The Sisterhood 50: America's Influential Women Rabbis
The Sisterhood, the Forward’s women’s issues blog, has twice called attention to the chronic underrepresentation of women on Newsweek’s annual “50 Most Influential Rabbis” list. Compiled by Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton and his friend Gary Ginsberg, this year’s Newsweek list had only six women on it — and most of them were on the bottom half of the rankings.
The results got us thinking about all the female rabbis whose influence cannot necessarily be measured by their national/international profile, their media presence or the size of their constituencies — some of the criteria on which Newsweek bases its rankings — but who, nonetheless, are playing important roles in shaping the Jewish story.
So we decided to select 50 of the most influential women rabbis in America, plus five in Israel, for this inaugural Sisterhood 50 list. These women span generations and the denominational spectrum; they are pulpit rabbis, teachers, academics, pastoral caregivers and organizational leaders. All of them have made it their life’s work to put Jewish values into action — and, as a result, are changing lives in and beyond their communities. This alphabetical list contains a lot of “firsts,” which is evidence of just how much ground there’s been to break in recent years.
While The Sisterhood 50 has on it only three Orthodox women, many more hold key religious leadership roles in their communities — even if they lack a path to the Orthodox rabbinate because of their gender.
Nominations came in from Forward and Lilith editors, Sisterhood contributors, prominent rabbis and others. When we sought recommendations from Letty Cottin Pogrebin, an author and a founding editor of Ms. magazine, she shared with me the female-centric list of “top rabbis” that she created back in 2007, after the first Newsweek list was published. Forward readers also submitted nominations in response to this Sisterhood blog entry and a related post on the Forward’s Facebook page. A special thanks goes to Forward web producer Nadja Spiegelman, who contributed research and reporting to this feature.
In addition, the Forward invites you to tell us, on this commenting page, about other influential female rabbis, and the impact they are having.