Sisterhood Blog

Which Women Should Have Made Newsweek's Most Influential Rabbis List?

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

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Newsweek is just out with its 4th annual list of what it deems to be “the 50 most influential rabbis in America.”

This year, as last, few women have made the cut and all but one are in the bottom half of the list.

The first woman to appear — Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, the president of the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis — comes in at position number 17. Still, it’s one higher than her ranking on last year’s list, when she was also the highest-placed member of the female rabbinate.

In all, six female rabbis were included this year. With one more than last year, at least there’s an upward trend, even if it is slow.

The others dubbed worthy of the 2010 list are Rabbis Sharon Kleinbaum of New York’s GLBTQ synagogue Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, Sharon Brous, founder of the progressive Los Angeles congregation Ikar, Naomi Levy, a well-known speaker and founder of L.A. outreach organization Nashuva, and Jill Jacobs, a social justice visionary and rabbi-in-residence at the Jewish Funds for Justice.

Rabba Sara Hurwitz only makes the list at position 36, odd since her ordination and title were ground-breaking, revolutionary and led to what was perhaps the biggest religious imbroglio in Orthodoxy over the past year.

Obviously missing from the list is Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the first female executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly.

Truth be told, though, I had a hard time easily coming up with other female rabbis whose influence and impact is national in scope.

All the same, the biases of the list’s authors, Sony Pictures Chairman and CEO Michael Lynton and his friend Gary Ginsberg, now an executive vice president of Time Warner Inc. (original contributor Jay Sanderson appears not to have been involved this year), are evident in their list, and the male-centricity of it is only one aspect.

Their #1 choice of Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky is curious. Nothing against Rabbi Krinsky, but it’s odd that they gave the spot to a man who operates totally behind the scenes of the international Lubavitch organization and did nothing of particular note in the last year, as far as I know.

Rabba Sara Hurwitz certainly deserved that spot this year.

Who else do you think should have been included?


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