Three Jewish women with Atlanta ties have been named to the Jerusalem Post’s ranking of the 50 most influential Jews in the world. The annual list includes Olympic gold medalists, philanthropists, and leaders in art, medicine, literature, politics and technology.
As usual, it is headed by male politicians, this year Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who share the number one position. Second on the list is U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Third on the list is director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Rochelle P. Walensky, who reportedly commutes between Atlanta and her Massachusetts home. She became the 19th director of the CDC in January 2021. Internationally recognized, Walensky served as chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Another internationally recognized Jewish woman on the list is more familiar to Atlantans. Ranking number 27 on the list is Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University’s Tam Institute for Jewish Studies and religion department.
U.S. President Joe Biden recently nominated her to be the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. The Senate needs to confirm her appointment which would give her responsibility for anti-Semitism anywhere in the world, except in the United States.
The third Atlanta woman ranked on Jerusalem Post’s list is less well known. Shari Dollinger is the co-executive director of Christians United for Israel (CUFI). She shares that position with the wife of CUFI founder Pastor John Hagee.
The Kansas City native has helped lead the 10 million-member CUFI for more than three years. Prior to that, Dollinger was associate director for more than 11 years. But all roads seemed to lead her to CUFI.
A graduate of a Jewish day school, she attended Brandeis University. She spent part of her junior year at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and part in Washington, D.C. It was her internship with former Kansas Senator Sam Brownback which “opened up a whole new world to me. I was mesmerized by his support of Israel,” she told the AJT. “I had lived in a Jewish bubble. I wondered whether he, as a Christian, was an anomaly or not.” That led her to write her senior thesis on Christian Zionists’ Impact on U.S. Foreign Policy.
She learned that congressional members of the Christian coalition were affected by their Biblical convictions, or the convictions of their constituents, to support Israel. After college, she served as officer for Inter-Religious Affairs at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C. and as a foreign policy research associate at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Then, in February 2006, she attended CUFI’s first meeting attended by only 400 people. She became CUFI’s third employee in 2007. Today, there are 50 staff members across the country, most working virtually even before the pandemic. “I’ve played most of the roles that I now supervise,” she said. “Most of my time focuses on our team.”
She visits CUFI’s headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, about once a month. CUFI held a smaller-than-usual annual in-person meeting in Dallas this July, but next year, Dollinger said, it will return to its typical location in Washington.
“Being on the Jerusalem Post list means more visibility on the relationship” between Jews and Christians, Dollinger believes. She shares her 36th ranking with Yael Eckstein, the CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, an organization founded by her late father. “There’s a lot of diversity in the pro-Israel community,” said Dollinger.
Asked about her reaction to being named a leading Jewish influencer by the well-known English-language newspaper, Dollinger said she was “honored, thrilled and amazed to be on the list. I was blown away the first time I heard about it.”
She attributes the listing to the “legislative victories CUFI has had, including moving the U.S. embassy” from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Pastor Hagee gave the benediction at the ceremony at the embassy in Jerusalem in 2018.
- Jan Jaben-Eilon
- Emory University
- Deborah Lipstadt
- Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat
- President Joe Biden
- Jerusalem Post
- Rochelle P. Walensky
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Shari Dollinger
- Christians United for Israel
- Olympic gold medalists
- naftali bennett
- yair lapid
- Antony Blinken
- John Hagee
- Kansas City
- Jewish Day School
- Brandeis University
- Hebrew University
- Washington D.C.
- Senator Sam Brownback
- Christian Zionists’ Impact on U.S. Foreign Policy
- Christian coalition
- Biblical convictions
- Inter-Religious Affairs at the Embassy of Israel
- foreign policy research associate
- American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)
- Yael Eckstein
- International Fellowship of Christians and Jews
- U.S. Embassy
- tel aviv