“I’m sexy and I didn’t know it,” Yuter joked after being informed by The Times of Israel that his name was on the list. The young Orthodox rabbi of New York’s Stanton Street Shul and YUtopia blogger and podcaster had no idea he had been one of the more than 150 rabbis worldwide nominated on the basis of their hotness.
Nonetheless, he’s pleased to be recognized in this way. “When the titles of ‘most knowledgeable’ and ‘most respected’ are filled, you take what you can get,” he said.
Yuter is not the only member of the list to take the honor with good humor. The Times of Israel spoke to six of the 10 rabbis on the list, and they all understood that they were being noted not necessarily for their physical attributes, but rather for the criteria Jewrotica set out in the nomination process.
‘When the titles of “most knowledgeable” and “most respected” are filled, you take what you can get’
The online hub for Jewish sexuality sought rabbis with a killer combination of smarts, action and badassery (“the quality of being unique and not afraid to speak your mind or live life your own way”).
“I find this sweet and flattering. I’m humbled to be among such hot rabbinic thinkers,” Vancouver-based Rabbi Yonatan (Yoni) Gordis told The Times of Israel by phone as his daughters giggled in the next room.
Rabbi Jill Hammer, co-founder of Kohenet: The Hebrew Priestess Institute, said she too was flattered. But she was also a little embarrassed.
“Ideally, we shouldn’t be ranking people on sexiness,” Hammer said. “Hierarchical contests can lead to hard feelings.”
Nonetheless, Hammer, who believes strongly in embodied Judaism, is pleased Jewrotica is opening up “an important conversation on sensuality and about appreciating the spiritual and the erotic.”
Rabbi Benay Lappe, founder of Chicago’s Svara, a “traditionally radical” queer yeshiva, also cast a serious eye on the list. Not a huge fan of lists in general, she is, however, proud to be on this one.
“With the right criteria, put together by the right people, for the right reasons — [a list like this] can be important in shining a light on people who are somewhat off-the-grid, and on important cutting-edge work that isn’t getting noticed — or funded,” she noted.
Lappe, who had no idea she had been nominated, was especially buoyed to see that a disproportionate number of this year’s 10 sexiest rabbis are LGBT.
“I think society is starting to realize that queer people have something to teach the world,” she said. “And the Jewish community is catching on to the fact that queer Jews have something unique — and essential — to teach about what it means to be Jewish, and, more importantly, what it means to be a human being.”
Rabbi Susan Silverman, recognized for her work on behalf of Women of the Wall, considers the list an example of how the Torah’s Oral Tradition is being reclaimed by the Internet. “I love this type of social creativity and connecting of Torah to everyday life,” she said.
In his 40 years as a Conservative rabbi, Dan Shevitz of Congregation Mishkon Tephilo in Venice, California, had until now never been named to any list.
“So, if I’ve finally made it on to one, then this as good as any,” he suggested.
The 10 Sexiest Rabbis list was determined by six judges associated with Jewrotica, including founding editor Ayo Oppenheimer, and contributor David Abitbol of Jewlicious. Online voting for People’s Choice Awards for “Delicious D’var Torah,” “Sexiest Activist,” and “Hottest Date” categories continues until January 16.