Two Marxes, but no Woody in the Jewish hot hundred

Houdini's in, Lenny Bruce is out. Catherine Pepinster on the first list of Judaism's great and good
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The Independent Online
What have Moses, Mahler, Benny Goodman, Sigmund Freud and Superman in common? The answer: they're all Jewish and feature in a list of the top 100 Jewish people of all time.

The list, "The Jewish 100", will be published in Britain next year and includes people from the fields of philosophy, science, the arts, business and movies.

Its compiler, New York lawyer and composer Michael Shapiro, decided to produce the list and its accompanying biographical essays to celebrate the achievements of the Jewish people. "For too long, Jewish people's place in history has been associated with suffering," said Mr Shapiro. "I wanted to create something that was really positive.

"It's true Superman was a Jew. He was originally called Kal-El, the Hebrew name for God, and was invented to counteract growing anti-Semitic thinking in the Thirties."

Superman's creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, just make the list at number 100, while other Jews linked to modern popular culture who feature in the list include Levi Strauss, the creator of jeans, Bob Dylan, film- maker Steven Spielberg, playwright Arthur Miller and the writer Betty Friedan.

The list is dominated, however, by religious leaders, thinkers and philosophers. Three men who transformed the modern world - Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, and Karl Marx - are all in the top 10, together with five Biblical figures - Moses, Jesus, Abraham, Saint Paul and Mary.

Also heading the list are Theodor Herzl, the man who inspired the founding of the modern state of Israel, and the Dutch philosopher Spinoza. While some of those included are well-known for their Jewishness, others, such as Spinoza, renounced it and their inclusion may well offend.

Mr Shapiro's decision to make Jesus second to Moses is likely to cause controversy, but Shapiro says he decided on the receiver of the Ten Commandments because his story dominates the Bible and he is recognised by Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

"He led a great rebellion by an enslaved people," he explained, "and developed the first system of beliefs that respected human life. He is the fundamental figure."

"Jesus would have headed the list, but there have been so many wars because of the abuse of his message that I could not put him top."

When setting out to compile the list, Mr Shapiro consulted rabbis, philosphers, writers and other leading Jews. "I needed to ask whether it was possible to compare a political figure to a musician, or someone who lived a thousand years ago to a person alive today," he said.

"I was trying to assess not so much greatness as influence. Marx, for example, created an ideology, whether you agree with it or not, that has affected the lives of millions."

Yesterday, arguments over the list began among Britain's Jews. Nick de Rothschild, whose ancestor Mayer, founder of merchant banking, appears on the list at number 28, said it was "completely right" that Einstein should be among the top 10, but wished the list was not so historical. "I'd like to see some more modern thinkers included," he said.

Harry Levy, the senior Jewish chaplain with the British forces who liberated Belsen, would have included the Italian-Jewish writer Primo Levi, who chronicled Nazi atrocities. "His writing is most moving; I would regard him as highly influential."

Gerald Kaufman, the Labour MP, said the list was "barmy". "How can you distinguish between Moses and Jesus?"

What emerges from a perusal of the list is the influence of Jews on all forms of the written word - something which Mr Shapiro says is due to the early spread of literacy among Jews. "This list is not about genetics, it's about literacy," he said.

Britain has a poor showing, with just Disraeli, Daniel Mendoza (a 19th- century boxer who invented the "bobbing and weaving" style of fighting) and Sir Moses Montefiore, Queen Victoria's adviser, making an appearance. The Sieff family, founders of Marks & Spencer, were considered but dismissed by Manhattan-based Mr Shapiro as "too regional."

For a New York lawyer raised in Brooklyn, his exclusion of Big Apple stars such as Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce will raise eyebrows. Those who are devotees of New York Jewish comedy and culture will be consoled by the inclusion of Groucho Marx and Sandy Koufax, the World Series baseball player who helped win for Brooklyn - but only after refusing to pitch on Yom Kippur.

The top 100

1 Moses

2 Jesus of Nazareth

3 Albert Einstein

4 Sigmund Freud

5 Abraham

6 Saul of Tarsus (Saint Paul)

7 Karl Marx

8 Theodor Herzl

9 Mary

10 Baruch de Spinoza

11 David

12 Anne Frank

13 The Prophets

14 Judas Iscariot

15 Gustav Mahler

16 Maimonides

17 Niels Bohr

18 Moses Mendelssohn

19 Paul Ehrlich

20 Rashi

21 Benjamin Disraeli

22 Franz Kafka

23 David Ben-Gurion

24 Hillel

25 John Von Neumann

26 Simon Bar Kokhba

27 Marcel Proust

28 Mayer Rothschild

29 Solomon

30 Heinrich Heine

31 Selman Waksman

32 Giacomo Meyerbeer

33 Isaac Luria

34 Gregory Pincus

35 Leon Trotsky

36 David Ricardo

37 Alfred Dreyfus

38 Leo Szilard

39 Mark Rothko

40 Ferdinand Cohn

41 Samuel Gompers

42 Gertrude Stein

43 Albert Michelson

44 Philo Judaeus

45 Golda Meir

46 The Vilna Gaon

47 Henri Bergson

48 The Baal Shem Tov

49 Felix Mendelssohn

50 Louis B Mayer

51 Judah Halevy

52 Haym Salomon

53 Johanan ben Zakkai

54 Arnold Schoenberg

55 Emile Durkheim

56 Betty Friedan

57 David Sarnoff

58 Lorenzo Da Ponte

59 Julius Rosenwald

60 Casimir Funk

61 George Gershwin

62 Chaim Weizmann

63 Franz Boas

64 Sabbatai Zevi

65 Leonard Bernstein

66 Flavius Josephus

67 Walter Benjamin

68 Louis Brandeis

69 Emile Berliner

70 Sarah Bernhardt

71 Levi Strauss

72 Nahmanides

73 Menachem Begin

74 Anna Freud

75 Queen Esther

76 Martin Buber

77 Jonas Salk

78 Jerome Robbins

79 Henry Kissinger

80 Wilhelm Steinitz

81 Arthur Miller

82 Daniel Mendoza

83 Stephen Sondheim

84 Emma Goldman

85 Sir Moses Montefiore

86 Yitzhak Rabin

87 Boris Pasternak

88 Harry Houdini

89 Edward Bernays

90 Leopold Auer

91 Groucho Marx

92 Man Ray

93 Henrietta Szold

94 Benny Goodman

95 Steven Spielberg

96 Marc Chagall

97 Bob Dylan

98 Sandy Koufax

99 Bernard Berenson

100 Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Those who didn't make it:

Woody Allen

Primo Levi

Barbra Streisand

Moshe Dayan

Lenny Bruce

Elie Wiesel

Philip Roth


Paul Simon

Saul Bellow