For the second year in a row, Newsweek magazine has ranked the top 50 rabbis in America. Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, once again received the No. 1 spot, but this year’s list also included two men from Englewood: Rabbis Shmuley Boteach and Mark Charendoff. Charendoff, who is new to the list, ranked No. 10. A non-practicing rabbi, he is president of The Jewish Funders Network in New York, an international organization of family foundations, public philanthropies, and individual funders that encourages philanthropy "rooted in Jewish values," according to its Website.
"I was certainly flattered," he said. "It came as a complete surprise."
Charendoff was ordained in the mid ’80s by the High Court of Jerusalem, though, he said, he doesn’t use his rabbinical title in his work. When he began his career he was interested in Jewish education and decided ordination would aid him on that path, but had no desire to be a pulpit rabbi.
"Education is the most traditional role for a rabbi," he said.
Boteach, who is also a columnist for this paper, came in at No. 9 on the list, the same ranking he received last year. With his TLC show "Shalom in the Home" and a slew of books, Boteach is one of the most visible Jewish presences in the media.
"My dream has been to make Judaism mainstream in the United States, to have Jewish values, ideas, and Jewish ritual shape and mold the U.S. and, by extension, the world," he said.
Asked if his life has changed at all since being named No. 9 last year, Boteach said that his wife has decided that she needs to make him more humble, so he has been taking out the garbage more.
"I think the Jewish community sees the list more as an entertaining form of amusement," he said.
"I’m waiting to get on the list of Jewish messiahs and until that happens I consider this just a step toward true glory," Boteach quipped.
"I don’t take it too seriously," he added of his appointment to the list. "I realize that in the work we do for the Jewish community and to promote Judaism and Jewish values, the main arbiter of success is not where you make it on the list but the number of lives you change."
Still, Boteach hopes that the list will encourage more young people to consider the rabbinate as "an honorable and influential" career choice.
The list was compiled by Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO, Sony Pictures Entertainment; Gary Ginsberg, executive vice president, global marketing and corporate affairs, News Corp.; and Jay Sanderson, CEO and executive producer, JTN/JTN Productions. The trio ranked the rabbis based on whether they are known nationally or internationally; political and social influence; media presence; community leadership; leadership within the Jewish community or their respective movements; size of their constituency; the impact they’ve made on Judaism; and the impact they’ve had beyond the Jewish community and their rabbinical training.
In response to feedback from last year’s list, the authors created a second list of America’s top ‘5 pulpit rabbis, which did not include any area names. No. 1 on that list was David Wolpe of Los Angeles’ Conservative Sinai Temple.