Watchman Willie Martin Archive


    The millennium year may not have brought apocalypse, much

    less the messianic age, but it did usher in a new era for American

    Jews. The year 2000 will long be remembered for the first‑ever

    nomination of a Jew to a major‑party presidential ticket,

    sweeping away the last barrier to full participation by Jews in

    American society. It was not merely that a Jew could now aspire

    to the highest office in the land and win acceptance from the

    voters, if not the Electoral College. An Orthodox Jew showed

    that he could wear his faith comfortably on his sleeve and win

    acceptance, on his own terms, as a leader in the broader society.

    The changing nature of Jewish involvement in America

    inevitably changes the meaning of Jewish leadership. Until

    recently, we were accustomed to seeing a Jewish leader as

    someone who stood tall within the confines of Jewish

    communal activity, defined narrowly. By the nature of things,

    Jewish leaders were generally leaders of Jewish institutions, but

    they were — with few exceptions — hardly leaders of Jews.

    The Forward Fifty this year includes a small but growing number

    of individuals who exercise leadership in the broader society,

    and do so as Jews. Our list includes government officials,

    lawmakers, authors and even a few entertainers whose

    prominence in the broader society, coupled with their

    unabashedly Jewish styles and agendas, made them forces in

    Jewish life in a manner and on a scale that few traditional

    Jewish leaders can aspire to.

    The Forward Fifty is not based on a scientific survey or a

    democratic election. Names are suggested by readers and by the

    Forward's own staff. The compilation is a journalistic effort to

    illuminate some of the individuals likely to be in the news in the

    year ahead, and to record some of the trends in

    American‑Jewish life in the year that has passed.

    Membership in the Forward Fifty does not mean the Forward

    endorses what they do or say. We've chosen these people

    because they are doing and saying things that are making a

    difference in the way American Jews view the world and

    themselves, for better or worse. Not all of them have made their

    mark within the traditional framework of Jewish community

    life, but all of them have consciously pursued Jewish activism as

    they understood it, and all of them have left a mark.

    Barely one‑third of our Fifty are women, which reflects the state

    of gender relations within our community. On the other hand,

    this year's list includes a husband and wife, a father and

    daughter, two famous brothers and two gentlemen named Steve


    1. Joseph Lieberman

    In July he was just one of 100 members of the United States

    Senate, familiar to those who follow these things as a man of

    firm, centrist convictions, a defender of traditional morality and

    the only Orthodox Jew in the upper chamber. By the middle of

    August, though, Mr. Lieberman, 58, was one of the most familiar

    faces in America. The selection of the affable Connecticut

    lawmaker as a running mate gave Vice President Gore a

    double‑digit lift in the polls and set off a coast‑to‑coast wave of

    Liebermania. Suddenly everyone in America was talking about

    the rules of Sabbath observance, the history of American‑Jewish

    opportunity and even the divisions within Orthodox Judaism. In

    choosing Joe Lieberman, Mr. Gore had chosen not just a

    politician who was Jewish, but a public servant who lived his

    Judaism daily, wore it on his sleeve and made it part of his

    public and political identity. They didn't capture the White

    House, but they did capture the popular vote, demonstrating

    that Americans were indeed ready to have a Jew sitting a

    heartbeat from the presidency. American Jews would never be

    able to look at themselves and their country in quite the same


    2. Deborah Lipstadt

    Many consider her a heroine worth of her biblical namesake,

    after she successfully defended herself this year in a libel suit

    against Holocaust denier David Irving in Britain's High Court.

    The 10‑week trial culminated in a scathing decision against Mr.

    Irving, and marginalized the so‑called historian for his suspect

    research. Mr. Irving brought suit against Ms. Lipstadt and her

    British publisher, Penguin Books, alleging that she damaged his

    academic reputation in her 1994 book, "Denying the Holocaust:

    The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory." A professor of

    history at Emory University in Atlanta, she had called Mr. Irving

    "one of the most dangerous spokesmen in the service of

    Holocaust denial" because he challenged the scope of the

    Holocaust and disputed the number and manner of Jewish

    concentration camp deaths. In the trial, watched by millions

    worldwide, Ms. Lipstadt and her legal team refused to

    countenance a hearing on whether the Holocaust happened.

    Instead they took the offensive, attacking Mr. Irving. In his April

    ruling, the judge labeled Mr. Irving an anti‑Semite and a racist.

    As Holocaust denial stands to gain a vast new audience on the

    World Wide Web, the decision sets an important legal and

    historic precedent. Ms. Lipstadt said she saw the victory not

    merely as personal, but also as a blow "for all those who speak

    out against hate and prejudice."

    3. Charles Bronfman

    This scion of the Seagram beverage empire was long in the

    shadow of his older brother Edgar, pursuing little‑publicized,

    multimillion‑dollar initiatives in Jewish education, Israel

    awareness and support for the peace process while Edgar tilted

    with European leaders as head of the World Jewish Congress.

    This year, however, Charles stepped into the light, becoming the

    first chairman of the board of the new United Jewish

    Communities. His plan was to broaden the reach of Jewish

    welfare federations by bringing in some of his fellow

    "megadonors" — multimillionaire philanthropists who create

    their own Jewish programming, like Birthright Israel, which he

    created with Michael Steinhardt. He also hoped to build

    flexibility and innovation into the UJC by creating an

    independent foundation to launch new projects in cooperation

    with outside donors. His initial months have been rocky. The

    organization, caught between a host of entrenched forces, has

    resisted new visions. Mr. Bronfman admitted this fall that he

    briefly contemplated walking away in frustration. But he vows

    to fight on until his term ends next year, and he remains the

    man to watch at the struggling UJC. He's now heading a task

    force to develop a game plan for the organization's future. While

    other megadonors support federations through substantial gifts,

    only Mr. Bronfman invests so heavily through his personal


    4. Rabbi Rachel Cowan

    A top‑ranking innovator in the realms of Jewish spirituality,

    healing and outreach to intermarried and unaffiliated Jews,

    Rabbi Cowan is at the cutting edge of some of the hottest trends

    in Jewish communal life. As director of Jewish Life Programs at

    the Nathan Cummings Foundation, one of the nation's richest

    Jewish family foundations, she's at the forefront of the

    community's new power center, private philanthropy. A Jew by

    choice, ordained at the Reform movement's Hebrew Union

    College‑Jewish Institute of Religion, she has headed Cummings'

    Jewish programs since their launch in 1989, coordinating grants

    with projects from interfaith educational programming at the

    Jewish Outreach Institute, to the New Age Elat Chayyim retreat

    center, to Amos: The National Jewish Partnership for Social

    Justice. Her role at Cummings is sure to be even more central

    now that founding president Charles Halpern has stepped down

    and Cummings trustees have hired Lance Lindblom to take the

    helm. Mr. Lindblom, who is not Jewish, told the Forward he

    "feels very lucky" to have Rabbi Cowan's long experience as a


    5. Malcolm Hoenlein

    As the professional head of a Jewish organization made up of

    four dozen other Jewish organizations, he has what some call

    the least appealing job in Jewish communal life, with 50

    squabbling bosses to answer to. But Mr. Hoenlein, 56, doesn't

    complain. The agency he has headed for 14 years, the Conference

    of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is

    commonly recognized in Washington and around the world as

    the all‑but‑official voice of organized American Jewry on Israel

    and international affairs. Mr. Hoenlein has made the most of it,

    turning himself into an essential player on issues from

    counterterrorism to peace talks to democracy in Central Asia. An

    Orthodox Jew with right‑leaning personal sympathies, he's often

    accused of manipulating his agency's procedures — or lack of

    them — to stake out positions to the right of the community's

    consensus. This year, with Labor ruling in Jerusalem and

    American Jews more divided than ever, Mr. Hoenlein has at

    times seemed to occupy himself with side issues, such as

    promoting Israeli tourism (even that got him in trouble when he

    touted "eternally united" Jerusalem while Prime Minister Barak

    was talking about dividing it) and the struggle to free 10 Jews

    jailed for spying in Iran. Still, for all his critics' carping, Mr.

    Hoenlein remains at his post, seemingly immovable. Now that

    renewed Palestinian violence has left the Left flatfooted and the

    Likud primed to return to power, Mr. Hoenlein's hawkish

    leanings may yet prove dead center.


    Stuart Eizenstat

    The signing in Berlin last July of the complex, $4.8 billion

    agreement to compensate Nazi‑era slave‑laborers — the largest

    Holocaust‑restitution pact since the original German reparations

    agreement of 1952 — was not merely a watershed in the struggle

    for justice for Nazism's victims. It was also a capstone to a

    remarkable career in American public service. Deputy Treasury

    Secretary Stuart Eizenstat, who signed the pact for the United

    States, has been Washington's pacesetter on Holocaust

    restitution since the administration entered the fray in 1995. For

    Mr. Eizenstat, 57, it was just the latest in a series of turns as

    pointman on Jewish affairs, going back to 1977, when he joined

    the Carter White House as domestic policy chief. In the Clinton

    administration he's been undersecretary of commerce,

    undersecretary of state as well as number‑two at the Treasury

    Department. In every post, he's been the administration's

    leading voice for Jewish causes. Besides Holocaust restitution,

    he's played a decisive role in such historic measures as the

    creation of the Justice Department's Nazi‑hunting Office of

    Special Investigations, the establishment of the U.S. Holocaust

    Memorial Museum and the creation of America's

    refugee‑admissions program, which allows victims of persecution

    — including Soviet Jews — to enter America outside normal

    immigration quotas. Without fanfare or publicity, he has served

    as America's de facto minister for Jewish rights for 12 of the last

    24 years. The outcome of this year's presidential race may have

    brought this distinguished career to a close for now, but we

    suspect we haven't heard the last of him.

    Ari Fleischer

    As spokesman for the Bush presidential campaign, Mr. Fleischer

    was the articulate voice of a candidate often derided for his

    "fuzzy speech." Now this graduate of New York's B'nei Jeshurun

    nursery school and Westchester's Mount Kisco Hebrew School is

    expected to become White House press secretary. Mr. Fleischer,

    together with campaign policy director Joshua Bolten, who is

    also expected to stay on, is among a handful of Jews in Mr.

    Bush's inner circle. Former communications director of the

    House Ways and Means Committee and onetime press secretary

    to Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico, he's active in a group

    of Jewish congressional staffers who study with the Lubavitch

    chasidic movement's Washington representative, Rabbi Levi

    Shemtov. In general, Mr. Bush fared poorly among Jewish voters

    and was subject to intense scrutiny, partly stemming from his

    father's poor reputation among Jews. The new president may

    have some fences to mend, and Mr. Fleischer will be called on to


    Robert Wexler

    Elected in 1996 to represent Florida's 19th congressional district,

    after a decade in the state legislature, Mr. Wexler quickly

    established himself as a force on Capitol Hill, sponsoring

    high‑profile investigations into the poor conditions at the F.B.I.

    crime lab and the high price of matzo in south Florida. By the

    fall of 1998, the congressman from Boca Raton was emerging as a

    national figure, the only House member to attend the signing of

    the Wye Accords and one of President Clinton's most articulate

    defenders during the House impeachment hearings. Smart,

    telegenic — he's become a permanent fixture on the cable

    news‑and‑chat circuit — and Jewishly aware (he's a graduate of

    the Wexner Heritage adult Jewish learning program), Mr.

    Wexler, now 39, is poised to become one of the most important

    Jewish voices in Washington. What secured his inclusion in this

    year's Forward Fifty, however, was his passionate defense of

    voting rights in his Palm Beach County district, home of the

    infamous butterfly ballot. In the coming year we predict he will

    be playing an increasingly visible role as a voice of the Jews of

    South Florida, America's third‑largest Jewish community.

    Stephen Goldsmith

    This mild‑mannered former mayor of Indianapolis is one of

    President‑elect Bush's few Jewish confidants, having served as

    domestic policy adviser during the campaign. Mr. Goldsmith, 54,

    is the likely choice to head a new, federal Office of Faith‑Based

    Action that would push initiatives to increase the role of

    religious institutions in aiding the poor. In this post, he will find

    himself on the forefront of implementing Mr. Bush's

    "compassionate conservatism," an ideology of which Mr.

    Goldsmith and a Jewish convert to Christianity, Marvin Olasky,

    were the major architects. He's also likely to find himself in the

    firing line of liberal Jewish organizations dedicated to

    maintaining the status quo on the separation of church and

    state. Just like a certain Democratic vice‑presidential candidate,

    Mr. Goldsmith will force American Jews to think about the

    ideological conflicts produced by their commitment to helping

    the less fortunate and their zealous defense of an impenetrable

    church‑state wall.

    Jane Harman

    Having translated her losing 1998 California gubernatorial bid

    into a congressional win in 2000, Ms. Harman, 55, is very much

    the comeback kid. In one of the most hotly contested and

    expensive races in California, the polished Harvard Law grad

    squeaked by Republican incumbent Steve Kuykendall to snatch

    the seat she held from 1992 until 1998 in California's 36th

    District. In her earlier stint in the House, the energetic,

    policy‑minded Mrs. Harman — whose swing district in the South

    Bay of Los Angeles encompasses major aerospace and defense

    concerns — served on the Committee on National Security and

    the Congressional Caucus on Anti‑Semitism. A former Regents

    professor of public policy and international relations at the

    University of California at Los Angeles, Ms. Harman, who

    worked in the Carter White House and has spent the last two

    decades steeped in politics, promises to be a leader in a powerful

    posse of Jewish women the House.

    Dov Hikind

    Few among the rabble of demonstrators protesting outside the

    Senate campaign headquarters of Hillary Rodham Clinton ever

    made it inside the office door, but Mr. Hikind sure did. Playing

    the campaign for all it was worth — or perhaps vice versa — the

    Democratic state assemblyman from Boro Park drew the cameras

    in an instant when he accused the first lady of being

    pro‑Palestinian and anti‑Israel, just as he drew the cameras at

    the end of the campaign by flirting at length with endorsing her.

    Although the onetime deputy to Rabbi Meir Kahane ultimately

    balked at making any endorsement in a race where the Middle

    East loomed large, few got more face time with New York's

    soon‑to‑be junior senator. His reputation as top political

    spokesman for Boro Park Orthodoxy took a beating after his trial

    for embezzlement. Last May, though, several New York City

    mayoral candidates and Governor Pataki showed up at his first

    fund‑raiser since his acquittal, another sign that the bearded

    Brooklynite's star is back on the rise.

    Eric Cantor

    2000 was Eric Cantor's year. A well‑liked representative in

    Virginia's General Assembly since 1991, his election to the U.S.

    House of Representatives has effectively doubled the Jewish

    presence in the House Republican caucus — from one to two.

    Seen as a rising star among Republicans, Mr. Cantor, 37, won in

    a landslide victory on a conservative platform of limiting

    government, cutting taxes and supporting school vouchers. He

    garnered an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association. His

    views may stand in stark contrast to those of the traditionally

    liberal Jewish community, but his record shows a strong

    commitment to Jewish causes, from championing Virginia‑Israel

    trade ties, to securing funding for Virginia's Holocaust museum,

    to ensuring his own children's education at a Jewish day school,

    the Rudlin Torah Academy. His presence on Capitol Hill will not

    only guarantee that a strong Jewish voice is heard when the

    House majority caucus convenes; it will broaden and deepen the

    discussion of Jewish values whenever Jewish lawmakers gather

    to discuss shared concerns.

    Stephen P. Cohen

    For nearly two decades he's been the mystery man of Middle

    East diplomacy, flying about in private jets to meet with

    negotiators and heads of state at crucial moments, appearing

    abruptly and disappearing just as suddenly. He's known to the

    public mainly as the obscure expert who's constantly quoted in

    Thomas Friedman's New York Times columns. His real role has

    only rarely been published. But diplomatic insiders know Dr.

    Stephen P. Cohen as the Middle East's indispensable

    go‑between, the confidant who listens to all sides and explains

    them to each other when nobody else can. A Canadian‑born,

    Harvard‑trained social psychologist, he began his Middle East

    work in the early 1970s, creating Israeli‑Arab "problem‑solving

    workshops." Within a decade he was hosting private chats

    between top leaders on both sides, first under the aegis of City

    University of New York, later with support from liberal Jewish

    philanthropists like Charles Bronfman and S. Daniel Abraham.

    He's kept it up ever since, running a sort of international

    group‑therapy program with a clientele including Shimon Peres,

    Moshe Dayan, Anwar Sadat, Hosni Mubarak, Hafez el‑Assad,

    Boutros Boutros Ghali and Yasser Arafat. Like most shrinks, he's

    unlikely to see any sudden drop in demand for his services any

    time soon. Just in case, he took on an even more formidable

    challenge last year, joining with Israel's Yossi Beilin to set up a

    transatlantic working group to rethink Israel‑Diaspora relations.


    Abraham Foxman

    American Jewry's most visible, media‑savvy spokesman, the

    national director of the Anti‑Defamation League managed again

    this year to demonstrate repeatedly that he is one of the few

    Jewish leaders with both the spine and political smarts to

    deserve the title. He spoke out strongly for church‑state

    separation even when it put him in the awkward position of

    having to criticize Senator Lieberman shortly after the Jewish

    icon was nominated to the vice presidency. Mr. Foxman, 60, also

    knocked the Connecticut senator for offering to meet with

    Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Taking on the

    Democratic nominee at the height of Liebermania wave seemed

    like chutzpah, but a subsequent poll found that it touched a

    chord: American Jews strongly agreed with Mr. Foxman that the

    senator was talking too much religion. On the down side, the

    ADL's Denver office faced legal heat — and $10.5 million in

    damages — when it took sides in a squabble between neighbors

    and labeled the plaintiff an anti‑Semite. Mr. Foxman was

    slammed by Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin after running

    newspaper ads seemingly questioning Yasser Arafat's fitness as a

    peace partner. And the organization faces a tough challenge

    from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which is out to break ADL's

    monopoly on tolerance‑training programs in New York. For all

    that, Mr. Foxman remains the most recognizable and trusted

    figure in Jewish organizational life.

    Rabbi Marvin Hier

    At a time when experts say anti‑Jewish sentiment and

    discrimination are — or at least should be — fading as Jewish

    organizing principles, the Los Angeles‑based Simon Wiesenthal

    Center remains a highly visible outpost of anti‑anti‑Semitism.

    Under the leadership of Rabbi Hier, 62, and his right‑hand man,

    Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center continues to challenge the

    Anti‑Defamation League for the title of American Jewry's top

    "defense" organization. Like the ADL, Rabbi Hier's center

    provides tolerance and diversity training to schools and

    workplaces under pressure to change their images. This year he

    upped the ante, snagging an important diversity‑training

    contract with the police department of New York's Westchester

    County, in the ADL's own backyard. The center's highly

    publicized campaign against hate groups on the Internet — also

    mimicking an ADL initiative — has been credited with forcing

    policy changes at industry giants such as Yahoo and American

    Online. Future plans include a Jerusalem clone of the center's

    Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance, infuriating officials at Yad

    Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust museum. Critics decry the

    center's aggressive tactics, accusing it of fear mongering and

    oversimplification. But Rabbi Hier remains a canny media

    tactician. Case in point: The center has twice won an Academy

    Award for best documentary, for "Genocide" in 1981 and "The

    Long Way Home" in 1997.

    Steven M. Cohen

    Fifty‑two percent, 52%, 52%. The percentage of American Jews

    marrying non‑Jews, according to the landmark 1990 National

    Jewish Population Survey, was spoken like a mantra in the halls

    and boardrooms of Jewish organizations throughout the 1990s,

    and defined that decade's Jewish communal agenda as a crisis of

    "continuity." Only one problem, said sociologist Steven M.

    Cohen: The NJPS statistic was inflated by a poorly designed

    questionnaire, and the real intermarriage rate was closer to 40%.

    That's still nothing to crow about, but what's at stake isn't just

    numbers. It's the way a community defines who belongs and

    who doesn't. Mr. Cohen, 50, who moved to Jerusalem in 1992

    and now lectures at the Melton Center for Jewish Education at

    The Hebrew University, has asked questions like those in more

    than a dozen books and over 100 articles and monographs, most

    recently the groundbreaking "The Jew Within," with Stanford

    University's Arnold Eisen. When you hear a statistic on

    assimilation, attitudes toward Israel or synagogue affiliation,

    chances are it came from a Cohen study. For years the pollster

    for the American Jewish Committee's annual survey of

    American‑Jewish opinion, he's now the social scientist of choice

    for, among others, the Andrea and Charles Bronfman

    Philanthropies, the Jewish Community Centers Association, the

    Jewish Agency for Israel, the Nathan Cummings Foundation and

    the Wexner Foundation. Last week the United Jewish

    Communities, sponsor of the forthcoming National Jewish

    Population Survey 2000, implicitly acknowledged Mr. Cohen's

    critique of its researchers' methods when it appointed him senior

    research consultant to the new study.

    Steven Bayme

    Of all the recent transformations sweeping the American‑Jewish

    landscape, none is more startling than the transformation of

    American Jewish Committee from liberal voice of an

    assimilationist Jewish elite into its current stance as a crusader

    for old‑time religion, advocating Jewish day schooling and a

    full‑bore war against interfaith marriage. The man behind the

    transformation is AJCommittee's director of Jewish Communal

    Affairs, Steven Bayme. Mr. Bayme, 50, has emerged in recent

    years as the nation's most visible advocate of the

    circle‑the‑wagons "inreach" approach toward intermarriage,

    which opposes reaching out to welcome interfaith families. He

    sees intermarriage as a disaster that could result in a net loss of

    up to one million Jews in the next generation, and he's

    marshaled the considerable resources of AJCommittee to his

    cause, staging prestigious conferences and issuing publications

    like last year's "Statement on Jewish Education," which put the

    organization, once the champion of "Americanization" of Jewish

    immigrants, squarely behind Jewish day schools as "the primary

    if not sole solution" to assimilation. Himself a product of the

    Modern Orthodox Maimonides High School in Boston, Mr.

    Bayme looks to Orthodoxy as a model of a community willing to

    "undergo any sacrifice and pay any price — financially, culturally,

    or even familially [sic] — in order to provide quality Jewish

    education for its young."

    Steven Nasatir

    Chief executive of the Jewish Federation of Greater Chicago

    since 1979, Mr. Nasatir is a rare pillar of stability in a field swept

    by change and uncertainty. While other cities' federations

    struggle to redefine themselves against a landscape of change,

    assimilation and crisis, Mr. Nasatir's Chicago machine just chugs

    along, unchallenged in its traditional role as the central body of

    organized Jewish life in the Windy City. In recent years Mr.

    Nasatir turned down repeated appeals to move to New York and

    take over the management of the United Jewish Communities,

    and of the United Jewish Appeal before that — at one point

    there were rumors that the organization would relocate to

    Chicago if only Mr. Nasatir would agree to head it. Instead, the

    national organization has emerged as a weak confederation,

    largely beholden to the directors of the biggest local federations,

    sometimes known to insiders as the "college of cardinals." That

    leaves Mr. Nasatir, the dean of the college, to rule the roost

    without having to leave home.

    Barry Shrage

    Officially, his title is president of Combined Jewish

    Philanthropies, as Boston's Jewish federation is known.

    Unofficially, Mr. Shrage, 54, is known as the Peck's Bad Boy of

    the national Jewish federation scene. His criticisms of the

    traditional structures of federated Jewish philanthropy,

    particularly the Jewish Agency for Israel, have made him

    enemies on both sides of the ocean. He led the successful

    opposition to plans by the architects of the United Jewish

    Communities to create a strong central body that could forge

    national policies in social services, overseas aid or Jewish

    education. His argument: that at a time of rapid change,

    American Jewry needs a decentralized network of institutions

    that can experiment with new ways of delivering services,

    rather than imposing answers from above. His Boston federation

    is a model of innovation, as even his detractors admit, pursuing

    a host of new programs in federation‑synagogue cooperation,

    social justice programming and even "universal adult Jewish

    literacy." He's also led the way, despite his personal commitment

    to Orthodoxy, in reaching out to interfaith families, investing

    some $400,000 a year in that area alone.

    John Ruskay

    In his first year as chief executive of the nation's largest local

    Jewish charity, UJA‑Federation of New York, Mr. Ruskay, 54,

    has started more revolutions and shaken up more conventions

    than anyone in memory. Insisting that Jews everywhere face

    the same problems of identity and meaning, he's broken down

    the old division between domestic and overseas work. Instead

    he's set up entirely new divisions with names like "Jewish

    caring" and "Jewish peoplehood," testimony to his spiritual roots

    in Camp Ramah, the New Left and the chavurah movement. He

    speaks of creating "inspired communities" and of bringing

    federations and JCC's into that circle as "gateways." Federation

    staffers and volunteers say they're not always sure exactly what

    he's got in mind, but they're exhilarated at the pace of change in

    the huge, hidebound institution. Whether he can turn the New

    York federation around and make it a vital center for the

    nation's largest Jewish community remains to be seen. If he

    succeeds at one‑tenth of his plans, Jewish New York will never

    be the same.

    Hannah Rosenthal

    A longtime Democratic party activist, Ms. Rosenthal left the

    Midwest region of the U.S. Department of Health and Human

    Services in October to take over the Jewish Council for Public

    Affairs as it struggles to define itself within a recently

    reorganized system of Jewish federations. Created by the

    federation movement in 1944 (it used to be called the National

    Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, or Njcrac), the

    council served for years as a coordinating body for Jewish

    "defense" agencies like the Anti‑Defamation League and

    American Jewish Committee, helping them channel their

    resources to the community‑relations committees of local

    Jewish federations. The council often found itself debating topics

    as far‑flung as gun control and the environment. But following

    an agreement reached this September with the United Jewish

    Communities, which pays its bills, the JCPA is to focus its

    attention more narrowly on issues relevant to the federations.

    The council might have been expected to be at the forefront of

    the traditionally liberal Jewish community's inevitable

    confrontations with a Republican administration. Instead, Ms.

    Rosenthal and her colleagues will be grappling with the issue of

    who speaks for the Jews.

    Richard Joel

    In 1991, when this former associate dean of the law school at

    Yeshiva University took over Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish

    Campus Life, he promised to revolutionize Jewish life on campus

    by "maximizing the number of Jews doing Jewish with other

    Jews." He changed the job description of Hillel directors to open

    the door to non‑rabbis, helped move Jewish programming out of

    the Hillel house and into frat houses and local bars, and

    personally emerged as a top pundit on what ails America's

    peripatetic Jewish youth. Any scrutiny he might have faced in

    his 10th anniversary year (many say the Hillel makeover was

    more sizzle than steak) disappeared when Hillel became the

    largest service‑provider for Birthright Israel, sending unaffiliated

    youngsters on free Israel trips that Mr. Joel calls the "most

    effective arrow in our quiver of engagement." This summer he

    was appointed to chair a special commission investigating a

    decades‑long case of alleged sexual abuse by a youth leader at

    the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. The

    reputation of the O.U., and by extension all Modern Orthodox

    congregations, hangs in the balance of the commission's findings,

    released this week.

    Margery Tabankin

    When she left the powerful Hollywood Women's Political

    Committee in 1997 and took over Steven Spielberg's Righteous

    Persons Foundation, Ms. Tabankin underwent one of the most

    talked‑about career changes in California philanthropy. As

    longtime head of the political committee, she ruled the glittering

    world of left‑liberal political fund‑raising in Tinseltown. At the

    Spielberg foundation, formed with the profits from the 1993

    blockbuster, "Schindler's List," she has been focused entirely on

    the flip side of charity: giving money away. Mr. Spielberg set up

    the foundation in 1994 with a mission of promoting Jewish

    learning, advancing intergroup tolerance and "using arts and

    media to engage broad audiences on questions of what it means

    to be Jewish." Under Ms. Tabankin, what had been a predictable

    list of grants to youth groups and rabbinic seminars has become

    an innovative program combining youth, innovation and a

    strongly liberal social‑justice bent. She signed onto last year's

    initiative by Jewish family foundations to encourage "civil

    discourse" within the Jewish community by denying funds to

    groups that flout it. Together with program associate Rachel

    Levin, she spearheaded the Joshua Venture, which seeds

    innovative Jewish projects by young visionaries. She's also

    funded a host of Jewish cultural initiatives, from documentary

    films to an online Yiddish theater archive. The job has a term

    limit: the foundation was set up to spend down its endowment,

    which Hollywood sources say may take another three years.

    With more than $55 million in grants to date, the foundation

    and Ms. Tabankin aim to spark a revolution in Jewish life before

    the money runs out. Not that she'll go begging: She also heads

    the Barbra Streisand Foundation.


    Anita Diamant

    The West Newton, Mass., author may be what's called a "viral"

    leader: Her influence is spread person‑to‑person and by word of

    mouth. Her novel "The Red Tent," a revisionist feminist version

    of the biblical tale of Dinah, was quietly released by St. Martin's

    in 1997. Paperback publisher Picador sent copies to rabbis,

    ministers and independent book group leaders, who

    recommended it to their congregants and friends. By now "The

    Red Tent" has sold over 400,000 copies, and as a favorite of book

    discussion groups, may be the country's most widely studied

    Torah "commentary." In addition, Ms. Diamant's five liberal

    how‑to guides to Jewish observance, including "The New Jewish

    Wedding" and "Saying Kaddish: How to Comfort the Dying, Bury

    the Dead, and Mourn As a Jew," are essential resources for

    heterodox Jews seeking a welcoming, non‑judgmental catalogue

    of the range of Jewish traditions.

    Rabbi Eric Yoffie

    Two unfortunate transitions have left the president of the

    Reform movement's Union of American Hebrew Congregations,

    Rabbi Yoffie, 53, with an even more powerful presence atop

    American Jewry's largest denomination. The obituaries for the

    man Rabbi Yoffie succeeded four years ago, Rabbi Alexander

    Schindler, who died in November, reminded readers how

    Schindler guided Reform during a time of soaring intermarriage

    and intergroup strife. Rabbi Yoffie continued Schindler's bold —

    some say radical — approach to inclusion of intermarried

    families, but coupled it with an embrace of more tradition and

    spiritual prayer and ritual forms. When Rabbi Sheldon

    Zimmerman, president of the movement's rabbinical seminary,

    was forced to step down this month over allegations of sexual

    misconduct, Rabbi Yoffie lost an important ally in his efforts to

    fill a shortage of rabbis and train a cadre of them in his image.

    The number of Reform synagogues grew to more than 900 this

    year, although the news was largely overshadowed by the move

    by Reform's rabbinical body to allow its rabbis to devise and

    perform "appropriate Jewish rituals" of commitment for gay and

    lesbian couples. "For the first time in history," Rabbi Yoffie said,

    "a major rabbinical body has affirmed the Jewish validity of

    committed, same‑gender relationships." It will take all of Rabbi

    Yoffie's considerable skills to answer once again the question of

    whether the move is a sign of Reform going its own way, or just

    getting there ahead of everyone else.

    Blu Greenberg

    Known as the "mother" of Orthodox feminism, Blu Greenberg

    gets the kind of reception among Modern Orthodox women that

    others reserve for great rabbis: Crowds part as she walks into a

    room. A writer ("Black Bread: Poems After the Holocaust," "How

    to Run a Traditional Jewish Household" and "On Women and

    Judaism: A View From Tradition"), she has spearheaded the two

    International Conferences on Feminism and Orthodoxy and is

    president of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance. In these

    roles, she has prodded the conservative world of Orthodox

    Judaism to envision new religious roles and responsibilities for

    women in synagogues, rabbinic tribunals, schools and other

    institutions. Married to Orthodox theologian Rabbi Irving

    Greenberg (see below), her soft‑spoken leadership has inspired

    an explosion of women's prayer and study within Orthodoxy.

    She serves on the boards of the JWB Jewish Book Council, the

    US/Israel Women‑to‑Women Dialogue Project, the Jewish

    Foundation for Christian Rescuers, Hadassah Magazine, the

    Jewish Women's Resource Center and more.

    Rabbi Irwin Kula

    With his shoulder‑length hair and an office adorned with

    photographs of the Grateful Dead, the Conservative‑trained

    Rabbi Kula has carefully cultivated an image of Jewish boomer

    cool. Beyond image, though, the 42‑year‑old president of

    CLAL‑The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership is

    among the few leaders challenging institutions to imagine how

    Judaism might adapt to what he calls "an era of unprecedented

    freedom, power and affluence." As successor to CLAL's founder,

    Irving "Yitz" Greenberg, Rabbi Kula continues to work within

    the Jewish establishment, teaching pluralism and leadership

    training to young rabbis and lay leaders around the country.

    More recently, he has begun reaching out to unaffiliated Jews

    with a message of Jewish universalism that takes seriously the

    spiritual energies percolating on the margins of Jewish life.

    Oprah has paid attention, inviting him twice this year as a guest

    on her program, and so has Silicon Valley: Rabbi Kula gave the

    closing talk at the tenth TED conference, a high‑power new

    media pow‑wow, and was written up in Fast Company

    magazine as a "spiritual counselor" of the New Economy.

    Rabbi Avi Weiss

    He still shows up for the occasional street protest, like the

    demonstrations this summer for the freedom of 10 imprisoned

    Jews in Iran. But after years of globe‑hopping protests against

    Kurt Waldheim in Austria, the Catholic convent at Auschwitz

    and more, Rabbi Weiss, 56, says the golden age of Jewish

    activism is over. The Jewish struggle has become one of the

    soul, not the body politic. In recent months the former militant

    has emerged as one of the premier proponents of Modern

    Orthodoxy. Together with a fellow moderate, Rabbi Saul

    Berman, he has staked out a position on the left flank of

    Orthodoxy, waging a rear‑guard action against the yeshiva heads

    and fellow rabbis who have become increasingly wary of secular

    culture and interaction with non‑Orthodox Jews. A leading

    advocate of women's rights in Orthodoxy — he sponsors

    women's prayer groups and started a quasi‑rabbinic "synagogue

    intern" program for women at his Hebrew Institute of Riverdale

    — he is the driving force behind Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a

    Modern Orthodox seminary that currently enrolls seven

    full‑time rabbinical students. His overall goal is to raise up a new

    generation of disciples to pursue a welcoming religiosity that he

    calls "Open Orthodoxy."

    Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum

    Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum is not most people's image of a

    bridge‑builder. Leader of the Satmar chasidic sect since the death

    in 1978 of his uncle, Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, who founded the

    sect in Romania in the 1920s, the Satmar rebbe remains a fierce

    opponent of Zionism and non‑Orthodox Judaism. And yet, in his

    two decades as rebbe he has led America's most reclusive

    chasidic movement to a far more tolerant stance toward the

    world around it. The community, once adamantly opposed to

    higher education, is now allowing young men to enroll in

    vocational courses, such as computer networking. It has become

    far less pugnacious in its stance toward Israel and Zionism. The

    rebbe also appears to have scaled back his movement's

    sometimes violent feuding with the smaller but more visible

    Lubavitch community and healed some of the internal breaches

    that split his own community after his predecessor died without

    a son. Under Rabbi Teitelbaum the Satmar community, the

    largest faction in the complex world of chasidism is increasingly

    emerging as a religious and political force to be contended with,

    within Orthodoxy and in the broader community.

    Rabbi Shira Stern

    As co‑president of the Reform movement's 275‑member

    Women's Rabbinic Network, Rabbi Stern was the lead promoter

    of one of this year's most controversial Jewish initiatives, the

    decision of the Central Conference of American Rabbis to

    support rabbinic officiation at gay and lesbian commitment

    ceremonies. "This is not a women's issue or a gay or lesbian

    issue. This is a human rights issue," Rabbi Stern told reporters as

    the Reform rabbis voted on the resolution at their March

    convention. "For Jews who have no choice in the matter of

    sexual identity, we as leaders of the movement must provide

    them with the religious framework in which to celebrate their

    union." Having adopted the decision, the movement now must

    develop liturgies for such ceremonies, Rabbi Stern said. The

    daughter of violinist Isaac Stern, Rabbi Stern is also a staunch

    proponent of abortion rights who has shared publicly the story

    of her own anguished decision to abort an anencephalic fetus.

    She directs the Joint Chaplaincy Program of Middlesex County

    in New Jersey.

    Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman

    and Ron Wolfson

    The hot topic this year on the Jewish "renaissance front" was

    Synagogue Transformation — and the professionals most

    responsible for putting the issue on the map are Rabbi Lawrence

    Hoffman and Ron Wolfson. Rabbi Hoffman, one of the Reform

    movement's leading liturgical scholars, and Mr. Wolfson, a vice

    president at the Conservative movement's University of Judaism

    in Los Angeles, have pushed ahead with Synagogue 2000, a

    transdenominational project that works with congregations to

    improve member services, incorporate liturgical and

    programming innovations and develop marketing campaigns.

    Their formula is heavy on spirituality, music and constant

    institutional reevaluation.

    Tamara Cohen

    Offering women a starring role in Jewish festivals has turned

    Ma'yan, the Jewish Women's Project of the JCC on the Upper

    West Side, into a blockbuster, and its program director, Tamara

    Cohen, 29, into a leading spokeswoman for feminism. The

    project began by gathering women for a feminist Passover seder

    in Manhattan six years ago, drawing a crowd of 200. By 1999 the

    seder drew 1,500 women with the help of folksinger Debbie

    Friedman. This year 34 Ma'yan seders took place nationwide.

    "We didn't start the idea of a feminist seder, but we've been

    committed to making it mainstream in Jewish life," said Ms.

    Cohen, the daughter of Middle East activist Stephen P. Cohen

    (see above). Accoutrements of the Ma'yan seder include a

    women‑centered Haggada, edited by Ms. Cohen, and a cup

    dedicated to Moses' sister, Miriam — a play on the cup offered to

    Elijah the prophet. Ma'yan is working to incorporate feminist

    ceremonies into all major life‑cycle events, said Ms. Cohen,

    including a new Sukkot compilation completed last fall. Ms.

    Cohen edits Ma'yan's quarterly journal, "Journey," which

    publishes new rituals and chronicles feminist activism. She is

    also spiritual leader of the Greater Washington Coalition for

    Jewish Life in Washington, Conn., and a leader of Jews for

    Racial and Economic Justice.

    Lay Leadership

    Rabbi Irving Greenberg

    With his appointment by President Clinton to chair the United

    States Holocaust Memorial Council, "Yitz" Greenberg may finally

    have the platform he's been waiting a lifetime to find. As

    founding president of CLAL‑The National Jewish Center for

    Learning and Leadership, he championed interdenominational

    and interfaith dialogue before they were fashionable, and long

    after others had given up. A maverick proponent of Modern

    Orthodoxy, a trained historian and a daring theologian, Rabbi

    Greenberg has written persuasively about the Holocaust both in

    its Jewish particularity and its human universality. He is widely

    considered uniquely qualified to steer the Holocaust Council and

    the museum in Washington past the internal struggles and

    political missteps of its founding generation, and to shape Jewish

    memory into the new century. Even without the council

    chairmanship, he wields formidable influence as president of

    Michael Steinhardt's Jewish Life Network, helping to steer the

    iconoclast philanthropist's largesse towards day schools, higher

    education and community service.

    Belda Lindenbaum

    Belda Lindenbaum says she remembers all too well the look she

    has seen among young women praying at Orthodox synagogues

    and yeshivot: "Catatonia" was how she described it at the last

    International Conference on Feminism and Orthodoxy, of which

    she was a major supporter. Seeing this lack of involvement in

    prayer as stemming from neglect of the young women's Jewish

    education, Ms. Lindenbaum, a wealthy New Yorker, has set

    about making sure that women have top‑notch institutions for

    Torah learning on a par with those for men. She is president of

    the board of Drisha, a Manhattan institute for women's Torah

    study, and founded Midreshet Lindenbaum, a program in Israel

    at which many Americans study for a year or more after high

    school. She also funds an Israeli program to train women as

    "pleaders" in rabbinical courts and another permitting them to

    study Torah while in the army. Such opportunities are changing

    the face of Orthodoxy, where status comes from Torah


    Michael Steinhardt

    This 60‑year‑old retired hedge‑fund operator continues to

    operate in the eye of North American Jewry's roughest storm:

    battling intermarriage and assimilation and offering young

    Americans a positive reason to be, and marry, Jewish. A

    full‑time philanthropic entrepreneur, he uses his money and

    clout to bring together groups of fellow philanthropists and

    incubate programs such as the Partnership for Excellence in

    Jewish Education, which provides seed‑money for new Jewish

    day schools; Birthright Israel, the Israel‑travel program for

    teenagers that has captured the communal imagination in the

    last year, and Makor, the innovative Gen‑X Jewish culture

    center on New York's West Side (which he reportedly is

    preparing to hand over to the 92nd Street YM‑YWHA). The

    question that exercises his critics and admirers alike is whether

    he can discipline his restless imagination and learn to stay with

    his brainchildren until they're on their feet.

    Edgar Bronfman

    After two decades at the helm of the World Jewish Congress,

    Mr. Bronfman has few worlds left to conquer. Last July his

    five‑year campaign against Swiss banks ended in triumph when

    a U.S. court approved a $1.25 billion settlement for Holocaust

    victims and their heirs. A separate negotiation with German

    companies to compensate Nazi‑era slave laborers ended, also in

    July, with a $4.8 billion settlement. He played a controversial

    role in this fall's elections, sponsoring a gala Holocaust

    restitution banquet that honored first lady‑turned‑Senate

    candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton for what many said was a

    minimal role in the campaign. But Mr. Bronfman, 71, has been

    showing signs of restlessness with the political hurly‑burly. In a

    1996 speech he called for the Jewish community to cut back on

    politics and refocus on spiritual nourishment. This fall he acted,

    joining with two other multimillionaires, including Michael

    Steinhardt, to launch an $18 million initiative for "Synagogue

    Transformation and Renewal," or STAR. Addressing STAR's

    inaugural conference in Chicago, Mr. Bronfman described his

    disappointment with High Holy Day services, which led him to

    hire Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg to lead davening in his Upper East

    Side apartment. He also described how he'd moved Havdalah,

    the Saturday‑night end‑of‑Sabbath ritual, to Sunday night to

    accommodate his weekend schedule. Slack‑jawed reactions from

    the assembled rabbis suggested that Mr. Bronfman may have

    humbled the Swiss, but he had yet to master negotiations with

    his fellow Jews.

    Morton Klein

    The current intifada came as no surprise to Morton Klein, 53, the

    pugnacious national president of the Zionist Organization of

    America. The Philadelphia‑based activist and his allies were

    often marginalized for their relentless campaign to expose

    Palestinian incitement, which allies of Israel's Labor government

    saw as aimed at delegitimizing talks with Yasser Arafat. In recent

    months, however, Prime Minister Barak and some of his main

    backers here have started to sound like Mr. Klein when talking

    about the Palestinians' failure to curb a culture of hatred in their

    schools, media and political rhetoric. Still, there's a wide gap

    between being "right" and being effective: For all of Mr. Klein's

    efforts, the Barak government is still aiming for a sweeping

    compromise with the Palestinians — even after three months of

    violent intifada — and the American government is still backing

    the compromise plans. Mr. Klein, who once worked as a

    biostatistician with Nobel laureate Linus Pauling and assumed

    the top spot at the then‑sleepy ZOA in 1993, has lined up a

    powerful network of congressional contacts. Keep an eye on

    whether the conservative Mr. Klein is just as persistent with his

    criticisms of President‑elect Bush if he fails to move the

    American Embassy to Jerusalem and of a Likud prime minister if

    he carries on with the peace process.

    Barbara Dobkin

    This New York philanthropist is still the top banana when it

    comes to funding Jewish feminist causes, such as Ma'yan: The

    Jewish Women's Project of the JCC of the Upper West Side. But

    now the establishment is starting to catch on. In many ways her

    activism by example is responsible for the women's foundations

    popping up at federations and other Jewish organizations. She

    put up $1 million to launch a program for recruiting women to

    break the glass ceiling at big‑city Jewish federations. Through

    this investment in the maiden project of the Trust for Jewish

    Philanthropy, Ms. Dobkin could end up playing a major role in

    selecting several top women executives at big‑city federations.

    Not a bad display of muscle‑flexing for a trained social worker.


    Judah Gribetz

    Few people can simultaneously win the respect of Holocaust

    survivors, lawyers and judges — especially when the matter at

    hand is an allocation plan for the $1.25 billion Swiss banks

    settlement — but Mr. Gribetz is the kind of guy to pull it off.

    When federal Judge Edward Korman named him "special master"

    to oversee the massive allocation plan in 1999, everyone from

    Edward Fagan, the controversial class action lawyer, to

    Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau praised the

    choice. Long involved in Jewish issues and city politics, Mr.

    Gribetz, a partner at Richards & O'Neill, former deputy mayor,

    consulting member of the New York Community Trust and past

    president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New

    York, seemed an inspired choice. And so it appears. While some

    survivors groups had vociferously lobbied Mr. Gribetz to move

    more swiftly in drafting the plan, when he presented the fruits

    of two years' labor this fall, few had substantive criticism of the

    proposed allocations. Indeed, the most frequently heard cry

    about the intricate allocation plan was still "when," not "what."

    Now as before, the question is whether Mr. Gribetz will be able

    to push the plan through all the legal hoops in time for aged

    survivors to see their fair share.

    Amy Beth Dean

    Called one of the "most innovative figures in Silicon Valley" by

    The New York Times, Amy Beth Dean heads the South Bay

    AFL‑CIO Labor Council, a federation of 110 northern California

    unions at ground zero of the New Economy. Ms. Dean, 37, took

    her first job with the garment workers' union after college,

    thinking she would stay for a year before graduate school.

    Instead she's made the labor movement her life's work and in

    1995 became the youngest person to lead a major metropolitan

    labor council. Always committed to the Judaism of her Chicago

    family, for whom religion was inseparable from social activism,

    Ms. Dean was a Fellow of the Wexner Heritage Foundation from

    1996 to 1998. In 1997 she helped found the Interfaith Council on

    Religion, Race, Economic and Social Justice, a coalition of 30

    religious, labor and community organizations that's won for the

    San Jose area the nation's highest "living wage" and universal

    health‑care access for children under 18. Ms. Dean challenges

    New Economy shibboleths by insisting information workers

    deserve the same workplace protections won by the labor

    movement for a previous era's industrial workers. "I've realized

    that a movement for serious power and social justice must be

    led by labor," Ms. Dean told the Forward, "but you also need a

    spiritual component."

    Nancy Kaufman

    Nancy Kaufman has become nationally known for advocating a

    classically Jewish social justice agenda within an increasingly

    conservative federation establishment. As executive director of

    the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater

    Boston, she helped pilot The Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for

    Literacy, a program that has since been adopted by some 25

    cities across the nation. "She has transformed the agency to

    focus on social justice and linking the greater Boston Jewish

    community to its roots in the urban core," said Alan Ronkin, her

    associate director. "This transformation has caught on nationally

    as a model for Jewish community relations."

    Stephen Flatow,

    Arline Duker,

    Devorah Halberstam,

    Daniel Gross

    Four families victimized by terrorism turned their tragedies into

    appeals for international justice, and people listened. New

    legislation this year will allow Stephen Flatow, 52, whose

    daughter Alisa was killed in a 1995 bus bombing by Iranian

    backed terrorists, to collect damages in his lawsuit against Iran.

    Another campaigner for the legislation, Arline Duker, 53, lost her

    daughter Sara in a 1996 attack by apparent Iranian‑funded

    terrorists in Israel. Both families say it isn't about the money, but

    about making state sponsors of terrorism accountable for their

    crimes. Accountability was also the mission of Devorah

    Halberstam, 44, whose son Ari was slain by a Lebanese‑born

    gunman on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1994. After six years of

    investigations, pressed by Mrs. Halberstam and her allies, the FBI

    announced this month that the killing was an act of terrorism,

    not simple "road rage." And Daniel Gross, 33, a former

    advertising executive, now works full time for the gun control

    group Pax, after his brother Matthew suffered brain damage as

    one of seven people shot by a Palestinian gunman atop the

    Empire State Building in February 1997 (the shooter killed

    himself). Mr. Gross told a reporter earlier this year of the power

    that comes when ordinary citizens see violence as something

    that "goes from being a seemingly random, high‑profile tragedy

    to something that could affect them personally."


    Samuel Freedman

    With a single book on Jewish affairs, this former New York

    Times writer and Columbia University School of Journalism

    professor framed the Jewish communal debate for this year and

    possibly for years to come. "Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the

    Soul of American Jewry" painted a portrait of a community in

    near‑constant conflict: feminists versus traditionalists, peaceniks

    versus right‑wingers on Israel, ultra‑Orthodox Jews against just

    about everybody. Although many reviewers said Mr. Freedman's

    portrayal was darker than reality and found only rancor where

    others saw healthy debate, most acknowledged that he asked a

    key question that must be addressed by proponents of Jewish

    "continuity" and "renaissance": Is there hope for a secular, ethnic

    Jewish culture, or has an "Orthodox model" of religious

    belonging and learning, ritual scrupulousness and Jewish day

    schooling triumphed?

    Cynthia Ozick

    As a writer of fiction, literary criticism and political commentary,

    Ms. Ozick is a Pilot pen‑wielding triple threat. "Quarrel and

    Quandary," her 12th book, hit shelves this fall to the acclaim of

    critics who hailed it as her best book of essays yet. Now 72, Ms.

    Ozick continues to hold her own among literary giants and is

    still one of the only Jewish‑American women fiction writers to

    be ranked alongside Philip Roth and Saul Bellow. (The three are

    the focus of one chapter in "The Modern Jewish Canon: A

    Journey Through Language and Culture," by Ruth Wisse, Ms.

    Ozick's only competitor for the title of greatest living Jewish

    belle‑lettrist). Although claiming to "resist the political" in the

    "Forethought" to her book, Ms. Ozick is also known for her

    right‑of‑center advocacy on Jewish matters from the Holocaust

    to Israel. She said it was "astounding" that the trial in England

    this year against Holocaust revisionist David Irving did not

    capture Jewish interest, and in her book she voices disgust at

    the commodification of Anne Frank. A long‑time critic of the

    Palestine Liberation Organization, she said in October that Jews

    should "unashamedly defend themselves in any way they can."

    Jon Stewart

    In a year when late‑night comedy programming became a major

    source of the electorate's understanding of the presidential

    campaign — a Pew Research Center poll in February found that

    28% of all Americans, and 47% under the age of 30, got campaign

    news from late‑night talk shows — Jon Stewart became the

    medium's Ted Koppel. Following a spotty career in stand‑up and

    short‑lived TV shows, the 38‑year‑old comic scored big as host of

    "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" on cable TV's Comedy

    Central. Mr. Stewart captured the college set with a dead‑on

    nightly satire of the news and off‑kilter interviews with real

    newsmakers. Born Jon Stewart Leibowitz in Trenton, N.J., he

    sometimes refers to Christians as "you people" and once

    introduced Senator Lieberman as the "the man who wants to

    build that bridge to the 59th century." If Adam Sandler is a

    post‑boomer Jerry Lewis, then Mr. Stewart is Generation X's

    Mort Sahl or Lenny Bruce: a comedian who unapologetically

    filters his political satire through a Jewish sensibility.

    Michael Dorf

    Defying reports that secular Judaism is dead and that only the

    religious model has staying power, impresario Michael Dorf, 38,

    continues to champion a brand of Jewish cultural expression

    that owes more to Second Avenue than the Second Temple. The

    founder of the Knitting Factory, a New York‑based music club

    and record label known for musical experimentation, Mr. Dorf

    has pioneered new Jewish music with his offshoot label, JAM, or

    Jewish Alternative Movement. Artists such as Frank London and

    Uri Caine have found a home on the label for their in‑your‑face

    avant‑garde Jewish music, which manages to be both irreverent

    and traditional. Every December the Knit, as hipsters call it,

    hosts a Jewish Music Festival. In August, Mr. Dorf brought his

    vision west with the launch of the Knitting Factory Hollywood,

    and he plans to conquer Europe next year, opening a Berlin

    location. At the Knitting Factory's "Cyber‑Seder," where

    musicians perform interpretations of traditional Passover songs

    for a Webcast "attended" by thousands of computer users, Mr.

    Dorf succeeds where many others have failed — at turning an

    ancient tradition into something edgy and hip.

    Yossi Abramowitz

    The Jewish Internet and Yossi Abramowitz, 36, have become

    synonymous, and as the Internet is everywhere these days, so is

    Mr. Abramowitz. Founder, editor and publisher of the

   multimedia, Boston‑based Jewish Family & Life!, Mr.

    Abramowitz started the year with a bang when his web site for

    teenagers,, launched its popular sex forum,

    Jvibrations. At a time when web sites nationwide are going

    belly‑up, Mr. Abramowitz keeps attracting contracts from the

    Jewish non‑profit sector. In addition to JFL's webzine lineup,

    including, and, he debuted his latest project,, which aims to be the premier source of

    information for alumni of the popular Israel trips. He's now

    launching a new venture with the Jewish Education Service of

    North America, Jskyway, offering distance‑learning for day

    school teachers.

    Dr. Laura Schlessinger

    Liberals hate the idea, but "Dr. Laura" (her degrees are in

    physiology and counseling) may have the largest audience of

    anyone who claims to speak from and for Jewish tradition. A

    Jew by choice and self‑described follower of Orthodoxy, Dr.

    Laura often invokes the Hebrew scriptures in her "tough love"

    stands against premarital sex, divorce, single parenting,

    abortion, feminism and, most notoriously, homosexuality. It was

    the last that stalled the Dr. Laura phenomenon — which

    includes a syndicated television talk show, a radio program

    syndicated to more than 500 stations and 20 million listeners in

    the United States and Canada, a syndicated newspaper column

    and such best‑selling advice books as "The Ten Commandments:

    The Significance of God's Laws in Everyday Life," written with

    Rabbi Stuart Vogel. Repelled by Dr. Laura's classification of

    homosexuality as a "biological mistake" and "deviant sexual

    behavior," civil rights and gay rights groups protested to

    Paramount Television for carrying the show. Advertisers such as

    Proctor & Gamble dropped their sponsorship of the show, and

    Canadian broadcasters reversed their decision to air "Dr. Laura."

    The show, which in September aired daily in the afternoons, has

    recently been bumped to the wee hour of 2 a.m. in major cities

    such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

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