Rabbi Jonah Pesner was elected Senior Vice President of the Union
for Reform Judaism (URJ) in 2011. Named
one of the most influential rabbis in America, he has been an inspirational
leader, creative entrepreneur, and tireless advocate for social justice. In his current position, he is a principal
architect in transforming the URJ and guiding the Reform Movement to become
even more impactful as the largest Jewish denomination in the world. Among other initiatives, he is the founder
and visionary leader of the Campaign for Youth Engagement, a bold strategy to
mobilize tens of thousands of young people in the Jewish community.
Rabbi Pesner's signature accomplishment has been to pioneer
efforts to organize Jewish communities into interfaith efforts to reach across
lines of race, class and faith in campaigns for social justice. In 2006 he
founded Just Congregations, which impacts more than 180 communities in thirty
states and engages countless clergy, professional and volunteer leaders in
interfaith efforts for the common good.
He has led and supported campaigns for economic justice, marriage
equality, human rights, and a variety of other causes. He was a primary leader in the successful
Massachusetts campaign for health care access that has saved thousands of lives
and which became a model for national reform.
Rabbi Pesner teaches on all four campuses of the Hebrew Union
College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and gives speeches in interfaith and
secular venues all over the world. He
has served as a scholar for the Wexner Foundation, American Jewish World
Service, and Combined Jewish Philanthropies, among others.
Rabbi Pesner is the founding Chair of the Board of JOIN for
Justice (the Jewish Organizing Institute and Network). Currently, he serves on the board of the New
England Center for Children, and previously he served on the boards of the
Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, the Central Conference of American
Rabbis and the Jewish Memorial Hospital.
He was a congregational rabbi at Temple Israel in Boston and at Temple
Israel in Westport, CT.
Rabbi Pesner has written numerous journal articles and has
contributed essays to a variety of publications. He was the Meyer W. Nathans
Scholar at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion where he was
ordained in 1997. A graduate of Wesleyan
University and the Bronx High School of Science, Rabbi Pesner is married to
Boston attorney, Dana S. Gershon. Together they have four daughters, Juliet,
Noa, Bobbie and Cate.