Rabbi Marvin HierWhat do you do for fun if you’re Sony Pictures CEO and Chairman Michael Lynton, Gary Ginsberg, of Newscorp and Jay Sanderson of the Jewish Television Network? Meet every Thursday for Poker night? Spend weekends in costume traveling to different Renaissance fares? Work on that ’62 Mustang in front of your house, dreaming of the day you and your buddies can cruise down Main Street getting the guys all jealous and the gals all twitchy cuz of your rad new wheels? No. Decidedly not. Apparently what you do do is spend months compiling a list of America’s Top 50 Rabbis. And because you’re such bad asses in the biz, this list becomes news-worthy despite no evidence of you having had much or any prior interest in Rabbis.

Well ok, Jay Sanderson of JTV broadcasts a program featuring Conservative Rabbi Irving Kula (No. 8). On a recent show, Rabbi Kula discussed Jewish Tantric Sex, claiming that Igeret Hakodesh (The Holy Letter) by Nachmanides (Ramban) can function as a sex manual for both Jews and non-Jews. Uhm. Yeah. Ok, but what does that have to do with Tantra? Nothing as far as I can tell.

Back to the rabbis… the scoring system, ranked out of 100 was determined as follows:

Are the rabbis known nationally/internationally? (20 points.) Do they have a media presence? (10 points.) Are they leaders within their communities? (10 points.) Are they considered leaders in Judaism or their movements? (10 points.) Size of their constituency? (10 points.) Do they have political/social influence? (20 points.) Have they made an impact on Judaism in their career? (10 points.) Have they made a “greater” impact? (10 points.) This system, though helpful, is far from scientific; the men revised and rejiggered their list for months, and all three concede that the result is subjective.

This obviously created a final list skewed towards those rabbis from large population centers who are well known in the media, and not necessarily those Rabbis who are most, you know, Rabbinic – modestly toiling on behalf of their community, eschewing the glare of publicity, visiting sick people in hospitals, sharing the wisdom of our religious traditions etc. That having been said, the list is still instructive.

Three of the top 5 and 17 of the top 50 Rabbis are Orthodox. 10 of the Rabbis listed are Conservative while 18 are Reform. Does this list demonstrate the influence exercised by Orthodox Rabbis and how it extends beyond the number of adherents in their communities? Does this list also exemplify the rise of Reform Judaism as America’s top Jewish denomination, a feat achieved at the expense of the seemingly moribund Conservative movement? What do I know? I suck at math, and let’s not even talk about statistics.

The list is comprised of the usual suspects, TV’s own Shmuley Boteach (no. 9), Yehuda Berg of the Madonna Kabbalah Center (no. 4), Chabad leader Yehuda Krinsky (no. 2), author Harold Kushner (no. 5) and on and on, topped off by Marvin Heier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

While the list is top heavy with Los Angelinos, it does not include a single Jewlicious Rabbi – not our Very own Rabbi Bookstein and not Rabbi ck of the Temple of the Ephemeral Jews. besides what’s with this complicated and obviously flawed selection process? What they should have done was get all the Rabbis into a celebrity death cage match, with the last Rabbi left declared the winner. I so would have done that.

Marvin Hier, your ass is mine!

Hat tip to Yoni, the lonely man of faith Cake who tipped me off but clearly didn’t go far enough in his post.

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About the author

ck

Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.

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