Forward Thinking

Forward 50's Unexpected Stars

By Jane Eisner

  • Print
  • Share Share
AYELETGALENA.TUMBLR.COM
Hindy Poupko Galena and her daughter, Ayelet.

I learn a lot about leadership by overseeing the painstaking but ultimately rewarding process of compiling the Forward 50 each year, of trying to identify the American Jews who have had the greatest impact on our lives in a variety of fields, from politics to culture to sports. And I learn even more about leadership by analyzing how these 50 profiles are read.

One of the astonishing aspects of doing journalism online is that we can ascertain how many people click on a given story down to the person. In print, you can only make educated guesses about what stories are read, whether a snappy headline or a compelling photograph will entice the reader to delve deeper, or to turn the page. But online we know precisely how much traffic every item that we post receives, and this can help us understand what touches readers.

For this year’s Forward 50, readers have been touched by the heartfelt, the unusual, the unexpected. As of Monday evening, Nov. 12, the first day all 50 profiles were posted online, the most read was not about the largest political donor in the land, or the superstar singer, or the second ranking leader in the House of Representatives, or even the King of Comedy Central.

No, the most read profile was of Hindy Poupko Galena, a New York City mother who chronicled her baby daughter’s struggle against a fatal disease and galvanized an outpouring of support through cyberspace.

And the surprises continue.

Every year we pick what we call the “Top 5” and this year, for the first time, we rolled out videos of those people sequentially, one a day beginning last Thursday. So it stands to reason that Sheldon Adelson, Lena Dunham, Aly Raisman and David Zwiebel would have picked up a lot of readers by now.

But next on our “most read” list is Bessie Shemtov, who began an amazing organization called the Friendship Circle, which links volunteers with disabled children and has grown from a single chapter in Detroit to a nationwide movement. And next after her is Michael Uram, the Hillel rabbi at the University of Pennsylvania, who led a novel, and by all accounts, successful response to the first ever campus conference advocating the controversial attempt to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel.

And next is Andy Bachman, rabbi of a Reform congregation in Brooklyn that is on the forefront of community involvement and religious revitalization.

Now, it may just be that each of these folks have networks of friends and supporters who have sent the profiles zinging through cyberspace — for Shemtov, the Chabad-Lubavitch community; for Uram, the Hillel network. And the order of this list may well change by tomorrow. This year’s Forward 50 has drawn a record number of readers, the most page views on a single day in the history of our website, and as Monday evening, the interest had not subsided.

But I like to think that this “most read” list also reflects what I wrote about in my introduction, and that is the changing face of Jewish power in America. No longer is power confined to the legacy organizations in New York and Washington, but also embodied in the creativity and influence of Jews who are making a positive difference in the lives of their communities around the country.

So move over Sheldon Adelson, Barbra Streisand, Eric Cantor and Jon Stewart. Make way for some unexpected company.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: lena dunham, michael uram, hindy poupko galena, forward 50, david zwiebel, bessie shemtov, ayelet galena, andy bachman, aly raisman, sheldon adelson

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.