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.
Like the advent of cool autumn evenings, like the start of the school year and the wrap up of the baseball season, assembling the Forward 50, the annual list of America’s most influential Jews, is again under way at our office. Staff members have already met twice to discuss the people they believe have had the greatest impact on our political, religious, educational, organizational and cultural life in the past year.
We search for new faces, significant but under-appreciated leaders, and those who seem to be on the brink of something very important. We try hard to break free of the New York-Washington-Los Angeles axis, looking for Jews elsewhere in the country who are doing and discovering and creating something of note.
In this political year, we are trying to move beyond the campaign trail to focus on science, business, food, even sports. And we make a special effort to search for women, who have been as traditionally underrepresented in the Forward 50 as they are in Jewish leadership nationwide.
This is where you, the reader, come in.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that we depend on nominations from our far-flung readers to augment our own work, helping us to identify people and activities outside our usual spheres of attention. There are only a few criteria: American citizen. Jewishly identified. Well-defined impact on his or her field. And, preferably, a new name to our list.
So please, send in your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the postal service to 125 Maiden Lane, 8th floor, New York, NY 10038. Tell us why we should consider the nominee, and send along a reasonable amount of supporting evidence. Please include your name and contact information in case we want to learn more from you.
The deadline for accepting nominations is September 25. The Forward 50 will be published in early November.
Meantime, we wish you all a happy, healthy and fulfilling new year.
It’s not every day that The Blaze, Glenn Beck’s website, responds to this blog, and I’m glad they did. In our latest back and forth, the editor pointed out that our presentation on our website of this year’s Forward 50 was confusing at first.
Fair enough. It was.
Though the Forward 50 was started more than 15 years ago by Seth Lipsky, the founding editor of the English Forward, it’s only been in the last few years that we have experimented with presenting the names, faces and profiles on line in new and interesting ways.
The old adage that all publicity is good publicity relates to journalism, as well. So I was pleased to see that The Blaze, Glenn Beck’s website, thought enough of our annual Forward 50 project to write about it.
Of course, what interested The Blaze wasn’t the list of 50 American Jews who have shaped the Jewish story in politics, science, culture, the media, religion, advocacy and even sports. No, it was the 51st name on the list — in our parlance, the “Plus One” — that got the attention.
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