I just browsed the Forward 50, the Forward’s annual list of 50 influential American Jews. The list gives us many reasons to be proud and a few to be disappointed. Here are my faves.
At the top of the list, Rabbi Morris Allen, the Conservative Rabbi responsible for the creation of the first heksher dedicated to certifying food as produced under socially and environmentally responsible conditions, the Heksher Tzedek.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, head honcho at J Street, the new Israel lobby in DC. J Street has a leftward bent and in a single year of operation have proved to be an influential part of the inevitable fall of AIPAC’s monopoly in Israel in American politics.
Rabbi David Saperstein has been the director of the Reform movment’s DC lobby, the RAC, for 30 years. In that time, he’s become a prominent religious voice in our country’s politics. This year, he became the first Rabbi, the first non-Christian clergy, to give the invocation at a national party’s convention: Democratic National Convention in Denver.
I met Nigel Savage at Limmud NY this January (register now for Limmud NY 2009 at limmudny.org). He’s the british founder of Hazon, a Jewish food ethics group. He’s also a fantastic teacher, as I found out at Limmud. You’ll notice a foody trend with the list this year.
Rabbi Jill Jacobs, another Conservative Rabbi, gets a nod on this year’s list partially for her insistence on the Conservative movement adopting a halachic position in support of a living wage. She’ll be at Limmud NY this year. I’m just saying.
Rabbi Elie Kaunfer is one of the founders of the Hadar phenomenon, including Kehilat Hadar (flagship of the indie minyan movement) and Mechon Hadar (the first liberal, egalitarian yehivah in the US). He was ordained at JTS, but hovers far to their right, but to the left of the OU. I also met him at Limmud NY. He’ll be there again. He alone is reason enough to go.
To continue with the food theme, I’m happy to see Shmarya Rosenberg on the list. Shmarya is yid behind the powerful hareidi whistle-blowing blog Failed Messiah. He blew the top of the continuing abuses at Agriprocessors. He continues to report on the various shenanigans and bullshit going on Postville.
Aaron Rubashkin may have grown his family’s kosher food manufactuirng business into the first name-brand kosher food, but they’ve also gotten into the business of royally fucking a lot of people a lot of the time. Remember the name Agriprocessors from earlier this year? Yeah. That was the Rubashkin family.