It's that time of year again-when Jews around the world gather at seder tables to recount the Exodus, slurp matzoh-ball soup, argue about Mideast policy, and debate the rationale for Newsweek & The Daily Beast's 50 most influential rabbis of the year.
Okay, maybe this annual rundown is not required reading at every seder, but after five years of doing this round-up, we do know that Jewish professionals pay attention to it, even if it's the kind of attention that sometimes arouses harsh criticism, even contempt.
So let's get some disclaimers out of the way:
Who are we to make these decisions?
Gary Ginsberg and Michael Lynton originated the list and continue to play a major role in weighing the roster and rankings. Ginsberg is executive vice president of Time Warner Inc. Lynton is CEO of Sony Corporation of America. Both are devoted to Jewish learning and to Israel.
Abigail Pogrebin, who wrote the bios and determined the roster with Ginsberg and Lynton, is a former 60 Minutes producer and freelance writer who has published two books for Doubleday and a Kindle Single for Amazon. Pogrebin has spent the last seven years speaking to Jewish groups and studying Torah and Talmud with some of the most respected rabbis and scholars in contemporary Judaism.
Raphael Magarik, who researched and wrote some of the bios this year, recently graduated from Yale and is an editor at the Daily Beast's Open Zion blog.
The criteria for the rabbis:
Are they innovative leaders-communally and/or spiritually?
Are they considered leaders in Judaism in general or their denominations inparticular?
How large are their constituencies?
Have they made an impact on Judaism?
Have they made an impact beyond the Jewish community?
Are they known nationally/internationally?
Do they have political/social influence?
Do they have a media presence?
The Newsweek/Daily Beast Company LLC, 2012