Federation’s Sanderson one of few L.A. Jews on Forward 50 List

Jay Sanderson, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, made it onto this year’s The Forward 50, an annual list of sometimes unexpected people who the judges believe most helped shape the past Jewish year. The list represents “a snapshot in time, an impressionist picture of the American Jewish story during a given year,” Forward Editor Jane Eisner wrote.

Sanderson, who took on the leadership role at Federation in January 2010 after running the Jewish Television Network for two decades, was feted for “shaking up America’s second-largest Jewish federation in important ways,” the paper notes. In paying tribute to his “belief that federations must find new paradigms for identifying and funding worthy causes,” the paper cited his launching of the “The Next Big Jewish Idea,” an online voting competition that in June awarded $100,000 in start-up costs to LaunchBox, a kit meant to bring Jewish ritual to the unaffiliated. It also cited his commitment to aiding Jews in need in the faltering economy.

Sanderson, 54, “is part of a wave of new Federation leaders who are replacing an older leadership cohort now heading toward retirement,” the Forward says.

This year, Los Angeles was seriously underrepresented on the New York-based newspaper’s list. The only other representatives were Natalie Portman, a Hollywood actress, and Richard Morgenstern, the enigmatic member of the Morris Morgenstern Foundation who has kept in secretive art storage George Washington’s letter to the Jews of Newport, R.I., in which the first president of the United States vowed that the fledgling nation would give “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” Morgenstern has homes in Los Angeles and Boca Raton, Fla., according to the Forward.

Poet Laureate Philip Levine, singled out for special profile in the Top Five, lives in Fresno. Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook in Silicon Valley, is also among this year’s 50.

The absence of Angelenos this year is a repeat of last year, when Rabbi Naomi Levy of Nashuva was the only Angeleno. In 2009, however, the left coast was represented by JumpStart’s Shawn Landres, Jewlicious’ Yonah Bookstein, director Steven Spielberg and Rep. Howard Berman.

Rabbi Sharon Brous made the list in 2005, 2006 and 2007, and Rabbis Yosef Kanefsky and Denise Eger have made past appearances, among others.