The Shmooze

Who Are The Most Trusted Jews In America?

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images
Steven Spielberg

Recently, Reader’s Digest collaborated with The Wagner Group and polled over 1,000 Americans on 200 public figures to comile the “100 Most Trusted People in America” list.

High on the list was Steven Spielberg (No.6), along with Nobel Prize winner Robert J. Lefkowitz (No.11) and economist Lloyd Shapley (No.15).

Other notable Jews mentioned were Noam Chomsky (No.20), Madeleine Albright (No. 23), Judith Sheindlin — a.k.a. “Judge Judy — (No.28), Ruth Bader Ginsberg (No.36), Rabbi Arthur Schnier (No.48), Elena Kagan (No.62), Adam Sandler (No.64) and Ben Stiller (No.77).

According to the Reader’s Digest, trust is “earned with a person’s integrity and character, exceptional talent and drive, internal moral compass, message, honesty, and leadership.”

On an unrelated note, Michelle Obama beat out her husband, coming in 19th to his 65.

Who would you have picked? Click here for the full list.

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High Times With Mason Tvert

By Anne Cohen

Thinkstock

For the first time ever, more Americans are in favor of the legalization of marijuana than not, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

You know that trip you’ve been planning to Colorado for, ahem, recreational purposes? Well, you’ve got one main man to thank for it.

Activist Mason Tvert is no new convert to the cause. Tvert’s marijuana consciousness emerged while in college, when he was, as he sees it, mysteriously subpoenaed in an investigation on marijuana use, as someone suspected of using the drug.

After studying political science and journalism at the University of Richmond, he moved to Colorado, where he cofounded SAFER (Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation), an organization that seeks to educate the public about the benefits of marijuana over alcohol, in 2005. Before becoming the communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, the largest organization in the country working exclusively to end marijuana prohibition, Tvert co-directed the successful Colorado campaign to legalize marijuana-use by adults.

The Forward called up this nice Jewish boy from Scottsdale, Arizona, to ask him what he thinks about the new poll, pot, and those who still oppose it.

Anne Cohen: So, why are you in favor of the legalization of marijuana?

Mason Tvert: Marijuana prohibition has been an abysmal failure, just as alcohol prohibition was a failed policy, and it’s time for a more sensible approach to marijuana policy. Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it is far less harmful than alcohol. It’s just irrational to punish adults who are making a choice to use the less harmful substance.

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Does Yom Kippur Unite or Divide?

By Nathan Jeffay

Does Yom Kippur in Israel unite or divide the country’s Jewish population?

Gesher, a nonprofit that promotes religious-secular dialogue, believes that a poll it just commissioned with Ynet shows the holiday’s unifying function. The poll found that 58% of Israeli Jews plan to fast. Taking a closer look at the figure for fasting, that means that nearly 100% of religious Jews and 87% of “traditional” Jews will fast, while 54% of “secular” Jews say they won’t fast.

“This is a day for everyone, which connects all factions among the people of Israel,” said Gesher director Ilan Gal-Dor in response to the poll, and in a sense he is correct. The fact that almost one in two secular Jews will fast to adhere to a system of religious law they generally reject is notable.

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New Poll Examines Attitudes On Intermarried Jews, Non-Orthodox Conversions

By Nathan Jeffay

Israel’s Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry has tried a new approach to healing the Israel-Diaspora rift left by the recent attempt to pass the so-called Conversion Bill: polling. It commissioned a poll on attitudes towards intermarried Jews and non-Orthodox conversions, and released the results to the Jerusalem Post with a whole lot of spin.

Here’s the big news, according to the article — 68% of Israeli Jews “believe intermarried Diaspora Jews should be considered part of the Jewish people.” The Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein is using the poll figures to argue that “we in the political and media sphere perceive a more cynical and pessimistic picture than is reflected in the public” — i.e. that Israeli and Diaspora Jews are actually on the same page. But what, exactly, does the figure prove? Judaism has never taken the view that intermarriage means one ceases to be “part of the Jewish people,” yet only 68% of Israeli Jews affirm that intermarried couples still belong to the tribe. How, exactly, does that prove your point, Mr. Edelstein?

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Polls Ask: How Much Do You Think Obama Loves Israel?

By Nathan Jeffay

It’s the million dollar question here in Israel – what, exactly, does the public think of President Barack Obama? A Jerusalem Post poll in March indicated that just 9% of Jewish Israelis think that his administration is more pro-Israeli than pro-Palestinian. Now, figures from Tel Aviv University’s monthly opinion poll paint a very different picture.

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