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Top 50 (okay, 10) ideas for filling the Newsweek rabbis list void

by Julie Wiener, JTA

February 28, 2014 | 1:26 pm

Rabbi Sharon Brous of the IKAR congregation in Los Angeles, was No. 1 on the Newsweek/Daily Beast list last year. (Donovan Marks/Washington National Cathedral)<br />

Rabbi Sharon Brous of the IKAR congregation in Los Angeles, was No. 1 on the Newsweek/Daily Beast list last year. (Donovan Marks/Washington National Cathedral)

As every rabbi in America no doubt knows by now, the Newsweek/Daily Beast Top 50 Rabbis list is no more.

The list’s founders/authors wrote earlier this week that they had decided to discontinue the annual ranking because it “got out of control.” Not only did the list, launched in 2007 and released each year shortly before Passover, start “to carry too much weight for too many people,” they wrote, but it fueled insistent nudging, with some rabbis enlisting friends and colleagues to lobby on their behalf: “Some even came into our offices with personal pleas to be included, others to pray for our souls.”

Now that the Top 50 Rabbis list is gone, how will rabbis, and those of us who like to gossip about them — not to mention those of us who like to kvetch about the list’s very existence — fill the collective void in our lives? Especially in the weeks leading up to Passover, a time when, as everyone knows, Jews have very little to keep them busy.

In the spirit of the list, here are 10 ideas (sorry we couldn’t give you 50, but hey, we had to leave some time for useful activities today):

1) Compile and publish a list of best guesses as to which rabbis (and/or their mothers) actively lobbied Newsweek/The Daily Beast in order to be included. Make sure to rank the rabbis who made in-person pleas higher than the ones who did it by email.

2) Lobby for something useful, like to get your child into a prestigious nursery school.

3) Aspire to be included on one of the many rabbi lists that the Newsweek/Daily Beast one inspired: Jewrotica’s “Sexiest Rabbis,” the Forward’s “Most Inspiring Rabbis,” Channel 13’s “Hippest Rabbis.”

4) Start your own “Top 50” rabbis/Jewish professionals list. Here are some ideas to get you started: Best-Paid Rabbis, Most Boring Rabbis, Most Beloved Shul Custodians.

5) Review previous Newsweek/Daily Beast Top Rabbis lists, and create detailed data visualizations, highlighting which rabbis appeared the most frequently, which rose and fell the most in their rankings and just how disproportionately male the list was.

6) Make a list of rabbis who “officially piss off” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s allies, who will perhaps be inspired to block access to their synagogue parking lots.

7) Complain about how terribly destructive and inappropriate the Newsweek/Daily Beast list was, even though you appeared on it multiple times.

8) Review previous Top Rabbis lists, and create a detailed Gematria-based analysis of them. Pay special attention to the rabbis ranked with Jewishly significant numbers, like 18 and 36 (chai), 12 (tribes), 10 (commandments/minyan), 7 (Shabbat), 6 (days of creation), 40 (years in the desert), 1 (God), 4 (patriarchs), 5 (books of Moses), 48 (year of State of Israel’s founding), 29 (number of books Philip Roth has published). Try to determine if there is any number under 51 that DOESN’T have some Jewish significance.

9) Plead emphatically to have Newsweek/Daily Beast Top Rabbis list reinstated. Enlist friends or colleagues to lobby insistently. Go to the offices of the list’s authors with personal pleas to reinstate the list and prayers for their souls.

10) Study Jewish texts. Write sermons. Lead worship. Visit the sick and tend to the bereaved. Raise money for a capital campaign. Lament the findings of the Pew report. You know, the stuff rabbis are supposed to spend their time doing.

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