MARY LEE TALBOT – STAFF WRITER
Speaking truth to power is not new to Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner. Neither is speaking about the “tikkun olam,” the spiritual imperative to repair the world. Pesner, the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, will serve as the chaplain for Week Three. Pesner is the third rabbi to grace the pulpit during morning worship at Chautauqua.
In response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow Arizona to restrict voter registration, Pesner said, “Jewish tradition teaches us that the selection of leaders is not a privilege but a collective responsibility. Rabbi Yitzchak taught that “a ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted. Today’s ruling must inspire a greater commitment to ensure the freedom to vote for every American.”
Pesner will preach at the 10:45 a.m. Sunday, July 11 ecumenical service of worship in the Amphitheater. His sermon topic is “Do Justice, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly with Your God: Scripture is a Call to Action.”
He will also preach at the 9 a.m. Monday through Friday services in the Amp.
His sermon topics include “And God Dealt Well with the Midwives: Confronting Racism, Antisemitism, and Bigotry in All Forms,” “Speak Up, Judge Righteously, and Stand with the Poor: The Spiritual Imperative for Economic Justice,” “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem: A Vision for a Land of Blessings and Shared Sanctity,” “A Ruler is Not to be Appointed Unless the Community is First Consulted: Our Safety Comes in Our Solidarity, and Our Redemption Will Come Through Our Democracy’’ and “Where Do We Go from Here? Remember the Sabbath and Make it Holy.”
In addition to serving as director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, he also serves as senior vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism, a position to which he was appointed in 2011. He has also been named one of the most influential rabbis in America by Newsweek magazine.
Pesner’s work has focused on encouraging Jewish communities to reach across lines of race, class and faith in campaigns for social justice. In 2006, he founded Just Congregations (now part of the Religious Action Center), which engaged clergy, professional and volunteer leaders in interfaith efforts in pursuit of social justice. He was a primary leader in the successful Massachusetts campaign for health care access that has provided coverage to hundreds of thousands.
Pesner serves as a board member of the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, JOIN for Justice, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, and the New England Center for Children. He is a member of the Leadership Team for the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, and he has served as a scholar for the Wexner Foundation, American Jewish World Service, the Nexus USA Summit and Combined Jewish Philanthropies.
Pesner is a graduate of Wesleyan University and was ordained at Hebrew Union College’s Jewish Institute of Religion in 1997. He was a congregational rabbi at Temple Israel in Boston and at Temple Israel in Westport, Connecticut.