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Newsweek publishes its list of the most influential rabbis


In the fall of 2006, Sony Pictures chairman and CEO Michael Lynton and his pal Gary Ginsberg, now an executive vice president of Time Warner Inc., began working on a list of the 50 most influential rabbis in the U.S.

The friends devised the following unscientific criteria to rank the leaders, whose specialties range from kashrut to Kabbalah:

Are they known nationally/internationally? (20 points.) Do they have political/social influence? (20 points.) Do they have a media presence? (10 points.) Are they leaders within their communities? (10 points.) Are they considered leaders in Judaism or their movements? (10 points. ) How big are their constituencies? (10 points.) Have they made an impact on Judaism in their career? (10 points.) Have they made a greater impact beyond the Jewish community and their rabbinical training? (10 points.).

Newsweek published that first list around Passover, 2007, with this caveat: “Is the list subjective? Yes. Is it mischievous in its conception? Definitely.” Now in its fourth year, Lynton and Gisberg’s list includes eight fresh names and a new rebbe in the top spot.

1. Yehuda Krinsky - As the leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Krinsky is the contemporary face of the Hasidic branch. (2009 Ranking No. 4)

2. Eric Yoffie - Yoffie represents 1.5 million Jews in more than 900 synagogues in his role as president of the Union of Reform Judaism. (2009 Ranking No. 8)

3. Marvin Hier - Founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, Hier is No. 3 for his tireless work combating issues such as anti-Semitism, bigotry, and hate. Hier’s many connections with major world leaders, politicians, and entertainment-industry bigwigs give him an international platform from which to speak on various matters affecting the Jewish people. (2009 Ranking No. 2)

4. Mark Charendoff - A leading authority on the future of Jewish philanthropy, Charendoff serves as president of the Jewish Funders Network, an international organization of family foundations, public philanthropies, and individual funders. (2009 Ranking No. 3)

5. David Saperstein - Having just completed his term as the only rabbi serving on President Obama’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Saperstein continues to act as a major influence in Washington in his role as director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. (2009 Ranking No. 1)

6. Schmuley Boteach - Calling himself “America’s Rabbi,” Boteach continues to share his views on marriage, parenting, and relationships with the world, appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show, counseling various celebrities in their times of crisis and releasing his most recent book, The Michael Jackson Tapes. (2009 Ranking No. 7)

7. Irwin Kula - Kula, a bestselling author who serves as co-president of CLAL (the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership), is nationally known for his commitment to reshaping America’s spiritual landscape. (2009 Ranking No. 10)

8. David Ellenson - Under Ellenson’s leadership as president, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion continues to develop, train, and support the dynamic Jewish leaders of tomorrow. (2009 ranking No. 5)

9. Robert Wexler - Wexler continues influencing generations of Jewish students and scholars as president of American Jewish University. (2009 Ranking No. 6)

10. Morris Allen - As program director for Magen Tzedek, the ethical kosher seal, Allen is changing the way the world thinks about kashrut and the ethical issues surrounding the hechsher. (NEW)

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