Forward Thinking

Hey Jeffrey Goldberg, Why I Like Lists of Jews

By Jane Eisner

  • Print
  • Share Share
Jeffrey Goldberg

So Jeffrey Goldberg thinks that publishing lists of Jews is a bad idea. The fiercely smart, often snarky and well-travelled columnist is with Bloomberg Views now, and wrote a provocative piece calling on the Jerusalem Post and the Forward to, in his words, stop with the ranking, already.

The occasion for his complaint was the publication of the Jerusalem Post’s annual ranking of the world’s 50 most influential Jews. (Alas, I am not on it. Neither is Goldberg. This year.) The Forward 50, our list of the Jews who we believe had the greatest impact on the American Jewish story in any given year, is generally published in early November.

“Why are these publications aping a practice of non-Jews — singling out Jews for their special prominence in society?” he asks.

Well, the short answer is: We are Jewish publications! As any Bubbe would ask: You want I should publish a list of non-Jews?

The more serious answer is: I’m not copying anybody. Lists like the Forward 50, and our recently published compilation of America’s most inspiring rabbis, and even the fun projects like the top kosher hot dogs now running on our food blog, are great ways to transmit information, involve readers, accentuate the positive (not something that happens often enough in daily journalism) and tell a good story.

I don’t share Goldberg’s worry that neo-Nazis and home grown anti-Semites are lying in wait for us to share our latest list, so that they can more easily identify and track down unsuspecting Jews. And I’m not embarrassed to focus on our own people. That’s what we do.

There’s one point in Goldberg’s column that I do agree with: Rankings are, generally, ridiculous. (Except for hot dogs.) We make a big fuss about the “top five” of the Forward 50 because, well, because that’s what was done before I became editor-in-chief and it’s become a ritual I don’t have the heart to abandon. Lately, we have taken to ranking the “top five” because when I listed them in alphabetical order, readers thought we had instead ranked them in order of importance and since I didn’t want anyone to think that the serious-minded Forward would pick a baseball player as the nation’s most influential Jew one year (that would be Ryan Braun), we decided to apply some sort of standard.

But that’s the only instance.

Compiling the Forward 50 each year is a mammoth job — I’m sure that Goldberg remembers, since he was a staff writer at this news organization in the 1990s, when the list began — but it’s also enormously satisfying. And it means so much to some of the lesser-known people whose work otherwise would not command national attention. Sure, I wish Jon Stewart would ring me up one day to thank me for including him. But truly, the best reward are the calls and letters and emails from genuinely appreciative but often unheralded Jewish leaders who are able to use our platform to promote their ideas and their causes.

Goldberg was on the Forward 50 at least once. Maybe if he’s nice to me, it will happen again.

Here’s a new list of Jews, specially compiled for Jeffrey Goldberg — or anyone who likes the most badass Jews from history… or Mah Jong.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: list, jewish, jeffrey goldberg, atlantic

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!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • 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.