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:
Joshua ben Nun
Economics and business entrepreneurs: