have disproportionate influence.


  4. eli - welcome back.

    eli and mark - the list is not the greatest rabbis. That would be much more ojbjective and open to debate, though this is as well. It is Newsweeks list. Put 100 people in a room and ask each to come up with a list of their top 50 influential rabbis, or list of anybody, and you will get 100 different lists.

    I just get the feeling that somehow we have, as menachem said delusions of grandeur. We think we are leading the Jewish Nation. Maybe it is more prevalent living in a cloistered place with almost all completely religious people and almost all our contact is with rligious people. I just get the feeling that we think we are so influential and have such a great impact and look at the BT movement with people returning in droves.
    Following the religious media and PR, one would think that the orthodox are 60-70 percent of [American] Judaism (I made up the number).
    This is a reminder that we are not. Maybe we make small inroads here and there. Maybe we need to work harder so our influence will be greater.

    And I am not debating the fact that the Skverer rebbe is greater than at least 90% of the list. But the list was not for great rabbis, but most influential.


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