This year I’m teaching an informal elective class for 7th-12th graders called “Jews Who Changed the World”.  The class is six weeks long, and I’d like to go over one personality each class.  I’m interested in not only “teaching history” but also raising the question: How do we think the “Jewishness” of prominent Jewish individuals influenced their achievement?  As such, I’m inclined not to focus on Jews who rocked the Jewish world but rather Jews who impacted the world at large.

What six Jews would make your list?

I was able to poll some of my Wexner professional colleagues and so far, the question has generated fascinating suggestions and provocative questions, so I thought it would be great to cast an even larger net amongst the entire Wexner network. Please add your thoughts in the comment section below. The tally so far (in no particular order) is:

Karl Marx (3)
David Ben Gurion (3)
Sergey Brin [Google founder] (2)
Baruch Spinoza (2)
Albert Einstein (2)
Sigmund Freud (2)
Benjamin Disraeli (2)
Moses (2)
Jesus / Paul (2)
Mark Zuckerberg [Facebook creator]
Stephen Spielberg
Theodore Herzl
Talmudic Rabbis / Yohanan ben Zakkai
Rose Schneiderman
Regina Jonas
Ruth Bader Ginsberg
Jonas Salk
Robert Oppenheimer
Anschel Rothschild [founder of the first international bank]
Warner Brothers
Anne Frank
Menachem Mendel Schneerson
Arnold Neustadter [inventor of the Rolodex]
Ruth Handler [creator of Barbie]
Jerry Siegel / Joe Shuster [creators of Superman]
Yehudah Hanasi
Gustav Mahler
Brian Epstein
Laslo Biro [inventor of the ballpoint pen]
Emma Goldman
Estee Lauder
Madeleine Albright (by descent)

And at the moment, the 6 figures I think I’ll focus my classes on are:

1. Jesus
2. Baruch Spinoza
3. Emma Goldman
4. Albert Einstein
5. David Ben Gurion
6. Betty Friedan

Unless you convince me otherwise!

Rabbi Daniel Kirzane, a Wexner Graduate Fellowship alumnus (Class 21), was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City, where he also received an MA in Religious Education. He currently serves as Assistant Rabbi at Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Mahwah, NJ. Previously Daniel dedicated a year to national service as an HIV prevention educator with the AmeriCorps program City Year: Washington, D.C. He has benefited from learning and working with CLAL: Rabbis Without Borders, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and BIMA/Genesis at Brandeis University. Explore his work at or contact him at