‘Post’ list of influential Jews yields sharp responses

Some readers criticized that revered rabbis and other prominent personalities were left out.

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May 23, 2010 05:44
4 minute read.
‘Post’ list of influential Jews yields sharp responses

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As expected, The Jerusalem Post’s first list of the world’s 50 most influential Jews published in its Shavuot supplement elicited a mixed bag of responses – from warm praise to outright indignation.

While most readers, in letters to the editor and in talkbacks on the paper’s Web site, JPost.com, supported the decision to put Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the top of the list, others were critical that revered rabbis and other prominent personalities were left out.

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Comments ranged from the serious (“Why were there only seven women?) to the sarcastic (“Why not Alfred E. Neuman?”)

Among those expressing support for Netanyahu at the top of the list was Bekele Adamu in Ethiopia, who wrote: “The prime minister deserves [it]. He is the man implementing the word of Almighty God... Yerushalem should remain undivided and [the] inherent capital of [the] Jewish people.”

And “Paul” from England added, dramatically: “He could end up being the most famous Jew ever as the leader who finally brings peace to the Middle East.”

Yaakov Zelig of Israel disagreed, however.

“The PM does not even influence a majority of Israeli Jews, much less the world,” he wrote. “Sergey Brin influences virtually everybody – Jews and Gentiles, with his Google site. Furthermore, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod should not even be included. They are a disgrace to Judaism.”



Among those who disagreed with Netanyahu’s heading the list was “Alexandrin” from Jerusalem, who wrote: “Obviously the most influential Jew last year was [Richard] Goldstone, a just among the nations, denouncing war crimes.”

A few letters to the editor complained that there were not enough rabbis on the list.

“The only rabbi mentioned in your article is Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the UK,” Hannah and Joe Sonhelm wrote from Jerusalem. “It is hard to imagine that you couldn’t find at least one or two additional rabbis in that list with all the prominent rabbis we have here in Israel, in America and in other countries.”

Joyce Kahn from Petah Tikva expressed similar sentiments: “This list is devoid of any great religious Jewish personality (with the exception of Lord Sacks),” she wrote.

“Perhaps Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau deserves a place or any of the great religious thinkers of today who generate Jewish values – for example someone from the Chabad institution who, over the last 50 years, created an unparalleled awareness of Judaism – or perhaps any head of a great charitable organization which ensures that thousands of poverty-stricken people get food on their tables. Just a thought that perhaps there are great Jews out there not just for the money.”

Sharon Glass from Winnipeg went even further, suggesting that next time, the Post include teachers on its list.

“There was mention of only one rabbi, the chief rabbi of the UK and his role as a spokesman. There was absolutely no mention at all of a teacher of any kind or subject. Is influence limited to wealth, business success, entertainment, organizational leadership, media or political power? How sad,” she wrote.

“Since this was the first annual list of those who are shaping the future, I suggest that next year’s list include teachers of children and youth who are our future.”

Several readers thought that there were blatant omissions, including Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish organizations, the famous financier and philanthropist George Soros and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni.

“Why was George Soros left off the list?” a man named “Avi” asked.

“Very strange that you did not include Tzipi Livni in your list,” said “Igal,” who went on to say: “Her party got more votes than Netanyahu’s Likud in the last Israeli elections and she is [the] head of opposition to [the] current government in Israel.”

“The omission of Malcolm Hoenlein makes one question the validity of this entire article,” one reader wrote, while another added: “While accepting the influence of most of the named leaders, I feel that any list without Malcolm Hoenlein is incomplete. Dr. Hoenlein is so much more than a Jewish leader, he is a highly respected and effective proponent of Israel’s and America’s Jewish issues – across party lines.”

Other readers would have preferred the exclusion of some controversial figures

“I am disappointed that [J Street executive director] Jeremy Ben-Ami is on the list,” one reader complained. “He is much too controversial a figure to be included on your list.”

Some readers had problems with the list in general, rather than any particular person on it.

“I see a list of 50 famous Jews. Many of them have power and influence. Many of them do not. I don’t see how a Jewish basketball player or unknown Jewish artist has more influence than say a rabbi or a leading Jewish educator who may have tens of thousands of followers who are directly influenced by their teachings and thinking,” wrote Mitch Gilbert from the US. “And the order of this list is certainly open for debate."

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