The Jewish Forward, a newspaper published in New York City, puts together an annual list of the 50 most influential Jewish leaders (called “The Forward 50”). This year, there’s a bizarre addition to the impressive roster — President Barack Obama.
In describing the list, editor Jane Eisner writes, “The Forward 50 is a snapshot in time, an impressionist picture of the American Jewish story during a given year.” Below, see a video during which Eisner discusses the top five names who are included in this year’s grouping:
“The Forward 50,” which includes individuals from a variety of sectors, seeks to explore Jews in all areas of society — sports, music, science — you get the idea. It’s a comprehensive list that delves into practically every facet of society.
Now, let’s get back to Obama’s inclusion.
I know what you’re thinking: “The president isn’t Jewish! Why’s was he selected?” This same question came into my mind as soon as I saw his name at the tail end (he’s #51) of the list. In a Jewish Forward reporters’ roundtable earlier this morning, Eisner discussed the reasoning behind the president’s presence on the list.
“We do have a tradition where we will occasionally add a non-Jew,” Eisner explained. For example, last year, Chelsea Clinton was selected after her wedding sparked discussion about people of differing faiths marrying (Clinton’s husband, Marc Mezvinsky, is Jewish).
When discussing Obama’s selection, Eisner said, “I don’t even remember who came up with the name.” She was also careful to say that Obama’s inclusion “…is hardly an endorsement or an indictment of our president.”
On the page that describes the reasoning for Obama’s selection, the Forward writes, “…the 44th president of the United States has done more than any other non-Jew we can think of to shape the American Jewish story in 2011.” The description goes on to discuss the president’s “near-tidal wave of Jewish support” in his 2008 presidential win, but then also cites his difficulties in relating to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Forward also writes that, while some American Jews are abandoning the president, Obama’s opposition to Palestinian statehood and “unprecedented military support for Israel” should be noted.
The Forward even covers the fact that New York Magazine recently called the president “the best friend Israel has right now,” something the Blaze covered in detail back in September. The newspaper continues:
In countless Jewish social settings, the mere mention of Obama’s name elicits passionate and conflicting responses — so much so that the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Congress recently called for an end to the use of Israel as a political wedge issue. Believing that such a move would censor criticism of the president, Republican groups angrily refused. Meanwhile, after Obama’s defense of Israel at the United Nations in September, his approval rating in Israel soared. It’s been that sort of year.
First a Nobel Peace Prize just months into his presidency, and now recognition for being one of the year’s most influential Jews (when he isn’t even Jewish). Minus the political debate that has eclipsed portions of his presidency, its been a few good years in terms of honorary achievements for President Obama.
This story has been updated.