The New Faces of Jewish Power

Two thousand twelve was a year of huge predictable events — a presidential election, an Olympic Games — and events like Hurricane Sandy that stunned us with their force and consequence. It was also a year when some quiet trends of great significance became more apparent: the organizational clout of devoutly Orthodox Jews, for instance, and the ability of young women to break through the cluttered cultural scene. We’ve had 20-something television stars before, but one with a multimillion-dollar book contract? Not so often.

This year, the Forward worked especially hard to look beyond the usual subjects to include new names and faces on this list. We did so not to ignore those we have honored in the past, but to signal as boldly as we can that the pulse of Jewish life is quickening in unusual places. That’s in part because we live in a time when the tools of power and influence are not necessarily concentrated in legacy organizations but grasped by such visionary individuals as a charismatic rabbi in Los Angeles, a creative Hillel director in Philadelphia, a passionate educator in Detroit, an innovative foundation leader in Baltimore and a mother in New York who galvanized a cybercommunity by sharing the story of her dying daughter.

This was also the year to honor American Jews of immense talent who for decades have shared their gifts with the public. The composer Philip Glass. The philanthropist Harold Grinspoon. The incomparable Barbra Streisand.

And we honor courage — whether it is displayed in a lonely fight against government censorship, a long struggle to come to public terms with gender identity or the courage of a young Orthodox girl to be physically stronger than anyone else her size in the world.

We are especially proud this year to have increased the number of girls and women in the Forward 50. We’re not at parity, but we’re close.

And now a word of thanks: This year’s Forward 50 was published under trying circumstances. With our office building flooded by the hurricane, staff members are contributing from around the region. Their dedication and professionalism shine through these pages.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • For 22 years, Seeds of Peace has fostered dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian teens in an idyllic camp. But with Israel at war in Gaza, this summer was different.
  • J.J. Goldberg doesn't usually respond to his critics. But this time, he just had to make an exception.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.