Your top 50 most influential rabbis

Newsweek has released its 4th annual list of the most influential rabbis in America.

Is it a ridiculous concept? Of course.

Even Newsweek says: “Is the list subjective? Yes. Is it mischievous in its conception? Definitely.”

But it’s fun to peruse.

The list is put together by two guys in the entertainment biz: Sony Pictures chairman and CEO Michael Lynton and Gary Ginsberg, an executive vice president of Time Warner Inc.

Your top 3:

1. Yehuda Krinsky, head of the Chabad-Lubavitch.

2. Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of Reform Judaism (who plans to retire in 2012). That’s him.

3. Marvin Heir, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

So there you go.

Calling for ‘kosher’ standards for BP and other ‘consuming’ bodies

I mentioned yesterday that a group of religious leaders went to the Gulf to “bear witness” to the BP disaster.

One of those leaders is Rabbi Julie Schonfeld of White Plains, the executive VP of the Rabbinical Assembly, which represents Conservative rabbis.

She has a column today on about the Conservative movement’s initiative for “ethical corporate certification” on kosher foods — a response to scandals at a giant kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. The idea is to give certification to kosher foods that are not only kosher in the traditional sense, but have been produced by workers who are treated ethically.

Schonfeld relates the new certification’s standards and goals to the BP mess. She writes:


Although it was designed for ethical food production, the Magen Tzedek seal, a holistic Jewish response to the responsibilities of food and consumption, can serve as a model for the corrective needed now for BP. The areas of review of the Magen Tzedek speak directly to the tragedy in the Gulf region: environmental responsibility; corporate accountability; worker safety and other concerns and animal welfare.

The Magen Tzedek seeks to give voice to the large and growing need, not only in the Jewish community but throughout the world, to have concrete ways to connect our values to our consumption. Judaism has always recognized that the human being and the human community are creatures of “appetite.”

In a constructive sense, those appetites can be a creative force, driving society forward and give human beings the impetus to achieve. So, Jewish tradition created an extensive body of “sumptuary laws,” principles by which we consume wisely and moderately. The driving principle behind the limits to our individual consumption is a sense that because we are part of a larger human community, we cannot consume in a way that would harm the basic needs of others.


It’s not related, but…

Newsweek religion editor Lisa Miller has a column worth checking out about the high cost of being Jewish.

High cost in a dollars-and-cents sense.

The cost of living an Orthodox Jewish life has been much discussed in recent years. Miller notes that “an Orthodox Jewish family with three children could expect to spend between $50,000 and $110,000 a year on school fees, synagogue dues, summer camps, and kosher food.”

But she focuses on the simple matter of synagogues collecting mandatory fees from members in order to support their budgets and what this means for families during a difficult economic time.

Around here, most congregations charge $3,000 or $4,000 in annual fees — although virtually every one will make concessions for families that can’t afford it.

Jay Sanderson, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, calls it a “bizarre pay-to-play philosophy.”

But Miller also quotes Arnold Eisen (that’s him), chancellor of the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC: “The bills are very high. People need sacred spaces, but when you’re looking at budgets, you’re looking at heat and air conditioning.”