The Rabbi Rankings


There are lists of the top colleges in America. There are lists of the top Jewish leaders. There are even lists of the top comic books and the worst-dressed celebrities. Now add the top 50 rabbis in America.

Newsweek Magazine published the list this week, saying the selections were “far from scientific” and “revised and rejiggered” many times by its authors: Sony Pictures CEO and Chairman Michael Lynton; Gary Ginsberg, executive vice president of News Corporation, and Jay Sanderson, CEO of the Jewish Television Network.

Ginsberg said Lynton proposed developing the list as the two of them were “walking through Jerusalem one night last August and were struck by how many American Jewish organizations had offices in Israel.” He said they began to think about those who were influencing the population and believed that “rabbis have the most influential voice for most Jews.” Ginsberg, who lives in New York, and Sanderson and Lynton — who are on the West Coast — “got feedback from people who are knowledgeable” as they formulated the list, Ginsberg said.

“In 2007, rabbis are institutional heads and pulpit rabbis … and they speak to many different audiences and we hope they make us take a look at ourselves,” Sanderson said. The men said their list was published in Newsweek because they had contacts there.

A spokesperson for the magazine said: “It was newsworthy and it was interesting.”

Heading the list is Rabbi Marvin Heir, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Among the top New York area rabbis were Peter Rubinstein of Central Synagogue (No. 11); Rolando Matalon of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun (17); and Sharon Kleinbaum of the gay and lesbian Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (19).

Four other women rabbis appear on the list: Rachel Cowan of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality (32), Janet Marder of Los Altos Hills, Calif., (34), author Naomi Levy (42) and Toba Spitzer, the head of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (48).

The list consisted of 18 Reform rabbis, 17 Orthodox, 10 Conservative, three Reconstructionist and two Renewal ones.

Coming next: the best-dressed rabbis.