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Forward 50 2014

Could This Be the Year of the Jewish Woman?

Never in the 20 years that the Forward has published its list of the 50 American Jews who have had the most impact on our national story has the number of women been this high — 26 in all, including four of the top five.

Even we were surprised at the final tally. While women have yet to be accepted (and paid) on an equal footing with men in organized Jewish communal life, they are taking leading roles in influencing national policy, cultural norms, religious practice, literature, political advocacy, the performing arts and the ever-fraught conversation about Israel.

The effect on our society is broad and growing deeper. On this list is everyone from Idina Menzel, an actress whose song in “Frozen” has joyously found its way into the minds of every young girl, to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose scathing U.S. Supreme Court opinions have given her such a cult following that there are now Twitter hashtags and Tumblrs in her honor.

This year, sadly, we once again include women who suffered the loss of their children — one in a kidnapping and murder that made international headlines, another in a tragic accident that scarred a Brooklyn community — and who, by their responses, taught us how to grieve with dignity and purpose.

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