Top 50 most influential Jews 2013: Places 21-30

Worth an estimated $5 billion, Sumner Redstone is a true rags to riches story.

Sumner Redstone 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
Sumner Redstone 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
Top 50 most influential Jews 2013: Places 1-10Top 50 most influential Jews 2013: Places 11-20
21. National Amusements chain chairman Sumner Redstone
Sumner Redstone, 89, is the majority owner and chairman of the National Amusements chain, through which he controls the US TV stations CBS, MTV, Showtime, Nickelodeon and BET, among others, the film studio Paramount Pictures, various publishing houses and 1,500 movie screens across the United States, the UK, Latin America and Russia.
Redstone, a World War II veteran and former lawyer, coined the phrase “content is king” and built his media empire from the ground up, a true rags to riches story. In his most serious business acquisition, he engineered a hostile takeover of the Viacom media company in 1987.
Worth an estimated $5 billion, Redstone has contributed more than $150 million to philanthropic causes over his lifetime, including hospitals, universities, the Autism Speaks organization and the Cambodian Children’s Fund. He is currently writing an autobiography, How to Live Forever.-Amy Spiro
22. Talent manager to Justin Bieber, Scooter Braun
23. Author Elie Wiesel
A novelist, professor and political activist, Elie Wiesel wears many hats.
The 84-year-old native of Romania was sent by the Nazis to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where his parents and one of his sisters were killed.
After World War II, Wiesel worked for a number of French and Israeli newspapers, and like many survivors, maintained an abject refusal to discuss his experiences in the Holocaust. However, on the advice of a friend, he wrote what would eventually become Night in 1954, his first published work.
Since then, he has become the most well-known public figure and speaker about the Holocaust, writing more than 40 books and winning dozens of awards, most notably the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.
Last year, he was presented with the Nadav Peoplehood Award, given to individuals and organizations for their contributions toward strengthening Jewish identity around the world. In 2006, Wiesel traveled to Auschwitz along with Oprah Winfrey, and in 2009 he accompanied US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Buchenwald. He has also been an outspoken advocate for victims of genocide around the world, including in Darfur, Armenia and Bosnia.
Wiesel’s commitment to being part of the Jewish people – present in his every speaking engagement and published work – makes him more than influential; it makes him inspirational.
- Yitzchak Besser24. AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr
At its annual conference in Washington this year, Michael Oren, Ehud Barak, Joe Biden and John McCain all spoke of the significance of AIPAC in strengthening the relationship between the United States and Israel.
The Oz behind the curtain of these conferences – and behind all the conversations and lobbying that happens in between them – is Howard Kohr, the organization’s executive director.
As was made clear at the event this past March, Kohr, 58, has a big year ahead of him. One man, heading more than 100,000 members across America, coordinates a collective voice for Israel in the US capital.
And when Israeli government officials make policy decisions, they consult the country’s unappointed ambassador, who has a reputation for demanding a hard line on issues of foreign policy.
AIPAC’s Kohr has made his priorities clear: efforts to delegitimize Israel must be curbed, and Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped. And if his conference is any representation of reality, then Washington is listening. The vice president and president said the White House will fight for Israel’s Jewish identity, and vowed to stop Iran, with all options on the table.
-Michael Wilner
25.Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky
A former Prisoner of Zion in the Soviet Union who made aliya, entered politics and became a cabinet minister, Natan Sharansky, 65, is the much-respected chairman of the executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, a position he was elected to in 2009.
His views carry clout throughout the Jewish world, and he recently proposed a groundbreaking compromise plan for an egalitarian section at the Western Wall. He is the author of three best-selling books and is the recipient of both the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Sharansky remains a champion of the rights of all people to live in freedom and believes that the advancement of freedom is critical to peace and security around the world.
-Steve Linde
26. Religious Action Center director Rabbi David Saperstein
Rabbi David Saperstein, 65, has been the director and legal counsel of the Religious Action Center, the Reform movement’s advocacy arm in Washington for more than 30 years. During that time Saperstein has become an influential lobbying voice for religious freedom and provided Jewish communities across the US with resources and programmatic materials on social and legislative issues and ways to get involved. The non-partisan RAC mobilizes liberal Jews, advocating on behalf of more than 70 topics, including economic justice, civil rights, religious liberty and Israel. In 2013 Newsweek named Saperstein the second most influential rabbi in the United States, calling him “Obama’s rabbi.”
Saperstein co-chairs the Coalition to Preserve Religious Liberty, in 1999 was elected the first chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, and in 2008 delivered the invocation at the Democratic National Convention’s final session before then-senator Barack Obama accepted his party’s nomination. Saperstein has the US president’s ear, as he serves on Obama’s Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
-Rachel Marder
27. Yeshivat Har Etzion dean Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein
Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, 79, is the much-respected dean of the prestigious national-religious Yeshivat Har Etzion in the settlement of Alon Shvut. Renowned for his centrist and moderate approach to both Jewish law and political and social issues, Lichtenstein has for a long time been one of the leading guides of the national-religious movement both in Israel and for world Jewry.
A student (and son-in-law) of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik – who helped create the Modern Orthodox movement – Lichtenstein, who has a doctorate in English from Harvard, has adopted and espoused a worldview that promotes fealty to traditional Judaism, Halacha and Torah scholarship, while opposing radicalism both religiously and politically.
Lichtenstein opposed calls for national-religious soldiers to disobey orders during the 2005 disengagement from Gaza, and has publicly backed territorial compromise with the Palestinians, although he has tempered that support of late, stating that there is presently no credible partner for dialogue.
His many thousands of students and the rabbis and educators who have studied under Lichtenstein ensure that his centrist approach to Judaism, Jewish life and Israeli society continues to be widely felt both as a practical way of life and as a viable intellectual movement.
- Jeremy Sharon
28. BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith
It was a surprising move for a serious political reporter to make. But in 2011, Ben Smith, 36, a prominent blogger at the Politico news site, announced he was leaving to become editor-in-chief at BuzzFeed, a site known more for its “listicles” of cats making sad faces, photos of eight-tier sandwiches and “5 Steps To Building Your Own Epic Blanket Fort,” than for serious journalism.
But his first move was to hire at least a dozen reporters to help the site break news in addition to repackaging it, and has pulled people from Reuters, Bloomberg, Rolling Stone and The New York Times.
And since Smith came on board, BuzzFeed – which has raised close to $50 million in funding since its founding in 2008 – has close to doubled its audience, jumping to more than 40 million visitors a month, it says, and was called “the defining media outlet of 2012” by The New Republic last year. Smith even played a role in a spoof video at the White House Correspondents Association dinner last month.
Under Smith, BuzzFeed continues its frivolous and often ridiculous posts, interweaving them with more serious articles and even original reporting, like a feature on the underdog challenger to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, or that many Democrats are left in the dark about the president’s plan post-sequester.
Though many more are still clicking on “12 Politicians And Their Animal Doppelgängers.”
- Amy Spiro
29. Author Michael Chabon
30. Sara Netanyahu
There are those who say that Sara Netanyahu, 54, should be No. 1 on this list. And there are those who say that her power has been greatly exaggerated by people who have an axe to grind against her husband.
The latter say that she is nothing more than a child psychologist who has no more influence on her husband than Michelle Obama or other first ladies around the world. But the former listened closely to Michelle’s husband when he came to Israel in March, heard how many times he referred to Sara in his speeches, and understood that the president had been briefed about how important that was.
Over the years, Sara has made her share of enemies, among them Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett.
Those in the know say she vetoed including Bennett in the government, and had it not been for Bennett’s pact with Lapid that made it impossible to form a coalition without Bayit Yehudi, haredi parties would have been in and Bennett out.
In other words, all the reforms made possible by the exclusion of the haredim from the government, including drafting yeshiva students, changing the electoral system, and whatever ends up being changed at the Western Wall are all indirectly because of Sara.
Now the question is whether the hawkish views of Israel’s first lady will prevent the progress in the diplomatic process that Michelle’s husband – who praised Sara in Israel – so desperately wants to see.
-Gil Hoffman
Top 50 most influential Jews 2013: Places 31-40