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August 03, 2010

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Dan Filler

With all due respect to Muller, these lists are the best ordinal rankings of rabbis currently available. It's easy to poke holes in the Newsweek methodology and accuse the weekly of pandering to the mass market of people interested in rabbinical rankings. Yes, they overvalue the bris and Kol Nidre. Yes, they overemphasize the large donor. But the New Yorker ranking systematically undervalues Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Long Island. And Fox News only includes rabbis who believe in a higher power. As for the Hebrew Union College ranking...can you spell home cooking???

Orin Kerr

I personally think it's wrong for so many people to only want to go to the "best" synagogue that will admit them. For lots of people, a local Rabbi is just fine -- and much less expensive.

Bob Strassfeld

One wonders if pressed by Synagogue Presidents or Executive Directors to rise in the rankings, rabbis will begin to game the system. Will we see the creation of "part-time" membership programs to increase the size of "constituencies?" Will synagogues create "centers of excellence" in Talmud, Midrash, Pastoral Counseling, Junior Congregation Storytelling, and the like, which they will flag in glossy brochures in order to raise their reputation scores and media mentions? Will they pander to their constituencies with more and more lenient rulings on halachic questions ("Well, that chicken seems kosherish")? Or will they stake out a niche position by catering to the new chomra of the week crowd ("Since there are tiny nonkosher microorganisms in New York City's drinking water, water is not kosher)? Is the Halacha and Economics movement just around the corner ("An efficiency explanation for leaving the gleanings of the harvest for the poor")?

I should confess that I am an interested observer, since once again my brother did not make the Newsweek list, but his wife did make the Foreword's list of prominent women rabbis.

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