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


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.


  • Oh there we go again… I’m sorry C. Judaism is in decline. I just pointed out how that may be one explanation. Take it easy bucko.

  • Touchy, touchy. I was merely pointing out that the list is silly and uninformed. No need to get all medieval, bucko.

  • I think such a list is patently ridiculous and achieves nothing. Maybe name it “The Top Ten Media-Heavy Rabbis and Forty Others You Never Heard of But We Have Decided You Should Know.”

    I’m not saying that celebrating our rabbis is a bad thing. It’s just that I really have no idea why people make lists like these. Most people can’t name fifty rabbis, period. And very few have even one rabbi they’d approach in a crisis.

    And, not to cast aspersions upon the listeteers, but does media visibility qualify one as a “top rabbi”? Maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe it’s supposed to be a fun list. But I’m not having any fun.

  • Going off on a tangent. As you may or may not know, there is a game show on French TV called “Questions pour un champion”.
    Basically people are asked questions in rapid fire by the game show host about general knowledge topics/ history/ science/ movie trivia etc. It’s re-broadcast in Canada on TV5.

    I was wondering if there is an existing TV game show in Israel with questions on subjects from the Tanach, about rabbonim and hakhamim of the past, prophets, prophetesses, Mishna, Talmud, etc.
    Does such a show exist? If not, I would like to start one. Does anyone know?
    CK, have you heard of “Questions pour un champion”? Anyone else?
    Do you think that a similar format might work in Israel for a game show about topics from the Tanach?
    I’d appreciate to know.

  • This list is absolutely ridiculous. Everyone knows that it really is a list of the highest paid rabbis.

    And Berg is no rabbi, hes not even a pretend Rabbi. The guy invented a new religion/cult and this cult loves other peoples money.

  • Marvin Hier is Orthodox. An Orthodox Holocaustian!! Holocaustism’s leaders should have no place on a list of rabbis, never mind the top slot!

  • Oh Kelsey! So you get in the ring and have a no holds barred grudge match with Hier. But I gotta warn ya, dude’s pretty buff …

  • ck, we have bigger things to do besides celebrity shtupping. We have oil addiction and specific immigration issues that need to be solved NOW, and instead this Hier dude is running Mel Gibson out of town because Mel didn’t call him! And that might be an anal form of shtupping, but it’s still celebrity shtupping. And that’s only one example of this guy’s shortcomings. He’s whack, and you are soft on him because you think he’s a Zionist. Well, he is, but he’s very bad both for The Entity and the Diaspora.

  • I am still waiting for hollywood to come out and support Israel, instead we get the list. I did see Gary Ginsburg at my temple for the high holidays in Buffalo NY. Our Rabbi did not make the list for conservative Rabbis.Next year maybe hw will include tantric sex tricks for the days of the omer.

  • Where is Rabbi Dr A Twerski on this list. Ommission of this outstanding Psychiatrist, and prolific author, who has contributed so much un the field of alcohol and substance abuse, and whose name is recognised and beloved by so many people of all faiths, is a serious shortcoming.

  • Hi Rabbi,
    Your wisdom on this please.
    these two chapters.

    Details about hundreds of Jesus codes found to date are provided in http://www.biblecodedigest.com

    Below is an illustration of the central portion of the array and some of the key codes displayed around the focal code.

    Messianic Codes in
    Compelling Isaiah 53 Cluster

    Bible Code Reads Like a Long-Lost Line from the Psalms

    The following is an excerpt from an article in Bible Code Digest by Dr. Nathan Jacobi, announcing his discovery of a 22-letter ELS in the book of Isaiah, chapter 53. Adding to the overwhelming improbability of the accidental appearance of this code is its strong connection to the message of the text above it, which is the most noteworthy prophecy of the Messiah in the Old Testament.
    EXAMPLE OF Equal Distant Spacing:

    *Note: Yeshua=Jesus in Hebrew

    Above example shows: Jesus/Reverse-(OVSY) being spelled out at a spacing of 12 characters in Genesis 50:22-23:

    See other Bible Codes and info here

    BELOW IS Some of YACOV’s
    “Suffering Servant” data
    from earlier book: “His Name is Jesus”
    To the novice – it is important to note that the proximity to passages — and how germane this is — is beginning to startle even non-believing scholars.
    It’s very significant that the below were found in a very relevant area of Isaiah known as the “Suffering Servant” passages.

    Note: 3 Marys were standing at the crucifixion

    Begins Isaiah
    skip Interval

    Yeshua 53:10 11 4 -20
    Nazarene 53:6 11 3 47
    Messiah 53:11 1 1 -42
    Shiloh 53:12 21 4 19
    Passover 53:10 13 3 -62
    Galilee 53:7 1 2 -32
    Herod 53:6 4 1 -29
    Caesar 53:11 7 4 -194
    The evil Roman city 53:9 13 2 -7
    Caiaphas, High Priest 52:15 7 3 41
    Annas, High Priest 53:3 6 5 -45
    Mary 53:11 1 1 -23
    Mary 53:10 7 3 6
    Mary 53:9 13 3 44
    The Disciples 53:12 2 3 -55
    Peter 53:10 11 5 -14
    Matthew 53:8 12 1 -295
    John 53:10 11 4 -28
    Andrew 53:4 11 1 -48
    Philip 53:5 10 3 -133
    Thomas 53:2 8 1 35
    James 52:2 9 3 -34
    James 52:2 3 4 -20
    Simon 52:14 2 1 47
    Thaddaeus 53:12 9 1 -50
    Matthias 53:5 7 4 -11
    Let Him be crucified 53:8 6 2 15
    His Cross 53:6 2 2 -8
    Lamp of the Lord 53:5 5 7 20
    His signature 52:7 8 4 49
    Bread 53:12 2 3 26
    Wine 53:5 11 2 210
    From Zion 52:14 6 1 45
    Moriah 52:7 4 5 153
    Obed (servant) 53:7 3 2 -19
    Jesse 52:9 3 1 -19
    Seed 52:5 2 2 -19
    Water 52:7 9 1 -19
    Levites 54:3 3 6 19
    From the Atonement Lamb 52:12 12 2 -19
    Joseph 53:2 1 2 210

    Some Other Statements found in this same “Suffering Survent” Cluster:

    “Gushing from above, my mighty name arose upon Jesus, and the clouds rejoiced,”
    “Dreadful day for Mary,”

    “In his name as he commanded, Jesus is the way,”

    “Resurrection of Jesus, he is risen indeed,”

    For above, Reference here

    Winding down the search, I decided to check the combined code once more and verify it. . . . Doing that with the combined code of the previous section revealed no less than two additional words, or seven letters, to the code. We now have the following seven-word, 22-letter code: Sheen-koof-koof Mem-ayeen-lamed Yod-sheen-vav-ayeen Sheen-mem-yod Ayeen-zayeen, Sheen-sheen-vav Ayeen-bet-yod-mem . . . this is best translated as either: “Gushing from above Yeshua was my mighty name, and the clouds rejoiced,” or “Gushing from above was Yeshua my mighty name, and the clouds rejoiced.” Again, the choice is a matter of taste or preference. Actual location of the code begins in Isaiah 53:5, Word 2, Letter 1.

    Two quick comments are here in order. First, the code itself has the structure of an authentic biblical verse, and the refreshing imagery of water appears both in the beginning and at the end of the code. Secondly, in the Bible it is common to associate spiritual renewal with a stream of fresh water. For example, earlier in Isaiah, Chapter 12, Verses 2 and 3, we read: “Behold, the Lord God is my strength and my song . . . Therefore with joy shall you draw water from the wells of salvation.”

    This enormous and beautifully worded phrase is the focal code of a mega-cluster of ELSs in Isaiah 52-53. Combining the probabilities of the focal code, the hundreds of shorter codes clustered tightly around it, and linking all of them to the surface wording of the passage, presents simply overwhelming mathematical evidence that they do not appear there accidentally.

    Words and Phrases Found are Familiar

    The words and phrases we are talking about are those known by every person familiar with the disciples’ accounts of Christ’s final days. In code, there are the names of the key players in his arrest, trial and conviction, such as Herod, Annas and Judas, plus all of the disciples. There are also phrases such as the Mary’s weep bitterly, let him be crucified, true messiah and son of Mary, and these in turn are intersected by hundreds of other similar ELSs. But these are just the beginning. Research continues to turn up more Yeshua codes and ELSs in these two chapters.

    Details about hundreds of Jesus codes found to date are provided in Ed Sherman’s book, Bible Code Bombshell.

    Below is an illustration of the central portion of the array and some of the key codes displayed around the focal code.

    Above are only a few of the more than 1,400 ELSs (equidistant letter sequences) that make up the most meaningful known cluster of Bible codes discovered to date . . . all in or crossing through Isaiah 52-53. They are pictured on a matrix 20 letters wide, which reflects the skip of the focal code. In other words, the text of this small portion of Isaiah begins at the top right and continues in lines of 20 letters down to the last letter at the bottom left.

    Or, click here to see a report on how the cluster compares to the skeptics’ example purporting to show that codes can be found in any book.

  • Yehuda Berg is an ordained Orthodox Rabbi, he leads many congregations of the Kabbalah Centres around the world. Thousands people come to these Centres on Shabbat and Holidays. More than that, Yehuda Berg has a great influence as a spiritual teacher on millions of non Jews around the world.
    Be carefull of Loshon Hora

  • This morbid fascination with rankings and horse races connects directly to our limbic brains; an evergreen way to capture attention. Like watching an accident, we are almost incapable of ignoring a ranking list no matter what it is or who compiled it. Even though this rump rotisserie rabbi league, conceived and continued by a handful of Jewish Hollywood types, unsettles anyone raised religiously on the notion that rabbis are learned, modest and ranked on piety rather than publicity.

    Our need to turn rabbis into rock stars, facilitated by Newsweek’s need for content, and probably better Hollywood access, drives this pre-Passover gift to the chosen people. You can just image these smart-alecks sitting around and talking rabbi trash talk, the way millions of kids talk about their baseball cards, their favorite teams or players and their rotisserie league line-ups.

    In some ways it’s a sin. In other ways, it’s a guilty pleasure to dissect the list and the changes in rankings from year-to-year. I guess that’s what Newsweek is counting on.