Newsweek’s rabbis list has met the Ms. rabbis list.
Letty Cottin Pogrebin, perhaps best known as one of the founding editors of the feminist Ms., responded to the weekly’s male-dominated “Top 50” ranking of American Jewish spiritual leaders with a rabbi list of her own.
The Newsweek roster, in its April 2 issue, rated rabbis according to fame, media savvy, influence and size of constituency. Such “hyper-muscular criteria,” Pogrebin argues in a letter to the editor, favors men. So the author of “Deborah, Golda and Me: Being Female and Jewish in America,” solicited nominations for an alternate list, based on her own set of criteria: “spirituality wedded to activism, deeds of lovingkindness, and ability to communicate the meaning and beauty in Jewish life.
“Since we’re talking about rabbis not bestsellers, the names are listed alphabetically not hierarchically,” she adds.
Among Pogrebin’s 50 chosen rabbis are Phyllis Berman, director of the Elat Chayyim retreat center; Ayelet Cohen, the associate rabbi at Manhattan’s Congregation Beth Simchat Torah; Felicia Sol of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun and Judith Hauptman, a professor of Talmud and rabbinics at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Just as Newsweek’s roster features five women, Pogrebin’s features five men, including Mark Dratch, the founder of a Jewish domestic violence prevention organization, and David Silber, founder and dean of the Drisha Institute, a pioneer in encouraging women’s inclusion in traditional Jewish text study.
Although Pogrebin’s letter was circulating widely on the Internet, at press time, it was not clear whether Newsweek would be publishing it.