Wednesday, June 7th | 18 Sivan 5783


The Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life, 2022

In honor of The Algemeiner’s 50th anniversary gala, we are delighted to unveil our ninth ‘J100’ list of the top one hundred individuals who have positively influenced Jewish life this past year. Before you work your way through this exciting list, we wanted to first share some of the thoughts that we discussed as we developed it. If we could group these ideas together, the first would be about creating lists, in general; then, what’s unique about lists and Judaism; some finer points differentiating our honorees from the organizations they lead; and important reflections on all those every day and anonymous-to-us heroes we also want to celebrate without ever knowing their names. And, of course, to thank everyone who helped create the list and worked hard to put together our ‘J100’ gala.

It’s no secret that many Jewish communities have seen significant and rising challenges over the past year, specifically the Jewish community in war-torn Ukraine. Our unique role as a newspaper, to highlight the most vulnerable in our community and advocate on their behalf, has never been clearer. This year has affirmed for us our shared long-held belief that journalism saves lives. As such, in the compilation of this year’s ‘J100’ list we’ve placed particular emphasis on those standing at the forefront of assisting Ukraine’s Jewish community. We hope you find your review of the list to be as valuable as we did.

On Lists

There are lists, and there are lists. From the Forbes 400 to the Time 100, we are witness today to a proliferation of many lists in various magazines and newspapers. The New Yorker even made a list of The Hundred Best Lists of All Time! It seems that in the feeding frenzy of our information overloaded society, categorizations and listings get our attention by presumably helping us make sense of the data flooding our psyches. Lists also carry an element of sensationalism – who made the list, who didn’t – feeding the hunger for competition – yet another staple of our superficial times. No wonder we don’t find such popularity contests waged in earlier centuries; living as desert nomads or inside of a shtetl, where everyone knew virtually no one else but their neighbors by name (for good or for bad), did not exactly lend itself to creating a top ten list of favorites. This is an exclusive product of the communications revolution and the global village it created.

Jewish Lists

Jewish sages, in particular, did not create such lists. Indeed, some actually dismissed the categorization of lists (even of the 13 Principles of Faith of Maimonides, let alone of a list of the “best” one thing or another). It begs the uneasy question of how one can even attempt to measure the value of a person? Isn’t everyone a hero in some way? On what grounds can we presume to judge who is more valuable than the next? With the ‘J100’ list we tried to create something more meaningful, a list aligned with our core mission: the 100 people who have the most positive impact on Jewish life and Israel – men and women, Jew or non-Jew, who have lifted the quality of Jewish life in the past year. Think of it this way: Without these ‘J100’ – either the individuals or the organizations they represent – Jewish life would not be at the caliber it is today. Despite the artificial, superficial, and sensational nature of any list, we sought to transform the information deluge of our times by using the list to shine a spotlight on those gems in our midst, those people who are making a real difference in others’ lives.

We also seek to inspire and motivate our young and the next generation, our future emerging leaders, in rising to the occasion and perpetuating the highest standards of our proud tradition and legacy – in serving and championing the cause of Jews and Israel. Because, as we know, when the quality of Jewish life is raised, the quality of all lives is raised. However, the most exciting part of our work in choosing the ‘J100,’ frankly, was sifting through hundreds of candidates and nominees to discover some surprising finalists. It was a joy to see the breadth of all those who merited a mention, to understand some of the great work being performed around the world on behalf of the Jewish people, and to celebrate their victories by bringing this great work to renewed public attention via this endeavor.

Individual vs. Organization

Inevitably, any list recognizing those that have positively influenced Jewish life will include the “usual suspects,” well-known leaders and officials of governments, organizations, and institutions. Like it or not, bureaucracy is part of the fabric of our society, feeding and supporting Jewish life around the globe, and it is that fabric that provides strength and cohesion to our disparate Jewish population.

Not all the names on the ‘J100’ were included for the same reason. Some are being honored for their personal contributions, others for their work at the organizations or nations they head. Some on the ‘J100’ are long established stars, others newcomers.

Like in any dynamic entity, we included both stalwart leaders with deep roots holding the foundation, while also introducing new branches that will lead us into the future.

This type of list – “The top 100 people positively influencing Jewish life” – has its inherent challenges. First, what defines “positive”? What some consider positive, others consider destructive. Jews notoriously disagree on what positive impact means. Fully cognizant of the controversy such a list could stir, we approached the creation of this list with a particular strategy, infused with a sense of humility and respect, to be as all-inclusive as possible while maintaining our integrity. This list should not be seen as an endorsement of anyone or any entity and way of thinking; rather, the people on this list are a reflection of the rich and broad spectrum of Jewish life – those who have positively contributed and helped shape the Jewish future.

We want this list to not be a definitive one, but a type of snapshot and perspective of the Jewish world today. The ‘J100’ is far from perfect – but which list of this type would not be? Rather, we want it to serve as a provocateur, challenging us all to think about what we value and consider precious; what we honor as being a positive influence on Jewish life and on Israel.

Anonymous Heroes

Jewish life, now and throughout history, is fraught with innumerable heroes – mostly unsung. A mother unceremoniously bringing up a beautiful family. A quiet nurse attending to the ill. An anonymous philanthropist sending food packages to the needy. The unobtrusive kindergarten teacher lovingly attending to and shaping young lives. Positive influences abound, yet few are called out.

Moreover, the Jewish community is decentralized. A leader in one city or town who has a major impact on their community may be completely irrelevant in another city. No list – not of 100, not of 1,000 – could capture and do justice to the countless daily acts of heroism and nobility impacting Jews and Israel.

There are innumerable rabbis, lay leaders, educators, and administrators who are beloved and are transforming their Jewish communities. As important as these individuals may be – and they certainly deserve their own list – the ‘J100’ does not include these heroes. Instead it focuses on individuals that have global and international impact, and that come from diverse groups – such as writers, teachers, government officials, and NGOs. In some ways, the ‘J100’ should be looked at not as a bunch of disjointed individuals, but as a mosaic – a confluence of many different colors and hues that create a diverse painting.

Thank You

In the spirit of The Algemeiner, we want this list to lift the quality of our discourse and standards in seeking out the best within and among us. We hope you enjoy reviewing and studying this list, and we welcome all your feedback, critiques, and suggestions to be included next year, in what has become a tradition at our annual gala event.

We extend our deep gratitude to our ‘J100’ honorees and special guests, to those who support this great institution, and ultimately to our readers, the Jewish people, and friends of the Jewish people whom we serve.

Disclosure: Algemeiner staff and their immediate families were disqualified for inclusion on the list. Some of the ‘J100’ finalists are friends and associates of The Algemeiner. As a media entity with many relationships, The Algemeiner inevitably has many friends and supporters; yet we didn’t feel it fair to disqualify highly qualified candidates simply due to their connection with us. Instead, fully cognizant of that reality, we placed special emphasis on impartiality and objectivity to choose only those who fit the criteria.

— The Algemeiner editors

1 .


Masih Alinejad


“The current protests in Iran sound the death knell of the Islamic Republic,” wrote the Iranian dissident, Masih Alinejad, in the October 2022 edition of Foreign Affairs. First arrested by the Iranian regime as a young activist in 1994, Alinejad has spent the last decade in the US and Europe, writing and speaking on behalf of democracy and human rights. A busy year saw Alinejad in the headlines after New York City police arrested an armed man outside her Brooklyn home who intended, FBI agents told her, “to kill you.” Unbowed, Alinejad has continued to press the case that the historic protests rocking her homeland mark a revolution, rather than a call for mere reforms. At a Nov. 2022 meeting in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron, she impressed upon him that “what is happening in Iran is a revolution. France can be the first country to officially recognize this revolution.” (Photo: Wikimedia / Creative Commons License)


2 .


In the days that followed Russia’s brutal February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Natella Andriushchenko was among thousands of Ukrainians who risked their lives to help their fellow citizens take shelter in the face of the onslaught. The principal of the Jewish school in the city of Bila Tservkva, 50 miles south of the capital Kyiv, Andriushchenko converted the building into a welcome center for refugees fleeing the fighting. “When it comes to saving people, we don’t differentiate,” she told The Algemeiner in an extensive interview in March, explaining that she offers assistance to Jews and non-Jews without question. “Every hour, we hear the sirens,” Andriushchenko said. “Some of the elderly people and the children start crying as they walk down the stairs to the shelter. It’s very hard to watch.” (Photo: LinkedIn)


3 .


The death on September 16, 2022 in a Tehran hospital of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini – given the Kurdish name “Jina” at birth – shocked the world and galvanized ordinary Iranians into a protest movement that threatens the very foundations of the Islamic Republic. Amini was detained by the regime’s feared “Morality Police” for allegedly not wearing her hijab, the headscarf all women in Iran are compelled to wear, in the required fashion. While in police custody, she was viciously beaten and later died in hospital of a cerebral hemorrhage. As news of her death spread, furious protests broke out in the Kurdish region where Amini was born and across the country. Attempts by the Iranian authorities to portray Amini’s death as the result of brain surgery she had as a child were roundly rejected, as international leaders expressed disgust at the manner of her death and Iranians adopted her as a symbol of their “Women, Life, Freedom” revolution. (Photo: Majid Asgaripour / WANA via Reuters)


4 .


Mark Mellman

CEO of The Mellman Group

Mark Mellman, one of America’s leading public opinion researchers and communication strategists, is President of the American Association of Political Consultants and CEO of The Mellman Group, a polling and consulting firm. Mellman, who has helped guide the campaigns of twenty-nine US senators, ten governors, over two dozen members of Congress, and numerous state and local officials, serves as the president of Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), which works to maintain and strengthen support for Israel among elected leaders including presidential and congressional candidates as well as with the grassroots of progressive movements. Under Mellman’s leadership, DMFI is also tackling anti-Zionist activism on US campuses, backing protests against a ban by student societies at the University of California, Berkeley on pro-Israel and Zionist speakers. (Photo: Youtube screenshot / The Jersualem Center)


5 .


Matthew Brooks

Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Jewish Policy Center

Matthew Brooks serves as Executive Director of both the Republican Jewish Coalition, an organization dedicated to enhancing ties between the Jewish community and the Republican Party, and the Jewish Policy Center, a think-tank that examines public policy from a Jewish perspective. During a polarizing time for American politics, Brooks has attempted to focus American Jews on questions of policy. Commenting on former President Trump’s controversial statement that US Jews should “get their act together” regarding Israel, Brooks said that Trump’s detractors were “appalled, outraged” while his supporters heard it as a “clarion call.” “There’s existential threats out there, not just due to antisemitism, but also Israel’s existence with Iran,” Brooks continued. (Photo: Republican Jewish Coalition)


6 .


Yoel Har-Even

Doctor and Director of International Division and Resource Development at Sheba Medical Center

Israeli humanitarian organizations rushed to aid Ukrainians following the February 24, 2022 Russian invasion, sending medical supplies and medical professionals to assist with the human toll of the war. Among them was Dr. Yoel Har-Even, who opened a field hospital in the western Ukrainian town of Mostyska named “Kochav Meir” (Shining Star) in honor of former Prime Minister Golda Meir, who was born in Ukraine. In an extensive interview with The Algemeiner, Har-Even observed that the presence of his team “effectively connects our past Jewish life here that goes back 1,000 years and the modern Jewish state.” Surveying the suffering around him, Har-Even declared: “There are too many stories, reminders that we have a clear moral obligation not to look away, as human beings, as medical professionals, and as Jews.” (Photo: Sheba Medical Center)


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