New Leader for Reform Jewish Movement's Commission on Social Action

July 22, 2019

New Leader for Reform Jewish Movement’s Commission on Social Action

WASHINGTON – Today, leaders of the Commission on Social Action (CSA), a joint body of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Union for Reform Judaism, announced that Susan Friedberg Kalson has been unanimously selected as the next chair of the Commission on Social Action. Her term will begin at the conclusion of the URJ Biennial in December 2019.

A CSA member since 2010, Kalson is a longtime community leader in Pittsburgh and within the Reform Movement. She is a member of the URJ North American Board and was elected to its Oversight Committee in 2015. She has served three times as Chair of the URJ Biennial Resolutions Committee, helping shape the policy positions that guide the Movement’s social justice priorities. In her new role as CSA Chair, Kalson will lead the Commission in continuing to broaden and deepen the justice work of the Reform Movement.

“Especially after the experiences in my home of Pittsburgh, I embrace this opportunity to help effect real change,” said Kalson. “At this difficult moment in history, it is invigorating to see the centrality of our mission to the Reform Movement, and to participate in engaging Reform Jews across North America in the imperative of Jewish social justice. I look forward to working with the CSA's extraordinary professional and lay leaders, continuing to engage in our Movement's vision of a prophetic Judaism, in which each of us is impelled to create a more just and whole society.”

Said Liz Dunst, outgoing chair: “I have known and worked with Susan for nearly a decade. Her thoughtful and compelling leadership qualities were apparent from the start. In the months since the horrific murders in her home community of Pittsburgh, she has used her skills and heart to help the community she loves begin to navigate the difficult healing process. The CSA will be lucky to have her at its helm.”

Said Barbara Weinstein, CSA director and associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism: “As a vice chair of the Commission, Susan used her deep knowledge of public health to shape our response to the opioid crisis; she helped craft and implement our civic engagement campaign during the last election cycle; and has been a strong voice for social justice on the URJ Board. At a time when the world cries out for ever more justice, she is the leader our movement needs.”

Said Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism: “The CSA provides vital leadership to the RAC. With Susan at the helm I know we will continue to strengthen our congregations’ vital work of advancing immigration justice, racial justice, gun violence prevention, climate justice, reproductive justice and more.”

For the last 13 years, Kalson has served as CEO of Squirrel Hill Health Center, a non-profit community health center created by Pittsburgh’s Jewish community to provide health services to the community, regardless of their ability to pay. Through her work in her community in Pittsburgh, serving on a number of professional boards and committees, Kalson daily lives the values of justice and compassion that the CSA strives to see reflected in legislation and policy. Her CSA leadership term will last for four years.


The Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism is a joint body of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Union for Reform Judaism and its affiliates, with representatives from across the Reform Movement. The CSA serves as the guiding force for the movement’s social justice work.