The Most Significant American Jews of 2017
The election of Donald Trump a year ago upended conventional wisdom and dramatically altered American politics, social discourse and civic identity. This story, more than any other, has dominated the news ever since. As has often been the case, whatever happens to America, happens to its Jews — only more so.
The Forward’s annual list of the 50 most influential, accomplished and interesting American Jews reflects this new reality. In the past year we’ve seen the meteoric rise of such journalists as Jake Tapper, Joel Pollak and especially Maggie Haberman, whose endless scoops and sharp storytelling shaped the media narrative. Jason Greenblatt — a little-known lawyer with one very big client — suddenly assumed a major diplomatic role, while a previously unknown political aide like Stephen Miller came to great influence in the White House. And no one American Jew has become as consequential as the multitasking Jared Kushner — except, perhaps, his wife, Ivanka Trump, who also has an office next to the oval one in the West Wing.
Washington’s political drama has sparked a new wave of social activism from the left, right and center, as well as an explosion of creative culture. Not to be outdone are spiritual leaders who are challenging the religious status quo, opening up new conversations on intermarriage, the role of women, gays and lesbians in Orthodox Judaism and even, yes, on Torah.
And though Wonder Woman isn’t American, we figured out a way to include her on this list. Just because.
Compiling the Forward 50 calls upon the knowledge and resourcefulness of my entire staff, but a few colleagues deserve particular recognition: Aiden Pink, Adam Langer, Kurt Hoffman, Anya Ulinich and Dan Friedman. As the Forward celebrates its 120th anniversary, we dedicate ourselves anew to telling the American Jewish story with vigor, independence, compassion and pride. It’s been a tough year, but — as the Houston couple who served others during a hurricane showed us — inspiration can be found anywhere.