50 most influential Jews: Places 31-40

Michael Pollan, 57, made his first big splash with 2006’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.

Noam Schalit at Knesset Forum_311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Noam Schalit at Knesset Forum_311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
31. Michael Pollan, Food writer and activist
Michael Pollan would likely make his Jewish grandmother very happy. After all, his rallying cry that has so impacted the way Americans think about food over the last decade can be summed up as this: “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
The Long Island, New York, native, 57, made his first big splash with 2006’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. The book traces four American meals: an industrial one from McDonald’s; an industrial-organic one made from ingredients from the chain supermarket Whole Foods; an organic one from a farm in Virginia; and a personal one, made of food that Pollan, a professor at UC Berkeley’s journalism school, grew or foraged himself.
His findings, which inspired the 2008 documentary Food Inc. (which Pollan conarrated), showed the economic, environmental and health impact of eating industrially, from the antibiotic-laden corn-fed cows that supply most of the country’s beef to the carbon footprint of produce that is shipped halfway across the world for consumption.
His 2009 book, Food Rules, set out 64 simple rules for how people should approach their meals, including: “Eat mostly plants, especially leaves,” “It’s not food if it’s served through the window of your car” and “Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.”
A new illustrated version of Food Rules targeting children was released at the end of last year. – Amy Spiro
32. Mathew Bronfman
33. Shmuley Boteach Rabbi and congressional candidate
Shmuley Boteach is arguably the most visible rabbi in the United States. From the publication of his 1999 book Kosher Sex to his 2006-7 television show Shalom in the Home, his much-publicized relationship with the late Michael Jackson and appearances on TV shows like Oprah and Dr. Phil, the bearded Orthodox-ordained rabbi, author and speaker, 45, has been a familiar face to many for the better part of a decade.
And now? He’s taking on Washington by running for Congress. Boteach is expected to win the June 5 Republican primary for the 9th congressional district in New Jersey, and will challenge either Steve Rothman or Bill Pascrell this fall (both eight-term Democratic congressmen in a district that has not elected a Republican since 1980), who face their own primary battle due to redistricting.
The self-proclaimed “America’s Rabbi” says the goal of his candidacy is to “bring Jewish values into the political discourse,” and he has already gained House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s endorsement. Boteach’s syndicated column, which used to appear in The Jerusalem Post, was discontinued following his announcement of a congressional bid.
The father-of-nine’s most recent book, Kosher Jesus, which came out in February, garnered criticism and praise for its look at Jesus as a Jewish leader, patriot and even martyr. – Amy Spiro
34. Moshe Kantor European Jewish Congress president
Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, is at the forefront of issues relating to Jews on the European continent.
Kantor, 58, has been working hard to explain the threat a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to the world and has pressed for crippling sanctions against the Iranian regime within Europe.
As president of the International Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe, an non-governmental organization uniting world-renowned experts on nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, he has focused the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran on global stability. He was awarded the highest level of the French National Order of the Legion of Honor this year, in recognition of his work towards the rights of minorities, promoting interfaith relations, leading the fight against racism and anti-Semitism and pushing for a more tolerant Europe.
Kantor has also led efforts to legislate and enforce measures against anti-Semitism, hate and intolerance in Europe as chairman of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation.
Due to his efforts, Holocaust Remembrance Day will become an annual event at the European Parliament, keeping alive the memory and significance of the Holocaust and its lessons amongst European leaders and officials. – Steve Linde
35. The Schalits, Activists
For over five years, Aviva and Noam Schalit refused to let the world forget their son Gilad, held in captivity by Hamas terrorists underground.
The story of a simple 19-year-old soldier and his parents’ advocacy efforts toward Israeli, European, American and Palestinian leaders to bring him home made international headlines.
The Schalits, along with their other son, Yoel, set up a protest tent outside the Prime Minister’s Residence for years, and generally passersby would find at least one of them sitting in the tent all day, talking and handing out “Gilad is still alive” T-shirts.
The Schalits refused to let the government or the world community push their son’s plight to the sidelines in favor of other world issues. A day did not go by when Noam Schalit was not meeting with another dignitary or prime minister or urging Israelis to text the Knesset to bring Gilad home. On October 28, 2011, in a dramatic helicopter flight that gripped the world’s attention, the 25-year-old was returned home to the embrace of his tireless parents, in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.
One family’s story became every Israeli family’s story, and Gilad a symbol of the sacrifices made by Israeli youth. – Rachel Marder
36. Natalie Portman, Actress
Perhaps the most recognizable Israeli face in Hollywood, in 2011 Natalie Portman won an Oscar and Golden Globe for best actress for her role in Black Swan and starred alongside Ashton Kutcher in No Strings Attached, for which she also served as producer.
Born in Jerusalem, the 30-year-old says though she loves the States, she admits, “My heart’s in Jerusalem. That’s where I feel at home.”
While Portman is taking some time off to be a mother to her son, Aleph, she appeared recently in Saturday Night Live’s 100th digital short with Justin Bieber and Paul McCartney’s video for “My Valentine” with Johnny Depp, and spoke at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s 2012 Elie Wiesel National Tribute Dinner in Washington last month.
A dedicated activist, Portman was named ambassador for Free the Children and has spoken out against bloodshed in Syria. – Rachel Marder
37. Stan Lee, Comic-book creator
Heard of Spider-Man? What about the Hulk? Or maybe you went to see The Avengers recently, a movie that broke numerous box-office records when it opened last month.
If so, you’re enjoying the creations of Stan Lee, 89, who worked his way up from an inkwell filler to become president and chairman of Marvel Comics.
Lee, who was born Stanley Lieber in Manhattan to Romanian Jewish immigrants, created some of the most famous superheroes in history, including the Fantastic Four, the Xmen, the Hulk, Iron Man, and Marvel’s most famous superhero to date, Spider-Man. Lee developed, scripted, wrote and edited thousands of comic books before moving to California to oversee Marvel’s TV and movie productions.
In 2007, Marvel unveiled the Stan Lee action figure.
Lee also established the Stan Lee Foundation in 2010 to promote literacy, education and the arts.
The octogenarian shows no signs of slowing down. He remains chairman emeritus and an editorial board member of Marvel, in addition to serving as the founder, chairman and chief creative officer of POW! Entertainment, his own media company. Lee still enjoys making comic-relief cameos in TV shows and films; including recent appearances in The Avengers, 2011’s Thor and TV shows like Heroes, Chuck and The Guardian.
He also serves as a narrator for several Marvel video games. – Amy Spiro
38. George Soros, Businessman and philanthropist
George Soros makes money, loses money and gives money away on a similar scale: Massive.
Soros, 81, is chairman of Soros Fund Management, one of the most profitable firms in the hedge fund industry, where he built his reputation as an investment wizard.
On September 16, 1992, he made $1 billion by short-selling the British pound, forcing it to withdraw from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism and earning the moniker “the man who broke the Bank of England.”
In 2002 he was convicted by a French court of a 1988 case of insider trading, and is still appealing the decision.
Along with his major risks and transactions, Soros has given away an estimated $8.5 billion over the course of his career, primarily through his Open Society Institute, which aims to promote democracy, human rights and social welfare throughout the world. In 2011 he gave $95 million to the Institute for New Economic Thinking, $60m. to Bard College and $30. to help black and Hispanic youth in New York City.
He has also contributed significant funds to Democratic political candidates, including over $25m. in 2004 to stop George W. Bush’s reelection as US president, and $5.1m. to elect Barack Obama.
Last year Soros officially retired from his hedge fund, returning almost $1b. to outside investors, but continues to be active with his personal investments and philanthropy. – Amy Spiro
39. Esther Pollard
40. Yosef Abramowitz President of Arava Power
Known as “Captain Sunshine” by his colleagues, Yosef Abramowitz made it his personal goal to realize David Ben-Gurion’s vision of harnessing the country’s desert light after moving to Israel from Massachusetts only six years ago.
Abramowitz, president and a co-founder of Arava Power Company with Ed Hoffman and David Rosenblatt, played a pivotal role in the launch of the firm’s 4.95-megawatt solar field last year at Kibbutz Ketura – the first medium-sized photovoltaic field in the country. When the Public Utility Authority approved the country’s first large-sized fields in March, Abramowitz, 48, said that he was confident that Arava Power would also have the first of these, with 40 megawatts on the ground and running by 2014, across the street from the medium field. In addition to battling bureaucracy for Arava’s own licenses, Abramowitz remains an advocate for enabling Beduin families to construct photovoltaic fields on their own sunny Negev lands. Abramowitz advises representatives from 20 countries, half of which are in Africa, on developing solar programs, and is working specifically on a solar project in Haiti with former US president Bill Clinton. - Sharon Udasin