List of 'Top 144 Heroes of the Jewish People' Released by Israeli Museum

Judy Maltz
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(Clockwise) Tal Brody, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, Woody Allen, Donna Karan, Ayn Rand, Ovadia Yosef, Mark Zuckerberg, Dana International, Albert Einstein.
(Clockwise) Tal Brody, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, Woody Allen, Donna Karan, Ayn Rand, Ovadia Yosef, Mark Zuckerberg, Dana International, Albert Einstein.Credit: Yaakov Sa'ar, GPO, Moti Milrod, AP, Tomer Appelbaum, Bloomberg, Reuters
Judy Maltz

Who made the ultimate list of Jewish luminaries compiled by Israel’s Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People?

Perhaps even more intriguing is who didn’t make the cut.

A new exhibition titled “Heroes – Trailblazers of the Jewish People,” scheduled to open next month when the museum open its new wing, will showcase 144 top names in disciplines ranging from epistemology through espionage, with lots in between.

It includes many of the usual suspects – Maimonides, Albert Einstein, Anne Frank, Henrietta Szold, Theodor Herzl, Mark Spitz, Barbra Streisand, Sigmund Freud and Steven Spielberg, to name a few.

But also some less consensual names. Ayn Rand, the right-wing philosopher and writer, and Hannah Arendt (of “banality of evil” fame) are some examples. “We have no problem with controversy,” says Orit Shaham Gover, the museum’s chief curator.

Aside from David Ben-Gurion, no Israeli prime minister, living or dead, made the list. Those who might have expected a list of this sort to include literary luminaries like Saul Bellow, Philip Roth or Amoz Oz will be disappointed. Although great efforts were invested in making the list as inclusive and diverse as possible, Ashkenazi men clearly dominate the selection.

A group of the 144 “heroes” – some cited individually and some in clusters, according to discipline – will be showcased in special interactive exhibits designed for young museum visitors. The museum had this target audience in mind, says Shaham Gover, when compiling its list of inspirational Jewish figures. “We chose lots of people who used their brains, because we wanted children to understand that to be a hero you don’t need be a celebrity, but you do need to work hard,” she says. “That’s the hidden message here.”

Here is a sneak preview of the full list:


Mark Spitz

Esther Roth-Shahamorov

Agnes Keleti

Max Baer

Sandy Koufax

Emanuel Lasker

Judit Polgar

Tal Brody

Victor Perez

Harold Abrahams

Red Auerbach


Simcha Blass

Ada Yonath

Albert Einstein

Lise Meitner

Rosalind Franklin

Serg Haroche

 Claude Cohen-Tannoudji

 Baruj Benacerraf

 Lev Landau

Richard Feynman

Niels Bohr

John von Neumann

 Eldad Ha-Dani

Gregory Pincus

Jonas Salk

Cultural icons:

Moshe Safdie

 Enrico Macias

Alber Elbaz

Albert Memmi

Patrick Modiano

Claude Lelouch

Gad Elmaleh

Woody Allen

Bob Dylan

Barbra Streisand

Frank Gehry

Daniel Libeskind

Ralph Lauren

Diane Von Furstenberg

Donna Karan

 Michael Kors

Steven Spielberg

Stan Lee

Joel Coen

Ethan Coen

Jerry Seinfeld

Gustav Mahler

Ofra Haza

Felix Mendelssohn

Arik Einstein

Shoshana Damari

George Gershwin

Saleh and Daoud Al-Kawity

Habiba Msika

Amedeo Modigliani

 Roy Lichtenstein

Chaim Soutine

Mark Rothko

Jacob Abraham Camille Pissarro

Marc Chagall

Ibn Gabirol

Shmuel Yosef Agnon

Chaim Nachman Bialik

Franz Kafka

Shalom Aleichem

Clarice Lispector

Jacqueline Shohet Hahanoff

Leah Goldberg

 Tristan Tzara

Heinrich Heine

Isaac Babel

Gertrude Stein

Nadine Gordimer

 Elias Canetti

 Yaqub Sanu

Layla Murad

Louis B. Mayer

Esther Victoria Abraham

 Sergei Eisenstein

Nora Ephron

Dana International

Erez Biton

 Souad Zaki


Karl Marx

Sigmund Freud


Ayn Rand

Moses Mendelssohn

Hannah Arendt

Jacques Derrida

Claude Levi-Strauss

Martin Buber

Joseph Caro


Baruch Spinoza

Theodor Herzl

Baal Shem Tov

Rosa Luxemburg

Betty Friedan

Leon Trotsky

Ze’ev Jabotinsky

Louis Brandeis

Yitzhak Sadeh

Eliezer Ben Yehuda

Ovadia Yosef



Judas Maccabeus

King David

David Ben-Gurion

Shmuel Hanagid

 Joshua ben Nun

Benjamin Disraeli

Helen Suzman

Yehudah Hanasi

Henrietta Szold

Courageous Individuals:

 Lydia Litvyak

Sarah Aaronsohn

Joseph Trumpeldor


Moshe Marzouk

Shmuel Azar

Alfred Dreyfus

Leopold Trepper

 Nathan Elbaz

Eli Cohen

Jacob Antebi

Mickey Marcus

Bracha Fuld

Hannah Szenes

Anne Frank

Economics and business entrepreneurs:

Mayer Amschel Rothschild

Sergey Brin

Larry Page

David Sassoon

Dona Gracia Nasi

Helena Rubinstein

Mark Zuckerberg

Levi Strauss

Daniel Kahneman

Marcus Goldman

Gil Shwed

Paul Julius Reuter

Larry Ellison

Milton Friedman