The Forward's 50

Today the Forward posted their list of the 50 Jews who have had the most dramatic impact on the Jewish community over the past year.  These types of lists are somewhat gimmicky, because they are essentially a "supreme New Media trick of writing feature stories that are news events themselves," as Matthue Roth writes at My Jewish Learning. But as these lists become a staple of evolving journalism, it can be interesting to use them as a way to identify trends and, according to Roth, catch up on a year's worth of Jewish news in just a few minutes.

They’re the media equivalent of twice-a-year Jews. If you’re really with it, Jew-wise, you already knew about, say, Jay Michaelson’s Everything Is God and the Orthodox boxer Dmitriy Salita and Mahara”t Sara Hurwitz and how cool Dara Horn is. But the list phenomenon, like only showing up for synagogue on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, allows you to process a whole lot of Jewish emotion/information/experience — much like not praying every 3-minute weekday amidah, but showing up for the 2-hour-long one on the High Holidays. 

What is different about the "Forward 50" is that is not a "best of" list.  It lists the poeple who have made the biggest impact, good or bad. We weren't so impressed with the gender breakdown (13 out of 50 are women), but at least there were no women in the "scandal" section.  Not surprisingly, women are best represented in the "activism" and "media and culture" sections. Women are also well-represented among those doing something new in religious life.  We were also not suprised to see that there are no women in "sports," although the blow is softened by the fact that there are hardly any men there either.

We were somewhat surprised to see that the "media and culture" section focused on people working within traditional media. In fact, the only person working in digital media to be featured was Sarah Lefton, producer of G-dCast, and she was placed in the "religion" section.  Forward editor Jane Eisner writes in the introduction: "This year, in particular, we’ve seen some of the most established organizations questioned from the outside and challenged from within, while those who are creating and innovating seem to have history’s wind at their backs."  Digital media is an integral part of this evolution, as creators and innovators use websites and social media to connect, educate, organize, and promote change.  We would love to see digital media emphasized in next year's 50.

Mazel Tov to Sara Hurwitz, Amy Dean, Marsha Levick, Ruth Messinger, Jane Ramsey, Shifra Bronznick, Dara Horn, Sana Krasikov, Lenore Skenazy and Ayelet Waldman, Susan Sher, Sarah Lefton, and Alysa Stanton (who was featured in a wonderful article yesterday) for making this year's list!


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Thanks for the Mazal Tov from Leah in Women We Love about my inclusion and that of 12 other women on the Forward 50 list. And thanks to Jane Eisner, Gabi Birkner and Devra Ferst for the strong stories on the gender gap in pay, in leadership and in compensation -- and brava to our Forward colleagues for drawing attention to the importance of policies that are good for women (and for everyone) around work, life, parental leave and flexibility.

Now, let's set a goal for next year -- to make sure that so many women in Jewish life become visible for their leadership in 2010 that the Forward 50 lists 50% women!

Write to the Forward and to every other journalist and blogger about the women you see making a difference in Jewish life and in the world. Shine the light on the women of influence in your life and in our community and in the world and next year we will be wishing Mazal Tov to many more wonderful women leaders.

Who's on your list? I have lots of (not yet Forward 50) heroines on mine!

Shifra Bronznick, Founder and President, Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community

How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "The Forward's 50." 12 November 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 23, 2019) <>.

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