Since 2007, Newsweek has been issuing an annual list of America’s 50 Most Influential Rabbis. I am pleased to say that several rabbis who are welcoming of interfaith families, including Rabbi Kerry Olitzky of the Jewish Outreach Institute, are on this year’s list.
However, the list itself irritates the hell out of me and I am hoping that, with the struggling news magazine now on the auction block, this year’s list will be the last. Here, in no particular order, are my reasons:
1- It seems inappropriate for Newsweek even to run such a list, when it publishes no similar lists of imams, priests, ministers etc.
2- It seems inappropriate to not also have a list of America’s 50 Most Influential Jewish Journalists (just kidding).
3- The two-sentence write-ups accompanying each rabbi, which basically just identify his/her (usually his) job title, are not especially informative or enlightening.
4- The shocking abundance of typos (Joesph Telushkin) and misspellings (Schmuley Boteach, Avi Weis, Congregation Gaudus Achim!).
5- The aforementioned abundance of typos/misspellings leads me to believe that Newsweek has fired all its copy editors, and as a former copy editor, I resent this.
6- Only six female rabbis, all but one in the bottom half of the list.
7-The folks who compiled the list (both men, of course) appear to have no expertise on this topic and aren’t even journalists, but are instead corporate big shots (Sony Pictures chairman and CEO Michael Lynton and Gary Ginsberg, an executive vice president of Time Warner Inc. — and isn’t it kind of weird that Newsweek is relying on someone whose company owns Time Magazine?)
8-Shmuley (I mean Schmuley, of course) Boteach already gets far too much publicity, as do most of the other overwhelmingly media-savvy rabbis who dominate the list.
9-Not one intermarried rabbi! (Just kidding — as I wrote in a column last year, I am not sure I support the idea of ordaining intermarried Jews as rabbis; anyway, intermarried rabbis are quite rare, since Renewal and Secular Jewish are the only movements that allow them.)
10- Norman Lamm, who retired as president from Yeshiva University several years ago and, based on his paucity of Google News hits has not been especially active recently, ranks No. 12. OK, Lamm’s presence also irritates me because the last time he was in the news, in a Jerusalem Post interview, he crassly said, “The Reform Movement may show a rise [in membership numbers], because if you add goyim to Jews then you will do OK,” referring to the Reform movement’s policy of recognizing patrilineal descent.
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