The world's most influential Jews: 41-50

Menahem Froman, Shlomo Riskin, Rabbi Richard Jacobs, Orna Barbivai, Ed Miliband, Job Cohen, Ivan Glasenberg, Bertie Lubner, Sarah Silverman, Bar Refaeli.

Orna Barbivai 311 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
Orna Barbivai 311
(photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
41. MENAHEM FROMAN HAI SHALOM Chief rabbi of Tekoa
It was last year that Menahem Froman (b. 1945) was diagnosed with cancer, and decided to add Hai Shalom to his name as an expression of his commitment to promoting peace, now with a renewed urgency.
One of the founders of the Gush Emunim settlement movement and a longtime resident of Tekoa, Froman – who teaches in yeshivot in Tekoa and Otniel – for decades has been doing his utmost to promote dialogue and understanding between Jews and Muslims. The stereotypical distinction between peace activist and settler is totally irrelevant to Froman, who deeply believes that God gave this land to the Jews, and that the same God is one of peace, who wants all His children to live together in harmony.
It is time people realized this is not a real-estate dispute, Froman has said time and again of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. To him, it’s about religion, and the lack of respect the Arab world believes the West shows to Islam. To mend this rift, Froman believes it is his duty to meet with Muslims – including the Hamas leadership. He often recalls the late Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin telling him that the two of them could reach a peace arrangement in five minutes, since as religious leaders they had much in common.
Not all members of the settlement movement accept and endorse Froman’s line of action, and find it hard to accept his proximity to figures such as Yassin, who were behind terrorist murders of Israelis.
But Froman continues with what he sees as his religious duty of peacemaking, while utilizing his good ties with Palestinian Authority and religious leaders for the benefit of the Jews, who he believes should stay in these parts regardless of any political decisions that might be made.
42. SHLOMO RISKIN Chief rabbi of Efrat
Shlomo Riskin (b. 1940) is a proud exponent of modern Orthodoxy in the hilly landscape of Efrat, the town of which he was a founding member and has served as its chief rabbi since its beginning in the early 1980s. A student of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik who also has a PhD from New York University, Riskin – after establishing himself as leader of the Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York – packed up his family and made aliya.
Besides many members of the New York congregation, Riskin also brought the educational principles of Ohr Torah institutions he had established in the US, to create an empire of 18 programs on 11 campuses educating some 3,000 men and women from junior high to graduate school.
Riskin is passionate about the need to separate politics and religion in Israel to allow Jews to reconnect with their creed and enhance the understanding of the centrality of the Jewish religion to the character of the Jewish state. He also believes that such an unbinding of the two forces would encourage more non- Jewish Israelis to convert.
Riskin, a veteran Jerusalem Post columnist, is also active in interfaith dialogue, whether in the form of delegations to a mosque that was recently torched, or with Christians at the Center for Jewish- Christian Understanding and Cooperation he founded in Efrat.
43. RICHARD JACOBS Prominent US Reform rabbi
A few months ago, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) announced that Rabbi Richard (Rick) Jacobs (b. 1956) was to succeed Rabbi Eric Yoffie as the movement’s president next year. Jacobs, who has been leading the Westchester Reform Temple in New York for some 20 years, will not only be faced with the perpetual challenge of keeping the largest Jewish movement in North America – estimated at 1.5 million members – vibrant, attractive and relevant, but also with determining the formula for the URJ’s relationship to Israel. The URJ was one of the heavyweights behind torpedoing the Conversion Bill, in what critics in Israel saw as uncalled-for external intervention.
Jacobs recently told The Jerusalem Post’s Shmuel Rosner about his association with J Street and the New Israel Fund, of which he is proud, while not agreeing with every decision the organizations make. Jacobs, who studied at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem for two decades and is a senior rabbinic fellow there, also stressed the importance he saw to strengthening ties with Israel.
A former dancer and choreographer with the Avodah Dance Ensemble, Jacobs is a board member of the American Jewish World Service and involved in social and environmental activities.
“The Jewish world is changing,” he told Rosner, “and we need to be responsive to changes in the community.
There are many people in this community who are unaffiliated, and the Reform Movement is best situated to offer them a solution.”
Incoming head of IDF Human Resources Directorate
All of Israel’s eyes will be on Brig.- Gen. Orna Barbivai when she receives her new rank this month and becomes the first female officer in the IDF to be promoted to major-general – the military’s second- highest rank – and takes up her new post as head of the IDF Human Resources Directorate.
Women have for years served in almost all of the IDF’s various positions on land, in the air and at sea but Barbivai, 49, will be breaking new ground as the first female officer to join the old boys’ club as one of them, with the same rank, stature and influence. Her opinions at General Staff meetings will carry the same weight as those of her male peers.
Barbivai has served her entire career in the directorate since her enlistment as a soldier. She climbed the ranks and served in the past as head of human resources in the Ground Forces Command as well as the head of the IDF Adjutancy Corps until her present position as deputy head of the directorate.
After the celebrations though, Barbivai will have to get straight to work and face her greatest task – the continued and until now unsuccessful IDF efforts to curb the growing number of draft dodgers in Israel. With 25 percent of youth not enlisting annually and greater numbers skipping reserve duty, the IDF is no longer the people’s army it has tried to be since its establishment with the state in 1948. Barbivai will try to change that.
UK Labor Party leader
When Ed Miliband was serving as energy and climate change secretary in former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government, he and his older brother David, the then foreign secretary, were the first brothers to simultaneously hold seats in the cabinet in 70 years.
Miliband, 41, was elected leader of the Labor Party and loyal opposition in September, defeating his brother in the process.
Miliband, who has relatives living in Israel, condemned the blockade of Gaza and the IDF’s actions aboard the Mavi Marmara last year.
“I consider myself as a friend of Israel,” he told the Jewish Chronicle in November. “But the reason I said what I said is that sometimes you have to be honest with your friends.
“My Jewish identity was such a substantial part of my upbringing that it informs what I am,” he added.
Dutch politician
Job Cohen became mayor of Amsterdam in 2001 after less than a decade in politics. While serving as state secretary for justice from 1998 to 2001, the Labor Party politician pushed bills legalizing same-sex marriages and strengthening asylum restrictions through parliament.
During Cohen’s tenure as Amsterdam mayor in 2004, filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim radical. For his efforts to promote tolerance and prevent an anti-Muslim backlash, Time magazine included Cohen on its list of European heroes of 2005, labeling him a “hate buster.”
Cohen, 63, conducted the civil marriage ceremony of Prince Willem-Alexander and Máxima Zorreguieta in February 2002. He stepped down as mayor last year to run for head of the Labor Party, and won, though Labor was defeated in the national elections.
Cohen, whose paternal grandparents died in the Holocaust, told Time in 2005, “Immigrants have always been part of our city and Amsterdam is, and remains, tolerant. Jews should not be afraid to walk the streets wearing their skullcaps, Moroccans must be able to find jobs and homosexuals must not be insulted.”
Glencore CEO
Virtually unheard of until the release of the initial public offering for his Swiss-based commodities trading firm in April, Glencore CEO and major shareholder Ivan Glasenberg is now one of the world’s richest men with an estimated wealth of around $9.6 billion.
The South African-born 54-year-old closely guarded his privacy during his rise to the top, but new information about him was revealed when Glencore went public, including the fact that Glasenberg obtained Australian citizenship while working there for the company in the 1980s – a detail that saw him debut at No. 2 on a recently published list of Australia’s 200 richest people.
Before heading Down Under, Glasenberg – whose native South Africa was under international sanctions due to apartheid – used the Law of Return to try to become an Israeli citizen in a last-minute bid to compete in speed-walking in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, but failed to complete the paperwork in time.
Glasenberg joined Glencore in April 1984 – just three months before the opening ceremony of the Los Angeles Olympics – and has been CEO since January 2002. He first worked for Glencore as a marketer, then had stints in Australia, Hong Kong and Beijing before eventually relocating to company headquarters in the small Swiss village of Baar, where he became director of the coal/coke commodity department before assuming the top job.
South African entrepreneur
One of South Africa’s top businessmen and philanthropists, Lubner is a leader of the Jewish community in Johannesburg .
Although he has now retired as chairman of the Plate Glass and Shatterprufe Industries, he still controls its activities together with his brother, Ronnie. Their interests are split between their glass group in five countries in Africa, with the head office in South Africa, and an international business in 34 countries, with its head office in London. Lubner, 79, is well-known in South Africa for giving to many good causes, and has had a close relationship with Nelson Mandela.
“If you think you have all the answers, then you’re fooling yourself,” Lubner told “Of course, you can’t imitate others, but you can take from the lessons they teach.”
In recognition of his contribution to South Africa, he received the President’s Medal of the Order of Meritorious Service in 1990. Together with the late Rabbi Cyril Harris, Lubner established MaAfrika Tikkun as a Jewish community outreach program to alleviate the many hardships experienced by disadvantaged South Africans, particularly children. An avid sports lover, he was also appointed as a governor of the South African Sports Commission and Olympic Council (SAS), which encompasses all sport in South Africa.
Sarah Silverman is sometimes dirty, controversial and politically incorrect, but she is one of America’s most famous working comedians.
Known for her appearances on Saturday Night Live, The Sarah Silverman Program and Jimmy Kimmel Live as well as Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic and other projects, the performer and writer is culturally Jewish but agnostic.
Her memoir, The Bedwetter, made her a New York Times best-selling author.
Silverman, 40, also has ties to Israel. Her sister is a rabbi who lives with her husband, Yossi Abramowitz, and five children in Jerusalem.
She will attend and perform at the President’s Conference of Major American Jewish Leaders at the Jerusalem International Convention Center from June 21 to 23 and is slated to perform her standup act at the Wohl Amphitheater in Tel Aviv on June 25.
Bar Refaeli
Bar Refaeli
One of the most famous faces of Israel both at home and abroad was born 26 years ago in Hod Hasharon. Bar Refaeli cemented her status as a supermodel when she was chosen to grace the cover of the 2009 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.
Refaeli is not only well-known for her body and looks. She emerged as an international gossip column and paparazzi favorite when she began dating American actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
She has her detractors because of her decision to avoid serving in the IDF. This year, she has begun to open up more to the media, and volunteer for social programs. She is a volunteer, for example, for Project Sunshine, an NGO that helps children facing life-threatening illnesses.
Refaeli wrote an article for Rating magazine last year about her visit to the Better Place headquarters and urged others to support the electric car developer’s mission.