The 50 Most Influential Jews in the World
The Jerusalem Post released its hotly anticipated “50 most influential Jews in the world” today, and all we can say is, there are probably a couple dozen mothers out there who are plotzing. So much better than being a dentist.
Below, I’ve singled out some favorites, particularly those with a local connection. Enjoy!
Binyamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel
Rank: No. 3
Local connection: Bibi went to Cheltenham High School, from which he graduated, and which obviously determined his success as a world leader. The best sentence on his entire Wiki page is this one: “To this day, he speaks American English with a Philadelphia accent.”
A true InfluJew? Well, yes, of course. He’s the ultimate macher. But he’s ranked No. 3 behind his own country’s finance minister, Yair Lapid, who gave him a real run for his money in Knesset elections. You just know Netanyahu is thinking, “Am I wrong, or is ‘finance minister’ less of a big-deal title than ‘prime minister’?”
Jon Stewart, comedian/newsmaker
Rank: No. 7
Local connection: Stewart is from Trenton, which is close enough.
A true InfluJew? Absolutely. He influenced my mother to influence me to send him a letter professing my love well before he was on Comedy Central but well after I should have known better. Several years later, after he was significantly more famous, I did a phone interview with him that remains one of my career lows. I thought I needed to be clever, so my first question was, “Is it true that Trenton makes and the world takes?” Confused silence, then all downhill from there.
And that does it for the Greater Philadelphia names on the list! Thanks for coming, we’ll see you next week!
Ben Smith, BuzzFeed editor
Rank: No. 28
A true InfluJew?: As an individual, yes. With BuzzFeed, you never know (at some point, there was a smug Jewish guy all hyped about Friendster–he’s not on this list, you’ll notice). Smith helms a website that has influence in terms of popularity, sure, but more importantly, in terms of the questions it raises: How can we provide good content–of any kind–and make money? Can we break down traditional walls that ruled print publications? What are readers looking for? Is there room for long-form narrative as well as goofy lists? I had no idea Smith’s power went so far beyond my fishbowl Twitter feed. I emailed Smith to ask how he felt about being on the list, with a jaunty, “Mazel tov!” He didn’t write back.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, U.S. state representative/TV pundit
Rank: No. 10
A true InfluJew? Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Listen to that name. While others on the list have changed their names to seem less Jewish (Jon Stewart, looking at you, albeit still somewhat shamefacedly), Wasserman Schultz embraces her heritage, acting as a smart, articulate role model to awkward girls everywhere. Between her name and her spiral curls that are obviously, publicly, intractably impossible, she unapologetically represents one of the most Jewish places on Earth: Florida’s 23rd Congressional district.
Pro Jew tip: Because even her enunciation is Jewish, look for Wasserman Schultz’s appearances on Meet the Press; a chat with her is all the inoculation you’ll need to get through The McLaughlin Group.
Scooter Braun, music biz exec
Rank: No. 22
A true InfluJew?: Look. When I saw this list, Scooter Braun was the first name that came to mind, if only for his moniker. That name–“Scooter”–is so steeped in Torah, Braun could only have done better if he were named Moishe Wasserman Schultz. Think of the famous Jewish rat named Scooter, whose narrative earned this writer the Philadelphia Aratamy Award, and all those Anglo Saxons nicknamed Scooter who kept Jews out of golf clubs. Would there be a Larry David without the WASP Scooters of the world? Scooter Braun really didn’t even have to manage some kid named Justin Bieber to get on this list. But it’s a good thing for him that he does.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO
Rank: No. 8
A true InfluJew?: Yes, in fact, she’s inspired this Borscht Belt joke they tell at Kutsher’s in the Catskills: “How did Sheryl Sandberg rank higher than Mark Zuckerberg on the influential Jews list?” “How?” “She leaned in to the top 10.” Ba-dum.
Sumner Redstone, media magnate
Rank: No. 21
A true InfluJew?: Oh, yes. In fact, there’s an irony here. Anti-Semites often recur to that preposterous notion that Jews rule the country–the banks, the media, the government–a massive takeover that could never have happened (and if it did, why am I living in a third-floor walkup?). For many years in the 20th century, a Jewish person could only become powerful in one of these realms by downplaying the Jewish background. In the case of octogenarian Redstone, who does have a nice piece of the media pie, well, I’m sorry if I shock you, but “Sumner Redstone” was not his given name.
Lena Dunham, writer/actor/producer
Rank: Higher than Elie Wiesel, Natan Sharansky, Sumner Redstone, Michael Chabon, Matthew Bronfman and everyone else who comes after No. 18
A true InfluJew?: Without question, and I find the enmity she inspires distasteful and chauvinistic even though she inspires it in me too. Dunham emceed a Purim Ball and listed her favorite things about being Jewish: “Potato pancakes, gelt (why would anyone want regular money when there’s money that is chocolate inside?!), matzo balls, musicals, my grandpa, lifting people up in chairs, being worried all the time so that when something truly bad happens, you’re really ready for it.”
Bar Refaeli, model
A true InfluJew?: I’m putting this in the category of This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, Jewish List Edition. From the Jerusalem Post because I sure ain’t gonna do it: “The supermodel and former Sports Illustrated cover girl is one of the—if not the—highest-profile Israelis in the world. Face it: Middle America knows her face, name and assets much, much better than the No. 1 entry on this list, not the least since she was voted No. 1 on Maxim magazine’s Hot 100 list of 2012. Whether it’s the fact that she was splashed all over gossip magazines during her on-and-off relationship with A-list actor Leonardo DiCaprio, a shout-out in a Kanye West song or making out with a nerd in a Super Bowl ad, Refaeli is everywhere, all around the world.”
The commissioners of the NHL, NBA and MLB
Rank: No. 50
True InfluJews?: At least when they’re grouped together and otherwise nameless.