The Forward 50: Right Wingers, Chelsea Clinton Included on Top Jews List

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By Nicole Neroulias
Religion News Service

(RNS) Russian and right-wing Jews make a splash in this year's list of influential people compiled by The Forward, the country's largest national Jewish weekly newspaper.

Crowning the 2010 "Forward 50," published Oct. 26, are: Google co-founder Sergey Brin; U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va.; Misha Galperin, head of Jewish Agency International Development; Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan; and writer Nicole Krauss, author of the novel "Great House."

The newspaper's staff spent months considering names, grouping entries into categories of activism, community, culture, demographics, economy, food, media, politics, religion and science. Fifteen women made the cut this year, not including Chelsea Clinton, who is not Jewish but was tacked on as a "plus two" with her new husband, Marc Mezvinsky.

The list includes several opposing figures, such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Pamela Geller, the blogger leading the charge against Park51, the Islamic cultural center proposed a few blocks from Ground Zero.

"This is a polarizing time," said Jane Eisner, Forward editor. "We don't shy away from people that we don't agree with. What we're looking for here is impact."

But the staff tried to include fewer political figures this year, she noted, making room for more social and cultural contributors.

"We tried really hard this year to get beyond the expected, to really probe a lot more deeply into areas that we are not necessarily so immersed in, but are really important in the news and in our lives," she said. "There are some names that could easily be on every year, but did
they have broader impact this time?"

Eyebrows may be raised to see the list includes Brin and Jesse Eisenberg, the actor who plays Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in "The Social Network," but not Zuckerberg himself -- despite his recent $100 million donation to the Newark, N.J., school system.

"We really debated long and hard about that, but honestly we couldn't find any reason to honor him because of what he did Jewishly," Eisner explained. "He does not act in a Jewish fashion at all."

Leonard Saxe, a sociologist appearing in the "demographics" category, praised the list's diversity, both demographically and "more importantly, in level of Jewish identification, engagement with the community and Israel, contribution to society at large."

The inclusion of Chelsea Clinton, although she did not convert at her interfaith wedding -- controversially held on a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath -- contributes to the list's overall optimistic message, he added.

"That (Clinton) chose to marry under a chuppah is a sign that Jewish life both has high relevance in our culture and that, like Abraham's tent, is open to welcoming new participants," he said.

The complete list can be viewed at http://forward.com/forward-50.

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