List of Leading 50 U.S. Rabbis Raises Skepsis

NEW YORK, New York - The top ten places in a list of America's 50 most influential rabbis include four Orthodox rabbis, three Reform rabbis and three Conservative rabbis. The list, a first-ever effort to rank U.S. rabbis by spheres of influence, was compiled by Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton, Newscorp's Gary Ginsberg and Jay Sanderson of JTN Productions.

The three used a system based on points: Are the rabbis known nationally/internationally? (20 points) Do they have a media presence? (10 points) Are they leaders within their communities? (10 points) Are they considered leaders in Judaism or within their movements? (10 points) Size of their constituency? (10 points) Do they have political/social influence? (20 points) Have they made an impact on Judaism in their career? (10 points) Have they made a "greater" impact? (10 points)

The list, reported in this week's issue of Newsweek, does not mention weighing the rabbis' knowledge of Torah or halakha (Jewish religious law) and its sources. The argument for choosing the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Marvin Hier, to lead the list is his association with "almost every world leader, journalist or Hollywood studio head."

Lynton, Ginsberg and Sanderson do not believe their system is scientific. However, with only three exceptions, all the rabbis asked for comment called the list objective before it was published.

The No. 2 slot on the list is held by Yehuda Krinsky, former aide to Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson and head of the Chabad movement's emissary program. Krinsky is not a practicing rabbi but Lynton and his friends justify his high ranking because he "truly built a shul on every corner and brought the Chabad movement mainstream prominence."

But a more controversial No. 4 is Yehuda Berg, founder of the Kabbalah Center in Los Angeles.

Rabbis and powerbrokers asked to comment on the list yesterday were skeptical. "How can you put Reform movement leader Rabbi Eric Yoffie, a religious figure esteemed by close to a million members of the movement, in twelfth place?" one Reform rabbi asked.

An Orthodox rabbi ridiculed a list that ranks at 44th place former Yeshiva University chancellor Norman Lamm, considered the leader of modern Orthodoxy in America and a role model for thousands of Orthodox rabbis. Orthodox Rabbi Marc Schneier, founder of two major Long Island and Manhattan congregations and a leader in Jewish-Black reconciliation, also deserves to rank higher than 33.

Top 10 rabbis1. Marvin Hier (Orthodox)2. Yehuda Krinsky (Lubavitch)3. Uri D. Herscher? (Reform)4. Yehuda Berg (Orthodox)5. Harold Kushner (Conservative)6. David Ellenson (Reform)7. Robert Wexler (Conservative)8. Irwin Kula (Conservative)9. Shmuley Boteach (Orthodox)10. M. Bruce Lustig (Reform)