(RNS) Reflecting a transitional period for American Jewish leadership, five newcomers top this year’s list of influential Jews published by The Forward, the country’s largest national Jewish weekly newspaper.
The Jews crowning this year’s “Forward 50” boast a range of achievements: Jerry Silverman, president of the Jewish Federations of North America; Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren; Sara Hurwitz, pioneering Orthodox female religious leader; and film directors Joel and Ethan Coen.

“We’re seeing impact from new and different places, or from the same places but different faces,” said Jane Eisner, Forward editor, who noted that only director Stephen Spielberg remains from the original list, published in 1994.
Her staff spent several months compiling and debating names, grouping them under categories of Activism, Community, Media & Culture, Politics, Religion, Scandal and Sports. Thirteen women made the cut, including Alysa Stanton, the first black Jewish female rabbi, ordained in June. About two dozen nominations came from readers, resulting in the inclusion of J. Shawn Landres, a leader in the post-denominational Jewish movement.
While last year’s controversial entries stemmed from the immigration raid on the Agriprocessors kosher meat plant in Iowa, this year’s new “Scandal” category featured disgraced businessmen on the secular stage: Solomon Dwek, Bernard Madoff and J. Ezra Merkin.
“We weren’t trying to be scandalous, but (including them) was kind of unavoidable,” Eisner said. “But, we heavily balanced the list towards those people who we really feel we want to admire and emulate. It’s mostly a way of recognizing and celebrating leadership and innovation, and we hope it will continue to emphasize people that we are proud of.”
The complete list can be viewed at www.forward.com.
By Nicole Neroulias
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.
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