My column this week is about all those lists of top rabbis and other Jews, and I mention my tongue-in-cheek stab at compiling a list of “Least Inspiring Rabbis.”
It turns out, Brad Burston of Ha’aretz also fantasizes about writing a real-life list of rabbinic malefactors:
A year ago at this time, I wrote a piece which I ultimately decided was too venom-laced, too cruel, and too socially un-redeeming even for this often problematic space.
An end of the year feature, it was called “The Top 10 Rabbis Judaism Could Do Without.” No one saw it. I threw it out.
It was a time for new beginnings, I believed. A time for granting the benefit of the doubt. A time for giving a chance, for hoping against hope. A time to refrain from tarring all rabbis with the refesh – the filth of a few.
Which rabbis would have made the list?
[T]hose whose rulings contravene some of the most fundamental moral precepts in Judaism, and also those who issued bans on living with non-Jews, as well as those who have declared it moral to kill Arab innocents, even infants, and those who preach the destruction of Palestinian property, and those who have advised IDF soldiers that mercy toward Arabs is cruelty, and those whose ardor for settlement is such that it has bent and broken the principle that the saving of human life takes precedence above all else.
What can I say? After a year of waiting and watching, I now realize that I’d been wrong in more ways than I knew. Not only was the list of 10 Rabbis that Judaism Could Do Without, mean-spirited and presumptuous, it also turned out to be much, much too short.
UPDATE: In a fun coincidence, Jeffrey Goldberg’s Bloomberg column, posted almost simultaneously with mine, is also about the proliferation of top Jew lists — meaning, of course, that my column will be doomed to even more obscurity than it usually achieves.
Goldberg indulges in some humble-bragging about making some of the lists before getting to his point:
Why are these publications aping a practice of non-Jews — singling out Jews for their special prominence in society? Please don’t misunderstand; I love playing the “Who is a Jew?” game as much as the next Semite. Scarlett Johansson! Jake Gyllenhaal! Anthony Weiner! (OK, you can keep Weiner.) The phenomenon of disproportionate Jewish representation in many high-profile fields (including, but not limited to, musical comedy, gastroenterology, the violin, physics, hedge funds, column-writing and, in an earlier period, professional basketball), combined with ancient and deeply embedded anti-Semitic ideas that are still prevalent in some parts of the world, suggests that they should resist the urge to quantify “Jewish power.”