Fantasy Rabbinate

No one can deny that Jews and their rabbis have had a contentious relationship throughout the ages. Sometimes revered, sometimes condescended to, frequently illpaid — it hasn’t always been easy for rabbis. Now, however, they’re getting their due. Well — sort of. Newsweek published a list this past April naming “The Top 50 Rabbis in America.” And while the title suggests the kind of definitive list often populated by sports heroes, the complicated algorithm by which these 50 were determined was… not quite that. Michael Lynton, Gary Ginsberg and Jay Sanderson, all high-powered men and co-authors of the list, admit in Newsweek that their system “though helpful, is far from scientific.” Derived mostly by a point system depending on such criteria as media presence, political influence and constituency size, the list reflects a value system that might not be universally subscribed to throughout the Jewish world, but no fear: the authors clearly sweated over their “labor of love” (they “revised and rejiggered” it for months). The list, which features five women amongst the rankings, has met mixed reactions, including the opinions of some who wonder why, with all that is going on in the world, Newsweek is concerned with the batting averages of American rabbis.

In response, feminist writer and activist Letty Cottin Pogrebin drew up her own stellar list, with gender proportions reversed. To read about the 45 women rabbis and five men she chooses, visit Lilith’s blog at