This is worth cross-posting from jspot: Rabbi Jill Jacobs gives us Letty’s List, written in response to Newsweek’s unfortunate Top 50 list:

From Letty Cottin Pogrebin:

(Jill’s note: granted–neither Devora Steinmetz nor Devorah Zlochower are rabbis, but given that both function as such in important ways & otherwise deserve to be on any list of Jewish spiritual leaders, I understand why Letty has them on this list)

April 6, 2007

Letter to the Editor of Newsweek

In your April 2nd issue, Michael Lynton and his friends rated “The Top Fifty Rabbis in America? according to fame, media savvy, influence, and size of constituency. Though many of the “chosen? are superb rabbis, your list – not surprisingly, given those hyper-muscular criteria – contains 45 men and five women.

I’ve spent the last week soliciting nominations from Jewish friends around the country in order to compile a list of rabbis who satisfy a different set of criteria: spirituality wedded to activism, deeds of lovingkindness, and ability to communicate the meaning and beauty in Jewish life. Since we’re talking about rabbis not bestsellers, their names are listed alphabetically not hierarchically. And since your list was in dire need of affirmative action, you’ll understand why my list contains 45 women and five men:


Judith Z. Abrams (Reform)


Rebecca Alpert (Reconstructionist)

Assoc. Prof. Religion and Jewish Studies, Temple University; co-author, Lesbian Rabbis: The First Generation

Camille Shira Angel (Reform)

Congregation Sha’ar Zahav S.F’s gay & lesbian progressive Reform congregation; first lesbian rabbi hired at a mainstream synagogue. (Rodeph Shalom (NYC)

Phyllis Berman (Jewish Renewal)

Director, Elat Chayyim retreat center; author; creator of ritual and life cycle celebrations

Leila Gal Berner (Reconstructionist)

Founding director, Center for Jewish Ethics; writer of “Song to Miriam? now widely sung in Havdalah ceremonies; historian; author

Sharon Brous (Conservative)

Founder, IKAR spiritual-social justice community in L.A

Angela Warnick Buchdahl (Reform)

Cantor (and rabbi), Central Synagogue, NY. First Asian-American ordained in North America. Board member, Multiracial Jewish Network

Nina Beth Cardin (Conservative)

Editor, Sh’ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility. Founding Associate Director, National Center for Jewish Healing; creator first liturgy for stillbirth and abortion.

Ayelet S. Cohen (Conservative)

Associate Rabbi, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, world’s largest synagogue serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered communities.

Dianne Cohler-Esses (Conservative)

Scholar-in-Residence, UJA-Federation, NY; co-director, UJA-Federation Task Force on

the Jewish Woman

Mark Dratch (Orthodox)

Founder., domestic violence prevention education and activism

Amy Eilberg (Conservative)

First woman ordained as a Conservative rabbi. Co-Director, Yedidya Center for Jewish Spiritual Direction, St. Paul, Minnesota. Co-founder, Bay Area Jewish Healing Center.

Jacqueline Koch Ellenson (Reform)

Director, Rabbinic Women’s Network; chair, Haddassah Foundation

Sue Levi Elwell (Reform)

Author/editor, “The Open Door,? the CCAR haggadah; Founding director, American Jewish Congress Feminist Center, LA; Co-editor, Lesbian Rabbis: The First Generation

Helene Ferris (Reform)

Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Israel of Northern Westchester; first mid-life career female rabbi (ordained at 44); first woman to read from a Torah scroll at Jerusalem’s Western Wall

Tirza Firestone (Jewish Renewal Movement)

Congregation Nevei Kodesh, Boulder Colorado.; author; psychotherapist; kabbalist.

Nancy Flam (Reform)

Director, Institute for Jewish Spirituality; co-founder, Jewish Healing Center

Elyse Frishman (Reform)

Editor Mishkan Tefillah, new Reform prayer book

Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer (Reconstructionist)

Pioneering teacher of interreligious studies to rabbinical students

Laura Geller (Reform)

Temple Emanuel, Beverly Hills; writer; teacher; feminist pioneer; third woman ordained in U.S.; first woman to be senior rabbi of a major metropolitan synagogue.

Shefa Gold (Reconstructionist)

Liturgical composer; teacher; Eitz Or, Seattle

Lynn Gottlieb (Jewish Renewal Movement)

Founder, Interfaith Inventions; founder, Bat Kol national Jewish feminist theater troupe; co-founder, Muslim-Jewish Peace Walk pilgrimages

Steve Greenberg (Orthodox)

Author, “Wrestling With God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition; featured in the 2001 film “Trembling Before God;? senior teaching fellow, CLAL

Jill Hammer (Conservative)

Director of Tel Shemesh website; co-founder of Kohenet: The Hebrew Priestess Institute; author, educator, poet, midrashist, ritualist.

Judith Hauptman (Conservative)

Talmud scholar; Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics, Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS); author “Rereading the Rabbis?

Margaret Holub (Reform)

Innovator of new ways to connect rural Jews to Judaism; one of the “Redwood Rabbis? who protested destruction of ancient trees in Northern Californiat.

Jill Jacobs (Conservative)

Director of Education, Jewish Funds for Justice; one of The Forward newspaper’s 50 Most Influential Jews

Jen Krause (Reform)

Teacher, writer, workshop leader. Creator of “Backstage Pass,? interview series at NYC’s 92nd Street Y, and “Oy Latte? open dialogues; co-founder Lishmah.

Joy Levitt (Reform)

Executive director, JCC in Manhattan; co-author, Reconstructionist haggadah, A Night of Questions

Ellen Lippman (Reform)

Founder, Congregation Kolot Chayeinu, Brooklyn, NY; chair, first rabbinic conference for Rabbis for Human Rights (2006); officiated at lesbian wedding NYC (2003)

Shira Milgrom (Reform)

Congregation Kol Ami, White Plains, NY; author; speaker; pioneered co-rabbi pulpit partnership; advocates passionate engagement with Jewish texts, rituals, and traditions.

Marcia Prager (Reconstructionist/Jewish Renewal)

P’nai Or Jewish Renewal Community, Mt. Airy, PA; dean, ALEPH:Alliance for Jewish Renewal’s seminary without walls;

Sally Priesand (Reform)

First woman rabbi ordained in U.S. (1972); served Monmouth Reform Temple, NJ

Jennie Rosenn (Reform)

Director, Nathan Cummings Foundation; former Assoc. Chaplain, Hillel, Columbia University; founding board, AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps

Joanna Samuels (Conservative)

Congregation Habonim, NYC

Amy Schwartzman (Reform)

Temple Rodeph Shalom, Falls Church, VA; only woman among 15 rabbis who met in 2003 with George W. Bush 2003; only rabbi there to raise issue of poverty with Bush

David Silber (Orthodox)

Founder and Dean, Drisha Institute for Jewish Education

Felicia Sol (Nondenominational)

Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, New York City; rabbinic partner to Rolando Matalon and Marcelo Bronstein.

Mychal Springer (Conservative)

Assoc. Dean and Director of Field Education of the Rabbinical School, JTS; former Assoc. Director, Jewish Institute for Pastoral Care, HealthCare Chaplaincy, Manhattan.

Devora Steinmetz (Conservative)

Asst. Professor, Talmud and Rabbinics, JTS

Burton L. Visotzky (Conservative)

Professor of Midrash, JTS, ethicist; author; collaborator on Bill Moyers 10-part PBS series, “Genesis: A Living Conversation;? pioneer in Jewish/Christian/Muslim dialogue.

Margaret Moers Wenig (Reform)

Her Siddur Nashim was first to use feminine imagery and God language in prayer book; gay rights pioneer; outreach between Jews and Latinos; pastoral care for people with AIDS.

Sheila Peltz Weinberg (Reconstructionist)

Institute for Jewish Spirituality; melds meditation and social action in Jewish life

Shohama Wiener (pluralist)

First woman to head a rabbinical seminary; President Emerita, The Academy for Jewish Religion, Riverdale, NYC

Melissa Weintraub (Conservative)

Rabbis for Human Rights, co-founder Encounter Program, author, first report on torture and Jewish law

Simkha Weintraub (Reform)

Rabbinic director, National Center for Jewish Healing

Zari Weiss

Eitz Or: Seattle’s Jewish Renewal Community; Rabbinic Cabinet, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom

Nancy Wiener (Reform)

Clinical director of the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling, HUC;

Elaine Zecher (Reform)

Temple Israel, Boston. First female rabbi in the Temple’s 130 year history; organized coalition supporting cutting-edge health care legislation in Massachusetts.

Devorah Zlochower (Orthodox, nonordained)

Rosh Beit Midrash, Head of Drisha Institute for Jewish Education; teaches Talmud and Halacha in the Scholars Circle.