Nine more women for the Forward 50

Idit Klein in 2005.

As it does every year, the Forward recently published its “Forward 50” – and just like every year, the list is short on women. Forward editor Jane Eisner notes the lack of female names on the list, saying “it also could be because we weren’t looking in the right places” for women worthy of inclusion on the list. I’ve got a few names in mind.

  • Idit Klein (Executive Director, Keshet) Boston-based Keshet is a national grassroots organization that works for the full inclusion of LGBT Jews in Jewish life. Last summer, with a grant from the Shusterman Foundation, Keshet merged with Jewish Mosaic, another Jewish LGBT organization, to strengthen its overall reach. They’ve since launched Do Not Stand Idly By: A Jewish Community Pledge to Save Lives, a Jewish response to the bullying of homosexual youth.

  • Kat Dennings (Actress, “2 Broke Girls”) Forget Natalie Portman; she’s been around forever. It’s fresh, new faces like Kat Dennings that are making a mark on current culture. The 25-year-old Dennings, who once told the Jewish Journal that she is “a billion percent Jewish,” has starred in films like “40-year-Old Virgin” and “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.” This season, she’s making waves as Max, a tough, Brooklyn waitress on CBS’s new hit comedy “2 Broke Girls.” She recently told Rolling Stone, “I want to bring the sitcom back."

  • Alexandra Robbins (New York Times bestselling author) Robbins first bestseller was Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities, which infuriated sorority girls nationwide for its gonzo journalism look at, well, the secret (and not always so pleasant) life of sororities. Her newest book is The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School, which speaks directly to teenagers about “Mean Girls”-style high school experiences and why “losers” later triumph. The 34-year-old Robbins, who a former classmate describes as a “power dork,” is proof positive of her own advice. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and The Washington Post, among others.

  • Lila Foldes (Director, Just Congregations) Foldes was named director of the Reform Movement’s successful community organizing arm this autumn when its founding director, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, took on a new role within the Movement. Foldes, who spent two years as the Assistant Director of Jewish Organizing for the Jewish Funds for Justice, was trained in community organizing with the Organizing Apprenticeship Project in Minnesota. Now, as head of Just Congregations, she partners with Reform synagogues to deepen community participation in issues of social, political and economic importance.

  • Susan Herman (President, American Civil Liberties Union) Herman took over as president of the venerable ACLU in 2008 but has somehow never appeared on a Forward 50 list. Before taking on the organization’s top role, she served 20 year on the ACLU Board of Directors, 16 on its Executive Committee, and 10 years as General Counsel. The Supreme Court expert is also a Centennial Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School and co-author of Terrorism, Government, and Law: National Authority and Local Autonomy in the War on Terror.

  • Danielle Borrin (Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement & Special Assistant, Office of the Vice President) Borrin, who spent two years as the White House’s liaison to the Jewish community, was recently promoted to a fancy new gig focusing on communications in the same office. Borrin has worked with Vice President Joe Biden for awhile, having served as former Deputy Press Secretary when he was but a mere senator; she was a Biden intern before that. The Atlanta native, who once interned for United Jewish Communities, received glowing praise from Washington, D.C.’s Jewish community upon her departure from the Jewish liaison position.

  • Shelley Christensen (Program Manager and Consultant, Jewish Community Inclusion Program for People with Disabilities, JFCS Minneapolis) When the Jewish community needs help figuring out how to make its congregations and gathering spaces welcoming and accommodating of people with disabilities, Shelley Christensen is the women they turn to. Christensen, who provides consultation, resources, and support to Jewish groups and synagogues, is the author of the much-used Jewish Community Guide to Inclusion of People with Disabilities. As co-founder of Jewish Disability Awareness Month (February), Christensen continues to find new and innovative ways to help the Jewish community become a fully welcoming place for Jews with disabilities.

  • Lisa Colton (Founder and president, Darim Online) The organized Jewish community is notoriously disorganized when it comes to social media – and that’s where Lisa Colton comes in. Her nonprofit, Darim Online, provides consultation and support to Jewish organizations making their way through the digital world. Colton, whose work combines her interest in Jewish education with her interest in social media, has a long history of involvement with the Jewish community. She served as president of the board of the University of Vermont Hillel and is the recipient of the Jewish Communal Service Association of North America's "Young Professionals" Award. It’s safe to say that she’s revolutionizing social media for Jewish organizations.

  • Nancy Brinker (Founder and CEO, Susan G. Komen for the Cure) If you automatically equate the color pink with breast cancer awareness, you have Nancy Brinker to thank. Brinker made a promise to her cancer-stricken sister that she would do everything within her power to raise awareness of breast cancer. Thus was born the Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, now the world's largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists, Nearly 20 years after the organization’s founding, Brinker is widely regarded as the leader of the global breast cancer movement.

What do you think of this year’s Forward 50 list? Are you familiar with any of the women recognized on it? Let us know who else you’d like to see included – and you can send Eisner your own additions by writing to her.

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Thank you Kate for selecting me to join this amazing group of innovative women. I can think of many who I'd nominate for this list including two of the most forward thinking women, both who were already doing major work in the field of serving Jews with disabilities long before I chose to devote my life to this field: Sara Rubinow-Simon and Becca Hornstein who serve as mentors to many. I also would add Rabbi Lynne Landsberg who is teacher to many about making meaning and a difference regardless of what life tosses our way.

I am honored to be on a list with such an amazing group of women. I would also nominate my co-director of Just Congregations, Rabbi Stephanie Kolin.

And what about Nancy K. Kaufman at NCJW, Karla Van Praag at Jewish Organizing Initiative, Marilyn Sneiderman at AVODAH, Stosh Cotler at JFSJ?

I second that comment! I am grateful to have met Shelly at a National Leadership Institute and found her resourcefulness and passion to lead the way for everyone.

You scored when you picked Shelly. She is an inspiration to all who know her - and she makes the world a better place every day she is in it. Congrats for all the additions - but Shelly being there helps me appreciate the quality of all the others.

I'd like to see the forward put out a call asking readers for suggestions for the list. Rather than leaving it up to a small group of journos, broaden the search by asking for input! Who better knows who's influencing Jews than the Jews themselves?

In reply to by Kate B.

Thanks for engaging in this conversation. Actually, we do put out a broad call for reader nominations, in print and online, and have done so since I became editor. We take all these suggestions seriously, because they lead us to people we may have overlooked in the past. I will keep track of all the women mentioned here, and urge you to contact us next fall with your nominations.

What wonderful suggestions to add to the list. I'm honored to be considered among them. I find it interesting that Jane Eisner called out this issue right from the get-go, and not only invites suggestions (you should post a link to this blog in the comments at ) but also questions whether they are looking in the right places. Idit, for example, may not always be on center stage, but her work has put an issue on the communal agenda in such a powerful and important way that goes far beyond the traditional organizations and structures of the Jewish community, and into the street, the home and the community in a way that I think the Forward 50 is intended to represent. Where else should they (we) be looking?

In reply to by Lisa Narodick Colton

Interesting that the Forward 50 landing page with Jane Eisner's remarks doesn't actually have comments enabled... but definitely will share Kate's suggestions with the Forward team.

Read the latest from JWA from your inbox.

sign up now


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Get JWA in your inbox

Read the latest from JWA from your inbox.

sign up now

How to cite this page

Bigam, Kate. "Nine more women for the Forward 50." 9 November 2011. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 21, 2024) <>.