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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