Rabbi Jonah Pesner to Lead Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Rabbi Jonah Pesner will serve as the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), the Washington, D.C. advocacy and social justice arm of North America’s largest Jewish Movement. Rabbi Pesner, an accomplished advocate with broad experience leading social justice campaigns, comes to the RAC with a mandate to deepen its advocacy work while mobilizing the Reform Jewish community and its allies.

Rabbi Pesner, who founded the URJ’s Just Congregations initiative that has mobilized thousands of social justice advocates, said of his new role, “Leading one of the most respected religious advocacy organizations in Washington, D.C. into its next chapter is a remarkable blessing, but more importantly, it is an opportunity to positively impact the lives of others by pursuing public policies that reflect our democratic and moral values. The pursuit of social justice has always been at the core of the RAC’s work and I am proud to continue that legacy going forward.”

Rabbi Pesner, who assumes the role as the 114th Congress opens, plans to focus on economic inequality, racial justice and climate change. “As I look at the tragedies in Ferguson and Staten Island, I fear that they are emblematic of what is happening in too many communities nationwide,” Rabbi Pesner said. “Fortunately, I know that the RAC staff is already engaged in this work, alongside our congregations in communities nationwide. Among our top priorities to address the racial disparity all too present in our society will be pushing for action in the new Congress to protect voting rights and to end racial profiling.”

Rabbi Pesner will succeed Rabbi David Saperstein, who served as director of the RAC for 40 years, building it into one of the most influential religious advocacy institutions in Washington, D.C. Rabbi Saperstein stepped down following his confirmation as the U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom. The RAC operates under the joint auspices of The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). Rabbi Pesner will assume the role of Director of the Religious Action Center beginning immediately. He will also continue to serve as Senior Vice President of the URJ, and will play a key role in infusing the work of social justice throughout the Reform Movement.