31. HOWARD KOHR
As executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Howard Kohr, 56, regularly briefs members of the US Congress on issues related to Israel and helps preserve and enhance the American-Israeli alliance.
AIPAC’s annual policy conference in Washington is considered one of organized American Jewry’s most important events. More than 10,000 people attended this year’s conference, a number that set a new record.
During his speech at the 2011 conference, Kohr urged AIPAC members and supporters to tell senators and congressmen not to let the popular uprisings in the Arab world distract them from Iran. “We must refocus our policymakers’ attention on what Iran is doing in this time of turmoil – its efforts to cultivate fifth columns in neighboring nations to advance Iranian ends, its use of terror by proxy, its relentless march toward a nuclear weapon,” Kohr told attendees.
32. ADIN STEINSALTZ
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz recently wrote a new book, Chayei Olam, dealing with the weekly Torah portions. But his main recognition doesn’t come from the fact that he has published over 70 books on a variety of subjects pertaining primarily to Judaism but spanning theology, zoology and even detective novels, but rather his seminal Hebrew translation and commentary on the Babylonian Talmud completed last November after 45 years of work.
An educator who was Israel’s youngest school principal at the age of 24, Steinsaltz – who was born in Israel in 1937 to non-observant parents – was called a “once-in-a-millennium” scholar by Time magazine. He is the Israel Prize laureate for his life’s work in education.
The works of Steinsaltz, a Chabad hassid, were banned by the senior haredi Ashkenazi rabbinic leadership in 1989 for his “audacity” to ease Talmud study away from its traditional form, and his “blasphemous” and “disrespectful” academic approach to biblical figures in a series of publications from earlier that decade. But that did not diminish his dedication and devotion to “keeping the roads and gates open” to the Talmud, as he recently defined his commentary project in to The Jerusalem Post. “As a book, the structure is creating the notion of being sane,” he said, as it contains “ups and downs, high mysticism to minute halachic details. Judaism works together, to have the ups and downs contained.”
33. NORA EPHRON
Director and writer
Nora Ephron is one of Hollywood’s most prominent women directors and screenwriters. She directed and wrote the popular films Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, and wrote the pop-culture classic When Harry Met Sally.
Ephron is also a novelist and columnist. During her marriage to journalist Carl Bernstein, who covered Watergate for The Washington Post, he had an affair with British politician Margaret Jay. Ephron fictionalized the affair in her novel Heartburn, and wrote the screenplay for the movie version.
Her books include I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections and I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman. Ephron, 70, has also written columns for The New York Times and Huffington Post.
34. IRENE ROSENFELD
CEO, Kraft Foods
Irene Rosenfeld’s status as chairman and CEO of Kraft Foods, one of the world’s largest food companies, helped cement her second-place standing on the Forbes list of the most powerful women last year.
The magazine noted that Rosenfeld’s $26.3 million compensation package made her the second-highest-paid American woman.
She ranked second on Fortune magazine’s list of the most powerful women in 2010 and 2009.
Rosenfeld, 58, spearheaded Kraft’s unsolicited offer to purchase British confectioner Cadbury last year.
The $18.9 billion deal went through despite the objection of Kraft shareholder Warren Buffett and concerns from British lawmakers, and increased Kraft’s annual revenue to $48b.
Rosenfeld served as chairman and CEO of Frito-Lay for two years before coming to Kraft in June 2006.
In an interview with The Sunday Times of London last year, Rosenfeld said Judaism is important to her family but the rumor that she keeps a kosher kitchen is false.
35. JEFFREY GOLDBERG
Goldberg, 45, a staff reporter and blogger at The Atlantic, is one of many prominent American Jewish journalists, such as Meet The Press moderator David Gregory and CNN hosts Wolf Blitzer and John King.
Goldberg made aliya and served in the IDF during the first intifada, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post. He later returned to the US to pursue his journalism career.
Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, he worked for The New Yorker, where he wrote an award-winning piece on Hezbollah. In the August 13, 2009, edition of The New York Review of Books, Columbia Journalism Review contributing editor Michael Massing referred to Goldberg as “the most influential journalist/blogger on matters related to Israel.”
Goldberg’s interview with ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro last year received a lot of publicity, mostly for Castro’s assertions that “I don’t think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews,” and “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”
Castro also criticized Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust during his interview with Goldberg.
36. FIAMMA NIRENSTEIN
Fiamma Nirenstein is one of Europe’s most outspoken pro-Israel legislators. She has been a member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition government since 2008, and serves as vice president of the foreign affairs committee in Italy’s Chamber of Deputies.
The former journalist recently made headlines when she wrote that Vittorio Arrigoni, the Italian activist and Hamas supporter kidnapped and killed by Salafist terrorists in Gaza, was “a fan of political Islamism because he was an enemy of the Jews” in an article in the Italian daily newspaper Il Giornale. She also declined to participate in a meeting with Iranian parliament members and criticized her fellow foreign affairs committee members for doing so, saying “a dialogue with Iran’s official representatives is completely pointless.”
Following the IDF’s confrontation aboard the Mavi Marmara last year, Nirenstein was among the Chamber of Deputies members who pushed to have the Turkish IHH organization added to the EU’s list of terrorist groups. She also launched “Stand for Israel, Stand for Reason” as a counter-initiative to JCall, which was formed by European Jewish intellectuals to work toward the creation of a Palestinian state.
Nirenstein, 65, also chairs the Chamber of Deputies’ committee of inquiry into anti- Semitism and was given an award from the Knesset for her efforts to fight the oldest hatred.
She lives part of the year in Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood with her Israeli husband.
In response to her being chosen as one of The Jerusalem Post’s most influential Jews, she said: “It makes me happy. I will do my best to deserve it.”
37. JOSEPH CEDAR
Joseph Cedar garnered a triumph for Israel at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival, when the 42-year-old Israeli director won the award for best screenplay for his film Footnote (He’arat Shulayim).
The comedy-drama explores the rivalry between a father and son who are both Talmud professors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “The Talmud is our primary text, our tradition,” Cedar said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times in Cannes.
“It’s something I want to deal with if I am making movies in Israel.”
The honor was a sweet victory: Lars von Trier, a Danish director, was kicked out of the festival after saying during a press conference that he sympathized with Hitler.
Cedar’s 2007 film Beaufort became the first Israeli movie to receive an Oscar nomination in more than 20 years. That film focuses on a unit of IDF soldiers stationed at an outpost in southern Lebanon just before the IDF withdrew from the area in 2000. The Orthodox filmmaker’s other works include Campfire and Time of Favor.
38. NATALIE PORTMAN
Natalie Portman is Israel’s top representative in Hollywood. The starlet, who won this year’s Academy Award for best lead actress for her performance in the film Black Swan, is open about and proud of her Jewish heritage and her ties to Israel. Her Oscar win was big news in the Jewish state.
However, she doesn’t only represent Israelis, but the Jewish people as a whole. Portman, who has appeared in advertisements for Christian Dior’s Miss Dior Cherie perfume, publicly criticized the anti-Semitic behavior of the fashion house’s creative director John Galliano, who was later fired.
In her statement, Portman, who turns 30 on June 9, said that “as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way.”
39. YITZHAK DAVID GROSSMAN
Chief rabbi of Migdal Ha’emek
Grossman (b. 1946) is the epitome of selfless dedication to the welfare of the needy. A scion of a Jerusalemite rabbinical dynasty, Grossman decided following the Six Day War of 1967 to move to the northern town of Migdal Ha’emek to help the community through educational and social work. A year after arriving, he was appointed as the town’s chief rabbi, a position he holds to this day, and in 1972 he founded Migdal Ohr, an educational network serving thousands daily. A member of the Chief Rabbinical Council, Grossman received the Israel Prize for his life’s work in 2004.
Unlike many of his peers who focus their energies and educational efforts on their own communities, Grossman stands out as a haredi rabbi par excellence who has committed himself to a populace and locale distant from himself and his background in many ways: Migdal Ha’emek is geographically far from the Torah centers of Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, composed of immigrants and people of Sephardi heritage, and not haredi. But to Grossman, that is where he is needed and his duty as a man of religion is to serve that community.
His attitude of openness and acceptance of the other have gained him huge popularity on the local and national scene. There were reports of him being a possible candidate for the position of Jerusalem’s chief rabbi. He also recently told the Walla website that he does not rule out the possibility of contending for the position of Israel’s chief rabbi.
40. SHLOMO AMAR
Sephardi chief rabbi
Rabbi Amar, 63, is slowly but surely positioning himself to become senior Sephardi adjudicator Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s successor.
The Knesset recently approved in a preliminary reading an amendment to the law limiting a chief rabbi’s tenure to 10 years, which would enable Amar to remain as long as necessary in the central position he currently holds, and continue to gain political power as well as public recognition. It has been said that none other than the prime minister and justice minister were involved in the initiative to enable Amar’s term to be prolonged (though the actual bill was presented by members of the Kadima opposition party), out of fear that the next chief rabbi would be more stringent and less easy to get along with.
Ironically, in recent months Amar has moved to the Right more and more, such as in the case of approving the IDF conversions, which critics say took him way too long, or dragging his feet on finding a mechanism to approve Orthodox conversions from abroad. It seems as though Amar, who had the reputation of a relatively open-minded adjudicator true to his North African heritage, is increasingly seeking the affirmation of the haredi establishment as he sets his sights on being the next rabbinic father figure for the Israeli Sephardi community. At the same time, Amar is creating alliances with senior members of Shas, many of whom realize that Yosef’s powerful rule will inevitably come to an end, and are preparing for the day after.
Amar’s term as chief rabbi is scheduled to end in 2013, but he will no doubt strive to continue to be a key player in the intricate game of religion and politics in Israel.