Rabbis who use new media and explore innovative means of outreach were viewed favorably this year, as they appear to have been given a special place in Newsweek's list of America's Top 50 Rabbis for 2012. In partcular, Conserative Rabbi David Wolpe, who came first, was commended for his use of Facebook.
The list of Top 50 Rabbis has been published annually by Newsweek and the Daily Beast for the past five years and has become a source of ever-growing interest and no small amount of gossip in the well-organized Jewish- American community. Attributes that seem to have been viewed most favorably this year were rabbis' use of new media and exploration of innovative forms of spirituality and connection that would allow them to reach large numbers of Jews that do not regularly attend synagogue services.
Ranking number one this year was Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Beverly Hills, the largest Conservative temple west of the Mississippi. Wolpe is known for his huge Facebook following: with more than 25,000 "fans" receiving his daily sermonic postings.
Twenty-eight percent of the Top 50 were female rabbis, the highest percentage of women to ever make the list. Among them, ranked fifth, was Rabbi Sharon Brous, a Conservative rabbi who founded IKAR, a community known for its ability to connect to young unaffiliated Jews.
One political cause came strongly to the fore on this year’s list: Muslim-Jewish relations. Among the rabbis recognized for their work in the field were Rabbi Marc Schneier of the Hampton Synagogue on Long Island (ranked 35), whose Foundation for Ethnic Understanding is primarily focused on strengthening positive Muslim-Jewish relations in the U.S. and around the world. Rabbi Burton Visotsky of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York (ranked 17), Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman ( ranked 34) of Temple Israel in Minneapolis, and Rabbi Laura Geller (ranked 47) of Temple Emanuel in Los Angeles were also recognized for their efforts to advance Muslim-Jewish relations.
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