Reported Here First On Newsweek Magazine’s List of 50 Most Influential Rabbis


newsweekThe following is Newsweek Magazine’s list of the 50 most influential rabbis in the United States. The list is compiled by Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman & CEO Michael Lynton, News Corporation Executive Vice President Gary Ginsberg and JTN Productions CEO Jay Sanderson. This list, the magazine says, “is intended to provoke a global conversation about the role of our religious leaders in today’s world. Although this is a well-thought-out list, it is by no means scientific and is not connected to any religious movement or agenda.” The criteria:

  • Are they known nationally/internationally?
  • Do they have political/social influence?
  • Do they have a media presence?
  • Are they leaders within their communities?
  • Are they considered leaders in Judaism or their movements?
  • Size of their constituency
  • Have they made an impact on Judaism in their career?
  • Have they made a “greater” impact?

1. David Saperstein (2008 Ranking #5)  Saperstein jumps to the top spot because of his role as Washington insider and political powerbroker and Friend of Obama.  He is the Director of the Religious Action Center and the Co-Chair of the Coalition to Preserve Religious Liberty.

2. Marvin Hier (2008 Ranking #1)  Hier is a major player in national and world politics and has built one of the world’s leading human rights organizations, the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

3. Mark Charendoff (2008 Ranking #10)  Charendoff is President of the Jewish Funders Network, an international organization of family foundations, public philanthropies and individual funders.

4. Yehuda Krinsky (2008 Ranking #4)  Krinsky’s impact continues to grow as the global leader of the Chabad movement.

5. David Ellenson, Ph.D. (2008 Ranking #8)  Ellenson is charged with training tomorrow’s leaders as the President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the nation’s oldest institution of higher Jewish education.

6. Robert Wexler, Ph.D. (2008 Ranking #3)  Wexler is the President of American Jewish University.

7. Shmuley Boteach (2008 Ranking #9)  Boteach calls himself “America’s Rabbi.” He continues to promote himself and his perspective on his daily radio show, on television and in his long list of books, including the recently published “The Broken Male and How to Fix Him.”

8. Eric Yoffie (2008 Ranking #2)  Yoffie is the leader of the Reform movement, representing 1.5 million Jews in over 900 synagogues.  He has pioneered dialogue programs with Christians and Muslims nationwide. 

9. Uri D. Herscher, Ph.D. (2008 Ranking #6)  Herscher is the Founder and President of the Skirball Cultural Center.

10. Irwin Kula (2008 Ranking #7)  The Co-President of CLAL and bestselling author continues to raise his profile nationally as an innovator committed to reshaping America’s spiritual landscape. 

11. David Wolpe (2008 Ranking #12) Wolpe is considered one of the most dynamic pulpit rabbis in America

12. Peter J. Rubinstein (2008 Ranking #15)  Rubinstein is the spiritual leader of New York’s Central Synagogue. 

13. Yehuda Berg (2008 Ranking #11)  Berg is the world’s most popular authority on the Kabbalah. 

14. Norman Lamm (2008 Ranking #43)  Lamm is Chancellor of Yeshiva University. 

15. Joseph Telushkin (2008 Ranking #21)  Telushkin is a best-selling author and speaker. 

16. J. Rolando Matalon (2008 Ranking #13)  Matalon is the spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun.

17. Menchem Genack (NEW)  Genack is the CEO of the Orthodox Union’s Kosher Division.

18. Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus (NEW)  Dreyfus is the new head of the CCAR.

19. Jeffrey Wohlberg (2008 Ranking #18)  Wohlberg is Rabbi at Washington, D.C.’s Adas Israel Congregation. 

20. Steve Gutow (NEW)  Gutow is the CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. 

21. Harold M. Schulweis (2008 Ranking #19)  Schulweis is considered the leading Conservative Rabbi of his generation and the Founder of Jewish World Watch. 

22. Haskel Lookstein (2008 Ranking #22)  Lookstein is head of New York’s Ramaz School and Rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun.

23. Dan Ehrenkrantz (2008 Ranking #20)  Ehrenkrantz is the President of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. 

24. Michael Greenbaum (2008 Ranking #37)  Greenbaum is Vice Chancellor and COO of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

25. Sharon Kleinbaum (2008 Ranking #17)  Kleinbaum is the Senior Rabbi of New York’s synagogue for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews. 

26. M. Bruce Lustig (2008 Ranking #24)  Lustig is the leader of Washington Hebrew Congregation, the largest congregation in Washington, D.C.

27. Art Green (2008 Ranking #23)  Green is Dean of Hebrew College’s Rabbinical School. 

28. Daniel Brenner (NEW)  Brenner is the new Executive Director of Birthright Next.

29. Abraham Cooper (2008 Ranking #25)  Cooper is the Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. 

30. David Stern (2008 Ranking #26)  Stern is leader of the largest congregation in the Southwest, Temple Emanu-El in Dallas

31. Sharon Brous (2008 Ranking #30)  Brous is the founder of IKAR, one of America’s most dynamic new congregations. 

32. Stephen Pearce (2008 Ranking #47)  Pearce is the leader of San Francisco’s largest congregation, with 2,700 families. 

33. Marc Schneier (Returning from 2007 List)  Schneier is President and Founder of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.

34. Kerry M. Olitzky (2008 Ranking #32)  Olitzky is one of the leading rabbinical advocates for outreach to interfaith and unaffiliated families in America. 

35. Ephraim Buchwald (2008 Ranking #44)  Buchwald is the Founder of the National Jewish Outreach Program. 

36. Arthur Schneier (2008 Ranking #28)  Schneier is the spiritual leader of Park East Synagogue and Founder and President of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation.  He is the first rabbi to host the Pope at his synagogue. 

37. Mark Golub (NEW)  Golub is the CEO of Shalom Television. 

38. Avi Weiss (2008 Ranking #36)  Weiss is the driving force behind the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. 

39. Naomi Levy (2008 Ranking #41)  Levy is a popular author and a leading woman in the Conservative movement. 

40. Bradley Shavit Artson (2008 Ranking #31)  Artson is the Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University. 

41. Elliot Dorff (2008 Ranking #35)  Dorff is the leader of the top lawmaking body in Conservative Judaism. 

42. Bradley Hirschfield (2008 Ranking #39)  Hirschfeld is the Co-President of CLAL and an outspoken proponent of interfaith dialogue. 

43. Hayim Herring (2008 Ranking #40)  Herring is Executive Director of STAR (Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal). 

44. Ed Feinstein (NEW) Feinstein has taken Valley Beth Shalom to a whole new level. 

45. Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (2008 Ranking #27)  Schacter-Shalomi is Founder of the Jewish Renewal Movement in America. 

46. Elie Kaunfer (NEW) Kaunfer is the Founder of Mechon Hadar and Kehilat Hadar. 

47. Harold Loss (2008 Ranking #42)  Loss has more than 12,000 members in his congregation at Temple Israel in Detroit, MI. 

48. Jill Jacobs (NEW)  Jacobs runs the Jewish Funds for Justice. 

49. Joy Levitt (NEW)  Levitt is the Executive Director of the JCC of Manhattan. 

50. Michael Paley (2008 Ranking #48)  Paley is the scholar-in-residence and director of the Jewish Resource Center of the UJA-Federation of New York. 

{Newsweek/Elisha Newscenter}


  1. Hey what about Rabbi Lipa Schmeltzer? He is opening a shul.
    Also, I was dissapointed that the “Rabbi” of Coney Island didn’t make the list.

  2. At first glance this list is a joke!
    But then, let’s stop and think
    About 90% of Yidden in the USA have no connection to frumkeit.
    Thereofre, the most influential rabbis are those that 90% of Jews relate to as rabbis which are not going to be the ones that frum yiddem consider to be be the top 50.
    When reading these articles we need to put them in context of the whole Jewish scene, frum and otherwise.

  3. ‘Let’s Get Real’ is correct in what he posts about the list. The fact that it is probably a pretty accurate portrayal of how most Jews in America see it is a tragedy. It’s truly horrible that most of the people on the list probably do not keep kosher (with or without kitniyot on Pesach), are publicly mechalel Shabbat (or Shabbos), support abortion and gay ‘rights’ and if they really thought about it honestly would have been on the side of the mityavnim because not giving at least a small part of the Beit HaMikdash to multi cultural diversity is intolerant. Oy lanu.

  4. These are not “traditional” orthodox rabbis. Most of them are kofrim b’ikur R”L. Unfortunately this is what a rabbi is in the 21st century.We need the Geula Shleima now!!!