Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors

Influential Jews or Jewishly Influential

Who are the nation’s 50 most influential Jews? The Forward has published this year’s list — they call it the Forward 50. But what does it mean? What is an “influential Jew”? Is it the same as someone who wields influence Jewishly, based on Jewish values? Is it someone who has influence over Jews? Does anyone make these distinctions?
As I read the list, I wonder if it’s even an appropriate endevour. Is this a manifestation of appropriate ethnic-religious pride or an example of some wierd tribalism that simply enjoys that “one of ours” has made the headlines?
Do other religious groups make lists like this? Where are they found?
What is the relationship between ethics and ethnicity? How does any group balabce it’s committment to itself and its committment to others? This cut to the very heart of the celelbration of Jewish Peoplehood, a concept that I do support. On the other hand, if a group is simply about its own perpetuation, do they really need to exist?
What do you think?

  • Robert

    Do other groups make lists like this?
    Well, the Amish, not so much.
    But let’s say I’m a Christian and you are observant. How do you influence me on an individual level? How does your doing the mitzvoth influence society? The earth?


    All people that I know do this.
    Catholics get it in their newsletters that are local or national, as do Protestants and Jews.
    The lists I have seen are usually Jewish people who have money and do good in their community their nation and usually among Jews. I think mostly of people like the Bronfmans who I believe live in Cananda and the US.
    Very often these people are not religous or can be very religous in their own way but just like to spend money on causes they believe in and I find that admirable. Sometimes they are also using their time to help as well.
    Why shouldn’t they be thanked? If being on a list thanks them so be it.

  • Zvi

    A Jew who performs Mitzvoth is demonstrating that an individual can live a G-dly, disciplined life here on this world. Of course, that only works if the Jew is observing ALL the Mitzvoth and not some selective sub-set. [In that instance, on ends up — instead — with a desecration of G-d’s Name.]
    Without proselytizing, a truly observant Jew can show (to the Christian):
    — You can be an intrinsically GOOD person (as opposed to being
    intrinsically sinful).
    — You can influence the world for better even if you do NOT
    believe i a “saviour”.
    In addition, Jews believe that the observance of Mitzvoth, per se, is of benefit in “maintaining” the existence of the world.
    As for influencing society, whenever there have been truly outstanding Jews, the society has always “picked up” on such people. Read the biography of R. Moshe Feinstein z”tl, or R. Yaakov Kaminecki z”tl and note how the Non-Jews aorund them reacted to such exceptionaly people.

  • Zvi

    The problem with recognizing people like the Bronfmans is that — often — the value system is not specifically Jewish. Why is it that it took SO LONG for “the Federations” in so many places to start giving $$ to Jewish Day Schools and Yeshivoth that were IN THE LOCAL COMMUNITY — even as they gave $$ all over the place. The answer: because these “famous Jews” who ended up in charge had NO CONCEPT of the value of Jewish education. They were — effectively — ignorant or estranged from Traditional Judaism and saw no value or were actively HOSTILE toward schools that taught the “old values”.
    Similaly, if these people had a “moral point of view” that was opposed to the Torah’s (e.g., the Torah’s utter condemnation of homosexual behavior), then their response was that “the Torah is wrong”.
    And, people wh feel that “the Torah is wrong” do not have to be honored BY JEWS as “leading Jews”. A wealthy Jew who chooses to spend his (or her) $$ on non-Jewish or “secular-Jewish” activities and/or who promotes values that are in opposition to Torah values *may* deserve honor as a “fine Human being”… but why should he be honored as a “fine Jew” when hi (or her) life-style is in opposition to Judaism? Is the only value tht we honor that of the $$?
    Do we really follow the “Golden rule” that “s/he who has teh Gold rules” ?

  • Bonnie

    I have to agree with Zvi. What makes these individuals influential? On the surface, it’s because they are Jews who just happen to have a lot of resources to utilize. However, since they have these resources and the avenues to utilize them, is the fact they are Jewish only incidental, or are they guided by ethical Jewish principles in the utilization of these resources? I have an uncomfortable impression that an old saying may be true here: He who has the most gold has the most influence. Money talks and everyone listens.

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