Sisterhood Blog

The World's 'Most Influential' Jewish Women

By Elana Sztokman

  • Print
  • Share Share

In honor of Shavuot, the Jerusalem Post printed a special supplement on “The Fifty Most Influential Jews in the World” — and there are only seven women in the list.

A woman doesn’t even make an appearance until number 10 — US Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. Bizarrely, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg comes in at a mere 22, which makes me wonder why a nominee (no offense Ms. Kagan, I’m a big fan) is presumed to have more influence than an actual, sitting Supreme Court justice.

The other five Jewish women who made the list are: Israel Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch (#20), biochemist and professor Ruth Arnon (#29), businesswoman and philanthropist Shari Arinson (#41), French politician Simone Veil (#42), and South African Bank Governor Gill Marcus (#44).  

Notably absent from this list are women such as Nobel Prize winner Ada Yonath, Israel opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni, Federation leader Carole Solomon, philanthropist and recent LEAD awardee Barbara Dobkin, feminist activist Blu Greenberg, Senator Barbara Boxer, author Barbara Ehrenreich – and those are just some of the women off the top of my head. Hey, I would even include Forward editor in chief Jane Eisner – doing a terrific job influencing the global Jewish conversation.

Instead of these amazing women, we are left with some strange (male) pickings: comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (#48), basketball player Omri Casspi (#50), and a few guys I’ve never heard of. Plus we get both IDF defense minister Ehud Barak (#12) and IDF Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi (#16), that’s two spots for basically the same institution – even though they are in the midst of a public catfight that is threatening to cripple the entire army.

Of course, after I finished getting upset about this list, I opened up the next Post supplement, “Financial Horizons,” and my depression sank even further. A glance at the table of contents revealed not a single article written by a woman – not ONE! And then, flipping through the magazine, there is not a single photo of a woman.

I recently received a note from a reader asking me what we are supposed to do about all this. I’ve been thinking about how to answer that question. Solutions go in several different directions — education initiatives, affirmative action, legislation, and consciousness-raising for both men and women, to name a few. All of these solutions are important and should be pursued. But I think there is also a solution that exists on the most mundane, everyday level of existence: We can all make an effort to see those who are not readily seen.

I think that ultimately a “woman’s culture” that is less about getting ahead and more about building relationships is both an asset to society at large and a liability to individual women. In a world such as ours in which reputations are so often built around image over substance, people who are less pushy, less self-promoting, and less “out-there” are at a severe disadvantage. Women for the most part tend to fit that pattern. We push less, we negotiate less and we self-promote less. And in the end, we are less likely than men to be seen, recognized and acknowledged.

This Shavuot, let us all make an effort to look past image and celebrity status in order to see those who are least seen in our society — people like Ruth, who are busy doing their work on the threshing floor while asking minimal in return, all in order to provide for the people whom they love.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Simon Veil, Shari Arinson, Shavuot, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Ruth Arnon, Gill Marcus, Elena Kagan, Dorit Beinisch

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!
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • 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.