It’s that time of year again! Lisa Miller of Newsweek explains in Is Your Rabbi Hot Or Not?:
Once is lucky. twice is nice. three timesâ€”well, anyone can tell you that’s a tradition. It is a great pleasure, then, to unveil the third annual installment of what we at NEWSWEEK fondly call the “hot rabbis list.” Created, maintained and revised by three Jewish media tycoonsâ€”Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Michael Lynton, News Corp. executive vice president Gary Ginsberg and Jewish Television Network CEO Jay Sandersonâ€”the list ranks the 50 most influential rabbis in America based on an unscientific algorithm. Proximity to powerful people and opinion leaders, visibility in national media, size of congregation and good works all count.
Now, for those of you who actually care, y’all have something to discuss when you get together for Passover this year. During dinner of course… The Seder will see us commune with ancient Rabbis, and post-Seder will involve discussions relating to the appropriateness of calling Rabbis “Hot,” a survey of the list’s progress – who’s stature rose, who’s fell, who’s new and who is no longer there – and why! Or maybe you’ll just talk about the most recent episode of 24. Or South Park. What do I know? Like what happened to Eric Yoffie, the leader of the Reform movement? How did he go from 2 to 8 while David Ellenson, the President of Hebrew Union College that trains Reform Rabbis, went from 8 to 5, eclipsing his boss? Or how is Yehuda Berg still on the list? Do people still go to the Kabbalah Center?? And did Norman Lamm, Chancellor of Yeshiva University rocket up from #43 to #14 because YU lost buttloads of cash to Madoff and had to fire staff? And, no offense Rabbi… but what kind of name for a Rabbi is “Rolando?” – referencing J. Rolando Matalon, spiritual leader of New York’s Congregation B’nai Jeshurun (that’s BJ dot ORG, not BJ dot COM!!!).
In any case, here’s the list so you can prepare for the endless debates… which has already started! The comments section in Newsweek has people criticizing the list because it does not include enough Orthodox Rabbis, including Chabad’s former leader Rabbi Schneerson, who is dead. Conversely, over at Jewschool, Canadian blogger feygele predictably piped in about how the list was full of errors and “very geographically skewed and gender-biased.” Oh Jewschool…
I’d ask y’all for your reactions to the list, but does anyone really care? Do you get a prize for being on the list like maybe some movie passes or at least a nice brisket? For most of us, the most important Rabbis are those unheralded ones that we regularly interact with – if we interact with a Rabbi at all. Now excuse me while I see about sending Rabbi Yonah a brisket…
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