Newsweek Won't Publish 'Top Rabbis' List

Controversial Ranking of U.S. Rabbis Won't Appear This Year

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published February 24, 2014.
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Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, one of Newsweek’s top 50 rabbis.
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, one of Newsweek’s top 50 rabbis.

Newsweek will not be publishing its annual “Top 50 Rabbis” list in 2014, the magazine’s managing editor Kira Bindrim confirmed.

The list, published since 2007, ranked American Jewish religious leaders based on their perceived clout, drawing attention and controversy when it was published each spring.

Newsweek stopped publishing its print edition in late 2012, then was purchased by online news company IBT Media last August. IBT continues to publish the magazine online and plans to re-launch the print edition in March. The Top Rabbis list, apparently, will not re-launch with it.

The annual ranking included male and female rabbis from across the denominational spectrum. Rabbis were said to be ranked based on their public profile and the impact of their ideas. Near-perennial list-toppers included Yehuda Krinsky, a leading organizational figure in the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, and David Wolpe, spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

Media executives Michael Lynton and Gary Ginsberg were only half-serious when they first thought up the list in 2006, according to a 2013 story in the Jewish Journal. Lynton, CEO of Sony Entertainment, and Ginsberg, now the Executive Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Communications at Time Warner Inc., came up with the idea on a trip to Israel.

“[W]e thought: Wouldn’t it be fun, and a little bit mischievous, to put together a list of who these people are and rank order them?” Lynton told the Jewish Journal.

Whatever the intention, U.S. rabbis took the list seriously. Synagogues boasted about their leaders being included. Universities issued press releases naming alumni and faculty who Newsweek cited. And the rabbis themselves advertised their inclusion, mentioning it in their Twitter bios and on their organization’s websites.

Jewish publications regularly ran opinion pieces criticizing the list, calling its criteria arbitrary and obscure.

Yet that didn’t keep them from following Newsweek’s lead. The Forward launched an annual reader-generated “Most Inspiring Rabbis” list in 2013. And MyJewishLearning ran a “Top Rabbis” list in 2012.


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