Plus One?


According to USA Today:

The end-of-the-year list season is upon us: Most this/biggest that, etc.

But for 2008, The Forward, the weekly magazine which keeps an eye on Jewish American life, has bumped up its annual FORWARD 50 list of the names behind the Jewish stories of the year to a “symbolic” #51 by adding Postville, Iowa, Catholic Priest Paul Ouderkirk, for his tireless efforts to “feed, clothe and house dozens of immigrant detainees fired from the Agriprocessors Kosher slaughterhouse.”

Forward editor Jane Eisner explains:
Father Ouderkirk displayed unusual leadership and compassion by helping displaced workers and their families survive. At times it has seemed as if Father Ouderkirk and the good members of St. Bridget’s were among the few in this sad story willing to do the right thing.

I had two thoughts when reading this article: “yay Iowa” (hey, you can take the girl out of the Midwest, but you can’t take the Midwest out of the girl) and do we really need the plus one? Why can’t a priest—or anyone else for that matter—be part of the regular 50 contributors to American Jewish Life? Do you have to be Jewish to make a difference to Jews? Clearly not, as our Gallery points out in its current Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews in WWII exhibition…or this year’s Morris Cafritz Center for the Arts Benefit performer Rita Moreno, who—though not Jewish—put on a spectacularly energetic, highly successful show in support of a “Jewish” Center for the Arts.

And I know, FORWARD’s list is meant to highlight American Jews after all, but it’s still worth a few thoughts about “our” community vs. “our community”.

All debates aside…who’s on this year’s list? Sarah Silverman is in the top five; and former 16th Street J guests Ilan Stavans and Ilana Trachtman made the list too. Also high five to DC’s own Esther Safran Foer, executive director of 6th & I.

Who would you add?

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2 Responses

  1. Ew and yuck, today’s newspapers make it look like Bernard Madoff is creating his own big “minus one” in the tally of things that are “good for the Jews” this year. So even though he’s probably not on FORWARD’s 2008 list, his swindling deals have struck such a blow against Jewish philanthropic organizations that it might sort of balance out to only 50 contributors to Jewish Life in the end.

  2. Thank you!

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