Ranking synagogues and rabbis

Last year, Newsweek magazine got some attention for piecing together a list of the 25 most influential rabbis in the country.

Now Newsweek has come up with the 25 most vital Jewish congregations in the land.

And on the list is Temple Israel Center of White Plains, a widely respected Conservative congregation. Everyone seems to admire Temple Israel and its senior rabbi, Gordon Tucker.

Newsweek simply noted that “Temple Israel is committed to diverse learning opportunities for congregants of all backgrounds and ages.”

Fair enough.

The magazine also recently came out with its second list of influential rabbis. Numero uno?

Rabbi David Saperstein, head of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and a potential “powerbroker” in Obama’s Washington (that’s him).

Both lists, by the way, were compiled by the same three guys (none of whom represent Jewish institutions): Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman & CEO Michael Lynton, News Corporation Executive Vice President Gary Ginsberg and JTN Productions CEO Jay Sanderson.

Jewish leader from New Rochelle to take part in National Prayer Service

Rabbi Jerome Epstein, a leader of Conservative Judaism and a New Rochelle resident, is one of three rabbis who will say prayers at the National Prayer Service that will cap the inauguration next Wednesday.

It will be at the National Cathedral.

Epstein has been chief executive of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents about 770 Conservative congregations, since 1986.

The AP’s Rachel Zoll reports that Epstein will be joined by Reform Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Washington-based Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, senior rabbi of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Also, Ingrid Mattson, the first woman president of the Islamic Society of North America, will offer a prayer.

And Archbishop Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington is expected to participate.

If you’re keeping score, the National Prayer Service is the one where the Rev. Sharon Watkins, head of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), is to give the sermon.

Bishop V. Gene Robinson, Rick Warren and the Rev. Joseph Lowery will preach/speak at other events.

Speaking about all the inauguration-related prayers, First Amendment scholar Charles Haynes tells Zoll: “I can’t recall any prayers drawing so much attention.”

Jewish charitable groups face declining contributions

Jewish philanthropic groups are antsy about the fall-out from the economic crisis.

All charitable groups must be, especially when there is a growing demand for services on the part of people who are struggling.

Mark Talisman, a leading Jewish activist, has suggested an emergency national summit of Jewish leaders to talk about what’s happening, the Jewish Week reports.

“Our organizations face a potential emergency with donors, who are heavily concentrated in real estate, banking and finance,” he says, noting that kosher food pantries around the country have been out of food for months.

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism,  says the government can’t focus all its efforts on saving financial institutions: “What we are doing is communicating about the need not to forget the poor and the vulnerable, not forgetting the individual homeowner while addressing the broader mortgage crisis. But beyond that, there hasn’t been much engagement in the last few days because things are moving very swiftly.”