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NEW YORK (RNS) Famous — and infamous — American Jews associated with the election season and the ongoing problems in the kosher meat industry dominated The Forward newspaper’s list of 50 influential Jews this year.
The Forward, the largest national Jewish weekly in America, published its “Forward 50” on Nov. 15, grouping its entries into categories of politics, community, food, religion, money, and culture and media.
Topping the list were: ethical kosher activist Rabbi Morris Allen; J Street political lobby founder Jeremy Ben-Ami; President-elect Barack Obama’s new chief-of-staff, Rahm Emanuel; his national campaign finance officer, Penny Pritzker; and comedian Sarah Silverman, the face of “The Great Schlep” elderly voter mobilization effort in Florida.
The Forward staff spent nearly two months compiling names, with several slots waiting until the last minute due to the election, said editor Jane Eisner, who joined the newspaper earlier this year. This was also the first time readers were invited to submit suggestions, which yielded hundreds of responses, she added.
Some entries, including Emanuel, late-night comedian Jon Stewart and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., have made the list before. Others debuted this year due to new achievements, ranging from Olympic swimmer Dara Torres to “Praying With Lior” filmmaker Ilana Trachtman.
In addition to celebrating positive contributions, the Forward 50 includes several people who have made negative headlines, including Aaron Rubashkin, the kosher meat mogul charged with employing illegal, underage workers at his family’s Agriprocessors plant in Iowa.
“This is a list of people who have had an impact, not necessarily in a way that we would have liked,” Eisner said. “People take this very seriously.”
In a rare move, the list tacked on a Christian as an honorary 51st entry this year: the Rev. Paul Ouderkirk, a Catholic priest who has led efforts to raise money to help the workers displaced by the May immigration raid at Agriprocessors.
The complete list can be viewed at www.forward.com.
By Nicole Neroulias
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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