Seven out of 50

Every year, the Forward, the national Jewish newspaper, compiles a list called the Forward 50, a list of the 50 most notable Jewish figures from the previous year. “Each year’s compilation is a journalistic effort to record some of the key trends and events in American Jewish life in the year just ended, and to illuminate some of the individuals likely to shape the news in the year ahead,” says this year’s introduction. “… We’ve chosen [the 50] because they are doing and saying things that are making a difference in the way American Jews, for better or worse, view the world and themselves.”

In 2001, our president and publisher, Ed Case was chosen for the list. This year, arguably seven of the 50 have a connection to intermarriage or engaging the intermarried. They are:

  • Sacha Baron Cohen, star of Borat, who is marrying non-Jewish actress Isla Fisher.
  • Scarlett Johansson, the beautiful star of Match Point and Lost in Translation, is the daughter of a Danish father and a Jewish mother.
  • Jordan Farmar is the starting point guard for the UCLA Bruins, who went to the NCAA title game this year. “The product of an interfaith family, Farmar was bar mitzvahed at Temple Judea in the Tarzana section of Los Angeles,” says the Forward.
  • Shawn Green, the outfielder who played for the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Mets last year, is married to a non-Jewish woman.
  • Charles Bronfman and Roger Bennett (combined under one listing on the list). Bronfman is not intermarried–indeed, his wife Andrea was tragically killed after being hit by a car last year–but his foundation, the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, has helped expose InterfaithFamily.com to potential funders. A consultancy based at the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, 21/64, publishes a booklet called Slingshot, which is described as “a listing of the 50 most innovative Jewish organizations and projects–those with the right mix of big vision, effective leadership and creative strategy to make sense of the bewildering changes in generational identity and community in America today.” For the second consecutive year, InterfaithFamily.com was one of the 50 organizations recognized by Slingshot.
  • Lynn Schusterman, who the list calls “a giant in the world of Jewish philanthropy.” Her charity, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, is one of our major funders.
  • George Allen, the conservative Christian former senator from Virginia who was repulsed by the revelation that his mother was a Tunisian-born Jew who converted to Christianity.
  • While some on the list–notably George Allen–are children of intermarriages who completely repudiated their Jewish background, others on the list demonstrate that intermarried people and the children of intermarriage can still have strong Jewish identities. Thankfully philanthropists like Schusterman and Bronfman understand that.

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