1. Finance Minister Yair Lapid
2. US Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew
Entering the job during a devastating economic collapse, Timothy Geithner had a
difficult run as US secretary of the Treasury. But his successor, Jack Lew, 57,
doesn’t have it much better. The Orthodox Jewish Treasury chief faces IMF
reform, the challenge of the euro, a slow recovery at home and – perhaps most
daunting – an unprecedented budget crisis with a Congress unwilling or unable to
But that last challenge is just why Lew was chosen.
director of the Office of Management and Budget, Lew has a mastery of
micromanagement and detail. And working under a president who has made clear his
legacy must include a strong economic turnaround, the pressure on Lew is
extraordinary, as are the possibilities of his tenure. Lew is certainly hoping
that his legacy won’t be limited to his oddly loopy signature adorning US paper
currency during his tenure.
In the short time since he took up his post,
Lew is already using his pulpit to apply pressure on his European counterparts
to ease off on austerity measures. Whether they listen will be a testament to
his influence, and to America’s greater influence in markets weary of US
- Michael Wilner
3. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, 63, called new elections earlier this year
hoping – indeed expecting – to be returned to power with a strengthened hand. It
was not to be.
The man who has sat in the prime minister’s chair for
seven years, one month, and counting – longer than any other Israeli leader with
the exception of David Ben-Gurion – was chastised by the electorate as his
combined list with Yisrael Beytenu lost some 30 percent of its pre-election
Nevertheless – and this is the bottom line – Netanyahu was
returned to power. But the public that returned him to office for a third term
also sent him a clear message: We want you to continue to lead the country, but
we demand change.
The change demanded – manifest in how well Yesh Atid’s
Yair Lapid and Bayit Yehudi’s Naftali Bennett did at the polls – was that the
country’s internal social contract needed to be radically
Paradoxically, the country was able to turn inward in these
elections for perhaps the first time in its history because of the stability
Netanyahu and his government provided. Even as the region roiled, Netanyahu
provided the country with enhanced security, as the lowest terrorist statistics
in years attest. He provided political stability by almost serving a full term.
And he provided macro economic security at a time when the global economy
suffered crisis after crisis.
But he did not provide a vision, and for
that he was punished. Punished, but not sacked.
Netanyahu bought himself
more time at Israel’s helm, and – by extension – at the helm of the Jewish
people. It remains to be seen whether he will use that time to leave a signature
and indelible impact and be remembered as a leader of stature, or just as a very
4. President Shimon Peres
Age hasn’t slowed down President Shimon Peres, who turns 90 this summer and
continues to tirelessly represent Israel around the globe.
former prime minister, foreign minister, defense minister and finance minister,
has regular meetings with the prime minister, heads of Israel’s intelligence and
security operations, leaders of political parties and then some. Several times a
year he also receives the credentials of new ambassadors to Israel, and hosts
countless local and overseas organizations and delegations in his role as head
Peres is one of Israel’s most frequent fliers, representing the
country in Rome and Assisi at the end of April, in Belgium and France in March
and at the World Economic Conference in Davos, Switzerland. Last year he
received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from US President Barack Obama, and
has been one of the country’s most vocal proponents of peace. While he has
sparred with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu occasionally over whether to act
alone or rely on the US to handle Iran – and the world took notice – he
generally seeks to present a unified voice from the government.
summer, Peres will play host instead of guest, as he emcees the fifth annual
Presidential Conference, with headliners including former US president Bill
Clinton, singer Barbra Streisand, actress Sharon Stone and former Soviet Union
president Mikhail Gorbachev in attendance.
-Greer Fay Cashman
5. Women of the Wall chairwoman Anat Hoffman
6. Google founder Sergey Brin
Have you ever created something that became one of the most-used verbs in modern
language? Sergey Brin did. The Soviet Union-born computer scientist and
entrepreneur – along with Larry Page, who also has Jewish lineage – started the
search engine Google back in 1996, which has today become synonymous with
looking something up on the Internet.
From there, Brin, 39 – who received
$1 in compensation from Google last year – oversaw its development into not just
the most visited website in the world, but also a multinational, publicly traded
company that raked in $50 billion in profits in 2012.
Far from just a
search engine today, the company offers email, social networking, instant
messaging and browsing services, as well as the Android cellphone operating
program, and owns the highly popular YouTube and the blogging platform
In his role as director of special projects, Brin is presiding
over developments including self-driving cars, space research and Google Glass,
a wearable, eyeglasses-type computer that is voice commanded and possibly the
most buzzed about innovation in technology today, and is expected to be
available to the general public later this year.
- Amy Spiro
7. Daily Show host Jon Stewart
US President Barack Obama, King Abdullah II of Jordan, former UN
secretary-general Kofi Annan and US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. All
of the above – plus the most elite Hollywood celebrities – have sat down over
the past year with Jon Stewart, the host of the ostensibly satirical TV program
The Daily Show.
But when Stewart, 50, talks, the world listens. He’s
issued diatribes in favor of gun control, veterans’ rights and excoriating
various media outlets. His serious takes on the day’s pressing issues have
caused The New York Times to label him “the modern- day equivalent of Edward R.
Stewart has inspired and defended political satirists around the
globe, most prominently Bassem Youssef, an Egyptian TV host who was arrested in
March for insulting Islam and President Mohamed Morsi. Stewart took to his show
to slam the arrest, and the US Embassy in Cairo posted a link of Stewart’s
monologue to its Twitter feed, angering both the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi’s
The TV host, whose brand of Jewish humor also features
prominently on the show, is taking a hiatus this summer from his program to
direct a film about the story of Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, who
was imprisoned and tortured in Iran for four months, partly because of a joke
interview he had done on Stewart’s show.
- Amy Spiro
8. Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg
The chief operating officer of Facebook is not only one of the most powerful
businesswomen in the world, but she has also ignited a conversation across the
US about feminism and how women can empower themselves in the workplace with her
controversial and best-selling new book, Lean In.
Like Betty Friedan’s
consciousness-raising groups inspired by her book The Feminine Mystique on “the
problem that has no name,” Lean In has brought the challenges faced by this
generation of working females to national attention. It too is inspiring groups
of women around the country to gather and discuss strategies for succeeding in
Sandberg, 43, has the professional experience to back up her
advice. She has been Facebook’s COO since 2008, has previously served as vice
president of global online sales and operations at Google, and helped launch
Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org. She also served as chief of staff for
Treasury chief Lawrence Summers during the Clinton administration.
9. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon
Moshe Ya’alon, 62, took up the role of defense minister in March – a position he
sought for years – at a time of large-scale regional instability, and just as
Israel faces a decisive year on the Iranian nuclear question.
accounts, 2013 could be a fateful year, when Israel will have to decide whether
to take military action to stop Tehran’s nuclear quest, or entrust the United
States to do so, should diplomacy and economic sanctions fail.
addition to Iran, the former IDF chief of staff will have to tackle mammoth
security issues, including the disintegration of Syria, the fate of its vast
chemical weapons arsenal, and its transformation to a failed state filled with
al-Qaida-inspired radical jihadis.
In neighboring Lebanon, Hezbollah –
armed with more than 60,000 rockets and a well-trained guerrilla force – remains
the most formidable enemy in Israel’s immediate geographic circle. To the south,
Hamas is recuperating from the damage it sustained during last year’s bruising
yet brief confrontation with Israel, and is busy converting the Gaza Strip into
a Islamist emirate as well as a rocket base.
Sinai continues to be an
al-Qaida trouble spot, while further south in Cairo, Ya’alon will have to keep a
wary eye on the Muslim Brotherhood’s steps and intentions toward Israel. To the
east, Ya’alon will be monitoring the West Bank for signs of increased
The new defense minister will be very busy.
10. DNC chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Debbie Wasserman Schultz wears many hats: congresswoman, mom, chief deputy whip
in the House of Representatives and chairwoman of the Democratic National
As DNC chairwoman, Wasserman Schultz, 46, was responsible for
the fund-raising and campaigning efforts for US President Barack Obama last
year, which obviously paid off, particularly in her home state of Florida. She
was renominated for the position in January by the White House, despite rumors
of tension between them over her outspokenness.
Her dedication to Obama’s
reelection – she attended more than 885 events in 31 states over the course of
the campaign – is what ultimately earned her a second term at the
The tenacious legislator was only the second woman ever elected to
lead the DNC, and its youngest head in several decades. She is also a member of
the House Appropriations Committee, arguably the body’s most
The breast-cancer survivor is a prominent proponent of Obama’s
healthcare reform act, battling the governor of her own state earlier this month
for not adhering to the US Supreme Court ruling on the law, and speaking out in
favor of the legislation across the country.
Wasserman Schultz also
played an instrumental role in passing an act establishing May as Jewish
American Heritage Month in 2006.
Top 50 most influential Jews 2013: Places 11-20
Jerusalem Post Annual Conference. Buy it now, Special offer. Come meet Israel's top leaders
Top 50 most influential Jews 2013: Places 21-30
Top 50 most influential Jews 2013: Places 31-40
Top 50 most influential Jews: Places 41-50