SOURCE: The Forward

November 08, 2007 14:18 ET

Future A.G. and Box Office Bong-ers Top the 2007 Forward 50 List of Most Influential Jews

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - November 8, 2007) - New faces from different places in American Judaism dot the 2007 FORWARD 50, an annual compilation of American Jews who have made their mark, according to America's most influential Jewish weekly newspaper. Publishing date for the Forward's much awaited issue is Friday, November 9th.

This year, the Forward's Top Five includes U.S. Attorney General nominee Hon. Michael Mukasey, an Orthodox Jew, who is on his way to confirmation as the nation's top enforcer. Las Vegas philanthropist Sheldon Adelson earned his Top Five spot making billions from casinos and donating at least $100 million last year alone to conventional Jewish and Israeli organizations. Former Democratic Congressman and charter school advocate Peter Deutsch was tapped for his education initiative in Florida, and Reform Rabbi Elyse Frishman made the Top Five for ushering in a radically new prayer book for the country's largest Jewish denomination.

Also basking in the Top Five limelight are stars Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow, who have been called the saviors of film comedy. Their two box office hits this year perfect the art of transforming classic zhlubs into loveable super-Jew heroes. In "Knocked Up" (written and directed by Apatow), Rogen plays a pothead couch potato who unintentionally impregnates a beautiful blond shiksa and, after a series of awkward events, cleans up his act and wins her heart. "Superbad" (co-written by Rogen, produced by Apatow), is a coming-of-age slapstick about the friendship of two high school dweebs who ultimately save the day and get the girls. Peppered with Jewish references throughout, both films plainly draw on personal experience.

Many First Timers on the Forward 50 List

This year's list of the most influential Jewish Americans features individuals whose influence falls within specific areas: Politics, Ideas and Activism, Culture, Philanthropy, Community.

Nearly half of the recipients on the 2007 list are first-timers, through both varied and storied means. The predominant theme on this year's list, according to Editor J.J. Goldberg, is the number of first-time nominees and their backgrounds.

"When we sat down to take a long look at the community, what we found was not a hardening core surrounded by an evanescent periphery, but numerous pockets of identity taking shape on the landscape, most showing clear signs of solidity, but most quite disconnected from -- even unaware of -- the others. The list that emerged from our efforts reflects that changing topography," Mr. Goldberg said.

Politically Speaking

Politically speaking, Henry Waxman, the longest serving member of the House, has been a bulldog nipping at the Bush administration about Katrina and Iraq, as well as the unofficial dean of the Jewish caucus. Also on the Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Jewish community liaison, Reva Price, is the now "the go-to person" on any issue involving legislation of interest to the Jewish community.

Doubtful presidential candidate, New York Mayor Bloomberg, wears his Judaism proudly, but lightly and has garnered a higher profile as the nation's most famous Jewish public CEO. On a more symbolic note, the new Mayor of Beverly Hills, Iranian-born Jimmy Jamshid Delshad, was the first mayor of Beverly Hills to affix a mezuzah in the mayor's office.

Culture with Fashion Flair

Despite the prevalence of Jews in the fashion industry, it took designer Diane von Furstenberg, recently installed as the president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, to bump the fall Fashion Week schedule to avoid colliding with the Rosh Hashanah holiday. Regina Spektor, pianist-singer-songwriter, proudly wears her Jewish heritage on her sleeve. Forward 50 newbie, Erez Safar, a.k.a. D.J. Handler, heads Modular Moods (sic) record label, runs the Sephardic Music Festival and this year launched Shemspeed, billed as the largest Jewish Internet Music site. Authors Shalom Auslander and Michael Chabon graced the culture pages this year, as well.

NHRA race car driver Mike Ashley crossed the finish line into the Culture Section for sitting out a race that fell on Yom Kippur.

The entire list of the Forward 50 can be found at Forward 50 List 2007 (http://www.forward.com/forward-50/).

The Forward 50 is not based on a scientific study or survey. The list is compiled each year by the Forward's staff, based on what it has reported over the past year, what they reporters and editors have heard from community members speaking about other community members and whatever objective signposts -- rising or falling budgets, book sales, published buzz, adoption of new laws or proposals -- can be deemed to indicate public influence.

"Membership in the 50 doesn't mean that the Forward endorses what these individuals do or say," explains Managing Editor Wayne Hoffman. "They've been chosen because they are doing and saying things that are making a difference in the way American Jews, for better or worse, view the world and themselves. Not all these people have put their energies into the traditional frameworks of Jewish community life, but they all have embodied the spirit of Jewish action as it is emerging in America, and all of them have left a mark."

ABOUT THE FORWARD (www.forward.com)

The Forward is widely regarded as American Jewry's essential newspaper of record. Published since 1990, the English language weekly grew out of the legendary Yiddish language Jewish Daily Forward, founded in 1897. The Forward is committed to rigorous reporting and balanced, thoughtful commentary on news, politics and culture in the Jewish world. The Forward's editor, veteran journalist and author J.J. Goldberg, and his staff have enhanced the paper's reputation for incisive, hard-hitting reportage with a populist, progressive spirit that has been the paper's hallmark since its early days. Headquartered in New York, the newspaper is owned by the Forward Association, Inc., a 501(c) (4) corporation. It is published on Fridays and is available on newsstands nationwide, as well as by subscription.

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