Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner (he/him) serves as the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and has led the Religious Action Center since 2015. Rabbi Pesner also serves as Senior Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism, a position to which he was appointed in 2011. Named one of the most influential rabbis in America by Newsweek magazine, he is an inspirational leader and tireless advocate for social justice.
Rabbi Pesner’s work focuses on encouraging Jewish communities to reach across lines of race, class, and faith while campaigning for social justice. In 2006, he founded Just Congregations (now incorporated into the Religious Action Center), which engaged clergy, professional, and volunteer leaders in interfaith social justice efforts. Rabbi Pesner was a primary leader in the Massachusetts campaign for health care access that has provided coverage to thousands and became a model for nationwide reform. Over the course of his career, he has also led and supported campaigns for racial justice, economic opportunity, immigration reform, LGBTQ+ equality, human rights, and a variety of other causes. He is dedicated to building bridges to collectively confront antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate.
Rabbi Pesner is a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University, speaks regularly on college campuses, has trained students 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. Rabbi Pesner serves as a board member of the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, and the New England Center for Children. He is a member of the Faith-Based Security Advisory Council for the Department of Homeland Security, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation Solidarity Council on Racial Equity and the Leadership Team of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable. He has served as a scholar for the Wexner Foundation, The Chautauqua Institution, American Jewish World Service, the Nexus USA Summit, and Combined Jewish Philanthropies.
Rabbi Pesner was the co-editor of “Moral Resistance and Spiritual Authority: Our Jewish Obligation to Justice,” wrote the afterword to the newly published “Social Justice Torah Commentary,” and is a widely-published author (view the full list).
Ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1997, Rabbi Pesner was a congregational rabbi at Temple Israel in Boston, Massachusetts and at Temple Israel in Westport, Connecticut. A graduate of Wesleyan University and the Bronx High School of Science, Rabbi Pesner is married to Dana S. Gershon, an attorney. They have four daughters: Juliet, Noa, Bobbie, and Cate.