Fast Forward through the 50

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Seriously, somebody should just come out with a top-50 list of Jewish top-50 lists. This year’s Forward 50 was just announced, and as a cultural barometer of the state of current Jews, it isn’t a bad one.

I mean, it is what it is, a gimmick. (And a gimmick isn’t a bad thing — and I’m surely not complaining since, full disclosure, I kind of made the list — or my, ahem, co-creator of G-dcast, Sarah Lefton, did.) Whether it’s the Heeb Hundred, the 36 under 36 (which doesn’t even properly look like the title of a list, since “under” is a preposition and shouldn’t be capitalized) or the Newsweek Top 50 Rabbis — and, possibly my favorite, Jeffrey Goldberg’s list of the Top 50 Goyim, a Jewish list if I’ve ever heard of one. And it’s a supreme New Media trick of writing feature stories that are news events themselves, which means that they’re coverable by other media (including, ahem, what you’re reading right now).

Here’s my grand theory behind lists: They’re the media equivalent of twice-a-year Jews. If you’re really with it, Jew-wise, you already knew about, say, Jay Michaelson’s Everything Is God and the Orthodox boxer Dmitriy Salita and Mahara”t Sara Hurwitz and how cool Dara Horn is. But the list phenomenon, like only showing up for synagogue on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, allows you to process a whole lot of Jewish emotion/information/experience — much like not praying every 3-minute weekday amidah, but showing up for the 2-hour-long one on the High Holidays.

And, just as a reminder, we’re still tolling up votes for the MJL Million. Admittedly, we’re a little behind, compared to all these yearly lists. But, just think — as soon as ours is released, we’ll have beaten all the rest of them put together.

Posted on November 12, 2009

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